Friday, June 30, 2006

King Ralph

Have you ever seen this movie? A Vegas lounge singer is made King of England. His first state affair is conducted mostly in a bar while throwing around darts. It's wildly successful.

This story made me think of it and laugh.


Saw Superman Returns last night with a couple friends. Too late, really, but it was a last minute thing before one goes off to see his dad, who seems to be near death. I liked the movie, the score to the original movies is reused, but hits you with more force than I recall from the movies before.

There is a reason that I have seen various "clever" movie reviewers alternatively title the movie "The Passion of the [Kryptonite, Superman, Kryptonian, and Kent]." The "I am sending you, my only son, to save the world" theme is repeated often enough, and I was more forcefully reminded of it twice... no... make that three times toward the end of the movie.

My roommate was skeptical at first about the intentional parallels. He really wanted a script written by Kevin Smith to be used, with the movie focusing on a titanic clash between Superman and Brainiac and anything that deviated from that vision was anathema to him. But we talked about it - Superman does seem to be a sort of Christ figure in many ways, if only because he represents so intrinsically what we believe to be good.

The similarities and dissimilarities are worth discussing, but I'll give y'all a chance to see the movie first. Don't want to spoil anything now.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

August 9

The all-important day to honor my entry into the world is fast approaching, and a website has just launched to give you a proper way to pay tribute.

Which is to say that stuff like this is pretty cool. The birthday thing is, mostly, a joke. It just gives me a good excuse to say "look at this cool Nevada merchandise." The idea of turning 28 while not only being single but very reminded of the fact by current events stinks - I haven't enjoyed a birthday in years for that very reason. That my hair is begining to go gray before I've been on a single date is not something many people can identify with. The upside is that at 28.5 I'll be halfway to retirement, as far as how long I've been alive. looking forward to (pension-supported) retirement at 57 isn't too bad of a deal. I had looked forward to retirement as a time to travel the country with my wife to take an RV to all the national parks, or something like that. I'll still do so even if I'm alone - hopefully by then I'll have been able to adjust to the idea.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


"If 200 years from now America will be filled with people who know and love the ideas of Jefferson and Madison -- but these people are overwhelmingly dark skinned -- will this be good or bad?

That's the question I asked Pat Buchanan when I debated with him about the content of his book, The Death of the West. He said it would be..."

I tend to give "conservatives" the benefit of the doubt. I assumed the answer would be that it would be a good thing, without hesitation or reserve. I was ashamed of my political affiliation when I saw his answer.

Monday, June 26, 2006


Confession: it could well be that part of why I go to Coram Deo is to play with Dawson's sons. I don't think I'd be much of a babysitter, mostly because I just want to play and am not as good at the responsiblity thing. I get to play the human jungle gym, act like King Kong, and wrestle with them. Now that his daughter has learned the use of her legs, she also seems more friendly, though I doubt I'll pick her up by the ankles and use her as a human shield. Noah and Luke seem well taught to protect Macy.

As they were subduing me the other evening, they decided it would be a good idea to start feeding me. Luke walked over to the fruit, grabbed a grape, and proceeded to put it in my mouth. Seeing that I liked the first one ("Is that good?" "Yes, thank you."), he did it again. And again. And again. Perhaps seeing my attention shifting and not to be outdone, Noah grabbed some watermelon and helped to feed me. At one point, I got a piece of cantelope, too.

They also regaled me with tales of their adventures at the rodeo. Noah saw a cow with very small horns, Luke saw a black horsey. Luke also made sure to mention several times that he screamed. This seemed important to him, and since I make a habit of yelling myself hoarse at football games, I can understand why. Back and forth they went, both trying to talk over the other, so I did my best to listen to one, then to the other, and not let either feel left out.

As Noah was later climbing on my head, and trying to push my nose back into my head, he told me about the wonders of chocolate milk. He described how they had milk in their fridge, and that was good to drink. They also have syrup, which you put in the milk and stir with a spoon to make chocolate milk. To him, it sounded almost like magic - "Guess what we can do!" I suppose in a way, it is.

