Sunday, December 09, 2007

Romney's faith speech

Anyone else read this?
I thought parts of it were good.
Unfortunately, I was very much disappointed with some of his remarks. I'm not sure if he believes some of what he said; it is obvious that he directed the speech to the religious right.
It's too bad that he had to make a speech like that.
I will not be part of the religious right. I will not consider myself part of a group that claims that I am not a Christian. I will not try to mix my politics with my religion, although my religion influences my morals, and my morals help determine how I vote. And I am not happy that Romney used the occasion to blast the other group that the right-wingers hate--those who choose to be secular.
As McCain (my favorite Republican candidate) notes, many great patriotic Americans are secular. So what? Since when is a Judeo-Christian religion necessary for a country to be free?
Romney also blasts Europe, even though more of Europe enjoys freedom than ever before. Religion did not free Eastern Europe from the USSR. Religion did not give them their freedom.
Europe has issues too. Most Americans will not vote for a president that does not go to church. Most Europeans will not for one that does. Meanwhile, they overlook more important things, such as if the president will show respect to all groups whether they believe or not.
So while Romney may have won over a large number of the religious right, he lost the votes of those who are more tolerant, including this religious Mormon.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Alternative to (most) health Insurance

For those of us in the work force, how much are we paying for health insurance? Currently, I pay $486.95 a month, plus $62.05 for dental insurance.
Ridiculous? I'll say. Especially when that covers only me. April's not included. And health care insurance costs are skyrocketing (by 16% a year). We have an emergency on our hands.
So, what to do? I propose an alternative. I know this is long, but stay with me.
How it will work:
Instead of paying insurance, everyone in the US will be required to put a certain percentage (say, 10%) of the money they earn into a savings account (one that makes enough interest to make up for inflation). Each family has a savings account pool for this purpose. The money can only be removed for health-related costs.
The goal would be to get, over time, a certain amount of money into this pool. For each family member under, say, 30, there would need to be a minimum of, say, $5,000 in the account. So April and I would need to put, over time, $10,000 into it. If we have a baby, that amount goes to $15,000. People 30-40 would need $7500 in it, 40-50 $10,000 in it, and so forth.
Once the savings account is filled (so April and I have $10,000 in it), 10% of our income can go instead into some sort of mutual fund (or, if we want, it can continue going into the savings account). It needs to be an approved fund, but April and I decide on how high-risk it is. We can move this money around all we want, and we can put it into our savings account if we wish, but it can only be used for health-care reasons. It's a back-up for the savings account.
If we turn 30, or acquire a new addition to our family, more money is funneled into the savings account until it's at the new minimum. So if I turn 30 and we have a baby, the new minimum would be $17,500 (5000+5000+7500). That seems like a lot...but it's only 10% of our income. Compare that to what we pay for insurance. Meanwhile, the money that's already in the mutual fund stays there if we want it to, but the 10% of what we make goes into the savings account until it's at the new minimum. The only way that money leaves the mutual fund is if we decide to put it into our savings account, or if we need it for a health expense.
Parents are legally responsible for using the money to help their children until their children are no longer dependents. When children become independent (legally), they take $5000 from the family savings account and put it into their new account. Obviously, the family savings account now has lower requirements (by exactly $5000). If the mother and father consent, and there's money to spare in the mutual fund, the child can also take up to $20,000, but not exceeding 20% of the parent's funds, of the mutual fund.
All this, of course, is tax-free. The money can only be spent on health-related expenses, and only on expenses that would be covered by a good health insurance. It will not cover alternative (ie-non-scientific) medicine. It will also not cover your nose-job, etc.
Once both parents die, the money left in their accounts is not given to their posterity. Instead, it is put into a fund that assists the poor and helps them set up their own accounts.
This will not do away with the need for insurance. Depending on how much money you have in savings and in the mutual fund, you may still need to carry a low-cost insurance plan that will help cover serious, expensive diseases.
Benefits of this alternative to insurance:
1. Healthy lifestyles are encouraged. Unhealthy people have higher health care costs...and with this plan, they pay for those costs themselves. Overall health in the United States improves.
2. Health care costs decrease. I asked April a few weeks ago how much she thought a simple blood test costs. She's run the test many times at the hospital, so I figured she'd have an idea. The actual average cost of that blood test is more than ten times the amount she thought it would be (over $200 instead of $20). If we pay for almost all of our health care costs ourselves, approved health care providers will be forced to become more competitive, and we as consumers will want to be more selective about which care we choose. The result? Less expensive services.
Problems:
The biggest problem here is how we'd transition from our current system to this one.
Oh, and the fact that insurance companies yield a lot of power, and we'd need politicians who don't worship the god of money, and could say no to money coming in from the insurance companies.
If you have any input or recommendations, please comment.
Really, though, I'm tired of paying ridiculous amounts for health insurance, when I never see the benefits and never get the money.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Insurance bill for a Malcolm Reynolds

