Saturday, December 29, 2012

WAAAAAAAAHH!!!!

video
Just a taste of what "boinky-boink" and "waaaaaahh" are at our house. Usually there is more laughter and squeals of delight.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Thanksgiving and Christmas 2012

Two pregos on Jane's birthday
This holiday season has been really wonderful, beginning with Thanksgiving with both our families in November. We got to meet Sam and Benson's baby boy, Hudson, and then meet Josh and Aly's baby girl, Jane (born three days before Thanksgiving), which got all three of us excited to meet our own new baby in January. We loved spending time in Utah with our families and are so grateful for their kindness and support and love even as we live so far away. We also acquired our residency visas for Brazil, which means that our sea shipment was finally sent. Last we heard, it will arrive in the country sometime in early January and will get to our home (after sitting in customs) in early February. Any prayers on our behalf, particularly that we might get our shipment a little closer to our baby's due date would be appreciated. :)

35 weeks, just before Jake's work party

We headed back to Brazil at the end of November, and have spent December wishing for air conditioning (lots of 90+ degree days), playing outside, and getting back into a routine. We went with some friends to watch the light and water show (kind of like at the Bellagio) at Ibirapuera park, and my friend, Rebecca, was kind enough to take a family photo (see post from December 23), and I managed a nice picture even with our non-fancy camera.

Lights at Ibirapuera Park after the water show

I was feeling pretty blue last week because of the lack of Christmas in our home (my one box of decorations is...you guessed it...on the boat), and Jake came through Sunday night with a borrowed tree and decorations. I can't believe how that one gesture changed my whole attitude. I finally let myself get excited about Christmas, and I was so grateful to Jake and the other ward members who helped out.

Christmas Eve rain
Christmas PJs, courtesy of Nana; tree courtesy of our bishop and his family

We had a fun Christmas, just the three of us. Christmas Eve we had the Miller family traditional Mary & Joseph dinner (consisting of fish, dried fruit, nuts, grapes, grape juice, and crumbly cheese) and read the Christmas story from the Bible. We had hoped to share it with our friends, but their daughter got sick the day before, and so they weren't able to make it.

Mary & Joseph dinner

Christmas morning was a lot of fun. Joseph got far too many presents, and he had a lot of fun reading his books and playing with all his new toys. He even spent minutes at a time with a toy playing quietly by himself, which NEVER happens. Note to self: encourage this, particularly since the new baby will frequently tie you down. :) We had leftovers and treats and got to talk to both our families on Skype later in the afternoon. We miss them a lot, but technology makes the distance much easier.

Jake and Joseph with Elmo and Panda Christmas morning.

Our anniversary is two days after Christmas, and Jake took the day off from work. We went to Ibirapuera Park, ate lunch at home, went to a doctor's appointment for me and then another for Joseph, ate at the Chili's down the street, and picked up Joseph's and my prescriptions. I loved being able to spend this fifth anniversary of ours marveling at the strange turns our short marriage has already taken, reminiscing about crazy road trips and starving student days, talking a lot about what we want to do next, and wondering what strangeness is in store in the years to come. I'm a lucky girl to be married to this awesome guy and have such a beautiful family.

Playing at the park two days after Christmas

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Joseph Update

I realized how little I've posted in the last while, and I know that once our daughter arrives in January, I won't have much chance to provide an update on Joseph as often, so I wanted to get some of this down.

Joseph is a whole lot of fun these days. I never knew two-year-olds could be so much fun (as well as so exhausting). He is learning rapidly; he finally figured out which number is which, thanks to our elevator, and is so quick with his letters. He loves to run and have Jake chase him and fly him all over the house, and he loves being thrown on the bed. At this point (8.5 months pregnant), I can't do much of that, but Jake loves it too, or at least doesn't mind being accosted the second he walks through the door: "Babypandaflyingboinkyboinkwaaaah!" For those who might not speak Josephese, baby panda chases him, flying is zooming around, boinkyboink and waaaah are two distinct ways of being thrown on the bed. He talks about it all day, especially in the afternoons when he knows Jake will be  home soon. He's getting more dextrous and loves to put stickers on paper, though he still has a hard time getting the stickers off the sheet and onto his fingers.

He also loves books, and has many of them memorized, including Quick as a Cricket, which he pronounces "Titt as a Titett." Adorable. He won't read or sing on demand, but he'll do both when he thinks no one is paying attention. His other current favorite books are Go, Dogs. Go!, The Cat in the Hat, Your Personal Penguin, a Christmas pop-up my parents gave him before we left Utah in November, and a book about Jesus Jake's mom gave him for his birthday. He loves having me sing Primary songs, Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo, and the theme from Winnie-the-Pooh. He's very into Elmo, and we watch several YouTube videos featuring Elmo most days.

He's starting to get humor. I'll ask him where his dirty clothes go, and he'll look at me, smile, and say, "In the garbage!" I'll say, "No, where do your clothes go?" and he'll run to his room yelling, "In the basket!" He thinks it's funny every single time, and he'll do the opposite phrases when I ask him where his dirty diapers go. He's also having independent thought, not just mimicking us. He'll say things like "You MAY play with the ironing board" after he knows we've said he may not. He's also putting ideas together, so that when I say, "You need to ask daddy about that," he'll come up with a brand new sentence using the asking structure we've taught him: "Daddy, may I play with your phone please?" or "Mommy, may I have some water please?" He has to be prompted to ask, otherwise it's just "more water?" but I'm really proud of his language progress.

He's also incorporating Portuguese words into everyday use. He likes to pray in Portuguese at bedtime with Jake, and he likes me to count things in Portuguese, particularly when we're counting down the bites left on his plate a mealtimes. He's very proud that he knows the words for dog, cat, bear, and several other animals, and he says "Tudo bem!" to everyone at church (standard greeting, like "How's it going?"). Food is easier, because much of it doesn't have an English equivalent (pavé, torta, pastel), and he asks to go to the feira all the time.

He is very definitely a creature of habit, but from what I've read and heard, most kids his age are. Our day goes something like this: get up around 7, eat breakfast, change his diaper and clothes, play with toys or books or go outside (weather permitting), snack around 10, watch Elmo videos and play with toys or books some more, lunch around noon, then fruit snack (can't forget the fruit snack!), diaper change, go down for a nap, sit in his room for several hours not actually napping, get up, snack, play or run an errand or two or Skype with Nana, drive Mommy crazy while she's trying to make dinner, eat when Jake gets home (after flyingbabypandaboinkyboinkwaaaaah), lime cookie, play or read, PJs, brush teeth, story, song, prayer, and bed by 8 pm. It's a busy day. We'll break the routine some days and go to the park (about 3/4 of a mile each way), see a friend, or some other thing, but this is pretty much how it goes most days.

I've held off on potty training, as our lives have been in upheaval since August, and I probably won't begin in earnest until our baby is here and I've established some semblance of a routine, but we talk about the potty and sit on it most days, though no success on that front yet.

