Thursday, December 22, 2005

Pig Be Gone

Last Monday, we commenced the third Pig Be Gone contest at the HP Richardson site. Each person signs up to lose either 10% of their weight or 25% of their body fat (for example, a person with 20% body fat at the start would need to finish with 15%). You have fifteen weeks to accomplish your goal, and then you have to keep it off for a follow-up weigh-in a month later.
Each person contributes $30, and everyone who makes their goal splits the pot evenly. We have 26 people participating for a total of $780 at stake. Although I haven't been here for the earlier contests, history shows that only 1 in 5 or 1 in 6 usually make it, meaning that winners stand a good chance of making $150. In addition to being thinner and healthier, of course! Even if you don't quite make your goal, paying $30 to lose some percentage of your weight is still not a bad deal. The only way you really lose is if you pay the money and then don't do anything, but whose fault is that?

Anyway, I thought I would track some of my numbers here so you can see my progress. If I get a body fat measurement done regularly, I might add that, but we'll see. I'm not tracking intake calories too incredibly closely, but I'm loosely following an old plan so I believe I'm eating 1500-1800 calories a day. I've had to work around a lot of travel recently (I need to post about going down to Corpus Christi for my cousin's graduation from pilot training), so I can't keep to anything too strict. Plus, my family came up to stay with us in Dallas after that. My sister and her family left yesterday, and my folks are still here. That also makes it hard to control calories, but my solution for that has been to stop eating while I'm still hungry. I pretty much am hungry all the time. I'm also trying to work out fairly regularly. I figure that I normally eat 3500-4000 calories a day (yeah, I love to eat), so between reducing that significantly and upping my activity, I'm shedding a ton of weight right now. The only problem is that I've switched completely to aerobic exercise, and with eating so much less, I'm probably losing some strength too. My bench has already been dropping over the past couple of years - I would guess I could do about 320 right now, vs my max of 365. That number better not go below 300; that would be a travesty. I really wanted to cross 400, but it is incredibly difficult to add strength at the same time you drop weight.

Date Workout Time Calories Burned Weight
12/12/2005 281
12/13/2005 Elliptical 40 800
12/14/2005 Elliptical (2) 65 1600
12/15/2005
12/16/2005 Elliptical 20 400
12/17/2005
12/18/2005
12/19/2005 Elliptical 33 750 274.5
12/20/2005 Stair/Ellip 30 600
12/21/2005 Elliptical 35 800
12/22/2005 271

Bias Follow-up

Well, the study referred to in the previous post has been attacked as being .... biased? I think some of the criticisms were pointed out in the study itself in explaining how the Drudge Report or the WSJ might be considered liberal. I don't think counting references to conservative vs. liberal sources is a foolproof way of determining bias, but it is an indicator. No method will be foolproof or have zero anomalies.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Pope still Catholic, ice still cold

Media Bias Is Real, Finds UCLA Political Scientist... 12/14/2005

So many great quotes from this article. I'm almost tempted to just cut/paste the whole thing here.
...Meanwhile, almost all major media outlets tilt to the left.

These are just a few of the surprising findings from a UCLA-led study, which is believed to be the first successful attempt at objectively quantifying bias in a range of media outlets and ranking them accordingly.

Surprising wouldn't be the word I would use for that one. Maybe a word more like blatantlyobvious or surprisingifyouareilliterate. There were some other surprising findings, though with understandable explanations. For example:

Another finding that contradicted conventional wisdom was that the Drudge Report was slightly left of center.

"One thing people should keep in mind is that our data for the Drudge Report was based almost entirely on the articles that the Drudge Report lists on other Web sites," said Groseclose. "Very little was based on the stories that Matt Drudge himself wrote. The fact that the Drudge Report appears left of center is merely a reflection of the overall bias of the media."

Also,
While the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal is conservative, the newspaper's news pages are liberal, even more liberal than The New York Times....Since Groseclose and Milyo were more concerned with bias in news reporting than opinion pieces, which are designed to stake a political position, they omitted editorials and Op‑Eds from their tallies. This is one reason their study finds The Wall Street Journal more liberal than conventional wisdom asserts.
They used an interesting methodology in their findings. Read the article to see how the study mapped news stories to the Americans for Democratic Action congressional scorecard. I also liked how dedicated the study's authors were to objectivity: refusing funding, ensuring the research associates were relatively balanced politically, etc.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Be cheap - it's good for America.

Ever wondered how you could reduce our dependence on foreign oil, be a friend to the environment, lower your utility bill, AND get a tax break? Wonder no more!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Peanut Butter


I have been unable to eat peanut butter since getting married, due to the fact that my wife is allergic to peanuts and I don't want to kill her. This is a problem. Is there a solution on the way? Please God, let it be so!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Funny


I've recently noticed that I am not as funny as I used to be. I've tracked my made-up funniness levels using a value of 100 for my peak funny in the 2002/2003 timeframe. You can see that I was on a steadily increasing funny track all through high school and college, with a slight downturn when I first moved to California. However, I quickly recovered and reached new heights shortly thereafter. I think this is a reflection of having fun and funny friends who appreciate your sense of humor. Since moving to Texas, the funny has taken a steep downturn. Where will I be in 2006?

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Bad President or Bad Publicist?

It seems to me that rather than doing a terrible job at being President, Bush has done a terrible job of communicating with the American public. Why do we hear nothing about successes?

The Economy. It's in great shape. How often do we hear about that?

How many terrorist attacks have we had on US soil since 9-11? None! Honestly, I never would have believed in 2001 that we would be nearing 2006 with zero attacks here in the intervening time. It just doesn't seem like it would be THAT hard to do. It can't all be luck. I think Bush-haters are forced to recognize one of two possible realities: either CIA/FBI/etc are now co-operating and finding out about attacks before they happen and dealing with them or our military being in Iraq really is bringing out all the jihadists there where our professionals can deal with them. Or maybe a third option would be that our increased readiness has made other countries easier targets. Regardless, the actions of our government would be responsible for any of those alternatives, right? It's just not an option to think that the terrorists simply don't WANT to attack us.

Church - what is it good for?

Our recent attempts to find a church have led me to ponder what it is I look for in a church. Here's the list I'm working on - feel free to comment. Of course, I realize no church is perfect, so I should probably prioritize into musts vs likes, but these are my first thoughts in no particular order.

- a focus on developing mature disciples of Christ
- a welcoming attitude towards newcomers
- Bible-based preaching
- challenging message that gives me some meat to chew on during the week
- opportunities to serve
- a place to develop friendships and accountability
- does NOT overly focus on marketing and money (I know it's subjective)
- contemporary feel, but doesn't chase the latest trends
- strong focus on home group Bible studies (which often accomplishes several of the other points).

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Christmas lights

Like many Americans, my wife and I have done a lot of shopping over the past couple of days. For us however, it seemed like this was disproportionately focused on Christmas decorations. This is my first foray into putting up Christmas lights at all, and since we all know that I am neither handy nor artsy, it is something of a challenge for me. I've got a few lights up, and I figure we can build on what we have now. If it doesn't look too crappy, maybe I'll post a pic on here. In the meantime, check out this site so that whatever I do will look great in comparison.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Where are they now?


