Sunday, August 31, 2008

Coolest Grocery Store ever

On Saturday, April and I had a fun-filled day that included a small hike, lunch at a Mexican restaurant, a $3 movie (Get Smart), a stop by Dragon's Gate, and a trip to Jungle Jim's.
The movie was inside of a mall, and while we were there I decided to look for a games store. A place where we could pick up the European version of Ticket to Ride, or any other game we desired. We looked at a map of the mall, and the only store that looked promising was one called Dragon's Gate. That sounds a lot like Dragon's Keep, the game store in Provo, so we decided to stop by. It didn't have games. Instead it had very cool Asian stuff. A Chinese man and his daughter run the place. It's not getting a lot of business, and it's planning on shutting down operations, but meanwhile it's getting rid of a lot of very cool things--at fairly low prices. I'm not sure how I feel about filling our apartment up with Asian stuff, seeing as neither April nor I have ever been in Asia, but we splurged a little anyway. The best finds were some cool wind chimes and a decorative pillow (both picked out by April). I bought a tiny wooden picture and a fake wooden snake (not Asian, I realize, but still a cool toy).
Jungle Jim's is a full-size grocery store, but it has an amazing selection of international food too. The place is huge. You want salty licorice--a Scandinavian treat? You have several brands to pick from. Pickled ginger? Again, several different brands. Bulk honey? We picked up five pounds of it for $11. They have an amazing cheese selection. An enormous produce section. All that was missing was a quality bakery (and truth is, they might have had one and we just missed it). I finally found a spaetzle maker (spaetzle are German egg noodles). I've been looking for one of those for months. My dad would always say that Home Depot was his toy store. I think I just found mine.

Utah students score way too low on the ACT

There's an interesting article in the Salt Lake Tribune about ACT scores in Utah. Traditionally, Utah has bragged about its ACT scores. They're also used as a handy excuse for why, say, Jordan School District pays beginning teachers a mere $27,000 a year. The reasoning goes like this: Utah does very well academically, even without pouring more money into obviously pouring money into education doesn't help students do better.
Problem is, that information is false. It turns out, if we compare the ACT scores of whites in Utah to whites elsewhere, Utah is below average. Also, a lower percentage of students in Utah take the test, when compared to other states. When we look closely at the data, Utah is actually under-performing.
Utah only does better when we don't take race into account, or the fact that some other states require all graduating seniors (and not just college-bound ones) to take the ACT.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Ugly American

Robert Kirby (an irreverent LDS humorist who's been quoted in conference) has an article about being an Ugly American in Europe in the Salt Lake Tribune. One of the comments after the article was hilarious. This by a poster named JWeeks:

Here's how to excel as an American Tourist:

1. People who don't speak English are probably just hard of hearing. If you increase the volume of your comments, you can probably make them understand.

2. Compare everything you see with what we do or do not have "back home." People in all foreign lands enjoy being compared with everything Merican.

3. It is useful to try to pass US currency everywhere. Do not exchange your money for Euros or whatever the local currency is. Also use this opportunity to remark on how much (or possibly how little) everything is compared with "back home."

4. When given the opportunity, lecture anyone within earshot on how things should or should not be done.

5. It is required of all Americans traveling within Europe to provide a history lesson at least once a week, particularly emphasizing how their country wouldn't even exist without the old U.S. of A. You can use this in conjunction with your discourses on foreign policy in general.

6. Moan about the fact that you cannot pack heat or about other Merican rights you have had to give up during your stay abroad. If you can chuckle about how these folks don't have their rights protected by a written constitution, it will add to the peoples' desire to learn from you and be drawn to your wisdom.

7. When you get lost and go into a shop to ask directions, do not bother waiting in line to ask for assistance. Most foreigners don't have much to do with their time, are seldom in a hurry, and so if you butt in front of them, it will just make them smile and say "those wacky Americans."

8. Finally, let your foreign friends see your gleaming white legs; legs that haven't seen the light of day for the past six years. They will provide a nice contrast to your black socks and tennis shoes. The Hawaiian shirt provides the color to top off your ensemble.


