Friday, May 30, 2008

Thrifty, or cheap?

One of the most maddening things for many evangelicals and fundamentalists is the culture of getting things "as cheap as you can," and I'm afraid it stems from a basic confusion of the concepts of "thrift" and "cheapness." Contrary to what we often believe, they are not synonymns. "Thrifty" people conserve their resources by appropriate purchases of quality items at a good price; "cheap" people squander their resources on shoddy, "cheap" goods.

What's the cost? Let's start with shoes; you can save a lot on 'em if you go to Target, right?

Well, run a few miles in 'em, and let's talk about how much it costs to go to the podiatrist. (personal experience) If you're lucky, it'll be just your feet and not your knees (orthopedic surgeon) and back.

Increasing numbers of us aren't so lucky. What is thriftier; $100 for a decent pair of shoes, or $500 in podiatrists' bills, or thousands for knee or back work? Those $20 shoes were cheap, but they sure weren't thrifty, were they?

Going further, how many people never get in shape because they never get shoes that fit. Now think about medical costs of $6000 per person annually, and half that due to lack of good diet and exercise.

Now how much are those cheap shoes costing you?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Yet more evidence....

....that living within 50 miles of Washington, D.C. is extremely harmful to one's common sense quotient. Here's the story; a mentally disturbed woman known to social services as a client claimed to be homeschooling, but never filed the required intent to homeschool. Despite mental illness, previous history with social services, and clear truancy, not one of five government agencies ever bothered to get a warrant to investigate. As a result, four children are dead, presumably by the hand of their own mentally ill mother.

One would expect that, in a sane world, that heads would be rolling at the agencies that clearly failed to do their duty, and people would be examining policies that might have gotten in the way of a clearly warranted investigation. Of course, this being D.C., this isn't the case.

Nope, they've decided that the one thing that did work--homeschooling regulations--need to be made more onerous. It proves just one thing; Potomac fever is deadly to the thinking process.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Who knew? Stuff Iron Maiden can teach us!

Here's something worthy of the Kool Aid Report. World Magazine reports that many Iron Maiden songs, far from being the harbinger of a new cultural Babylon, actually can serve to introduce listeners to the classics.

Either that, or the reviewer, like your (mostly? sometimes?) gracious host, is trying to excuse his "Wasted Years" spent listening to heavy metal as a teen and young adult.

Another reason to wear properly fitting clothes

Specifically, pants. Not only does it look dumb to wear hiphugger/lowrider pants, it also forces you to carry a smaller pistol for self-defense. You can conceal a much larger weapon if your pants fit properly (at the top of the hip or at the waist) and have the proper amount of "ease." (they're not skin tight)

For reference, the Biblical story of Ehud. I bet 'ol Eglon wished that the bearer of Israel's tribute had been wearing hiphugger jeans instead of properly fitting robes.

Fashion. It can be a life or death decision.

More on Circuit City

After deciding that firing their best employees was the best way to return to profitability, it appears that their stock has dropped 79%, they've lost their CFO (good riddance), and may be facing an SEC investigation.

Note to investors; when the companies you own shares in decide that their best employees need to be fired, you would do well to suggest to the board of directors that they might do well to fire underperforming employees instead; say the executive staff.

Yes, you might not get very far telling the board of directors to fire their golf buddies, but you'll certainly get farther in good corporate governance than if you hadn't spoken up at all.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Chocolate; getting the point!

You may be suffering from diabetes, and cannot handle as much sugar, or it may be one of those times when the only safe thing to say to your wife is "have some chocolate." Fear not, your host is here to help you; recipe adapted slightly from a "fudge like brownie" recipe from The Nebraska Cookbook. (which inexplicably does NOT have any good recipes for Ralphie. Sorry Mark!)

