Apr
30
2009
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When $100 million is just a drop in the bucket

Here’s a video to help you visualize the impact of the $100 million in budget cuts that Obama has ordered. Amazing, isn’t it?

Written by in: Shameless Academic |
Apr
29
2009
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Self Education: A Great Idea, if you can do it

I used to think that I was a self-disciplined person. Not anymore. Sure, I did manage to practice piano 1-2 hours/day in high school. I got mostly A’s in college. I used to think that all of my piano practice and good grades practically qualified me for a self-disciplined merit award. Hah!

Now I’m done with college, and I have more free time than I have enjoyed since approximately 5th grade. Since I love learning, this should be the most productive period of my life. I have the internet, which is bursting with free learning materials, and a good public library, and a house full of books. I like to learn, and I’m interested in lots of things.

So, let the learning begin!

Well, not quite so fast. First, I have to decide what to learn. I’m interested in so many things, but the time (alas!) is limited. So I’ll settle on something practical. Something useful. Something that I can focus on.

This is where I realize that I am not disciplined.

(I chose German as my learning-subject of choice. It made sense because we’ll be traveling to Europe this summer on a mission trip, and spending about a month in Germany. We’ll be staying with German-speaking hosts. Knowing German would be incredibly useful. So we bought Rosetta Stone.)

I’m supposed to be excited about my freedom to learn an incredibly useful skill. And some days, I am. I do Rosetta Stone. I actually work at learning German.

Other days, I think about how nice it would be to know German. I search the web for German learning tools. Or I search the web for bagel recipes. Or I just look at my Google reader. Germany is a month away, not imminent enough to make me panic. And I don’t have a test tomorrow, so there’s little to make me study today. Instead, I might explore the Foreign Service Institute Basic German course. Or I might do absolutely nothing German-related.

Learning German is such a great idea. It’s much more practical than reading random articles on whatever strikes my fancy. But somehow, I would rather read about anything (like the Montessori method, DIY Altoids tin projects, swine flu, or the NYC Air Force 1 flyover) than work on German. So much for self discipline.

Self education is a great idea, if you can do it.

Written by in: Shameless Academic |
Apr
22
2009
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Need help pronouncing English, Spanish, or German sounds?

I’m trying to learn some German before our mission trip to Europe this summer, and I just found a great tool to help me.

The Phonetics project gives pronunciation examples of every sound in English, German, and Spanish. For each sound, there is a Flash animation of the mouth, a step-by-step description of making the sound, and a video of a native speaker saying the sound plus three words that have the sound. My only gripe is that the descriptions for the German part are in German, and I don’t understand them. No, I haven’t yet learned the German word for “soft palate”! I guess it’s time to get out the dictionary!

Written by in: Shameless Academic |
Apr
21
2009
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government subsidies = bad idea

I just linked to an article talking about why ethanol living up to its hype. Now, here’s an article about the problems with government subsidies of alternative fuels. Part of me finds it hilarious that paper companies are getting millions (maybe a billion) in government money just for doing what they have always done. But the other part of me (the part that just paid taxes) is outraged. That’s my money they’re taking!

From a philosophical point of view, I think I would prefer that the government get out of the subsidy business alltogether. And from the looks of this article, I think I prefer it from a practical point of view, too.

Written by in: Shameless Academic |
Apr
21
2009
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Traffic Cameras–Safety Device or Municipal Money-Maker?

I’ve always been slightly uneasy about traffic cameras. Turns out I wasn’t the only one. We used to joke about a nearby town balancing the budget through traffic tickets, and traffic cameras just seemed like a high-tech extension of that policy. I’m not sure if I’m gratified or disturbed to know that my suspicions probably were correct.

I’m fascinated by the research that says extending yellow lights decreases accidents. That seems like a solution that benefits everyone, instead of simply filling government coffers.

Written by in: Shameless Academic |
Apr
21
2009
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Earth Day and Ethanol

Earth Day is approaching, so there is lots of information floating around about what we can do to help the earth. But, this editorial about ethanol in the Wall Street Journal has me wondering. If ethanol is such a great idea, why can’t it make it without government subsidies?