Must...resist...urge...to...attend...just...to...heckle.

Oh, the fact that it would cost me at least $40 really helps me not want to go see the evil one my ex-boss.

My apologies for the crappy pic from my camera phone.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Celebrity church

For a variety of reasons, and with a great amount of consideration because I hate the church-shopping phenomenon, we've recently decided to try to find a new church here in the Mckinney area. Thus last week we visited Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, the suburb next to Mckinney. This church is actually pastored by Chuck Swindoll, who has been on Christian radio as long as I can remember, hence the title of this post. It was kind of a funny experience. First of all it was totally old-school with a relatively dressed up congregation and hymnals and the like. I actually can't remember the last time I used a hymnal. Incidentally, this prompted me to realize that I can no longer read music. Are all those years of trombone playing wasted? Probably not; I'm sure I could pick it up again. However, without actually playing an instrument and without singing from hymnals, I realized I am never confronted with the opportunity to read notes. So, like a seldom-used language, I have forgotten how to do it. That tangent aside, the most contemporary song we sang was Rich Mullins "Our God is an Awesome God", which was new in something like 1985. The rather large auditorium was completely packed. And I mean completely! Those ushers could double working a Secret Service gig. They use hand signals (and earpieces?) to shoehorn latecomers into every available seat until the building is completely full and the rest of the tardy crowd is banished to overflow rooms. The sermon, on the sovereignty of God out of the book of Daniel, was of course thought-provoking and challenging, and application has cropped up several times this week. This is something we are really seeking. However, it was an odd feeling to be there with someone who has such a distinctive voice and you are so used to hearing on the radio. I discussed this with my parents, and Mom said that she thinks they listened to Swindoll on local radio in LA around the time I was born there in the mid-70s and Swindoll had a church out there. And I definitely remember Dad listening to him on Christian radio when we moved back to the US from Japan in 1983. My wife and I still listen to him on the radio today, so we're at over 20 years of continuous listening. So in a strange way, hearing and seeing Swindoll felt like being home. However, we definitely prefer a more casual, contemporary style of worship, and I especially desire a church with active home groups, which I didn't find on the web site. I just saw more Sunday-school type classes, which are fine, but not the same thing. I have a slight preference for a smaller church as well. So, while we liked the church, I think we'll keep looking.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Good news and Bad news this week

Good news: I got free lunch on Monday and Tuesday and free ice cream on Thursday.

Bad news: I had a four hour phone meeting Thursday
Worse news: My laptop's hard drive crashed
Worst news: It crashed ten minutes before I was supposed to present in the massive, four hour meeting!

It basically worked out, however. The meeting host had my slides and was able to show them to everybody in the meeting. In a mad dash, I was able to print off a copy of my slides from a coworker's computer, so I could at least talk through the info, although I couldn't see where they were on the screen. IT has my computer and is attempting to salvage info from the hard drive, although things don't look promising so far. One would think I would have learned my lesson about backing things up when my hard drive crashed at home about a year and a half ago, but no, I didn't. Anyway, it really sucks to not have a computer, as that is 95% of my job. I've bummed a loaner off of a coworker for now, but I'm definitely missing some info I need.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Revenge of the nerd

We haven't featured enough heroic nerdery of late, so this story of a basketball stat-guru helping the Sonics win (for only $30k!) should warm the heart of every sports-loving smart kid out there.

I'll use this as an opportunity to plug Wired as well, from whence that story came. I kind of fell off reading Wired after the dot com crash, but of late I've seen several very good articles on there, and often with an interesting focus that you don't see elsewhere. Check it out occasionally when you have some free time.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

hmmm



I found him!


I even pictured TO here with what appears to activate his disease: having a microphone in front of him. It's mind-boggling how this guy is such a great receiver, but has managed to do the exact same thing to two different QBs and teams. It's like we're reading from a script of what happened in San Francisco, except now the stage is Philadelphia. Ridiculous.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Colorado Rocky Mountain High

Blogging was low last week as I spent much of the week in Colorado working for the man. Fort Collins is a pretty nice place to be stuck working for the man, however. I'm a big fan of Colorado. I even got to see a friend from Roseville who had just moved back to Fort Collins to work again with his old group at HP, except now it is Intel.

Some quick hits to make up for my recent lack of posts:

Cool weather has FINALLY come to Dallas. Thank God.
I should be well prepared for it, since I've stored up a few pounds of extra insulation.

Harriet Miers withdraws = good decision. Let's get a knockout conservative in there and have a big fight. Why the heck are we in charge of every branch of government if we're picking nominees off of a Harry Reid approval list?

While we're on the topic of government, what is up with the amount of money we're spending under a Republican administration?

Pizza in Dallas still lagging. Just tried a new take-and-bake place tonight called Nick N Willy's. Ok, but just average.

Saw my first Woody Allen movie - Melinda and Melinda. Guess why we saw it? ;)
I didn't like it that much. Woody Allen always seemed like a weak pervert to me, so it's not really a surprise. Any longer I just really lack the ability to tolerate sitting through a bunch of pretentious crap that mostly plods along belaboring the point that life is meaningless. See Sideways. This is not to say that it wasn't well-acted with some good dialogue. It's mostly just the whole theme of it that I didn't like.

I hear nobody is watching the Apprentice anymore. We are. When Donald fired all four of the failures from last week at once, that was pretty cool. I'm a business geek.

Though I like the Apprentice, I cannot understand Trump's fascination with Jim Cramer. I swear I want to slap that guy every time I see him on TV. Just irritating. He needs to take it down about six notches.

Working out is going poorly. I'm pretty much at once a week. See earlier comments about getting fat.

A few years ago, if I suddenly got a call from a friend that I hadn't heard from in a little while, I knew it meant they were getting married. Now, it means they are pregnant. Pretty soon it will be funeral notices. I'm starting to feel old.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Jello City

The coolest thing related to San Francisco ever, not that that's too hard. Did I mention I hate San Francisco? Except I still root for the Niners. Old habits die hard.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Domestic update


We had a washer emergency this past week, as ours just stopped working. It had a load in it and was filled with water, but just refused to agitate or drain. It would make noises like it was trying to work, but nothing would happen. This is ok, as the washer and dryer were fairly old. I bought them from my roommate a few years ago, and I'm not sure how old they were before that. In fact, the dryer was already only sort of working, since it can only be stopped at one particular point. We had planned to buy new ones when we moved into our new house in Texas, but as they continued to work, we just kept using the old ones. Thus, while there is never a convenient time to have something you depend on stop working, I can't say it was a big surprise.

We bought a new washer at Lowe's yesterday. Fancy and environmentally friendly. Supposedly it will pay for itself over time with the savings in water efficiency. I guess we'll wait until the dryer totally kicks the bucket before we buy a new one of those too.