2 sticks butter
4 squares Baker's unsweetened chocolate
2 cups sugar
3 tbsp Hershey's special dark cocoa
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (substitute white flour if necessary)
1/2 cup nuts (if desired)
1 tbsp vanilla

Melt butter & Baker's chocolate in saucepan. Remove from heat, add sugar and stir until mixed. Add well-beaten eggs and cocoa, stir again, and then add flour and chocolate. Bake in well seasoned, buttered 10" cast iron skillet for 25 minutes, or until knife comes out clean, at 350F.

Enjoy, optimally with vanilla ice cream. Relish the healthy treat of lots of flavenoids and whole wheat baking!

Memorial Day; missing the point

Yes, I'm getting into these "missing the point" posts. Guilty as charged. And yes, this one is a little late, too. Bear with me. Moreover, as I write this, I realize that Memorial Day is claimed by multiple cities; I simply note that in my mind, the most compelling story of its origins is that of Columbus, Mississippi.

Why so compelling? Consider the origins; in April 1866, women realized that the many soldiers buried in this hospital town, both Union and Confederate, would never be honored by their families with as much as a simple wreath of flowers. Traveling that distance was simply a financial and logistical impossibility for the majority of Americans.

In response, these ladies collected some flowers, and placed some on each soldier's grave, Union and Confederate. You read that correctly; those who were likely to be bereaved of sons, a father, or a husband were placing flowers on the graves of those who had led the charge against their loved ones. Those who were under the rule of military governors, and whose livelihood had often been taken from them without compensation, placed flowers on the graves of the former comrades of the soldiers patrolling their city.

We too often try to make Memorial Day into yet another patriotic holiday like Flag Day or Independence Day, and in doing so, we miss the point; it's not about patriotism, but rather about showing basic human respect to those who never lived to tell war stories. It's a reminder of the cost of war, not of the glory of the state, or the fitness of our system of government.

Next year, observe it with flowers, not flags.

Missing the point of children's literature

A dear friend of mine "treated" my kids to a video and a book--both recommended for children and commended by some critics--and after a quick look at both, my thought was that the artists had obviously enjoyed their "life drawing" classes, but had failed to clue in to the fact that the purpose of this class is to be able to realistically portray the human body whether clothed or not, not to portray the clothed human body as if it were not.

Especially, ahem, in work done for children's books and such. Parents, be careful about what's provided to your children--the line between G and R is increasingly being erased by those who would like little more than to see Venus in all areas of our lives.

Or maybe it's not so new after all. The churches of only two cities get two letters from Paul in the Scriptures, and one of them was home to one of the greatest temples to Aphrodite. To paraphrase one of our Founding Fathers, the price of good parenting seems to be perpetual vigilance.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A new monetary standard?

I saw a fascimile of a $5 bill with "good for one gallon of gas" on it. While intended to be a simple commentary on the price of fuel these days, it also left me with another thought; what if the Fed did link the dollar to fuel?

One possible beneficial side effect would be that if the Fed and Congress wanted to devalue the dollar via inflation, they'd have to open up drilling in places like ANWR, the Bakken formation, and offshore in California and Florida.

I'm working on figuring out the downside.....

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Some thoughts for parents

When you take your child to the doctor, keep in mind that:

1. When they tell you that the "patient information forms" are private, they're wrong. Privacy only holds until they (mandatory reporters of crime under most state laws), a social worker, or your insurance company decides they need to release the information. In other words, the only privacy you have ends once any interested party in this list wants the data.

2. They're getting a lot of their information on firearms from suspect sources like the Brady Campaign. Here's a better source. I plan on surprising my kids' pediatrician with little facts like the actual rate at which firearms are used to defend families--source being the U.S. Department of Justice.

3. If you've been a parent for a while, you've noticed that their advice about nutrition and other things seems to change quite regularly. For example; when my first was born, we were warned "no milk until age 1," and to use whole milk until age 2. Now we're told to start milk before age 1 (along with other foods previously proscribed, and use skim milk after age 1.

In other words, outside the truly "medical" portion of the training of pediatricians, I'm seeing more and more evidence that the advice we're hearing from them is at best an educated guess. At worst, it's a repetition of propaganda.

