Monthly Archives: October 2011

I don’t know if it was a league-wide thing or just the team that I followed, but I know it used to be that some major league baseball franchises had a ban on beards. I know that it was true at least of my favorite franchise, because I remember when they did away with it. Maybe it was a league rule and then it was passed to the teams, or whether it was just team-by-team and something that most teams did. I struggle to think of anyone from the 80’s or before who had a beard.

It sounds pretty ridiculous when you think about it. A beard? How offensive is a beard? Aren’t they taking it a little too far? That was kind of my thinking at the time. At east in part because I never like mustache’s and there were a lot of them around.

Flash forward a decade or two, though, and I think that either MLB or the teams had a point. I was watching the World Series. It happened to be on TV when the football game I was watching ended and it was a close game. Not having watched baseball in a while, I was really struck by how… ragged… the players look these days. They used to look like professionals or at least adults. Now they look like college drop-outs on weed. At least some of them look like the sort of person you would avoid while walking through the park. Few of them look like people you would necessarily trust to babysit your kid.

Some of this is, no doubt, a function of age. When you’re young, all old people look like adults. When you become an adult, well some look more adult than others, except you think of it in terms of “respectability” and whatnot, if you differentiate.

How did we get from here to there? I suppose there is an argument to be made that the rules were too strict for too long so that when they were finally allowed to “let loose” they did so in a conspicuous faction. Maybe it was gradual and for some reason nobody said “Look, a goatee is fine, but you do have to cut it every now and again.”

Or maybe it’s just a sign of the times. Things that were once rebel have become rather common – especially among athletes. Back in the day, rebels were often clean cut by today’s standards except for their hair and their clothes (clothes are, of course, the team uniforms and 80’s hair doesn’t work so well under a baseball cap, so they were clean-cut by default). And so athletes are a mirror of society in general. There are also ethnic considerations, though it’s worth pointing out that baseball has been integrated for a long time.

Whatever the case, it makes me feel old in a “get off my lawn” sort of way. Not that it’s the first time, since I look around at what constitutes “business attire” and roll my eyes.

Category: Downtown

I love how feels the need to identify Wilford Brimley as “that guy in Brigham City” (an LDS film) for those Mormons who don’t watch non-LDS films. The lead actress in The Killing is (or was, at one point) a Mormon. I wouldn’t recommend the series, but she was quite good. Good enough that I looked up who she was, and so on, and discovered that she went to BYU.

When we talk about people (the 47%) or corporations that “pay no taxes,” we’re taking an unfairly narrow view.

This Onion article reminded me of a former (Episcopal) pastor of mine who was caught poking a perishoner and was relieved of his duties. He immediately (and I mean immediately) became a fill-in priest for the Catholic Church. To be fair, I think he was a Catholic priest before converting to Episcopalianism, but I found it kind of funny that my church wouldn’t have him anymore but the stricter church welcomed him back with open arms.

A gorgeous time-lapsed video of Arizona and Utah, if you’re into nature and all that crap. Actually, I’m not a big nature person, and even I found it neat.

Where California went wrong, from that “Moneyball guy” who is married to that hot former MTV chick.

Bakadesuyo: Secret relationships generate more attraction and obsession than legitimate ones. This makes a good deal of sense. People in secret relationships often had more of a fantasy relationship than a real one. By which I mean, they can dream about what “might have been” if they had been able to go all-in. In real relationship, you either find out they aren’t perfect or that the other side wasn’t into you (the bastard).

When it comes to peer pressure, less is more. Too much pressure, and people start becoming stubborn.

It’s common knowledge that Ronald Reagan tried to get ketchup classified as a vegetable. The actually story is a little more complicated than that.

An interesting article on doctors experimenting with health care and payment models.

Category: Newsroom

In response to Web’s post on the 53%, wherein Web points out that even the 43% who “pay no taxes” contribute in the form of payroll taxes, Brandon Berg asks:

Are we agreed, then, that Social Security and Medicare are welfare? Because if they’re insurance programs, then the contributions aren’t really taxes.

It’s an interesting question. Social Security and Medicare are both sold as (mandatory) “insurance programs” instead of tax and welfare*. For the sake of this post, I am going to focus on social security, though most of the arguments carry over.

