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.

Tax things that save us $$$--including possible rebate $

A few things to save lots of hard-earned money on taxes this year:
Deduct moving expenses (For us, that's a rental truck, gas at $5/gallon for the truck and $4/gallon for the car for very long distances, and a hotel room).
Tuition--there are a couple of ways to do this on the tax forms. Basically, just plug in the numbers and see which saves you the most money. Let's just say that we spent way too much money on tuition this year...I just have to keep telling myself that it's a terrific investment.
Rebate--remember the rebates that people got last year? $600/person? Well, we hadn't made enough the previous year to get the full amount back, since April was still in school. But, exciting news! If you made more money in 2008 than in 2007, and you didn't get the full rebate last year, you may be able to get the rest of it this year instead! I almost missed that one...that would've cost us $217. So if you didn't get the full amount (and I'm guessing many of you didn't) figure out if you made more this year than last. Unlike last year, this one goes right onto the 1040, and either reduces your taxes or comes with the rest of your refund.
I'm still waiting on a tax form from my credit union, but as soon as I get that, I'll complete taxes. If they owe me money, I'll file taxes immediately. If I owe them money, they can expect a check around April 1.

Funny

From the NRCC (National Republican Congressional Committee) website: "Thanks to Republican economic policies, the U.S. economy is robust and job creation is strong."

Maybe someone should tell them...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Idiocy of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Rolling Stone Magazine

I've always disliked Rolling Stone Magazine. My personal opinion was that if Rolling Stone magazine liked an artist, I probably wouldn't, and if they hated an artist, I'd probably love them.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame here in Ohio (OK, so it's in Cleveland, which is a long ways away) is affiliated with the magazine, and is just as lame. But instead of going on and on about why I disagree with them, (and not talking at all about the fact that they're heavily biased against progressive rock) I decided to do a scientific analysis. It's not exact, but it's close enough to prove a point.
Here we have a list of the 100 best-selling artists in the US. I'm not sure this is completely accurate, but it's close enough. To get into the Hall of Fame, you have to have been making music for the last 25 years. You also have to (supposedly) play rock, although the Hall of Fame has disgraced itself by accepting artists that are most definitely not rock. Rock is rock and metal. Rock is not pop, country, or rap. Hall of Fame has a lot to learn.
Anyway, back on subject...I took the 100-best selling artists, eliminated any that did not have "rock" or "metal" as their genre, and compared it to the list of artists in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. To make things easier for myself, I eliminated artists on the best-selling list that were not playing before 1980.
Now, I'm not trying to say that just because an artist is best-selling means that it should be in the Hall of Fame (although that is part of the criteria for getting in). Nor am I saying that some of the artists in the Hall don't deserve to be there despite the fact that they are not on the best-selling list (The Who, for example, is on the list, and they deserve it despite not selling tons of albums).
Here are the best-selling artists that are not in the Hall of Fame:
Journey; Alabama; Foreigner; Def Leppard; John Denver; Boston; Ozzy Osbourne; Mannheim Steamroller; Rush; Steve Miller Band; Cars; REO Speedwagon.
12 artists.
But Alabama's not really rock...they're country. And Ozzy Osbourne may not be in, but his band Black Sabbath is. So down to 10.
Really, this list speaks for itself. How can you leave Rush out? They've been around for 35 years, are still touring and putting out albums, and their line-up hasn't changed since the mid 70's. Even Metallica, as they entered the Hall of Fame, mentioned the need to put Rush in. And Boston, REO, Foreigner, and Journey are all the same sub-genre of music. Neglecting the whole sub-genre...
The Hall of Fame is a sell-out. Like much of the music industry, it's not focused on the music--it's focused on getting the celebrities in that will look best on camera. And so talented musicians who don't fit the bill are left out.
Other artists I'd like to see in: King Crimson, Yes, Heart, Genesis, ELP, Queensryche, Marillion, Moody Blues, Neil Diamond, Phil Collins (also on the top 100 list, but his first solo album was 1981, so he didn't fit my before-1980 criteria), Peter Gabriel. But they'll never get in, because their either in the Journey/Foreigner/Boston sub-genre, or they're progressive rock.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Another reason not to carry a concealed weapon

This is hilarious. How embarrassing.

