Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Good Christmas Eats

Christmas isn't festive unless you eat some dang good food. Here I am with some North Carolina sourwood honey (dang good) and two goat cheese logs (even dang gooder). I got the goat cheese at the Raleigh Farmers Market where I get my eggs (In the Red Farm). One was rosemary garlic, the other was peppercorn. Best cheese with crackers you'll ever eat, hands down!

My other feat was making a tiramisu for Taliatha's birthday (okay, she ended up helping me since she wanted to do it together, but I will still take the credit). We used mascarpone cheese instead of vanilla pudding like some recipes call for and it was well worth the $4. We substituted Pero for the coffee. SO GOOD--and I'm not even a great cook. You can probably tell that we finally got a digital camera. (Holmeses tend to lag on adoption of new technology. We didn't have a touch tone phone until I was in 10th grade--that's 1994. I think we were the last family in Provo to make the switch to color television.) Anyway, it looks like Mallory enjoyed all of the Christmas eats too! What were your favorite Christmas eats?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Mitt Romney's "Faith in America" Speech

Last Thursday Chenae and I had a chance to attend Mitt Romney’s speech, “Faith in America”, at the George Bush Library in College Station, TX. We felt extremely lucky to be able to get tickets to the speech since the auditorium at the Bush Library only seats about 300 people. We got great seats, 5th row right in the middle.

It was interesting to watch the media circus around the event. We even got to see the one lone anti-mormon protestor almost get in a fight with a FOX camera man for trying to stick his sign behind a reporter during a live report. Both before and after the speech we got to talk to a number of “important” individuals such as Glen Beck, Dr. Richard Land (a Southern Baptist Convention big whig), a number of invited pastors, Carl Cameron (Fox News political correspondent), Jonathan Martin ( blogger), and Spencer Zwick (Romney’s National Finance Manager). Everyone was very friendly and willing to talk about their reaction to the speech.

We talked to Spencer Zwick before the speech and asked him if he had read it already. He told us that he had and that he thought it was going to go over very well. He also told us that usually before a big speech or debate that Romney gets a little anxious, but that we was surprisingly relaxed as they flew down to Texas. Spencer asked him how he could be so laid back on the eve of such an important event and Romney told him that although he didn’t know if giving this speech would be good or bad politically but that he felt personally that it was the right thing to do. He said that once the decision was made to give the speech he had felt very peaceful regardless of the outcome.

I thoroughly enjoyed the speech itself. First off, it was a historical moment, regardless of political outcomes, and I’m really grateful to have had the opportunity to be there. Although Romney is not a pound on the pulpit, emotional speaker, which at times leads some to label him as plastic, he’s a very powerful speaker in person. His delivery was articulate, passionate and sincere. I loved the focus on the religious heritage of our country and quotes from Samuel Adams, John Adams, and Abraham Lincoln. It’s a moving speech that combines and unifies a variety of important themes pertaining to religion, freedom, and politics. I know there are those that take issue with Romney on a variety of issues but I came away from last Thursday’s speech with a strong impression that Romney would make a great president if given the opportunity.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Mr. Sub Commercial

This great commercial was brought to my attention by Kirk.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Free Range Eggs

I bought my first dozen free range eggs at the Raleigh farmer's market. It was fun to buy a dozen eggs straight from the farmers who raised the chickens--and they definitely tasted better than the grocery store eggs. They were brown too!

After reading about how most of our meat and eggs are raised in confinement animal feeding operations (CAFOs) I've started to think about my food choices a lot more. I'm not a PETA member--I do think that animals are there for our use and benefit--but there should be limits to cruelty and CAFOs probably go too far. If you want to be persuaded just look up a pig factory on Youtube. I couldn't watch an entire clip because it just made me feel ill. The sows are kept in gestation pens measuring 2x7 feet for most of their adult lives according to the Wikipedia article on CAFOs (too lazy to link--just look up CAFO).

Of course there is a trade-off. The free range eggs cost about three times what the store eggs cost. We spend a much smaller percentage of our incomes on food than our grandparents did. We have more choice in our foods. But what about the costs that are externalized by this process? What have we done to our animals, soil, water systems, and rural communities? What are the costs to our health? Subsidized corn and soybean production have created an abundance of cheap, processed food that most certainly contribute to the obesity epidemic in our country.

For me this issue has always been out of sight, out of mind. For as much as I've followed environmental issues this one just slipped past me. Now that I am more aware, where do I go from here? My budget doesn't have space to just replace all meat and eggs with locally and humanely grown products. For now my plan of action is to try and reduce the factory-farmed meat and eggs in my diet and replace it with a lesser amount of products that I feel good about. I'll make up the caloric shortfall with more grains, fruits and vegetables--fresh produce isn't cheap either though. Your thoughts . . .

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Utah Vouchers Referendum, Yea or Nay?

So what do you Utahns think about the impending voucher referendum? Yea or nay? I think I would be a yea. Please read this persuasive post by Megan McArdle over at Assymetrical Information. She does an excellent job refuting the major anti-voucher arguments. Here's her rebuttal to a common argument I've heard against the Utah voucher bill.

6) There aren't enough private schools. Right. Do you realize that in 1995, not a single iPod had been manufactured? That must mean that the iPod I am currently holding in my hand doesn't actually exist! I'm living a lie . . ."

The fact that there are not now enough private schools to educate kids doesn't mean that there won't be, if we offer to pay private schools to educate kids.