Camping

Last weekend, I went on an awesome camping trip with a bunch of my coworkers to Caddo Lake. The highlight of the weekend had to be playing paintball (just look for the pic of all the studs), although at first I wasn't liking it too much as being massive is something of a disadvantage on the small courses. Once we got out in the forest though, I had a lot more fun. It really doesn't matter that much whether you win, as long as you get to kill some people before you die.

Anyway, we also did a little canoeing on the lake and played some poker and dominoes, or bones as I like to call them. I even learned a new game with them, 42, that is a lot like the card games I enjoy. Smoked some cheap stogies, made Smores, ate some good Cajun food, didn't shower, hung out by the campfire until early morning. Good times all around.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Saving gas?

Interesting article on how we could all easily save gas:

That makes sense to Mark, who said the savings can add up by slowing down even on short trips. He figures that a commuter making a 30-mile drive to work at 65 mph instead of 75 mph would save about 30 cents in fuel costs per day -- or $150 a year -- and spend just 3 1/2 minutes more daily on the road.

None of us wants to do it though, do we?

Monday, October 17, 2005

RedNova News - Science - The Ecosystem That's Thriving in Your Pillows

If you're a germaphobe like me you might want to skip reading this article. On the other hand, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, right? Right? Should I be periodically microwaving my pillow?

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Superman?

Why am I suddenly getting tons of hits from people searching for Superman images? I think my Superman t-shirt pic is on something like the fourth or fifth page of google results for that search. Are that many people really digging deep for a Superman picture, or is there some sort of weird contest going on, or what?

ABC News: Preacher's Mega-Church Dreams End in Nightmare

This story makes me sad.

1) That a pastor would get so drunk with dreams of glory for a stupid building (how is that even important?) that he would abuse his position and people's trust.

2) That his congregation just followed him like blind idiots. You got a direct communication from God? Oh really? We still might need to check out a few things, like the convict you're partnering up with on this one. And his homemade savings "bonds" that you buy from him, marked "Favor from God". Ummm...one of the reasons we're Protestant (I'm pretty sure the church in question was) and not Catholic was the break over the selling of indulgences in the middle ages to fund .... guess what? BIG BUILDINGS. RIDICULOUS. Buildings aren't important. People, and their relationship to God, is what is important. None of that requires a $100+ million building. Talk about missing the big picture!

Friday, October 07, 2005

More San Antonio

As you might have guessed from my earlier post, San Antonio was ridiculously hot and sticky for October. However, we had a fun time visiting it with my wife's parents. I really enjoyed seeing the Alamo for the first time. They had a fairly informative oral presentation by some senior citizen volunteers, a brief video produced for the Alamo by the History Channel, and some good written information in displays. We also really liked the Riverwalk, with its various shops, hotels, and restaurants right alongside the river with rather lush foliage for a place in Texas.


We saw approximately 12 million air force personnel, due to the several Air Force bases in the surrounding vicinity. Many of them were wearing the notoriously ugly standard-issue Air Force glasses, also knows as BCGs (Birth Control Glasses). I was not aware that in basic training you apparently can't wear your own glasses even if you have them? Because believe me, any amount of money would be worth it to not have to wear those monstrosities. I have no idea who the guy in the picture is, it's just a random one from the web, but I think it gives you some idea what I'm talking about.



The low point of our experience in San Antonio was probably the somewhat crappy Embassy Suites that we stayed in. Not only did it feature the aforementioned Omelet Nazi, but it also had a medieval torture device, also known as a sofa bed, for us to sleep in. It had a metal bar that went across the bed under the "mattress" in the mid-to-upper back area that I could not keep from drilling into my spine. The floor would seriously have been more comfortable. I'm sure at one time the hotel was fabulously nice. That time must have been 1984, as that was the last time the building's decor was updated. Actually, it really wasn't that bad, but just not up to the high standard we expect from Embassy Suites. I guess this explains why it wasn't as expensive as some of the other ones we've stayed in.

The Omelet Nazi

Apparently the Soup Nazi's disgruntled older brother works as the breakfast chef at the Embassy Suites we stayed at in San Antonio last weekend.

I approach the line and the conversation goes like this:
Omelet Nazi (pointing his spatula at me): WHAT DO YOU WANT????
Me: omelet
ON: WHAT DO YOU WANT IN IT?
Me: Um....what are my options?
ON: HAM AND CHEESE, PEPPERS, WHATEVER YOU WANT!
Me (answering immediately on hearing the first option): Ham and cheese. Definitely ham and cheese.
ON: GOOD!

Now my wife enters the fray. I don't hear most of her order, just the end. She has to watch out for the various food allergens that can kill her, and is concerned about the non-stick Pam-like substance the Omelet Nazi is using on the grill.
My wife: Can you make my omelet without using the non-stick spray first?
ON: NO! If I don't use the spray, the omelet sticks!
My wife now decides to risk death rather than face down the fearsome cook. Fortunately, everyone survived the weekend.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Things that are hot





But this may be the hottest of them all:



San Antonio, even in OCTOBER, is still ridiculously warm. It even makes Dallas seem cool by comparison!

Verification for comments

I've been getting even more annoying comment spam, so I've implemented verification for commenters. It's not tough, you just have to type in letters that show up in a box before you can comment. Spambots can't see the letters, so this should get rid of that problem.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Cereal Killer

I just love the title of this post. It used to be my name on MSN messenger. For some reason certain people found it disturbing, whereas I think it's hilarious, particularly given my Seinfeldian love affair with cereal. It's not just for breakfast!

This brings us to a recent visit to the grocery store made by my wife.






What I wanted









What I got












What my wife bought for herself





Fiber One -am I eighty years old? The cereal I really wanted is fairly healthy (a good source of whole grain, as you can see in the pic above), whereas she purchased LUCKY CHARMS for herself. This dichotomy would be hard to understand without realizing that my wife is afflicted with OCD. Not the OCD you are familiar with, but Obsessive Coupon Disorder (hat tip to my honeymooning friend Eric for coining the term). Naturally Fiber One was on sale/she had a coupon, and since it contained honey clusters, she reasoned it was virtually the same thing as what I wanted. I explained that when the first word in a cereal's name is FIBER, it basically means that the cereal contains as much fiber as if you ate the cardboard box it comes in, and it may taste better. I can't complain too much, as I do really appreciate how she handles the food shopping, but I just think that is a funny story on her thought process!

Random cereal reviews
1) Fiber One with honey clusters: Not as bad as I expected, but not very tasty either. The box is about half gone 2.5 weeks after purchase, not counting the time in CA where I couldn't have eaten it. This is a long time for cereal to last around me, so we know I'm not too excited. However I will definitely be able to finish the box, and it is very healthy fiber-wise, so I will give it
2.25 out of 5 stars.

2) Kashi Go Lean: The worst tasting cereal ever made. I don't care how healthy this is, I can't even choke it down.
0 out of 5 stars.

3) Honey Bunches of Oats: The best cereal on the market. I'm a cereal mixer, but there's no need with HBO, as it already combines just the right amount of different textures and flavors. Exquisite! And decently healthy too!
5 out of 5 stars.