He's gotten frighteningly good at playing with the Kindle and can find his couple of games without any help. One funny side effect of playing with it is that he tries to swipe the computer screen and TV screen and gets frustrated when they don't work the way he thinks they should. Oh, child of the digital age!

As for discipline, I've found that time-outs are pretty effective, and he's to the point now where he'll sit in a chair by himself for the duration instead of having me pin his arms down on my lap. Considering my lap is shrinking daily, this is a welcome change. I still have a hard time getting him to come when called, and I'm sure part of that is my own inconsistency, but I think we're making progress. Now if I could only figure out how to get him to whisper in church and not shout "All done!" after the closing prayer in Sacrament meeting....

He likes to give my belly hugs and kisses and "tawt tah baby stistah" and give her stickers. He's asked to hold her and talk to her on Skype, and he got very excited when he saw her on the screen during a brief ultrasound at my doctor appointment last week. We talk about how we have to be gentle with babies and how they can only drink milk and how he can help get diapers and clothes for her. He's seen a few babies in the last several months, so I don't think it will be a completely foreign experience to have a baby around, though I don't know how he'll react when we bring her home and she's here to stay.

He's getting big, too. He can reach all the lightswitches and I'm frequently amazed at the shelves he can reach, but his self-control is getting better too, or at least his obedience is better developed. I'm finally taking him for his two-year-old checkup tomorrow, and will update with height and weight when I get a chance.

We are sure lucky to have this awesome little boy in our family. He's curious, excited, fun, funny, and a joy to have around. He's gaining so much independence, and it's amazing to watch him grow and learn and do more on his own.

UPDATE: Joseph's stats are 48 cm head, 25 lb, 2'11". Weight is 50th percentile, height is 70th percentile. Not sure where the tall genes came from... The doctor was absolutely the best pediatrician of the three we've seen since Joseph's birth, and he made the whole experience very pleasant. In other non-Joseph news, I'm dilated to 3 cm, so this new baby could come any time. Freaking out a little inside right now.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Tropical Christmas!  (Yes, our child is wearing skeleton pajamas.)


Thanks for the picture Rebecca!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Unintended Consequences - NJ Style

Anti-gouging and license plate edition. During the hurricane New Jersey and New York reiterated that the state governments would prosecute for gas price increases according to anti-gouging laws. New Jersey implemented last week, and New York is implementing this week, every other day fuel purchasing for cars depending on the last number on the plate. These have had some interesting unintended consequences.

First, fuel demand increased because of home generator use. Second, supply decreased because of fuel shortages and gas stations did not have power. Here are the results of the states' response.

1) Anti-gouging laws. a) The price of utilizing a fuel tanker increased dramatically during the hurricane. This was partly due to truck displacement and damage and partly due to demand. This caused the cost of getting fuel to any given location to increase. However, gas station were not allowed to increase prices. Station owners were not motivated to get creative in order to get fuel to their location. Gas stations were running out of fuel, but Hertz wasn't. The reason was that Hertz was willing to pay, even if it meant the truck was traveling 500+ miles to get there. b) Many gas stations had fuel, but no electricity. In theory they could have run on generators in order to pump the fuel. Once again, however, that's expensive. Anti-gouging laws cause suppliers to take their sweet time to work toward ending the shortage. This is what happened here. Long lines didn't end until demand dropped to more normal levels.

2) Purchase restrictions. Besides being inconvenient, it causes people, on average, to fill up a car 1/2 day earlier than they would otherwise (maybe more due to psychological effects and uncertainty of consumption). Because people fill up cars with a fuller tank, they are filling up more often. Because people are filling up more often lines are longer than they would be otherwise... which is the opposite intended effect of the executive order.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Life Imitates Eek the Cat

In one of my favorite episodes of Eek the Cat, one of the characters, trying to demonstrate his knowledge of history, says, "Pirates lived so long ago, they watched TV by candlelight."

I couldn't help but think of that hilarious Eek the Cat episode when I read this supposedly unintended comedic line from the New York Times:
"Along with eight million others, the Kristofs have lost power, so I’ve been sending Twitter messages on my iPhone by candlelight"

Eek wins.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Warm Welcomes

In Brazil, people welcome you into the fold by inviting themselves over to your home in large numbers, bringing a lot of food. I think Ashley felt a little bit like Justin Long in this clip:


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Stranger in a Strange Land: First Weeks

Our first weekend together after the arrival in Brazil was lovely. Saturday morning we went to the feira (street market with fruits, veggies, meat and fish I don't trust, and a few other vendors) down the street. Jake introduced us to pastel, a pastry filled with various substances like cheese or chocolate or meat or bananas or guava paste, and deep-fried. Joseph is still talking about it, and rightly so. We got a four-cheese pastel and a chocolate pastel, and both were amazing. Because our internet hadn't been connected yet, Jake and I listened to the first session of General Conference via the unsecured wireless network some kind neighbor unwittingly provided while Joseph napped. We listened to less of the next session because Joseph was awake, ate dinner, and Jake went to the Priesthood session, which started at 9 pm because of the time difference.

Sunday morning was lovely. Our friends from New Jersey, the Wallentines, moved to São Paulo shortly before we did, and our apartments are only a few blocks from each other. They invited us to their place for cinnamon rolls, and we had a great time catching up. Our kids took naps during the morning session, and then we met up again for dinner and the afternoon session later that day. They introduced me to some delicious new foods, and our kids had a good time playing together.

The next week was a little rough. The bulk of our furniture won't arrive until probably January (pleaseopleaseoplease get here before this baby comes!), so Joseph and I have had to find things to do in a mostly empty apartment. I've never looked forward to Jake's homecoming each evening as I have since we moved here. Our complex has a great children's play area, and Joseph and I are down there most days. I also was brave enough to venture to the grocery store down the street and start purchasing some of the many, many items we need to stock our kitchen. There was also some cleaning to do, and I'm learning how to clean like a Brazilian (squeegee water all over the tile, and then your water goes down a drain on the floor).

Joseph developed a hacking cough during that first week, so we thought it wise to avoid getting the other kids sick during Nursery that first Sunday back to church, so we only went to Sacrament meeting, which is the last meeting of the block here. Guess how much fun that is with a hungry, tired child. Jake is the Executive Secretary/Ward Clerk (again), and before the meeting a member of the bishopric noticed that the regular pianist wasn't there. He asked Jake if I would play. It is nice to know that music reads the same in any language, and I played in Sacrament my first week in Brazil. Somehow, this did not surprise me in the least.  It was Fast Sunday, and as I listened to the testimonies as we attempted to wrangle our boy who hadn't been to a Sacrament meeting in weeks, I realized that as little as I thought I was getting out of church in the US, I was going to get even less...for a very long time. This thought, naturally, put my emotions right over the edge. Tears. Everywhere. I was overwhelmed with all the new faces and all the people trying to be friendly, but mostly with my complete inability to communicate.

The next evening, we were invited to a ward member's home for Family Home Evening, along with a number of the other American families. Joseph was kind of awful, but we were introduced to a delicious new food, pão de queijo, which means cheese bread. They are these delightful little rolls with slightly gooey cheese inside, and they are amazing and apparently gluten-free. Each one has about as many calories as a cookie. So. Good. I was also invited to a playgroup at the American consulate, as all of the Americans in our ward except us work there.