Friday, August 22, 2008

First week

The first week of law school has been busy. Here, first-year students start a week early. We have all sorts of meetings--topics range from technology to an introduction to the local bar associations. And we have a one credit introduction course. So I've been attending six or seven hours of classes each day, and then reading for a couple of hours each night. I've also been busy with little stuff like figuring out why I'd been charged a late fee of $50 for tuition payments (not my fault) and why my laptop won't connect to the wireless service here at the school. Oh, and the five-page paper I just turned in for the one-credit class.
Part of me wishes we lived closer to the law school; it would be a lot easier. But the school's downtown, and not in the nicest area. So I take the bus (35-50 minutes to go 4 miles, and then a half-mile walk) and enjoy living in a pleasant neighborhood. If I were alone and single, I'd live across the street from the law school. But I'm not, so I don't.
I've made some friends. One of the LDS second-year students has been particularly helpful. It's a diverse group (although racially, it's not as diverse as I expected--in fact, the ward is more racially diverse).
It will be fun. But this first year is going to be hard.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Politically motivated shootings

What's up with these recent shootings?
First, this. A man enters a liberal-oriented church and starts shooting. He kills two people and injures others. He is arrested and tells investigators that he believes that liberals should die.
This second example is more recent, and the shooter was killed by police. I don't have a ton of information about it, and I'm not even sure what prompted the shooting, although I think there's a good chance that it's similar to what motivated the psycho in the first example. This time, the shooter entered the Arkansas Democratic Headquarters and shot and killed the state party chairman.
What prompts people to do things like this? Make no mistake, these terrorists were raised in the US. The first one killed for political reasons; the second one may have.
Is it cultural-based? Are they just plain crazy? Or is it a mix of the two?

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Dr. Horrible

For some reason, I've had the following lyrics in my head all day:
"With my freezeray I will stop the world."
If you don't already know it, don't miss it while it's free. It's a very funny anti-super-hero movie, and it's a musical, and...(Firefly fans pay special attention)
Warning: I'd give it a PG-13 for a couple of sexual references.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Finally a concert I'm excited about

--and it's on a Sunday.
I spent the last year in Idaho Falls, and while a classical concert there was nice, and I patiently sat through a Jim Brickman concert (the things we do for love), no acts came through that got me at all excited.
Now, in a bigger city, that changes.
Heart and Journey, two awesome classic rock bands, are coming, together, to Cincinnati.
But they're coming on the wrong day of the week.
Oh well. I'll wait patiently for another good show. I think Savatage is dead, but Dream Theater...I'm looking at you now. You'll stop by, right? And if I sat through Jim Brickman, my wife should be able to put up with Dream Theater, right?
Maybe not.
Maybe I'll just go alone.
I'm crossing my fingers...

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Smart Music

Word is that Queen's guitarist just earned a PhD in...astronomy.
Listening to their music, I always knew these guys were smart--they play progressive rock, after all. They have also been extremely successful (We Will Rock You, We Are the Champions, Bohemian Rhapsody, etc. etc.)
But I never knew one of them was so scientifically inclined.
This link describes his technical PhD thesis in just a little more detail.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Americans and their refusal to sacrifice

Jimmy Carter is generally regarded as a lousy president. He only served one term, and his presidency involved rampant inflation and difficult foreign relation problems.
But in some respects he was quite wise. Consider Carter's statement after the oil shortages:
"Beginning at this moment, this nation will never use more foreign oil than we did in 1977 -- never. From now on, every new addition to our demand for energy will be met from our own production and our own conservation. The generation-long growth in our dependence on foreign oil will be stopped dead in its tracks right now."
He realized that such a promise would cost money--but unlike the money given to Saudi Arabia (homeland of the majority of the 9/11 terrorists) for oil, this money would go to Americans.
He supported pouring money into alternative energy sources and building extensive public transportation systems. He even put up solar panels on the White House.
Carter's plans were realistic. He wanted US car-makers to reach a fuel-efficiency of 48 mpg by 1995, and he wanted the US to get 20% of its energy from solar power by 2000. We had plenty of time to get there. Decades.
But Americans don't like to sacrifice. They didn't want to conserve energy. They didn't want to spend money on research and public transportation.
In 1980 Reagan moved in, ripped the solar panels off of the White House, and did away with Carter's far-sighted energy plans.
Now, ironically, Republicans are blaming Democrats for the high gas prices. Americans still (largely) refuse to conserve energy. We're still reluctant to sacrifice. And we're paying the heavy price for failing to make the right decision 30 years ago.