This sort of goes back to my last post on government regulations messing up agriculture. Why are we so afraid of letting people choose something different with their tax dollars? Whose interests are we looking out for? Who will be hurt if 5 or 10 percent more of the kids in Utah choose a private education? I know this is a complex issue and I still need to read through the comments of her readers because I'm sure they contain some good counter-arguments, but in general I prefer to give people more choices than not.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Agriculture in "The Home of the Free"

I have been studying sustainable agriculture fairly intensely the last several months. If you know the way most of the food you eat is produced, you can quickly see how unsustainable and undesirable it can be. I don't have time to go into detail, but the way most of our animals are raised in this country is unsanitary, inhumane and an environmental catastrophe. I'm not an environmentalist, but I do believe in stewardship--and the way we grow a lot of the food in our country is not good stewardship.

The irony of all this is that I'm working on a PhD in plant biology that has prepared me to go work for the ag-biotech companies like Monsanto and Syngenta. These companies are huge cogs in the gears of conventional ag. I'm probably not going to go work for those guys--but I still haven't figured out what I'm going to do instead, although I have LOTS of ideas.

Okay, now to the point of this post. I just finished reading this article by Joel Salatin. Joel is a sustainable ag farmer in Virginia and a real luminary in the movement. I love his books and his philosophy on farming and food. In the article he discusses how government regulations have interefered with just about every step in his development of a profitable and sustainable farm. He can't sell his neighbors farm products at his farm because that would make him a store--which means he needs restrooms, handicapped access, etc. The blame for these idiotic regulations that prevent entrepreneurs from developing alternatives to conventional ag can't be assigned to Democrats or Republicans. The whole system stinks. It makes me want to go out and vote for Ron Paul. I'm tired of the government "protecting" us from our own creativity and ingenuity. The latest regulation that will "protect" everybody is the National Animal Identification System that the USDA is trying to put in place. Essentially, it mandates that farmers label every farm animal in the United States--oh, but if you are a big producer it's easy because your animals are born, raised and slaughtered at one location so you don't have to label every animal. Also, you have to register your farm in a national database and report any movement of an animal off the farm within 24 hours. This is just one more regulation that could cripple small farmers. Anyway, there are lots of "stop the NAIS" websites out there if you want to learn more.

What can you do? We really need to think about where we buy our food and what our food dollars are supporting. We should consider buying our produce through local farmers markets or CSA's and our meat and eggs from local producers. What we don't need are more regulations or new laws--although phasing-out farm subsidies would be a good start. We need to vote with our dollars. That's my first agriculture rant. Don't worry, there will probably be more!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Evangelical Theologian Backs Mitt Romney

Go read this article by an evangelical theologian who has decided to support Mitt Romney. I try not to delve too deeply into politics here because I view The Provonian more as fun among friends than a place to argue about divisive issues--there are plenty of forums for that. (That said, always feel free to share your opinions, political and otherwise.) But I thought the conservatives and Mormons in the audience might find this article to be a good read. Romney supporters should e-mail this to their conservative Christian friends. I'm leaning towards voting for Romney in the primary--and my brother Rich is leaning towards Stephen Colbert. I think Giuliani could do a decent job, but I have more trust in Romney to be a principled and effective leader. I need to read up a little bit more on Fred Thompson. If any of you are really gung-ho for Fred please let me know why.

How do you feel about Mitt? A lot of folks don't find him genuine or say he flip-flops on issues like abortion. I watched a Youtube clip of a radio interview where the host focused on what role Mormonism will play in Romney's candidacy. When they go off the air the cameras keep rolling (that's at about 10:30 in the clip) and you really get to see the real Mitt. I was impressed. He seemed like a genuine person who can be articulate and firm without being disrespectful--and he shot down the guy's crazy Constitutional theories pretty nicely. Regarding flip-flopping, my guess is that if a pro-life politician shifted to a more pro-choice stance the media would applaud the move as personal enlightenment rather than political pandering.

What are Mitt's pluses and minuses. Has he won your vote? Or are you still shopping? Which Democratic candidate is your favorite?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Check Out This Sweet Post

I stumbled upon this awesome post over at Mormon Mommy Wars. It has a bunch of "funny things that happened at church" with an emphasis on crazy fast and testimony moments. Give it a looksee.

Our ward in Provo was always pretty calm. I don't remember any real crazies at church. One time one of the priests was giving the closing prayer in sacrament meeting and started giving the sacrament prayer instead. As a missionary in South Korea I somehow avoided having too many weird experiences at church. We never had anyone crazy wander in, although we did have an unofficial janitor who lived in the basement of the church. One night we were having an open house at the church and he wandered in drunk. He was an older guy who had learned English from the soldiers during the war, so he knew some choice words which he proceeded to use. I can't remember how my companion and I convinced him to settle down, but we eventually got him to leave. It wasn't long after that that they found him some housing elsewhere.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Bring the Funk

Hey there, lovers of all things funk... What are the must have funk albums and/or singles? I've already got two Herbie Hancock albums (Headhunter, and a "greatest hits" that only has 6 songs on it), and a few by Earth Wind and Fire. And that's about it. Where do I go next?


Friday, September 21, 2007

If You Could Live Anywhere in the US Where Would You Live?

