Saturday, December 13, 2008

Thoughts from Panera Bread

Free WiFi is awesome. It allows you to get out of the house and do the exact same thing as always, but with scenery. Panera Bread has given me the opportunity today and I am grateful. Obviously I am a little busy these days if I am posting from here, so let me throw some quick shots out today.

I am about footballed out right now. Being in Dallas, the Cowboys occupy 75% of the airwaves this time of year at a minimum. This team has done its best to take my little interest and step on it. The high school feuds that exist or are trumped up by the talking heads have me wishing for sports talk in place of the tabloid gossip.

The Ranger's off season so far has been non-dramatic which makes me somewhat happy. We sold on the down tick with Gerald Laird. His five tool player status along with his experience merits more than a high school kid and a slow to mature AA player. I don't think the return was horrid, but it was underwhelming. So far they have yet to sign a blockbuster player. Thank Goodness! Kerry Wood and his permanent spot on the disabled list went for over 10 million a year. Thankfully we are not weighing down our future with such contracts. I don't care how good you are (Teixeira, CC, etc.), 6+ year contracts are nuts in this league. It guaranteed... results are anything but. I for one would love to see contracts have a consistent base league-wide based on experience and then having significant bonuses tied to performance. 55 home runs one year brings in 8 million extra, the slump the next year to 21 homers only brings in 2 million. How much drama could we eliminate with such a system. How much easier to keep franchise players that build a fan base. Most likely it is too simple to actually happen.

I have a structural engineer teaching our Young Marrieds class at church this quarter. This bodes well for both my excitement and my comprehension. I have a subtle feeling that some us may have to be translators if he gets too technical, but I bet his lessons won't be hard to understand.

Once again the holidays are here and movies that technical have not been released are being considered for yearly honors. Just sad. I wish they would have awards that require 100 million in sales to get be eligible. No more artsy films that are only released in 17 theaters. I am not saying that all of these films stink, but at least talk about films that people have heard of. Using my new eligibility rules from above, here are the best films of the year based upon the buzz generated by the common man:

Roundhouse to the Oscars

The Dark Knight
Iron Man
Get Smart
Kung Fu Panda
Indiana Jones
High School Musical 3

Not the list that you will see anywhere near the Academy Awards, but certainly the list of movies that I have been hearing about.

New Laptop
I got a new laptop about a week ago. I am so pumped. The last computer purchase that I made was before I started college in the summer of 2000. I went with an Asus that I got off of NewEgg. It has an Intel Core2Duo P8600 processor, 4 Gigs of RAM, a 320 Gig Hard Drive, and a huge 1 Gig NVidia GeForce 9650 GT graphics card. The best games from my old system look like an Atari on an HD TV. Oh, and I got this since I started grad school this fall...

Heard While Making This Post
Weezer - Possibilities
The Calling - Wherever You Will Go
Jimmy Eat World - Sweetness

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I figure that since the title of this blog includes the word Views, I had better add a few. Before the weather became too cold for afternoon strolls, I took my camera with me as I walked the local jogging trail. I also do this to highlight my oh so excellent and unprofessional camera. I have a Kodak EasyShare Camera and have taken close to 3,000 pictures with it. I have had camera store clerks scoff at it, but I still believe that it does a great job.

This was taken prior to the walk on my back porch. This plant of ours turns bright red in the fall.

Self Portrait - Reflection in the Creek

This was an experiment to see if I could capture a car going at least 45 miles per hour through a bridge railing.

Souring - How High Can You Fly?

Disgust... Disgrace... Disrespect


Dancing Lights

Depth Perception - Floating Leaves



I am In Charge


Vision - During the recent election, candidates were shown looking up in a way to signify leadership and vision. If I ever run for office, I will use this picture as a telling early sign of such traits.

Redundant Redundancy

Monday, November 10, 2008

What If

I had no job, no responsibilities, and was bored out of my mind? That question was the answer to my question of "Why?" after watching a video earlier today. Here are some answers:

Turn myself into a quartet and cater to nerds -

Learn every batting stance ever and record them in my mom's back yard -


Master Table Tennis -

Post new Facebook status updates all day long

Learn the robot (wait for the guy 45 seconds in) -

Watch Youtube

Make a Tutorial on How to Boil Water -

Let me know if I forgot any

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Lighter Side

It is time for a post on the lighter side of things. I have noticed that Baseball has slipped to #2 on my topics list, so today I am going to help it and other topics get more recognition.

