Sunday, December 27, 2009

Impersonating Mormon Missionaries

Apparently, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), tired of just arresting/detaining Mormon missionaries (I wrote several posts on that subject here), has started impersonating them.
That's right. Apparently, they dress up as LDS missionaries to track down illegal immigrants.
The article that mentions this practice is here.
If this article is correct, and this is actually happening, I imagine church leadership (along with the ACLU) will have serious problems with the practice. It's even possible that the church could sue to force ICE to stop.
Hopefully the next few weeks will reveal more info on this. I imagine the Salt Lake Tribune will pick up the story and do some research on it. I'll post more info as it comes to light.
(Hat tip: www.timesandseasons.org)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Low crime

Merry Christmas! (And please, if someone wishes you Happy Holidays, don't be offended).
We're packing up, ready to fly into Salt Lake late tonight.
Meanwhile, experts are confused as to why crime rates have dropped recently--especially since poor economic times usually lead to an increase in crime. (See, for example, this article.)
The article misses something obvious--something I predicted about a year ago. Living in Cincinnati, I've seen a bit of how Obama's presidency has affected blacks. I think a detailed study would show that blacks are committing less crime now than two years ago (because of a role model in the White House), while whites are committing more (due to the recession).
There may be other factors at work here, too, but Obama's presidency has raised test scores of black students (see this article). It would make sense if it also affected crime rates.
What do you think?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Is there anybody out there?

As I sat in Sunday School today, trying to keep Peter from crying, I missed the presence of a fellow Democrat who moved out last summer. Someone I could roll my eyes with when the teacher or class members made unwarranted political remarks (which happens more than you'd think); someone to give moral support if the need came to step in to make a comment like "no, your ideal capitalist rich/poor society conflicts with 4th Nephi, where a near-perfect society had no rich and no poor," (but with more tact).
Today that was especially important, as the topic was government--a topic ripe for non-doctrinal political intrusion.
There may be other Democrats in the ward, but I think many ward members feel that all active ward members are Republicans, and so the Democrats don't speak up (or go less active, or never join in the first place) and the Republicans make unthinking political remarks.
The Clinton bumper sticker was my only tip that that guy was Democrat.
Maybe next summer, when half our EQ moves out and is (hopefully) replaced by an equal or greater number of elders, one of the new move-ins will have an equally revealing bumper sticker, and I'll again have someone there for much-needed moral support.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Chuck

New favorite show:
Chuck.
Chuck is a mild-mannered Buy More employee who, as part of the Nerd Herd team, fixes electronics, who went to Stanford but never graduated and who lives with his sister and her fiance--until someone downloads government secrets into his brain. Then, he becomes a government spy, and his old life becomes his cover.
Firefly fans will enjoy the presence of Adam Baldwin, who plays a supporting role.
Chuck's a little bit like the movie "Get Smart." Funny, exciting, and definitely (intentionally) goofy.
Plus, prominently featuring Mr. Roboto (Styx) and Tom Sawyer (Rush) doesn't hurt. Both songs end up saving the day.
Check it out. Hopefully your library system is decent enough to offer the first season (my library, unfortunately, is not). Definitely my favorite comedy.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Visit missionaries

My younger brother had his mission farewell at about the same time I got a job offer--so we didn't end up going to Utah at that time, and I haven't seen him for a year-and-a-half. He hasn't met Peter yet.
He's in the Indiana mission, which is not too far from where we are--and he is currently a mere two hours away (he was just emergency transferred after his blowgun-carrying, squirrel-trapping companion seriously broke his ankle and so went home to Texas four months early).
So, the question is, do we see if we can go out to meet him? Or would that be too weird?
What do you think?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mormon Paparazzi

Anyone else see a problem with a website devoted to following the prophet around (including details about what restaurants he visits, etc. etc.)? I'd link to it, but I don't want the guy who runs it to find his way over here (this isn't a private blog, and I welcome stuff from people I don't know, but I don't want to get into arguments with the people running the website). In any case, type in "Follow the Prophet" (one word) and end it with a .net to find the site.
I don't envy people who have no privacy. I saw one of the 12 in the men's dressing room at the SJ temple (I'm pretty sure he went through the same session as I did), and I thought, "I could go introduce myself, or I could let him have some peace from having strangers introduce themselves to him." So I let him have peace. Being shy might have had something to do with it too (so shy that when I attended the same ward as Steve Young, I tried to avoid him only to have him come over and ask me my name). I think my reaction would be different out here in the midwest/south, if only because well-known church leaders wouldn't be harassed as often at restaurants, etc. etc. because almost no one knows who they are, and so they would have an easier time finding privacy, but I think everyone is entitled to some degree of privacy somewhere. That includes at the temple and taking your wife out to eat. And if the masses discover your favorite restaurant, it may be good for the business at the restaurant, but it's not good for your sanity as a human being. I have my doubts about the prophet going to dinner at Dee's again now that the paparazzi and the obsessed fans know he likes to eat there.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

150 years

150 years ago today, what is probably the most important book in all of science, and definitely the most important book in all of biology, was first published.
Origin of Species.
I quote from the book:
There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

Our understanding of how the world works has changed immensely in the past 150 years, and much of that was due to the publication of this book. We now understand how diseases evolve (so there's a new flu virus every year, and HIV is impossible to stop). We now understand who pesticides only work for so long (the animals they're used on evolve).
Almost every big idea in biology--how organisms change, genetics, DNA, ecology, etc.--has been discovered in the past 150 years, and much of that has to do with Charles Darwin's research.
What a great time to be alive.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Cooking

So I accompanied April to the church Thursday so I could babysit while she attended the meeting formerly known as Enrichment. (The EQ babysits so all the women can attend, which ended up being pretty useless this time around because the only kids there belonged to the two guys who were babysitting, and who both rather would have watched their own children from the comforts of their own homes).
We'd been told about the "great food" served after the meeting, and so we both looked forward to our reward. A collection of side dishes and desserts, none of them especially great, with the exception of an oatmeal spice cake.
"This is good," I told the other babysitter, because I wanted to comment on liking something there, and I didn't feel any of the other food merited praise.
"You like it? I made it," he told me.
Figures. The one good dish at a Relief Society meeting, and it's made by a guy. Of course, that doesn't stop people in Sunday School from saying stuff like "real men aren't in the kitchen baking cookies," or making jokes about how guys can't cook anything but grilled meat.
Maybe it's time to reverse the stereotype.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Phone calls

What's the latest you'd call a family you don't know well, on a weeknight, for a non-emergency? What's the earliest in the morning you'd call?
The message we received this morning reminded me of why I like to turn phones off at night. Since our house phone is run through the computer (magicJack, the poor people's phone, which has saved us hundreds of dollars so far), turning the phone off is effortless. And it stops those annoyingly late phone calls in their tracks.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Pictures

April's posted some new pictures of Peter at the other blog. Go check it out.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gay rights in Utah

Most of you know about the LDS church's take on gay marriage, and the support the church and members of the church gave to Proposition 8 in California.
Meanwhile, in Salt Lake, the city council has been working on a bill that would make discrimination against homosexuals in housing or employment illegal. The First Amendment of the Constitution pretty much protects religions already (in other words, they LDS church does not have to hire or house those who practice homosexuality, or even those who are homosexual who don't practice homosexuality--although they do hire and house the latter). But the proposed bill would mean that non-religious entities would not be able to discriminate.
Many of the conservative politicians (especially the extremists) in Utah have voiced disapproval about the proposed bill.
Yesterday, the church came out in support of the Salt Lake bill. The official statement is here.
In my opinion, the church has reached a happy medium here--protecting homosexuals from discrimination while protecting marriage. It's relatively rare for the church to make new official political statements, so I'd encourage you to look this one up and read it.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

No English? Here's a citation.

20 cops in Dallas gave out at least 38 citations to drivers who couldn't speak English--for not being able to speak English. An excellent opinion article on the incident here.
Besides the fact that all of these cops lack common sense, what else is going on?
Is it racism? Xenophobia? Frustration at not being able to communicate? Does it really matter what we call it? It's ugly, and it needs to be stopped.
We may be over a lot of the racism against blacks (except for the racist belt, apparently). But other minorities are still discriminated against on a regular basis.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ranked #5

University of Cincinnati's football team is ranked 5th in the nation. After BYU's big loss (a loss to TCU would've been okay, but an overwhelming defeat is not), it's good to have a more successful team to root for. They just beat Louisville 41 to 10 (ouch, Brent--sorry about that).
The funny thing is that everyone around here is an Ohio State fan. We live less than 5 miles from the University of Cincinnati, yet our neighbors put up Ohio State flags and cheer for Ohio State instead of the local team. Only this year, Cincinnati's the better team.
So I'm rooting for all the MWC teams (and hope they prove again that the BCS system is crap) and I'm rooting for my current school's team. It's the first time in over 50 years that they've been ranked above Ohio State, and that's definitely something to cheer about.

