Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bean Dip Weekend

Jake and I had a few friends over Friday night to watch Hot Rod. A number of them hadn't seen it yet, and we felt morally obligated to share the joy. We invited everyone to bring a little something to eat. I bought chips (from Aldi) and salsa and had some queso con salsa left over. The first couple arrived with chips (from Aldi) and multi-layered bean dip. No sweat, we thought. We'll just hide our chips and break them out if we run out. The next couple came in with chips (from Aldi) and more bean dip. We laughed and thought Ha, what are the odds? Very good, apparently, because the last couple walked in the door with chips (from Aldi) and...wait for it...bean dip.

Seriously though, what are the odds that in any group of Mormons, NO ONE brings a dessert?

If English were a foreign language

I'm not sure why, but I found this video so interesting. It's called What English Sounds Like to a Foreigner (via MR and Barker). If you'd ever wondered about that (I know I have), hit play.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Call Me a Nerd

But... econtalk with Megan McArdle this week was really good. :) It's on personal debt (and the end bit on national debt). If your ears have nothing to do for an hour, and you are interested in the topic, it's worth a listen. Ms. Mcardle's blog is quite enlightening, and who wouldn't want to take a listen to the "world's tallest female economist?"

Friday, December 11, 2009

Soccer Partner

I just saw this on Meagan's blog and had to post it. So cute.

Sporting event? Us?

Yep. We totally went to a Chicago Blackhawks game last night. Jake's friend Carson had two extra tickets to a suite occupied by his future in-laws. Got that? Anyway, we ate really great food, met some pretty cool people, and watched a very intense overtime. Here are the highlights, courtesy of ESPN and YouTube. I realized I have never been to a professional sporting event until now. I was the girl who spent her time at plays and dance concerts, I guess. We enjoyed ourselves immensely and even found a GREAT parking spot when we got home at 11 pm. Thanks Heidi's family for the great evening!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Little Manhattan

Ashley and I watched another movie.... It was pretty good. If you're wondering what movie you should watch, and have no better choices, why not pick the one about the 10 year old that falls in love with the girl in his karate class? Painful at times, but it's still pretty funny. Here were the two best lines:

"I'm not sure how I got the courage. Maybe it was the buzz from the Shirley Temple."

and

"Let's drown our sorrows in pig shoulders and nitrates."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Defining rock bottom

Now that finals are wrapping up, I've started reading a lot more books and watching Redbox movies.

I watched a movie last night called The Echelon Conspiracy. Rottentomates gives it a zero. That's right. A zero. (These are the moments we throw a cheer up for $1 Redbox.) It successfully rips off so many movies, sometimes at the same time. Cross-breed The Terminator, Eagle Eye, and WarGames, take out the budget and a lot of the acting, add a sprinkle of Gigli, and hit frappé.

Was it absolutely terrible? No. Doogal and Catch and Release hold that special place in my heart. Echelon just struggled with "the redeeming factor." Was there anything redeeming... good cinematography...?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Monday, Monday

So good to me? Clearly whoever wrote this song wasn't a glorified babysitter for teenagers during the first real snowfall of the school year. This day cannot be over soon enough.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Sharing what I found when bored...

Hindsight is 20/20 Once The Mind Trick Wears Off

The site was all right, but I thought this was the funniest.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful

But the fireplaces at the school are totally delightful. There are two by the main office and one in the faculty cafeteria. I wish I had a fireplace at my house. The noise is much more pleasant than the hissing and knocking of our radiators at five in the morning, but I suppose they are far too dangerous for the average Chicago apartment-dweller. They are also smoky and a pain. Ok, maybe radiators aren't so bad.

My classroom is not nearly as warm as the upstairs bathroom with the comfy couches (but rather pungent odor). I guess I should be grateful that it didn't snow this year until December 3. After Chicago's very mild (read: cold) summer that I wasn't here for, many residents--including me--are hoping for a mild (read: warm) winter too.

Also, I'm reading Julia Child's My Life in France. I saw the movie this summer (and read the Julie Powell book a couple years ago), and am LOVING the book, mostly because of her descriptions of all the food. This is my kind of memoir, baby!

Finally, I have a bizarre grammar question. My Korean tutee wanted to say that she lacked exercise. I said that it was more normal to say she didn't get enough exercise. While I was racking my brains to determine why "lacking exercise" didn't work to my ear, all I could figure was that "lack" in the modern sense usually deals with an intangible (e.g., lack creativity, lack time, lack opportunity), and exercise was visible. But sometimes we use it like "lack food and shelter." Does anyone have a better idea?

Advice your mother never gave you

When I'm late for school and Ashley has taken the car I run the 2.5 miles to school because it is much faster (and cheaper) than taking the train. Yesterday, however, I was so late that I had to eat my lunch while running. The peanut butter sandwich went down all right, but the apple gave me some real struggles. I didn't even try the yogurt. The moral of the story is don't eat apples while trying to cover 2.5 miles in 18 minutes. :( I still made it in time, so maybe I'm just trying to make excuses for being out of shape.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Almost there...

I just finished my important final projects. Just a couple of finals and then I get to read read read. :D Ashley and I are listening to Ulysses S. Grant's memoirs. Good stuff.

I watched a couple of movies over the last week. Here is my collective review:

Gifted Hands > GI Joe > Blades of Glory > Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

The jump between Gifted Hands (mostly unknown movie that just came out on DVD starring Cuba Gooding Jr. as a neurosurgeon) and GI Joe is significantly larger than the others. Gifted Hands was surprisingly very good (highly recommend). I am still undecided on the order of the final two... GI Joe outranked the two because I was expecting an action-packed movie targeted for a 10 year-old. (Ninja fights! Oh no, our guns are out of bullets! Must pull out swords!) So, I put on my 10 year-old cap and enjoyed it. Blades of Glory was just... I still don't know what to think of that movie. Funny... yes. Wrong...yes. Transformers was just disappointing. Take all that made the first movie not all that great and multiply it by a bucket of chicken. That's Transformers 2.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pear Custard

If you haven't recommended a book for Jake, please do so on the previous post. If he's going to sit at home while I slave away at the high school (ha!), at least help him be less bored.

I made a delicious pear custard a few weeks ago, and I may make it again tonight with a modification. It comes from my favorite cookbook, Great Food Fast by Everyday Food (p. 256, in case you have it handy).


Pear Custard Pie
1/4 c. unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pie dish (you can also use cooking spray for the "plus more")
3 ripe but firm Comice or Bartlett pears (I used Bosc, and they worked just fine), peeled, halved, and cored
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. vanilla extract
3 large eggs
3/4 c. milk
1/4 t. salt
Powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 350, and butter or spray a 9-inch pie dish. Slice the pears 1/4 inch thick lengthwise. Arrange the slices, overlapping slightly, in the dish.

In a blender, process the melted butter, granulated sugar, flour, vanilla, eggs, milk, and salt until smooth.

Pour the batter over the pears; bake until golden and firm to the touch, 40-45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature (warm is better, and it microwaves just fine to reheat), dusted with powdered sugar.

MODIFICATION: During the last 5 minutes or so, generously sprinkle cinnamon sugar over custard. This adds some flavor and will make the top just a little crunchy. Enjoy!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Books

I'm going to have about 10 days free in the middle of December and I'll probably spend most of that time reading. Right now I'm not exactly sure what I'll read, but I need to reserve them about now at the library. I'll probably just see what's selling well on Amazon. There definitely will be one or two economics books. I read mostly non-fiction, but I'm considering Battlefield Earth as well....

What do you recommend?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Braggart

A few weeks ago, I got a delicious surprise in the mail. It had been over a year since I was told I would receive it. It was this:




I'm sure you've realized by now that I'm a total sucker for nearly everything Orson Scott Card has written, and while he didn't write this book, I still own it. I did not purchase it, however, because I'M TOTALLY IN IT and got it for free!!!

That's right, I'm sort of published. While I was teaching at Riverton, OSC had a place on his website where people could tell about their experiences with the Ender's Game series. I immediately thought about my recent experience teaching the book to my seniors. In a few paragraphs, I described how my classes changed and how much fun we had reading a book they could actually enjoy. Weeks later, I received an email from OSC's agent asking for my address so they could send me a copy of the book when it was released.

