Sunday, February 28, 2010

Crosby, Staal and Nash

Did you notice that the Canadian hockey team has this connection to Mat's favorite band? That must be why they dashed our chance to dash the Canadians' dreams. Oh well, it was a fun ride. I don't follow hockey AT ALL, but I've been glued to the NBC Olympics website for the whole hockey tournament.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Now That's Man Food!

Who wouldn't want to try one of these manly, culinary creations?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Winter Olympics Woo Hoo!

My winter olympics highlights thus far:

1. Alexandre Bilodeau = Chris Bentley x Gavin Bentley?

2. The official getting-you-pumped guy who yells at the US men's downhill skiers right as they are leaving the gate. "C'mon Bodie! Let's go!" He's got a booming, bass voice that I remember from four years ago. I've been using my best impersonation of it to "motivate" my kids around the house. The only one who likes it is my one year old who thinks I'm just being silly. My three year old gets scared. "C'mon Mallory! Eat that tortilla!"

3. USA takes down Canada in hockey. Boom suckah! I'm not even a hockey fan but I like international hockey when the good ole red, white and blue takes down the 51st staters from up north.

4. Short track skating. Love it! Actually I like this and all of the other "cross" events. Snowboard cross, ski cross. Basically anything where there are lots of people in a tight space racing at high speeds and there can be wrecks along the way. Why can't they come up with some kind of bobsled or luge cross? Now that would be cool.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

John Adams Quotations (Part 5)

In 1793, John Adams wrote:
Mankind will in time discover that unbridled majorities are as tyrannical and cruel as unlimited despots.
Actually, Adams and his contemporaries were well-versed in classical history and were no doubt familiar with the cruelty of "unbridled majorities" of the past that ruled the assemblies of Greek city-states. Adams enjoyed the writings of Thucydides, chronicler of the Peloponnesian War so would be familiar with the events outlined by Victor Davis Hanson in A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War (p. 102).
Meanwhile, once these Athenians got into their collective minds to butcher, butcher they did, whether the citizenry of Melos or old Socrates, with impunity. Under the laws of Athenian democracy there was neither an independent judiciary to strike down a popular decree as unconstitutional nor a sovereign and immutable body of constitutional law protecting human rights and proscribing the powers of the assembly. Athens' conduct during and right after the war--whether killing Mytileneans, Melians or Socrates--was all done according to majority vote, besmirching the reputation of democracy itself for centuries to come. Almost every savage measure taken by generals in the field was either preapproved by the sovereign Athenian assembly or understood by fearful commanders to be in line with the harsh dictates of an unforgiving voting citizenry back home.
The brutality resulting from Greek direct democracy is a powerful reminder of the necessity of the rule of law to protect the rights of the minority from the whims of the majority. This includes the ultimate minority: the individual. To quote my libertarian friend McKay: "I'm a minority and my rights are being violated." This is why the subversion of rule of law to reward favored parties by depriving others' of their property should set every one on edge. The GM and Chrysler bankruptcies come to mind in this regard. Also, demagoguery against bankers or other specific segments of industry just because most people think they are "greedy" sets off alarm bells. Fortunately, we have many checks on the power of the majority such as the presidential veto, judicial review and the filibuster, as Don Boudreaux from Cafe Hayek elaborates here.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

New Tunes

I remember when I was young and carefree...last year. When I thought I would update the music player once, maybe even twice a month. Those were the days.

Well, it's been ALMOST a year, and provoked by an email from the editor and chief I've finally updated the tunes.

If you like any or all of it you should thank Jed, as he introduced me to most of the bands here. My Grad. Committee Chair gave me The Heavy and this new David Byrne song, and the Divine Comedy song was a gift from Pandora.


When Was the Last Time You Heard a Politician Like This

Here is the full text of New Jersey governor Chris Christie's budget speech (via Coyote Blog). When was the last time you heard a politician man up and actually tell it like it is? This is it right here. I can't recall reading or hearing a speech this bold, frank and responsible in my lifetime. Maybe the national mood really is shifting.