It's Hot Stove Season in Baseball Land
Oh boy am I excited. Possible blockbuster deals and team upgrades make this time of year a fun time to keep up with the great game. Being in Texas, I don't see many of the big names coming here. I would love to trade Salty for a pitcher. Greinke appears to be a possibility that I would go for. Any trade must be for a promising pitcher. We don't need anything else right now.

The Best Stadium?
Today on the lovely Ticket, the broadcasters boldly predicted that the new Dallas Cowboys stadium was so expensive, so luxurious, and so innovating that it would be the best sports stadium for at least 10 years. They justify this position by claiming that Jerry Jones is more ambitious and has more money to spend than anyone else.

I am going to boldly take the opposite side of this argument. I think it will be less than 5 years (probably 3) before some new stadium takes over the title. I can't count how many new stadiums were hailed as the best ever and would never be topped, all have since been dethroned. I guarantee that this one will be topped and saying otherwise is not a wise stance to take.

Now don't get me wrong, I think that it will be a great place for many years to see a game. But the best? I tend to think it will be outdone by someone and in the not-so-distant future.

How To Cut In Line
Check out this article on the best ways to cut in line. A quick look:
researchers have tried to unpick the psychology of the queue, though most work has focused on reducing consumer frustration. However, one classic study found that New Yorkers were more likely to react to people who cut in front of them in a subway queue than behind.

Yankee fans only care about who is in front of them (Red Sox), they never see it coming from behind (Rays).

A cheap shot and off topic... you bet. Thoroughly satisfying... definitely.

A Smart Choice
I rented Get Smart the other night and it exceeded my expectations. It had plenty of witty comedy, but kept from being downright silly. I give it a solid 4 out of 5.

Too Long?
People often complain about the length of the Baseball season. 162 games is a long season. But now that both Hockey and Basketball have started up, I suggest that they feel longer. Baseball goes roughly from March through October, or about 8 months. Basketball and Hockey go from roughly November through June, or about 8 months. The difference to me is that at least in baseball, my team is playing every day or two, not every three to four. All of the down time combined with the length of the playoffs make the 'Winter' sports drag on and on.

I think that we might need to take the schedules down a notch, but let's apply it to several sports.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Election Musings

Feel free to refine or poke holes in the following ideas.

The Primaries
Is anyone confused about the primary process? I know that I am. This process wreaks of a lack of planning. It just sort of fell together this way over time. I live in one of those states that doesn't matter in the primaries. Texas. The state that holds 34 electoral votes has virtually zero sway in the primaries. Who chose Iowa and New Hampshire as the king-makers of this country? Iowa doesn't even use a legitimate selection system (caucus) in my opinion.

So here is my plan. It is simple, and it is allows the nation (not a handful of states) to choose who gets to run.

Super Tuesday 1
The First Tuesday of February of the election year. All 50 states will hold a primary election. Candidates that can gather signatures amounting to 0.25% of the popular vote in the previous election are eligible for their party. That would be slightly over 300,000 signatures in 2012.

Super Tuesday 2
The last Tuesday of April of the election year. The top 3 vote getters for a party will be eligible. All 50 states will hold a primary election. The top popular vote getter wins the nomination.

How hard is that? You get rid of caucuses. You get rid of superior first choice states. You get rid of goofy delegates, super-delegates, and all that jazz.

Election Day
I think that everyone can agree on this one except for my boss. Let's make election day a federal holiday. This will help prevent the end of the day rush (when people get off of work). We don't have to sneak out during the lunch break to vote. This day is a celebration of our country's freedom. Let's celebrate.

Next, let's move election day to the first Friday of November. Why you ask? Because I want a 3 day weekend... just kidding. Most people stay up late and watch the results, most people also get little sleep, and most people spend the next day at work talking about the results. The result... a very unproductive workday.

Voter Registration
The most controversial measure on my blog today. Let's do away with Voter Registration! What?!? Why or how would you do that? Simple, use the same form of ID that everyone else requires... a Driver's License.