Finally, as I was leaving, Noah asked if I was going bye-bye. Yes, I said. It's time for me to go. He then went straight to the front door, and stood with his back to it, arms stretched out to hold it back. "No. You can't go bye-bye." I slowly opened the door, and moved him out of the way. Once I made it outside, he leaned out the door and asked "You come back next week, right?"

How can I refuse?


Warren Buffett, the world's second-richest man valued at over $44 billion dollars, has announced his plans to give away about 85% of his wealth. The way he is doing it is interesting to me - very rational. The interview at the end of the article is even more interesting to me. That he is following through with a principle he mentioned 20 years ago is worth noting - that a very rich man should leave his children enough to do anything. He should not leave them enough to do nothing.


What if there were a way to cheaply produce protiens that, when added to rehydration solutions given to dehydrated children in Africa significantly reduced (by more than 20%) the duration of the diarrhea that "is the number-two infectious killer of children under the age of five (surpassed only by respiratory diseases), accounting for two million deaths a year. "

What if this cheap manufacturing was also eco-friendly, in that its primary components were CO2, water, and solar power?

Cheaply reproducing naturally occuring protiens (also found in breat milk, saliva, and tears) in an environmentally-friendly way to save children in deeper poverty than most of us can imagine is a good thing, right?

Not everyone thinks so.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Black Rock Desert

Originally uploaded by renowiggum.

It's a big, flat, unique place where one can feel as alone as is possible in the world. Had I not had a couple friends with me, I would have passed the night without having another human being within at least 5 miles of me. This is what it's like where the horizon stretches 20-30 miles (or more?) to the north, 15+ miles to the south, and 3-4 miles East and West.

I took lots of pictures, and was pretty happy with some of them. On a friend's advice, I started using Flickr to make some accessible to others. I still use MorgueFile for stock images for the world, but Flickr gives me a way to share more personal images of friends, family, and the things I do with my time.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Intuitive and Concrete Knowledge

There's a tremendous difference between knowing something will happen in an abstract way and getting concrete proof that it has happened. I always think that the former will prepare me for the latter. I'm always wrong.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Helping the Poor

Zimbabwe is seemingl on the verge of collapse. Inflation running that greater than 1,000% with unemployment near 80%, with the military used to prop up a seemingly inept dictator. Why do I not trust socialism? Because I don't trust the government any more than I trust anybody else - but there are far fewer checks on the government.

By evicting the white farmers who owned the land (and who knew how to use it), Zimbabwe ran out of town those people best equipped to use the land. As employers and a part of the community, they were a key part of Zimbabwe's growth in the mid 1990's. Poor harvests the past several years have been blamed on little rain and the Western sanctions targeted at President Mugabe's leadership. But note:

Last month, the United Nations distributed emergency food aid to an
estimated one-quarter of Zimbabwe's 12.5 million people. International aid
officials say many are surviving on one meal a day -- or less. Despite the best
rains in 20 years, the government predicts this year's grain harvest -- in a
country once known as the breadbasket of southern Africa -- will be half the
size of the 2001 harvest, when the eviction of white commercial farmers began.

If you want the poor people fed, let the farmers who know how to use the land use it. Don't seize it, give it to those who can't use it, and blame someone else.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Moment of Silence

I drove to the waterfall we once visited together. I had intended to spend several minutes in quiet contemplation on the rock where we had talked long enough for me to get quite a sunburn without even noticing it. The hordes of mosquitos surrounding me and causing various parts of my body to swell limited my time to snapping a few pictures of the roaring falls and scrambling back to my car.

