Friday, November 30, 2007

Local Businesses Doing Good

Harrah's Reno is hosting a free dinner for the homeless tonight.

I like pointing out the good things that are done in the community by others, too.

"Harrah’s Reno works in cooperation with several churches around the Reno-Sparks area to make sure no one goes hungry during the cold, winter months. Please attend if you can!"

The Colorado Rockies

In a great and barely-mentioned story, the Colorado Rockies players voted to give a full share of their bonus for making it to the World Series to the widow (pregnant, with 2 sons already) of a minor league coach who was struck in the head by a foul ball and killed in July. It's only (?) $200,000, but for one of the lowest-payroll teams in baseball to be generous with the money anyway is a great example.


Who are you? How do you want to be remembered? I would imagine we all want to be known as good people, but if people could remember just a couple things about you, what would you want them to be?

What one thing would you want people to remember you saying?
What one thing would you want them to remember you doing?
If your children could think just one thing about you, what would you want it to be?

It's questions like this that can give us a vision, a mission statement in life. But to be useful, it also needs to be practical. I'd love to be remembered as a perfect, selfless, holy ambassador of love to all the world. But to the extent that I can't achieve that, I'll put it off as something I will do when I have more money, time, power, etc.

So we need, perhaps, some more focused questions.

What's one thing you've done today that you want to be remembered for?
What's something you could do (but haven't) today that you want to be remembered for?

These aren't as broad, but they're two excellent quetions because they both encourage us in the thigns we are doing right, and challenge us to act in a way today that is in line with how we aspire to be.

Today my answers would be:

1) I prayed for a friend in need.
2) I want to spend less on myself in order to give generously to others.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Hollow Political Statements

"Deeply Troubled"

It just needs to be retired. It's a way of expressing concern without necessarily being for or against anything. It's a way of soundnig on top of a situation, without really saying anything about it.

If we want to truly be deeply troubled, the modern issues of slavery, poverty, starvation and genocide should be more than enough. Child abuse, murder, war, hatred, violence, and thousands of other things are of more note than something like this.

Taking down a Christmas Tree? Honestly, it hardly troubles me at all.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

NFL Network

Evidently the NFL is whining because they are demanding (1) that cable companies put the NFL Network on basic cable, and (2) that the NFL can charge a high permium to the cable companies to do it - comparable to a channel like CNN.

Why is this even an issue? The NFL decided to try and create more demand for their 5-year-old network by scheduling late-season games with the potential to be high-demand games on their own channel, to get consumers complaining about it.

This is one consumer who DOES NOT WANT the NFL Network on basic cable. It's a niche channel. Sure, it has 8 football games a year... but there are 32 teams playing 16 games - 256 matchups each year in the regular season. And the NFL itself makes it hard for many people to watch the games they want - substantially more than 8 - with their broadcast restrictions and exclusive agreement with DirecTV for NFL Sunday Ticket. To watch any game you want, you ahve to have the Sunday Ticket package... and you have to have DirecTV... which means you have to live in a place where you can GET DirecTV.

That the NFL would say one word about restricting access to 8 games (by not placing the NFL Network on BASIC Cable, as it is accessible through a seperate sports tier with most providers), while continuing the Sunday Ticket monopoly is hypocritical beyond belief. Through Sunday Night Football, Monday Night Football, and an average of 3 games per day on CBS and FOX, I have access to 85 games total during the regular season. That means that there are som 170 games I cannot watch without DirecTV. Over 20 times as many games as the non-basic-cable dsitribution of the NFL Network "blocks."

The NFL Network is a seasonal thing, not suited to basic cable. I don't care to watch it in February-August, and I CERTAINLY don't want to pay for it. NFL, feel free to get bent. Your argument should be laughed from the room whenever, and wherever you make it.


As it's that time of year, I've started listening to some Christmas music. My current favorite is Mercy Me's Christmas album, with their rendition of "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day" leading my list. You can get a listen at but my favorite part of the song are the lyrics. I just love the conclusion, and find it rather encouraging.

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Thier old familiar carols play
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought as now this day had come
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rung so long unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, goodwill to men."

Monday, November 26, 2007

Shameful Behavior

Have you heard of this? I can't think of what to call it except legalized theft. It's absolutely jaw-dropping.