This guy has class

Some of you may disagree with me, but I can't imagine getting all of the abuse from fellow church members that Harry Reid has gotten, and still keeping my cool.
The church is pretty specific about there being good in both political parties, etc., and I know of General Authorities that adhere to both parties.
But keeping your cool when fellow church members tell you that, because of your politics, you can't be a good member (or a member at all)--wow. I have to admit, I don't keep calm--but Reid sets a great example for me.
Here's an article about how he deals with it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Science Music Videos

These music videos give me chills every time I watch them. Yes, I'm still a science nerd. But the wonders of the universe combined with catchy music is too cool to not pass on to you.
Science needs more people like Carl Sagan and Bill Nye. Science needs warm, well-spoken spokespeople. The anti-scientists have plenty of popular spokespeople, and science needs to take time out from all that intensive research, and show the public, in a non-threatening manner, what all that research is about.
Meanwhile, I'm waiting and watching for another series like Cosmos.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Church's take on freedom of religion is politically liberal

Elder Oaks, in 1992, stood before part of Congress as a representative of the LDS church and said, "we would prefer that the Supreme Court reverse the Smith case and restore the full constitutional dimensions of the First Amendment protection of freedom of religion." The link is here (scroll halfway down for the specific article).
I'm oversimplifying, but the Smith case was basically about whether members of a religious group could engage in religious ceremonies that involved peyote (an illegal drug). The majority ruled against the religious group, and thus against the freedom of religion.
What's most interesting here (besides the fact that the LDS church wants these people to be able to use peyote for religious purposes) is that those who voted for religious freedom were liberals, while those who voted to restrict religious freedoms were conservatives.
In other words, the LDS church, when dealing with religious freedoms, is decidedly politically liberal.
Scalia, Rehnquist, White, Stevens, Kennedy, and O'Connor all voted to restrict religious freedoms. Scalia, Kennedy, and O'Connor are all conservatives, placed on the Supreme Court by Reagan. Stevens was appointed by Ford (a Republican) and is usually seen as liberal (although sometimes, like here, he doesn't vote that way). I don't know much about White, but from what I can tell he was neither conservative nor liberal.
The dissenters--those who agreed with Elder Oaks and the LDS church--were all liberal. They include Blackmun, Brennan, and Marshall. Marshall was a liberal, put in by Johnson. Blackmun, put in place by Nixon, started conservative but became quite liberal (and was firmly liberal when the Smith case came along). Brennan was the leader of the liberal wing of the Supreme Court, placed there by Eisenhower.

It's obvious that both political parties have good parts, and both have bad parts. The church keeps repeating this, but I'm not sure it's getting through to the majority of the members. It's clear, however, that the liberals on the Supreme Court are more interested in protecting our religious freedoms than the conservatives.

Friday, October 16, 2009

TV shows

A while back I posted on shows on Hulu. I've recently watched a little bit of three more shows:
1. Bones: OK. Reconstructing dead people is OK, I guess, but it kind of gets old after the second or third time. Decent show, but not worth my time.
2. Fringe. I had high hopes for this one, but it's all pseudo-science and no science. X-Files had the rational Scully to contrast with Mulder. Fringe is all Mulder, and somehow he's always right. The plot's interesting, but I can't suspend my disbelief when every single crackpot idea they come up with ends up working.
3. Fast Forward. So far, I like it. Science fiction, pulling two actors from Lost and one from Firefly, with a cool idea and decent characters. We'll see if the characters develop as time goes on. I'll keep watching this one.

I'm also watching Heroes. (I've found myself caring about a couple of the characters, even if the show has dropped a bit in quality. And I figure that Lost had its poor moments, but managed to recover, so maybe Heroes will too).
Looking forward to the last season of Lost.
Want to watch Joss Whedon's Dollhouse, but I'm not willing to pay money for it, so that one might have to wait until Hulu offers the first season, or until I can get my hands on it some other way.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

What your car says about you

An interesting study about what your car says about you. Essentially, Honda and Toyota owners have a much better chance of having a college degree than Ford or Chevy owners.
I haven't looked at car reliability statistics for years, but when I did, Toyota and Honda were significantly more reliable than Ford and Chevy. When we finally have money to afford another car, I imagine we'll get a Toyota or a Honda to replace our Geo Prism (another car with a good reputation, but no longer being made).
What do you think--why don't Ford and Chevy owners have college degrees while Toyota and Honda owners do?
Also, as a side-note, apparently the founder of the company that did the study has a PhD from BYU.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

By degrees

We're blessed to live in a country that offers us some protections. The poor can get food, shelter, and healthcare. Not quite up to European standards (and our standard of living isn't quite as high as, say, Norway's), but not too bad.
But the way these systems work can create problems.
For example, let's say your family can get Medicaid if you make $16,000 or less a year. If you make $16,001, you can't get Medicaid. Now, Medicaid is worth a lot more than one dollar. So, really, you get more benefits if you work just a little bit less. With the price of health insurance these days, those benefits can be quite significant.
An intelligent government healthcare plan would, like Medicaid, be based on the poverty line. But it would change by degrees. If you make less than 80% of the poverty line, you'd get Medicaid for free. At 80%, you'd pay a small fee for Medicaid. That fee would increase slightly at 90% of the poverty level, and continue increasing slightly, depending on your income and family size, until you're paying for it at cost.
That way, no one gets a significantly better deal by working less, poor people have an incentive to work, and those who make just over 90% of the poverty level don't get screwed over (like they do now).
Of course, all of this would require some sort of government option--but the government option already exists. You just have to stop working to get it. And that's the problem.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Planning a trip

We have three trips planned in the next year:
First, we'll be going down to Indiana in two weeks to visit my cousin and see forests in the fall. Just a two days, one night thing.
Second, we'll be flying out to Utah/Idaho for Christmas and the New Year.
Third, (and the one that will require the most planning), we want to take the week I have off for spring break to visit Kirtland, Palmyra, a friend who will (hopefully) be living in upstate New York, Toronto, and possibly Montreal (if time allows).
Unfortunately, Rick Steves just does guidebooks for Europe. And my experience with all other guidebooks has been less-than-satisfactory. (I spent three nights in a hostel in Paris that another guidebook had listed; my experience was so bad that I then made sure that, for the next ten weeks, every place I stayed in was recommended by Rick Steves).
Where would you visit in Northern Ohio/Upstate New York/Eastern Canada? Any positive experiences? Any places to avoid? Rick Steves can't help me, but maybe you can.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Healthcare reform

A friend posted an interesting link on facebook--Five Common Myths About Healthcare Around the World.
Definitely worth looking at if you're interested in having an informed opinion on the healthcare debate.
Hopefully this time around we can have some sort of positive change. I care less about whether it comes from the Democrats (Obama) or the Republicans (Bennett) than I do about whether we pull some type of reform off, or we leave things as they are. The insurance companies would like to leave things as they are, but even they are starting to realize that the worse things get, the more we'll want to get rid of them; even the insurance companies are starting to realize that some type of minimal reform is necessary in order for them to stay in business in the long-run.
There are multiple ways to reform the system that are superior to the way things are now. Let's hope we choose one of them for better healthcare at a reduced price.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Oops

Cal Thomas, a conservative radio talk show host, Fox News commentator, and newspaper article writer, recently had this to say in a newspaper opinion column: "With Democrats controlling all three branches of government..."
Now, if someone occasionally says something stupid in public, I'm willing to give them a break. If a blog-writer says something wrong, it's not such a big deal. But this is a newspaper column that goes out to a great number of newspapers. It should've been carefully written and fact-checked. So I'm not sure what happened here. I guess there are three options:
1. Cal Thomas is lying to make it seem like Democrats have more power than they actually do.
2. Cal Thomas thinks the Judicial branch (the Supreme Court) is Democrat when it is most definitely Republican.
3. Cal Thomas doesn't know what the three branches of the government are.
I think this is an honest mistake, and that Cal Thomas got confused about what the three branches of government are. I think he forgot about the judicial branch and split the legislative branch into two branches. It's sad when political commentators don't know enough about their own country's politics to correctly identify the three branches of government.
For the record, those three branches are the executive (president), legislative, and judicial. And the judicial branch still leans to the right.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Gossip

Tim's definition of gossip: discussing true or false details about someone else that that person would not want you to discuss, and that's none of your business anyway.
Our bishop got emotional today as he recounted a recent discussion with a ward member. The ward member expressed surprise and disappointment that she had not found out about another ward member's serious illness sooner. The ill ward member had asked others to keep the details quiet, and those others had done so.
The bishop told us how proud he was of our ward--that we didn't engage in gossip.
What a great bishop.
I know I've been horrified to find out that people knew things they had no business knowing about me (no, not some dastardly sin or bad habit, but a secret nonetheless). I lost a great amount of respect for the person who spread that gossip to those who had no business knowing it.
If it's gossip, don't spread it.
On a side note, the newest member of our ward expressed delight that his first Sunday here we already had his membership records and hometeaching assignments for him. "In Utah, it took six months for us to get callings." I love living out here.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Things

Things I love:
A happy baby. He's a charmer. And as the only baby in the ward, he gets to practice that charm quite a bit.
Jungle Jim's, the international grocery store around here. Sure, it's a 30-minute drive. But it's worth it just to get awesome cheese and whatever else looks good. Too bad the bread isn't up to European standards--but I guess I can go to Panera for that.

Things that disturb me:
People getting in a huff about Obama speaking to our school children. He's the president. The only reasons I can think of for getting in a huff about this is, one, you're paranoid, or two, you don't want your child to realize that Obama isn't as bad as you make him out to be. Next thing you know these same parents will object to the daily recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools...
Ignorance about healthcare. Our healthcare system is a problem. Many people know this (including many Republicans--who had political power for eight years and yet chose to do nothing about it). We're the only country that claims it's first world that does not have some type of national health care system. The employer-based method doesn't work. It destroys market-incentives (limited options when it's your employer, and not you, picking your insurance), and it creates instability when people switch or lose jobs. There are better ways. The rest of the civilized world knows that. As the healthcare problem gets worse in the US, we are starting to realize that too.