Loyal readers I want your opinions. One career option I'm seriously considering is becoming a patent analyst. Patent analysts work in firms that specialize in searching previous patents and other scientific publications to help a company decide if they have a reasonable chance of protecting their inventions through patenting. I know, it sounds VERY exciting but there is one excellent perk. A lot of these companies let their employees telecommute from anywhere in the US. So, if I can land one of these jobs where should I live? Ozarks, Vermont, Southern Utah? Taliatha and I think it would be cool to live somewhere where the cost of living is low so we could afford a big old homestead. Where would you live and why?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Few Points

1. Books
Taliatha and I recently decided that she should defect from her book club (a bunch of sisters in the ward) and start reading one book a month with me. We just finished A Room with a View and A Wrinkle in Time. Most of you are probably familiar with those books, so I won't review them here; but I enjoyed their themes of honesty and love, respectively. I remember trying to read A Wrinkle in Time back in elementary school, and maybe again in middle school, but having it blow my mind. This time around it was a cinch! It's reassuring to know I can handle juvenile fiction now. Speaking of juv. fiction, did anyone else see Bridge to Terabithia? I thought it was quite good.

2. The Cougs!
Man, they almost pulled it out against UCLA. That was a fun game to watch. They will be awesome in conference this year and look out for next year. All of the offensive weapons will be back and the entire offensive line except for this year's starting center. Boo yah!

3. Depressing Ice Cream Social
Our department has a semi-annual ice cream and sheet cake social at the start and end of Fall and Spring semesters, respectively. This year I looked around at all of the grad students and had the sinking and lonely realization that I am now the senior grad student in the department. There was only one other PhD student in my cohort and she finished in May. At least I got to drown my sorrows in cake and ice cream.

4. Free Lunches
I've been having "business lunches" with some of my contacts--you know how you're supposed to network and stuff, right? Anyway, it's a SWEET deal because I ask them if they want to go to lunch and give me free career advice and then they end up paying because they feel guilty about letting a graduate student pay for his own lunch. Right on!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Moose Makes Bills

Kirk made the final roster cut for the Bills (article here). Congratulations Moose!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Moose Makes First Cut in Buffalo

It looks like Moose made the first cut for the Buffalo Bills. See article here. It's not too surprising since they only narrowed the roster to 75. The scarier cut is on Sept. 1 when they cut the roster down to 53 players. Good luck Moose!

Thursday, August 23, 2007


You have to love some of the sentences found in the more esoteric realms of academia. I'm considering applying to some jobs in technology transfer offices at various universities. Check out this whopper of a sentence from a book I'm reading on technology transfer. "These empirical chapters build on the theoretical analysis of Jensen and Thursby (2001), who demonstrate that inventor involvement in university technology transfer potentially attenuates the deleterious effects of informational asymmetries that naturally arise in technological diffusion from universities to firms." Do you think there might have been a clearer way to say that? I can write some pretty opaque stuff myself, but I think they have me beat.

Book Review: Between Parent and Child

When Jane was born I felt a tad ignorant about parenting; but I figured I had time to learn. Two children later and with Jane having turned 5 I am more concerned about my parenting skills. My wise mother suggested reading Between Parent and Child by Dr. Haim Ginott. "It would probably be more useful than those economics books you've been reading," she said. Taliatha and I just finished it and although I'm not terribly well read in this genre here are my impressions.

First, I'm pleased to report that unlike some parenting books and magazines Between Parent and Child doesn't offer gimmicky advice for problems that usually just go away. (Why won't my precious angel sleep through the night? How do I get enough ME time? How can I help my kid read by age 3?) Instead, Dr. Ginott presents principles for interacting with your children that can be adapted to different situations. His primary thesis is that children are more responsive when parents address feelings before rushing to punish or lecture. The book gives numerous examples of common conflicts and useful tactics for resolving them. These include problems with eating, homework, siblings, bedtime, etc. For example, what do you do if your kid wants something at the store but you don't want to get it? First, don't try and convince little Timmy that he already has enough toys or that it's too expensive. This will just lead to counter arguments. Kids quickly learn how to try and get what they want. Instead, acknowledge Timmy's feelings. "Yeah, that would be so much fun if we could play with that toy! I like it too!" Often just validating your child's wish will fulfill their need and you may not even have to state the obvious: you're not going to buy the toy. That's the idea anyway, I'll have to let you know how it goes in practice.

Another part of the book that was helpful for me was the discussion on parents' emotions. Before reading this book my approach to conflicts has been, "I need more patience. If I can just not get angry everything will be fine." The problem was that I didn't have a strategy for when my patience did run out. Instead of yelling or angrily tossing the perpetrator into time out, Dr. Ginott recommends expressing in simple words how their behavior makes you feel. Emphatically express your frustration in words and focus on the behavior, not the child. "It makes me very upset when you push her," not "Why are you so mean to her?" This provides a constructive outlet when I'm upset and it models for my children how to resolve angry feelings through talking rather than yelling or fighting. This doesn't mean that you remove consequences. What it does do is allow you to resolve your emotions first so you don't dispense discipline hastily or angrily.

A lot of the book's advice is better suited for slightly older children. Sometimes you can't reason through things with a two or three year old. Still, I have seen some improvement in how I interact with my son Paul, who just turned three. Having specific tactics for resolving problems has helped me relax and have more confidence that I can handle whatever the kids throw my way. I think the most rewarding part has been focusing on how my kids feel more than their "bad" behavior. This has helped me appreciate them more as people and this in turn has strengthened our relationships.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Best Police Beat Ever!