The Lesson of Thanksgiving... that communal living leads to starvation, while private ownership leads to bounty. That's the premise of this article. The moral of an interesting look (and a story worth reading) at the Plymouth Pilgrims:

"When action is divorced from consequences, no one is happy with the ultimate outcome. If individuals can take from a common pot regardless of how much they put in it, each person has an incentive to be a free rider, to do as little as possible and take as much as possible because what one fails to take will be taken by someone else. Soon, the pot is empty and will not be refilled -- a bad situation even for the earlier takers."

Friday, November 23, 2007

'Tis the Season

Thanksgiving has gone. The Christmas season is, in my book, officially here. The other day, I was reading commentary on why the Christmas season seems to begin earlier each year. Obviously, it's a heavy shopping season, and stores want to open up consumers' wallets as soon as possible. But why do we buy into it? The author's conclusion was that Christmas, obviously enough, makes us happy. It reminds us of happy memories from our childhoods, and awakes in us a sense of happiness about the state of the world. We really do want peace on earth and good will towards men, carriage rides to grandmother's house in the snow, joy, happiness, and an attitude of giving and sharing. So when the season comes, we're excited by the ideals it encompasses.

And I suspect we want to agree with the song in the Muppet Christmas Carol, that:

It's in the singing of a street corner choir
It's going home and getting warm by the fire
In all the places you find love, it feels like Christmas...

It is a season of the heart
A special time of caring
The ways of love made clear
It is a season of the spirit
The message if we hear it
Is "Make it last all year."

And yet, we don't. As a rule, we don't make it last all year. Come December 26, we are settling back into our routines, by January 2 we're out of the holiday mindset, and by January 26 all we can think about is the debt we accrued over the holidays. It's as though we binge on giving during Christmas, and starve ourself of that attitude the rest of the year. If we did that with food, it would be called an eating disorder. Is it any less true to say that we have a giving disorder?

This disorder is serious, because it reflects the fact that, without a special occasion to remind us otherwise, we live for ourselves. For our own benefit, our own sustenance, our own ends. To assuage our guilt, we overcompensate at Christmas and go on a spree that leaves us hungover come December 26.

If we want to be giving people, servants of all, who regard others as better than ourselves, there's a couple of tests we have to pass:
1) It has to be true of our whole lives, not one month out of the year.
2) It has to extend beyond our friends and acquaintances.

Jesus told us "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men."

This season, do you have enemies, or people that hate you? People that are just plain disagreeable? Do good to them. Love them. Give to them. Even if they are ungrateful. Because that's what God's like - so doing this is one way to be like God.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

From watching The Simpsons at Lunch:

I love musical parody. And having seen it at l unch, this is now stuck in my head. At least it's funny. Sung to the tune of "In the Jungle" as Principal Seymour Skinner is trying to win back the affections of Edna Krabappel with the help of three students, who sing the chorus:


Oh Edna K, oh Edna K
Oh Edna K, oh Edna K
Oh Edna K, oh Edna K
Oh Edna K, oh Edna K


Mrs. Krabappel, a sad principal
Is desperate and needy
If you come home, I won't die alone
And that's what I'd prefer


Oh pleeeeeeeease settle for Seymour
Oh pleeeeeeeease come back to this dor-k ("k" tacked on at end so as not to disrupt the rhyme)

Leaf Raking Service Project

I hauled my camera along (with surprising difficulty) as we went out to rake leaves for houses in South Reno for our first second-annual service project (the first "official" servant evangelism project we had was the leaf raking in 2006). My favorite pictures are online at Flickr. But for those who don't want to look that far:

Celebrating a Job Well Done


Monday, November 19, 2007

Energy Policy Fallacies

Reducing gas/oil consumption domestically won't "reduce our dependance on foriegn oil." Because Middle East oil is easier to extract for geological reasons, and because if the oil price falls because of decreased demand it will be the expensive (North American) sources of oil that go offline before teh cheap (OPEC) sources.

There's talk of trying to get oil out of the Tar Sands in Alberta, Canada. But such a process is only economical when the price of oil is high, because it is a difficult and expensive proposition. If the price of oil falls, it is these sources of oil that will shut down, not the inexpensive oil fields of the Middle East.

So, curiously, dropping the price of oil increases our dependence on foriegn oil (if dependence = % of oil imported from country/region X). Even if we mandate that we can only use American sources of oil, we don't reduce the $ flowing to the "bad" countries, because it just means that people that would have bought from us will buy from them instead.

The Joy of Political Competition

"House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, made "pay as you go" budgeting a first order of business upon assuming the helm of the House, in part to protect 30 newly elected House Democrats who captured seats previously held by Republicans.