Here's a great part where he addresses pension reform:
These bills must just mark the beginning, not the end, of our conversation and actions on pension and benefit reform. Because make no mistake about it, pensions and benefits are the major driver of our spending increases at all levels of government—state, county, municipal and school board. Also, don’t believe our citizens don’t know it and demand, finally, from their government real action and meaningful reform. The special interests have already begun to scream their favorite word, which, coincidentally, is my nine year old son’s favorite word when we are making him do something he knows is right but does not want to do—“unfair.”
Let’s tell our citizens the truth—today—right now—about what failing to do strong reforms costs them.
One state retiree, 49 years old, paid, over the course of his entire career, a total of $124,000 towards his retirement pension and health benefits. What will we pay him?  $3.3 million in pension payments over his life and nearly $500,000 for health care benefits -- a total of $3.8m on a $120,000 investment.   Is that fair?
A retired teacher paid $62,000 towards her pension and nothing, yes nothing, for full family medical, dental and vision coverage over her entire career. What will we pay her?  $1.4 million in pension benefits and another $215,000 in health care benefit premiums over her lifetime. Is it “fair” for all of us and our children to have to pay for this excess?
The total unfunded pension and medical benefit costs are $90 billion. We would have to pay $7 billion per year to make them current. We don’t have that money—you know it and I know it. What has been done to our citizens by offering a pension system we cannot afford and health benefits that are 41% more expensive than the average fortune 500 company’s costs is the truly unfair part of this equation.
 He's talked the talk (like no one I've seen before), now I hope he can walk the walk.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Annoy-A-Tron

Here's a little background on the annoy-a-tron. I discovered it a few years back on cougarboard (the repository of all knowledge) where a guy chronicled his devious implementation of the device. It generates an annoying beep at random every 2 to 8 minutes and comes with a magnet so you can hide it just about anywhere in a co-worker's office.

His first post.
His second post.

You can buy the annoy-a-tron at Think Geek. The product description and accompanying testimonial are fabulous. I was looking today and they now have the annoy-a-tron 2.0 which contains even more devious features!

I'm trying to decide who in my department would be a good candidate for the annoy-a-tron. We will move into our new offices in the Fall. The best candidates are the three chemistry guys that are sort of the jokers of the department. I don't want to do it to someone who may resent it. (You know tenure and all.) An added bonus is that the chemistry guys' cubicles will be sort of removed from the rest of the department so the suffering will be limited to them.

It's a little long, but this teenage kid reviews it so you can get an idea what it's like. I would have loved having this thing in high school. I would have hid it in Mr. Danner's desk or maybe in Layosa's office! Okay, in all honesty most of our high school faculty would have been good targets.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Wherein Mat & Rob Attempt to Sleep Through Danger

Mat made veiled reference to this event in an earlier post, but the full exposition is important for posterity so I present it here. It was freshman year at BYU when two cases of normally innocent freshmen high jinks proved to be a dangerous mixture. Our apartment was on the first floor of Robison Hall. Some girls in the ward decided to play a prank on the fine young men in our neighboring apartment by burying the bicycles of said fine young men in a pile of old newspapers. The bicycles were locked up behind a walled enclosure near the back doors of our two apartments. As fate would have it, a few boys in the apartment immediately over us decided that it was a prime night for shooting bottle rockets off the back porch. The results were predictable. Mat and I were sound asleep when we heard noise in our hall. Aaron threw our door open. "Fire! There's a fire!" Unimpressed, Mat and I resumed our slumber until Aaron returned to awaken us for good. I guess Mat and I were too tuckered out from looking up Mr. T animations and studying for Chem 105 because fire was not sufficient cause to wake us the first time. By the time we tumbled out of bed most of the big flames were extinguished and a wet pile of ashes and melted bikes remained. Fortunately heritage halls has a brick and concrete exterior so the damage didn't extend beyond a few bikes. Good old freshmen high jinks!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Country Living in the City

I stumbled upon this account of a long suffering suburbanite's interactions with his dyed-in-the-wool, whole-ball-of-wax redneck neighbor in Georgia. The beauty of this is that I can do most of the stuff the redneck neighbor did and no one will call the police or complain to the HOA. For example, I actually had a grass fire on my lawn like this good neighbor (I don't want to explain how) and didn't have to worry (too much) about somebody calling the fire dept. or burning my neighbor's fence.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Birding Win + Birding FAIL

Birding Win:
From Holmestead Pictures (public)

In the Fall Taliatha got these shots of some wild turkeys on our front lawn. At night some of them roost in the cottonwoods behind our home.
From Holmestead Pictures (public)

Aren't they great? Speaking of turkeys, we've ordered four heritage breed turkeys (Narragansett) through Cackle Hatchery along with some other chickens. They arrive in April. We ordered a straight run which means whether we get males or females is luck of the draw. I'm hoping for at least one of each because the chicks are a little pricey (about $8 each) and I'd like to breed my own in the future.