Fast forward: I moved to Chicago and had been living here for over a year when I finally got my book. In all this time, I wasn't sure if my story would be in it. I'm sure there were far too many entries to go into the book and never knew what exactly the deal was. But I came home one day and found a package on the stairs with my name on it and Orson Scott Card as the sender (thrills!). I tore open the box, glanced at the table of contents, and flipped open to the last section, titled "Friends of Ender." There, on the second page of the section (pg. 394, if you want a peek), the third story began. And at the end of it was my name.

I never imagined seeing my name in print would be so exciting. I enjoy blogging, but it's pretty vain. I know I'll probably never write a book (although that book of horror stories from dating in Southern Utah has been writing itself in my head for years), and I'll certainly never get published for real. But it's nice to know that someone thought my little story was not only worth reading but also worth sharing with others.

Here is the link to my review on Goodreads.com.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Saved by the Hale

I had an awful, I mean AWFUL, 3rd period today. Kids were constantly talking, more pictures of an obscene nature on my sign-in sheet (I may need to change the procedure for this period), kids talking back to me, refusing to do any work. In short, a mess. During 4th, one of my free periods, I went into the staff lounge nearly in tears with exhaustion and frustration. I managed to pull myself together and channel Abigail Adams's toughness. I sat down to continue reading Forest Born, the fourth book in Shannon Hale's Books of Bayern series. I read through the climax and was just beginning the denoument when I stumbled upon this gem:

"[Not marrying was] no loss, she thought to herself. One time her brother Sten imitated the sound of a squirrel emitting gas, and all six brothers had laughed to tears. Honestly--to tears. It made Rin wonder about the sanity of her brothers' wives, since they chose such boys as mates."

I laughed out loud. It made my day. And now I have only two and a half periods to go (plus 30 minutes of detention to preside over) before I can pick up the next disc of The Office from Blockbuster and my Queen Victoria biography from the library. Thanks Shannon Hale for making my awful day so much better.

PS: The rest of the book was lovely. Of the four Bayern books, this one had the protagonist with whom I identified most. Go check it out.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Random Thoughts

  • Leggings ≠ pants
  • Schools require a parental consent form for students to receive a flu vaccine, but not to receive an abortion.
  • Why do teenage boys have an obsession with drawing their own privates on any surface they find, including my sign-in sheet?
  • Gold pleather leggings ≠ pants (really!)
  • Being back in a high school tends to bring back my own insecurities as a student. Why do I care if they think it's weird I crochet or that my clothes aren't cool? Shouldn't I be past that?
  • Of course I would rather be loved than feared. When that is not an option, I would much rather be feared than mocked.

On the book list

Superfreakonomics is on my to-read list, but I noticed an article here in Chicago that specifically attacked it.

If you read the book, then you know in the first book the authors go after Chicago school teachers and proved that they cheat by filling out the right answers on pupil's exams. It seems the authors came back to Chicago to explain a bit more corruption. The authors assert that "a prostitute in Chicago is more likely to have sex with a cop than be arrested by one."

Here is the Chicago Sun Times' article with testimonials for and against.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

In Soccer News...

Just in case you missed the semi-finals like me (Thanks Caleb!):


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Today's bad movie is...

The Proposal. I think I need to rinse out my brain... with an episode of John Adams.

Curses to all those who told us The Proposal was a good movie. May the god of bird droppings look down you. That includes the entire 43% at rottentomatoes. At least Knowing gave us something to make fun of.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Incentives incentives incentives...

Econlog has been on a roll lately. The following is from CATO via Kling.

Basically, if you participated in every welfare program for which you are eligible, you're better off making $15K/year than $38K/year. Economists usually call this the welfare or poverty trap. If you work more and make up to another $20K/year, you'll be worse off, so you choose to not make any additional money to reach the point where you would actually be better off by working and making more. This is why most economists would prefer to give cash rather than other forms of handouts.


Figure 1

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Senior Moment

I was sitting in the Kellogg computer lab waiting for Ashley to finish tutoring, when I glanced at the clock and realized that I was going to be late picking her up. I ran out into the parking lot and ran to the car. I pushed my key into the lock and for some reason it was a little bit difficult to turn, but it still opened. I jumped into the car and looked at the passenger seat and asked myself, "What happened to our SpongeBob seat covers?" ... ... I was in the wrong car. My key unlocked an identical car. My car was another row down.

This story has two morals. First, all keys are not unique. Second, get SpongeBob seat covers when you're old and having real senior moments.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Why?

Why can't I have a classroom full of kids like me? My life would be so much easier. But probably much less exciting.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Better

Today was much better than yesterday, but mostly for the fact that on Tuesdays and Thursdays I have far fewer students.

After reflection, I realize that much of the problem is that I am not really a teacher. And what I mean by that is that the only interaction I have with my students (the other study hall "teachers" also operate like this) is to get after them when they aren't on task or to sign them out when they have a pass to go to another area of the school, such as the math study center. There are no grades. I feel like I have only negative consequences at my disposal. For all but one of my classes, I share the large study hall room with another teacher, so in politeness to them and their students I can't have long explanations or start new programs. The only power I hold is my stack of referral slips, and maybe a phone call home. But so many parents would brush me off. I called very few parents as a real teacher; I'm even more reticent to call parents as a fake one.

I will be moving some students and probably roping off certain areas, like the back corner. I've often said that I don't have the energy or the inclination to be one of those teachers they make movies about, and this has definitely not changed my attitude. I recognize the need for such teachers, especially when I hear stories of what goes on in these kids' homes, but I'm not ready to take on that kind of responsibility.

I know much of this is kids trying to test my limits. I'm the new teacher, the fresh meat, and they need to figure out what behavior pushes my buttons. (By the way, those behaviors include but are not limited to refusal to respond, laughing when I'm serious, and outright defiance.) I'm trying to stay chill but firm, like a good Jello salad, but with some classes and students am failing miserably. I don't want these first two weeks to be a precursor of what the rest of the year will be like.

Monday, November 2, 2009

To All You Educators

What do you do with a kid for whom there are no deterrents?

Move to a new seat: *"I won't move. This is my assigned seat." It's not your assigned seat. You need to move. "Not gonna move. You can't make me."

Detention: "I'm not going to serve them." So then you won't graduate. "I'll go to another school."

Calling safety officers: "Been there, done that."

I don't give grades, so I can't take away points.

And this room is freezing. Grr. Any advice would be appreciated.

*Direct quotes from today's class.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

I Hate Fire Drills & AIDS Assembly

Really, I do. Luckily today I had a few minutes' warning from the teacher with whom I share my room. Fire drills, tornado drills, earthquake drills...all drills are awful. The loud noises, students who get a little panicky or start cursing, standing outside in the cold...ick. However, the worst part is when you get back to class. The rest of the period is pretty much wasted. Kids have a hard time settling down, even several periods after the fact. I guess we'll see how the rest of the day goes.

Yesterday we had assemblies at the end of school, which meant shortened schedules and a change to kids' normal routine (see above for how much we all enjoy that). I was assigned to monitor the freshmen assembly about AIDS. Keep in mind through all of this that these kids are 14-15 years old. (I will try to keep the rest of the entry PG, but it's tricky, given the subject matter and the presentation.) I don't have a problem with people telling kids how HIV is spread and how it is not spread. I don't have a problem with people telling kids to be emotionally responsible in their relationships and interactions. I do, however, take issue with demonstrating on a microphone to FRESHMEN how to use prophylactics. I also take issue with only 3-4 minutes spent on the definition, not advocacy, of abstinence; the segment centered on what abstinence was not. I take issue with abortion as the only method mentioned of how to break the cycle of teen pregnancy and poverty.