Those budget limits are now starting to bite. Democrats are scouring the tax code to find loopholes to close and revenue to raise for everything from expanding access to health care to shielding upper-middle-income families from the alternative minimum tax."

Competition forced the Democrats to toe the line of fiscal responsibility, and now they are looking for ways to close loopholes and cut spending in order to pay for their desired projects.

Responsible budgeting. Whouldathunkit? The shame is that the Republicans are the ones fighting spending cuts.

Correlation and Causation

I've said it here before. I'm sure I'll say it again. But for the edification of those who read this, repeat after me:

"Correlation is not Causation"

I first heard about this report on the radio this morning. As I read through the news, I ran across it again in print:

"American Youth TV Habits Lower Job Prospects, Community Service"

"Nov. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Americans aged 15 to 24 on average spend two hours a day watching TV and only seven minutes on leisure reading, reducing their chances for high-paying jobs and community service, according to a report by the National Endowment for the Arts."

"Sixty-one percent of those holding managerial or professional jobs were proficient readers, said the report, citing a 2003 U.S. Education Department survey. Some 70 percent of the people rated as poor readers felt their lack of skills had limited their job opportunities."

"The report concluded that 57 percent of those who had proficient reading skills had performed volunteer work, compared with 18 percent of the people with poor skills."

Reading less does not CAUSE people to volunteer less, or CAUSE them to not get high-paying jobs. Reading little does not, by itself, CAUSE someone to be a "poor reader." But we tend to mix up correlation (two things tending to move in the same direction, like volunteering and reading) and causation (one thing causing another thing to happen, like the gas tank going empty because you are driving). But by mixing up the two, a more interesting - though not actually valid - premise can be implied (or even stated outright), like "Not reading leads to bad citizens!"

The truth is that it's much more likely that something else causes both. The TV habits are a symptom not the problem. And as long as we only treat the symptoms, the problem only festers.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Surfing, Snowboarding, and the Fabric of the Universe

Evidently, a guy that likes to spend his summers surfing in Hawaii and his winters snowboarding around Lake Tahoe has a proposal that cuts to teh very core of theoretical physics on the nature of the universe.

The most popular theory - string theory - says that the Universe has 8 or 9 dimensions, most of which are too small to see. That the smallest bits of matter are strings that vibrate in these 8 or 9 dimensions, and everything from gravity to atoms to apple pie follows from there.

The proposed theory relates particles in a different way, describing them through a geometric shape that computers had been chugging away for YEARS to calculate all the parts of.

Any time you're mentioned in the same breath as Einstein when talking theoretical physics, you're in elite company. The fact that he spends some of his time in my neck of the woods - that just seems cool.

Read More About It.

Equal Time

I spend a lot of time in here harping on the problems I see with the Republican leadership. This is because I am a Republican, so I'm a little harder on those who claim to represent me than on those I don't expect to. But this was too good to pass up.

Hillary Clinton was to be in Fernley today giving a talk on renewable energy at an elementary school. She had to alter her plans, though, to fly back to Washington D.C. to vote on a farm bill. She will be back to give her renewable energy talk later in the day, though, at 6:30.

I don't have a problem with elected officials changing their schedules to do their job (vote on legislation). I think that there's far too much time spent away from Washington campaigning as it is. But what I find delicious is the fact that she's flying across the country - twice - and then giving a talk (presumably) about the dangers of oil consumption, global warming, and the benefits of finding renewable energy.

Do you have any idea how much jet fuel is consumed - and how much carbon dioxide is released - to fly some 5,000 miles? Jet Fuel is, after all, a very NON-renewable energy source. That she is flying back across the country to give her speech just a little later than originally planned... that's just beautiful.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Have you Seen The New "The Pink Panther"?

If not, this may not be as funny. But the site is, well, unabashedly cute.

moar funny pictures

Is it strange?

I support the Writers' Guild of America strike. In our system of faceless wage negotiation, a strike is the way an otherwise faceless crowd of employees can ask for what they think they deserve. It might seem strange to favor a union activity, given my conservative leanings. But in some circumstances, I believe unions serve a productive purpose, and this is one of those circumstances.

It's the writing that makes my favorite TV shows - 30 Rock, The Simpsons, The Office, Chuck, Heroes, and My Name is Earl - what they are. Given that their up-front wage does not take into account the value of the product when it is released on DVD or the Internet, I think their demand for compensation when the product is distributed through these means is fair.