So April got an insurance bill from Deseret Mutual (BYU insurance).
On the back is an example bill that explains what everything means.
Generally, one would expect it to be addressed to "John Doe" or something like that.
Not this one.
I read the name on it several times in disbelief. Then I read the rest:
MALCOLM REYNOLDS
SERENITY ESTATES
123 FIREFLY AVE
Then, under patient:
KAYLEE FRYE
and under provider (you guessed it):
SIMON TAM
April and I laughed for quite a while about that. And if you haven't had the pleasure of meeting Malcolm Reynolds and the rest of Serenity's crew, I highly recommend you do.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

American Flag in the chapel

So in church today, right up front and center, hung an enormous American flag. For Veteran's Day, I assume. They also hung it up for our first day in the new ward (for July 4th).
In a church that doesn't allow any pictures in the chapel, I find an American flag a bit disturbing. April agrees that it's a bit "iffy". Any comments? Thoughts? Ever seen this done before?

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Another one bites the dust

Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone, and another one gone
Another one bites the dust
Hey, I'm gonna get you too
Another one bites the dust

Congratulations to the Barbarian.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Addictive game-Slay

Anyone remember this one? Great strategy game...highly addictive. What are the best computer games out there? My favorite all-time is Baldur's Gate II. Bioware is coming out with a game called Dragon Age that looks very promising...but it might be a while until that comes out.

Awesome Eggplant

Ever eaten eggplant? It's one of the coolest foods out there. Cooked eggplant is a bit like cooked mushroom, with a meaty texture. And if the grocery store prices scare you, they're easy to grow.
April and I snagged some eggplant from the parents (my mom grows it but she doesn't cook much with it). And we found and modified a recipe:

Eggplant Parmigiana:
Mix:
2 eggs
2 T. water


2 eggplants (peeled and cut into 1/2 inch slices)
Dip the eggplants into the mix, then into
1/2 cup flour

Cook in frying pan with oil until golden brown.

Layer on the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan.
Pour 2 cups meatless spaghetti sauce on it.
Cover with cheese (you can use mozzarella and Parmesan; we used Swiss).
The recipe calls for two cups of shredded cheese, but I just sliced the cheese and put what I felt was a good amount on top.

Bake uncovered at 400 F for 12 minutes or so.

One of my favorite recipes ever. And by posting it here, I don't have to feel bad about not responding to the chain emails asking for recipes.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A new baseball coach

The best part of my work is my new co-workers. The science department at the high school is awesome. Three of us are brand new, three have been there for a while, and one was just hired to teach three classes (meaning all of the rest of us had our classes rearranged so she could have classes to teach). Last year, a capable teacher was, according to our department head, abused and then let go by the administration.
A few of us are eating lunch together. The chemistry/physics teacher, who recently quit a high-paying yet boring job to become a teacher, spoke up.
"I've just been asked to help coach the baseball team. They heard that I watched baseball on the weekends, and they gave me the job."
The department head, a very dedicated educator and a bit of a cynic when it comes to how education is done here, responded,
"Congratulations! Now you're indispensable!"

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Racism in Reverse?

A week ago, my students had a standardized test during my classes; they went down to a computer lab to complete the tests, and then returned to my class when they were finished. With 90 minute classes, this means I can still have a bit of instruction, even with the test. I imagine a lot of the kids took advantage of the break between the test and my class to disappear for a few minutes; in one of my classes, two girls did so quite blatantly. Thirty minutes after the last student to finish the test returned to my classroom (and told me she was the last one out of the computer lab), a certain girl wandered back into class. Five minutes later, in came her best friend.
I performed the same test on both of them; I asked them how long ago they finished the test (they both claimed five minutes, and they both claimed that they'd used the restroom on the way back). I, in return for their sluffing and their lies, simply marked them as a 'sluff' for the class period. And how they complained.
Most of my minority girls are great people; quiet, good-natured, pleasant...
One of these girls is white, the other is from Mexico. "You hate me 'cause I'm brown," she said. Now, accusing someone of racism who isn't racist, someone who believes that the best (only good?) thing Bush has tried to pull off is his so-called amnesty policies, some one who has seen racism in Europe and then realized that it's rampant here too...is what she said...is that racism? The next thing she said was rather telling. "I can't have a sluff! I'm on parole!"

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year

Where are people going to be for the holidays?
We'll probably be in South Jordan a couple of times.
We need to get the gang together.