Not to be paranoid, but I wonder how much of the green movement is just a sales pitch. When we read tips about helping the earth how many of those things actually help, and how many come from industries trying to get our money? How can we know if something is truly green or not?

Written by in: Shameless Academic |
Apr
19
2009
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On double standards

I don’t want to be petty, but I’m bothered by the news that Obama’s staff forced Georgetown University to cover a monogram symbolizing Jesus’s name before Obama delivered his speech there. It seems disrepectful, and I think it also points to a double standard.

I don’t think Obama’s staff would have done the same thing if he had been speaking at a Muslim university. They wouldn’t dare cover Allah’s name, because that would probably spark world-wide protests for weeks. Remember the cartoons?

David Horowitz wrote a recent editorial (Campus Leftists Don’t Believe in Free Speech) describing some of his recent campus speaking experiences.  He talks about protests, shouting, and guards. Apparently, leftists are so threatened by his ideas that they feel compelled to deny his right to free speech.

In both cases (the Muslims and the leftists) people are treating their opponents abominably, while expecting those same opponents to treat them with the highest respect. Have the Muslims and leftists stopped to think about what life would be like if this double standard were eliminated or even reversed?

Written by in: Shameless Academic |
Apr
17
2009
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Frugality Failed

My frugality backfired on me this week. I’m not talking about a small backfire, either. I’m talking about a large, devastating catastrophe. Brace yourself; it isn’t pretty.

I love candy a lot. I like Dove, Snickers, Twix, Milky Way Darks, lots of other things, and Reese’s Cups. Well, Reese’s anything, to be honest.

I don’t like to pay a lot for candy, so my frugal modus operandi involves day-after-holiday candy shopping trips. I go candy shopping on the day after Halloween, the day after Christmas, the day after Valentine’s, AND the day after Easter.

Why? Because the holiday candy is 50% off. Duh.

I had been looking forward to my post-Easter candy run for several weeks. I particularly looked forward to this shopping trip because I planned to buy Reese’s eggs.

As I mentioned earlier, I like anything Reese’s, but the eggs seem to have a higher peanut-to-chocolate ratio than other Reese’s products. So Reese’s eggs are basically my favorite cheap, mass-produced candy ever. I’ve loved them as long as I can remember. They make me salivate. I even became a fan of them on Facebook. Really, this is serious.

After several weeks of anticipating and drooling over the Reese’s eggs, Monday-after-Easter arrived. Monday afternoon, I headed out to get the eggs. I left the house happy and confident.

I started at Bi-lo because it was close to my house. They didn’t have very much stuff, and what they had was still over priced. It was 50% off, but they had marked it up before marking it down. It was a mean, nasty trick. I walked out without buying a single thing. Anyway, they didn’t have any Reese’s eggs.

KMart was next (because it’s close to Bi-lo, which is close to my house). I’ve had great success at KMart before. Last Halloween, I got a huge bag of miscellaneous Reese’s products there. I think it lasted a week (but I DID give some to my sister!).

They didn’t have any Reese’s eggs either! In fact, they had hardly any candy at all. I was very puzzled about this. In fact, I still am.

By then, I was feeling my candy plan crumble beneath my feet. I started to feel desperate for eggs. Tim suggest that we could check CVS, since it was close.

CVS had left-over pastel miniature Reese’s cups. Those just happen to be my least-favorite Reese’s product.

Dollar General didn’t have any name brand Easter candy, much less Reese’s eggs. I didn’t think they would.

Walmart had green and yellow M & M’s, and all of the big gawdy, pre-filled with nasty generic candy-baskets I could ever want.  There were boxes on the shelf that said “Reese’s Eggs,” but they were empty. I almost cried.

We bought some bread because we needed bread.

On the way home, we stopped at Walgreens. Walgreens was the last place likely-to-have-Reese’s-eggs within reasonable driving distance of our house.

Tim asked the lady who was busy moving the Easter stuff if she had any eggs. She very helpfully answered that she didn’t. She had some this morning, but some lady came in and bought the whole case of them.

I kept back my tears by thinking about how very, very much I disliked that lady (the egg-buyer, not the Walgreens employee). “She must have bought all of the Reese’s eggs at all of the stores around my house. I wonder what she’s going to do with them? Why does one person need that many eggs? Why couldn’t she have left some for me?”