Things I'm grateful for:
A three-day weekend, and spending two of those days with my wife and child.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Before you forward

I posted quite a while ago about an email forward my old principal sent to all his teachers. I think reason #27 I decided teaching wasn't for me was I don't want to have a gullible boss. Most high school principals are glorified politicians/jocks, and are not especially intelligent.
Anyways, apparently with the new proposed healthcare bill, gullible people are still forwarding that type of email. So I tracked down some hints on how to tell if a forwarded email is accurate or not (hint--if you got it forwarded from someone and you're sending it on to others, chances are the email is seriously deficient).
Snopes can help too. Of course, the best advice is not to send it in the first place. And don't believe it when you get it.
Oh, and if I'm in your email forward list, leave me on there. There's little I like more than directly refuting a bogus claim in an email forward, no matter how minor the mistake might be.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Facebook poison

A friend from BYU recently posted his political views on Facebook, saying he'd re-elect President Obama. The post got a lot of comments (partially because this guy has almost 800 friends...)
I "liked" the post, and then started receiving emails commenting on the post. This comment, for some reason, appeared in my email but not on facebook: "...you CANNOT claim you are LDS if you support their politics and the leftist values."
I responded:
"In response to an unfortunate post that appeared in my email but no longer appears here--
One can be a member of the church, in good standing, and support any number of political views. Heck, I know Mormons in good standing who believe all sorts of wacky fringe stuff. To say that one cannot accept European-style politics (which is not fringe) and still be a good Mormon is to strip the majority of European Saints of their religion."
The response (and I'm leaving out some of the insults to Obama supporters and to Obama himself), "No, you cannot claim you are LDS and support church morals if you support current administration - it is totally opposed."

For the record: I support the current administration (although I may not agree with every decision they make). I am LDS. The majority of European Saints like Obama much better than they liked Bush. They like their "socialized medicine." In the US, they would consider themselves Democrats. And they are fantastic members of the church.

How do we combat Facebook poison? What do we say if it comes up in Sunday School or at a ward activity? How do we combat the lie that says that you have to sit on the "right" side of the fence in order to be a good Mormon?

Friday, August 14, 2009

End-of-life healthcare

I recently went over the medical and billing records of an elderly lady. She was in fairly poor health, living in a nursing home, recovering from open heart surgery, when she had some complications and was admitted to the hospital. Three or four weeks later she died. Cost of healthcare for those weeks?
Over $800,000.
That's right. Close to a million bucks.
And it wasn't her money. In any case like this, you and I end up paying for it, either through insurance or taxes. And cases like this are quite common.
Thoughts on solutions?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Things work out

Just over seven years ago I was desperately looking for a summer job. I'd started looking long before classes finished. I'd gotten a job offer before the semester ended, but felt prompted to turn it down. And nothing else was presenting itself.
I spent every day looking for work. I made the mistake of moving home, and so I not only had to put up with not being able to find work, I also had to put up with nagging parents. "I saw that McDonalds is hiring. Why don't you apply there?" McDonalds? A notch below my very first job at Arby's? No way.
Life was pretty miserable.
Two months in, I decided I had to get out of the house. My mother was driving me insane. So I called an uncle in California, and asked if I could volunteer at the sleep clinic where he worked. He talked to the woman that would be supervising me, and two days later I was on a plane, headed to Palo Alto. I'd volunteer full-time for seven weeks or so, and hopefully make a good enough impression to be hired back at some later point. I paid my way (and in California that meant $20/night for a dorm room, plus the cost of food, transportation, etc.) Somehow I got out of having to pay for the room, and so my costs were fairly minimal.
The next summer, I flew back out. I worked for the entire summer and the entire fall, eight months total, and made more than three times as much as I would've made working at McDonalds (and I was working, between two different jobs, an average of 45 hours a week, whereas a place like McDonalds would've probably limited it to 15 hours a week--so I was really making nine times as much money). I paid off student loans, saved up money for next year's schooling, and had enough money leftover to buy a car.
I returned again after graduation, to work another five months. Again, made enough to pay for some education and a ten-week backpacking trip through Europe.
I went back for my second degree, and worked part-time for a couple of clinics in Utah. They didn't pay quite as well as Stanford, and they certainly were a step down in quality, but they helped put me through college the second time.
My boss at the Stanford clinic ended up writing one of my letters of recommendation for law school. And this summer, my healthcare background (along with my science degree and good law school grades) helped me snag a coveted law clerk job that pays well, is good experience, and looks great on a resume.
Lessons learned: follow impressions obtained from prayer and don't despair when they at first seem to be false impressions. Things work out, eventually.
Oh. And don't follow your mom's advice when she tells you to sell out and go work for McDonalds.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Is he really that stupid?

This isn't a conservative/liberal issue. This is just a stupid person alert (and if the liberal commentators make comments as dumb as this, I'll make fun of them too--but you don't get much more stupid than this).
(Caller from Canada): "Has anyone noticed that life expectancy in Canada under our health system is higher than the USA?"
Bill O'Reilly: "Well, that's to be expected Peter, because we have 10 times as many people as you do."
Wow. I still can't believe he's really that stupid. What does the number of people have to do with life expectancy? How is this guy doing a so-called news show?
What an idiot.
The hilarious link of stupidity here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Trends

A few days ago I got onto facebook and noticed that two friends had just posted their opinion on the facebook poll: Are you in favor of a Government run healthcare system. I decided to immediately follow suit, so on my facebook page there are three identical polls in a row.
All three of us were in favor of goverment-run health care.
All three of us have lived in Europe, where government-run health care is a reality.
I have two friends that have posted quite a bit about health care on facebook recently. One of them has lived in Europe (and actually, he's European, but living in the US and married to an American). The other one has not lived in Europe. Any guesses as to which friend supports government-run health care and which one doesn't?
I wonder if that trend holds steady for larger number of people--if living in Europe (or at least Western Europe) means you're much more likely to support government-run health care.
Anyone out there who's lived in Europe sometime in the past twenty years (and I'm not talking about a few months of study abroad) and doesn't support government-run health care? Let me know.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Front page news

The law firm that I clerk at made front page news on Cincinnati's newspaper a couple of days ago. Front, top, center. Not too shabby, considering there are only five attorneys at the Cincinnati location. It probably helped that a local sports team was involved (fans sued them and won). The important stuff the firm does--the life and death stuff (and the stuff that makes the money) may make the news, but not the front page. The stuff I'm working on won't be hitting page 22 of the local news for another year at least, if at all.
Anyway, we're visiting Utah/Idaho in two weeks, and I'm going to be dropping my name and my resume at a couple of law firms. Being the first person in my extended family to ever attend law school (although at least two relatives plan on following in my footsteps), and as my home ward is entirely lawyer-less, my attorney connections are limited to one friend's dad. So if any of you know any attorneys (especially ones that work for places that do environmental, medical, or pharmaceutical work) let me know. I'll need all the help I can get.
I still have two more years left, but now's the time to apply for summer work next year, and that job is usually the job that hires you on after graduation, so we might be spending next summer in Utah (or somewhere else out west) if I get lucky.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Alternative Medicine

The LDS Science Review (a blog from a scientist/Mormon) writes on alternative medicine--something our government has spent a ridiculous amount of money trying to validate, with almost nothing to show for it. The political power behind it, a Senator from Iowa, said, "One of the purposes when we drafted that legislation in 1992 . . . was to investigate and validate alternative approaches. Quite frankly, I must say it's fallen short. I think quite frankly that in this center, and previously in the office before it, most of its focus has been on disproving things, rather than seeking out and proving things."
Science is science. It doesn't care what your purpose was when you drafted that legislation. It cares about reality. And really, most of this stuff is not that hard to disprove. "Take this...it might be a herb or it might be a placebo." Then analyze the results. I'm sorry the good Senator is surprised the evidence all comes back negative. Or that fake acupuncture actually works better than real acupuncture. Or that any number of herbs work no better than a sugar pill.
Looks like Republican politicians aren't the only ones that are a little slow on understanding science--this Senator is a Democrat. If I ever again hear someone saying we shouldn't be spending money on some scientific endeavor--how about we cut this project first?
Sigh.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Another undocumented LDS missionary article

Just thought I should provide this link to a newspaper article about missionary work and illegal immigrants.
http://www.sltrib.com/faith/ci_12787617
I hope worthy young people will still serve missions, despite the inherent dangers of being deported.

Public opinion

What does "generally agree" mean? If I were to ask you if scientists generally agree that humans have evolved, what would you say? What percentage of scientists need to agree for scientists to be in general agreement?
An interesting survey looks at the info in the US.

First, unsurprisingly, 97% of scientists say that humans have evolved, while only 60% of the public believe that scientists generally agree that humans have evolved. Does 97% constitute "generally agree"? I hope so, but either 40% of the public doesn't believe so, or they're greatly mistaken about what scientists really think.

The most surprising, "people are stupid" moment, however, has nothing to do with evolution. It has to do with whether people favor the use of animals in scientific research. A full 43% of the public opposes it. That's right. Not too far from half. Seriously? Oppose using mice, fruit flies, etc. in scientific research? Do you have any clue where medicine would be without using animals in research? We'd still be in the dark ages. Surprisingly, Republicans and old people (for once) come out on the side of science here. College grads do too--but then again, college grads almost always do, while those who are least educated are the least likely to side with scientists.