There are two basic possible answers to this question:

  • No, it’s insurance. The payouts aren’t “unearned” because you have to put in in order to take out. And what you get in return will correspond roughly with what you put in. If you have a low-wage job or an uneven job history, your social security checks will be smaller than if you work regularly at higher wages. These payments are made without regard to need (there is no “means-testing”) and high-earners do not pay into the system above a certain amount (roughly $107k) because their payout checks will not correspondingly go up upon retirement.
  • Actually, it’s welfare. It’s a wealth transfer from the young, who are paying out, to the old, who are receiving. The original recipients did not put any money in. The correspondence between pay-in and take-out is rough at best. The revenues generated from the payroll taxes are not treated especially differently than other revenues.

People tend to make arguments on either side of this as it suits them. I am, in fact, no different. I tend to get aggravated when people talk about the hypocrisy of folks who decry “hand outs” but cash the social security checks. My reasoning is, basically, that they put money in their entire working lives and therefore what they are receiving is not a “hand out” as much as a social insurance payout. At the same time, I take a view similar to Web’s with regard to the 53%/47% question: If you pay FICA, you pay taxes.**

Is this contradictory? In a way, yes. If someone pays FICA and only FICA to the federal government, and social security is an insurance program, then they are paying insurance and not taxes. And if someone is collecting a social security check that they are not presently working for, they are in fact accepting hand outs not much different than the person on food stamps that they are criticizing because the money they put in actually already went out to someone else or into some other program and certainly wasn’t earmarked for them. So I guess I am having it both ways.

But that’s because it is a complicated question. And I guess, to some extent, I can’t entire view it as an either/or proposition. The income is a tax, but the outgo is an obligation of sorts. And the full name of FICA is the “Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax”, containing both the words “tax” and “insurance.” So it was intended to be both, at least to some extent.

This is an unsatisfactory answer because it lets people (like me!) make arguments on whichever side of the hybrid is more convenient. While I tend to believe my parsing is justified, I get annoyed with people on the other side of various issues, defending social security as an insurance program but then at the same time suggesting that means-test it or criticizing people for accepting the payouts. Or alternately, arguing that FICA taxes “don’t count” because they’re not real taxes but then arguing that the things they pay for are “entitlements” (and therefore, tax-based). I’m not sure that there is any way around this, though.

Some have suggested that we dispense with the “insurance” aspect of it, collect it the same way that we collect other taxes (ie less regressively). But, except when it’s not, the illusion that it is its own thing is too convenient to get rid of, ultimately. I suspect that, as we look for ways to tighten the budget, we will start doing more and more things that make it seem like tax-and-welfare (lift FICA caps, means-test). But I don’t think we will ever stop calling it insurance.

* – Web questioned how we define “welfare.” For the sake of this post, coinciding with what I believe to be Brandon’s intent, we will define welfare as “Money from the government, either to the recipient or directly to somebody else specifically on the recipient’s behalf, spent on something other than basic infrastructure, which the recipient did not earn nor do anything positive to entitle themselves to it.” It’s not a perfect definition and subject to interpretation on the meanings of “basic infrastructure” and “positive,” but it will have to do for now. Perhaps at a later point we will explore the subject more thoroughly.

** – And arguably, even if we didn’t actually call it a tax, it is psychologically indistinguishable from a tax. My wages from substitute teaching are so low that almost no money is taken out by the federal government in the form of direct income tax. But when I look at the difference between my gross pay and how much I take home, I think “tax.” The same was true when I was a teenager working at minimum wage.

-{This is a political issue and there’s certainly no way around that. So this is not one of those “no politics” posts. I do ask, however, that we refrain from presuming that those who disagree with us are lying, stupid, selfish, or less good and noble people than we are. I do suggest that people are using terminology out of convenience, but I do not suggest that any particular side is being fundamentally more dishonest than the other. It’s easier to discuss things when we operate from this perspective.}

Category: Statehouse

So I’m working my way through the Book of Mormon at the moment. I don’t know how far along I will make it until I need a break. I find the style of it to be a little aggravating (it uses the phrase “and so it came to pass” the same way a hyperstereotypical valley girl says the word “like”). The story itself is slow-going, interrupted frequently with religious lectures. Which is good, because that’s partly why I am listening and have already discovered something pretty big that I did not know, but a fair amount of repetition. I am finishing up the second book of Nephi, the closing of which mostly seems to be a rehash of Isaiah. I might should have gone with the comic book, but I decided to go with the source material.

By way of bizarre coincidence, some missionaries stopped by today. I said, with a voice serious enough that they didn’t see an opening, “I am not interested.” They gave me a card and went their merry way.