Birding FAIL:
From Holmestead Pictures (public)

I had a near miss on a cuckoo last summer. In the Fall Milky Way killed a yellow-billed cuckoo in our backyard before I got a chance to see it alive. Thus, I remain cuckoo-less.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

John Adams Quotations (Part 4)

Public business, my son, must always be done by somebody. It will be done by somebody or other. If wise men decline it, others will not; if honest men refuse it, others will not. A young man should weigh well his plans. Integrity should be preserved in all events, as essential to his happiness, through every stage of his existence. His first maxim then should be to place his honor out of reach of all men. In order to do this he must make it a rule never to become dependent on public employment for subsistence. Let him have a trade, a profession, a farm, a shop, something where he can honestly live, and then he may engage in public affairs, if invited, upon independent principles. My advice to my children is to maintain an independent character.

John Adams, 1789, in a letter to his son Thomas

Friday, February 5, 2010

Gallus gallus Hucksterism

Here are ten reasons why you should consider raising chickens--or at least think that they're all that.

1. There is something really satisfying about taking care of livestock. It's different from pets when you depend on the animal to produce something of material value. Okay, they're just fun too.
From Holmestead Pictures (public)

2. As long as you don't have roosters, most towns will let you have a few hens in your backyard.
From Holmestead Pictures (public)

3. The eggs are healthier and fresher than store eggs. Look at these two yolks. Can you guess which one came from the Holmestead? Chickens raised on pasture (or backyard) produce eggs with much higher omega fatty acids, beta-carotene, folic acid and vitamins A, D and E. They also have less saturated fat and cholesterol (source). I've seen an egg industry website claiming that there is no nutritional difference between free range and conventional eggs. That's probably true because most "free range" eggs are not truly free range. (It's the same bunk as with "cage free"--see reason #4.) This picture shows the difference between my eggs and store eggs. These were collected this week in the dead of winter when the green pickings are less than in the summer. I imagine the difference is even more pronounced then.
From Holmestead Pictures (public)

4. Every egg you produce (or if you don't have your own that you buy from someone who does) will send your dollars to humane agriculture instead of factory farms. The whole idea that "cage free" is better is pretty much bunk. Same with "organic" for that matter. Animals can be crammed into cages their whole lives and so long as their feed was raised without pesticide they qualify as "organic." To be free range a giant indoor facility just has to provide "access" to the outdoors. The birds don't have to ever actually go outside. Unless you have specific information on the producer of any animal food product you don't really know where it's been. Just go to Youtube and type in "egg CAFO" and you'll get plenty of animal rights propaganda that will help convert you to local eggs. (I say propaganda because I don't agree with all of their objections and many of the videos take on a propaganda tone.)

5. Your kids will have a lot of fun with the flock and learn a little biology along the way. They can also sell eggs to the neighbors and earn a little money.
From Holmestead Pictures (public)

6. Other cool kids are doing it.

7. All of the free fertilizer! Every few days throw some old hay, leaves or mulch under where they roost and they will make you some fine compost.

8. Eggs make a great present for neighbors, home and visiting teachees, etc.

9. I Rob!

10. Think how much tougher Rocky would have been if he had downed raw Holmestead eggs!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Party like it's 1599

Midlake's newest album came out a few days ago. Here's the first song off of the new album set to a scene from the old film "Sunrise".

I've heard that Brandy has a version of "Sunrise" set to Radiohead songs, and if he does, I'm shocked and appalled he hasn't shared it with me yet.

Here's the video from my family's favorite Midlake song "Young Bride"

If you're unfamiliar with the band check them out. They're coming to Salt Lake in March, and I'm secretly hoping they'll be wearing suits of armor when they play.

An "Artist" Pulls Off a Non-happening.

Cue the Nelson laugh for this bit of news.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Animator vs Animation.

My friend Dave just sent me this. So cool!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

John Adams Quotations (Part 3)

Posterity who are to reap the blessings will scarcely be able to conceive the hardships and sufferings of their ancestors.

-Abigail Adams, winter 1777