In the spirit of Mat's BYU reminiscing, click here to read the best BYU police beat ever. I already e-mailed this story to some of you, but deemed it worth posting for everyone's enjoyment.

Random Memories Part II: Freshmen Year at BYU

Since Benson complained about not being able to relate to our PHS postings I thought I'd humor him with some of my fondest memories from freshmen year at BYU and living in Heritage Halls.

-The first memory actually occurred before school started when Rob and I received the names of our soon to be roommates. We immediately began creating elaborate assumed identities for these new roommates and spent a large portion of the summer talking about them. None of them were remotely on target.

-For some reason we decided to not throw away any of our empty milk cartons. We kept them in the kitchen and observed the various starges of fermentation and decay that occured. Then when they were ripe we'd take them into the parking lot and hit them baseball bats.

-After noticing a man wearing a suite made out of pop cans in a random scene in Searching for Bobby Fisher we decided to create our own pop can suites to wear to the BYU vs. Utah football game. We spent weeks scouring recycling bins across campus and collected a lot of cans. Then we spent an entire evening constructing our masterpieces. They were a big hit at the game. Except we left a trail of pop cans to and from the stadium. Oh yeah, and some bully standing behind us pushed or said something to Van der Horst so Rob threw an empty pop can at him which hit him in the face when he wasn't looking.

-Sandburg watching Hunt for Red October repeatedly and a odd hours.

-Benson singing punk/music really loud.

-When our apartment caught and fire and instead of getting up and doing something about it Rob and I tried to go back to bed.

-Dancing around the lamp of passion.

-Playing Myth.

-Benson dumping lemon pepper in pudding and ruining it, I'll never forgive you!

-Trying to jump across the canal.

-Running out of the Varsity Theater after watching Air Force 1 and proceeding to race across the street to the lawn building where a large group of us tried to jump over a line of bushes not realizing their was 4 foot drop off on the other side.

-What else?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Random High School Memories

Rob's ode to Mikey made me wax nostalgic about the good old high school days. In no particular order I thought I would share a couple of gems:

-Jed's birthday in Journalism. We asked Piercy-Pierce before class if she would call Jed up to the front of the room at a predetermined time during class so we could "surprise" him for his birthday. Little did she know that there about 10 guys waiting in the hallway to tackle him. I can't decide which was better. Jed's face as he got creamed by a bunch of guys running into the classroom or Mrs. Pierce screaming in shock as her classroom was invaded by birthday well wishers.

-This Journalism memory reminded me of a couple other choice memories from that class:
-Rob's picture captions:
Picture: Jason Hutchinson making a diving catch during a football game
Caption: Hutchnuts Eats a Fat One
-Having numerous stories censored and rejected because they had nothing to do with "reality". . . but they were funny.
-Having to go to the principals office to explain to Patti H. that the Ozark Boy series wouldn't be racist.

-Hiding behind the poles in the commons and tackling people as they walked by.

-Bizzing behind the Omni with Kirk at the wheel. It was great fun until we got pulled over by the cops.

-Kirk dunking the basketball on somebody's hoop by Annie Evan's house and snapping the pole in half.

-The first Star Wars assembly.

-The feeling of euphoria we felt after successfully pulling off the RSC Extravaganza and then watching it later and realizing it was really really long.
-Oh yeah and getting to drive sophie into the school.

-Wrestling Kirk at Angie Heaston's house. It was Kirk against Rob, Waltz and myself. It ended with me giving Kirk a wedgie and then with him flying through air, landing on top of me, smashing my ribs, and me having to go to the emergency room.

-Making posters in student government. We had to make so many posters a week, but I rarely remember making any that were actually informative. Jed made a great one for the golf team that said something like "eat blood, drink blood, play golf." Tony made one that said "everyone has a ticket to state tournament, even the giant blob" and it had a great picture of giant blob with a ticket. We also made giant Chinese lanterns one time and hung them from the ceiling in main hall.

-Random theme weeks. Adam Keefe week. Booty days (where everyone was supposed to wear boots of goulashes). Funk week. I remember that we turned one of the dances into a funk dance and lots of people got mad because we wouldn't play country or slow songs, it was awesome.

-Naoto dressing like Mr. Melendez-Christensen and Kirk tackling him during the Extravaganza.

-Filming the Scarlet Letter at Jed's house.

I could go on and on. Anyways, good memories. What are some of yours?


So Taliatha and I signed up for Facebook. The layout seems a lot less obnoxious than Myspace and I found a few old chums. Another cool thing about Facebook is the low-risk/low-commitment friendships. Basically, anyone you know is your friend. It gives a nice feeling of popularity (my friend count is already in excess of 30), but requires only minimal maintenance of relationships. The odds are slim that someone will de-friend you. So climb aboard the Facebook train my friends and join me on this exciting ride into the world of virtual "networking."

Thursday, August 9, 2007

A Tribute to the Great Padeken

Because posts about investing and social issues may bore some of my gentle readers, I offer in appeasement the following hagiography for your diversion and entertainment. I know I am drafting a bit off the popularity of this universally beloved character (he was the consensus pick for funniest kid in 1st grade), but if such shameless hucksterism will boost the virtual circulation of The Provonian then so be it. Without further ado I present . . .


(Probably not the top ten because how could anyone even know that?)