There are some other interesting stats there about public/scientist opinions on nuclear energy, global warming, other good stuff. Check it out.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Reviews

Dominion--an awesome game. We played it with friends in Louisville on July 4th. Very cool. We need it.

Amazon.com--crappy service. I found what I thought was a deal, and after I bought it they emailed me to tell me the price was a mistake, and they weren't going to honor it. No chance to give Amazon a thumbs down on their website, and nothing but a weak apology. Boo.

Distribution Center--boo. Be warned if you order via mail (and when you live where we do, you don't really have another option). Two months for a simple, common order (and it's not the fault of the post office). Unfortunately, they have a monopoly for certain items, so be sure to order well in advance.

UC Law Review--Orientation on a Sunday morning? The only time during the week when I absolutely can't be there? And the time when almost every other church-going student has church? Really, now. We'll see about that.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Robin Hobb

Now reading (on the bus, because that's the only free time I have these days):
Robin Hobb: Assassin's Apprentice (and the other two books of that series).
It's the second-best fantasy series ever finished (the first being, of course, Lord of the Rings). Really. A good plot, a complex world, real, compelling characters, and great writing style. It's a gem.
I've read it several times. Fortunately my memory's not that great, and so much of it seems new to me.
Any other recommendations? Preferably series that are already finished, so I don't have to go back and re-read everything after the next book comes out?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Mechanic

Most of you know how it works. You go to a mechanic for an oil change or a car problem. He changes the oil, or fixes the problem, and then he tells you "the timing belt is due for a change" or "you need a new battery."
Do you trust him? Do you have him do the work?
No. He has a financial incentive to do work on your car, regardless of whether the car needs that work done or not.
Three years ago, two different mechanics told me I needed a new battery, because my old one was near death. That old one still works fine, thank you.

Another scenario. You go to your doctor. He takes a look at your problem and recommends a surgery. What to you do?
You trust him. Your insurance pays thousands of dollars for the surgery.
And yet most doctors work much like mechanics--they get paid based on the number of surgeries they perform. And so they recommend way more surgeries than are actually necessary. This can actually do more harm to your body than good, as surgeries, and spending time in the hospital, always come with a bit of risk--a risk that is often bigger than the problem the doctor is solving with surgery.

So what do we do about it? Go to a hospital that doesn't pay doctors based on how many surgeries they do. A hospital that treats employees like most companies do--pays them a salary, expects 40 hours a week from them, and fires them if they cause too many problems or slack off. These doctors are more likely to have your interests at heart.
Unfortunately, your insurance is paying doctors to perform unnecessary surgeries on someone else. So you're paying doctors to perform unnecessary surgeries on someone else.
The system is broken. We need to stop paying doctors money based on the number of surgeries they perform, and start paying them for how well they help people become healthy.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Fantastic food

Here's a mushroom gravy I created recently. Best on spaetzle (German egg noodles--you can buy them at most grocery stores, or, if you have a spaetzle-maker, make them very easily yourself). The gravy would probably work on potatoes too. Can serve with bratwurst, and either sauerkraut or rotkohl (I'd recommend the rotkohl). This is probably more authentically German than many of your options at a German restaurant. And it tastes better.
Mushroom gravy:
Chop up and saute 1 large onion (I use an electrical chopper that basically beats the onion into a pulp).
Saute 1.5 lbs sliced mushrooms.
Dissolve one beef bouillon cube in 1.5 cups heated water, and then add two tablespoons cornstarch to the broth. Mix, get all the lumps out, and then add the onions and the mushrooms to the mix. Add just a little milk or sour cream if it needs a little thinning, and add salt and pepper to taste. It should be very thick with mushrooms.
The Germans aren't the greatest cooks in the world, but they do know how to bake, they know how to properly cook cabbage (by turning it into sauerkraut or rotkohl) and they know how to prepare mushrooms. I wasn't a mushroom fan until I tasted them like this, done right. Now I can't get enough of them. I've even converted April.
Next up: Ruth's Rotkohl, stolen from a college friend who also served in Germany.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Updates

April's posted some great new baby pictures at www.aprilandtim.blogspot.com.
We'll be visiting Utah/Idaho in mid-August, and hope to give some of you the chance to see the little guy in person. He had his first laughing spell a couple of days ago--crazy, loud laughing. He got hiccups, but kept on laughing...what a great kid.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The benefits of not homeschooling

I have to admit, there are some benefits to homeschooling in high school. The ability to work at your own pace. The ability to study what you want, when you want to.
There are also big downsides.
You don't meet people. Many of my junior high and high school friends are still great friends, ten years later. I was roommates with one for four years of college, and roommates with others for one or two years. We're spread out now, my five best buddies from high school and I living in five different states, but I still consider them good friends. Had I been homeschooled, my pool for potential friends would've been much smaller. And I don't even want to think about my social skills--let's just say I was an awkward teenager, and my friends helped me overcome that. Being homeschooled would've been a huge disadvantage there.
I had teachers in public schools that challenged me in ways my parents never could. One of them, Ms. Boburg, passed away this last week. I would not have met a personality like her elsewhere at that age. Smart, demanding, funny, sarcastic. In fact, I had a number of unique, talented teachers. Great people, great teachers, but totally unlike other adults I knew from family and church. Public schools taught me to appreciate diversity of thought, something that homeschooling, no matter how well-intentioned my parents, never could. My parents challenged me, but Boburg and other teachers challenged me in ways that my parents didn't.
I'm glad my parents weren't the ones to teach me high school biology (trust me, as intelligent as they are, I'm glad someone with a biology degree did that). I still shudder to think about two cousins of mine, homeschooled in biology with the help of a pseudo-science textbook from Bob Jones University. I'm glad I had a science teacher, a British man raised in South Africa, a BYU graduate, and an LDS bishop, who told me he accepted evolution--it made the transition to a biology major at BYU that much easier. My parents still believe evolution and the gospel are incompatible. Had I been homeschooled and majored in Biology somewhere other than BYU, who knows what would have happened. I may have, as Henry Eyring put it, seen the evidence for evolution and "thrown the baby out with the bath."
Six years of English allowed me to get perspectives on literature from six different people, who understood books much better than my mother. Even had my mother excelled at all areas of knowledge, she had only one perspective to offer, which was her own.
Do public schools have issues? Certainly. But a smart parent will put their child in a good school, ensure the child has good, demanding teachers, and encourage the child to take honors classes (where most of the good teachers teach anyway).
Meanwhile, RIP Ms. Boburg. You excelled at a demanding, poor-paying job, where you never got the respect you earned. And by doing so, you blessed thousands of lives. You are missed.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Here's your chance

I've heard many people justify waterboarding by claiming it's justified if it will save lives.
But I'm convinced it's only justified to these people if it's done to a foreigner. Make that a non-white, non-Christian foreigner.
Want to prove me wrong? Here's your chance.
Let me preface this by saying that I hate unneeded abortions--but I hate freaks like this even more. I also don't support torture, including waterboarding (which the US considered torture when it was done to our guys), in any form.
The guy who murdered the abortion doctor in Kansas, as the doctor was serving as an usher at church, is quoted in a news article as saying, "I know there are many other similar events planned around the country as long as abortion remains legal." The article then continues, "He would not elaborate."
Here's a chance to practice...enhanced interrogation. This guy knows lives are in danger, but he refuses to tell law enforcement information that could save those lives. Waterboarding time.
Somehow I don't think it will happen.
Why not?
Because he's a white Christian American.
If you have any other ideas of why he won't get tortured, let me know.
Double standard.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Misunderstanding Galadriel

Galadriel is a secondary character in Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings." If you're unfamiliar with the books (which would be a shame, since they're the greatest work of fiction of the 20th century), then think of the character Cate Blanchett plays. Yes, that's right. The one that goes crazy scary when Frodo offers her the Ring. And the one who gives many of the main characters gifts and shelter. Without her help, they would have failed.
Two of my favorite quotes in the "Two Towers" involve main characters who defend Galadriel.
First, Eomer (another secondary character) says to Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli, after they tell him they have the favor of "the Lady,": "Then there is a Lady in the Golden Wood, as old tales tell! Few escape her nets, they say. These are strange days! But if you have her favour, then you also are net-weavers and sorcerers, maybe." Gimli replies: "Let (me) warn you against foolish words. You thought to speak evil of that which is fair beyond the reach of your thought, and only little wit can excuse you."
Second, after Eomer reports home to his father Theoden (and to Wormtongue, who controls Theoden), Wormtongue says to Gandalf, "Then it is true...that you are in league with the Sorceress of the Golden Wood? It is not to be wondered at: webs of deceit were ever woven in Dwimordene." Gimli tries to confront Wormtongue about this slight on Galadriel, but Gandalf holds him back and tells Wormtongue, "The wise speak only of what they know."
I like these quotes because they illustrate two things I cannot stand: people who speak evil of good things they do not comprehend, and people who discuss matters they are entirely ignorant of.
In some circles, people are proud of being ignorant. They claim they are unbiased because they've never formally studied a subject. They claim they are more humble and hardworking because they never traveled. They claim they know there is no God without ever asking Him sincerely if He exists. And they are of little wit and not wise.
May we strive to have more "wit" and be wise. And may we encourage others to do likewise.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Hulu recommendations

Recommended for viewing on Hulu:
1. The first 3 seasons of Buffy. Fun times.
2. The first season of Angel. Even better than the first 3 seasons of Buffy (which I certainly wasn't expecting).
3. Journeyman. Never heard of it before, but I looked around for good sci-fi shows on Hulu, and this one had good ratings. More importantly, it's actually good. It's set in 2007, and involves some time travel, and what happens to real life when you inexplicably pop out of the present and into the past. When you're done in the past, you pop back into the present--hours or days later. I liked it more because it's a good show than because it's sci-fi, although the sci-fi element doesn't hurt it. I like that it struggles with the messiness of relationships and work and family, and how they conflict with the time travel. Unfortunately, some of the struggles are solved a bit too easily (perhaps because the writers found out the show would be canceled after just one season, and wanted to wrap up loose ends, or perhaps just a weakness in the storytelling). In any case, despite that one small weakness, I recommend it. And it's not as PG-13 as Buffy or Angel.
I've also watched the first episode of a number of shows I didn't care for (including Pretender and Eureka).
Now, I've got to find a way to borrow the rest of Buffy and Angel...
Any more recommendations for great TV shows?