One month to go!

What we know about the baby:
Due date: Feb 14 (although it could be sooner--I was born almost 3 weeks early).
Size: Slightly smaller-than-average head size, slightly longer-than-average limbs. Probably an average weight.
It's a boy.
April does an excellent job of hiding the little guy, probably due to her body type (tall, long torso). Some people at church have just realized within the past month that she's pregnant.
April's mom will fly out after he's born. My parents plan to visit, but probably not until sometime in May or June.
April's planning on quitting work a week before the baby's due. She doesn't get maternity leave (welcome to the US: the only 1st-world country that doesn't offer mandatory maternity leave), so she's relying on vacation days and sick days to keep her insurance through February, and we're relying on savings to get us through her recovery time and beyond. She'll work maybe 10 hours a week once she's feeling up to it (meaning I'll play Mom one day each week). Once summer comes I should be able to find a paying job (low pay, but still some money) that will continue part-time for the next school year. I'll be making less than half as much per hour as she's been making, but it's better than nothing, and a law job will be good experience for me.
We've bought most of the big stuff we need (at a used baby store). We're taking a no-medication birthing class (where we're taught that medication is an option, and not a necessary part of giving birth). Hopefully we'll be able to get a few more weeks of the class in before the baby comes.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Finally found my niche

Grades from last semester (well, except for one) are in.
I did much better than I expected.
I'm surrounded by intelligent law students, many of them English, History, or even pre-Law majors. Many (probably most) just finished their undergraduate degrees, and still remember how to study. Our final grades are determined, for the most part, by just one final exam. Each course is based on a B curve, where anything other than a B+, B, or B- is fairly hard to come by. I'm competing against my fellow students.
I got one poor grade (and I expected that grade).
In the three other classes I have results for, I did significantly better than I expected.
Two of those courses, worth 4 credits each, were graded based solely on a timed final exam composed of what are basically essay questions. The exam I did poorly on was largely based on multiple choice.
I've worked in medicine, science, education. I've spent years searching for something I can enjoy and do well at. Something that challenged me, but didn't overwhelm me.
I've found it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Elite

Elite: a group or class of persons enjoying superior intellectual or social or economic status. Selected as the best; "an elect circle of artists"; "elite colleges"

George W. Bush, on how the atrocities at Guantanamo Bay have affected our reputation internationally:
"I strongly disagree with the assessment that our moral standing has been damaged. It may be damaged amongst some of the elite. But people still understand America stands for freedom; that America is a country that provides such great hope."

The more Supreme Court decisions and dissents I read, the more disgusted I become with judges like Scalia and Thomas who throw around the word "elite" like it's a curse. Talk show radio hosts--same thing goes. They may relish in having inferior intellects, inferior social statuses, and being poor; they may enjoy not being one of the best. That is their choice. But if I were them, I wouldn't be bragging about not being elite.

From David Brooks:
Over the past 15 years, the same argument has been heard from a thousand politicians and a hundred television and talk-radio jocks. The nation is divided between the wholesome Joe Sixpacks in the heartland and the oversophisticated, overeducated, oversecularized denizens of the coasts.
What had been a disdain for liberal intellectuals slipped into a disdain for the educated class as a whole.
Republicans developed their own leadership style. If Democratic leaders prized deliberation and self-examination, then Republicans would govern from the gut.
The political effects of this trend have been obvious. Republicans have alienated the highly educated regions — Silicon Valley, northern Virginia, the suburbs outside of New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Raleigh-Durham. The West Coast and the Northeast are mostly gone.
The Republicans have alienated whole professions. Lawyers now donate to the Democratic Party over the Republican Party at 4-to-1 rates. With doctors, it’s 2-to-1. With tech executives, it’s 5-to-1. With investment bankers, it’s 2-to-1. It took talent for Republicans to lose the banking community.
Conservatives are as rare in elite universities and the mainstream media as they were 30 years ago. The smartest young Americans are now educated in an overwhelmingly liberal environment.
This year could have changed things. The G.O.P. had three urbane presidential candidates. But the class-warfare clichés took control. Rudy Giuliani disdained cosmopolitans at the Republican convention. Mitt Romney gave a speech attacking “eastern elites.” (Mitt Romney!) John McCain picked Sarah Palin.
Palin is smart, politically skilled, courageous and likable. Her convention and debate performances were impressive. But no American politician plays the class-warfare card as constantly as Palin. Nobody so relentlessly divides the world between the “normal Joe Sixpack American” and the coastal elite.
She is another step in the Republican change of personality. Once conservatives admired Churchill and Lincoln above all — men from wildly different backgrounds who prepared for leadership through constant reading, historical understanding and sophisticated thinking. Now those attributes bow down before the common touch.
(End quote: the full article can be found here.)