10. Mikey utterly destroys his old choir tuxedo during the first (and probably best) "football in suits."

9. Mikey leads the boys in a stroll across the lawn during lunch with a boom box blaring Rage Against the Machine on his shoulder.

8. Playing a blind man in A Black Comedy as a senior, Mikey wanders up a staircase with his cane and falls directly through a trap door.

7. At the Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City we are playing a game of football in the street near our motel. Going long for a pass Mikey runs smack into our bus, but somehow manages to slide underneath the bus upon impact rather than taking a direct hit (incredible reflexes!). He limps off with a hurt knee, but after a good nap is back in perfect form (another of his superpowers).

6. While Val Lindsay is directing us in Danny Boy, Mikey enters the choir room. Unbeknownst to Mr. Lindsay, he stands on a chair doing an interpretive ballet pose until the the laughs coming from the choir betray him. Not amused, Mr. Lindsay kicks Mikey out of class (I think that's how it ended anyway).

5. During Kirk's Gorgoth cover at Mr. Provo High Mikey accidentally hits Brimhall in the head with a bat--oh wait that was someone else.

4. First assembly of senior year, in the old gym, and it is time to choose the most spirited kid from each class to sit in the spirit chairs (that's why they picked them right?). After choosing the underclassmen and junior, Pamrose starts to look for the senior, but stops mid-sentence as Mikey steps forward with his regal, flowing green cape and coolly marches to the seat--no throne--that is rightfully his.

3. In an assembly skit Mikey takes on Kirk in a wrestling match. I can't remember the exact plot (details Tony?) but somehow Mikey ends up on Kirk's shoulders and wraps his legs around Kirk's neck dragging him to the floor in one fluid motion! It was incredible, but it will only live in our memories because Brimhall accidentally kicked the plug out of the video camera right before it happened.

2. Mr. Provo High, 1997. For his talent Mikey slides through a hall pass and then jumps a table into a glass of water, thereby sealing his victory.

1. At the conclusion of a multi-choir concert at Abravanel Hall in SLC the participating choirs combine for two or three final numbers. Somehow Mikey ends up going skins whilst wandering amidst the group of tall guys in the back rows. Brilliant!--and I missed it, which I will forever regret.

Please inform me of any blemishes or oversights in this record and add your own favorite Padeken heroics to this already meritorious list.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Diversification beyond the 401(k)

According to this column from Yahoo Finance, many companies are reducing the diversity of investment options in 401(k) plans while adding more "target date" retirement funds. It's always been worse for federal employees who have extremely limited options within the Thrift Savings Plan (federal version of the 401(k)). Plans with reduced offerings leave employees three investment options: stocks, bonds and cash. The thrust of the article on Yahoo is that having fewer investment options may leave retirement plans exposed to greater market volatility than traditional pension plans which can be invested in other assets: commodities, foreign currencies, high yield bonds and real estate investment trusts. If you have an inflexible retirement plan, I agree with the article that it is a good idea to supplement your 401(k) with some of these other types of investmetns. This can best be done using ETFs within an IRA. For a good primer on ETFs visit XTF Global Asset Management's web page.

What about target date funds? According to an article I read in Monday's Wall Street Journal, the jury is still out since most haven't been around long enough to see how they behave during bear markets. However, the I think the fundamental principles are the same as in my last post on investing: underlying asset allocation is critical and the fund with the highest allocation in stocks, including emerging markets, has had the best performance over the last three years (T. Rowe Price Retirement 2020, TRRBX). (Of course it may perform more poorly in a bear market, but I would predict it would have the best long term results.)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Film History Class

Hey Dudes,

welcome to my first post on the Provonian.

I could use some help from the cinephiles among you, and also from Holmes. I'm getting ready for my next film history class at the high school. This time around, I'm structuring it more or less chronologically, by different film movements. The class will be 65 minutes a day for 12 weeks, so we'll probably watch two films a week for each category, along with a bunch of clips. Here's a tentative outline:

1. Early Cinema
2. Silent Comedies
3. Expressionism (germany, etc.)
4. Futurism (Russia, etc.)
5. Experimental, Surrealism
6. The coming of sound, Classical Hollywood
7. WWII/Film Noir
8. Documentary
9. Animation
10. Neorealisms
11. New Waves
12. American Independents
13. rebirth of the blockbuster

A lot to cover in one class, I know. I'd like to have a mix of the usual suspects (Citizen Kane, Hitchcock, Bicycle Thieves, etc.) and some stuff they've never heard of that will knock their socks off. What suggestions do you folks have for these categories, either entire films or specific clips?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

This commercial is brilliant!