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Visit

We've rescheduled our visit to Utah/Idaho for mid-August.
We're sad we're not there right now, but happy that we were able to schedule something.
We fly in August 11, we'll spend maybe 5 or 6 days in Utah, drive up to Idaho for a couple of days, I'll fly back to Cincinnati to start school, and April will stay in Idaho for another week or so.
Hope to see some of you in a couple of months.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Church Bus

A number of people in our ward have trouble getting to church on Sunday due to transportation issues. A map of our ward and the ward next to it looks like two slices of pizza. The crust area is where the more settled members (including both bishoprics) live. A mix of people live a bit below the crust--students, settled members, poorer non-students, etc. And the tips of the pizza--downtown Cincinnati.
The church is not on the crust, but it's near it, which puts it several miles from downtown. The bus system in Cincinnati is lousy, especially on Sunday mornings (I home teach a couple that spends more time on the bus getting to church and back than they do at the 3-hour block of church). Members with cars try and help out, and all two active members in our ward who live downtown and have cars pick up other car-less members. Another member who lives near the church drives downtown to pick up a lady he home teaches, and drives her to church--he probably spends an hour each week picking her up and dropping her off from church. He wasn't at church today, and his ride ended up taking a taxi she really couldn't afford. Our EQ president also gives rides to two or three people each Sunday, but he's moving away in a couple of weeks. Many other members give rides to others. There's too much demand for rides, and not enough people to give them.
I know other non-LDS churches have church buses that go around and pick everyone up for church on Sunday. Could such a concept work for LDS wards in big cities with bad public transportation? How would the church manage this? Or are there other ideas of providing semi-convenient ways for these people to get to church?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Alternative Plans

Had I not gotten this job exactly when I did, I would have accepted a part-time, very flexible volunteer position (offered to me one day after Burg Simpson offered me a job), and April, Peter, and I would be in Utah right now.
This job, however, was too good to pass up.
And I don't regret buying the plane tickets (which went unused) either. Sometimes good decisions turn out badly. Such is life.
I'm finishing my lunch break at work. I'm 20 stories up, with a fantastic view of the Ohio River and green Kentucky from my office. Towering cranes work on a construction project, on the Ohio side of the river, below me. An interesting artsy building (perhaps the Cincinnati Museum, I'm not sure) is to the right of the construction work. Ships, many pulling coal and other various items, sometimes go by. It may be the best office view I'll ever have.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Having a job means no visit home

Seeing as it's not a smart move to take off for a two-week vacation after working someplace for just one week, I won't be visiting Utah/Idaho next week.
We're still trying to figure out what to do with the Delta plane tickets we already bought. We bought two for $160 each, and despite the fact that those tickets are now worth almost $600 each, I doubt I'll be able to get any type of refund or even an ability to use them at a later date (or if so, the $150 fee per ticket makes that option pretty much useless).
We're thinking of just sending April and Peter, so that at least one of the tickets doesn't go to waste. But April doesn't want to spend a full two weeks there without me, and I'm not sure if she'd be able to get an earlier flight out back without buying another plane ticket.
Any ideas/hints/helps?
Anyway, I'm bummed out that we won't get to visit. Maybe later this summer. Or maybe for some big event during Christmas time.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Found a job

I've been looking for a summer job for months now. I've interviewed at maybe 8 different places. I'd been getting a bit discouraged, because I have good grades, yet no job. My classmates, for the most part, all have work. School got out two weeks ago, and I've been babysitting Peter, doing chores around the house, writing a paper for a law review competition, and watching Buffy. And I'd been getting a little bit bored, not to mention frustrated.
This morning I interviewed with a firm downtown. And they hired me this afternoon. I start tomorrow. Good pay, I like the attorneys there (the three I met, anyway), and a job that interests me (mostly pharmaceutical class actions). Most importantly, a chance to see how law firms work, a chance to learn new skills, and a chance to use what I've learned at my first year of law school.
Like with so many things, the wait was worth it.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Utah loses a great leader

Governor Huntsman's been picked by Obama to be ambassador to China (the largest, and one of the most powerful, countries in the world, as if you didn't already know that).
The article here.
I'm sure he'll do great things there, but all of a sudden Utah has become a lot less appealing.
I don't think there's any chance that Utah will ever again have a progressive rock fan environmentalist pro-science political moderate Mormon as governor.
Did I mention he was intelligent? And the crazies in the state legislature (those controlled by the far-right Eagles Forum) can't stand him, even though he's Republican?
Dang. I'll miss him.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

When the law fails

Any law that is not regularly enforced should be obliterated.
Why?
Because if the law stays, those in charge can go after criminals they don't like and let the criminals they like go free.
An example of one-sided enforcement in Utah:
A college student makes false bids on oil and gas leases because he feels those areas should be protected. He is charged with two felonies.
Hundreds of ATV riders, including politicians, knowingly demonstrate their dislike of current laws by illegally riding their ATVs off road in Kanab. The event is highly publicized.
Will they be prosecuted? Or at least fined?
The environmentalist has been charged. If the anti-environmentalists are not, despite the fact that we know exactly who they are, then there is a blatant double standard.
If you're going to punish civil disobedience, then at least be fair about it. Charge those ATV riders too.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Secondary characters

I'm watching Buffy right now. The Cincinnati library system doesn't carry DVDs of older TV shows, but I've discovered the amazing Hulu.
One of the things I like about Buffy is that there is a full cast of minor characters--a handful of characters that play a part in one episode, and then actually show up in later episodes (often very briefly), and even in later seasons.
Deep Space Nine also had that going for it. Cool main characters, yes, but also very cool secondary characters. They gave the show a certain depth. It seemed more real because of them.
Compare that to, say, Lost. How many people survived the plane crash? And yet each episode seems to see a brand new set of minor characters. I understand it's difficult to keep that many actors around, just to play nonspeaking roles in the background. But still, with at least twice as many actors as actual survivors, and with almost certain knowledge that any plane survivor that wasn't a main character was eventually going to die, my disbelief had a hard time being suspended.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Best cities to live in

A new list of "The world's top cities offering the best quality of life."
The cities were ranked on a variety of factors, including health, education, safety, etc. Not surprisingly, the US didn't do so well. This seems to be focusing on larger cities, so I'm not sure if Salt Lake or other smaller cities were considered.
I've lived within an hour of Zurich (#2), Frankfurt (#8), and San Francisco (#30). I've visited maybe 20 of these cities, and I'm pretty much in agreement with the rankings.
Vienna tops the list at #1 (an under-rated tourist destination too, by the way), and Honolulu is the top US city, at #29 (right next to San Francisco).
Take a look and tell me what you think.
Now if only I can convince April into moving to some of the cities near the top of the list...

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

People are stupid

A Reuters News article about a pig in Afghanistan.
I've also heard that people are needlessly slaughtering pigs in Egypt.
Thankfully, the US relies on science, not superstition, and so we won't see similar reactions here.
Or will we? Pay close attention to pork prices...
If they go down significantly, it means that people in the US are also stupid.
Sigh.

One year down

One year down, two to go.
Sweet.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pictures

More baby pictures (and pictures of us) at www.aprilandtim.blogspot.com. Hope you enjoy them. I hope we'll be in Utah/Idaho some time this summer, but much of that depends on my job situation (and I'm still looking).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

When the media fails

Two instances, in the past week or so, when media has failed. One, with the Deseret News. The other with every major TV news outlet, including CNN, MSNBC, and FOX.
The second one first. David Barstow, of the New York Times, wrote two articles describing how retired generals, who worked for TV and radio outlets as analysts on the war, were not reliable sources. Those two articles won a Pulitzer. And the major TV news outlets have not made a peep. Not even when the allegations in the article were investigated by Congress. The whole subject is taboo.
Why?
It reflects badly on the TV news outlets if their employees, these retired generals, are shown to be unreliable sources.
But, in my eyes, not reporting this reflects even more badly.
The two prize-winning articles are here and here.