Playgroups aren't really my thing, but I'm glad I went last week. One of the women gave me a reference for an OB/GYN that has only a 20% C-section rate, compared to the 80-90% average in Brazil. That made three convincing recommendations for her that I'd either read or heard in the previous week, and Jake called today to get me an appointment, hopefully before we head back to the US at the end of the month to take care of our visas and spend Thanksgiving with our families.

The next week at church was worse than the first. We were late, for starters. Then, I don't read Portuguese well, and I barely understand a word here and there, and I definitely don't speak. Ward members are trying so hard to be nice to me and include me and make me feel welcome, and all I want to do is say, "Leave me alone! I can't talk to you and you can't talk to me, so why are we trying!?" which is possibly the least Christ-like thing on the planet. Relief Society was humiliating. At least in Sunday School, Jake could sort of translate for me. But once we got Joseph back from Nursery for Sacrament meeting, all hopes of a peaceful Sunday vanished. I had forgotten snacks, he didn't want any of his toys, he wouldn't stay by us, he couldn't manage a voice quieter than a shout, and I had to take him out, which I haven't had to do in a long time. After the meeting, I rushed out and got the boy home before he could be more destructive. I'm worried I was thought rude for not lingering or chatting with anyone, but I just can't do it right now. Can't. And I had a complete breakdown while washing the dishes that afternoon before Jake got home. I can't say I didn't know my freak-out Friday (or Sunday, in this case) would happen eventually. I was sure it would, but I didn't realize how hard church would be. Because I know I don't make friends easily, I've always been able to count on church for necessary social interaction. I feel far more isolated right now than I ever have in my life, and that's coming from the girl who happily lived alone for two years in college.

This is not to say that my life is awful. Joseph and I have fun playing in the play area, reading books, and singing songs. I'm learning how to cook (Brazilian stroganoff, which is nothing like regular stroganoff, went pretty well, and so did beans and rice). And about once a week, Jake orders this amazing pizza with chopped ham and cheese and a crust stuffed with chocolate. It's dinner and dessert without putting your slice down! I'm writing this post while making pavê, a Brazilian dessert involving ladyfingers and sweetened condensed milk and cocoa. There are lots of good things about living here, but it's going to take a lot of work for me to feel at home. Furniture might help a little. :)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Best Defense of the Electoral College... Ever

This is the best explanation that I've read addressing the benefits of having the electoral college.

 Teaser quote:
"[I]f the presidency was decided by majority rule, I'm sure we'd hear a lot more about regional differences.  Could a presidential candidate get 75% of the votes in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida by promising broad-based Gulf Coast subsidies and a few other goodies?  Could a candidate get 85% of California's and New York's votes partly by offering housing subsidies for people facing high housing costs?

I don't know: But if we got rid of the electoral college and had a popularly elected president we'd sure have a chance to find out."

- Ashley and Jake. We both get credit for finally updating the blog.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Flight and Arrival

Our flight to Brazil was not nearly as horrible as it could have been. That said, I don't wish to repeat it without a husband any time soon. I was able to get the flights at reasonable times, and that helped a lot, and that red-eye from Dallas worked out pretty well.

Joseph fell asleep almost as soon as we were in the air on the way from Vegas to Dallas, and he slept for maybe an hour before waking up cranky, crying, screaming, and inconsolable. It was a good 10 minutes before he calmed down, which for the man sitting next to me, was probably an eternity. He was a little fragile the rest of the flight, but not too bad.

We had about two hours at the Dallas airport, which may have been the hardest part of the whole ordeal. Letting him run around enough to get the wiggles out while not allowing him to run off or destroy other people's belongings was kind of exhausting. I had a few snacks, but not a ton because I knew we'd be having dinner on the flight. Once we got on the plane (bulkhead seats, ick), it was a challenge to keep him awake for takeoff and drink service and then dinner. Dinner was pasta that was too hot and took forever to cool down, and he probably didn't get enough to eat. I was also under the impression that we wouldn't be served breakfast, so I was saving the roll and other sides from our dinners for that morning.

He fell asleep after dinner without too much fuss. Thank heaven for Hertz paying for his own seat. That kid on my lap for 10 hours would have been nightmarish. I even slept a little bit, which is rare for me. After a few hours, he woke up again, just as cranky and inconsolable as on the previous flight. Over the course of the night, I realized that the boy just wanted to be horizontal. As soon as I got him out and put him in my arms, he settled down. I'd leave him like that for 15 minutes or so and then put him back in his seat. We played that game several more times during the night.

He woke up far too early as the sun was rising over the wing on the other side of the plane. We played some games on the Kindle and read books and found some snacks. I was starting to butter a roll from dinner when the flight attendant came by with breakfast. Yay for food! Shortly after breakfast ended, we began our descent into São Paulo. Getting onto the ground was a relief, and passport control wasn't too hard; there was a line for people with kids/the infirm (because they're pretty much the same thing). Jake said he'd try to get me some help to get through customs, as he couldn't go behind security. Either the help didn't show up or I didn't see it, so I was on my own.

The worst part of the airport was waiting for my bags. I had two large bags checked, I was carrying a diaper bag on the stroller handle, and I was carrying a backpack. Oh, and did I mention I had a Joseph with me? The bags took forever, and people kept pushing in front of me at the carousel. One bag that looked like mine kept coming around and around and would get my hopes up every time. I had to keep going back to Joseph in the stroller (his feet can touch the floor and he can move it Flintstones-style) and telling him to stay seated and not go anywhere. I finally got smart and locked the wheels, which just made him mad. Our bags came out at last, and I made a valiant effort to put the bags on the cart (6 months pregnant, remember?) and then push the stroller. Not happening. I took Joseph out of the stroller, put it and the diaper bag on the cart, put the hand-holder/child leash I probably get judged for on him, and pushed the cart with everything but my kid on it through customs.

I can't describe the utter relief it was to see Jake again after two months. Joseph gave him a giant hug, and we all just held each other for a minute before heading to the Hertz lot with our excessive baggage. When we got there, I asked if there was a bathroom. Jake laughed a little and said, "Well, there's no running water on the rental lots, but there's a portapotty over there." Welcome to Brazil, I thought.

Joseph slept on the ride home from the airport (and still took a nap later that afternoon!), and I shuddered with terror at the thought of driving in this city. The sea shipment with most of our belongings won't arrive until about the time our baby is due in January (so much for that nesting instinct), so we came home to a mostly empty apartment. Jake had bought flowers for me, had schlepped home a foldable couch/bed (not exactly a futon, but close) just in case our air shipment with the air mattress hadn't arrived in time, and set up the playpen for Joseph. 

I have a trooper of a husband and a trooper of a kid. We are so happy to be back together again

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Utah, We Love Thee

Joseph and I spent a lovely month in Utah while we waited for our tourist visas. Tourists, you say? Aren't we moving there? Why yes, yes we are, but we've heard the phrase "30-60 days" so many times in the last several months that in order for the three of us to actually be in the same hemisphere any time in the near future, Jake got the ball rolling on tourist visas. Otherwise we probably wouldn't have seen each other until Thanksgiving.