Enjoy this gem.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Harry Potter

Since this is what all the other blogs are talking about, I figured why not. Chenae and I finished last night. Who else is reading? Who has finished, what did you think? Who hates/loves these books. Regardless of your take on the books their popularity is amazing. I've found them, especially this last book, to be one of my most enjoyable literary experiences. I'm curious to see to how history treats Harry Potter. While the prose may not be of classical calibar, I have to admit that I haven't found myself emotionally moved (e.g., tense, elated, excited, sad, relfective, etc.) by a book too many times, as I was while reading the Deathly Hallows. Maybe this is reflection of deep rooted immaturity on my part or psychological scarring from never being able to dunk or maybe they're just good books.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

McDonald's Dogfood

My elementary school teacher Mr. Jackman had a policy that if a kid got straight "commendables" at parent teacher conference evaluations he would take the kid out to lunch. (You were rated in each area as commendable, satisfactory or unsatisfactory, I think.) One time I pulled it off (I'm still not sure how, since I never finished my writing assignments for Mr. Wilson) and I got to go to lunch with Mr. Jackman and his wife. As we drove off he asked me if I wanted to go to McDonald's. I hesitated for a second and then said, "Ummm . . . how about Hardee's?" So off we went to Hardee's instead. For as long as I can remember my Dad had referred to McDonald's as "McDonald's Dogfood" so I was sure I didn't want to go there. It wasn't until high school when Tony dragged me over to McDonald's that I realized, "Hey, this is just like any other fast food place!" I didn't feel deceived--I'm glad my Dad discouraged me from eating fast food--but I am amused by how deeply I had absorbed my Dad's disdain for McDonald's.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Stay at home or be employed full-time: an unfortunate dilemma for many

A recent Pew Research Center survey found that only 21% of working mothers consider full-time work an ideal situation. That is contrasted to 72% of fathers who consider full-time work ideal. A solid majority of working mothers (60%) would prefer part-time work and 19% would prefer to not work. Interestingly, only 48% of "not working" mothers considered not working to be ideal. 33% would prefer to work part-time. For more fun check out the thread on this study over at Times and Seasons. They're always good for a variety (and I mean variety) of Mormon perspectives.

These results seem consistent with what I've found talking with some of the female graduate students at my university. They feel trapped on the full-time career track and want alternatives that are family friendly--either to work part-time temporarily while the kids are young or to get out of the full-time career track altogether. A lot of this dilemma is probably a function of job benefits. Women who would prefer to work part time may feel stuck in full-time positions because their husband is self-employed or works for a small business so a full-time job is the most affordable way to obtain health insurance and a retirement savings plan.

Another interesting finding was that higher education negatively correlated with how high mothers ranked their own parenting performance. The same was true for employment level. Stay at home moms ranked their own parenting higher than part-time moms and part-time moms ranked their own parenting higher than full-time moms. I didn't see if they controlled for employment with the education result, otherwise I would expect that the education result is just a function of highly educated women being more likely to have full-time and part-time employment.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

POUND (a short film by Evan Bernard)

And I thought the headbutt handshake was cool . . .

To Become a Classical Music Snob

That's my goal folks. When I hear a symphony or concerto I want to be the guy who can say, "Hmmm, was that Mozart's 24th or 25th?" But how, you may ask, did I come to such a woeful predicament? I blame my wife. She checked out The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music from the library and I picked it up, naively presuming it just another innocuous tome. Regrettably, I fell prey to its allure--probably due to a combination of predisposing genetic and environmental factors.

Even though the unwashed masses may hurl their disdain against my delicate and refined musical tastes, it has been fun learning more about classical music. I like trying to guess the composer, or at least the century, when I hear something on the local classical station. Also, I'm starting to take note of which composers consistently impress me.

This is the part of the post where I attempt to elicit comments. Are any of you into classical music? Do you have a composer or work that you particularly enjoy? Do you dislike classical music? Which composers would you say have had the greatest influence on Bootload of Boogie? If you could name a cello after a tenor, which tenor would you choose? Let's hear it folks.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Investing Strategies

So gentle readers, how interested are you in investing? I have an investment strategy that I would love to implement more fully if one of you would fund me (Kirk?). Actually, for a substantial fee (a Zuka Juice?) I will share my strategy with any of you. Alright, I'll share it for free. My basic strategy is pretty simple. (This is for the long-term, not for saving for your down payment on a home or something like that).

1. Invest as close to 100% in stocks as possible.
I am approaching 30, so my investment horizon is about 30 years. Even though stocks are bumpier than bonds, money markets or a piece of land somewhere, they perform better over long periods. These higher returns will help stave off losses to inflation. Stocks are also resistant to inflation because their underlying value is tied to physical assets owned by companies. I think limited investing in commodities (e.g. gold and silver) is okay as a hedge against extreme inflation, but commodities don't create wealth or pay dividends. Still, having a pile of gold coins sitting in a safe deposit box that I can go count once a year is appealing from a purely greedy perspective. (Probably the easiest way to invest in gold or silver though is through an ETF--see number 2.) As the date you actually need the money draws nearer shift to more conservative investments. Retirement target date funds do this automatically. A word of caution on investing outside securities (stocks and bonds). Be wary about investing in business ventures run by friends or relatives. It's too easy to let personal relationships cloud your financial judgment. Just because Brother Prosper is a nice guy doesn't mean his gold mine in Canada is a legit investment. I'm not saying don't do it, just be very careful. Only invest if you can afford the risk. Do not make it a core investment that you will depend on for retirement income.

2. Invest in stocks through exchange traded funds (ETFs).
I subscribe to modern-portfolio theory. I don't know all the math mumbo-jumbo, but the basic premise is that investment returns depend on asset allocation (stocks, bonds, sectors, different countries) more than specific choices within asset classes. The best (cheapest) way to invest broadly in specific asset classes is through ETFs. They function just like index mutual funds, but can be traded like stocks and typically have lower expense ratios (they're cheaper) than mutual funds. Investing in stock indexes saves you the time, energy and expense of trying to find winning stocks and mutual funds (or paying a broker to), because ultimately the odds are that your choices will return near the market average (actually slightly less than average once transaction costs are taken into account).