4) Cheerios: Old standby that will always be there for you. Not an outstanding flavor on its own, but serviceable, and a great mixer. The vanilla ice cream of cereals. You'll leave it for more glamorous brands, but eventually you'll be back, and it will be there waiting, wagging its tail like always.
4 stars out of 5

5) Post Selects Banana Nut Crunch: The only cereal that can challenge HBO. Has slightly lower texture marks, but potentially a little better flavor. Loses out mainly on its normally higher price point.
Still, 5 out of 5 stars.

6) Cracklin Oat Bran: This cereal puts the crack in Cracklin. Seriously, it's addictive. However, it is overpriced and masquerades as healthier than it is: 225 calories for 3/4 cup serving. 8 grams of fat is pretty high too. However, in addition to tasting great, it also has some health benefit with 6.4g of dietary fiber.
I give it 4 stars out of 5.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Final score

1) In-N-Out - 2 times
2) Chicago Fire -only once, but perfect
3) Jersey Mike's - 2 times
4) Original Pete's - 3 times
5) Ettore's - 3 cinnamon rolls that my wife brought home. I'm pretty sure I gained 12 pounds on this trip.
6) The Gold Miner's Cafe (or possibly Venita Ray's) - the only one that didn't happen. I set up to meet at Venita Ray's on Friday morning, but I just had too much going on. And I was exhausted on Thursday night, so there was no way I could have gotten up early enough to meet for breakfast before my 8:30 meeting on Friday, not to mention the fact I was driving in from Folsom (aka the far side of the moon).

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Perfection

It is almost a sobering thought to realize that, at the age of 29, I have experienced the best that mankind has to offer: Chicago Fire Pizza. No pizza in Dallas can ever compare.

Quotes from my superlative dining experience last night:

"If you live in Sacramento, and haven't gone to Chicago Fire, you're just a fool. I PITY THE FOOL."

"Every bit of this pizza is perfect. The sauce. The cheese. The toppings. The crust. Especially the crust. Perfect."

"I don't even understand how people here are addicted to crack when they could have this instead."

"If you told me you had eaten here and did not like it, I would be angry at you."

"I would definitely do a commercial for them, especially if they paid me in pizza!"

In a comment to how it has achieved the status of being used as a metaphor:
"San Diego is the Chicago Fire of places to live."

"Will it even be heaven if there isn't Chicago Fire pizza there?"

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Eating in Sacramento!

Inspired by David over at allkindsoftime, I too am composing a list of places I will visit to eat after arriving in Sacramento this Saturday.

1) IN-N-OUT!!!! OHHHHYEAH. On the way in from the airport

2) Chicago Fire Pizza. Two things that suck in Dallas - pizza and radio. This will take care of one.

3) Jersey Mike's. We actually have one of these in Dallas, but it's far away. I miss being able to go there from work for lunch.

4) Original Pete's Pizza - for old times sake. This was long one of my favorite hangouts before I even met my wife, and then a favorite of both of ours after that.

5) Ettore's - most of you probably think of this as too foo-foo a bakery for me, but my wife got me hooked on their cinnamon rolls.

6) The Gold Miner's Cafe (or possibly Venita Ray's, where I used to meet Friday mornings with the guys from my men's Bible Study) for a hearty breakfast.


That's probably it for the must-visit places for me. No doubt my wife will make several visits to Baja Fresh. She loves that place, but for some reason it isn't very popular in Texas. You can hardly turn around without bumping into a Chipotle, but there are maybe two Baja Fresh locations in the whole Dallas area, both far from us.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Quick update

We've had company in town and whatnot, so I've been too busy for blogging. Here's a quick update on what's going on with me.

1) With the help of a friend, I (finally) installed a ceiling fan in our guest bedroom. One down, one to go, as I have another one still to install in the office (or the den, as my wife likes to refer to it).

2) Our friend from Sacramento arrived Friday to visit, along with his sister who had just moved into a new house in San Antonio. He had come out to help her with landscaping, unpacking, etc. in her new house, and they swung up to Big D to visit us over the weekend.

3) After their arrival, we immediately set out to experience some real Texas BBQ at Rudy's in Denton. We were looking for a hole-in-the-wall kind of place, which this sort of seemed to be, but it turns out that it is in fact a chain. Yet it was still very tasty - the meat was done just right. After a couple of wrong turns on the way there which allowed us to see quite a bit of Texas countryside, I was ravenous by the time we actually arrived, so I could have gone for some larger portions. Whatever happened to "Everything's bigger in Texas!"? I'm discovering at this point that any BBQ in this area that is really tasty has already gone the franchise route. I don't think there are too many mom-and-pop shops left. Wal-mart will probably enter this market soon.

4) Thanks to some helpful tips from our visiting friends, I cooked corn on the cob on the grill for the first time. Delicious! Not that impressive to most of you I know, but any culinary skill is a big deal for me.

5) Our friends noticed that something was wrong with our upstairs shower, which could certainly be true as we rarely ever even go upstairs, much less use the shower up there. It seemed to have trouble getting any hot water at all. In fact, as you turned the handle all the way to hot, the water slowed to a mere trickle. We eventually dismantled the handle to see what was going on, after many trips outside to turn the water to the house on and off. There turned out to be some sort of giant spider in the hole where the valve to shut off the water is, and I'll admit to some reluctance to stick my hand down in there with a big wrench. We debated whether or not to attempt to kill the spider first, but it appeared to be hiding so we just let it be. We also had to recruit our neighbor into the process, both for plumbing advice and because I lacked the necessary allen wrench to take off the shower handle. I had 3/32 and 1/8, but I needed 7/64, right in between those. After all that, I don't know exactly what we did that fixed the problem, but all our banging around seemed to have loosened up whatever was blocking the line, as we heard something flush through and then we had plenty of hot water.




6) After a failed attempt to check out the boats at the little lake in our community on Sunday when our friends were visiting (not enough lifeguards to watch the pool and the lake), my wife and I returned to try again yesterday after our friends had departed and she got home from work early. This time we were able to take out the aqua-cycle, which turned out to be quite a workout, particularly if you tried to go against the direction of the water flow. That was the last day of the season for renting boats, so we were glad to have been able to fit that in.

7) I've finally finished the setup for the fantasy football league that I'm helping to run here. That leaves me at being in three leagues this year, one I drafted live on the phone back in Sac, another one on the web, and the live draft here. This matches my high from two or three years ago. Soon I will post the big-screen TV investigation that I have ongoing to replace the one I left behind in Sacramento (now proudly owned by the proprietor of the vertigopop blog). We need to get moving on this purchase so that I can have it for most of the football season. Too late to get it for week one :( I'm being held up by the fact that it would require some minor woodworking to fit the TV that I really want into the designated space in our family room, plus the fact that I will be in Sacramento for the first two weeks of the football season anyway.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

"Cheap" housing in California



In a little switch-up from a couple of my other cheap housing posts, I thought I'd show some of the cheapest houses I could find in the hottest housing markets in California. This 2 bedroom, 1 bath house in San Francisco, built in 1945, can be yours for a mere $499,000. Stuffed animal not included. Was the realtor who took this picture too lazy to move the giant stuffed animal that someone randomly left on the street or is there something more sinister going on? One theory discussed with my coworkers is that perhaps there was a transient napping in front of the house who refused to move for the picture, so they blocked him out with a giant stuffed animal? The page doesn't have the square footage of the house, but I'm estimating it at around 900, mostly because this house looks to be about the same size as my first apartment in Sacramento, which was also 2 bedroom, 1 bath. That would mean this place was selling for a whopping $554/sq ft!