I hope and pray that they retain basic medical expertise in their core competency. However, when they miss the boat on a fair number of things, I have to start to question their wisdom on issues like vaccination as well. You cannot be sloppy with evidence in one area, and then expect me to believe you're going to be careful with evidence in other areas.

Speaking of which, see the latest study for/against the use of coffee?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What about electric cars?

Reader & sometimes poster Brian Compton put a couple of links to prototype/production electric cars, and I figured that it might be a public service to give a little opinion on them. Now as a EE myself, I ought to love the idea. You have a flat torque curve, very few moving parts, no emissions from the vehicle, no "bomb" below the back seat (gas tank), and you can dispense with both an engine and transmission with multiple gears. There is a reason we use electric drive for things like golf carts and forklifts.

When it comes to passenger automobiles, however, I'm yet to be convinced--though as Brian's links showed (look in comments past couple of posts), there are certainly a lot of smart people working hard to prove me wrong.

Why will it be difficult? Look at a periodic table of the elements, and view the atomic weights of hydrogen, lithium, and nickel. Hydrogen is the main energy source in gasoline, ethanol, and natural gas. Lithium and nickel are the main energy sources in high tech batteries--and given that lithium is the lightest metal, it's extremely unlikely that we'll find a way of making a battery that's much lighter than lithium ion technology. Lithium is also fairly rare, and is electrolytically isolated from solutions "rich" in the element--it's really quite a difficult element to get, and cost $38/lb back in 1998, according to Wiki.

The end result is that when you use batteries instead of gasoline for energy, you need about ten times the weight for your power source. Hence, any vehicle that needs to go a serious distance is going to need hydrocarbon fuels, and it's also likely that any vehicle that needs to be inexpensive will be using ordinary, hydrogen based fuels for the foreseeable future.

Don't get me wrong; I wish those developing these vehicles all the best. I just don't know that physics and chemistry are likely to cooperate.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

War on boys, war on girls,

....or war on both? It's popular in some areas to complain about how boys are hurt by eliminating playgrounds, typically feminine worship services, school formats, and so on. It's popular in others to complain about how girls don't get a fair shake in various areas.

Me? I'm pretty sure that our culture wages war on both. Boys are told that they've got to go to college whether they've got the aptitude or desire or not--and end up in debt and without the mechanic's certification they could have really used. Girls are told to get rid of their dolls and forget about cooking or sewing, and get out there on the basketball court. Boys are told to eschew their desire to defend others--the instigator and the victim of a fight get punished equally, after all. Girls are told to get their master's degree--wait until their career is started and their fertility is gone to try and meet someone and start a family. "Make sure you've got your 40 credits for Social Security!"

Is it any surprise that, having been excluded from the ordinary passtimes of boyhood and girlhood, that boys and girls tend to put their sex on display in an inappropriate way? Is the sports fixation of young men, and the immodesty of young women, simply an attempt to tell the world "I am man" or "I am woman" when all other ways of identification have been denied them?

It's probably an over-simplification, but I don't know that we can over-emphasize Biblical masculinity and femininity.

Stuck on stupid

I arrived home last night after a softball game (we lost, but had a great time) to find a few hilarious, but highly irritating things in the mail.

The IRS is apparently sending my family a stimulus of $2700, despite the fact that I didn't pay any federal income tax last year. (lots of FICA, no income tax.....child tax credit works wonders) I'm guessing I'm going to end up paying most of it back next April. Thanks for complicating my personal finances, IRS.

Chevrolet has come out with a hybrid Malibu that gets all of 32mpg on the highway. The standard version gets 30mpg. Thousands of dollars extra for 2mpg gain? Hybrids are a scam to begin with, but this is incredible.

(might be good for a taxi driver or courier in the city, but for the rest of us?)