I like the market, in part, because I can vote with my pocketbook. In this case, I vote to not buy TV DVDs, and I vote with my TV-(and advertising)-watching-eyes by not watching the reruns or stop-gap shows that will run in place of the shows I will miss.

The Office airs its final new episode this season tonight because of the strike. Doubtless, reruns or reality shows will take its place. I like neither. But it's for the best - I've been needing to hit the gym more anyway.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hypocrisy in Action

According to President Bush, Congress is spending "like a teenager with a credit card." He'd have more credibility with me if not for the fact that during his first 6 years in office, a Republican Congress behaved the same way without a single veto for budgetary reasons. One only need look at the multi-trillion Medicare drug expansion for proof of that hypocrisy.

America is, for better or worse, better at fiscal restraint with a divided leadership between the President and Congress. It keeps them fighting each other to winnow down the budget, instead of engaging in attempts to buy votes with the taxpayer's money.


In the past week, I had two people say the same thing - roughly - for unrelated reasons. One said "you're one of those guys whose intelligence intimidates me." Another commented on my blog that "I try not to let it (my intelligence) intimidate me..."

I've accepted that I might be smarter than the average bear, though I don't really think of myself that way (usually). I've had people point it out to me, and I just sort of shrug it off. But twice in the past week, the specter of INTIMIDATION has come into play.

It's only rarely that I hope to intimidate someone with the awesome power of my mind. And usually, it's while I'm discussing some element of statistical analysis as it relates to sports, and I'm tired of dealing with someone who's obstinate and refuses to consider the carefully compiled facts. It's a demonstration of boredom, but not much more than that.

I try not to be that way in general - and in the first instance in particular what brought the comment about was the wholly innocuous demonstration of the sort of things I write about for work (Just about all of the "Publications" here are mine

My roommate assured me that he doesn't find me intimidating. I hope you don't either. When I'm looking at a difficult subject like whether war is justifiable, I'm generally asking honestly. I rarely claim to have the answers, and should you comment and I come back with more questions it's only because I like to keep probing until I think the issue has been well-explored. Or because I'm bored. Or because I forget about it. But it's not meant to be intimidating, and I don't mean to say that I'm right and you're wrong. I ask to probe deeper, not to dismiss your thoughts.

Because behind the intimidating intellect is a normal guy with a tendency to be distracted by shiny things.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Happy Memories

At least, they are if/when the video plays...

Love and Hate

I spent a good hour reading my Martin Luther King, Jr. book last night. One of the most inspirational passages was something like this:

"I have seen hate on many faces. I have seen it on the sheriffs, on the Klansmen, on the white southerners, and on the faces of church leaders. I have seen too much hate in my life. And I have seen that hate is a burden I don't want to bear. I love my brother, because the burden of hate is too great."

Talk Radio - Why I can't listen

It's been a while since I've left the dominant talk radio station on in the car while I'm driving - at least, during the "talk" shows instead of the "news" shows. I occasionally turn it on, trying to time it so I can catch the traffic updates, without hearing too much of the "talk."

There was a time when I enjoyed it. But then I started looking more closely at the arguments being made. And I would get frustrated. I decided that life is too short to waste time being angry at the radio, so I turned it off.

The last couple of days have reminded me why I leave it off. In the short snippets I hear before they do the traffic update, I have been flabbergasted by what I hear.

Statements like "the government doesn't do ANYTHING to get those gas taxes - all they see is a big pot of gold." Really? Because I was under the impression that several hundred million dollars collected thusly were going into a freeway bypass to make traffic between Reno and Carson City safer and faster.

99% of everything said about illegal immigrants astounds me. So much is made of the "illegal" part, neglecting that it is, I believe, a civil offense. So until I hear him complaining about people that are let out of traffic tickets without full punishment, the "you can't make a wrong right just by passing a law" argument holds zero water for me. The immigration issue is maybe 10% worth discussing and 90% xenophobia and preying on people's fears. It's nearly racist, and it makes me sick to me stomach that we toletate such blowhards.

That's all. I just had to vent. And I need to remember - talk show hosts are people too, worthy of God's love and my own.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Lost in Translation?

Someone help me. Why does "word of God" = "Bible" or "Scriptures"?

I've always heard it that way, and taken it as assumed. But I'm taking another look at that assumption. I'm not saying the Bible is not the words of God. But I'm wondering if "the word of God" - that which is living, active, and residing inside us, and presumably is (ho logos theou) - can be substituted for "Scriptures" as we do today.

Are they interchangable? Why or why not? Fire away.