At 12:59 I pulled off the road into the shade. I said a prayer for the new bride and groom, shed a tear or two for what might have been, and at 1:01 I got back on the road and drove home. The last girl I had been interested in who was willing to not just talk to me, but hang out and do things - just the two of us - was getting married. And I was driving the highways north of Truckee, alone.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Think of the color of traffic cones

A story I came up with on the spur of the moment. It made me chuckle. I repost it looking for a laugh. I'd welcome you trying to match my masterful wit. could be worse. You could be a hamster with all your fur dyed bright orange, and shaved like a poodle. And then, all the other hamsters would be like "Woah, look at the small orange poodle!" And you'd be like, "Dudes, come on; I'm totally a hamster. " And they'd be like "No way!" And you'd be like "Way!" And they'd be like "No way!" And you'd be like "Way!"
And after a while, you'd probably just give up and shave all your fur. And then they'd run, because I think hamsters are scared of Chihuahuas. Or at least, they should be. Any dog with an unnatural love for Mexican food ought to be scary.
I had a hamster once. His name was George, I carried him around in my shirt pocket, and no matter which way you placed him on my chest as I lay down, he'd always run toward my belly button.

On an unrelated note, travel arrangements have been made for my first work-related trip. I'm flying to Raleigh July 18-20. I've never flown further than Oregon before. Cross-country should be interesting.

200th Post

For this momentus milestone, I offer a life lesson.

I glanced out my window longingly toward the beautiful (if warm) day outside. I happened to see a spider, on a strand of web dangling just outside. There was a bit of a breeze, and he would sway and blow, and sometimes seem to be holding on for dear life. And yet, on something invisible to my eye, he held on with admirable tenacity, climbing higher each time the breeze ebbed.

I was amazed by the strength of the single strand of web, as I am used to considering such things weak and unreliable. I thought of the web like faith, supporting the spider, invisible, yet secure in what could have been a gale.

I looked up some information, and glanced outside again. My heart was lifted, as the spider had nearly reached the roof he was climbing towards, not more than an inch away! Then, when all hope seemed certain of being fufilled, the web broke, and the spider plummeted out of sight.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Mornings - Yuck

Just one of those mornings - one where it seems almost impossible to get out of bed, but you manage anyway. Typical stuff, highlighted by my running sound for a wedding this weekend. I'm rather not a fan of weddings, but I know the guy so I go through the emotional wringer as a personal favor. I should be glad that the wedding is later in the day - I think I'm going to go by Webber Falls in the morning/early afternoon so that I have a chance to do something enjoyable. There's another reason I want to go there, but that's personal.

But there's a reason I'm going to the Black Rock Desert next weekend. I need something to look forward to in order to make it through this one, though with my luck it'll rain, turning the playa into quicksand under my car.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Things you never needed to know

While doing my best to sound real smart in an e-mail, I wanted to look up the latin phrase for "Know Thyself." If I were a Matrix-nerd, I could from memory. As it is, I had to look here. One other that I really liked: Cave Canem. Jose and Susan need to put this sign on their door. I'm not sure how to make it plural, but I know Murphy qualifies. If I ever have a house and the phrase applies, I'll definitely use it for myself.


I officially made it! 1 year and 1 day I have now been with the State, and so I advance: no longer an Economist I, but an Economist II. I'm a regular, full-time employee. Not on probation, not on a trial basis. I expect thigns to go bad. The way the year has gone in other areas, I keep waiting for everything to collapse in others. But this, so far, is going well.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Black Rock

I'm going to be headed up to the Black Rock Desert on Thursday, June 22. I'll be up there for one night, and coming back Friday morning. The purpose of the trip is to enjoy the utterly black night sky, with an almost perfectly flat horizon. I'll be taking my dad's telescope, and my roommate's bringing his camera, and that's about it.

Mars and Saturn might be visible just after sunset, Jupiter will be up for much of the night, there will be almost no moon, and the Milky Way should be amazing. By 2 or 3 in the morning, the Andromeda galaxy should be visible in the scope. I'm also going to hunt (probably in vain) for a couple other galaxies and such.