Here are some highlights from our stay with my awesome parents:
  • Ultrasound: It's a girl! Due January 11! Girl clothes shopping! Yay!
  • Joseph begging incessantly to have the fans and lights on
  • Morning routine with my dad (feeding the cat, opening the garage door, turning on all the fans, pushing the cup in on the coffee grinder so the blue light comes on)
  • Khara and Shelby's visit and Joseph's first hike
  • Tragedy/utter meltdown when the water balloons broke
  • First camping trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and lack of sleep for everyone involved, courtesy of my son
  • Two baby showers for my beautiful sister-in-law, Aly, and her daughter, Jane
  • A valiant attempt at Rosetta Stone (I made it through the first unit before I left)
  • Seeing "Stones In His Pockets" at the Utah Shakespeare Festival (go see it, Cedar peeps! Chicagoans can see it in March)
  • Walking to the New Harmony post office with my mom
  • A lovely birthday lunch with my mother-in-law
  • Sunday dinners with the whole family (minus Jake, of course)
  • Costa Vida, lots
  • Hearing Joseph ask to "tawt ta baby sistah" and giving my belly hugs and kisses
  • Watching Doctor Who while crocheting a blessing blanket for my daughter (Daughter...still sounds weird)
  • Talking to Jake on Skype whenever we could
  • Letting Joseph run free all over my parents' yard with no fear of goose poop or traffic (though there was a rattlesnake once)
  • Being able to sleep in a little because my parents were so eager to get Joseph in the mornings
  • Late-night chats with my siblings
  • Watching my kid devour hummus
It was a great trip, and I was sad to leave my family, but I was so ready to be with Jake again. And judging by the sheer quantity of his blog posts, I could tell he was ready to have me with him again too. More to follow soon.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Things that Come in Two's

Ideas why having cars run on alcohol is a bad idea:
- Rush hour smells like a really low-end bar
- It's 45 degrees and it's too cold for the engine to start

Copy and pasting operational ideas from one country to another is a bad idea:
- Free Big Macs if you don't get your order in 60 seconds only results in everyone getting free Big Macs, and there is no tracking mechanism to count how many or when they were given out.
- Using single queuing in a shopping market (everyone is in one line instead of a separate line at each cashier), but only calling people one at a time, wasting 20-30 seconds per customer. It's like socialism: "Yeah, it's way less efficient than each of us getting in our own line, but we all suffer together!"

Great date ideas that I've seen so far:
- Go to the entertainment section of a retail store and watch the entire movie of the Avengers
- Make-out... everywhere... seriously.

And...
My favorite TWO people are coming in TWO days, and one of them will be turning TWO years old in exactly TWO weeks and the other will be TOO enamored of me TO notice that I have just dragged her inTO a different hemisphere.  :)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Clever t-shirt

Here.
... If you don't get it, just think about it longer...

At least I thought so... Thanks for the link Lincoln!

Now if only I wore tshirts...





Sunday, September 23, 2012

To those who may have inadvertently been offended

The below post was from our Chicago days. Oh Chicago mailpersons. But, I decided to publish it anyway, because the message is probably still true now that we live in Brazil. :)


Just so you know, the % of our mail that actually reaches us is well below 100%. As mentioned previously, the postal system here really is horrendous. We apologize if you were expecting some sort of response from anything sent to us through the postal system.

An especially entertaining highlight of the United States Postal Service's mismanagement was highlighted recently by a friend's experience. This friend of ours sent a thank-you note to us. Four months later it was sent back to her stamped "undeliverable." She re-sent the envelope within another envelope with the exact same address. Success!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Jobs: Where they don't come from

For the last century or two, economic downturns have been accompanied with politicians crying "jobs." Unfortunately, I've never heard them coherently explain where a job comes from. I wanted to write a few ideas to spur some of your own thoughts on what exactly is this mysterious "job" that everyone is talking about.

Imagine that the United States is a country that has no crime in it, but it is in a serious depression. As a way to stimulate the economy, the President gives a speech encouraging poor people to rob the homes of the better off. He states that this will spur growth in the home security, locks, windows, and taekwondo industries. This also will simultaneously transfer some wealth from the better off to the worse off, creating more equality in the country. The keynesian multipliers caused by the increase in demand for security will then carry the economy to a life of prosperity once again.

Except it won't work. What are these home owners truly trying to buy when they are purchasing home security systems, locks, unbreakable windows, and taekwondo lessons? They are trying to buy safety and protection of assets. Before this "jobs" plan, safety and protection of assets were free. There was no need for others to expend labor in order to produce it. Now, however, it is not free. It is like becoming technologically less advanced. It is like banning the assembly line. In the example, the locksmith is now doing more work, but nearly anything is better for the economy than creating locks that have no value. Instead of a policy of increased burglary, the government could just as well pay for new windows, locks, etc., and then blow them up. Increasing scarcity is not abundance. What was free before is now expensive, which makes people expend more of their productive energy doing something that should have no value and was not necessary. This policy has shrunken the "economic pie."

The next example is similar in structure to a real life occurrence. Let's say there is a train track that goes across Spain. The trains that use this track carry agricultural goods. A politician with significant clout decides to disrupt the train and disconnect the track in his home town. Now, all of the goods must be manually loaded and unloaded from one train to another in order to transfer goods from one side of the country to another. The similarities between this and the first example should be quite evident.

One more example addressing how jobs and the GDP are measured. This example is based on a post that Greg Mankiw did a few years ago (I can't find it at the moment). Imagine someone is unemployed and spends his time watching reruns of Bonanza and sometimes looking for a job. This person is counted as unemployed and what he does is not counted towards GDP. Now imagine a person that is employed by the government, but he spends his day "working" where he actually watching reruns of MASH, but he'd rather spend his day watching reruns of Bonanza. This person is employed and his wages are counted towards GDP. Take this same person, let him go back to watching reruns of Bonanza, but count his wage as unemployment insurance. The GDP disappears, and he's unemployed again, even though the situation is better than before. (The situation is identical for the government and better for him! It's a neutral-win scenario.) Now imagine a person that is unemployed (seeking employment), but she spends her extra time doing free tutoring helping children learn to read. From the government statistics perspective, she is identical to the unemployed Bonanza watcher. Because government employment and GDP statistics are fuzzy measurements of well-being, a change in them does not necessarily mean that conditions improve or worsen, and a policy that increases or decreases these statistics also does not necessarily improve or worsen conditions. Imagine the headline, "Jesus Returns - Economic Depression Strikes as Peace on Earth Ravages Economy."

Monday, September 17, 2012

Federal Policies During the Obama Administration

This is one of my few pure political posts. If you feel like jumping out a window or throttling me through the computer after reading it, take a Mentos with a large glass of water, then read The Myth of the Rational Voter. Repeat until rage dissipates.