My local car dealer is offering insurance to those who buy a car with little or no down payment. The purpose? If you crash it and total it, it pays the difference between what you owe and the value of the car when you total it. Apparently, the concept of putting enough money down to avoid being "upside down" on your loan hasn't occurred to a large portion of car buyers.

When it comes to finances, America is sadly stuck on stupid.

Monday, May 19, 2008

ROI on a $10,000 bicycle

I've done a few reviews on the "return on investment" for hybrid cars, light rail, bus transit, and more, and I figure that I ought to continue with the ROI for really primo bicycles, say like this Trek graphite from a local bike shop. Look here, though, and you'll find that if you go European custom, you can easily pay as much for your ride as for a nice new minivan.

So what's the ROI here in Minnesota? Well, let's assume that you ordinarily can ride six months per year, and you drive the ordinary distance per year of about 12,000 miles in your car. If you're a really "gonzo" cyclist, you might be able to get a good 4000 miles per year.

At an average cost to drive of about fifty cents per mile, that would be an annual return of about $2000. Not too shabby. Of course, you might be able to achieve that with an ordinary $1000 bike with clipless pedals. What do you get, then, by going from a 30lb bike to a 15 lb super-bike?

Well, if you're the average 150 lb person, you've got a 10% reduction in rolling resistance--you can thus go about 10% farther with the same effort.

No self-respecting cyclist, though, would be content to go the same speed, of course, and you then go that extra 10% about 10% faster--realizing (being a gonzo cyclist) that you can now can go 10% further yet and still get home in time for dinner. For those who drive partway and then ride due to time constraints, this is even better--you can go about 15% further and not encur further loss of time.

There is a cost, of course; you're now about 10% stronger, and hence you can go another 10% further--35% in all, or about 1400 miles per year or $700 annually. If we assume a bike can last 10 years/50,000 miles and a P/E of 10, this justifies a $3500 bicycle.

Not quite at the $10k mark yet, but let's look at the gorilla in the corner; medical care. It's estimated that smoking, poor diet, and lack of exercise accounts for 55% of the ~$6k/person spent on medical care annually--let's assume that exercise amounts to about 1/3 of the needless cost, or about 18% or $1080 of the total.

You could argue that it's not realizable, but keep in mind that Mediscare is going to be insolvent soon, and you'll be stuck with the bill in your retirement; yes you will realize the cost or savings of your actions. So we're at about $1800/year in savings from bicycling, enough to cost justify a $9000 bicycle.

We didn't quite get to cost-justify a $10k bike, but we came a lot closer than we could with, say, transit or hybrid cars. No, I haven't bought one yet, but I did buy a pair of cycling shoes/pedals to see if I could start getting a 10% boost over what I've had.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Say What?

SayAnythingBlog has been doing a few posts on how Sioux Manufacturing of North Dakota systematically cheapened Kevlar fabric intended for use in body armor for our soldiers. Now a few things catch my eye about this, starting with the fact that it wasn't just Sioux that ignored the problem for a long time; it was also "Unicor Federal Prison Industries" and the Army itself.

For starters, this suggests that some heads way up need to roll for cheapening body armor. When every QC organization misses a problem, that at least suggests somebody up high was working to insure that things "slide by."

Worse, what on earth are we doing trusting prisoners to make body armor? We start with a group of people who are in that factory because of their disregard for life and property, pay them a pittance for their work, and then we're going to assume they're going to do their jobs as well as free men paid a real wage? I can understand license plates and picking up road trash--the penalty for failure isn't high. But body armor?

Leave it to government to make sure that we have plenty of potentially lethal lapses in product quality.

Why the China earthquakes were so lethal

Look at this. Very closely. What do you see?

You see foot thick concrete, and no rebar to brace it. Thankfully, not everything there was built like this road apparently was, but the fact that anyone would consider laying down concrete without a bit of steel (in one of China's chief steelmaking regions) speaks volumes about how things were (sadly) done there.

