Friday, December 28, 2007

Watch out for Ralphie

Those who are familiar with Hugh Hewitt know pretty well that those who would do well in Vegas do well to bet against his favorite teams, especially when it comes to the Rose Bowl or any team from Cleveland. Unfortunately, the same goes for a lot of his political predictions--'ol Ralphie was awfully late in figuring out that 2006 would be a disaster for the GOP.

Even so, it's pretty sad to see his treatment of any GOP presidential candidate besides Mitt Romney, and his absurd assumption that the main reason people would oppose him would be his Mormon faith--as if Romney's decade of pushing gun control, high MA taxes, and abortion in Taxachusetts ought not trouble fiscal and social conservatives in the GOP.

And then there's the little claim he makes about the GOP needing no reform--as if the past decade of ever-growing government doesn't indicate a problem--and as if the parade of RINOs supported by him had nothing to do with public disgust with the GOP.

Sorry, Ralphie, with a record like yours, maybe you ought to stick to snowmobiling.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Fox News gets it right

See here. Although they also use the word "assassination," they rightly call the death of Benazir Bhutto a "brutal murder."

If it were up to me, I don't know that you'd ever see the word "assassination" in the papers, nor would you hear it on TV news. It slides too easily off the tongue, and lends a perverse "respectability" to those who murder their fellow man.

Be a rebel. Use the proper term when discussing acts like this; "murder." Add descriptive terms like "cold-blooded," "gruesome," and so on to draw a real picture of what went on.


My daughters asked me recently what "trinkets" were, and the best example I could come up with are the little things they get from AWANA.

Shouldn't we honor our glorious Lord with something a little more weighty?

Friday, December 21, 2007

A real solution to mortgage woes?

A couple of homes ago, I would routinely make double and triple payments on my mortgage, and as the bank sent my my balances, I began to notice that the "next payment due" date wasn't next month, but several months into the future. Concerned and confused, I gave the bank a call, and learned that yes, indeed, my next payment's due date was in fact over half a year away. I got up to about 14 months that I could have taken without payments, I believe.

Unfortunately, my subsequent mortgages have not had this "safety valve," but in light of the recent meltdown, I've got to wonder; why isn't this feature more widespread? Wouldn't it be helpful if borrowers could use the "sunny days" to prepay their debts for the rainy?

Now, granted, borrowers can (and should) save money in their savings accounts and elsewhere--this certainly isn't the only way borrowers can avoid foreclosure. Even so, for those who have difficulty letting their bank balance grow, it would be an awfully nice option.

Merry Christmas too all my readers! Don't forget to read the Christmas story under your favorite whale oil lamp in honor of the Savior's birth and Congress' latest dumb move.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Help out Martin Treptow

Here in MN, a big story a few months back was about how a carry permit holder had shot an "undercover" policeman. At the time, it seemed pretty cut & dry: the man's carry permit was not even revoked, and he was released without bail and with no charges filed. Witnesses concurred that the police officer had provoked and escalated the confrontation.

Now, six months later, the DA has filed three charges against the citizen, and it appears that the police/DA are trying to railroad this man into a plea deal. If you've got a few extra bucks and care about the right to keep and bear arms, or even if you only care about keeping the police and DA honest, you might want to help Martin Treptow out a little bit for Christmas. The present you might receive is, to a degree, your own liberty.

Here's the address:

Martin and Rebecca Treptow
Anoka Hennepin Credit Union
3505 Northdale Blvd. N.W.,
Coon Rapids, MN 55448

This is your brain on drugs

Or, rather, the brains of our state legislature in St. Paul. Apparently not satisfied with two different groups of civil engineers investigating the collapse of the I-35 bridge across the Mississippi, our legis-critters have appointed a law firm to (in part) "examine a $2 million state contract with an engineering firm to assist the NTSB as it pores over sections of the bridge in its search for a cause".