Monday, September 17, 2007

I want to teach in Europe

I don't think I'm really happy, at least long-term, without some kind of big goal in mind. Something to look forward to and strive towards. The past few years I've been able to cross off some of those goals. Graduate. 10 weeks in Europe. Graduate. Convince April to marry me. Find a teaching job.
Now that those goals are accomplished, I realized I'm out, and so I'm searching for a new big goal. Being an assistant principal doesn't appeal to me right now. Becoming certified to teach all science (not just biology) and English...those are good goals, but they're not big, and they're more to make me marketable than anything else.
So I've been looking at moving to Europe. A place where (unless it's a US school) children want to learn. A place that's big on good public transportation, good food, good culture. A place that's green. A place where the LDS religion is something that makes us different, not the same.
My options right now:
Work for DODDS (schools run by the US government for military brats). US kids, and the jobs can be difficult to obtain, but they provide free housing, and an American influence would make April feel more at home.
Get a TESOL or similar credential and teach English as a second language in a European school. This can also be a difficult job to get in Western Europe, and I'd rather teach biology or English as a first language, but Europeans generally want to learn (as opposed to Americans...please compare high school graduation rates for proof).
Teaching for an international school. Europe has a lot of international schools where the primary language is English. Kids from all over, who have parents working in a foreign country, go to these schools. This would probably be my first pick; I still need to do more research.
Teaching a subject in the English language in a public or private school. Apparently, the Netherlands is big on this...they have classes taught in English, and the students practice English and learn another subject at the same time.
My biggest problem right now is that I don't know how difficult it is to get jobs in any of these areas. My only connection is a retired librarian who used to work for DODDS in Italy (thanks, Kirk). I don't know anyone else who's taught in Europe. So I'll be doing some more research.
Anyone who doesn't understand this obsession has never been to Europe. It'll be an adventure when it happens. We'll have to see how long I can convince April to stay. If anyone has any potential leads, let me know.

Robert Jordan is dead

We knew he was sick. As his "Wheel of Time" series kept growing, some started worrying if he'd ever finish it.
It's a sad day for many of us.
I read the first few books; I've always said I'd wait to read more until he finished the series. Guess that day will never come.

Monday, September 10, 2007

My first traffic ticket

So Friday, heading home from work, I pulled out of the parking lot driveway a little quick. A little too quick. I could see the road for a good half mile in both directions, it was clear, and I peeled out (if 10 mph can be called peeling) and turned right to head home.
Guess I didn't really stop for the stop sign.
Price? Anyone want to guess?
$75.
That's right. $75 for not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign when the coast was clear and I was turning right from a glorified driveway.
So guess how much respect I have for Idaho Falls cops now? None. The cop tried to tell me the seriousness of my crime, but from the insecure way he said it, I got the feeling that he realized the ticket amount was way too much. And I no longer find the cops here trustworthy, intelligent, or, most of all, fair.
I guess I've made a lot of stupid mistakes driving, some of which would've deserved that hefty of a fine. This was not one of them. Had I been charged $25, I would've been fine with it. But if cops want respect, they need to be fair. And $75, for that, is not fair.
For now, I'll consider it the price for all the dumb mistakes I've made in the past. Including the time I pulled a right onto Bangerter in icy conditions and was this close from plowing into traffic coming the opposite direction (good thing all the lanes going my direction were clear). Or the time I pulled out of 10th West onto 106th...and seriously cut off another driver (some of you may remember that...) It's just too bad I get fined for something this lame.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Happy checks and Sunbeams

April and I got a visit from three men last week. That's right. The entire bishopric stopped by; they called us to teach the 8-year old primary kids. Team teachers. Lots of fun. So why the headline about Sunbeams?
Sunday night, a member of the primary presidency stopped by. "Actually, things have changed, and you'll be teaching the Sunbeams." So we'll be in charge of keeping eight or so (14 on the roll) Sunbeams occupied for hours at a time.
Reminds me of a long time ago when I was incorrectly called to be the datebox co-chair; I was incredibly relieved when I immediately got a call about the mistake. This time, though, I get the scarier position.
Also, update on the refund check. The company actually sent us a check returning 100% of what we'd paid, when the cancellation agreement stated that we'd only get part of it back. Pretty sweet deal! And my mom always said complaining never accomplishes anything...

Monday, September 03, 2007

Edited movies

So, contrary to common belief, Clean Flicks is not out of business. How do I know this? There's one just a few blocks from our apartment. So we went over there, got a free membership, and got "Children of Men". The Masked Mallard had shown me the preview, and it was definitely a movie I wanted to see. Darker and more intense than I expected, but it also included bright rays of hope. And they played King Crimson! The first progressive rock band, the pioneers of the genre, entirely ignored by American radio, and they played a fairly long segment of "In the Court of the Crimson King". Awesome.
Later I watched "Terminator" (number one) and "The Manchurian Candidate." Both good movies. I had mono and April had her internship (so I was home alone, bored).
If you're ever in Idaho Falls, come stop by...and make a stop by Clean Flicks. Some good stuff.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Threats work!