If I go the movie theater and look young, they demand it. If I go to 7-Eleven and use my credit card, they sometimes demand it. If I want to drive a car, I must have it. If I want to get on an airplane, I must have it (or a Passport). Whenever I get a new job, they make a copy of it. Everyone else accepts this form of ID, why not the election board.

Why do I want to do this? So we can simplify the process of voting and eliminate the occurrence of minimize suspicion of election fraud.

Issues to Overcome
Fake IDs - If high school aged kids can produce McLovin, we need to check for it. Answer: Every polling place uses an ID verification webservice that takes Drivers License Number, First Name, and Last Name. This webservice interfaces with the state's database and spits back a Valid or Invalid verdict.

Using the Same ID More than Once - This same webservice puts a little X next to everyone name as it is checked. After being checked once, it will return invalid.

Security or I Don't Trust Those Newfangled Machines - This is a valid fear, but it nothing more than that. I work in the financial software industry. I pull people's credit reports, wire money, send SSN numbers around all via a webservice. How is this allowed? Because we use secure methods (ones that I will not divulge here). If I can do it with that information, we could have the NSA whip up something better in no time I would bet.

This Disenfranchises People - I know, I am suppressing the vote of people who don't have an ID. I am against the poor, the immigrant worker, and the elderly. You know what, I think that would could figure something out here, I just haven't come up with it yet. Help me out.

What Band Would Play At Your Inauguration Party?
Ah yes, the really important question of the day. I thought about this one and came to the conclusion that the word Party was the key. So my initial verdict is:

Toby Mac

I could party to:

Let's Get This Party Started - to set the mood
Feelin' So Fly - I could do some goofy dance like them
Extreme Days - to go along with the urgency of things
Boomin - just to bring everyone together

Could you wish for a President that sang with him, I don't want to gain the whole world and lose my soul!

...and yes I am white... so is Toby Mac.

Please feel free to offer other suggestions...

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Rebuilding Year

So yesterday my candidate lost. What am I going to do about it? More importantly, what is the party or movement going to do about it? I think that there are several good answers.

First though, some perspective. The popular vote so far appears to have shifted 4% since the last election. That is all that it took to switch the party affiliation of the President. If it can swing 1% a year for 4 years, it can switch right back. So, in other words, it is a very attainable goal in 2012. Also, consider the 1992 election that brought forth a 1994 redo of Congress. In 2 years, a lot can change in the house.

So, back to my original question. What must be done to to bring Conservatism back to the top?

  1. Remain True to Our Principles
    It is time to stop redefining Conservatism. We have a great mission statement, so let's stick to it. We promote individual freedom through limited government. Is that so hard to follow through on? We can not let power go to our heads and start adding to that. The past administration did a bad job or sticking to it and Congress went right along. Government expanded under Republican control and guess what, the people saw through it.

    If you miss this one, many of the points below become irrelevant.

  2. Switch to the Positive
    This means that it is time for us to update our message. People want to be inspired to do great things, not scared away from evil. The best way that I know how to explain this is through the evolution of church evangelism. In the 50s, the church could have revival's and convert people because they were going to hell. Likewise, voters would vote against the scary Commies blowing us all to... well hell. Now, we have a different evangelism style in the church. We preach on love and forgiveness and grace. We make it attractive, not scared out of your mind. Why do we do this? First off, it is more effective. Second, our culture has shifted this direction. Conservative candidates must make this shift as well in order to stay viable. They must advertise the great strides that can be made rather than using fear-mongering as the chief get out the vote effort.

  3. Quit Whining
    People go with winners. They want someone who acts like a winner. Whining about the media every day is not the action of a winner, but a sore loser. Let's make the best out of what we have rather than complaining about what we don't have.

  4. Redefine the Face of the Movement
    To piggy-back on point number 2, things have changed over the years. Methods used in 1990 are not as effective today. Therefore our inspiring leaders of the past are starting to become hindrances. On the 'conservative' radio station in town, we get 8 hours of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Mark Levin. Let's realize something here. They are not converting many people to the movement. They are in the business to well, have a successful business. That means catering to their clients. They use tactics like point #3. Again, they are not winning people to the movement in any significant way.