3. Invest in a Roth IRA and make regular contributions.
Roth IRAs blow my mind dude. True, you can't touch the money until age 59 or so without a tax penalty, but when you take the money out Uncle Sam doesn't get a red cent. It's all yours baby! You can set one up for you and your spouse (and your kids at a certain age if you do it right). If you have a 401(k) at work with employer matching it probably makes sense to contribute there first to get the maximum match. After that, put the rest into Roth IRAs.

Contribute a set amount every month and don't try and figure out the best time to put your money into the market. This will give you "dollar cost averaging" which is a fancy way of saying you will buy relatively more shares at lower prices than higher prices.

4. Choose an asset allocation strategy.
Invest in emerging markets. This is my personal opinion. I try and follow a very aggressive asset allocation in our (actually my wife's) Roth IRA. Here's my target asset allocation.
EEM (emerging markets ETF) 25%
VV (US large cap ETF) 30%
IWN (US small cap-value ETF) 20%
RWR (Real-estate investment trust) 20%
other (individual stocks and cash) 5%

I have been heavily weighted to emerging markets for several years (used to be 30%) and the returns have been very good. I think emerging markets will continue to boom, but they will be jumpy. Right now I only own one individual stock (FRO). It's an oil tanker stock that pays an insane dividend (>15% annual yield). I try and avoid picking individual stocks, but it's always fun to pick one or two. What percentage you dedicate to a given ETF will depend on your goals and risk tolerance. Ideally, you want asset classes that are not highly correlated (I think this is becoming increasingly difficult as international and domestic markets seem to move together more and more.)

5. Re-balance your portfolio regularly.
Keep emotion out of your investment decisions. You must suppress your urges to be human and trust your own judgment too much. Be cold and calculating. It will help you you buy low and sell high. You can do this two ways. First, every quarter use your most recent contributions to buy more of whichever ETF is lagging its target allocation. If you do this you will be buying more of ETFs that are cheap relative to other asset classes. Or you can re-balance every time an investment deviates from your target allocation by a specific amount (e.g. 5 percentage points).

So that's my plan. I look forward to enacting it on a grander scale once I get a real job (oh blessed, day!). Comments and questions are welcome. This is just investing, not financial planning which is important for looking at your whole financial picture. We met with a financial planner from Primerica (for free) and really found it beneficial (i.e. they didn't try to sell us expensive life insurance). I'll post about that later.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Richard Bushman Discusses Mitt Romney and Mormonism with the Press

Hey Rob, shouldn't you be working on finishing your dissertation and getting a real job, instead of posting stuff on The Provonian? (Silence conscience!) I just read the transcript of a discussion Richard Bushman had with members of the press on Mitt Romney and the intersection of Mormonism with politics and American life. It's a fun (and long) read and, not surprisingly, Bushman does a fantastic job of answering questions.

One question that came up was whether or not increased scrutiny would harden public opinion towards Mormons. Bushman said that regardless of how a national discussion of Mormonism plays out, an open discussion is ultimately for the best. I agree with this. I remember an editorial I saw in the Salt Lake Tribune (written by a member) saying that Romney's candidacy would focus too much attention and scrutiny on the church. I took issue with that. Isn't attention and scrutiny exactly what we seek? I think increased attention is inevitable and sooner is better than later.

Little Becky

I dedicate this whimsical journey into Irish culture to our beloved Irishman-at-large Steven Q. Walters (does anybody know if that guy is still alive?). There is a radio station in Ireland that has an eight year old girl named Becky make prank calls to various folks. It's pretty charming. Click here to have a listen.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Candy Mountain Anyone

This blog is cool, nice job Holmes. Anyways, if you get a chance go to utube and search for a video called candy mountain. It's an animated short with unicorns, one of them is named Charlie. I'm pretty sure it will blow your mind. My brother-in-law showed it to me and it changed my life, well not really but it's pretty sweet.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Senior Missionary Couple in Ghana

Check out these fascinating accounts of a senior missionary couple in Ghana; complete with great photos. It is updated regularly over on Messenger and Advocate, an LDS-themed blog. Their experiences are very interesting and very inspiring. I recommend going back to the oldest posts and reading in chronological order. Enjoy!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Remember your MTC companion?

As a brand new missionary in the MTC I didn't think I got along very well with my companion. It wasn't that we fought or argued, we just didn't know how to relate to each other. He was from eastern Oregon where he had grown up on a ranch. My high school extracurricular activities were things like drama, choir, and Science Olympiad. The extracurricular activity he told me about was competing in logging competitions. He was a true country boy with lots of fun stories about hunting, working on construction crews and four-wheeling. I thought we didn't have a lot in common, and it was probably true. He was the slowest at learning Korean in our district and, in hindsight, I recognize how intimidating and sometimes lonely the whole experience was for him; not that he ever would have let on about it much. He was comfortable when it was time to work. Whenever we had cleaning duty I could barely keep up with him as we raced through all of the bathrooms washing sinks and emptying trash.

In spite of differences I tried my best to be encouraging. I remember sharing a scripture with him to help him with his feelings of inadequacy, which seemed to help, and once I was able to give him a blessing for a severe cold. Because we served in different missions I never got to see him as a missionary, but I have no doubt he did a good job. I would love to talk to him someday about his memories of the MTC and me.

So for those of you who have served missions, what was your MTC comp like?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Who here has seen 'Gandhi?'