After our honeymoon, April and I went down to southern Utah to see Zion and Bryce, and to participate in a family reunion. We spent a few days in a small cabin near Zion, and had planned to spend one night in a nicer cabin in Tropic, closer to Bryce and the family reunion. I made reservations, and everything was good to go.
The cabin in Tropic, where we were only going to stay for a single night, had sent me a receipt, stating that if we wanted to cancel, we had to notify them at least three days before the reservation. They would still charge $25, but we would get most of our money back. Well, April and I decided to skip that cabin and go home a day early. We called four or five days in advance to cancel.
And then the nightmare began. When we didn't receive a refund, I started calling, leaving messages, and emailing. Nothing worked. The owners were away for a family emergency. The owners weren't in right then. They never returned messages I left...including both phone and email. I called over a dozen times. Finally, this last Friday, almost two months after we made the cancellation, my patience ran out. I emailed them, telling them that if I didn't hear from them within a week, I would report them to the Better Business Bureau and write three negative reviews of them on the web. I was serious. Sometimes, revenge is not only sweet, it's necessary.
The threat worked. Monday I got a call from the owner, and, supposedly, our refund is on its way.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Update on the 27-year-old mono patient

I'm over the fever, the excessive phlegm (which also made it difficult to sleep and made me snore), and the minor digestive stuff (probably caused by the antibiotics I was taking). Also over the sore throat and the difficult swallowing. Low energy, however, is here to stay. Most mono cases are kind of like this...Pretty sick for two weeks, and then low energy for a couple of months. Not much I can do about it. At least I can give myself a good excuse for not exercising...I'm supposed to take it easy and not exert myself too much. Just going grocery shopping ends up sapping most my energy.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Work!

So I finally found a job. And we're not talking sleep clinic graveyard work, or something else that would be a move down. We're talking an actual teaching job.
A few days ago, Bonneville High School in Idaho Falls called and left a message.
I'd interviewed with them right before I got married, and the principal had called me and told me that he thought they'd hire me, and to talk to him before I accepted any other offers. Well, after the honeymoon, I discovered an email from him, telling me they'd given the job to someone who could teach both earth science and biology. Bit of a disappointment. Major disappointment, with the lack of open teaching jobs in the area.
Now, many teaching jobs are difficult to get. But I'm a science teacher. Math, science, and special education (and, more and more, ESL) are all areas where more teachers are needed...at least everywhere but eastern Idaho. I've been amazingly diligent about keeping abreast of all the job openings within an hour of Idaho Falls. And I interviewed for a total of two jobs. Not that good of odds.
So when I listened to the message from Bonneville, new hope sprung up within me. Sure enough, they wanted to 'emergency hire' me. Another teacher had quit just three weeks before the beginning of the school year, and I was their best option.
So, I'm relieved. Benefits (so now I'll have health insurance and won't have to pay out-of-pocket anymore). Good pay (well, compared to my other alternatives), and good hours. And a job I'll probably enjoy.
Of course, since I'm an emergency hire, after this year my job is up for grabs, and if I want it, I have to reapply and interview for it again. Not that I'll have a ton of competition, but...
We're not planning on staying, though. Northwest US, Northeast US, or Europe sound great.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sick again

So, I'm sick again. Less than three months ago I had pneumonia. You know, the disease where you can't breathe. Where you walk up the stairs and you have to sit down because you're out of breath. The disease that put my dad in the hospital for a week and almost killed him. Ya. That disease.
I became aware I was sick again a little over a week ago, immediately following church. A fever. Light-headed. Tuesday evening the fever was still there (highs at 104 F), so we went to the doctor, who gave me a prescription for an antibiotic. Started taking it...one day, two days, three days, little change. No longer light-headed, but I started coughing a bit more. Four days, five days...still nothing. So I figure I have a bacteria that's tougher than the antibiotic (or at least resistant to it), or I have a virus. I found myself short of breath at times, and so worried that I again had pneumonia, and this time it was back for vengeance. So we went to the doctor's again(those of you who have health insurance--appreciate it). A different doctor saw us this time, and he insisted on a blood test, did some x-rays, and then showed us some of my blood data. Some of the numbers were not good...he had another test done, this time for mono. Positive. That's right. I have the kissing disease. At least I know what I have and how to deal with it, even if there is no treatment for it.
Why can't I get sick like a normal person? The cold? The flu? Something that doesn't last weeks and weeks?
So, in three months, I go through pneumonia, quit my job, move to Idaho, marry April, and get mono. I'm going to be out of it for a while. Maybe it's a good thing I haven't found a job yet.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Been a while