The other instance where media fails--an LDS missionary is arrested in the Cincinnati airport. He's a good missionary, done with his mission, planning on going home, and ICE picks him up. He's not in the country legally.
The Salt Lake Tribune picks up on the story, and interviews church officials including Elder Holland about the missionary and church policy regarding undocumented missionaries.
The Deseret News doesn't mention it. At all.
Recently, the Deseret News has claimed that it is becoming more Mormon. Its new audience is LDS people worldwide, and not just in Utah. This article would be the perfect example of something that would interest LDS members throughout the US. But the only newspaper that's picked up on it (that I know of) is the Salt Lake Tribune. Those members who read Deseret News to pick up on events in the LDS world have to find out about this story elsewhere. By refusing to even mention this story, Deseret News's reliability, in my eyes, plummets.
Any thoughts on why Deseret News would not publish this story?
In any case, it's becoming more and more clear to me that people who wish to be informed cannot rely on a narrow area of media to be informed. Different media outlets have different reasons for publishing or suppressing certain information. So if you get all of your news from the radio, or all of it from TV, or all of it from the Deseret News, it's time to branch out.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Undocumented LDS missionary arrested by ICE

I spent considerable time trying to track down information about this topic...and then the Salt Lake Tribune goes and publishes an article that would've answered a lot of my questions.
Oh well.
This news from Cincinnati, of all places (and I wonder if the missionaries in our ward know more about this--I'll have to ask them).
For those who still doubt what the church's take is on having undocumented immigrants serve missions in the US, here's an article, along with ample quotes from Elder Holland, on the issue.
It seems clear that, unlike many conservatives, church leaders do not view illegal immigration as much of a sin (although they do discourage it).
I support the church 100% on this issue.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Info on an LDS soldier, one of the first women to die in Iraq

This happened in 2003. A long time ago, but as we find out more and more about what exactly was happening in Iraq at that time, we have a better understanding of what would drive a faithful LDS woman to what's apparently suicide.
The article is here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Media cover-up

This article is about how the media is ignoring a Pulitzer-winning investigation. From there, follow the links to the actual investigative article.
Before today, I did not buy into media conspiracies.
Now? Well, for some great writing and an amazing story you will not hear on CNN, MSNBC, or FOX, take a look.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Could we please leave politics out of Sunday School?

Baby Peter and I are in Sunday School; the lesson is on the law of consecration. I'm sitting next to a friend who's had a hard time feeling like a part of the ward; the Hillary Clinton bumper sticker on his car hasn't helped things. And then, the lesson being about the law of consecration, someone brings up "Spread the wealth" in a negative manner.
I find myself thinking of the society in 4th Nephi--a pretty much perfect society, with no poor (which could just mean that everyone was industrious and had work)...and no rich. No rich sounds like there's definitely some sort of (perhaps voluntary) spread the wealth thing going on...
My better judgment prevailed, however, and instead of pointing to 4th Nephi and continuing the politics in church thing, I turned to Mosiah 4 (give to the poor even if you think they don't deserve it, because we're all beggars before God). The conversation turned to not judging others, and away from politics.
Afterwords I mentioned to my friend that I hate it when politics is brought up in church. He agreed, noting that it happens frequently.
I believe this is a serious problem. It's hard to feel like you belong at church when it seems like everyone else embraces a different political party. Unfortunately, too often we keep our mouths shut, and the ward suffers because of it.
It's not just politics. I remember at BYU when a student discussed in testimony meeting how happy he was that a class he was in didn't discuss evolution (as his biology class had). A few minutes later, our Sunday School teacher became my immediate hero when she said, at the beginning of Sunday School, that she didn't see a conflict between evolution and the gospel. Then she taught her unrelated lesson.
If I'm teaching, how do I handle things when politics, etc. is brought up? If I'm a class member, how do I handle things?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A visitor

Thomas Griffith, a former stake president and institute teacher of mine, showed up at UC Law yesterday. He's a judge on the DC Court of Appeals--which means that he's probably the most powerful LDS judge out there. The DC Court of Appeals is often called the second highest court in the country because they hear a lot of high-profile cases, including some of the more important federal cases.
A former professor of mine worked for Judge Griffith, and I'm guessing that's how the law school managed to get him as a visitor. He'll stay for a total of three days, sitting in classes, meeting with students and faculty, and giving presentations. Yesterday he talked to first-year students, today he came to one of my classes and spoke to a large group of students and professors during lunch, and tomorrow he'll meet with five of the seven LDS students (the other two had emergencies come up and will be out of town). His days here are busy--his schedule is packed with various activities.
I've been surprised about a number of things.
First, he's a very funny person. His institute class was more serious (and also the best institute class I ever attended). Here, he's constantly making jokes. He's also very insightful. The students love him. The applause he got today was the most applause I've heard all semester.
He's very animated. He's small, so perhaps the animation is a way to make up for that.
He's not afraid to make references to his faith. He doesn't preach, but when mentioning great writers, he mentioned C.S. Lewis. (I like C.S. Lewis, although personally I would say he's a great thinker and a good writer, and not a great writer). He made other small references to belief in God, being Christian, and his disagreement of Roe v. Wade (although he says that as a judge, he made an oath to uphold the law, and it's law, so he would uphold it in court).
His visit is a very positive thing for the LDS students at the school. My friends, even the very liberal ones, have been impressed, and the seven LDS students have a great example of how a good LDS attorney should act.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A BYU professor's work with climate change

This blog post is about climate change, evolution, government spending on the sex lives of flies, computer models, and starvation in Africa. But mostly about climate change.
A BYU professor, a former ecology professor of mine, is doing some pretty cool stuff in Africa. Here he talks a little bit about his research and why things like climate change matter.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The West

We're visiting Utah and Idaho in late May and early June. I'll try to stop by some places in Salt Lake, Idaho Falls, and Boise to drop off my resume (and maybe some other places in between).
As far as other places to look for work...
We'll seriously consider anything in the West. If any of you happen to know attorneys who aren't afraid to hire someone with good grades from a good Midwestern law school, put in a good word for me. We've made Provo, Idaho Falls, and Cincinnati work for us, and I'm sure we'd be happy living in other areas, especially ones in the West.
But I should probably also try to make an effort to go out and hand my resume, personally, to law firms and government organizations in specific places. And I've got to narrow those places down. I'll probably only be able to fly out to one or two places, outside of Utah/Idaho.
I've decided I'm not terribly excited about anything that's more desert than where I grew up. My first reaction, at the age of 7, to the dreary brown that is Utah, after spending two years in Switzerland, was disgust. I still prefer green to brown. So there goes Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico. Utah and Idaho are acceptable because they're not as hot and because of the close proximity of green mountains--and, of course, because that's where our families are.
April doesn't like rain, which means Washington and Oregon are out (along with, unfortunately, all of Europe). If I were still single, they'd still be in. And, like with all other states in the West, if I get a job out there, I'm sure we'd be happy living there.
California is probably out, due to the high cost of living, unless I can manage to get some kind of connection hook-up. Two of my uncles lived in the Bay Area, and I worked there for about a year, so that might be a possibility. Still, I'd have to make twice as much there as I would in Utah or Idaho to make it worth our time.
Montana and Wyoming don't have any decent-sized cities, so I'm not going to seriously consider them unless I have a pretty good lead.
That leaves Colorado (in addition to Utah and Idaho). I might see if I can fly out there sometime this summer. I've never really spent time in Colorado, but from what I know, it's not too different from Utah and Idaho, except with fewer church members.
Thanks for the recommendations. I'll keep Albuquerque and Seattle in mind.
Meanwhile, anyone know anything about Boise or Denver?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Mad about using taxpayer money to bail out car companies?

I thought about posting this straight onto my blog, but there's two or three bad words on it, so I'll refrain. But it's hilarious enough for me to post a link to it anyway...(warning, PG or PG-13 language).

Where to settle down

We're looking for some advice on where to live after law school.
First, some background.
Finding a job after law school is a pain, especially if we want to live somewhere other than Ohio/Kentucky/Indiana.
Usually, law school grads work for the same company that they worked for between their second and third year of law school. They interview for that job the beginning of their second year.
Of course, if you go to law school in Ohio, and want to get a job out West (to be a bit closer to family), that presents some problems.
I may end up spending a couple of months living, and working, in the West, between my second and third year. That means I need to visit places out West this summer, to show my interest, and ask for a follow-up interview (where they fly me back in, on their dime, to interview).
Utah and Idaho would be nice places to live, if only for the family factor--but Utah is saturated with law students from good law schools, and everyone in Idaho is sure that the unranked University of Idaho Law School is the best law school in the world. I'll try for jobs in those states, but my chances aren't great. There are only a handful of UC law grads practicing in those two states. And to be honest, I'm not sure we want to live too close to family.
Elsewhere in the West is different. Almost every other state has numerous UC Law grads.
My plan is to fly out to a couple of big cities this summer. Possibly Seattle, Portland, etc.
The criteria: a nice, affordable place to live, and within 45 minutes of a big city (where I'll probably work).
Unfortunately, the affordable requirement means that Bay Area California is probably not an option. What about places in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon? Other places out West?

Saturday, April 04, 2009

How to dress when meeting with church leaders

Lessons learned from this past week:
How to respectfully and appropriately dress when meeting with church leaders:



How to respectfully and appropriately dress when meeting with church leaders FAIL:

New General Authorities

My favorite religion professor at BYU, Matthew Richardson, is the new second counselor in the Sunday School general presidency.
Cool.
He taught a marriage and family class--he made it very applicable and interesting. He struck me as being an intelligent, wise man.
I remember him telling us to attend a particular science lecture on conservation and stewardship of the Earth.
I just took a quick look at my notes from that class (well worth saving) and I have penned in there that he's a Styx fan.
Guess Sister X in the MTC was wrong...rock 'n roll isn't all satanic. :)
Any other comments about general conference or the new people called to leadership positions?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Firefly

If you have yet to own the greatest TV series of all time, now's your chance. Amazon.com is offering it (new) for $20 (and free shipping if you buy $25 or more).