    What kind of leader or voice of the movement am I looking for? Someone who inspires people to better themselves, someone who educates people on how they can make their family situation better, and someone who makes the movement attractive and enticing to newcomers.

  5. Walk the Walk (Strict Ethics Control)
    We need to be the movement of the American Family. And frankly, the American Family wants us to be just that We align closely to them on many of the social issues. Now we have to follow it up with upright living.

    We need to take decisive and immediate action to curb ethics problems. This goes from weird perversions to being buddy-buddy with all of the lobbyists. No more shenanigans. With the presidential election still close to 50-50, why are the Senate and House so one-sided? One of the major reasons is that politicians here and there keep getting into scandals. I am frankly proud of people voting against their party to get the scum out of office. We will not regain or hold Congress with a continuing record of somewhat frequent scandal.

  6. Educate
    I don't think that we have a done a good job of educating the general public about the superiority of our ideas and principles. We have facts on our side folks. We have results and prosperity to show for it. Nobody seems to know it though. I do not fault an ignorant voter for voting the other way. I mean ignorant with no condescending tone. A lot of voters just don't have all of the information to make a truly informed decision. We must do better about getting the facts out there.

  7. Keep the Message Simple
    We have to build and maintain a brand that is easy to define and understand. I like a lot of things that Ross Perot has to say for instance, but he bored more people than anyone with his TV specials back in 1992. It was a big joke about his flip charts and such. They may have contained great information, but it was nothing that would become a catchphrase or grab your attention. We have to develop our mission and then simplify it so that it is easy to spread and remember.

  8. Appeal to Young Voters
    For the life of me I don't know why we can't do better here. We are the Keep Government Out of My Business group. This stay out of my business idea is a rallying cry for young people. We need to expand on this effort greatly.

  9. Target Minorities
    That is right, I said it. African-American (AA) and Latin-American (LA) voters are a huge voting block. We have a lot to say to them.

    For the AA group, we have railed against programs that help them more than other groups. We have to shift to instead promote the great opportunity that can be realized by leaving those programs in the dust.

    For the LA group, we have become the "Get out your shotgun and run 'em back across the border" party in many respects. I like in Texas, I see it. We must expand our opportunity of the American Dream to LA voters without threatening them constantly. We must completely redo our immigration / deportation stance. We need to look at the history of immigration and how it has benefited our country. We must deal with the realities of the times and reach out to people.

  10. Become Vocal
    The silent majority is a problematic paradigm. We are getting totally overrun in certain arenas because we just don't stand up for what we believe and voice our opinion. This goes back to #1, #2, and #6. I am not talking about becoming a loud obnoxious group, just one that knows what it stands for and is willing to talk about it.

This is very doable. Let's start right now and see what we can accomplish.

This post can almost be flipped to be a religious discussion now that I read it through. Winning people over to great ideas has a lot of things in common apparently.

Tomorrow I will post my goofy suggestions for how to make the election cycle both simpler and better.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Big Day

Finally, after too many hours of analysis, election day is here. I won't go into too much detail on this issue or that issue. I think everyone has frankly already decided. I got my "I Voted" sticker today. My new solution to the federal deficit is to eliminate the "I Voted" stickers from the budget. I was even given a 2nd sticker. What a waste of taxpayer money.

I posted earlier this year about reading the book, Free to Choose by Milton Friedman. It is just excellent. Many people do not know that it was a television series back in 1980. Now a website has the video up streaming to you for free. These are well worth checking out. You can even see the goofy intros that were added in 1990. Go visit

Finally, some thoughts for the election day.

Luke 12: 22-31
Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

AOMB: Posing

Today Mollee and Buddy both got a bath. So we decided to capture the moment before they decided to get back to normal. Here is the result of our coaxing them to pose for you!

And this is what happened when I asked them to make a goofy face.

Capturing Nature

Most people that I know are very proud of their photographic abilities. I am by no means an expert and I certainly don't have professional equipment. However, Kimberlee and I are quite proud of the picture below.