Yeah, I was mad after I left school yesterday. I thought about what would have happened if a presentation like that had occurred when I was a freshman at Cedar High. The parents would have been absolutely up in arms. Somebody in the administration probably would have been fired. When I was 14, I wouldn't have had a clue about most of what they were talking about. I had barely figured out the theory of the mechanics of it all. Some might argue that I would have benefited from this kind of presentation, given my naivete, but that's what my parents were there for. In this assembly there was no mention of marriage or really even committed relationships, but lots of talk about the need for latex every time you have a fling. I just wanted to hear that it's OK to wait and that it's OK to be committed. I need to stop being surprised at how bad it is out there for teenagers.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

For Your Amusement

Ashley and I have enjoyed this new "superstar" band for the last couple months (remember The Format?). This song is especially epic:


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Rough Going

Jake's been feeling a little like this with some of his interviews.



And for your international experience of the day, the subtitles are in Portuguese!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I'm Judging You

Jake works on lots of papers. Often, these papers are amalgamations of three different students' work, and someone has to have the final say in grammar, usage, punctuation, etc. Because Jake is frequently the only native English speaker in the group, that task falls to him, and I help him. Here's a gem I found last night:

The production department produced a production plan.

Ugh.

And the Winner Is...

AmyD! Amy, send me a message on Facebook with your mailing address and whether you prefer Blockbuster or Hollywood Video.

And to the rest of you, great job! I've posted the submissions on the original post, so don't click on them if you don't want to be spoiled.

I was very impressed with many of the answers for number 25 (And they lived happily ever after), listed here for your viewing pleasure in the order in which they were written.
  • Mel: "Well, this isn't a terribly creative answer BUT I feel like I have to choose Princess Bride. I mean, COME ON. That movie invented the phrase happily ever after. BUT I bet if robot matrimony were legal, WALL-E would take the cake."
  • Kell-bell: "Glitter"
  • Caleb: "Disney’s Robin Hood (the narrator actually says, 'and they lived happily ever after.' Most movies just ASSUME they will.
  • AmyD: "Thoroughly Modern Millie"
  • Rachel: "Big Fat Greek Wedding (It's all ABOUT getting married...:)"
  • Jashuma: "King Arthur. Until she cheats and they die."
Props to all of you! Maybe we'll do this again.

But first we have to get jobs. Jake and I both have interviews this week, but Jake's is far more important/long term. Please send good thoughts and prayers for him...so we can have another contest someday.

Friday, October 16, 2009

In Local News... and a Great Link from Dave

First, Dave sent me a great link of a punk rock band... that did an entire mariachi version of one of its CDs.

Chicago CBS news is great. ... Great meaning very funny as you can see it struggle to spin news stories. I saw these two news reports (videos are here).

The first is called "Switch to Generic Drugs can Harm." The essence of the story is that the evil insurer is telling someone to use the generic version of a drug even though it's side effects are worse than the original drug. The insurer only cares about the bottom line (although I think the doctor is just trying to avoid a malpractice suit and is shifting blame). ... So the insurer should be lit on fire and publicly flogged. This is why the government should take over healthcare and get rid of the health insurance industry. Makes sense, right? ... Until you think about it for about eight seconds. A fundamental aspect of healthcare reform is to switch to cheap generics (google generics and healthcare reform for about 55 million examples, or just listen to one of the President's stump speeches on healthcare), which would exacerbate the problem in this story. The first rule of spinning political agendas should be, "do no harm."

This second news story (also available at the video link above) was even more ludicrous though (referring to coverage, not content). About 15% of the girls at just one Chicago high school are reported as pregnant or are already mothers. Considering the demographics, the frequency of abortions, and underreporting, that's at least 20%. The news story, however, does its best to try and transmit as little information as possible. CBS should have done a better job though at omitting out the info that a lot of the girls get pregnant in order to get welfare checks.

Oh local news and your impotent attempts to have political agendas...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Someone Else's Thoughts on Books

I read this tonight on Jewish World Review, and laughed out loud at the following lines:

"Besides, the more children read, the less chance they will have of misspelling their first tattoo."

"Gotta go, Jane Austen's texting me. It sounds urgent."

The whole thing is pretty funny. Give it a whirl.

And don't forget about the movie contest! You've only got a few more days, and we've only had five entries. I KNOW there are more of you who want to give this a shot.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Good idea... or Bad idea

So I signed up to do the race up the stairs of the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower).

... Ashley thinks I'm going to die.

http://www.altergroup.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/sears-tower-exterior3.jpg

Sunday, October 11, 2009

*Spoiler Alert* ... And a prize??!!

A joint post by Ashley and Jake

We decided to ruin every movie ever for you. However, if you haven't actually seen the movies mentioned, they theoretically shouldn't be ruined*. Trixy, I know.

So here's the deal: the first person to get all 25 right (and for #25, that means the most creative answer), will get a prize. We don't know what it is yet, but we know it will be wicked awesome (seriously). Out of kindness to others who may actually watch these movies someday (and to not tip your hand to the competition), we won't publish your comments with your answers for one week. However, in a later post we will give you the highlights and the winner. Deadline is October 18th at 7 PM central time. Enjoy!

*Our lawyers require us to say the following: We cannot be held responsible for spoiling any movie you may not have seen.
  1. Bruce Willis is actually dead.
  2. Bruce Willis can't die.
  3. Harrison Ford with wicked plot twist....Aliens? What the crap?
  4. Nicolas Cage with wicked plot twist....Aliens? What the crap?
  5. Paul Bettany is not real.
  6. Brad Pitt is not real.
  7. Kevin Spacey is very real, with no physical limitation, and he's the bad guy.
  8. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan fall in love in New York.
  9. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan fall in love in New York.
  10. Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan fall in love...and then jump into a volcano.
  11. Tom Hanks gets off the island.
  12. Tom Hanks gets out of the airport.
  13. Tom Hanks becomes a boy again.
  14. Jennifer Garner becomes a girl again.
  15. Lindsay Lohan becomes a girl again.
  16. Matthew Perry regains his manhood.
  17. 299 of them die.
  18. Matt Damon is the only one who survives.
  19. Arnold Schwarzenegger is the only one who survives. ... Except for that one chick that nobody remembers.
  20. You think Tom Cruise is going to survive, but he dies. Hitler wins.
  21. You think Will Ferrell will die, but he survives. Hitler is not in the movie.
  22. The aliens got a virus.
  23. The aliens got a computer virus.
  24. School votes for Efren.
  25. They get married and live happily ever after.

Greatest Pick-Up Lines of All Time

Here is what I believe are the greatest pick-up lines of all time (I made all of them up, to Ashley's chagrin):

How much do you think I can get for my kidneys? … Because I don’t know how much good they’ll do after you stole my heart.

I fell for you so hard that I splattered all over the sidewalk.

Are you Satan? Because when I saw you I could have sworn you fell from heaven.

Are you a toad? Because if I lick your forehead I might go CRAZY.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Is there a market for that?

If I were the President, I would approach President Lula (Brazil) and try and swap my Nobel for the Olympics. Sure this is the first time that the Olympics will be held in South America, but how about the first time a South American president has received the Nobel peace prize? I believe that's a win-win.

Fwiw: I don't really care one way or the other (same with the majority of "news" stories...), but Mankiw was quite brutal. Although, he is still pretty subtle with the post at the same time.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Great Writers

This article is one of Thomas Sowell's best. His work keeps reminding people that you can produce both enlightening and entertaining writing into the golden years.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Book Review: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

From my Goodreads.com review:

Dan Brown's latest novel is in most ways not nearly as earth-shattering as his previous Robert Langdon adventures. There's no effort to destroy the Masons as there was in previous books to destroy the Catholic church. There is also no delving into Mormon ceremonies as some of my acquaintance had feared. But some will see this book as faith-destroying because so many characters sincerely believe that man can become as God. This is not a problem for me. A central tenet of my faith is that I can become as God now is. Life is a constant search for expanding my capabilities and my knowledge of spiritual and physical things. Certainly, not all the ideas in the book jive with my doctrinal beliefs, but that core principle of becoming something more rings true.

On a more specific note, the book is fun and exciting. I finished it in less than 24 hours. In typical Brown fashion, each chapter ends in a total cliffhanger. The plot takes some fantastic twists and turns, and all of the important concepts are explained in enough detail without becoming textbookish. I would also compare it more to The Da Vinci Code more than I would to Angels and Demons. The excitement is finding the next piece of the puzzle, not in the roller-coaster ride. I wouldn't rate it much higher than The Da Vinci Code, but all of Brown's novels are solid, fast-paced intellectual thrillers.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

"I've gotta say, I've always been hip."