So, it's been a while since I've written.
I am now a married man. The long search is over; it was worth the length to find the right woman.
I never realized how important it is to show up to receptions. A number of people drove quite a distance to support us, and that means a lot. Even if it wasn't a long distance, it still was important to us.
For those who missed it, April looked stunning.
We spent about a week in Idaho Falls and Yellowstone, and then another week in Bryce Canyon/Zions. We spent another week setting up our new apartment in Idaho Falls, and then April started her internship. I'm still looking for work.
The principal at Bonneville High School told me he thought I had a job there...and then he gave it to someone else. So that was a bit of a disappointment. Also frustrating is the multiple phonecalls from Utah principals, wanting to interview me. Idaho schools don't seem interested (or are too far away to seriously consider). So I'm stressing out about finding a job.
Meanwhile, we're living on my savings. We have a couple more months before I really need to find work. If I don't find work as a teacher here, we might move in January, once April is done with her internship.
We went to a 4th of July parade with April's family; her sister lives on the parade route. I passed the time looking at the simple floats and making fun of spelling mistakes (which are always funniest when they're written up and displayed in enormous letters). My favorite were "heros" (not the sandwich--and displayed twice), and "patriatic". I told my brother-in-law about it, and he laughed at what he called "those Idaho hicks". Come on, people. If thousands of people are going to see your large, painted letters that take up most your float, at least use a spell-checker to make sure you don't look like an idiot.
Nice thing about the parade, though, was all the candy they threw out. And it was noticeably shorter than the last parade I went to in downtown Salt Lake. Short is always good.
I'm considering taking classes if I can't find a decent job. I'm two classes from being able to teach 8th grade science. I'm also thinking about getting started on a master's program for educational leadership.
I'll try to update here more often; I'm jobless, and we finally have internet access in the apartment, so check back for more frequent posts.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Pneumonia sucks

So I've been sick a lot these past couple of weeks. Three weeks ago I came down with a bad fever, coupled with exhaustion. I took a couple days off work to recover. The next week I was ok...and then I started getting sick again. Coughing and exhaustion. Went into urgent care on Memorial Day...and I'm diagnosed with pneumonia. Pneumonia's contagious, but it doesn't usually get you unless your immune system is compromised. The only thing I can figure out is that whatever hit me three weeks ago occupied my immune system down and left me wide open for another type of invasion (sound like a certain current war? Oh, never mind). So pneumonia snuck in and attacked. My right lung was filled with liquid (explaining why I had to rest and get my breath back after, say, shaving, or climbing a flight of stairs, or anything else). The antibiotics they gave me took a couple of days, but the disease that, several years ago, put my dad in the hospital for a week, seems to be gone, and I have my energy back. Which I need in order to move, find a job, and, most importantly, prepare for a certain wedding...
Lesson to be learned: don't stress out a lot, and never hesitate to see a doctor, especially if you get hit by a disease, start recovering, and then get hit again.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A job

So, I've been frantically searching for work in Idaho Falls. Actually, I've been looking for quite a while. It's harder than you'd think. Not finding a job...there are plenty of $6/hour jobs. But finding a teaching job (not that it's that much more...ok, so it is quite a bit more...)
For some reason, most the jobs are taken. I have experience teaching biology; science teachers should be in high demand (they are everywhere else); I've gotten numerous calls from principals in Utah wondering if I'm still looking for work ("Yes," I tell them, "but not in Utah...")
It's tough. I'll have a family to support! And rent, health insurance (for a family), car insurance, groceries, utilities, gas...
I'm just worried that I won't be able to provide like I should.
There are a couple of jobs available...we'll see if I can get one of them. I haven't had any luck so far, and there are only two jobs left in the entire Idaho Falls area...
Fortunately, we only have to be in Idaho Falls for six months. So if I can't find a decent job, it's only six months before I can get work in another city, or another state, or...hey, maybe I'll be able to find work in Europe.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Great pictures

So, if you're dying to see some pictures, I've set up a blog for just that purpose. I'm not 100% happy with the pictures on our invitation (which, if you haven't gotten yet, you should get real soon, assuming I sent you one). If, for some reason, you haven't gotten an invitation, let me know. My parents were astonished to find out they'd forgotten to invite a number of friends in the neighborhood...no doubt I've forgotten some too. But, for better pictures (and to see how lucky of a guy I am), go to www.aprilandtim.blogspot.com.

Monday, June 04, 2007

We need to get ourselves a really smart president

Found this in the Deseret News, of all places; and I agree. We at least need a president smarter than myself...
No comment on our current president :)