Also, I should first clarify a few things.
1) I understand the chance of my vote influencing the outcome of any state-wide or federal election by my vote is on the order of winning the Powerball jackpot 5-10x in a row.
2) I understand that the probability of my influencing a sufficient number of votes in order to change the outcome of a state-wide or federal election is greater than #1, but the probability is likely on the order of winning Powerball 2x in a row.
3) I don’t buy lottery tickets, so my chances of winning Powerball are actually zero.
4) Because of #1 and #2 above, anything I write in this post must likely be for personal enrichment, signaling to others, self-gratification, or similar reasons.
5) I like writing, so it’s probably for personal enrichment or self-gratification.
Accordingly, this will probably be one of my very few pure political posts. Below is essentially my list of specific grievances with each of the significant “accomplishments” of the Obama Administration. If you still want to read this but the length looks daunting, you can skip the financial regulation and healthcare sections. Those areas get further down “into the weeds” of economic policy.

Foreign Policy:
There isn’t much historical correlation between political party and foreign policy. And, as stated previously, I’m not a guru on foreign policy. But, let’s imagine we are in September 2008 for a moment. If someone gave you the following list of actions committed by the future administration, who do you think had won the election?
- Refused to accelerate the withdrawal from Iraq, and withdrew on the timetable established by Pres. GW Bush only after a failure to negotiate a longer-term stay.
- Even after official withdrawal, maintained as large a presence as possible in Iraq.
- Achieved a record level of assassinations outside of Afghanistan and Iraq.
- Began the assassination of US citizens located outside the US.
- Did not close down Guantanamo.
- Authorized military conflict with another country without congressional approval.
- Reclassified the definition of enemy combatant as all adult males killed in a “strike zone,” and then stated that nearly no innocent civilians were killed in combat and drone strikes.
Not only would people say “John McCain” with 100% certainty, many would be yelling “War Crimes!” Code Pink and other anti-war groups would still be up and humming organizations instead of the shell they are today.

The last refuge of arguments of this nature in support of the President’s administration (assuming one believes the bullet points above are all bad) is, “Well, the other side would have been worse!” Seeing the unpredictable history of the foreign policy of presidents and political parties pre and post election, that argument has little merit.

Financial Regulation:
Forget for a moment the piles of smaller problems with Dodd-Frank (see The Economist's article). The bill’s principle purpose almost works. So close. It focuses on stability rather than agility, and for that it fails. Instead of eliminating “too big to fail,” it has promoted, “no bank will fail.” Parts of it start out on a great path. For example, creating and frequently updating a “living will” for financial institutions was, I believe, exactly the right track. Many economists have called for reforming the bankruptcy code for financial institutions to promote smooth transition of ownership from shareholders to bondholders in bankruptcy. (If you’re interested, here is a great article by an economist on this point. Also, other countries have different forms of this and it is frequently referred to as the “zone of insolvency.”) However, instead of having this as the focal point of the law, it instead has the government step in to support the firm.  But, don’t worry, this isn’t a bailout! We hope to get paid back. If we don’t get paid back, we’re going to make all the other surviving banks pay the government until we get every last farthing! Also, you don’t need to worry because the non-bailouts are limited to just 90% of the company’s assets. So, for example, the law says that the government will spend no more than $2 Trillion to “not bailout” JP Morgan if it finds itself in financial trouble. If a major financial crisis hits again, the government could find itself shelling out trillions of dollars and owning all the banks (imagine Ireland but on a global impact scale).

Another feature that can easily become a bug, is that when the government steps in to “not bailout” the bank, it place itself as the senior unsecured credit holder. The natural response to this would be for banks to shift as much debt as possible into secured debt, and try and classify every debt known to man as secured debt. This could bifurcate the financial debt market into ridiculously low risk secured debt, because the government will show up to the rescue and there is no way to lose, and the unsecured debt market. I think that this method of “not bailout” is an improvement from how the bailout was originally conducted in 2008-2009, but the bill missed the opportunity to transition to a better system, which would reform the bankruptcy code and eliminate the need for government “not bailouts.”

Healthcare:
There are fundamental problems with the US healthcare market. First, for a large variety of reasons, consumers are not price-sensitive. Even if a consumer wanted to be price-sensitive, how would she know the costs at different hospitals? Have you ever called a hospital and asked how much a certain procedure costs? Probably not, so I’ll help you out—the hospital employees generally don’t know the answer either. This is partly caused by the fact that the vast majority of consumers don’t appear to care. If consumers don’t ask about price, businesses won’t post the price. There are also numerous government policies that compound this problem. Second, the supply of the healthcare market is restricted in many forms (e.g., number of doctors, what non-MD’s are legally allowed to treat/prescribe, health insurance and government admin compliance costs, malpractice insurance and other regional specific costs, etc.). It’s simply hard to innovate with a low-cost or streamlined medical service in the United States, and it is very difficult to argue that the incentives exist for a new venture will succeed in an attempt to accomplish this.

The Affordable Care Act does nothing to address these problems. The ACA, in essence, transfers money and benefits from the young, males, healthy, privately insured, gays, and medicare recipients, to the middle aged, females, history of illness, heterosexual, uninsured, and those who are just above the Medicaid income threshold line.

Also, the result of telling insurance companies, hospitals, and businesses what to do results in them shifting the price away from the free or taxed goods onto the rest of their services. A long list of health services must be provided for free? Just raise the price of the whole insurance package to offset it. Can’t charge the old more than three times the cost of the young? Raise prices on the young. Cut payments to hospitals for Medicare patients? You get what you pay for and people, as is stated in almost every principles of economics textbook, respond to incentives.

And the other problems: Countless studies address the fact that the vast majority of preventive medicine doesn’t actually lower healthcare costs? Ignore it in your assumptions. Additional taxes on medical suppliers raise prices and costs for healthcare? Assume it doesn’t happen. Etc. etc. etc. It’s like the people who wrote the bill had never heard of “unintended consequences.”

There was an opportunity at reforming the US healthcare model, and instead of going the route of high-deductible HSAs, portable nationally competitive insurance, forced savings, or other methods, the House Democrats tried to produce something as close to single-payer as politically possible, regardless of the actual outcome, and the Administration did nothing to interfere. This law does nothing, as even supporters now state, to “bend the cost curve.” I believe that the most likely source of bending the cost curve will actually come from corporations trying to contain healthcare costs of employees, despite the addition of all of the “free” services. When it comes to soaring healthcare costs, it appears we are left turning to corporate HR to save us.

AWOL on the Big Issues 
Long-term viability of social security, Medicare, and Medicaid, tax reform (lower rates and broadening the base is pretty universally recognized among economists as a good idea), structural deficits, etc. haven’t been touched. “We're not coming before you to say we have a definitive solution to our long-term problem. What we do know is we don't like yours.” (The most illuminating C-Span video since Senator Charles Sumner got nearly beat to death by a cane). This kind of attitude doesn’t help.