After that price, this house in San Diego might at first seem like a great deal at only $275,000. However, this is merely a 1 bedroom, 1 bath house with only 504 sq ft of space, meaning it costs $545/sq ft - barely a better deal than the SF house! Plus, I'm about 90% sure this house is fake. It looks to me like someone moved a house face from a Hollywood film set to San Diego and put it up for sale.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Snooze, You Lose; Schmooze, You Win - Forbes.com

There's more to small talk than idle chit-chat.

Those skilled at the art of small talk use it to build rapport with others, especially top managers, and softly sell themselves as an up-and-comer.

It's a learned skill and takes practice, but attention to small details can pay big dividends in the future.

"You have to want to connect. In a social situation, many people think, 'How quickly can I get out of here?' Instead, view the event as an opportunity. Stay in the line of traffic and meet people."



Tooting your own horn is the worst thing you can do in a social situation. Booher suggests teaming up with a trusted friend and working the room in tandem. You and your friend can make a point of speaking well of each other throughout the evening. It can be something as simple as, "Did you meet my friend, Sarah Jones? She's the one who rode herd on the installation of our new PDQ system that helped boost our market share 8% this quarter. She did it all to rave reviews from our customers." Across the room, Sarah is saying good things about you to people who matter.


A lot of this advice is solid, but some of this reaches more to the level of conniving and is as likely to get you labeled a scheming weasel as it is to help build your network. Particularly, the idea of you and a friend teaming up for cooperative complimenting just seems ludicrous. If this is someone that you really could praise, I would do that whether or not I thought they were doing anything for me in return. Naturally, without forcing it. Maybe it's just the engineer in me that would raise a cynical eye towards things, but I don't think it would take too long for me or any of my friends to sniff out this false mutual admiration society they advocate developing, and start ridiculing it. Any higher-ups that fell for that would instantly lose respect in my eyes. That being said, engineers who scorn small talk are indeed likely not to go too far, even up a technical career path at a technical company like HP. Even in technical work, people skills are about 50% of your job. If you don't have any ability to work with people, your last name should probably be Einstein if you expect that not to hold you back. Even if you are incredibly smart, you still make mistakes, and people are for more forgiving to those they have developed a good relationship with. Many engineers flat-out fail to recognize this fact. I think one should strive to develop a genuine interest in other people at work, but without some hidden agenda. Pursuing hidden agendas means you are likely to develop one personality with those you think can advance you or help you in some way, whereas you are totally different with those you think cannot aid your career. An attitude like that will always come back to haunt you.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Books not to read




Ex-HP CEO Fiorina To Pen Memoirs.

Ugh. Some suggested titles.
1) Carly Fiorina: Why my employees all hated me
2) Mergers and Acquisitions - Learn from my Mistakes
3) The Celebrity CEO: How my career prepped me for politics
4) Drunk With Power or "I can buy two more jets if we just lay off another 1500 workers!"

Is your home overvalued?

I meant to comment on this USAToday story long ago, as I am starting to back up a list of things I want to put on my blog. Nonetheless, I found the list highly intriguing. The study examines the average market valuation of homes in 53 different metro areas and deems it over or undervalued based on four factors: historic price data, area income, mortgage rates and population density. The study then declared that an area was in a housing bubble if its houses were 30% or more overvalued. The Sacramento region comes in as the 11th most overvalued region, at a whopping 54%. The Dallas area is UNDERvalued by 11%. I'm hoping this means that our move timed the market changes in both cities, leaving Sac near its peak and buying in Dallas as it rose. How cool would that be?

For my readers in the D.C metro area, you can rest easy at #49, only 31% overvalued and barely in bubble territory.

Since we're talking real estate, here's another link I've been collecting on the topic. This list shows the increase in average housing last year in various markets. Here the DFW area lags Sacramento, 5.7% to 22.5%. I wonder what that will be over the next few years, particularly with rising interest rates making $500,000 interest-only loans less doable?

UPDATE 8/28: Second link now correct.

Weekly Investment Property II


This charming two bedroom, one bathroom home is 45 years young. Set in an idyllic location in lovely Shreveport, Louisiana, the presence of nearby Centenary college makes this an ideal rental. Security should be of no concern, as the windows have already been replaced with sturdy plywood. Asking price of $16,500 includes a detached two-car garage (not pictured), a fireplace*, and desirable pier and beam foundation! With $3300 down and even a high interest rate of 6%, this house can be yours for $79 a month for 30 years.

Here are some other items that cost around $79:

A backpack.
A pair of flip-flops.
An old deck of cards.

Seriously, which would you rather have - a backpack or a house? A shabby deck of cards or a house? A pair of flip-flops or a house? You do the math! Don't let this "Great Fixer Upper" pass you by!


* Seller not responsible for any consequences of actually lighting a fire in the fireplace.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Followup: McKinney the new environmentally friendly capital of America

After the big news of the environmentally conscious Wal-Mart that just opened here in McKinney, we next learned that there would be a new Toyota dealership built with similar goals. This bandwagon is really rolling, as now McKinney's schools are jumping on board as well. I find it very interesting that all this is happening in Collin County, Texas, one of the most conservative counties in one of the most conservative states in America. My coworkers in Roseville will hopefully recall my previous predictions that eventually a sensible environmental movement would arise that superseded the left/right divide, dropping the Greenpeace/PETA rhetoric that essentially accuses humans of being a blight upon the whole world. In fact, conservatives and liberals can unite as cost savings equal environmentally friendly policies. And of course, not even the most ardent pro-business advocate wants the water he drinks to be polluted with toxins, so in some sense we are all environmentalists. However, there are still areas of divergence. One area is essentially short-sighted/lacking the "big picture" environmentalism, as outlined in Bjorn Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist. An example being the debate over spraying pesticides on food, which environmentalists often claim causes cancer in thousands of people. What they fail to account for is the economic impact of banning pesticides. If they were banned, all fruit would have to be grown organically, which is far more costly. Thus the price of fruits and vegetables would rise, resulting in decreased consumption particularly by poorer people, who could least afford the increase. Since a diet rich in fruit and vegetables is one of the best know preventers of cancer, banning pesticides would actually lead to an increase in cancer amongst the general population. See Lomborg's book for a more detailed explanation with the science to back it up. Another difficult area in environmental policies is how do regulations interact with the property rights of landowners? Readers of this blog should already know that I am a huge defender of one's right to do mostly as he wishes on his own property. However, as the saying goes "My right to swing my fist ends at another person's nose" which I think can also apply to the environment. I can't just dump oil at random on my land, because that seeps into the ground and affects everyone around me. To sum up, if the left could drop some of its "earth-worship" rhetoric and focus more on ideas that are both environmentally friendly and cost-effective, while keeping in mind the big picture of what makes human life healthier and more enjoyable, they might find that conservatives aren't so different from them on this issue. In fact, even those of us in the so-called "religious right" actually believe that we are here as stewards of the earth God gave us, which should be a high calling for some reasonable environmentalism in my book.