Do you ever rent a movie you've never heard of, and you have no idea whether it's going to be good or not? The answer is nearly always that the movie is terrible, your time is gone, and there is no way to get that time back (e.g., Day of the Triffids, Knowing, and Doogal). Well, we finally have a counter-example of greatness. Ashley and I got a free new release coupon and grabbed a movie that neither of us had heard of, The Great Buck Howard. I mean, the movie has Steve Zahn in it, how bad could it possibly be (Rescue Dawn ended up being great!)?

Anyway, we grabbed the movie and watched it. I was thinking about doing some homework during the movie. That definitely didn't happen. I hate movie reviews because they always tell you things you didn't want to know beforehand (e.g., "Rosebud's the sled!"). So I'll just tell you that it's definitely worth watching. It's been awhile since I've seen a classic PG drama with a very clever and sophisticated grownup story. (Of course, having John Malkovich, Tom and Colin Hanks, Emily Blunt, Conan O'Brien, Tom Arnold, Martha Stewart, Gary Coleman, Motormouth from Police Academy, Regis Philbin, and George Takei didn't hurt either.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Just a Small-Town Girl

I took a break from reading Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol to watch the second episode of Glee, a new show on Fox. It was good, but I just keep thinking about the show-stopping number from the pilot episode. Yeah, it's Journey, but so what? This is possibly the most joyous moment of television I've seen in a long time. Here's the link on Hulu (I know it won't be up forever, but this works for now). If you don't have time to see the whole shebang, fast forward to about 43:15 and get ready to--dare I say it--sing along. Don't stop believin'.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fantastic Point and a Curious One

Greg Mankiw wrote his best op-ed... ever. I highly recommend it. I believe the highlight of the article is this:

"Imagine that someone invented a pill even better than the one I take. Let’s call it the Dorian Gray pill, after the Oscar Wilde character. Every day that you take the Dorian Gray, you will not die, get sick, or even age. Absolutely guaranteed. The catch? A year’s supply costs $150,000.

Anyone who is able to afford this new treatment can live forever.... Most likely, thousands of upper-income Americans would gladly shell out $150,000 a year for immortality.

Most Americans, however, would not be so lucky. Because the price of these new pills well exceeds average income, it would be impossible to provide them for everyone, even if all the economy’s resources were devoted to producing Dorian Gray tablets.

So here is the hard question: How should we, as a society, decide who gets the benefits of this medical breakthrough? Are we going to be health care egalitarians and try to prohibit Bill Gates from using his wealth to outlive Joe Sixpack? Or are we going to learn to live (and die) with vast differences in health outcomes? Is there a middle way?"

In completely unrelated news, I got an email from the school that said this: "[W]e are extremely pleased that the incoming class of first-year undergraduate students, compared to last year, has a significant increase in the number of students of color." My question is this, what is the difference between "students of color" and "colored students." Supposedly just one of the two is widely offensive? Why? Why does adding a suffix to a word offend people, but the original form of the word does not? (Btw, until today I thought both usages were politically incorrect.)

Friday, September 18, 2009

Andersen Fun

(Being the first in a series of wildly belated posts)

We were invited to attend Jake's cousin Jenet's wedding on June 27. Jenet is one of Jake's favorite cousins and possibly one of the nicest people on the planet. She had waited a long time for someone really great, and she found him late last year and married him this June. I think the entire extended family was more excited about this wedding than just about anyone else's in the time I've been acquainted with them. It was a lovely day...kind of hot (as I was foolish enough to wear my black dress), but gorgeous.

Jenet has 10 siblings and therefore many nieces. They were all in pink and very eager to hold up Aunt Jenet's dress so it wouldn't get dirty. Say it with me: "Awwwwwww."
View from the Joseph Smith Memorial Building 9th floor, just a few rooms south of where our own wedding luncheon was held exactly 18 months before. The weather was much warmer for Jenet. :)
And her flowers were pretty. That pink dressing in the bowls? Delish.

A few days later, we headed down to Orem to attend the annual Andersen family reunion. Here is Jake playing frisbee with the many, MANY cousins. Did I mention Jake has a lot of cousins?
And I must have done something right because this year I was given the coveted "Awesome Andersen" family t-shirt. Apparently, this is a rare occurrence. Thanks, Aunt LaDawn!
Twinners! Say it with me: "Awwwwww."

New Websites and... My First Final Already?

I had never seen this website until today, stuffwhitepeoplelike.com. My favorite article was about being offended.

The site has the "it's funny because it's true" hilarity, and because it makes fun of white people you don't end up with people screaming "I'm offended!" Don Boudreaux makes this excellent related point in a recent blog post.

I just finished my first final of the quarter (yes, already). I wrote two single-spaced pages within the 90 minute time-limit and I was able to include the following words: stakeholder, coalition, insinuates, precipitously, corporate corruption, comeuppance, liars, tumultuous, kerfuffle, do-nothing, and open communication. I learned when I was 16 how to get an A in courses with very liberal professors. I credit about .25 of my cumulative GPA to this ability.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Catsup

I'm feeling ambitious today, so I'm planning on writing many blog entries to be released about once per day over then next few days. I haven't written for almost a month (for which I am very sorry), but I have been doing more than eating bonbons and watching soap operas.

General update:
Jake and I spent the summer with his brother Benson and his family. We're back now. School started for Jake two days ago, and while I'm still employed at the high school as a sub, I am no longer on contract. Read: I haven't worked a lick since we got home. This has been frustrating, as there are bills to pay. Tutoring should start soon, and I'm now looking for something full-time. Unfortunately, many organizations aren't real excited to hire someone who will likely only be in the city for another year. I have renewed my commitment to working out every day by signing up at dailyburn.com. It tracks nutrition, workouts, and weight, which has been rather eye-opening. I made vanilla ice cream the other day. It apparently has a billion calories! In a 1/3 c. serving! Poor Jake. No more homemade ice cream. It also has ready-made workouts, some even with video. So now there's really no excuse for my being a lazy bum. Now all I have to do is find a scale....

We got home last week and had a week to ourselves, which was fun. We went to lunch with our friends Katie and Jacob Runyon, put together a puzzle, and went to a BBQ with a bunch of friends on Saturday.

We were surprised at how much we've enjoyed being home. While Chicago is not top on our favorite places in the world, it is home. I LOVE seeing all the new babies in our ward. Church suddenly got far more interesting. :) We also love sleeping in our own bed and on our own pillows. I love knowing where all my kitchen utensils are and having that lemon zester handy.

Right now, the best job prospect for Jake is in Cleveland, Ohio. Pretty much all we know about Cleveland comes from this episode of 30 Rock. (You can stop watching the clip at about 2:20) More details as this story develops.

Well, that's all for now. Look forward to posts about Hawaii, Alabama, and the rest of the summer.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I Want My Birthright Back!

So my last blog title was a bit bold because it made no sense by itself. I was predicting a strong retaliation from China... and it came before the weekend was up. Giving up a decade of goodwill from trade deals to appease the tire lobby and some union groups is like selling the birthright.

Here is some background of the situation from tomorrow's WSJ. Unfortunately, it looks like it was printed before today's story broke:

"A full-blown trade row erupted on Sunday night between the US and China after Beijing accused Washington of “rampant protectionism” for imposing heavy duties on imported Chinese tyres and threatened action against imports of US poultry and vehicles.
Trade
relations between two of the world’s biggest economies deteriorated after Barack Obama, US president, signed an order late on Friday to impose a new duty of 35 per cent on Chinese tyre imports on top of an existing 4 per cent tariff."

I was wondering what would take more "courage," backing down or doubling down? I guess it depends on how you define it. Anyway, I guess it doesn't matter because neither is likely to happen really soon. I predict some "mediation" and "time to calm ourselves" along with a little "mutual ground can be found." And... the Chinese won't care. That would be kind of ironic though if China threw down a huge tariff on American cars (I'm looking at GM's very few profitable segments, one of which is China).

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Porridge Please!

