Monday, April 30, 2007

Egocentric Aside

I haven't updated who visits my blog in a while. So I present you with the following map, for all visits since I began tracking them.

Blue - 2 visits or more.
Green - 1 visit only.
White - As yet unconverted.

In further news, my cousin Ken continues to lead the referrals to my web site, whether because much of my family uses his site to keep tabs on me, or because he is unusually obsessed with my life. Direct links, through bookmarks or typing in the URL are in second place, with Dawson's blog in third, and my cousin Steve making a run at 4th.

Traffic stayed consistent throughout the month. Ken posting a link on his blog to my blog concerning Knut the Polar Bear has had no appreciable effect on traffic yet, but it may prove to be a great boon if it drives scores of devoted readers here.

Thursday, April 26, 2007


I went to watch the softball team affiliated with our church last night. They were stuck with the late game, which ran from 8:50 to about 9:40 (and that was ended early!). It's not precisely a "church softball team," as (1) I recognized no more than half the players, and (2) it's not in the church softball league (by design). But it's run as a way for people in the church to reach out to others, and get involved with non-Christians.

There were precisely two "fans" in attendance. A co-worker of one of the players, and me. She stood by the dugout talking to her friend when she (the player) was not on the field, and I sat quietly on the bleachers, occasionally clapping. Hardly a boisterous fan base.

Fortunately, the team didn't need our support much. They cruised to a 16-0 lead in the first, expanded it to 20-0 in the second, and won on the 20-run-lead mercy rule that kicks in in the third inning (as the "home" team, they didn't need to bat in the third after allowing only 1 base hit).

I was impressed that, as bad as they were, the other team appeared to be having fun despite the blowout. The umpire was a little generous on the calls in their favor, and admitted as much. And they stayed around to play by themselves when the game was up. In a world where sports are taken so seriously, it's nice to see some people that are only there to have fun - and for whom that is more than a nice platitude.

Today's tip: enjoy the ride. If life's all about success and winning and beating everyone else, you're going to feel like crap when you fail. But if you allow yourself time to focus on the other things, life's a lot more pleasant.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Fun with Google

There are a million itterations of the "Use Google Maps to get directions from New York, NY to Paris, France" amusement on the internet.

I reckoned that this mechanism could be extended, and thus I have directions from my apartment complex to the Berlin Zoo, so I can go see Knut the Polar Bear.

The news of most lasting significance today...

May be this.

Gas Prices

I ran across this map of gas prices, and thought it was amazingly cool. That I find such things cool probably gives you great insight into my personality.


Today is World Malaria Day. It is also Administrative Professionals' Day. I'm sure that means nothing to you, nor does it to me. Yet I felt compelled to mention it. Go figure.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Gun Control

I'm not a huge fan of it, in that I don't think that the sale of guns to private citizens in the U.S. should be outlawed. I'm less worried about regulation of high-powered guns - but even then I don't think a complete ban is proper.

I wouldn't bother linking this article if I hadn't independently read the condemnation of America's "gun culture" in the wake of the Virginia Tech murders. But it seems a fitting rebuttal.

Premise: VT shootings happened because of America's lax gun controls
Rebuttal: Shootings and murders every bit as heinous happen in countries with much stricter limits.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Roles of Children

Children should:

* Laugh
* Play
* Learn
* Grow old, though not up.

Children should not:

* Be raped
* Be conscripted for military service
* Be sold as slaves, both sexual and otherwise
* And be driven en masse from their homes because of their race.

That is but one reason why you should care what happens in Darfur.

More fun facts!

Did you know there is a new book by J.R.R. Tolkien on the shelves right now? My roommate got it a couple days ago. It's not notes, like the Unfinished Tales. This has been polished to a real story by Christopher Tolkien.

The Children of Hurin is its name, and this is a great blurb about it.

Though I don't know the details

This is a story worth reading.

In other news...

Governor Gibbons has proposed cutting $15 million for a renovation on a UNLV building because there was no matching private funding. The chancellor for the higher education system is upset, and swears that he will get the money back somehow.

I can't help but think that the cut is, at least in part, because of the chancellor coming right out very early on and saying that absolutely everything in their budget was completely essential. He tried to make a preemptive strike to keep his budget. But the Governor can throw his weight around, too.