And yes, rebar alone would not have prevented all of this tragedy--earthquake zone architecture is more sophisticated than that--but the lack of it in certain places speaks volumes about a commitment (or lack thereof) to basic building codes.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Book review

I just finished reading Frederick Bastiat's Harmonies of Political Economy, available from the Mises Institute (gratuitously!), and I'm close to convinced that this ought to be a, if not the, starting text for any student starting in economics.

What makes Bastiat unique? First of all, the man knew how to write, and it shows even in translation. The prose is gorgeous. More importantly, though, he derives his ideas not only from the typical historical/economic analysis ("let's imagine you are Robinson Crusoe"), but also from a profoundly moral and religious sense. Bastiat does not rest with a mechanical analysis of supply and demand, as so many would today, but begins with the concepts of liberty and God's grace to man--building a great portion of his work on the notion that one of the mainsprings of modern prosperity was the "gratuitous" nature of many of the forces that work for our prosperity.

In some ways, it's not even predominantly a treatise on economics per se, but rather a response to the socialism that was rampant in the late 1840s; Bastiat clearly demonstrates how the assumptions of socialism--the ones we all learned from such sources as Rousseau and his contemporaries--are at odds with liberty and morality.

The writing against socialism dates his work fairly clearly; the February revolution to which he refers was in 1848, and he died in 1850. As such, the last few chapters were written as he knew that he was going to die, and accordingly he emphasises even more the moral and religious nature of liberty; there are true and false religions, and religions whose laws are in accord with, and conflict with, natural law. Bastiat for the most part finds that natural law and Biblical law speak with one voice.

There are certain things about which I have reservations, but on the whole, this book is well worth the time needed to read it. It is at once a better primer on economics than Adam Smith or Say, and also a much needed connection between economics, morality, and the Scriptures.

Completely missing the point

Evidently, Paul McCartney had a luxury hybrid car FLOWN to him halfway around the world to avoid waiting for its delivery via ship, using something like 6000 gallons of jet fuel to do so. I don't think I can think of a better picture of a limousine liberal, with the possible exception of Al Gore and his private jets and 10000 s.f. mansion using 10x the energy of an ordinary home.

For reference, 6000 gallons of jet fuel (very similar to diesel) will power a 3/4 ton (diesel) Ford or Chevy pickup for about 120,000 miles. Also for reference, an unloaded 3/4 ton pickup also gets about the same mileage as McCartney's new "environmentally sound" hybrid.

You want an environmentally sound luxury car? Try this. Or a Super Duty Ford or 3/4 ton Chevy, or a Suburban or Tahoe. You can skip the gas guzzling hybrid Lexus, though.

They're on to me

Usually, each spring when I start riding my bike partway to work and park my pickup, gas prices respond quite nicely. Must be that big oil has caught on and has scheduled refinery repairs to coincide with my bicycle habit. :^)

Message to the world?

KD tagged me, I guess, to give a "message to the world" in 150 characters or less. OK.

1 Timothy 1:15.

A few characters to spare. Eat your heart out, "Silent Cal." I tag Mark and whoever else wants to post a comment.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A fun and safe way.... scare a bicyclist commuting to work is to give him a little bit of extra room while passing him on a road that has rumble strips in the middle as well as along the sides. He'll hear the rumble and think somebody is about to run him over, when in reality the driver is being extra polite.


(one other note; don't give bicyclists a lot of space at a red light; many of those lights will not detect a bicycle, but they will detect your car....pull up close, and we'll both get on our way quicker)

On another note, KingDavid has some terror of those burmese pythons coming north (or meeting him on his vacation), so here are some quick tips on how to safely dispatch them. Keep in mind that snakes can be deceptively quick, and generally offer only a small target profile. I'd recommend a shotgun. If you can't do that, a pistol loaded with shot shells might do the trick, and if you're in a "welcome criminals" (gun-free) zone, maybe a nice broadsword or battle axe would be a good choice. I would tend to prefer the longer edge of the broadsword, as it increases the chances of making nice snake steaks.