Since school starts Monday and my free time will be mostly gone, here are my last throes of blog writing. I now hand... a bit more of the baton to Ashley.

So Ashley and I were watching State of Play last night, and after watching the first few minutes I said to Ashley, "Man, this plot was stolen from a British miniseries I once saw." The British miniseries is named, State of Play. Hmm, fancy that. some of us are a bit slower than others.

Here is something irksome indeed on the latest... Trade Wars!

"The White House badly needs Chinese help to confront climate change, nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea and global economic turmoil. China is the world's third-largest economy and a veto-holding member of the United Nations Security Council."

However... "President Barack Obama on Friday slapped punitive tariffs on all car and light truck tires entering the United States from China in a decision that could anger the strategically important Asian powerhouse but placate union supporters important to his health care push at home."

But don't worry, slapping a 35% tariff on incoming goods was a way to "compromise." The tire lobby wanted 55%. Virtually every economist (and American consumer) wanted 0%. The President came halfway at 35%. I'm not a big fan of these kinds of compromises. "To increase profits, the tire lobby wants to kill you, but for some reason you want to live. We'll maim you and call it even."

From my studies of tariffs from yonder year, I vaguely recollect that 35% is about the same tariff for imported North Korean goods.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The First Cool Vanity Plate I've Ever Seen

ARRR M8Y

It's in front of our house right now. I would take a picture, but I'm unsure of the legal ramifications...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Horror Movie of the Year

Coraline. Pay close attention to the last second or two before the credits roll. Ugghhh. Jibblies.

And Ashley and I rented it from Redbox because we thought it was a nice relaxing kids movie. Very incorrect. I can't believe it was only rated PG.

Lulls...

Ashley is on the verge of posting stuff... until then I have two quick points, the first of which I found to be a bit more interesting:

1) I have been watching The Twilight Zone lately. Ashley and I have been getting it from the library when it's been available. I was impressed by quite a few episodes and I highly recommend watching them. There was a point made in one episode, "I Dream of Genie," that I found very intriguing. Mr. Hanley rubs a lamp and a genie comes out. He is allowed one wish. He considers asking for millions of dollars, but then realizes that he will be in the 92% tax bracket. He then decides that wishing himself free money isn't worth the hassle.

I read recently (but couldn't find it, arg!) about how income inequality lessened when top tax brackets were above 70% (sometimes as high as 93%). This was mainly caused by a drop in productivity of those in the top tax bracket. Imagine you own a company with 100 employees and your 5 best employees decided to stop working. Is this a good thing? It's not a zero-sum game. When the sum of a group's productivity drops, it's generally bad for everyone.

2) Why was there ridiculous inflation from 1978-1982? Well, the most straightforward answer is that the money supply was expanding very quickly, but why did the money supply expand? Because James Carter wanted it to. Here is the answer (HT: voluntaryXchange):

"Rather, it was the expansion of the money supply in 1978-79 by Federal Reserve Chairman G. William Miller that caused the spiraling inflation of the late 1970s. For this reason, many in the economics profession to this day rate Mr. Miller as the worst chairman in the history of the Federal Reserve.

Mr. Miller was a professor of mine in 1984. I privately asked him why he unleashed the money supply he did in his years at the Federal Reserve. He told me in no uncertain terms, "That is what the president wanted.""

Read the rest for the full information. I believe this reaffirms the statistically proven fact that the more independent a central bank is, the less inflation it has had historically. I hear people complain about the Fed, but the number one alternative that these same people assert is to hand the printing press over to the President or congress. ...

... I'll stick with the nerd from Princeton.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Blogless :(

We've been lazy... very lazy. For lack of anything to write about... here is a list of books that you might be interested in reading, most of which I've blown through since Ashley went on her little vacation. The number of books I read will probably drop precipitously once I have someone to talk to again. :(

1) "The Speed of Trust" by Stephen M. R. Covey. I highly recommend the first 75 pages. Fantastic stuff. ... The rest of the book is better summarized in other books. The book can be summarized as Competence + Integrity = Trust. (FYI: If you do read it, his use of math to explain concepts really struggles in some places and is painful to read.)

2) "David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism" by Gregory Prince and Robert Wright. A burly 400 pager (big pages). Lots of good info, but it feels like the authors get side-tracked on 40 page tangents multiple times. It fees like the authors thought, "this is real juicy information, but not really relevant... let's include it anyway!" You can tell the difference between the two types of readers on Goodreads. Those who gave it three stars included in their review "too much mostly irrelevant gossip" and those who gave it five stars called it a "page turner." My advice: ignore the title of the book, know that it's not a great general summary of the time period, and just enjoy it.

3) "Click: What Millions of People are Doing and Why it Matters" by Bill Tancer. The book is all about what humans search for on the internet (e.g., when do the most people search about dieting? (Answer: December) Do pornography and social networking sites compete directly with each other for user time? (Answer: Yes) The author does a great job explaining "what millions of people are doing," but never really addresses the "and why it matters" satisfactorily. It's an extremely entertaining non-fiction book full of mostly useless info. :) Enjoy.

4) "Man's Search for Meaning" by Victor Frankl. How many psychologists write about their experience as a concentration camp prisoner? I'm not sure, but it's not many. Great read. Great stories. Lots of great points. The book stays general enough so that you don't have to subscribe to his philosophy in order to enjoy it.

5) "The Paradox of Choice" by Barry Schwartz. If nothing else, it is a great collection of psychological studies. I highly recommend the book for people who don't believe everything they read. He draws some pretty strange conclusions in some areas. However, he makes a lot of novel points that you probably won't see in very many other places (e.g., "refundable decisions" can make you unhappy, the concept of the "hedonic treadmill," etc.,).

Random intriguing economic point of the day from Bryan Caplan: ""Where did this 'monopoly power' come from?!" I'd ask. My inner rant then continued: "If the firm has a monopoly because the government made competition illegal, the solution isn't antitrust; it's legalizing competition. If the firm has a monopoly because it's the best, the solution isn't antitrust; it's a little freakin' appreciation.""

The source of monopoly power is very relevant. Lockheed Martin and Google are very different companies. Breaking up companies and declaring "antitrust" provisions does not usually make the public better off.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bringing Cheapness to New Heights...or Depths

I finally got us to the dentist after 14 months. The only reason I even bothered was because I found a coupon. Seriously? A coupon for dentistry? And you know what? I'll do it again. We're just going to switch dentists every year to get the new patient specials. A little piece of me hurts because of my "frugality." Which reminds me (and by "me", I mean "Jake") of a video of a guy on Last Comic Standing who was in Jake's singles ward a few years back. Oh, and as a side note, I have no cavities. Huttah!





And this one too.

Neato Demographics

I've looked for something like this for years (source: Calculated Risk via MR):



You can see the baby boom and boomlet waves. So pretty....

Nerd point: 1980-2005 were the baby boomer's most productive years. This coincided with solid monetary policy and decent tax policy. Great results, but hard to separate the individual effects.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Freedom and Random Videos

One of the best posts by Arnold Kling that I've seen on his blog. Here is my favorite line:

"If you lived in North Korea, which would you rather have--the right to vote or the right to leave?"

I will definitely be reading his upcoming book. On a completely unrelated note, here is the most excellent Total Eclipse of the Heart video for all five of you who haven't seen it yet. :)

Friday, August 7, 2009

Bomb? No... BANG!

Having now learned from experience, I recommend not bringing a giant bullet-shaped card game in your carry-on luggage.

http://www.iguk.co.uk/ProductImages2/6389.jpg

It had to be x-rayed for explosives.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Waiting for someone else to write what I was thinking

After waiting a month or so for someone else to write some thoughts I had (so I could be lazy and just link it), someone finally did. Too bad it took this long for it to gather enough steam to attract press coverage. I wanted a good comparison between the Car Allowance Rebate System and the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 (or The Grapes of Wrath for you book nerds out there). You can find it at Econbrowser.

"One of the more embarrassing features of the New Deal was the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933, which paid farmers to slaughter livestock and plow up good crops, as if destroying useful goods could somehow make the nation wealthier. ... I'm not going to be persuaded that destroying productive physical capital is a way to improve the welfare of the average American."