Miscellaneous
Things that aren’t as important, but still things that were disappointing:
Stimulus – There was no need to funnel stimulus funding to constituents/buddies and micromanage a Brave New Economy. Had the stimulus been directed straight to citizens and/or proportionally to each of the states, even if they were strings attached to the state spending, the Administration wouldn’t be hearing nearly as many complaints. Remember all of the complaints about that $1,200 stimulus check sent directly to households created by Speaker Pelosi and Pres. Bush? Neither do I. Also, that $1,200 rebate more clearly and empirically boosted GDP (a little bit). The stimulus? “Created or saved” became a new part of our vocabularies.

Spending levels – I know some people who like to argue that under the Obama administration spending only increased 0.4% a year or a similar number (depending on the data and some questionable assumptions), but that is a horrible stat for a number of reasons: 1) The president isn't a dictator (congress passes budgets, not presidents), so it’s fundamentally not a great comparison. 2) The FY 2009 benchmark is calculated off of an artificial base of the “one-time spending” of the TARP program, stimulus passed during the Bush administration, stimulus passed during the Obama administration, and extra omnibus spending. 3) The savings from the end of the Iraq war (see Foreign Policy section) is entirely consumed in new spending. 4) Spending hit a wall when the Republicans took the house. Essentially, we have learned once again that there is no such thing as a temporary government program. All temporary spending was baked in as a baseline to the new budgets. In effect, "temporary" spending was passed during the Bush administration, more "temporary" spending was passed during the Obama administration, and during the Obama administration these "temporary" spending hikes were made permanent. It is difficult for me to believe that the Republican’s platform position to have federal spending fall below 20% of GDP at some point in the future is now a radical position, especially considering that federal spending never rose above 20% of GDP from 1996 to 2007. In no budget projection produced by the Obama Administration does federal spending fall below 20% at any point in the future.

Bipartisanship – The cries for bipartisanship from the Democratic Party curiously could not be found starting in approximately November 2008 and ended at or around November 2010. “I won,” “We have the votes. **** them,” and requesting legislative input only after the drafting of legislation was completed was a horrible way to start “a new era of bipartisanship.” Pres. Clinton made things work with Speaker Gingrich, Pres. Bush made things work with Speaker Pelosi, but Pres. Obama couldn’t make things work with Speaker Boehner?  It’s John Boehner for crying out loud! He’s milquetoast compared to cooperating with Gingrich or Pelosi! Also, the stonewalling of Republicans on bills that the Administration proposed that would, with a very generous interpretation, marginally benefit the economy doesn’t mean that Pres. Obama was going to raise the economy from the ashes, “And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those meddling Republicans.”

Foreign Trade – No new deals. Zip.

Auto bailout – In Larry Summers’ now public memo to the President at the start of his term, Larry Summers clearly stated how the auto bailout could have been structured to avoid government losses (pre-arranged bankruptcy with debtor-in-possession financing). However, the United Auto Workers Union would have had to take a big loss. What actually happened? A lot of union officials showed up on the president’s doorstep (e.g., see WH visitor’s log) before the inauguration and during the first days of the presidency, a couple hundred years of bankruptcy practices regarding seniority were thrown out the window, and the federal government took a $25 billion loss (plus the government's loss of all of GM's tax-free profits for the foreseeable future). What’s sad is that $25 billion doesn’t even seem like all that much money anymore, which is why this falls under the heading Miscellaneous.

Meaningless social issues – Making religious institutions pay for plan B, the Ledbetter act, and “I am evolving from believing that gay marriage should be decided by the states to the position that gay marriage should be decided by the states,” really weren’t going to make much of a difference in the lives of everyday citizens, distracted from more important issues, and further ruined any chances of bipartisanship.

Some Positives – The Dream Act was probably a marginal improvement on US immigration law, but this only came up after party cooperation was ruined. The Administration did suggest a cut in corporate tax rates (being #1 in the world for corporate tax rates isn’t great for the economy after all).  Dodd-Frank might on net be a positive compared to the status quo (we won’t bail you out this time Fannie Mae/big insurers/big banks *wink* *wink*). The Administration didn’t mess up the debt deal that Sen. Reid and Speaker Boehner put together after the Administration was cut out of the negotiations.

Would Gov. Romney be better? I don’t know. I do like the positions stated at economistsforromney.com (it’s troubling that the positions listed there are no longer bipartisan), but Gov. Romney could just as easily ignore them like Pres. Obama ignored Christina Romer and Larry Summers. I’d bet that foreign policy would be indistinguishable (not that there would be no differences, but rather you wouldn’t be able to pick out which one was which if you knew the outcomes but not the President). So, it might be better to go with the devil you don't know until you stop getting devils. Then again, you might have a better chance of winning Powerball than have that happen.

Special Interests: "Big Soup"

I'm going through the old drafts file of things I somehow never clicked publish on. It's much easier than writing current stuff when I'm busy. Enjoy!  :D

I found this article here. The Daily Mash is like the Onion, except they are from England, and, as far as the financial fake news goes, much funnier. I included a few of its best lines:


BANK BAIL-OUT THWARTED BY POWERFUL SOUP KITCHEN LOBBY

The economic forecast is 'warm and chunky'
THE $700 billion rescue of Wall Street has been held up after intense lobbying by America's vast and powerful soup manufacturers.
A cartel, led by Campbell's, is urging Congress to reject the plan and give Americans the chance to queue for a steaming bowlful of hearty broth.

Pressure from 'Big Soup' has even led to bribery accusations, with one senator being offered a $2 million campaign contribution and as much cock-a-leekie as he could stuff in the back of his car
A spokesman for Campbell said: "Taste our harvest tomato with basil and tell me you wouldn't beg for it."

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Chicago Public Schools Experience

(By the way, this is Jake's experience in CPS, not Ashley's.  I'm sure Ashley's would be way cooler.)

The things I can write about while my Excel file calculates 30,000 lines of data.

I know this is probably old news by the time I publish this, but the teacher strike in Chicago (highest paid in the nation, w00t!) was very unsurprising to me. Here are a couple salient points from my brief exposure to Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

I tutored in a science class with a teacher who was in the final year before retirement. I dearly hope that none of my children sit in a class with a teacher of similar quality.

Even though the school included a pretty wide region, there was only one white kid from the entire K-8 spectrum. (At least, there was only one that I saw during all my time there.) Everybody with money either moved by the time their child hit kindergarten or sent their kids to private school.

There was one kid in the science class whose parents (I assume) didn't fare well during the recession, and he had transferred mid-year from a private school to this one. He stuck out like a sore thumb. He already knew the material, was very eloquent for his age, and the other kids didn't seem to treat him very well.

I had no idea what to do in that environment. I probably spent most of my time with the three to five kids that seemed eager to learn something. I'm not sure if that was the best decision or not, but I have no idea what the best decision would have been considering the teacher, pupils, and class subject.

In Chicago Public Schools, they do not have to cover all the walls prior to end-of-year testing. Accordingly, answers to all sorts of questions are crammed onto the walls. "Now kids, when you see this type of question, the directions on how to answer it are right over here above the water fountain."  ... And the kids still fail. I personally think it starts at home where the child isn't taught to read, then it gets compounded by poor teachers in K, 1st, and 2nd grade, then you have a 3rd grader who can't read anything, and then he simply gets passed along each year to the next grade, failing all the way.