In other words, they're going to "assist" the investigation by micromanaging it, despite having little expertise in the subject at hand. I'm guessing that their next step is going to be to hire a prominent civil engineering firm to evaluate how well the state is disciplining lawyers.

Also your brain on drugs; Congress passes, and the President signs, a bill that mandates the massive expansion of corn ethanol, mandates that billions of gallons per year of ethanol must be produced from other sources that are not currently feasible, bans incandescent light bulbs, and requires passenger cars to meet 35mpg by 2020.

Once again, Congress clearly demonstrates its contempt for that little concept called "reality" and more or less declares war on all those who like to "eat" and "get somewhere with your stuff." Remember this next November, and vote accordingly.

Sorry, Congress, but it's not acceptable that the entire corn crop be used to produce Snuffy Smith's corn licker, and neither is it acceptable for you to demand I put my family in a Civic.

Oh, and here's your car of the future. 57mpg (51mpg with new rules) two-seater, 58 hp with 0-60 in a mere 12 seconds, and a one star safety rating. Congressmen get theirs first, I hope.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Update on Circuit City

Fortune notes that their termination of their best employees has been followed by a 70% drop in their stock price. No word yet on whether Circuit City is going to fire some of their worst performing employees, by which I mean of course their executives.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ode to the preacher's art

Over the years, I've know a few hard-working pastors, and have noticed that among those who love the Lord the most and serve Him the best, there is always a lot of coffee--to the point that I can joke that coffee is "Baptist holy water." I also know that they need to be careful lest they spend too much time at the coffee shop and neglect their families. So here, with credit to the gorilla in the midst, and a heartfelt apology to David Frizzell, is a little song in honor of this.

I came wired home last night, like many nights before
I finally found my house key as she opened up the door

And she said, "You're not gonna do this anymore."

She said: "I'm hiring a barista to decorate our home,
So you'll feel more at ease here, and you won't have to roam.
We'll take out the dining room table,
put comfy chairs by the wall.
And a hardwood floor, to point the way,
to our bathroom down the hall."

She said: "Just bring your Friday paycheck,
and I'll cash them all right here.
And I'll buy your friends the best beans,
and brew ‘em for you, dear.
And for you, I'll always keep in stock,
a double dark French roast.
And when you wake in the morning,
you can have it with your toast."

She said: "We'll rip out all the carpet,
and put big tiles on the floor.
Serve pumpkin loaf and brownies, and I won't cook no more.
There'll be magazines and books, no TV, but lots of art.
And free wifi for your friends, when conversation’s lost its art."

Refrain “I’m hiring a barista”

She said: "You'll get friendly service, and for added atmosphere.
I'll slip on a Caribou Apron, and add some piercings to my ears.
Then you can answer trivia, and I’ll give you a dime.
Then I’ll ask you “room for cream?,”

and we’ll both think it’s sublime.”

She said: “Instead of family quarrels,
we’ll have a blog flame-war,
When the big clock says it’s quittin’ time,

then I won’t serve you no more
And when you’re wallet’s empty, you’ll have me to thank.
When you’re still a shaking,

I’ll put your paycheck in the bank.”

She said “I’m hiring a barista, to decorate our home
So you fell more at ease here, and you won’t have to roam
When you need to do some sermon prep, but need a little boost
You won’t need to be gone, just to say hi to the moose.”

Refrain: “I’m hiring a barista”

Free verse, drugs, or SPAM email?

You decide:

This rotten foolery. You didn't send it?

Said produce a loud rattle. And he made
the earth to stirring note of hail,
columbia, happy land. Mrs. Left the

one white layman at nulato seething
with in number, and diverse kinds of gems
and diverse serpent. It doth not deserve

death at thy hands. placed on satyaki's car.
Then, people caused his aimlessly
across his path. Senior, half his senses

those of a lion, and so exceedingly
beautiful? Had not heard him open the
door or close it. She.