One commenter (a supporter of CARS) points out what I think most people are missing: "Of course, the cash for clunkers program was not intended to make the nation wealthier (a stock variable), but was intended to juice the GDP numbers (a flow variable). I believe the gamble was that juiced up GDP numbers might contribute to consumer confidence."

In other words, the destruction of productive capital is more encouraging to consumers than giving them productive capital. Also, this destruction creates misleading GDP figures, which also should encourage consumers to be more productive.

First, if we're going to destroy productive capital to make people feel better, I'd rather destroy calcium, sodium, and potassium. It's much prettier. Second, if the point is to use misleading GDP figures, my mom was wrong about "honesty is the best policy" and we should stick closer to China's philosophy on GDP.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Surprise!

Jake and I rented a movie from the library the other day, but we have yet to watch it. You see, it's on VHS (oh, and it's called The Day of the Triffids, based on an odd little sci-fi book from the 1950s we both read recently), and only the DVD part of Benson and Sam's VCR/DVD combo is working. There were rumors that the kids might have put something in the VCR, so we decided to check it out. This is what we found (along with our awesome movie):
Now, it seems reasonable that the kids didn't understand the difference between the two sides and therefore put the DVDs in the slot in an honest attempt to get them to play. But we're not sure what was going through their heads when we pulled all of this out:
We even found this when we realized there was something else in there and pulled off the top:

Sometimes it's enough to get us to rethink this whole "let's have kids someday" think...not really. But these past seven weeks have been a real eye-opener for me. Trying to reason with a screaming three-year-old? Less than amusing. But managing to get the picky eater to eat his broccoli without complaint by telling him he's a giant and the broccoli are tiny trees he's eating (and he even asked for more!) or getting a huge leg-hug from the two-year-old? Priceless.

In the meantime, however, the VCR still doesn't work right, even with all the army men pulled out. So we'll let you know how The Day of the Triffids is when we get our hands on a working VCR.

Just can't get away from Chicago

The latest news from the eastern front:

The wsj's law blog reports about "a lawsuit out of Cook County, Ill., in which a management company filed a $50,000 lawsuit over a tenant’s “malicious and defamatory” Twitter tweet. ... Jeffrey Michael, whose family runs Horizon, the real-estate management company that filed suit against tweeter Amanda Bonnen, said in response to a question about the suit: “We’re a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization.”"

The wsj's post is aptly titled, "The Shortest Allegedly Defamatory Statement in History."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

World's Lights, New Romer Blog

Paul Romer has a new blog. He has done some fascinating economic research and I expect his blog to be quite interesting.

His first non-introductory post is worth checking out. Whoever knew that staring at the world's lights at night would be interesting?

Have a fantastic day.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Gov-Mart

Tired of high prices at the grocery store? Can’t find jeans that fit perfectly? Are sales people too pushy or do they ignore you altogether? I have the answer.

We need to create a government grocery/retail chain. The public needs a separate option from the private corporations and non-profit providers. The primary impact of this initiative will be to keep the retail industry honest. As every clear-headed person knows, the retail industry is practically a monopoly run by an elite few corporations (CVS, Safeway, Kroger, Costco, Amazon, Walgreen’s, Lowe’s, eBay, Family Dollar, Sears, Macy’s, Best Buy, J.C. Penney, Walmart, Crate and Barrel, Kohl’s, Medco, Toys R Us, Michael’s, Land’s End, Home Depot, Dollar General, Albertson's, Target, Savers, L.L. Bean, Bed Bath & Beyond, Payless, etc.) that squeeze every dime out of the poor.

According to many reputable sources, the only way to solve our retail crisis is to create a government-run option for the public. Any other method is laughable and intellectually dishonest. This will create “a better range of choices, make the retail market more competitive, and keep the retail companies honest.” These efficiently run stores can pop up all over the country within just 12 months using an effective method that the government has developed.

Nobody is proposing to force Americans to get their groceries from the government. All we are proposing is to create a corporation that can run unlimited losses and fund those losses by using the tax dollars paid by its competitors. If you already like where you are shopping, that is fine and nobody is going to stop you.

Do you duty as an American and support a fair market. Support Gov-Mart.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Glorious Food

Um, no pics because it's hard enough to get these kids to eat.

First the bad news. Ever since I saw Giatta make gnocchi on Everyday Italian, I've been dying to try it. Last week I bought some potatoes, and Monday I made the attempt. First of all, she says it only takes 20 minutes. LIES! I was rolling the stupid stuff for an hour. Second, I didn't realize that if you choose not to use it right away, perhaps putting it in a tupperware in the fridge overnight without some sort of flour coating or in a single layer. As you might guess, when I went to cook the gnocchi, the ones on top were OK and generally kept their shape, but the lower I got in the bowl, the more I had to just scoop the glorified mashed potatoes out with my hands and drop them in pieces into the water. The result: slightly gelatinous potato blobs. I had been planning to make a faux alfredo sauce using Laughing Cow swiss cheese, sour cream, and an egg yolk, so I just threw all of it into the hot semi-gnocchi, stirred until melted, voila! Really cheesy mashed potatoes. One of the kids said it tasted like mac & cheese. Not very appetizing to look at, but quite delicious. However, from now on I'll be buying the packages of gnocchi instead of making the darn thing. Way worth the three bucks.

In better news, my mother-in-law's (should that be mother's-in-law?) cherry trees are finally bearing fruit, so we got to partake in their bounty. But one gets tired of plain cherries after awhile, so I found this Baked Cherry Pudding (aka Clafouti) recipe from cdkitchens.com.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 teaspoon orange zest (still good if you don't have any)
3/8 teaspoon almond extract
3/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup Bing cherries, halved and pitted
3/4 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into bits
vanilla ice cream as an accompaniment if desired

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a blender blend together 1/2 cup of the sugar, the flour, the eggs, the milk, the vanilla, the zest, the almond extract, and the salt until the custard is just smooth.

Arrange the cherries in one layer in a buttered 3-cup gratin dish or flameproof shallow baking dish, pour the custard over them, and bake the clafouti in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the top is puffed and springy to the touch.

Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, dot it with the butter, and broil the clafouti under a preheated broiler about 3 inches from the heat for 1 minute, or until it is browned.

Pork tenderloin was a good price, so I bought 4 lb., used half for the slow cooker recipe below, and froze the other half for later.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pork tenderloins, about 1 pound each
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons grainy Dijon mustard or country-style (regular yellow worked fine too)
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar (loved balsamic in this--I accidentally doubled it, and it was great)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried leaf thyme, crumbled
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon cold water

Preparation:

Wash and trim the pork and pat dry; sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Place pork in the slow cooker. Combine garlic, mustard, honey, brown sugar, vinegar, and thyme; pour over the pork. Turn pork to coat thoroughly. Cover and cook on LOW for 7 to 9 hours, or on HIGH for 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours.

Remove pork to a plate, cover with foil, and keep warm. Pour the juices into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer for 8 to 10 minutes, or until reduced by about one-third. Combine the cornstarch and cold water; whisk into the reduced juices and cook for 1 minute longer. Serve pork sliced with the thickened juices.

Enjoy. And wish me luck getting the oldest boy to eat more than two bites of everything I make for dinner.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The News You Didn't See, In Brief

Here are a few snippets I found interesting in the last few weeks. Click on the number for each article.

1) This is a pretty ridiculous article in Newsweek: "Is Obama More Catholic than the Pope? Without a Doubt - Why Obama represents American Catholics better than the pope does." Maybe the Kennedys really do believe "Unit Corps God Country" (remember A Few Good Men?) with a few substitutions. Like... substitute self for unit and party for corps.

2) "When you look at the increase in spending per capita, health care spending per person rises by 350 percent, vet spending per dog rises by 335 percent, and vet spending per cat rises by 340 percent. ... [One commenter] wondered about the aging of America's pet population and whether illegal pet immigration might remedy the associated fiscal problems."

3) Here's some good advice: "Want to Keep your Wallet? Carry a Baby Picture?" In the study, wallets having a baby picture were returned far more often than the other categories with a 90% return rate. HT: Cowen.