While on vacation, we visited the Daniel Stow Botanical Garden outside of Charlotte, North Carolina. This relatively new garden has plenty of room to grow. They have a special orchid conservatory that was housing hundreds of butterflies. Naturally, we tried to take a picture of every single one. First up, the butterflies...

Next up, the orchids!

And the rest of the garden...

Symetry... I love it!

The biggest wild spider that I have ever seen.

The weirdest flower that I know of.

The best scenery of the day!

This feels like a scene from The Secret Garden.

A water spout that shoots over a path? You bet I am all over that.

I am quite brave. Look how close I got to this bee.

Catching Up

Like most people out there, I have been busy. So busy that I forgot to blog for a while. Therefore tonight is catch-up night. I considered doing one gigantic post, but I think that things should be separate. I hope that you enjoy the next few posts.

First off, back at the beginning of the month Kimberlee and I visited Luke, Rebecca, and Micah Adams in North Carolina. We had a great visit and got to celebrate Rebecca's 28th birthday. As you can see below, I worked hard on the candle arrangement. She and Kimberlee have been friends since college. Rebecca is one tough cookie. She isn't going to beat anyone up, but she has fought hard of late against cancer. The dreaded chemo is finally over and she has surgery coming up. Please pray for her.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

AOMB: Love At First Sight

So the old heading of AOM has to be revised to AOMB. Why? Because we now have Buddy!

We adopted him last night from a local rescue group. His is still a puppy and is feisty enough to put up with Mollee's antics. If the first 24 hours are any indication, he will be a great playmate for her. And before you ask, both of them have had their special surgeries so there should be a zero chance of puppies. Now he looks an awful lot like Mollee. The easiest way to tell them apart is that he is solid black on he back and she has white streaks. Their eyes also look different. The following are from last night.

Buddy was initially confused about his new surroundings.

They got to know each other by rolling around on the floor.

Mollee then spent the rest of the night jumping on him and playing as much as possible.

They have both decided that the thing that they most want is what the other one has. Mollee in this picture is not sure what to make of him chewing on her rawhide.

In the end, they both want attention. Buddy is on the right and Mollee snuck in on the left.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Untouchables

The following is a list of baseball players that have 1 thing in common. See if you can guess it!

Carl Crawford
David Ortiz
Adam Dunn
Chone Figgins
Russell Martin
Eric Byrnes
Travis Hafner
Paul Konerko
Jeff Francoeur
Troy Tulowitzki
Todd Helton
Jorge Posada
Ivan Rdoriguez
Michael Cuddyer
Gary Matthews Jr.
Andruw Jones

Erik Bedard
Aaron Harang
Javier Vazquez
Justin Verlander
Fausto Carmona
JJ Putz
John Maine
Pedro Martinez
Chien-Ming Wang
Joe Blanton
Brad Penny
Jeff Francis
Clay Buchholz
Eric Gagne
CJ Wilson

Figured it out yet?

These are all players that you should have avoided on draft day this season.

Yes, that is correct, this list of well knowns all stunk it up. Well maybe not all were awful, but they all produced much less than the preseason hype. Some broke down physically, other mentally, while others were just the cool pick of the year. There are many people that, upon looking at the above list last February, would call that a dream draft.

So you ask, what were the smart people buying?

Josh Hamilton
Dustin Pedroia
Ryan Ludwick
Aubrey Huff
Kevin Youkilis
Nate McLouth
Carlos Quentin
Carlos Delgado
Matt Kemp
Raul Ibanez
Jorge Cantu
Mark DeRosa
Xavier Nady
Andre Ethier
Milton Bradley
Randy Winn
Melvin Mora

Roy Halladay
Mariano Rivera
Cliff Lee
Tim Lincecum
Rich Harden
Joakim Soria
Justin Duchscherer
Ervin Santana
Ricky Nolasco
Grant Balfour
Mike Mussina

I hope that your team looked more like the 2nd list this year. Mine probably favored a little of both, but not enough of the second.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Season Awards

Now is the time of the year for the age old debate of who was the best of the year. A lot of people views these awards as definitive in validating a players place in history. I think I can judge from this year's list of candidates that there are many difficult and maybe even arbitrary decisions to be made. Here is how I break down the races:

1. Justin Morneau - .308 BA, 23 HR, 129 RBI
2. Dustin Pedroia - .325 BA, 17 HR, 118 Runs
3. Carlos Quentin - .288 BA, 36 HR, 100 Runs
4. Grady Sizemore - .272 BA, 33 HR, 38 SB
5. Josh Hamilton - .304 BA, 34 HR, 126 RBI

1. Albert Pujols - .350 BA, 34 HR, 108 RBI
2. David Wright - .300 BA, 33 HR, 123 RBI
3. Lance Berkman - .314 BA, 29 HR, 104 RBI
4. Hanley Ramirez - .298 BA, 33 HR, 122 Runs, 33 SB
5. Matt Holliday - .321 BA, 25 HR, 107 Runs

AL Cy Young
1. Cliff Lee - 22-3, 2.54 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 170 Ks
2. Roy Halladay - 19-11, 2.81 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 201 Ks
3. Ervin Santana - 16-6, 3,25 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 209 Ks
4. Francisco Rodriguez - 62 Saves, 2.27 ERA
5. Mariano Rivera - 38 Saves, 1.43 ERA, 0.68 WHIP

NL Cy Young
1. Tim Lincecom - 17-5, 2.66 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 248 Ks
2. Brandon Webb - 22-7, 3.24 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 176 Ks
3. Johan Santana - 15-7, 2.64 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 197 Ks
4. CC Sabathia - 16-10, 2.80 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 244 Ks
5. Ryan Dempster - 17-6, 2.99 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 183 Ks

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Running Diary - Storm 2008

Because of Hurricane Ike's fury, we here in North Texas, a mere 300 miles from landfall, have been warned about today's weather. I, your trusty reporter, will put my thoughts on paper as STORM 2008! rolls through.

September 12
11:06 PM CST
The winds are a changing. They now blow out of the East, Southeast direction. This is an odd occurrence, for they never come from there. The air smells like the town of Houston, warm, dense, and very moist. I think that I just killed a mosquito. I feel like the captain at the beginning of Mary Poppins. I can sense change in the air.

September 13
8:02 AM CST
Armed with my trusty weather vane, I have traveled outside to take a read on the situation. I find that there is no more trusty weather vane than a dog that should be doing its business. Our particular bloodhound pointed straight into the steady stream of air from the East, Northeast. This time the air smells less moist and the clouds remind me of the dark soul of winter. The sun peaks through and winks at us every couple of minutes as the clouds permit. Somethings amiss. I did the usual test of leaning into a gust of wind to gauge its speed. I nearly fell flat on my face... approximately 30 MPH.

9:17 AM CST
My companion tricked me into going out into the storm again, although she did alert me to the new Northeast wind direction. I chose to figure out the wind intensity by looking at the trees as opposed to my previous method. We have had the first heavy rain drop fall on our quaint abode and I can only assume that there will be millions more. I now have a full stomach from a breakfast of cinnamon rolls and a wet mop on the end of a leash. So far, it feels like any other Saturday...

10:09 AM CST
Tricked again... for the last time? I doubt it. The winds and rain have died down, but the wind shifted once again to the North, Northwest. The hood on my jacket almost lifts off of my shoulders when I turn my back to the wind. I can't help but to think back to simpler times in our fair town. Softball-sized hail and mile-wide tornadoes plagued out town, but this swirling devilry just makes my bones shiver.

11:48 AM CST
My wife and I are about to venture out in search of food from south of the border. This may very well be my last entry if the storm turns out to be truly vicious.

3:14 PM CST
We made it back! What a terrible sight it was. Trees were swaying, traffic lights were blinking red, and an old lady in a robe was peering out of her garage looking very concerned. The wind was blowing so hard (how hard was it?) that the rain was coming down at a 45 degree angle. Several creeks were running high and I wouldn't be surprised is water splashed onto a bridge or two. The eye of the great storm is now due east of my apartment. Let's hope that it does not turn its wrath this way.

7:13 PM CST
I am braving the elements once more to get some entertainment for the evening. Something from the local Blockbuster store should distract our minds from the tempest. The furious wind is throwing the rain from the Northwest now. It slashes against my clothes and seeps inside. I have stepped in several large puddles; it I accumulating faster than I would have ever anticipated.