Man, I love this stuff!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Winter joy and real hot chocolate

It took him a minute or two to figure out what fun this was, but here's my boy's first time in a snowbank. Unfortunately, he's too young to enjoy real hot chocolate.
Real hot chocolate? You bet. My mom just returned from a trip to Croatia, and they make a hot chocolate there that is worthy of the name. Here's my best attempt to duplicate it:
1 bar (100 grams) Lindt 99% cacao chocolate bar
2 cups milk
4-6 tbsp sugar, or to taste
nutmeg to taste
Mix ingredients in saucepan and heat to almost boiling--this is what it takes to really melt it. Half fill cups with liquid and add more milk to cool it/get it to proper strength, or possibly a shot of espresso & cream. There will be little bubbles of fat (cocoa butter) on top.
Remember, flavenoids are good for you, and God is good to provide them.
Update: I've been trying to find the "truly authentic" type of recipe for Croatian hot chocolate, and it turns out that it's a very thick concoction, kinda like semi-liquid pudding. Unfortunately, I don't know Croatian, so I can't update the recipe to make it more authentic.
Maybe make pudding with good chocolate, but halve the cornstarch and add a few ounces of heavy cream?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Update on the Kelo case

Conservatives were (rightly) enraged back in 2005 when the city of New London, CT was allowed by the Supreme Court to use eminent domain to transfer property from the rightful owners to private businesses. Well, courtesy of Volokh and SayAnythingblog, here are the results.

More or less, not a spadeful of earth has been moved on most of the land that was taken from the rightful owners, and it illustrates a very good lesson; when a business asks government for a tax break or for eminent domain to be used in their favor, it most likely means that they don't have a business plan that will work without this help.

Instead of taxing existing residents and merchants, and cheating people out of the fair value of their property, I'd suggest we'd do well to tell these beggars to take a hike. Show them a picture of the devastation in New London or Poletown if they ask why.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Growing Olive Trees in Minnesota

Shawn rightly asks what kind of things I'm referring to by suggesting that we "grow olive trees," so here are some examples.

On a personal level, I'd suggest homeschooling, becoming more active in the outreach ministries of your church (or starting one if it doesn't exist), and simply taking steps to spend more time with those you love. The material world is, after all, going to have some "extensive renovations" in the end times, if I read the Scriptures correctly, and it's the souls I reach for Him that will survive.

Even in view of catacylismic end times, however, I think it's still worthwhile to "plant some olive trees" in the physical world, as it speaks to permanence in a world that values the fashion of the day . In California or the Mediterranean, that might mean an actual olive tree or two.

But it's not just about trees, but about everything in life. Some "olive trees" in my home include the cast iron my grandmother used as a child, tools that my grandfathers used, hardcover books, real wood furniture (new & old), and even using better quality siding and shingles on the house. If you're spending the time to put it on, might as well make it last, no?

And even an example from government; the new highway to my town has the concrete poured about 15-18" thick, instead of more typical 4-6" asphalt or 6-10" concrete. Hopefully this will keep it in good shape for a few more years than some of the parchment-like pavement they've been pouring for the past few decades.

I'd have to guess that most of this does nothing to qualify a project as "sustainable", at least acccording to the "politically correct," but I think this is a more worthwhile approach.

Going Postal and Prozac

I did some searching around, and it appears that both the Omaha shooter, as well as the shooter in Arvada/Colorado Springs, had been on fairly heavy regimes of antidepressants and other psychotropic drugs. Now I don't know whether it's the drugs causing the violence, or whether the people taking the drugs were simply a lot more predisposed to antisocial and psychotic behavior to begin with. However, I dare suggest that those involved--specifically the FDA and drug manufacturers like Eli Lilly--owe the world a serious, critical look at the data to determine what's really going on here.

Put gently, it is an anomaly when someone not on psychiatric drugs goes on a rampage, just as it is an anomaly when they choose victims that are not in a gun-free zone. Something's going on.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

These are not olive trees.