For those of you that weren’t HC readers, I had to deal with missionaries when I was living in Deseret. I made the mistake of being a little too nice on the upfront, at which point they were hard to get rid of. Nice guys, to be sure, but I wasn’t really interested in being sold. I still have the Book of Mormon they gave me, though, with the underlined portions they told me to read.

I actually wouldn’t have minded talking to them about what I’d read, but I didn’t want to run into the same problem I had last time. Though I don’t doubt that they might be interested in telling me about this or that, I would be wasting their time since I am not a convert and I felt that by merely talking to them about it I might be giving them the wrong impression (even if I say, as I did last time, that I am not interested in conversion). It’s sort of like continuing to hang out with that girl that you’ve told you’re not looking for a relationship that she says she understands but quite frankly you know you should not believe her.

Category: Church

I happened to catch the tail end of the game between UAB and Central Florida last week, wherein the former got their first win of the season upsetting the latter. It was a great game that came down to the final minute of play. Though the network (something called “CSS”) was loathe to show wide-angle shots of the stadium, I would guess that maybe 500 people were there to see it. This was an intraconference game with a big opponent (UCF is likely headed to the Big East soon).

At least they aren’t Eastern Michigan. UAB claimed that there were 8,000 people there, but I doubt it. At least they have the excuse that it was a weeknight game in somewhat crummy weather. EMU has to hit up their sponsor to buy tickets. Tickets cap out at $9 and they still can’t get people to show up.

I am loathe to say that a school should give up its football program because people aren’t showing up, but… geeze.

Meanwhile, an SMU player called his team’s atmosphere a”pee-wee league experience.” SMU, like UCF, may be headed to the Big East. Their attendance isn’t as dreadful as UAB’s, but it would likely stand out in the BE (which itself is no SEC, attendance-wise).

Southern Tech pushes hard to get people to show up, though is not in the position of EMU, UAB, or SMU. Though University of Delosa people look at any empty seats as a sign of abject failure.

It’s all relative, I suppose. But when you’re being beaten out by high school football and college basketball in attendance, you have something to answer for in a way that West Virginia (whose coach complained about fewer than 40k showing up for a game) doesn’t.

Category: Downtown

A deaf group is suing Netflix over the lack of subtitles. This sounds ridiculous on the face of it. We shouldn’t but a barrier on every developing business to be able to serve everybody in exactly the right manner. Are movie theaters expected to make accommodations? If I put up a video on the Internet, can I be sued for not having a subtitling mechanism?

The FCC has strong-armed carriers into “bill shock” warnings. Basically, when you’re allotted whatever has run out and the meter is running, they have to actually tell you about it. Only the most ardent libertarian could really oppose this.

A woman is suing IMDB for revealing her age and refusing to un-reveal it.

The state senator minority leader in Oklahoma is resigning his post to support a career opportunity for his wife out of the state.

A disturbing story about the NYPD fabricating drug charges to meet arrest quotas. Remember when I said that I have a real problem with checkpoints and trusting the cops at checkpoints? I suspect a group of cops manning a hut out in southern Arizona have a lot less oversight than these NYPD cops.

To follow up on a discussion I recently had with Knight, is cooking cheaper than fast food? Only if you don’t factor in the labor costs. On top of that, when you cook, your ingredients can go bad if you really don’t have your act together. The article is from Mother Jones, though, and so it takes more of “only if you’re willing to assist McWendyKing’s exploitation of low-wage workers.” Because if they weren’t working at McDonald’s, they’d have union jobs somewhere else…

More mid-level providers are getting doctorates and want to be called Doctor. I have mixed feelings about it. Russell Saunders has no problem with the honorific, though questions how much value the extra education actually confers.

An update to a story I have been following: Retiring the Fighting Sioux nickname will cost the University of North Dakota $750,000.

An interesting new service for those who self-publish. I need to find out a lot more about how the ebook side of things works. Amazon is, itself, looking to sidestep publishers.

Category: Newsroom

I got retweeted by a national sports writer named Greg Swaim. He wrote:

Love the hate mail from #BoiseState fans. Keep it coming, as it proves my point on your quality academics…#3 in the great state of Idaho!!

To which I responded:

@GSwaim #4 in Idaho. Lewis-Clark State College is a fine school.

To which he responded:

{my tweet} // Tweet-O-the-Day. Quality work!!