That is precisely the trait I dislike the most about Palin. Smarter, more educated, more experienced...all that was looked down upon. Elite was used as a curse. And that is why I can't stand the woman, despite the fact that Mormon women like her almost as much as they like vampire romance novels.
To be fair, Bush himself has restrained himself on some fronts, most notably on the issue of immigration, and the financial help he's given to Africa. But he didn't practice much restraint on the war with Iraq, or with Guantanamo Bay, or on other fronts.
We need more than one party that prides itself on being smart. The Republican party of old didn't shy from intelligence. I'm worried that the current one does. I hope those of you who consider yourselves Republican would make a point to support Republicans that are smart, that think things through and don't just act from the gut, and that don't call people they don't like "elite."
The next time you hear the word "elite," remember what it really means. If you don't remember, look it up in a dictionary. And remember, there's nothing wrong with having a superior intellect.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Suspect blog readability test

Two cousins have posted this on their blogs. I figured I'd try it out too...

blog readability test

TV Reviews



Postgrad. So that's cool, I guess. But then I decided to try out www.seriouslysoblessed.blogspot.com, and it gave it a genius level. Admittedly, it is genius, but it parodies dumbness, so any ranking site like this should give it a low rating. That, and I'm sure the fictional TAMN would be horrified that her site warrants a genius ranking. Orson Scott Card's website warranted an "elementary school" reading level. Ouch.
My final analysis: I think this website hands out rankings on a random basis. It remembers what it handed out, so if you type in the same website twice, it will give you the same answer both times, but it's still random. I tried it out on some friends blogs too...and friends that write on a higher level than I do got lower rankings.
Also notice (but don't click on) the tiny writing on the bottom of the rating (where it says "TV Reviews"). This, no doubt, is why the blog readability test exists. It's basically an advertisement.
Feel free to try it out. Just remember, though...it may be fun, but it's most definitely BS.

Monday, January 05, 2009

BHS grad in the news

BHS grads may be interested in this little tidbit I found while trying to find an updated email address on-line.
The marching band from Wasilla, Alaska is going to Obama's inauguration. And guess who the band teacher is...
The link is here.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Teenage Mormons and Civil Disobedience in Nazi Germany

Helmuth Hübener, a teenager in Nazi Germany, and also a member of the LDS church, practiced civil disobedience against the Nazis. Two buddies helped him out. Basically, they listened to BBC radio (illegally), found out what was really going on with the war, typed that up, and posted it in public places.
The work these kids were doing was so good that the Nazis, when they finally caught them, were convinced that some adult was behind it all. None was.
The local branch president belonged to the Nazi political party (as most Germans did, at that point in time), and this fact probably helped Mormons from becoming the next Jehovah Witnesses (Jehovah Witnesses were put into concentration camps much like the Jews and gypsies were).
Helmuth Hübener had his head chopped off by the Nazis at the tender age of 17. His two LDS friends were punished and then enlisted in the German army. They both survived and eventually moved to Utah.
Unfortunately, this great example of civil disobedience goes largely unnoticed in LDS circles. It's more well-known in Germany, where Günter Grass, a famous German author, wrote a book about it.
For more information, look up the wikipedia article or find the documentary "Truth and Conviction."
And, in looking at the wikipedia article, I just discovered something totally awesome.
Rumor is that a movie is in the works, starring Haley Joel Osment (the kid from Sixth Sense). Wow. I'm not sure how much of it will be true-to-life, but "Truth and Treason" is definitely a movie to look forward to.