And I'm not talking about Devin Davis either.

I'm talking about the Richard Attenbourgh film that stars Gandhi playing himself. I know that Ben Kingsley reportedly played Gandhi, but I think it's the real thing. I mean how can you play Gandhi and then turn up in 'Species'? I just don't think it's him.

If you haven't seen this movie, FOR SHAME, it's the real deal. I seriously can think of few films that are edifying as this. If you don't turn off the TV with a renewed sense of determination to be a 'good' person you must not have a pulse.

So here's my question, why isn't there a great film out there about any of the LDS church leaders? I'm thinking primarily of Brigham Young and Joseph Smith. Seriously, they were pretty important on the grand scale of life, and yet we are left without a really valid modern portrait of either of them.

I know that there would be difficulty in presenting EITHER story (I'm talking basically about polygamy here). But, come on! I think that either would be a compelling story that people would want to see and would leave the theater rejuvenated, and determined to be 'good'

So, why isn't it happening? Or is it a good thing that it isn't?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

From the Archives: The Joys of Shakespeare (a monologue)

Note: This is a monologue Tony and I wrote for me to perform in the state drama competition our senior year. (A competition the results of which will forever be tarnished by the suspicion of questionable dealings by the drama coach of the hated Timpview.) I'm not sure if this is the final version that I actually performed or if this is just an earlier draft. At any rate, I placed third in humorous monologues and felt rather spiffy about that.

Good morning class and welcome to Advanced Shakespeare 205. I am Professor Richardson. Shakespeare is my specialty, but I also teach cooking and twentieth century German history. In this course we will sample the complete works of William Shakespeare. Now, I know your registration manual told you to bring a complete works to class today. Well, I'm here to tell ya you can turn those in for a refund, 'cause we're not gonna bore ourselves with that garbage. Instead, we will be using the fine works of Cliff's Notes. You'll need to have all 36 editions by next week. Another mandatory course material will be to read my book, Why I Am Cooler Than Your Mom, and recommend it to two friends.

Please open your syllabus to the class rules and follow along with me. Rule number one: There will be absolutely no contestation of the instructor's personal opinions. Is that understood? I may not know much about art, but I can call a spade a spade.

Rule number two: Tardy students will be held responsible for missed instructions. It's nothing personal, but if I have to haul my sorry case out of bed every morning so can you.

Rule number three: It is required that you provide the instructor with his lunch at least three times within the term. I know the course description says it should be Shakespearean or Medieval, but frankly, I prefer Italian. You know, with those little cheese things, mmm . . . those are good. Anyway, those who do not meet this requirement will have to repeat the course.

With no further ado about nothing (looks around waiting for a laugh) . . . let's get started shall we? Before we learn about the Bard's works let's learn a little bit about the man himself. I have prepared a brief biographical sketch. Please excuse the cards, I've been busy with my other classes and haven't had time to memorize the lecture. (Opens briefcase.) What the? I am sorry, it appears my notes are out of order. (Sorts notes.)

[Reads monologue from RSC that mixes up Shakespeare's history with Hitler's.]

Any questions? Yes, you're right, it appears I have mixed up my notes from the other class. Thank you. However, in pointing this out you have already violated rule number one! Find yourself another class wise guy! (Watches student leave.) Any other questions? No? Good.
Let's get started then. Today we will discuss The Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet and Troilus and Cressida. Now I know this seems like a lot, but I plan to cover at least three plays each lecture. That way we don't have to get caught up in all the sordid details. Now because none of you have the required materials, you will just have to watch me today. I will act them out for you.

First, The Taming of the Shrew. (Picks up Cliff's Notes.) Act one, scene one, outside the town of Padua. Enter Lucentio and Tranio. "Hey Lucentio, how we gonna win the heart of the fair Bianca?" "Whoa dude, she's some hot sauce. She's got it goin' on. She superfly." Next scene, enter Hortensio, Gremio, Baptista and Bianca. "Gentlemen, importune me no further. Nobody will wed Bianca until her elder sister Katherine is wed." "She's far too rough for me." "Why should I marry Katherine when I have this beauty before my eyes." "Oh you." (Laughs.) "Kiss me Kate" and they live happily ever after.

Okay, moving on to Hamlet. (Pauses as if listening to student.) I know I'm paraphrasing. I'm trying to make it easier for you guys to palate. One more comment like that from you and you'll be out with that other wise guy. Once again, moving on to Hamlet. (Grabs book.) Act one, scene one. A palace in Denmark. Enter Hamlet. "Oh that this too too solid flesh would melt away and I could get off this lousy dust farm. But Uncle Owen won't let me." Enter Ghost of Hamlet's father. "I am your father." "No, it's not true. It's impossible!" "Search your feelings, you know it to be true." "NOOOOOOO!" What, what? (Pauses as if listening to student.) No this is Hamlet alright. I'm doing Hamlet. I don't even know what this Star Wars garbage is, alright? Alright, that's two for you wisenheimer; find yourself another class. In fact that goes for anybody who thinks they know Shakespeare better than I do. Use your eyes, who has the degree? I do! I busted my hump at Oxford and Cambridge for half of my bleeding life to get this thing. This proves I know everything. I know everything. And anyone who doesn't think I know everything can get out of my class! Get out of my class! Get out, get out! (Watches as all students leave, but one.) Thanks for staying Mom.