Politics is often a clash of egos, and this has the makings of a Clash of the Titans.


I finally found an article that explains (at least, in a photograph) one thing I saw when I went to Washington D.C. last year.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sometimes you just need a break.

I tried a blog on the thoughts I had walking home from the tire store in the rain, wind, and snow. Then I tried one commenting on the Virginia Tech shootings. But neither seemed right. So instead, I give you this:

The Shire, of Oregon (As seen on another cousin's blog).

More fun than watching paint dry? You decide.


And you thought that human babies teething was bad enough.

Because sometimes, you just need to smile.

Monday, April 16, 2007

An interesting number

Evidently, Nevada ranks a solid and definite last-place in terms of the percentage of the population that volunteers time in some way, at 17.5%. Our neighbors to the East rank first, with just under 46%. It is likely that Nevada's number is inflated slightly by the resident Mormon population.

There could be some other interesting trends, but I want to pick over the full report before I leap to any conclusions.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Analysis of economic policy

This was a very interesting post. The thought of a postmodern take on economics (we define the reality, you just study it) is one of the scariest glimpses of the Bush Administration I have had yet. But it could explain why the Administration is so willing to couple tax cuts with a growth in spending financed by defecits.

Personal aside: I like tax cuts. I also think that military action in Iraq was, and still is, justified. But I don't believe the two should go together. If increased defense spending is needed, then raise the funds or cut the budget elsewhere to pay for it. Our future obligations in Social Security and Medicare are high enough without adding over $200B + to it each year.

And no, to every tax-cutter out there: No. Tax cuts don't pay for themselves. Remember: correlation is not causation. I like tax cutting because I believe the government needs to tighten its belt. I don't believe in defecit-financed tax cuts, and I REALLY don't believe in cutting taxes while increasing spending.

Advance Planning

Time for a lesson in practical application.

I ran across an article in the New York Times about how churches deal with convicted/released/registered sex offenders in their congregations. I brought it to the attention of a couple of our pastors, and after talking about it with Dawson, it was decided that I should come up with a plan ahead of time for what the church should do if a registered sex offender wants to attend the church (to then be brought to and discussed, probably at length, by the elder board).

It is a very practical concern, because on the one hand, you have a person who has sinned and needs Jesus like everybody else. On the other hand, you have concern for the safety of the women and children in the church. What sort of precedents are there? How do we present the full grace of God, and yet not allow wolves a chance at attacking the sheep?

Such people are just as human as you or I. All have sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God. And these people are much more likely than most to be rejected by their communities, shunned by everyone. Lepers, with whom careless contact could have disastarous results. These are people who are probably more aware of some of their faults than many people who sit smiling in churches. And so people for whom the hand of fellowship would mean so much.

But we are also charged with care for the flock, and the thought that, for example, a convicted rapist could come to our church, offer an unsuspecting girl a ride home, and take advantage of her... that's a pretty terrible thought, and but one possible scenario we want to prevent.

How in the world do we find the right balance of grace and safety? I guess I had better start figuring that out.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Darfur Awareness, Google-Style

You say you feel ill-informed on the ongoing conflict in Darfur? Have no fear! Google is here to help. If you have Google Earth, you can take a peek at the Darfur region of Eastern Sudan and see in high-resolution satellite photos what has been happening there.

You can also read this news story, or this news story, or this news story and see a photo of the service. I was personally shocked, despite a nebulous understanding of the topic.. My first thought was "Wow. That's a lot of red." You can also read more about it here.

Am I big on asking people to do things? Not as a general rule. But I would ask that you take a look, and if it moves you, tell someone else. This is a chance to use a tool that most people use to examine their own houses to see what is happening and has been happening to other people halfway around the world. Blog about it if you are so inclined, and pass the word on to others.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Marriage Seminars

I am amused that in a blurb int he local paper mentioning the "Successful Marriage Seminar" my church is putting together, the headline starts with "Faith-based..." (the article, however, did result in at least one person visiting the church web site, which is cool).