Meanwhile, Joss Whedon has announced that he will be creating some additional episodes of Firefly for online viewing.
Here's the link...
Oh. Sorry. Couldn't resist an April Fool's joke.

By the way, any comments/recommendations about the latest Whedon series? How good is it?

I'm in the middle of season 2 of Buffy (the whole Buffy series is on Hulu.com, although the picture quality isn't as good as it should be).

Saturday, March 28, 2009

An arrogant judge, the EPA, and a shoot-out

Expect a variation of this one to show up on a Law and Order type TV show sometime soon...
A man's arrested in Utah for some EPA violations (illegally dumping chemicals). He has a bunch of weapons on him and talks about wanting to go down "in a blaze of glory." He goes to court, the prosecutor tells the judge that the man needs to be locked up until trial because he's dangerous. The judge basically laughs at the prosecutor. "He was arrested for an EPA violation! He's not dangerous!" The prosecutor asked again. The judge actually threatened the prosecutor with disciplinary action--twice--because the prosecutor was so insistent. Even the defense attorney felt that the judge treated the prosecutor unfairly. Finally, the judge released the man until the trial date, and ordered that his guns be taken from him.
The man doesn't show up for his trial. He's disappeared. He goes on the EPA's most-wanted list. The EPA receives a tip that he's in Florida. They find him as he pulls an automatic weapon. The EPA officers, not exactly the most gun-ready types (this was the first time any EPA officer has been forced to shoot in the line of duty), manage to shoot him first. He's injured badly, and taken to the hospital. Inside his truck and trailer? 3000 rounds of ammo, much of it illegal (as was his automatic .308), along with additional guns.
Yeah. He's not dangerous.
I hope that a certain judge is feeling like an idiot right now.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A better article on missionaries and immigration

This is from Deseret News, so it's more reliable than earlier links I've posted. I'm guessing, from the content of the article, that the church doesn't have a problem sending out missionaries that aren't legally here (keep in mind that most of them in this category were raised in the US, are in the US through no fault of their own, and have no other home).
Of course, I don't have access to the handbooks, so I don't know what the official policy is. All I can find are hints like this one.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Free card game

Go to this website to get a free deck of "Magic: The Gathering" cards, while there are still some left.
There is such a thing as a free...er...card game.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Finally found it

Sometimes google searches are a bit of a pain...but if you keep trying, you eventually find what you need.
First:
The Mormon church arranged for a Utah senator to write a law to shield churches from prosecution for knowingly allowing illegal aliens to be ministers or do volunteer missionary work for them. Kim Farah, a spokeswoman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, released a statement saying the church asked Sen Robert F. Bennett, Utah Republican, to sponsor the provision, which she called a "narrow exception to the immigration act."

Second:
U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), today criticized a loophole in U.S. immigration law that was quietly created by Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) in 2005. The "Bennett Loophole" created a broad exemption that allows religious organizations to knowingly transport, aid, abet and harbor illegal aliens....The Senator claims he authorized the far-reaching provision to assist the Mormon church in utilizing illegal alien missionaries and volunteers.

A Salt Lake Tribune link I found unfortunately no longer worked.

So yes, apparently, the church wants to give undocumented immigrants, raised in the US, the chance to serve inside the US without the church getting punished for it; and apparently the church has been successful in convincing Congress to pass a bill that allows the church to do that. Unless anyone interprets these articles differently than I do...or unless the articles are false.
I'd need the leadership handbook to be certain, but it certainly seems like the church doesn't discriminate based on citizenship when sending out missionaries.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Good books, crappy actors

Two movies based on excellent books have come out recently: Race to Witch Mountain (I loved the books as a kid) and Inkheart (juvenile fiction, but also some of the best fantasy out there). The problem with the movies (neither of which I've seen): they both star crappy actors.
Witch Mountain stars Dwayne Johnson (also known as "The Rock"). Inkheart starts Brendan Fraser (the guy from The Mummy). With so many quality actors out there, why do they pick these guys?
Oh well. I'll probably end up watching these movies eventually. But instead of seeing them in the theater, I'll borrow a copy from the nearby library. And I'll go read the third book of the Inkheart series. (Did I mention that I really like Inkheart--the book?)
Also, new baby pictures at the other blog, if you're interested.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Why modern tea parties FAIL

Recently, people who disagree with the stimulus package that's been proposed to get our country out of this recession have organized what they call "Tea Parties," named after the Boston Tea Party. It's great when people get involved in political matters. But the association with the Boston Tea Party fails on several levels.
First, the Boston Tea Party was an act of civil disobedience that required a great deal of courage. Had the men that participated in it gotten caught, they would've been punished. The modern tea parties require no real courage, just a willingness to get together for a cause.
Second, the Boston Tea Party was performed by men that were very unpatriotic. Remember, this was before the US government was organized. These men were unpatriotic to their government--which was the British Empire. I hardly think the participants in the modern tea parties would want to be seen as unpatriotic...but they give that impression by calling their gatherings tea parties.
Third, and most importantly, the purpose of the Boston Tea Party was to protest taxation without representation. There is a single area on the continental US that has a right to protest taxation without representation. That's Washington DC. There's no doubt that the DC representatives would vote for the stimulus, not against it. Everyone else is represented. The purpose of these modern tea parties is to protest decisions made by politicians that already represent the people--the people, after all, voted for them just a few months ago.
It's great that people are getting together for a political cause. But to call these tea parties, and to compare them to the original Boston Tea Party?
FAIL.

Monday, March 09, 2009

New desktop

So, we've been putting up with an old computer I bought 5 years ago for something like $200, used.
Our phone is hooked up to our internet (Magic Jack--I recommend it if your internet and computer are reliable--it's super cheap, and gives you free long distance). The old computer meant we weren't just having problems with the internet moving quickly--we were also having problems with the phone.
So I finally caved in and updated. I bought a Dell Vostro (it's the same line as my laptop) with a new monitor (the old monitor was super bulky and quite small). And I can now confidently say the following:
The problems we were having with our phone were not related to the phone itself, the internet, or the Magic Jack--they resulted from the old, slow computer.
The slow internet was not due to our internet provider (Current, which I recommend if you happen to be in their range). It was due to the slow computer.
8 USB ports are better than 2.

It's not by any means a high-end computer, but I'm very happy with how fast it is. And I figure that, when it comes down to it, it's cheaper than getting a one-year $40/month cell phone plan.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Illegal immigrants as missionaries

My understanding of church policy is that the church sends out worth missionaries whether they be legally here in the US or not.
I know that immigration status is no barrier to baptism, temple worthiness, etc.
We have a couple of Hispanic Elders in our ward right now; two missionaries in our ward our spanish-speaking.
I was a ward missionary in our ward, and so I had a chance to speak with one of the elders. He's from Mexico, although he attended school in Utah (Riverton High School, actually). His English is great, he played sports and took AP classes in high school. He's an effective missionary, he works hard, and I've been entirely impressed by him since he transferred into our ward (he's been here about as long as we have--since July).
And I started wondering--is he here legally or not?
And then--does it matter? The xenophobes will have you believe that illegal immigrants are bad guys, that they broke laws and must be punished, that they don't deserve to be here. They've become the scapegoat for all of our problems. Immigrants have never been especially liked, regardless of whether they were Asians, Irish, etc. But the new rant of "but they're illegal" adds a new dimension to the xenophobia.
The church hasn't taken a strong official stand on the issue...but it's certainly illegal-immigrant friendly, at least in practice. The church has also stated that we need to show compassion on the issue.
Do church members follow the church's example on this point?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Republicans and cigarettes

State politicians in Utah get good money from big tobacco. In fact, big tobacco traditionally supports Republican candidates.
But Utahns themselves don't particularly like cigarettes.
We all know who state politicians really listen to when they refuse to raise cigarette taxes in Utah--and it's not the voters.
Raising cigarette taxes significantly affects smoking rates, especially in teenagers. This article in the Deseret News discusses it in more detail.
If you live in Utah, think about voting against politicians who take tobacco money.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Mutated lizards

A very cool example of mutation and natural selection at work--in just the last few decades. Basically, a small group of lizards got transferred to a new island (by scientists) and were then totally ignored for 30 years. Their new island was a bit different than their old one. The lizards had survived on an omnivorous diet, but had eaten mostly meat, on their old island. On the new one, meat was rare, and they had to eat more plants to get by.
Head size changed a bit because of the diet change--but that wasn't all that changed. The lizards had evolved new structures in their digestive tract to help them digest plants. These structures are rare in lizards, and entirely unknown in this species of lizard...until now.
This is an example of evolution at its finest. A new environment with less available meat. The lizards are getting by, surviving but not thriving, and the lizards with larger heads tend to survive better and reproduce more (they have an easier time chewing plants), so eventually only large-headed lizards are left. And then, a mutation in the digestive tract--a mutation (or possibly a number of mutations) that are a big advantage to lizards, but only if they're eating lots of plants. The mutation wouldn't have been an advantage on the old island, where they ate mainly meat, but here on the new island, the mutation allows the lizard to better digest food, and with that comes a longer life, more offspring, etc. Lizards without this mutation can't compete and eventually die out, and so the lizards on this island are now very different from the lizard on the old island.
A beautiful, real-life demonstration of natural selection.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Baby pictures