10:47 PM CST
I stand on my balcony and survey the destruction. The storm has passed. It worked like a slingshot and flung the moisture from the gulf in a vast circle that landed in our area. Unfortunately for it, it tried to do the same with the west Texas air. It is still moist out, but it is a dry moisture. This whirling cyclone gave us its best, but it was no match!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Uncommon Knowledge

Today I want to highlight an excellent program that is free online. The show Uncommon Knowledge is run by the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. This show reminds me of the American Studies lectures that I heard throughout college. Each episode is 5-8 minutes in length and is in the question and answer format. The topics of conversation are usually centered public policy and more specifically politics.

Peter Robinson is the moderator and does an excellent job of phrasing questions in a way that encourages the guest to share his or her vast knowledge and expert opinions. He is a former Reagan speech writer and author who now works at a policy think tank.

Interview with Andrew Klaven - This accomplished author talks about his distaste for empty religion and how he came to an atheist view of the world and then how he found his faith. I am extremely impressed by his gifted way to articulate his faith from an outsider's point of view, meaning someone who wasn't born into their current beliefs. I think that you will find this interview very interesting, I find it fascinating.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Chizzeled in Stone

I promised a while back that I would lay out my predictions for the upcoming season, so here they are:

Dallas Cowboys: 12-4
  1. @Cleveland - W
  2. Philadelphia - W
  3. @Green Bay - L
  4. Washington - W
  5. Cincinnati - W
  6. @Arizona - W
  7. @St. Louis - W
  8. Tampa Bay - W
  9. @NY Giants - L
  10. @Washington - W
  11. San Francisco - W
  12. Seattle - W
  13. @Pittsburgh - L
  14. NY Giants - W
  15. Baltimore - W
  16. @Philadelphia - L

  1. New England Patriots 14-2
  2. Buffalo Bils 8-8
  3. New York Jets 8-8
  4. Miami Dolphins 3-13

  1. Cleveland Browns 10-6
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers 9-7
  3. Cincinnati Bengals 8-8
  4. Baltimore Ravens 4-12

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars 13-3
  2. Indianapolis Colts 11-5
  3. Houston Texans 10-6
  4. Tennessee Titans 6-10

  1. San Diego Chargers 13-3
  2. Denver Broncos 9-7
  3. Kansas City Chiefs 4-12
  4. Oakland Raiders 3-13

  1. Dallas Cowboys 12-4
  2. NY Giants 11-5
  3. Philadelphia Eagles 10-6
  4. Washington Redskins 7-9

  1. Green Bay Packers 11-5
  2. Minnesota Vikings - 10-6
  3. Detroit Lions 8-8
  4. Chicago Bears 5-11

  1. Carolina Panthers 9-7
  2. New Orleans Saints 8-8
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7-9
  4. Atlanta 2-14

  1. Arizona Cardinals 9-7
  2. Seattle Seahawks 7-9
  3. San Francisco 49s - 6-10
  4. St. Louis Rams 3-13

Super Bowl - Jacksonville over Dallas

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Oh the Diversity

I figure that it is time for a more lighthearted post. I get IMed and emailed links to cool or funny videos all the time. So today I will share a compilation of music from the 80s. Now I was very young during the decade, but I do have faint memories of some of this stuff. I am just amazed at the varied level of music that existed. Some are respectable, others I might attribute to Canada. Since I have so many to post, I will just post links and not embed them all.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Scatter Shooting

  • I am re-reading a book that was once a college assignment. Because of the nature of required reading, I gave it the minimal amount of attention. I am really enjoying the second and more thoughtful look at Milton Friedman's Free to Choose. Friedman is a Nobel Prize winner for economics and applies his theories to just about everything in this book. The political implications are especially striking. This book was written in the late 1970's, but it quite relevant in its discussion of oil prices and other trends that seem to be affecting us again. Some of the quotes that struck me so far are:
    We have shifted from a expectation of equality of opportunity to the expectation of equality of results
    Experience shows that that once government undertakes an activity, it is seldom terminated.
    Major wars aside, government spending from 1800 to 1929 did not exceed about 12 percent of the national income. Two-thirds of that was spent by state and local governments, mostly for schools and roads. As late as 1928, federal government spending amounted to about 3 percent of the national income.
    (Today the federal government spend 6 times that, about 18% of national income)
    Sincerity is a much overrated virtue.
    (In other words, being convinced that something is correct does not make it so)
    We refer to ourselves as a free private enterprise society, as a capitalist society. Yet in terms of the ownership of corporate enterprise, we are about 46% socialist... The federal government is entitled to 46 cents out of every dollar... The federal government therefore owns 46% of every corporation.
    (This was using the 1979 high tax rate. Change the # to the current standards. It is quite a thought.)