We need to get ourselves a really smart president

By Eugene Robinson

WASHINGTON — Al Gore has been in town launching his new book, "The Assault on Reason," and you could have predicted the buzz: Is he about to jump into the race? What you probably wouldn't have predicted, because it's insane, is the counter-buzz that Gore, poor fellow, is just too ostentatiously smart to be elected president.
In the book, you see, Gore betrays familiarity with history, economics, even science. He uses big words, often several in the same sentence. And in public appearances — get this — he doesn't even try to disguise his erudition. These, supposedly, are glaring shortcomings that should keep noncandidate Gore on the sidelines, rereading Gibbon and exchanging ideas about the structure of the cosmos with Stephen Hawking.
Like I said, insane. Leave aside the question of whether Gore is even thinking about another presidential run or how he would stack up against the other candidates. I'm making a more general point: One thing that should be clear, to anyone who's been paying attention these past few years, is that we need to go out and get ourselves the smartest president we can find.
We need a brainiac president, a regular Mister or Miss Smarty-Pants president. We need to elect the kid you hated in high school, the teacher's pet with perfect grades.
When I look at what the next president will have to deal with, I don't see much that can be solved with just a winning smile, a firm handshake and a ton of resolve. I see conundrums, dilemmas, quandaries, impasses, gnarly thickets of fateful possibility with no obvious way out. Iraq, of course, is the obvious place he or she will have to start — engineering a U.S. withdrawal and dealing with the aftermath. I want a president smart enough to figure out how to minimize the damage.
I want a president who reads newspapers. I want a president who reads books other than those that confirm his world view. I want a president who bones up on Persian history before deciding how to deal with Iran's ambitious dreams of glory. I want a president who understands the relationship between energy policy at home and U.S. interests in the Middle East — a president smart enough to form his or her own opinions, not just rely on what old friends in the oil business say.
I want a president who looks forward to policy meetings on health care and has ideas to throw into the mix.
I want a president who believes in empirical fact. I want a president whose understanding of spirituality is complete enough to know that faith is "the evidence of things not seen," and who knows that for things that can be seen, the relevant evidence is fact, not belief. I want a president — and it's amazing that I even have to put this on my wish list — smart enough to know that Darwin was right.
Actually, I want a president smart enough to know a good deal about science. He or she doesn't have to be able to do the math, but I want a president who knows that the great theories underpinning our understanding of the universe — general relativity and quantum mechanics — have stood for nearly a century and proved stunningly accurate, even though they describe a world that is more shimmer than substance. And I want the next president to know that the two theories are incompatible — neither makes sense in terms of the other. I want him or her to know that there's a lot we still don't know.
I want the next president to be intellectually curious — and also intellectually honest. I want him or her to understand the details, not just the big picture. I won't complain if the next president occasionally uses a word I have to look up.
The conventional wisdom says that voters are turned off when candidates put on showy displays of highfalutin' brilliance. I hope that's wrong. I hope people understand how complicated and difficult the next president's job will be, and how much of a difference some real candlepower would make.
I don't want the candidates to pretend to be average people, because why would we choose an ordinary person for such an extraordinary job? I want to see what they've got — how much they know, how readily they absorb new information, how effectively they analyze problems and evaluate solutions. If the next president is almost always the smartest person in the room, I won't mind a bit. After all, we're not in high school anymore.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Utah Congressmen still believe the earth is flat...

Well, ok...so not quite. At least they don't admit it. But this is what they do believe...

WASHINGTON -- Utah's Republican congressmen say honoring environmentalist Rachel Carson with her own post office just isn't right.
Reps. Rob Bishop and Chris Cannon joined 51 of their GOP colleagues last week in voting against naming a post office in Carson's Pennsylvania hometown after the woman who in many ways spawned the modern environmentalist movement with her book, Silent Spring.
They contend that Carson's actions -- which led to banning the chemical DDT used to kill pests -- actually has caused more deaths because of malaria and other diseases spread by insects. DDT, Carson wrote, was detrimental to the environment and to humans. Some scientists say DDT led to the California condor's near extinction.
"Rachel Carson's sentimental book, Silent Spring, was a large part of the reason DDT was banned even though the evidence then and now demonstrates that DDT does not cause cancer nor does it do other harm to humans," Cannon said in a statement. "Millions of people, mostly children, have died because the world did not control mosquitoes with DDT."
Bishop's chief of staff, Scott Parker, says his boss has similar concerns - "That maybe 100 percent of the things Carson talked about and claimed as facts weren't completely accurate or proven true by science."
"The emotional environmentalism and politics tied to her name seem to make the naming of a post office a little too political, when it's something that should be apolitical and uncontroversial," Parker said.
Utah's lone Democrat Jim Matheson voted to name the post office after Carson, and the measure passed the House.
Scientists are still studying DDT, but top researchers don't necessarily agree with Cannon's argument that DDT isn't harmful.
Walter Rogan, a medical doctor for the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences who published a study on DDT last year in a British science journal, says that DDT causes cancer in animals, but it's not clear whether it would cause it in humans.
"We don't think it's benign in terms of human health but hasn't been shown to cause cancer," Rogan says.
There is a case to be made, he says, that DDT does affect humans in some ways, particularly causing premature births and also reducing lactation time in mothers. In parts of the world without clean water, the need for breast feeding is immense, Rogan says.
Naming post offices is one of the most mundane actions of Congress and are usually unanimously approved. Cannon, himself, touted a post office he got named in West Valley City last year.

Shame on these ignorant politicians that criticize a true hero, a woman that changed the world. Cannon, Bishop, there's something out there called science. I highly recommend learning a little bit about it...
If a mediocre politician gets a post office named after himself, why should we hesitate to name one after a hero like Rachel Carson? I'm tempted to go on and on about this...in fact, I talked about it and read the article in my classes today...but I figure you can go look up the facts about DDT yourself. And remember, politicians may know a little about politics, but that doesn't mean they know anything about science. Like all of us, they have a responsibility to learn before they open their mouths.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Orson finally makes some sense

Orson Scott Card's reviews are often good (just see what he has to say about "Game of Thrones", and you'll see what I mean). His politics and his essays, though...
He still believes global warming's a hoax.
He still believes the war in Iraq is justifiable.
He believes "intelligent design" is good science.
I'd despaired of ever reading anything worthwhile in his "World Watch" column...until today.
Check the link out. Some good stuff (with the exception of one small paragraph about global warming).
Think about his ideas, listen to Rush's "Subdivisions" (one of the greatest songs ever made), and take a trip to Europe to check out how much better their system works.
Then take that long drive home from work.
Thanks, Orson. Meanwhile, as we wait for your ideas to change America, I think I'll start looking for work in Switzerland.