A little backstory. Boise State University is allegedly being considered for the Big 12. Though I seriously doubt it is. For all of the talk about how “it’s all about the money,” there is a degree of pride involved as well. Namely, you want to be in a conference with universities of at least some stature. It’s difficult to under-state where Boise State University stands, academically. Saying that they are #4 is actually being generous. They are fourth in a race between only four state universities. If you throw in BYU-Idaho, they’re #5. There’s also the College of Idaho, a private school, that is in a different category and so hard to compare. The top two universities in the state are the University of Idaho and Idaho State University.

Of course, when you ask people to name a university in Idaho, the first name that will typically come to mind is Boise State. BSU is the largest school in the state, but that’s not why. They are known for their football program. People may be vaguely aware of the University of Idaho (Sarah Palin went there), but almost nobody has heard of the others. This may be sad commentary on how we look at higher education, but for Boise State it actually represents an opportunity. They have the sort of publicity that $6m a year (roughly the deficit BSU’s athletic department runs) would actually have difficulty buying. Due to the publicity, and the fact that it’s a large school in the state’s largest city, they’re well-positioned to capitalize on this a way that few other schools can. If you want to go to a school with a football program worth seeing, it’s the only choice.

One of the big stumbling blocks, though, is the school’s name. Why they haven’t dropped the “State” from their name (as the former Troy State, North Texas State, and Memphis State did) I do not know. I have been told that the University of Idaho would never allow it because they want to keep BSU “in their place,” but BSU is the more popular school. On the other hand, U of I cranks out lawyers and BSU does not.

I also wonder if Boise State simply has too much invested in its name to change. The huge victories against Oklahoma and TCU in BCS bowls were under the BSU name. Do you walk away from that? If you’re a serious academic institution, yes you do. Boise State University reeks of the “State Universities” in California, second-rate institutions for the most part. The University of Boise, or even just Boise University, at least sound more similar to schools of better repute. As odd as it sounds, university names do matter.

The whole Idaho university system has actually become problematic in their desire to start up a medical school. Namely, because Idaho, Idaho State, and Boise State all could have a claim to it. Idaho is the state’s flagship university. Idaho State is the university with a focus on health care vocation training. Boise State University is in Boise, which is the only city in Idaho large enough to hold a medical school. So everybody think that they are entitled to it. And more to the point, everybody wants to make sure nobody else gets it. So the would-be medical students have to go to Utah or Washington. Or alternately, it’s all an elaborate ruse so that the state doesn’t have to foot the rather hefty bill that medical schools incur. At the very least, I doubt the state treasurer’s office is shedding any tears.

Category: Newsroom

Last season, I went to go see most of the Callie Cougars home games, all of which but one they won by 40 points or more (the other they won by 27 or so). They went on to lose in the first round of the playoffs. Since the decision was more-or-less made that we were not going to be staying in Callie very long, I decided to divest my interest in the Cougars. I decided instead that I would see the Redstone Copperheads, being that I work for the district in all. Also, last year I got to see the construction on the “new” stadium and look forward to actually sitting in the stands of it. So I’d just wait for a Friday teaching job and stick around, but that never quite came. So I made a trip up today.

I didn’t do due diligence, however. Otherwise, I would have waited until next week. The Copperheads are playing Alexandria High, the #1 school in the state sitting at 8-0. The chances of winning are not very high (Redstone is 4-4). Meanwhile, the Cougars are playing St Matthew, Redstone’s hoity-toity private school that I vaguely root against. St Matthew, usually a powerhouse because they can pluck the local football talent from Redstone High with football scholarships, is having a down year. Callie is 8-0 and the #1 team in its divisions (St Matthew and Redstone are both from a division above).

So instead of seeing Callie pound the school I don’t like, I’ll be watching Redstone get pounded.

But the stadium should be cool. It’ll also hopefully give me a chance to get a Redstone Copperheads t-shirt, which they stopped selling at Walmart right about the time I decided to get one (they still carry St Matthew shirts).

Addendum: No shirt. They sold posters, but no shirts. Frustrating. Callie be St Matthew by over 50 points. Redstone lost by 12, though it was actually a close game that came down to the final minutes of the game. A minute and a half to go, Redstone had the ball in the red zone, but couldn’t convert a fourth down. Alexandria’s beefy running back then made an 85-yard run.