Friday, August 19, 2005

More "What the heck is wrong with people?"

ETonline.com Celebrities: Plastic Surgery Obsession: Meet the Real-Life 'Ken' Doll

Shockingly, this gentleman goes to the same plastic surgeon as Michael Jackson. Shockingly, this gentleman no longer looks human. I wish there were pictures from before he started this ridiculous project to look perfect through surgery. I'm sure he looked far better beforehand, much like people with eating disorders. Is this coming from the same root control issues that eating disorders often arise from?


Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Investment property of the week!

Even in our own neighborhood here in Texas, we're starting to see a lot of investors coming in from California to buy houses. My theory is that they believe the market has topped out there and so are looking to pull out their gains and invest them in other markets with potential upside. In that vein, I've decided to feature a weekly house that people might want to consider in more forgotten parts of the country.



This week's special can be yours for a mere $14,000*. That's right, for the price of a 3 or 4 year old Toyota Camry, you could be a proud homeowner in Danville, Illinois! Danville property values rose 16.9% last year, 33rd in the nation! Join in on the easy money - a 30 year mortgage with $2,800 down would only be $64 a month*. Many of you spend that at Starbucks! Act now so that this $12/sq. ft.* beauty in a peaceful** location doesn't pass you by. Other savvy investors are already moving!


* Does not include insuring against house collapsing.
** Noise from the conveniently-located six nearby railroad tracks should drown out arguments at any neighboring crackhouses.
***This must see 2-bedroom home is sold "as-is".

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Will I purchase this?

T-ShirtHumor.com

Going toe-to-toe on office etiquette

I have to disagree with this article on how recent college grads are changing corporate culture.
To wit: They wouldn't think twice about wearing flip-flops to the White House, which members of Northwestern University's women's lacrosse team did in July, to much clucking from mostly baby-boomer disbelievers.

Call them Generation Why. "This group wants an explanation: 'You tell me why I have to dress up,' " Alewel says.
I'm not sure if that's totally accurate. The only person in Texas who has commented on me wearing flip-flops at work is our 21 year-old co-op. He went so far as to post a sign outside my office door decreeing "No Open-toed Shoes". However, that is actually a rule for our big equipment labs, so apparently he's made it some proletariat struggle against me in the bourgeois who isn't required to actually have to go down and touch the computers. Isn't that what co-ops are for??
The fashion world is the only industry where flip-flops might possibly pass muster with propriety police like Leah Ingram, author of the forthcoming Everything Etiquette Book: A Modern Day Guide to Good Manners. Even if you can wear the poolside staple to work, Ingram says, that doesn't mean you should. "The flip-flop won't ever be acceptable in the office," she sniffs.
Think again! 5+ years of on-the-job flip-flop wearing in California and 6 months in Texas say otherwise. Apparently the fashion world and engineering are the only industries where it's ok.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Followup: Supersize Me

Just following up on my earlier post about Super Size Me, the movie where Morgan Spurlock gains 30 pounds in 30 days eating a McDonald's only diet.

This lady went on a 90 day long Mickey-D-only diet.
Weight at the start: 227
Weight at the finish: 190
Total weight LOST eating McDonald's: 37 pounds

This, and other stories like it which you can google if you wish, once again prove the secret to losing weight. Here it is:

Calories you expend must be GREATER THAN the calories you take in.

There it is. You don't need to read a fancy book or anything. This can be accomplished even at McDonald's.
The problem with a McDonald's-only diet isn't what's on the menu, but the choices made from it, she said.
Oh, so you're saying there are consequences to our personal choices? If I eat more than I need then I get fatter, and less than I need then I get thinner? Weird!

Some more insightful commentary that I stumbled across on the web about Super Size Me and Morgan Spurlock and his new TV show as well.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

How to fold a fitted sheet

I've never really been able to fold fitted sheets properly, they always end up sort of stuffed in the closet with the rest of the properly folded sheets, looking like their unwanted cousin. Now help arrives from the Target website: How to fold a fitted sheet. Has anyone done this before? I haven't tried it yet. I remember someone was supposed to give me some tips on this a while ago, and I'm sure my Mom showed me a trick for it before I left for college and promptly forgot it, but as of right now I'm still ignorant. My guess is 95% of American men are in the same boat.

Follow-up 8/13
I attempted to follow the directions, and so far they are a complete failure. Step 2 is where the breakdown occurs.

With your right hand, pick up the corner that is hanging down in front and fold it over the two corners in your left hand.

I don't appear to HAVE a corner that is "hanging down in front". Moving forward from this step, as best I understand it, results in the same amorphous blob that I get with my normal method that I then force into a vaguely rectangular shape. So far Target is getting an F. We'll see if my wife can have any more success.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Oregon vacation II




I realize it has been a while since I first promised more info on our July 4th trip. I thought I would start off with our trip on Thursday the 7th, taking a jet boat up the Rogue River with Jerry's Jet Boat tours. First of all you need to get there very promptly, as they tried to leave without us at 7:55 for an 8:00 trip, while I was still buying sunglasses at the counter since I forgot mine. Fortunately, my in-laws told them that we were still in the store, so they waited until we got out there and then we headed upriver. Our guide did a great job of informing us of little historical facts and pointing out areas of interest as we rode along. He also had eyes like an eagle, because he routinely spotted wildlife while driving the boat that nobody else saw even though the only thing we were doing was looking for it. We saw a lot of wildlife, with the highlights for me being seeing a bald eagle fly over us and land and seeing a bear eating right on the shoreline. We got the boat (my part of it no less, as I was in the front left corner) to within ten to fifteen feet of him and he just sat there eating grass, unperturbed, until he eventually ambled off. I don't think I've ever been anywhere near that close to an uncaged bear before. I think he and I were about the same size, so I could probably have taken him if he tried anything ;) We went a long ways upriver, the whole trip being 104 miles, and we even went over some rapids. It's basically like fast whitewater rafting, without any danger of falling out. They also do a bunch of spins, which were a lot of fun, but nothing compared to riding the teacups with me at Disneyland. If you sit in the back of the boat you actually do get pretty wet. Since we were in the front, we stayed dry the whole trip. It gets pretty warm being out in the sun for all that time, so getting wet is kind of a good thing. A free tip from me is that you need to wear a hat, unless you're bald and you can put suntan lotion directly on your scalp. I got quite a sunburn through my hair on the top of my head. In case any of you might try to infer from that that I am balding (which would be a bald-face lie - I kill myself!), the same thing happened to my wife. A few days later, it looked like we really needed to invest in some Selsun Blue.