Friday, April 13, 2007

I'm Engaged

Not that anyone who actually reads this blog doesn't already know it, but I'm engaged! April Marcum and I will be married on June 16th in the Idaho Falls temple, and we'll have an open house in South Jordan probably on June 22nd. We'll be moving to Idaho Falls after the wedding, where I will attempt to find work (so if you know anyone in education up there, let me know). In any case, I'm stressed out now with all the planning, but I'm happier than I've ever been.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Vote for Obama

Elections are coming soon...oh. Wait a minute. Fall of 2008 is still a long ways off. But candidates are gearing up for it already.
On the right, you've got a Mormon, a pro-choicer, a "I used to have a brain but now I just do what I'm told", and a "I'm an adulterer and a hypocrite, but I've repented". As much as I'd like to see Romney in office, I don't think it's going to happen. And really, I don't think any of these others stand much of a chance either. McCain maybe. It's too bad he's changed his independent, maverick ways, and that he now bows to the almighty religious right.
On the left, you've got two main contenders (although Gore may soon be joining them). You've got the most evil woman ever (well, next to Ann Coulter, that is), and you've got Obama. He's not leading the polls, but he's got several things going for him:

1. He's intelligent.
2. He's charismatic.
3. He's young.
4. He's not a Bush or a Clinton (and we'll have had twenty years of those before the next election).
5. He voted against the war in Iraq (and almost prophetically predicted problems we'd have there).
6. He's a good family man.
7. He's genuine.

I hope the Democrats are smart enough to realize that Obama is much more likely to win swing votes than Clinton. And I really hope we don't have to choose between Hillary and Newt, or Hillary and John, or Hillary and Rudy. I want to vote for someone I respect.

Cheney and BYU

So, Dick Cheney is speaking at the BYU graduation. A big deal, having the vice president come. The white house actually called BYU up and asked if Cheney could speak (isn't is supposed to work the other way around?). Guess they figured that BYU was one of the few large universities where Cheney would be able to make himself heard above the boos.
I think this is riskier than BYU initially thought. Only history will tell. Cheney's been accused of a lot of evil things, and many, including BYU students, believe those things.
My dad believes Bush is a decent guy but not too bright. I (risking the ire of more conservative readers) agree. Maybe I've read too much fiction, but it seems that someone who's both dumb and powerful will attract friends that are smart and manipulative. People pulling the strings. Cheney could certainly fit this bill...and his buddies (Haliburton) are one of the few groups that are benefiting from the war in Iraq.
The first presidency of the LDS church had a hand in the decision; to those who say that everything they say and do is directed by God (and that statement has been made), I reply: they're human. They make mistakes. They're good men, they receive inspiration from God, but not every decision they make is directed by the Lord.
A few years ago, this would've been a great decision. Now...thousands of students, friends, and alumni have signed a petition in opposition, and a couple of protests are planned. BYU, to their credit, is allowing some protests (unbelievable as that may seem), and they've announced that Reid (the most politically powerful elected Mormon ever, not to mention a Democrat), will be speaking at a forum this next fall. Still, having someone widely regarded as a warmonger as a commencement speaker is a poor choice.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Best video games

I've played only one computer game worth playing: Baldur's Gate II. An actual plot, complex enough to be interesting, and real characters. Baldur's Gate I was okay, the expansions weren't too great. Baldur's Gate II, however, is awesome. Classic fantasy, but not hack-and-slash. The world felt real. The characters were real. The plot was interesting and exciting.
Any suggestions, and I'll look into them.

Over-rated games: Just about anything that's popular. Warcraft/Starcraft come to mind. Very addictive, but not all that great. Diablo II is even worse--it's not even addictive. Just boring. Hack-and-slash gets old real fast. At least Warcraft involves a lot of strategy.

Most over-rated series in fantasy

Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time
Most my friends like this series. I'll admit, I read the first few. Then all the characters became crappy, and I realized it was set up kind of like the war in Iraq--with no exit strategy. The first book in the series was released...wait for it...over seventeen years ago. I realize great literature takes time...but it also tends to be well written. Wheel of Time isn't. I went back to try to re-read the series at one point, and I just couldn't stomach it. There's better literature out there that demands my attention. There's just nothing in these books that deserves my time.

Terry Brooks
I enjoyed these as a teenager, but I can't stand them anymore. Any of them. Guess I like a little meat with my escapism. I don't care much about the characters, the plots are usually tired and sound rehashed, and the writing style sucks.