(steak is across the grain, filet is with the grain)

Oh, and don't forget your body armor while confronting these beasts.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Update on transit efficiency; best case scenarios

Numbers came out for both public transit and the school bus in the local paper, and so here's an opportunity to take a look at the "best case" for transit; here defined as cases where the "empty bus" syndrome can be minimized by housing buses in the suburbs (fewer empty outbound buses in the morning) and by forcing passengers to ride (school buses). Here are the numbers.

Southwest carries about 1 million passengers per year, spends about $8.5 million in their budget, and uses about 316,000 gallons of diesel fuel as well. Last year, they had about 700,000 passengers, but used about the same amount of fuel. So far, so good; about 0.3 to 0.45 gallons of fuel per passenger to go about 17 miles on the average--from Eden Prairie to Minneapolis downtown. This would indicate effective mileage of about 35-50 mpg, beating most passenger cars. Pretty good, right?

Not so fast. First of all, if your car were diesel, you'd get ~30% better mileage--35-50 mpg is not out of the picture to begin with. You also need to drive 1-3 miles the wrong way to get to the bus stop--you only make it about 15 miles to your destination, and this doesn't count energy use in transit offices.

And the cost? $8.50 to $10 per ride, and that doesn't even count a lot of the infrastructure needed. Again, it's about the same cost as driving, and it won't even get you to a lot of places you want to go.

Now the school buses; the district has about 8000 students, of which about 5000 ride the bus each day (my estimate). The buses burn 1100 gallons per day, and most students are no more than three miles from school. Hence, the "mileage" for each student is a modest 6/.22 ~27mpg. If every parent drove their children to school--assuming some families with multiple children--it would actually burn less fuel, would produce less pollution, and would greatly reduce road wear.

It would also save them a lot of time--the paper noted recently that their GOAL was to reduce commute time to less than an hour for the average student. For most kids, it would literally be quicker to walk to school.

When you look at it, transit isn't about the environment or reducing oil use. It's about control.

Animal kingdom jihad update

Evidently, the newest concern is burmese pythons released by former reptile afficionados. Since this is the South, here's my solution:

1 Burmese python, gutted, skinned, and deboned
Dry rub from Big Bob Gibson's
White sauce from Big Bob Gibson's

Start a low charcoal/hickory chip fire in your charcoal grill (you aren't a barbarian who grills with gas, are you?), and place dry rubbed snake filets on grill. Since snake is a lean meat, make sure that the hickory chips are well soaked to ensure moisture. Cook for ~30 minutes until meat is firm. Serve with white sauce. One snake may serve up to 100 people--this could be great for weddings!

You could substitute the mustard sauce or the habanero pepper sauce for white sauce if the beast is particularly old or gamy, but since everyone says everything tastes "just like chicken," I'd start with the white sauce.

Really funny

I was walking out of the grocery store last night after church, and an employee asked me if a Maserati sitting out in the parking lot was mine--I'm guessing because I was wearing a suit.

I smiled and had to admit that I keep my greatest treasures in this little gem. I don't think I could even afford the upkeep on the Maserati. Even if I could, I don't know that I would try.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Buy gas at SuperAmerica or Speedway?

You might want to rethink it. Their "reward" for an employee who chased off a man who was assaulting a female employee was to fire him.

Yup, you got that right. Man comes to the assistance of his colleague, preventing further assault (perhaps even rape or murder), and is rewarded by being fired. You can let SuperAmerica know your opinion on this here.

H/T True North.

Something I want to try..... I'm responding to $3.65/gallon gasoline by riding my bike. H/T Mitch Berg.

In his words: "It’s also fun to be able to drive up next to “Obama”-sticker-clad Priuses and yell “you earth-destroying gas-guzzler!”, and watch them wither with guilt."

I wanna try this.

Oh, and happy birthday to Israel! (sorry to any readers over there, as it'll be a day late)

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Unsafe at any speed!