The kids that I saw were actually not all that bad; the kids mostly listened, while a few were unruly at times. However, you could tell that most had a knowledge base that was inadequate for the subject that they were studying (poor math skills + poor reading skills = poor science learning skills).

Charter schools: 1) They are badly badly needed. Badly. Fire underperforming teachers, promote a unique culture, and fail the whole thing if the administrators are bad. (I once saw an anti-charter school piece that said that only about 5% of charter schools are closed in a given year, so it's a myth that underperforming schools are closed. Five percent? That's amazing! Think of all the churn that you can get in just a decade. That's way better than the sub one percent you get with traditional public.) 2) I think charters could lead to a vicious cycle in the short-term for large cities. The (on average) better teachers seem to prefer the charter schools that have better administrators and kids who wants to learn, despite receiving less pay an no union benefits, while the (on average) worse teachers ride seniority to "you can never fire me unless I commit murder" and $100K+ salaries (before benefits) at the 10 year mark.

My data is done. Have a great evening!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Random Brazil Bits

A few thoughts that I've had lately that I didn't think I could turn into a meaningful post on their own.

- This is my last night living in my very extended stay hotel. I am still debating on whether I should send the hotel my 17 point list of everything that is wrong. Surprisingly, not one of the 17 points is rudeness by the staff.

- I'm getting a car tomorrow, which means no more chauffeurs. I will really miss being called, "Mr. Jacob." I don't know why, but I have to try very hard not to laugh every time I hear it. In a week I will probably be really missing all those great drivers that knew how to dodge rush hour.

- It's been awhile since I lived in Chicago and saw this on a frequent basis, but I now remember how much I used to hate state lotteries.  "Scratchers Scratchers BUY MORE SCRATCHERS!! ... please gamble responsibly, thank you Mr. Poverty for contributing to the bad-at-math tax as we entice you to try and get something for nothing.

- I have no idea what it would be like to move to a new country without having the "insta-network everyone is your best friend and willing to do anything to help you" church. Also, four American families in our ward will be a huge plus for non-Portuguese speaking members of the family. ;)

- I am going to get much fatter, like double my body fat percentage to 5%.

- Brazilian consumer "discount rates" (for non-finance nerds, that means how much someone is willing to forgo future consumption in order to consume now; think of the emotional intelligence tests for kindergartners of offering one marshmallow now or two later) are ridiculously high. An absurd amount of interest as a percentage of income is paid by Brazilians (at about 40% APR). My student loans no longer seem so awful.

- Brazil is totally a bubble. Real estate, consumer debt, compliance costs, a government that is printing money despite a decent amount of inflation in order to try and keep GDP growth above 2%... Half of me is very confident, and the other half thinks the first half is way too overconfident when I think I can do well in a bubble bursting environment. Would a bubble burst happen pre-World Cup/pre-Olympics? Or, instead of a bubble burst, do things just limp along for a few years? By the way, if you want to reserve a bedroom or couch for the 2014 World Cup, tell us soon! Spots are filling up fast. :)

- Our apartment building has a maze in the child's play area. The maze is tall enough that an adult cannot see over the wall. ... Is this a good idea? "Hun, do we need a baby sitter?" "Nah, I put a minotaur in the maze. We should be good!"

Monday, September 10, 2012

How to Fail at Creating a Feminist Movement

If you're the kind of person who gets furious over other people's outrageous opinions, this article from the Atlantic is not for you. The title is, "1% Wives Are Helping Kill Feminism and Make the War on Women Possible," with the subtitle, "Being a mother isn't a real job -- and the men who run the world know it."

My favorite lines (favorite=I think is hilariously sad):

"To be a stay-at-home mom is a privilege, and most of the housewives I have ever met -- none of whom do anything around the house -- live in New York City and Los Angeles, far from Peoria." ... This conflicts with the data that show that a higher percentage of stay at home moms live outside of urban centers than within it, but who has data ever met? Data's an android on Star Trek who doesn't even have emotions (at least not until the later seasons). Also, maybe if the author lived outside of New York City and Los Angeles she would meet more stay at home moms who live outside of New York City and Los Angeles.

"In any case, having forgotten everything but the lotus position, these women are the reason their husbands think all women are dumb, and I don't blame them."  Why don't you dumb women want to be corporate drones??  What is wrong with you?!!! If I keep calling you dumb, will you join my feminist movement? What if I told you that even though I've never met you I think your husband thinks you're dumb too, then will you join?

"Seriously: Did Romney actually tell his wife that her job was more important than his? So condescending."  I can hear Mrs. Lovejoy yelling, "Someone don't think of the children!" Or, a feminist rally with the sign, "Why Aren't Profits More Important Than Children?"

"Most mothers have jobs because they need or want the money and fulfillment; only in rare cases are they driven by glory."  I can imagine myself giving my daughter that advice right now, "There, there little Ziggy, we all know what's most important is money and having strangers think that you're important."

Oh dear.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Welcome to the Future!

List of things from the future:

- SkyNet becomes sentient, attempts to destroy human race. Nope.
- Flying cars with time travel capacity powered by cold fusion. Nope.
- Remote controlled cockroaches. CHECK! Nice work Fifth Element.



HT: MR

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Expatriate Privileges

I tend not to hold strong opinions on foreign policy. To me it's like a 3D chessboard where you can only see a quarter of the pieces. It's also hard to see the outcome of the path that would have been taken in lieu of decisions that were actually taken and their subsequent consequences. For example, was the US's entrance into WWI a good decision to minimize casualties and promote long-term European stability? Or, take the example of the Vietnam conflict. After the US pulled out of Vietnam, the South Vietnamese made a horrible strategic blunder, and consequently a million people died. Was the initial decision by the Nixon administration, and the follow up decision by the US Congress the best choice available, was there a better way, or is intervention morally unjustifiable? I have my thought on these things, but I generally don't share them, at least not with the purpose of trying to convince people I'm right. However, when the public became aware of the assassination of three US citizens, including a minor, without review outside the executive branch, it seemed wrong. From my perspective it appeared that investing that much power in a single person and his organization is dangerous. Even if you completely support the administration, the reason we don't want a good king is because we don't want bad kings either. Also, although I've seen some counter-arguments based on the principle of treason, this argument would then put the executive branch at odds with Article 3 Section 3 of the US Constitution, in that the treason charge must be argued in court.

Here are two, albeit quite different, perspectives on this topic:

From the ACLU:
"The lawsuit asks the court to rule that, outside the context of armed conflict, the government can carry out the targeted killing of an American citizen only as a last resort to address an imminent threat to life or physical safety. The lawsuit also asks the court to order the government to disclose the legal standard it uses to place U.S. citizens on government kill lists."

Sen. Rand Paul, quoted by CNN:
"Paul: I am concerned about one person deciding the life or death of not only foreigners but U.S. citizens around the world. And the chance that one person could make a mistake, you know, is a possibility. So having the president decide who he's going to kill concerns me. I would rather it go through a court, and there are actually secret courts, the FISA court investigates intelligence information. And most of these decisions aren't made like this. They make the decision over weeks and months. They target people and go after them. I see no reason why there couldn't be some sort of court preceding, even a secret court preceding, to allow some protection."