4) "What tells you more about the Sotomayor nomination, all of the chatter and debate in the MSM over her "controversial" remarks or the single number from intrade: bids at 98,5, i.e. an estimated probability of confirmation of 98.5% (as of July 14, 11:12 pm EST)?"
Intrade is a fun tool to watch. You can buy an option for "Sotomayor confirmed" for 98.5 cents, and if it happens you get a dollar. I think Alex Tabarrok is saying that the Sotomayor confirmation hearing is big because there is nothing else to report on right now. I guess the alternative news to report would be, "This just in. Michael Jackson is still dead."

5) Could you sell civilization to a caveman? According to the book Spent, cavemen would choose to stay in their primitive world rather than live in modern society. However, I like Kaplan's critical book review: "The salesman should offer the cavemen a few leading questions: "Do you ever get bored of hunting and gathering? Fed up with meddlesome relatives? Well, civilization gives you a choice!" ... Economists may need to raise our social intelligence, but even we know how to sell heat to Eskimos."

I'm Back

After my pilgrimage of non-blogging, I have returned.

This post will mostly contain a recurring thought I've had over the last few weeks. But, first, a trivia question. Who said this?

"The most important distinction in this campaign is that I represent real hope for change, a departure from trickle-down economics, a departure from tax and spend economics, to invest in growth. But before I can do that, I must challenge the American people to change, and they must decide. .... You've had your chance and it didn't work. It's time to change. I want to bring that change to the American people. But we must all decide first we have the courage to change for hope and a better tomorrow."

I recently took a stroll through some old presidential debate transcripts and I learned a few things that I hadn't recognized before. First, Bill Clinton (quote above) could mop the floor with Pres. Obama in a debate. When Pres. Obama is not on script he is about average compared to past presidential contenders, while Clinton ranks about an A++. I highly recommend reading some of the '92 and '96 debates. Clinton was probably the best unscripted speaker in the last few decades.

It seems that the key in these debates is to present a position in such a way that the majority can identify with it (whether the speaker actually agrees with what he is saying or not), even if in practice people will hate it and disagree with you. Although I found some great examples, one of the good recent ones was in the first Obama/McCain debate.

"WARREN: At what point does a baby get human rights, in your view? SEN. OBAMA: Well, I think that whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade."

What is interesting is that that is my position as well. I'm not exactly sure when that occurs. The answer to that question is above my pay grade. Now, let's put his answer into practice. Let's say there are only two possibilities, life begins at conception and life begins at birth. Also, let's say you are unsure (perfect ignorance) when life begins, so you assign an equal probability to each (.5). Now work out the math:

probability that life begins at conception * number of abortions = number of murders
.5 * 40,000,000 abortions = 20,000,000 murders

Those who are truly unsure when life begins are almost necessarily pro-life (either that or they just like killing). For those who say they are unsure but are still in favor of it, I see only a few possibilities. First, he is pure evil and likes killing people (despite what a few people on the internet say, I don't think this is true). Second, he is disingenuous and is lying about his position (possible...). Third, he is apathetic and really has no position, so he says whatever people want to hear. Given his background on abortion, I believe this is most likely. He takes the position of the party but doesn't stand as a public advocate of it.

The point of this is that he gave the same answer I would give, yet he takes the opposite action I would take (executive order in the first week of office). There's no real word for this that I know of. Does fabricating consent work?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Welcome to the Jungle

About two weeks ago, Jake and I went over to his old rental house to do a little yardwork. Apparently, Salt Lake City isn't so happy when Russian thistles in the backyard are over seven feet tall. For those of you happily unacquainted with these miserable weeds, let me give you a little taste.Weed eaters don't work against them at just about any height. Jake had to pull Karate Kid-style "sweep the leg" against them. Also, the entire backyard was taken over by morning glory and miscellaneous weeds. This is what we used to mow.
We should have used something I saw on an episode of Saturday Night Live from 1995 called "The Lawn Destroyer: for when you just don't care anymore." But of course, SNL is really good at keeping images and video off the web. So this joke pretty much fell flat. Sorry about that.

ADDENDUM BY JAKE: This is more like it:



The point is that four or five hours later, the yard was free of morning glory and most weeds, the thistles were knocked down, and our shoes were bright green. Yay for hard labor!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Road Trip

Well, the polls are in, and the masses have spoken. We are cheapskates. Fine. Just because we're living in Jake's brother's basement...I better stop while I have a shred of dignity left. :)

We left Chicago on Monday morning and even managed to avoid traffic. We meant to fill up before we got on the freeway (er, tollway--ew), but forgot. We got off in Naperville thinking that there would be gas stations and the like right off the highway. Uh, no. We drove around for almost half an hour trying to find a place to fill up. Eventually we did find one, filled up, and got back on the road.

For various reasons, we turned south at Des Moines and headed toward Missouri (shout out to Sheri). I will proudly state that I drove that particular stretch, one stretch more than I drove on the drive to Chicago last year. We decided to stop off in Liberty, Missouri to check out Liberty Jail, where Joseph Smith spent over four months in the dead of winter on spurious charges. The jail was torn down long ago, but a very accurate replica has been built in its place.

The ceiling was only 6 feet high, shorter than several of the imprisoned men. The missionary on duty told us some interesting stories, and then we headed back on the road after refilling our water bottles.
Did we mention we did this without air conditioning? We decided to be frugal and only repair the necessary parts before leaving Illinois, specifically the front axles. We could wait for Mr. B to repair the rest. So we drank lots of water and sprayed ourselves down with a spray bottle. Luckily, the weather mostly cooperated and we didn't boil too much. The weather, however, did not cooperate Monday night. We had hoped to get over halfway through Kansas, but we were hit with a massive rainstorm as it started getting dark. Jake is an excellent driver, but even he pulled over for a few minutes. Like most downpours, it only lasted a few minutes, but I was white-knuckling it. Naturally, going 30 slowed us down considerably, and I had a massive headache and upset stomach (which I attribute to the dried mangoes), so Jake kindly stopped off at Hays for the night. We also had two other storms we would have been racing, so I'm very glad we stopped.

The next morning was sunny and warm and was about to get a lot warmer, according to weather.com, so we were up and out just after 8. If you haven't been to Kansas, you're not really missing out. Everything you thought about Kansas is true. Flat. Yellow and green. Empty. See below.


Jake was a real trooper for doing almost all of the driving. Good man. You can see how excited he is.

So. Seven states in two days (Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah). We're at Benson and Sam's house in Kaysville and Jake is already hard at work. I've been helping Sam with various projects and doing some reading. We're happy to be nearer to so many of you. Give us a call and maybe we'll play sometime.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Blogs are for Pictures of Cute Babies

A lesson on brand management:




That's some good product placement... Is that the New Yorker on his belly button? One commenter at MR noted all the wasted space on their faces...

HT: Cowen

Monday, June 8, 2009

Discoveries

Jake and I babysat for some friends of ours Friday night. And by "babysat," I mean that we walked in just after the parents put the kids to bed, sat on the couch and watched The Tale of Despereaux from Redbox, talked with the parents for over an hour when they got home at 10:30, never actually saw any of the three children the whole time we were there, and got a gallon of milk for our troubles. We also flipped through their 70 cable channels, something we haven't done in a year. And you know what? We are not missing a dang thing. During prime-time viewing on a Friday night, we saw snippets of reality shows, LOTS of commercials, an infomercial or two, WWE wrestling (we watched a whole three minutes of that and laughed), and several poorly acted Spanish-language soap operas. Cable would totally be a waste of our money right now.