No, not the Corvair, but rather Barack Hussein Obama, who admits to taking a 1970s era Ford Granada to well above 80mph--and then complains that it didn't handle well at that speed.

Memo to Barack; the speed limit was 55mph at the time, and most roads were built for a speed of 55-70mph. Yes, when you exceed the design speed of both your vehicle and the road you're driving it on, you will have some problems. Your mileage will also go down. However, the blame is to be assigned not to Ford, but rather to the nut behind the wheel.

Obama, a big advocate of government intervention in auto markets, also ought to consider why the Granada was built so lightly; Ford was trying to meet CAFE fuel efficiency standards. Maybe he could take a hint and figure out that Congress ought to leave the engineering to the SAE.

Yes, I'm dreaming here, but I've got to have hope.

Great predictions of environmentalists

When you read a report by prominent environmentalists about what evils are about to befall us because we're not doing as they say, you would do well to look at their track record. Thank you, Professor Williams.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Flexible spending accounts?

I don't know how many "requests for substantiation" of FSA claims I've gotten (really they're demands), but I do know that there is something odd when the administrator can't apparently figure out that "Minnesota Children's Clinic" or "Chaska Dental Clinic" might actually be selling eligible medical and dental care, not power tools, beer, or motorcycles.


Even more surreal; we reward the guys who come up with these bureaucratic nightmares by giving them big offices, prestigious titles, and large paychecks. I would have thought that a trip to Singapore for a caning would be more appropriate, but maybe that's just me.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Opportunist Jeremiah Wright

Evidently Mike Huckabee and Clarence Page agree that Senator Obama's former pastor may be actively trying to derail his campaign, because his success puts the lie to Wright's claims that pervasive white racism are holding the black man down.

So if Wright continues to torpedo his former parishioner's chances for the Presidency, I've got to ask another question; does Wright really believe what he's saying, or is he saying things simply because they play well among those in his church? If you look up his bio, he and his parents both pretty much lived the American dream, and his mother was actually the first black teacher in not one, but three, fairly prestigious Philadelphia schools.

Yes, it could be that his views are his (IMO misguided) attempt to have compassion on those who are less fortunate. I've got to admit, though, that I'm suspicious of his sincerity here.

Friday, May 02, 2008

More great environmental news

Actually, two pieces of great environmental news. First of all, now my family is cookin' with gas--avoiding the Carnot inefficiency of generating electricity, which is only about 30% efficient. It's awfully nice to be able to instantly reduce heat while cooking, too.

(but really, we were ONLY thinking of the environmental win, not the cooking....well no, that's not true at all)

Probably more significantly, the rate of breastfeeding among new mothers has hit a modern high at 77%. Why is this an environmental win?

Well, first of all, it eliminates most of the bottles (except for pumping), formula, and other accessories needed for formula feeding. Moreover, breastfeeding also bonds a mother closer to her baby, and I'd have to guess this reduces the chance she'll go back to work--reducing the impact of driving to work, daycare centers, work clothes, eating out, and more.

Plus, as a dad, I hope I can say this without getting into too much trouble; it's an awfully beautiful thing. As such, I would have to guess it might even save on things a mom spends on to keep her husband's attention. Another environmental win!

(if you're "in the family way" and want to pursue this, my wife and I highly recommend the work of the LaLeche League, and we highly discourage listening to the "schedulers")

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The boom-bust cycle

Take a look a this article from the Arizona Republic. Although written with real sympathy to those who now find themselves deep in debt, it leaves me wondering "what were these people thinking?" and "who failed to teach them about basic fiscal responsibility?" Since when is it a good idea for someone living in a mobile home to fill it with electronic gear?

Or maybe the point of many of our fiscal institutions, including the Fed, is to promote fiscal irresponsibility. As I watch the Fed lower rates, and the government hand out money, to induce debt-laden people to spend more, it's hard for me to deny that possibility out of hand. Fiscally irresponsible people are easier to control, after all.