I can't quite decide whether these buildings planned for Dubai qualify as cutting edge architecture, or a bad acid trip. Either way, I'm not quite sure how buildings being built for $1000/square foot of useful space qualify in any way as "sustainable" or "environmentally friendly." They might be great targets for Al-Qaida when built, though.

H/T Anthony Bradley, who has a somewhat different view of what's going on.

Plant an olive tree!

Probably not literally, though, since they don't seem to tolerate "winter" very well in places like Minnesota, and I'd have to guess that they wouldn't tolerate the rain in Florida very well, either.

What I'm getting at is an application of an old proverb; "You plant olive trees for your grandchildren." We don't do that very well in our country; it seems that whatever we do is designed for our own use--50 years is a long, long time for us. We have no 6th century churches or roads dating back to Julius Caesar, after all.

The trouble with that, of course, is that we can reasonably expect that our grandchildren might be around 100 or more years from now. Maybe it's time to seriously expand the time frame we're designing our lives around.

Plant an olive tree, if you catch my drift.

Friday, December 07, 2007

You can't make this stuff up.

Evidently, a deli in Greenwich Village (part of New York City) has advertised ham as "Delicious for Chanukah." I'm guessing it's someone's very bad idea for a practical joke, as I cannot imagine anyone growing up in Gotham and being ignorant of the fact that (observant) Jews don't eat pork.

And if you want to join Jacob in commemorating the victory over the Greeks, a simple recipe for latke, the potato pancakes traditionally eaten during Chanukah.

3-4 potatoes, grated
1/4 cup flour
2 eggs
salt to taste, ~ 1/2 tsp
olive oil

Grate potatoes finely, and add flour, salt, and eggs. Mix well. Fry in olive oil (not lard, ahem!) until browned on both sides. Serve with applesauce or other fruit toppings.

Witness in politics

I'm personally somewhat disappointed at the level of political discourse this year; it's more about "gotcha" than about substance. Paul Greenberg gives us a good picture of what political discourse used to be like, and I dare suggest that one of the biggest things Christians can do (or anyone for that matter) to help our country is to bring back fair, honest debate.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Truly scary

Evidently, Congress and the White House are working together to bring "moral hazard" to new How so? Well, they're planning to prevent the underwriters of adjustable rate mortgages from adjusting the rates for a period of five years.

While certainly the holders of these mortgages will appreciate the lower payments, the "sob stories" say something different. One example; a 73 year old woman loses her home because of an ARM mortgage foreclosure. Say what? Bankers are issuing adjustable mortgages to people on (presumably) fixed incomes?

In other words, the very examples used to demonstrate the problem of ARM mortgages make very clear that the main problem is that lendors and borrowers are forgetting basic principles our fathers and grandfathers knew about debt; mininum down payments, being able to pay the "worst case" with one's current income (or less), and so on. The bailout simply tells lendors and borrowers that these principles don't matter, 'cause Uncle Sam will come and save the day.

Be prepared for another mortgage crisis in about ten years as a result, and get ready for Uncle Sam to pick your pocket to save the bacon of those who issued foolish mortgages.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Trying to be helpful

Just in case the search committee for a new football coach for the University of Michigan is reading this humble site, my suggestion would be Gerry Faust.

Not that this has anything to do with the fact that I was born south of Columbus and matriculated from Michigan State. Nothing at all. Really.

Monday, December 03, 2007

A great post-Thanksgiving diet.... to pass a gallstone, come down with pancreatitis ("are you a heavy drinker like the guy who writes 'Spork Nation'?"), and spend the week in the hospital awaiting gallbladder surgery on a clear liquids, then spend the weekend easing off the Percocet and avoiding any food that might disagree with a body newly unable to store bile.

It actually wasn't too bad...except for the "pain" part before they got me a shot (OK, two shots, I'm a wimp) of painkiller. Got to learn a lot about my body, read a lot of books I'd never had a chance to read, and got my first ultrasound and CAT scan.
And here's a link to The Lost Tools of Learning for Mark.