Baby pictures are posted at www.aprilandtim.blogspot.com. You can leave comments there.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Miracle

Isn't new life amazing? A new human being is created. A unique personality. He inherits half of his genes from his mother and half from his father. Two small gametes combine to form a zygote, a single cell too small to see with the naked eye, that divides over and over again through mitosis. The first few times the cells divide, each copy is exactly the same (and, in fact, if you were to go in and separate the first four cells from each other, they would each become an individual and you'd have identical quadruplets). Eventually, as the embryo grows, cells are given separate jobs. Some become bone cells, some skin cells, some nervous tissue cells. Science understands this process fairly well.
Eventually a baby is born. He knows, instinctively, how to cry, how to breathe, how to eat.
It's night. The newborn baby cries very little, but he's crying now. I pick him up from his crib and he immediately calms. He looks around, curious about his new world. I stare at him in wonder.
Science can explain it. But that doesn't make it any less of a miracle.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Baby boy

April went into labor sometime around 1:00 a.m. Monday morning and gave birth around 6:00 p.m. She took an epidural around 3:00 p.m. The long labor might have been due to the baby's position--he was turned the wrong direction until about 20 minutes before delivery, when the doctor turned him around and told April to start pushing.
Peter is 8 lbs. 5 oz., and just over 22 inches. He's good-natured, often awake, constantly hungry, and healthy. He nursed for a full 90 minutes just minutes after birth, and he would've nursed more if he could have.
He made my parents grandparents for the first time, and he made my four siblings uncles and aunts.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Why don't people get parody and satire?

Parody mocks an original piece of work by using humorous, satiric or ironic imitation. Satire itself is much broader.
Some examples: Swift's A Modest Proposal, some of Mark Twain's stuff, etc.
The Daily Show with John Stewart, The Colbert Report, The Simpsons, and the Onion can also sometimes be examples (although sometimes those productions are just plain silly).
Sometimes, satire or parody will show up on newspapers or blog. Every time that happens, readers, not understanding that what they're reading is satire, will post angry (or sometimes, sadly, complimentary) comments. It's clear from their comments that they just didn't get that it was satire.
Why is satire so often misunderstood? Has it always been misunderstood? Did the people in Swift's time really think he advocated eating children?
In any case, it's a powerful way of showing the ridiculousness of certain positions in a powerful way...but only if the reader/viewer understands that it's satire.

Baby Update

Still no baby. April was due on Valentine's Day...fortunately, our little boy won't have to celebrate his birthday on the love holiday. Unfortunately, he's taking his sweet time coming. He also missed his mother's birthday, his grandmother's birthday, and the 200th birthday of the two greats--Lincoln and Darwin.
April's going in for a doctor's visit Monday, and I'm thinking the baby will be here by Wednesday, at the latest.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Massive amounts of Jelly Flops

Jelly Bellys (one of the greatest candies in the world) has a mutant brother called Belly Flops. Belly Flops are the ones that just didn't make the cut--weird shapes, stuck together, etc. At Jelly Belly's website you can buy 24 lbs. of Belly Flops for a mere $50, and get free shipping. That's just over $2/pound, which is a fantastic price. Of course, then you have to figure out what to do with all that candy...
Here's the link.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Abortion rates

According to this article, abortion rates in Western Europe are significantly lower than in USA/Canada. The rates in the US/Canada are 57% higher. Any theories as to why?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Two 200 birthdays

Happy 200th birthday today to two incredibly important men:
Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin.
They were both born on February 12, 1809. They both overcame enormous resistance from others; both were extremely unpopular in certain circles. Lincoln was responsible for keeping the states together and, ultimately, for freeing the slaves, although it took much much longer for African Americans to even come close to being treated fairly.
Darwin saw patterns in nature and made sense of them--had he not done it, someone else probably would have (in fact, before he published "The Origin of Species, he was contacted by another scientist who had also done extensive work and come to the same conclusion Darwin had). But Darwin was first, and he had impressive evidence to back up his claims. Like Lincoln, however, much has happened since. Genetics, molecular biology, geology, etc. add dimensions to evolution that Darwin never dreamed of.
Lincoln's acts eventually led to a more fair society; Darwin's ideas led to a better understanding of medicine and agriculture. BYU (along with numerous other universities) is hosting a Darwin week this week--I haven't heard anything about a Lincoln week, but he deserves to have a celebration to. So put on your top hats and your long white beards, and go celebrate.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to my wife, who, for just a few weeks each year, gets to be the same age as myself (although she looks much younger).
Our baby is due in five short days (although we have no idea when his birthday will be, except to say that it will be sometime in February). April is a strong woman and is dealing well with the pregnancy. She certainly doesn't look or act 9 months pregnant.
So happy birthday!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Girls and jerks

Warning: Movie spoilers for "Becoming Jane" in this first paragraph:

A few months ago April and I watched "Becoming Jane." It's pretty good, for a chick flick, and, best of all, it has a happy ending. Like most modern chick flicks, the main man is a jerk. Girls who watch the movie may be too preoccupied with his looks to notice that fact, but it is still a fact. He is a total jerk. Anyway, the spoiler: he doesn't get the girl. Awesome! Finally, a chick flick with a happy ending!

Is this just a chick flick thing? Or is this a reality thing too? And why do so many girls (in movies and in life) fall for jerks?
Finally, a short comedy routine about this subject: Dwayne Perkins. (Play the movie.)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

"I screwed up"

It's always nice when the president realizes he's made a mistake and admits it. Here, President Obama admits it, and without undue delay. Here's hoping that he continue to be honest about mistakes he makes. And here's too a president that's aware that he makes mistakes.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Song of the month

One of my favorite bands...unique, complex, intelligent music, lyrics, concepts; and they've finally relented and have agreed to come to the US, so I may even get the chance to see them live. Pain of Salvation, Iter Impius, from the album Be:

I woke up today
Expecting to find all that I sought
And climb the mountains of the life I bought
Finally I'm at the top of every hierarchy
Unfortunately there is no one left
But me

I woke up today
To a world that's ground to dust, dirt and stone
I'm the king upon this withering throne
I ruled every forest, every mountain, every sea
Now there are but ruins left to rule for me
And... you see, it beckons me;
Life turned its back on us
How could you just agree?
...how? I just don't see...

I woke up today
To a world devoid of forests and trees
Drained of every ocean, every sea
Just like a useless brick upon the shore
The morning after the storm
That swept the bridge away
Relentless tide
No anger
Just this relentless time
That calls us all on
But...

I'm never crossing that line
Leaving this world behind
I will stay on my own
On this bloodstained throne
I rule the ruins and wrecks
And the dust, dirt and stone
I rule rage rod and rattling of bones

I am on my own
I am all alone
Everything is gone
Stuck forever here
Already cold

I'm never crossing that line
Leaving this world behind
I will stay on my own
On this bloodstained throne...

I'm never crossing that line
Leaving this world behind
I will stay on my own
On this bloodstained throne
I rule the ruins and wrecks
And the dirt and the dust and the stone
I'm the ruler of rage rod and rust
And the rattling of bones
Ruler of ruin...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

US/Mexico smuggling

First, don't you love snow days? Yesterday ended up being one (the classes were called off piece by piece--at first, classes were just canceled until 10, and then until 1, and then until 4...) Today they decided to give us the whole day in one shot, which means I won't be showing up like I did yesterday. Also--when the roads are slick, the best way to travel is definitely a public bus.
Anyway, if you think drugs smuggled in from Mexico are a problem (and they are), there's a different problem that Mexico faces. Guns smuggled in from the US. That's right.
What's ironic here is that these guns, bought from US dealers, are used quite effectively by Mexican drug cartels against Mexican police. These weapons are enabling the Mexican drug trade, and are to blame for much of the drug problem the US has.
Mexico has stricter gun laws than the US. It's too bad that the US doesn't tighten down on its own gun laws so tragedies like those described in this article don't occur.
It's easy to blame Mexico for our problems. Too many times, though, Mexico's just a scapegoat for problems we've largely created ourselves.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Idaho Springs, Colorado, is not in Idaho

Yahoo.com has a headline that reads, "Idaho mother wins million-dollar home with $50 raffle ticket."
Unfortunately, she's from Idaho Springs, Colorado.
No wonder Google's done so well lately. The competition's not too bright.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

When is someone qualified to call themselves a scientist?

I have my own definition for what a scientist is, but I want to get a feel for other opinions. What credentials and what areas of study qualify one to tell others, when asked about professions, "I'm a scientist"?
For the record, I don't believe an undergraduate degree is enough (and so I won't call myself a scientist). Do you agree? What else is required?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Other blogs

I have three other blogs that I rarely update, but might be interesting for a quick look if the subject-matter interests you.

The first isn't really mine--it's technically both of ours. My wife doesn't really blog, though, so usually I'm the one downloading pictures and stuff, and I don't update it very often. It's www.aprilandtim.blogspot.com.

The second one is one I wrote a while ago, and haven't updated lately; it's about how to best explore Europe. http://www.exploreeurope.blogspot.com.

The last one is one I put up today. I wish someone else had a central place for this so that I wouldn't feel the need to do it myself. It's meant to be an alternative to LDS pseudo-science blogs--the links on that blog are written by actual LDS PhD scientists. www.mormonscientists.blogspot.com.

Feel free to stop by and check them out.