Eventually, I convinced myself that I really should not lose my joy over chocolate and peanut butter. I found two Reese’s bunnies at the Walgreens. We bought them, and went home. We had an appointment that evening, so we couldn’t spend any more time scouring the city for Reese’s eggs.

I have eaten the bunny already (the other one is for my sister). It did not have the optimal peanut-to-chocolate ratio. I was severely disappointed, but not disappointed enough not to eat it.

Lessons learned?

Lesson 1: Next time I’m going post-holiday candy shopping, I need to be there when the stores open.

Lesson 2: I should have bought Reese’s eggs before Easter. Really, if I like something that much, it doesn’t pay to be frugal and risk not getting it at all. Frugality failed me on this one.

Lesson 3: I have to stop getting my hopes all wrapped up in little things like Reese’s eggs. In the grand scheme of things, they don’t matter at all. More importantly, God does not want me to base my happiness on peanut-butter filled confections. This was the day after Easter. The day after we had a special celebration of Christ’s resurrection. I was just celebrating Christ’s resurrection, which saves me from sin and eternal punishment, and now I’m getting depressed about candy?

So next Easter, I’ll probably buy one package of eggs before Easter, just to be sure. Then I’ll go out early Monday morning to get the 50%-off eggs, but not until I’ve read lots of Bible verses about contentment.

And, if you happen to know a lady in Greenville who is hoarding an entire case of Reese’s eggs in her kitchen, don’t tell me! I don’t think I could handle it.

Written by in: Shameless Academic |
Apr
16
2009
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Dogwood Therapy

The dogwood tree in my front yard has been begging to be photographed. It’s in a bad spot, really–right on the edge of our yard, with the ugly, busy street for a backdrop. So I had to do lots of shooting at the sky, and even that was tricky, since there are electrical wires running through the branches. I was tempted to think evil thoughts about the electrical wires until I remembered that, without them, this post wouldn’t happen.

It’s sights like this that make me think, “Why am I inside?” I should be outside absorbing all of this beauty.

dogwood1

dogwood2

dogwood3

dogwood4

dogwood5

Do you know what I really wish? I wish I had a pink dogwood to go with my white one. I love pink and white dogwood trees together. mmm.

Written by in: Shameless Academic |
Apr
14
2009
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Income taxes and Medicare

I started spring cleaning my bedroom yesterday. The dust behind my dresser and under my bed was disgusting, but I slept better last night just knowing that it was gone.

I’ve got a pile of Firefox tabs almost as thick as the dust under my bed, so I’ll probably be sharing a few thoughts as I clean out my browser.

For now, two editorials:

Ari Fleischer: Everyone Should Pay Income Taxes

This article led to an interesting conversation about tax reform yesterday. Tim mentioned that I should read this editorial but cautioned, “It will just make you mad.” He was right. If any Myers-Briggs junkies are wondering, I’m a J. It just doesn’t seem right for some people to receive checks when they didn’t pay a dime of income tax to begin with. I don’t blame those people for taking the checks, but something is terribly wrong with the system.

Weems and Sasse: Is Government Health Insurance Cheap?

This is an interesting refutation of some common misconceptions about Medicare and private insurance. When you get to the end, make sure you look at the authors’ credentials.

Written by in: Shameless Academic |
Apr
06
2009
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Obama like Huey P. Long?

If you’ve been reading my blog, you already know that I don’t like a lot of Obama’s ideas. His ideas about wealth redistribution especially disturb me.

It had not occurred to me to compare Obama to Huey P. Long, but a recent article by Michael Franc did just that. wow.

I watched some of Long’s speeches in my rhetoric classes, and he was scary. I’m having a hard time thinking of words to describe how Huey P. Long made me feel. Was he evil? Power crazy? Just plain crazy?  Incredibly confused? Misguided? I can’t decide.

Anyway, now I’m remember all of those icky feelings about Long. The thought that Obama is like Huey Long is almost more than I can handle, but maybe he is. I don’t want to think about it.

Written by in: Shameless Academic |
Apr
03
2009
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