I currently have one spare seat (the other in the back needs to be folded down for the telescope). I'd welcome anyone else that wants to join us - there will be no fires, and no (or very little) light, because the point is to enjoy the night sky. But I hear it's a good idea to go up with multiple vehicles, just in case. Should the weather not cooperate, the trip won't happen (clouds and wind being very poor companions to stargazing).

Let me know if you're interested. There are no facilities - no water, no toilets, no cell phone coverage. This is a no-impact area, so everything you bring in, you take out.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

For what it's worth

Do you ever get so worked up you don't want to calm down? I think I blew off most of my steam Sunday. Still bummed about everything, but not in a remodel-the-house-by-puching-holes-in-the-wall sort of way. I was pretty down, though. I went to the store later to do grocery shopping, and even browsed the electronics aisles looking for something to pique my interest (movies, games, or hardware are like a "comfort food" for me), but couldn't even get excited by that selection.

Life goes on, despite my wishing I could stomp my feet and demand that it dance according to my tune. That doesn't mean that it stops hurting. It doesn't even mean that the hurting grows weaker. It does mean that all I have in my control is my response to it.

I talk big about wanting to walk away from the Church, but I think that is my own attempts to somehow try to get God to say "uncle." "I mean it, I'm really leaving! You pushed me too far this time. See? See?"

But in the end, it passes, and I apologize again for being the small man trying to be big. I'm hurt, confused, and feel impotent to alter the flood I am caught up in, with only frightening and uncertain destinations in sight. Maybe it would be easier if I could just trust. I try - really I do. But an ephemeral trust has a hard time going toe-to-toe with a very tangible string of deeply personal disappointments. Perhaps if I were a better man that would not be the case. But I'm not.

Sunday, June 04, 2006


She said: I hoped [you hadn't been attending church] because of me.

I said (something to the effect of): It wasn't just because of that. I was tired, burnt out, and needed a break.

I lied. Rather, I disguised the truth because I didn't want her to feel guilty. It was 100% because of how things went down with her. I was tired of being rejected, burnt out because I put so much of myself into getting up the nerve to approach her only to have it all vanish into smoke, and needed a break from seeing her and having 15 years of uninterrupted rejections brought to mind. If things had happened differently, I'd still be happily attending.

But they didn't.

I just needed to get that out of my system. But since the only mercy I would ask for with any hope of an answer if I had any desire to talk to God would be that I never see, speak to, or hear of her again I'm in no hurry to say it directly, however petty I am about such things.

A bottle to ease the pain

I find just about every manner of alcoholic beverage foul-tasting and undesireable. But it took an effort of the will to not go by the store and purchase a sufficient quantity to drink until I lost the ability to move hand to mouth. I've never come within shouting distance of drinking enough to have a hangover, in part because it sounds most unpleasant. But I can't imagine anything could feel much worse than this. I keep telling myself I'm not going back anymore to what's been my church since just after my oldest memories. I hope by the end of the month to make good on that threat. Whether I then start going somewhere else is another question entirely.


[Warning: Semi-Geeky Economics Post Ahead]

The Phillip's Curve was proposed by AJ Phillips in a 1958 paper examining the relationship between inflation and the unemployment level. The basic premise is that as inflation increases, so does employment (through a money-supply stimulus effect). The idea was that the government can push the long-run unemployment rate down by continuously printing money and pushing it into the economy.

This held sway until Milton Freidman modified the theory to include expectations about inflation - that if people come to expect a higher inflation rate, the stimulus effects of the increased inflation are lost, making this a short-term, not a long-term solution.

There is a Simpsons episode where the local chapter of MENSA takes over Springfield. They decide that since people drive fastest through yellow lights, they can increase the speed of traffic (by roughly 30% if memory serves) by only having red and yellow lights. Sure enough, we cut to Lenny sitting at a red light. When it changes to yellow, he floors it saying "aaaahhh!!! make it, make it." Obviously, the plan worked... but it is but a short term solution - eventually the rushed feeling caused by the yellow would evaporate, and traffic would settle at about the same level that it was.