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Terminators and Bankruptcy

I failed to catch this (rather long and some explicit language so you've been cautioned) article by Michael Lewis last year. He is a pretty amazing writer when he writes in the first person or when recording direct interviews. Besides shedding needed light on financial problems on states and municipalities, it contains an entertaining interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Two of my favorite paragraphs:

“This year the state will directly spend $32 billion on employee pay and benefits, up 65 percent over the past 10 years,” says Crane later. “Compare that to state spending on higher education [down 5 percent], health and human services [up just 5 percent], and parks and recreation [flat], all crowded out in large part by fast-rising employment costs.

And Lewis's description of his interview/bike ride with Schwarzenegger:
"Having sped past a do not enter sign, we are now flying through intersections without pausing. I can’t help but notice that, if we weren’t breaking the law by going the wrong way down a one-way street, we’d be breaking the law by running stop signs. “When you want to do pension reform for the prison guards,” he says, “and all of a sudden the Republicans are all lined up against you. It was really incredible, and it happened over and over: people would say to me, ‘Yes, this is the best idea! I would love to vote for it! But if I vote for it some interest group is going to be angry with me, so I won’t do it.’ I couldn’t believe people could actually say that. You have soldiers dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they didn’t want to risk their political lives by doing the right thing.”"

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Best Political Commentary of the Year

You can find it here. I strongly recommend it. So strongly. Like a shark strong.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

AOL and Acquisitions

I found this post in my draft file. I'm not sure why it never posted. Maybe because it's too exciting for you gentile folks. I mean, gentle folks. ... Who needs a backspace button?

Original post:
Why do the words "AOL" and "bad acquisitions" go so well together?

While today's deal was not nearly as bad as some of the peak dot com deals (remember when Yahoo bought Mark Cuban's nearly worthless company Broadcast.com for $5.7B?), paying 10x revenue for an established company is... well... not smart. AOL will very likely never recoup the purchase price, nor will it realize most of the "synergies" that were promised.

How many bad deals have been done in the name of synergy?

If I were an AOL employee, I would be asking myself, "Who's steering this thing?"

Monday, August 20, 2012

Extreme Go-Karting

The Fleet and Reservation teams welcomed me into the Brazilian fold this past weekend by inviting me to do some Go-Karting. Brazilians take their Go-Karting quite seriously. The top speed of these things is probably higher than a Geo Metro.

My sequence of thoughts were the following:
1) "This might be a good date to take Ashley on."
2) "Wow, that kart just monster trucked the other one. Is his hand broken?"
3) "How did that guy catch on fire while driving?"
4) "This might not be a good date to take Ashley on."

In the end everyone walked away with only sprains and minor burns, but it was quite the experience.

FYI: I got in 12th place out of 18 people. Not bad for my first time. However, 2 of the 18 were either wounded or tending to the wounded, and 1 of the 18 people I beat was guy who caught on fire. (After he put out the fire he was back in it, but he didn't catch up.)

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Journeys and Destinations

It's been a busy month. Jake left on August 5 for his new position in Brazil, and I've been here in New Jersey trying to get our lives and possessions sorted for moving. Every item in our home will be sorted into one of five categories: ship to Brazil by air, ship to Brazil by sea, store, take to Utah in a suitcase, and drop off at Goodwill. This sorting process has not been easy, particularly with a small whirlwind named Joseph in our apartment. We keep our bedroom door closed all the time, and I've been putting most everything fragile or that needs to be separate for any reason in there. My room is now very cramped, and it's almost (but not quite) a good thing that Jake's not here so he doesn't trip and die when he gets out of bed in the morning. The international movers are coming Monday, and the domestic (storage) movers will be here Wednesday. They are packing and moving, which is kind of foreign to me. I've always done the packing and moving for all of my moves in the last 10 years (11 moves, I think?), so I feel a little panicky when I look at my full bookshelves and items that would normally have been packed weeks ago. I have to remind myself that it's OK that our place looks like we still live here. We do. And in two days, most everything will be gone. Joseph and I fly out on Friday evening, and guess how much fun a five-hour flight with a tired toddler will be? The real trick will be finding enough to do in a completely empty house for the two days after the storage movers finish. Lots of time at the park and the mall, I guess. Maybe a trip to the zoo if it's not too hot. Oh, and I'm trying to sell our car. *sigh*

On the bright side, Jake is enjoying his work in Brazil. He says that the days fly by and that he finds the job interesting and fulfilling, so that's great. He's also found us an apartment near our friends the Wallentines (they were in our ward in NJ and have a daughter just a little older than Joseph). The apartment has lots of space and is pretty close to Ibirapuera Park, a huge park in the middle of Sao Paulo. One major drawback is that it is unfurnished, meaning that not only is there no furniture like chairs and beds, but also that there is no fridge or oven. We will have to buy or rent those when we move in. It's going to be very different, but I'm looking forward to it even as I'm nervous, particularly about learning Portuguese.

I'm also a little nervous about having a baby there. Although there has been some pushback in recent years, 95% of births in Sao Paulo are via C-section. Um, no. Not unless there is a real emergency. Everything I've read (blogs, news articles, expat websites) documents how difficult it is to have a natural (not just vaginal) birth. There's a teeny part of me that would rather stay in Utah after Thanksgiving and give birth there where at the very least, my doctors and I will be speaking the same language. I'm going to see what I can do when I get there, and make a decision then, but I'm not terribly optimistic. It would be cool, though, to have a baby with dual citizenship. :)

We haven't heard anything on the status of our visas. It could be the beginning of September; it could be the beginning of October. There's no way to know. I'm having a hard time being a semi-single parent (I know, I'm not a REAL single parent. I'm married to a guy with a job and can be a full-time mom, and real single parents have it way tougher than I do, but when you're used to having some extra hands around, it's rough to be the only parent for this long). My patience some days has been stretched pretty thin. I don't know how military spouses do it. I'd go insane being away from Jake for the space of an entire deployment. Hats off to you for your courage and sacrifice. I'm really looking forward to being with my parents and letting someone else have a turn with my terrific, busy, exhausting, wonderful kid.

I haven't slept well this week, mostly because I keep running through my to-do lists and questions and mind-ramblings, and then Joseph's had a couple of early mornings. He'll go back to sleep for another 30-60 minutes, but I won't. When it happened again this morning, I thought to myself, "At this time next week, you won't be here. No matter what, you'll be out and done." Someone once mentioned to me after talking about our recent cross-country drive, "Yes, joy in the journey, right?" and I said, "No, sometimes it really is all about the destination." I guess I'm learning things from this process, but I'll probably need some time to reflect and some distance from the situation before I figure out exactly what, but right now, I'm ready to be done, out, gone. I've just got to make it through the week, and I will. Above all else, I need to finish this carton of Breyer's peach ice cream in the freezer before we leave, and I think I'm up to the challenge.