Which brings me to my next point. Apparently, Jake and I have a reputation among the other LDS Kellogg folk for being the *ahem* most frugal couple. Part of me wears that label with pride; every dollar we don't spend is a dollar we don't have to pay back with interest. On the other hand, I've realized just how cheap we are. We live 2.5 miles away from school (everyone else lives within walking distance) so we didn't have to pay what I consider exorbitant rent. I shop at Food 4 Less and bag my own groceries. I looked online for about an hour today to figure out who had the best deal on a car adapter kit for my iPod, and the only reason we're even getting the adapter (to replace the one that was stolen from our car last August) is so we don't go nuts on the two-day trek across the country next week. I got mad when Food 4 Less got rid of the loose carrots at $.58/lb and made me buy the 2 lb. bag that's $1.53. Have I crossed the line from frugal to total cheapskate? (That's not rhetorical. I posted a poll.) We haven't yet resorted to stealing mayonnaise packets from restaurants yet, but I think I may have encouraged Jake to do something like that to avoid taking a jar of mustard to Utah. Uh oh.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Wacky Weather

It has been June now for six days. The summer solstice, MIDSUMMER, is coming up in two weeks. You know what's happening right now in Chicago? It's 55 degrees outside. The average high for June 6 is 78 degrees. If weather were education, it would be in resource class right now. Jake and I went to the Kellogg LDSSA barbecue for lunch. We could see our breath. Everyone was huddled up by the grill. We're home now. I put on Jake's polarfleece pajama bottoms (thanks, Mom, for getting him those!) and am relying on the warmth of my laptop. You see, the boiler for the radiator was turned off about two weeks ago. And why not? It was the end of May, for crying out loud. Unfortunately, we hit a rather cold snap requiring us to actually put blankets on our bed at night. I guess I'll wait to get to Utah before I break out the flipflops.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Little Innovations of Life

Happy June. Maybe now Chicago will stay out of the 40's at night.

Speaking of Chicago, we had a pretty crazy weekend with seven shot dead in six different shootings. What can I say, it's a crazy violent place. I say the U.S. should pull out now. Chicago has a long history of violence and it's projected to continue. Some say that a "heave" in law enforcement will quell the violence, but I believe this will only add to the problem and increase the number of deaths. A "heave" would only add to the number of guns firing on the street and would paint targets on our brave law enforcement's backs. I encourage each of you to protest the United States' involvement in Chicago by holding up a sign at your state capitol that says, "THE HEAVE HAS FAILED. PULL OUT OF CHICAGO NOW!"

Of course I am kidding, but that would be very funny if a protest were put together to do that....

Business Week has an article worth reading called, "The Failed Promise of Innovation in the U.S." It makes some interesting points that I won't get in to here. However, I did want to make note of a couple other little innovations of our time.

Tyler Cowen points out one of the latest innovations in cheating, corrupted-files.com. With a corrupted file purchased at this site, you can send it to your professor in the place of an assignment that's due. By the time he informs you that the file is corrupted, you have bought enough time to finish your assignment. Clever, but honesty would be a great new innovation as well. For some reason it reminded me of Keith Hennessey's post on the stimulus (brilliant and clear points from a Keynesian economist).

E-cigarettes are becoming popular quite quickly and are causing a kerfuffle among regulators. Electronic cigarettes have no harmful second-hand smoke (just water vapor). Also, it does not deliver tar or any of the carcinogenic substances. It appears that much of the real controversy stems from two issues: a massive loss of tax revenue for states (I find it funny that states got addicted to cigarette taxes. It looks like they will have to revamp their lottery revenues.) and the "public shock" of seeing people smoke indoors. *Cue Mrs. Flanders, "Think of the children."

That's it for now.... I kicked the flu. Now I just got to kick two more finals. Interestingly, this quarter I had to do a couple 30 page papers instead of finals. If you have any questions about the financials and turnaround strategy of Pier 1 Imports, how an airline predicts which passengers will show up or not, or projections for U.S. debt/GDP ratios, I just may be able to help.

Have a great rest of the week and be good.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Disappointments of Life

There are certain things in life that always disappoint despite any of their individual characteristics. The best example I can think of is when you open a box of doughnuts. You choose the rectangular bar that is covered in chocolate. You will be disappointed no matter how good the chocolate bar may be. Why? Because deep down in your heart, you were hoping for an eclair. You sink your teeth into the chocolate bar and... nothing. What a disappointment.

Ice cream, on the other hand, is never disappointing. Berry Patch Sherbet especially is not disappointing. Fight disappointment by supporting ice cream in your area. If we all do our part and work together, we can make a real difference. Thank you.

http://kidshealth.org/kid/talk/qa/images_59728/ice_cream.gif

Or we could just label which is the eclair and which is the chocolate bar...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Teething Update

You read that right, and we don't yet have children. To top off this exciting day, my final wisdom tooth is coming in.



Teething explains the crankiness and the compulsive biting. Also, it is a little known fact that I can fit my fist in my mouth.

I'm sure you wanted to see and read those things. It looks more like a snake's mouth to me. Ah well, to Slytherin I go.

Two Links and a Book

Andy Borowitz has yet another "it's funny because it's true" fake news report. I think his funniest article that I've read was this one ("Hillary Accuses Obama of Bed-Wetting"). It came out when Hillary was attacking Obama on a paper that he wrote in kindergarten.

While we're at it, this is one of my favorite newspaper articles of all time. An economist takes a complex idea and breaks it down into a very simple allegory. "If You're Paying, I'll Have Top Sirloin" appeared more than a decade ago in the Wall Street Journal, but the subtleties of the argument are still compelling today.

I finished Archer's Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less over the weekend. It was fantastic. Archer uses a surprising amount of Shakespearean comedy devices. He includes all of the following: a person disguising himself as an outrageous character, a big reveal, a marriage at the end, a hilarious hook, and outlandish coincidences. I liked it. It wouldn't take much to turn the book into a stage play comedy.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

I Can't Believe This Is My Job

I've just spent the last five minutes listening to kids in my class describe "Robo Tripping," which is chugging an entire bottle of Robitussin.

"Ooooh!" said one. "What if you added some Sprite and a coupla Jolly Ranchers? That'd be gooooood."

Put cough syrup on the list of things I won't have in my house when we have kids, I guess.

UPDATE: I spent the next period listening to students tell each other what to do if a cop comes to their house and asks who was shooting. They also discussed how many times brothers or boyfriends had been in jail. It's been an eventful day.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

First Time This Year

Well, it's finally happened. I wrote my first referral for the year. For those of you unfamiliar with edu-speak, that means that I did the equivalent of sending someone to the principal's office. I'm not normally one to do this, but this kid really got on my nerves.

At the beginning of every class I sub for, I remind students to put away iPods and cell phones. I also tell them that if I see them using the devices, I will take them for the duration of the period. I won't mess with the phones, and I will give them back at the end of the class, but I don't want them being used. It seems pretty fair, right?

I made the same announcement Tuesday in one of the classes. A few minutes later a student (not even trying to hide it) was texting. I walked over to him as he started to put it away and told him to give me the phone. He refused. I tried again. He refused. I said, "OK, I'll just write you up." Usually that is enough to get students to give me the phone. This was not the case with this student.

He said, "Fine! Write me up. I don't care."

So I did. I also told him the next time I saw his phone out, I would call Safety to have him escorted from class.

"Fine!" he said. "I don't care. It doesn't mean anything anyway. What'll they do? Lecture me. I can deal with that."

See? This is the problem. The kid doesn't care about failing the class (which, based on my experience with him in other classes tells me he probably is), and he doesn't care about authority. There is no punishment for this child who is clearly breaking rules. I don't mean to be a jerk or a tyrant, but it's a matter of priorities in the classroom. Texting takes a backseat to classwork.

I'm reminded of the last time I wrote a referral. I was teaching in Utah last year, and I had a problem child I'll call "Kevin." He'd been giving me grief all year long and was the cause of much frustration and discussion with my more experienced co-workers. The students in this class thought it was funny to throw things, especially when I couldn't tell who had done it. I told all the students to stop throwing paper at each other. About 10 seconds later I watched Kevin throw another wad at a girl across the room.

I got mad. "What did I just say?!" I said in exasperation.

"What?" he said. "I didn't throw anything."

That was it. If there's one thing I can't stand, it's for someone to lie to my face. I lost it.

"DON'T PEE ON MY SHOES AND TELL ME IT'S RAINING!!! Get out of my classroom NOW!"

The class laughed nervously, as if I might turn into Mr Hyde. After some protestation, Kevin left and class resumed. The other kids were pretty good for the rest of the day. :)

And shortly afterward, Kevin was suspended for several weeks because of drugs. My room was much more manageable.