Sample of our guide's sense of humor
"Anyone here from LA?"
Someone finally admits to it, "Yes."
"Do you see that over there?"
"No...what?"
"You don't recognize it do you? That's blue sky!"

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Set Love Free

Repeal the Restrictions on Dallas Love Field! Because we believe in free markets and not in needlessly paying an arm and a leg to fly anywhere.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Saturday's carnage

The final count from Saturday night's meal at Texas Land and Cattle.

3 salads - mine, my wife's, and a random one incorrectly made for another table. Naturally I helped out.
2 loaves of bread - comment from my wife at this point: "You're going to fill up before the steak even comes out." Me: "Do you KNOW how hungry I am? I don't think that's going to be a problem."
14 oz of steak
Mashed potatoes - I'm always nervous about spelling that incorrectly ever since the Dan Quayle incident.

This makes me long for Cattlemen's in Sac. Even though there are tons of great steak places here, I haven't found one with the quality for the money of the 32 oz. Sheriff at Cattlemen's. Mmmmm....goood.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

File these under ...

... What the heck is wrong with people?

Wife who formerly went on strike is now itemizing and charging for all tasks performed during her marriage. Love is all about itemizing.

"Til death do us part" is soooo 1955. Clearly "as long as our love lasts" is just way more realistic. We don't want to suffer from sky-high expectations!

Words fail me to describe this one.
Johnson hosted weekly parties at her home over the span of a year and admitted to having sexual contact with boys 15 to 17 years old, prosecutors said. According to her arrest affidavit, Johnson said she also provided marijuana, methamphetamine, and alcohol to the teens because she wanted to be a "cool mom" and it made her feel like she was "one of the group." She said she was never popular in high school.
Sometimes I like to imagine these sorts of perverts (meaning the "cool mom", not the other stories above) attempting to explain their actions to people from 300 years ago, before being tarred and feathered or somesuch. "Oh, I see.....because you weren't popular in high school. It makes sense now!" Ridiculous.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Supermarket cards threat to privacy?

More about the daily assault on our privacy. How much privacy will we be willing to give away merely for convenience and to save a few cents? Apparently the savings are a sham anyway.

Perhaps one of the most egregious aspects of shopper cards, according to Albrecht, is the notion put forth by supermarkets and other retailers that cardholders are somehow entitled to special savings deals.

In reality, Albrecht says, most of those programs are little more than ploys to get shoppers to use the cards and, hence, allow the retailers to collect personal data.

In a recent consumer study involving a Bloomington, Ind., Kroger's supermarket, the store's published advertising circulars were collected for four consecutive weeks prior to launching the e-card, and another six weeks after the card was launched.

The results were stunning, CASPIAN said. While the e-card was heralded as a way to save shoppers money, most of the tracked items ‚– 52 of 89 ‚– were unchanged in price, while a majority of the remainder, 24 items, were actually priced higher. Only 13 tracked items fell in price as a result of e-card use.

I do realize that the study of one store in no way approaches a statistically significant sample, yet I believe this same pattern would play out in most cases if it were repeated at other stores. Rather than increased savings once the card is implemented, a more accurate picture would be to state that you will be mauled if you continue to shop at the store and do not use the new card. Effectively your options are A) don't use the card and get mauled B) give up your privacy to retain the same prices you paid before the card system began. Does anyone see a big win for the consumer?

Some thoughts from the article on why any of this matters.

CASPIAN says the thing it hears most from nonplussed consumers who use the cards is this: "What's the big deal? I'm not doing anything wrong or buying anything illegal."

But that's the wrong way to look at it, says Albrecht, because that's not really what the card programs are about.

"I could say the same thing about tapping your phone ‚– 'Who cares if they know what you say to your friends?'" she said. "How about putting a tracking device in your car? 'Who cares if they know where you go?' Heck, why not let them install a camera in your shower? 'Who cares if they know what you look like naked?'

"The point is that there are many, many things that nobody's got any business knowing about anybody else. That's called privacy – the right to an unfettered, unmonitored personal life which is not subject to the scrutiny of others," she said.


Ways to fight The Man.

1) I favor shopping at non-card stores.
2) I've written protest letters to the card stores, including Albertson's when they started using the card system. I would give you excerpts from their reply, but I lost it when my hard drive crashed last year.
3) I've written letters to the stores that don't have a card system to thank them for it and let them know that they have increased customer usage because of it. FYI, Rayley's/Bel-Air wrote me back to say they would never have a card system. Perhaps not coincidentally, they have been rated the number one grocery store chain in America by Consumer Reports.
4) When I moved close to a Ralph's (owned by Kroger) that used a card system, I simply got a new card every time I went into the store and then threw it away as soon as I got home. Apparently they got wise to that tactic and started requiring you to fill out the personal info before you could actually get a card. In addition to hating that, I soon realized that Ralph's in general is overpriced and that that particular location always smelled like bad fish. I never went back. That location is now out of business. I claim a small victory.
5) Many supermarkets now have self-checkout lines. Also, in case you forget your card, you can manually enter in your phone number on the screen to get the card discount. Thus, you can play "Guess A Valid Phone Number"! Most of the stores are national, so it doesn't even have to be in your area code, but that's probably a good start.

Windfall for Washington

OpinionJournal - Featured Article The Laffer Curve right again?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Eco-friendly Wal-Mart where?

DenverPost.com : "The first store, in McKinney, features a windmill, solar panels and a drip-irrigation system for water conservation, Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart said Tuesday in a statement. Cooking oil from the deli and automotive oil from Tire and Lube Express will be burned to heat the building."

Here in Mckinney, we out-California California itself.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Superman

4 or 5 years ago, I purchased a Superman t-shirt. For reasons I cannot explain, I have had many odd experiences in this shirt, and people who normally would never say anything to me feel compelled to speak to me solely because I'm wearing this shirt. This is (part of) its story.

I wore the shirt on a visit to LA to meet up with my buddy Seth from college over Thanksgiving weekend several years ago. We're rolling through LA in his rental car when we come to a stop in traffic somewhere near Hollywood. It's a pleasant day, so I have the window rolled down. Suddenly I am accosted through the window by a man repeatedly shouting, "I THOUGHT YOU WERE DEAD!" and then "Superman, they told me you were dead but I never believed them, and now here you are." At first I smile courteously at the joke, but after he continues on for a while, I'm not too sure this guy is all there. He also appears to be trying to physically touch me through the window. Traffic is now starting to move again, but I'm not too sure Seth is fully cognizant of the potential loony I have on my hands so I discreetly say to him out the side of my mouth "drive, Seth, DRIVE". Probably the guy was harmless, but it was one of my first exposures to the power of the t-shirt to break down normal barriers between strangers.