I hope it proves useful for those who attend. I don't plan on it, despite Dawson's best efforts to sell a marriage seminar to singles, too. I'd have honestly much preferred it if it had been sold as a marriage seminar, but that singles are welcome to visit if they like. Not "you should come too because it will offer you valuable tools for when you do get married," but "you might be interested and if you are, you're welcome to come." Because the rule for "retreats" applies here, too. If people don't get something practical they can implement right away, they probably won't remember a thing. I've heard enough about marriage to last me a lifetime. Until I have the chance to realize that all the facts in the world don't add up to an ounce of experience, and have the chance to learn by doing, this is all just noise in my ears - and noise that tends to get me depressed, to boot.

Like the movie Happy Feet, there is a lot of potential in something like this. But if it tries to be too many things at once, it will end up a grey, muddled mess. With the divergent views of the church and the world with regard to marriage, there's just one more dimension in which a given seminar must decide what it wants to be and who it wants to address.

I'll show up early to help with the set-up, and I'll lend a hand if it is needed to help put the seminar on, but there are things I recuse myself from for my own mental health, and this is as close to the center of those things as I think the church will ever go (If we hold a young adults matchmaking/date night, I'll stand corrected and flee screaming into the night). I'll just retire to my car and listen to the Lord of the Rings audiobook while I lie back and rest.

So I support the idea both ideally and practically, and I'll back that up by helping as best I can. But it also ain't for me.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Painfully Cute

I nearly let out an audible "Awwwwww" at these pictures.

Bears are cute.
Babies are cute.
Polar Bears are cute.
So polar bear babies must be simply adorable.

So why would anyone want to kill it?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A question

Global warming is happening. But I'm not talking about our globe - I'm talking about Mars.

A couple of thoughts:
1) Mars has heated up measurably over the past 30 yers
2) Mars is farther away from the sun than Earth (50% further), meaning any warming effect due to solar radiation should be much weaker.
3) Mars is smaller than Earth (treating it as a disk, it presents about 28% of the profile the Earth would to the sun at the same distance), giving it less surface area to catch and hold the warming effect.

If Mars is heating up because of demonstrable, purely natural causes... could it be the Earth is, too? I don't want to quash debate on global warming, but I want to see it actually take place. I saw headlines galore when the U.S. supreme Court decided that the EPA had to regulate greenhouse gasses because of climate change theories. I had to stumble across one that said that another planet was experiencing the same thing.

Edit: Another, more mainstream news source. Quote to note: "The warming is similar to what the Earth has experienced in the last 100 years."

Tuesday Night

We were sitting around, waiting for guys to show up to our Tuesday Night Group (so we could... continue sitting around). We were watching TV. A commercial came on, and after the following commercial, the same commercial came on again.

Josh said "Careful! They've changed something!"

It was pretty amusing. I pride myself on my knowledge of not-too-arcane pop culture, but it took me a moment to catch it.

Kudos to you, Josh.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Economist's Advice of the Day

Remember this phrase:

"Correlation is not Causation."

Just because two things appear to be related (ie, they are "correlated"), doesn't mean they are, or aren't. This is ESPECIALLY true of very short timeframes. Someone should have to demonstrate (not just speculate) how A causes B, not just show that they moved in the same direction.

I have - far, far too often - heard the argument on conservative talk shows that the Bush tax cuts brought about the last few years of economic growth. It is perfectly true that they are correlated. But the causation is purely speculative. In fact, a much better answer is that the 2001 recession (1) lowered interest rates, as financiers struggles to attract spending, which (2) led to a boom in revolving credit (credit cards) and asset-backed credit (mortgages). This (3) fueled a run-up in home prices, especially in the West, which spurred both new home construction, and home-refinance spending, both of which (4) reduced unemployment and provided further economic stimulus. In reality, the economy is a very big, unimaginably complex thing, and those cuts were comparatively tiny. And the resulting debt will a much worse negative than the cuts were a short-term positive.

I like tax cuts because I like to control my own money and I don't trust the government with it any more than I have to, but just because they happened in 2003 and the economy started recovering in 2003 doesn't mean that the one caused the other. The above phrase also has an associated logical fallacy: post hoc ergo propter hoc, which says that just because A comes before B doesn't mean that A caused B.