David Eddings
See my comments about Terry Brooks

Piers Anthony
See above.

Stephen King: Dark Tower series
See above.

Most other fantasy that people actually know about fits into this category (see my other list for the rare exceptions). Some of it (McCaffrey, etc.) I read just a little bit before putting it down, realizing that it's not all that great. It can be fun, but there's no real thought to it, and I come away thinking, "I just wasted how many hours on this?"

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Great Science Fiction and Fantasy

I just read some recent posts on another site, listing the 50 greatest sci-fi books of all time. So here's a (shorter) list:
1. JRR Tolkien: Lord of the Rings.
Amazing books. Yes, they can be a little slow. But really, I don't think anything from the 20th century can beat it. Start out with The Hobbit...not as well written, but a bit easier to read, and a good introduction to the series.

2. George RR Martin: A Song of Ice and Fire
A lot like Tolkien in that it's high fantasy, very well written, great characters, great plot. Different than Tolkien though--more graphic (so readers beware), more gritty, more realistic. This series will also become a classic...eventually. He needs to finish the series first though...

3. Robin Hobb: Assassin series
Good fantasy. None of the dorkiness of pop fantasy, and well-written and interesting. The Mad Ship series I didn't really care for, but the follow-up to the Assassin series was good. She's currently working on a fourth series...I'll probably wait until it's done to read it, but it's definitely on my list.

4. Orson Scott Card: Ender's Game series
Ender's Game is a great book. The rest of the series is more science fiction and more political games, but they're still good. Surprisingly, the follow-up series, Ender's Shadow, is also excellent. Fun to read, and the situations and characters provide a lot to think about.

5. Frank Herbert: Dune
The sequels just get stranger and stranger, but Dune is a great novel about life on a desert planet. Classic science fiction.

I'll update this list in the future. If you have any recommendations, let me know.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Update on Education Vouchers

A while ago I posted about education vouchers to assist students in private schools. I talked about my problems with them, and the risk factors involved.
Now that Utah has gone ahead with this, we'll see the problems start to emerge. What's the constitutionality of using tax money to teach religion in public schools? Is there a potential lawsuit here? Will taxpayer money be used to defend it? And, more importantly, will children be better educated? Or will the fundamentalist private schools insist on confusing science with religion, like they have in the past? See the other post for more information on some of these private schools...
Looks pretty dreary. A 'quality' education that involves studying science through the scriptures...Two different paradigms, and both are crippled. Kind of like putting horseradish sauce on angel food cake. Both great foods, but when you start mixing them, you run into trouble.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Immigrants

This whole debate on immigration is driving me nuts. Xenophobia running rampant, in the guise of "protect our jobs" or "protect our children" or "protect our streets". And these racists are actually being taken seriously. We worry so much about offending African-Americans or homosexuals, and we treat anyone that speaks Spanish as a first language (or looks like they might speak Spanish) like dirt.
Let's face it. Mexico and the rest of Latin America aren't exactly first world. People there have trouble finding decent jobs (like janitor, gardener, construction worker, fast food grunt) that they come here to do those same jobs so that they can feed their families. They're not exactly taking the best jobs when they come here. They find themselves in a foreign environment, where most people don't speak their language. They can't communicate with the clerks at the grocery stores or with their children's teachers. They work hard and make very little money. They do the jobs most others in America refuse to do. They don't take American's jobs. At least not the jobs that any American with half a brain and any kind of work ethic has.
I lived in Europe and saw how racist they were. I thought America was better than that. Now I'm beginning to think we're worse. For some reason, immigration brings out the worst in otherwise decent people.
All of our ancestors were at one point immigrants, many of them illegal. My great-grandfather was German during both the World Wars, and had to deal with racism as he strove to raise a family in the U.S. Many of my ancestors settled in Utah, at that time a part of Mexico, without permission from the country of Mexico. They, like Latinos today, had good reason for their move. Let's not persecute them for doing what our ancestors did.
We need these people. We need them cleaning our streets and hospitals (like a friend of mine in Europe--he'd been an engineer in Russia before he came to Germany for a better life). My neighbors pack their families into tiny one and two-bed apartments so they can live a better life. They're good neighbors. Friendly. Hard-working. Mexican. Let's stop the racism, and help our neighbors become Americans.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Clarifications and Updates

So,
The girl situation is resolved as of about 10 days ago. I sat down with Lisa, who's an old friend, and who I'd been going on regular dates with for a couple of months. Great friend, no chemistry. And we mutually broke things off (although I don't think things were really ever 'on' to begin with). I felt bad, and I know she took it harder than I did, but it had to be done. I stopped by a couple of days later to say hi, and we're still friends.
Right after that talk with Lisa, I went out with April, who I've been going on regular dates with for a few weeks (minus Christmas vacation). And, ya...lets just say that things are going well, we're now going on a couple of dates a week together, and I am definitely a one-woman man right now. And, most amazing of all, she's interested in me. She's quickly become my best my friend, and is exactly what I need.