Later that same day, we are on Hollywood Boulevard, walking by Mann's Chinese Theatre, where a lot of movies premier. "Actors" dress up as famous movie characters in front of the theater and pose with tourists for $5 or more. Yes, it's ridiculous. So, of course today there happens to be a guy there posing as Superman. For some reason two older ladies are excited that I am wearing a superman t-shirt AND here is a guy dressed up as superman - that's real Hollywood entertainment for you, I guess. Naturally (?) the other Superman starts taunting me and wants me to take my picture with him. My thoughts: I'm not paying money to have my picture taken with a guy wearing his underwear outside of his pants.

hmmm

Philippians 4
11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Contentment has been sort of an issue this week, with a lot of things...

States visited



Create your own visited states map

The other day my Mom mentioned that a recent trip meant that she had visited all 50 states. I decided to try to map out how many I had visited. I'm not counting airports landed in, as I think that would give me at least 3 more, including Alaska. I had to actually spend time in the state. I need help from some family - am I forgetting anything? I think we probably hit Connecticut on our trip to Maine when I was a freshman or sophomore in high school, but I couldn't remember it specifically. Likewise I think we may have ventured into Wisconsin on a trip to Chicago some time, but I'm not sure. I think the 36 states I have here are the minimum number I've visited, and it's probably higher.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Art

I find this painting oddly fascinating. What do you think that says about me? What do you think the painting means?

Books

A list I got tagged for by my Aunt a while ago. Took me a while to answer it, mostly due to struggling with saying which 5 books have really influenced me. Now some of the answers have changed, so I just added them in.

Total books owned, ever~
My wife would say way too many. Hmmm...total, I'm going to guess around 2000? It seemed high, but then I thought just all my college and grad school textbooks probably hit in the hundreds right there, to say nothing of all my recreational purchases.

Last book I bought ~ They Smell Like Sheep (reviewed below) and The 16% Solution
Now, after our trip to Powell's - The Love of God by John MacArthur and The Francis A. Schaeffer Trilogy.


Last book I read ~ I just finished The 16% Solution, which is about investing in tax liens. I'm now just about to finish The God Who Is There, the first book in the Schaeffer trilogy that I just purchased.

5 books that mean a lot to me ~ This is the hardest one, as it changes as you change ...
  • The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
  • Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
  • The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. Notice a theme?
  • The God Who Is There by Francis Schaeffer. Putting this here even though I haven't quite finished it, because of how it is already challenging my thinking.
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Runner-up: Every Man's Battle, by Stephen Arterburn

Back from the great Northwest

We just got back in tonight from our visit to Washington, Oregon, and California, so I thought I would put up a quick post to end the dearth of them from our vacation. We left Friday, July 1 after work and arrived in Vancouver, Washington (just across the river from Portland, OR) that night, where we stayed with my best man from our wedding. He has a mammoth house, able to hold quite a few people. Several of our friends from Sacramento arrived on Saturday; eventually I think we had ten people staying at his pad. I'll expound more on our activities later, but for now, we had a great time seeing old friends, putting on our own fireworks show, hitting Powell's bookstore, etc. Tuesday, we drove down to Brookings, OR to stay with my wife's parents at their house right on the Pacific Ocean. It was so foggy that that first day we couldn't even see the ocean from inside their house. Normally one has a fantastic panoramic view of the ocean from their living room, which is lined with huge windows. The next day we relaxed by taking a quick 10 mile hike through the redwoods in California on the James Irvine trail to Fern Canyon and then out to the ocean. Even for someone who doesn't get too much into scenery, this was some pretty impressive stuff. The next day we took a 100+ mile jet boat ride up the Rogue River. Incredible scenery and wildlife again, and a great time in great weather. Again I will expound more on this in later posts. Saturday we drove back up to Portland, but not before swinging down to Medford to have lunch with my Aunt and Uncle, who live there. My wife is now convinced Medford would be a great place to live. The thing my wife and I both enjoyed the most from the whole trip was the wonderful cool weather. The bad news is that this made it that much harder to come back to the Texas heat today!

Monday, June 27, 2005

Karl Rove does NOT equal Dick Durbin

Dick Durbin is either a complete historical moron or a liar who would defame his own country for political purposes. These are the only two options. To claim that someone having to endure hot and cold temperatures and loud rap music is akin to any historical atrocity is pure folly and not worth responding to. I will say this, however, if that is how Democrats understand history, it makes sense that they make so many loony decisions. While unlike the treatment given by historical dictators, does anyone know what the situation does resemble? Too hot, too cold, loud music.....that's right - college dorms! And many people fondly remember that as one of the best times in their lives.

The natural remedy to these insane comments was a half-hearted apology (I think he keeps trying to apologize better, each time he reads his poll numbers, but I've lost interest in anything that buffoon has to say) and zero censure from any national Democrat anywhere. Contrast this to Trent Lott, who as I recall, merely said favorable things about Strom Thurmond, who used to be a racist (much like a Senator Byrd) and for this had to step down from his leadership position in the Senate. The double standard is ludicrous. And now Karl Rove mentions how liberals wanted to "understand" the terrorists following 9-11 and offer them therapy. This is a factual claim. Some liberals did say things along that line (well the therapy comment is a bit of a caricature, but the point holds), and not just crazy extremists either, unless you think Bill Clinton is one. If Rove erred (in speaking to a conservative group which he might be expected to pander to, versus making comments on the Senate floor) it was in employing a bit of hyperbole and painting with too broad a brush. Of course not ALL liberals felt that way, yet a significant and highly vocal number did. I hardly think he needed to constantly qualify everything during a speech. So, for anyone to subsequently demand an apology from Rove and censure from the President, when Rove said nothing that was not actually based in fact, is hard to understand. How they could demand that when they said nothing about Durbin indicates a basic and complete misunderstanding of .... pretty much everything.

Who is John Locke?





I think we can guarantee the idiot majority on the Supreme Court hasn't heard of him. I have NO idea how anyone, liberal, conservative, vegetarian, whatever, could possibly have read into the Constitution what these justices did regarding eminent domain. I'll admit to not having studied this case specifically at a deep level, but I did do a fairly lengthy paper on John Locke and modern eminent domain law for my political science minor in college. Property rights, according to Locke, whose ideas were a major influence on the founding fathers, are the foundation of a free society. In fact, in early America, only land owners were permitted to vote, as it assured that only those with a stake in the system could make the decision to tax. In other words, nobody who wasn't going to give any money in, could vote to give money out. Not a bad idea, but I digress. Given their respect for private property (which subsumed land and included a man's labor as well), even the fifth amendment's specific grant of eminent domain powers for public uses is striking a tenuous balance. To overstep that limit and ridiculously claim that the government can seize private land to give to private developers is shocking, and leaves the door wide-open for tyranny - a topic with which the founding fathers had some familiarity and seemed interested in preventing. I believe we already have a remedy for this situation. The developers can either a) offer more money until people sell, or b) build somewhere else. Did anyone see where government needed to be involved? Neither did I. Who supports this idea? It doesn't seem that liberals would like it for how it panders to big business, and conservatives should oppose its unconstitutionality and the aforementioned disrespect for property rights. Can someone in the comments explain to me how this could be lawful? All the articles I've seen have decried the ruling, but I mostly read conservative columnists.