Category: Downtown

Fingers are pointing everywhere with Bank of America’s decision to institute a Debit Card fee. Conservatives are gleefully pointing at Walmart. Presumably, this is an effort to give pause to the (presumably liberal) supports of the law that BoA was responding to. You can make this look “all about Walmart” all you want, but Walmart’s deal with the banks was almost certainly more favorable than that of smaller vendors because Walmart commands that sort of leverage. While the bill was not flawless (more on that in a future post), it’s easier for me to avoid Big Bad Walmart (if I am so inclined) than for Walmart and Mom & Pop to avoid Visa and Mastercard.

Credit where credit is due: Apple is shifting text-messaging over to data rather than voice lines. A previous Linkluster criticized AT&T for their ridiculous new text-messaging rates and later commented “[T]he savvier users will simply transfer texting from voice to data. […] I expect Android will at some point make it all automatic.” Loathe as I am to admit it, Apple got there first.

Chicago Traders put up a sign saying “We are the 1%” Except, of course, they are not. But they identify with the 1% (which isn’t what it used to be) because they work for the 1%. Which is part of the problem with the whole 99% thing in the first place. Most of them have little in common and a lot of them hate each other.

Here’s a neat calculator where you can find out what percent (of household incomes) you are in. It turns out that last year, Clancy and I fell outside the top 10%. So I am the 90%. Time to go after the other 10%!

This is one of the things I find really irritating about NCAA realignment: According to a report, Connecticut was originally supposed to join the ACC but were blocked by neighboring Boston College, who didn’t want another New England team. I don’t really care about either school (Connecticut had apparently tried to keep BC out of the Big East for similar reasons some time before), but hate this sort of thing (looking at Florida and Florida State). The Southwest Conference demonstrated the failure of being too regional, but viewing every nearby college as a threat is simply making things less interesting for everybody else. Regional rivalries are one of the great things about college sports! The NFL and Major League Baseball take great pains to keep neighboring teams apart. That might be good for the franchises in particular (no conflict between rooting for the Angels and Dodgers, so fans can root for both and the cross-town threat is minimized) it would be much cooler if these teams were competing with one another for the division championship.

The “iPhone thieves” have pleaded no-contest.

Did Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan come from SimCity? That would be hilarious. I always used to use that hack that gave you a bunch of money to work with at the expense of a major earthquake. Back at the beginning of the game, you let off a bunch of earthquakes and get things started. Use that money to finance a *lot* of fire departments, and you come out way ahead. I don’t think that we can do something like that in the real world.

Better buy your peanut butter now, because prices are about to skyrocket.

I had a guest-post on Mindless Diversions about GraphicAudio, for those of you who might like your comic books in audio form. Here was the follow-up.

Category: Newsroom

One of the household things I don’t do very much is cook. Part of it is because my repertoire is limited and mostly involves foods that Clancy does not like. Not that she is a finicky eater, just that there is a culinary mismatch. She likes all of these spices and herbs that I often can’t even taste. I like plain things and don’t really no how to do complicated things. She’s going to teach me when she has time, but she doesn’t have the time.

Did you know Spam goes bad? I thought it was like Velveeta. I had a velveeta block for a year and a half and ne’er a problem with it. Spam doesn’t even last a month even when refrigerated. The odd thing about Spam is that you have to taste several bites before you realize that it has gone bad.

I drink a lot of soft drinks and switch around from one to the next. Soft drinks in bottles go flat (even when unopened) way before cans do. Another thing I have learned. Now I have two dozen bottles of Mountain Dew that doesn’t taste particular good.

I’ve re-acquainted myself with the joys of fake crab. It’s prepared and thoroughly processed food made up to taste like crab, but my diminished tastebuds can’t really taste the difference. Since it’s already prepared, I can eat it straight out of the bag out of the fridge. It makes a great little snack.

I’ve also taken to eating large-curd cottage cheese. I’m trying to cut back on my cream cheese intake and I can go further with the cottage than the cream. Clancy has been eating a lot of cottage cheese mixed with yogurt over the past year, but she gets the fat free stuff which barely has any curd at all. It feels like unnecessary duplication to have both, but I’m looking at it like diet coke (which she drinks) compared to regular coke (which I do). Different product, in its own way.

They’ve stopped carrying my favorite processed roast beef at the local Safeway. I’ve grown spoiled on the stuff. The alternatives just taste too salty.

Things have been really hectic lately, which is why I haven’t been as regularly writing and commenting. I’m hoping that it will all be smoothed out by the end of the week.

Speaking of smooth, am I the only one who thinks those Keith Stone commercials are a hoot?

Category: Kitchen