  • Fred Thompson's speech last night at the Republican National Convention reminded me of why I liked him so much during the primary race. No, he is not the most polished public speaker. He does however have a keen sense of how to break apart the issues in a way that is easily understandable. He knows how to refute the other side in a clear concise way. He is very good on policy, just not flashy enough.

  • I recently watched Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The 1977 Spielberg film that shows aliens and such. One of the biggest questions was how well the graphics would hold up. For the vast majority of the movie they did a very good job. The aliens at the end felt somewhat more like claymation than a modern movie would present them, but that was my only main complaint. Richard Dreyfuss does a great job of playing a lunatic. His ability to play that role sometimes scares me. Is he really acting? I was surprised at the novelty of the film. In recent years we had the film Signs. A lot of the ways in which they show you alien interaction were just copied from Close Encounters I think. They were very similar. Communicating with colored tones... ok. I guess that is one way we could do it. I would give it a 3 out of 5. Some of the crazy scenes went on a bit long for me.

  • Our small group at church is reading Everyday Christianity by Grumpy Smith this quarter. So far it seems like an enjoyable read. Since I go to church with his daughter Miranda, it is even more fun to laugh at his stories. His ordinary man approach looks promising.

  • Preseason College Poll - Is there anything more worthless?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Initial Reaction

Like many people over the past few weeks, I have been keenly interested in who each of the candidates would choose to be their backup. I think sometimes the role of the VP in an election can get overblown, but this year both candidates chose to shore up weaknesses in their argument. In Biden, Obama looks for legitimate experience and advice, long time Washington connections, and foreign policy advice. In Palin (pronounced Pay Lynn I do believe), McCain looks for a younger face, a female face, the opposite of a Washington bureaucrat, and a person that the average family can identify with. Since I think it is obvious who I support in this election, I am going to throw out my initial uninformed reactions to the Palin nomination. And these are in chronological order and show my evolving thought pattern.
  • Apprehension since she was unknown to me before a few days ago. Maybe I have been hiding under a rock, maybe I have not.
  • Oh my, its a woman. Is she the 'token' female in the race? Is she just here to appease disgruntled Hillary fans?
  • I just checked out her Wikipedia page. She seems solid on the issues. She seems like an 'average Joe' meaning that she isn't some inside-the-beltway Yes man.
  • After hearing her during the big introduction, I would have to say that she seems anything but a 'token' face in the race. She seems legit as far as her public speaking goes, as far as her positions go, and as far as her family stands. I like this.
  • The are really touting that union connection in their family. This makes me a little nervous as my position on 90% of unions is that they are outdated and abusive.
  • On second thought, she can really work the upper Midwest states of Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. According to the RCP election map right now, 2 of those 3 states would get the election. While I am nervous about the union angle, it can be used.
  • She is weak on the experience side of things. However, as a governor (although limited in time), she has viable leadership experience. This is no doubt what the Obama campaign will hammer on, but this really brings his lack of experience to the forefront too.
  • It appears that the campaign is also highlighting that she is from a small out in the middle of nowhere podunk place. I am not sure how this angle will play out. Ridiculing small town America is not something that I would overplay.
  • From the political coverage that I have seen, I hear a lot of talk of this being a desperate move to try and leach Hillary supporters from Obama. The more I think about it, the less I think that is true. From what I can tell initially, this will do that very little. She holds little in common with them on their key feminist issues. What she does bring to the table is the soccer mom of America. This is a move to galvanize the Republican party. And from what I can tell it is working. The average mom in America can relate to a lot of her story. Do not underestimate the voting block of moms out there. I still think that this and most elections are won not by enticing defectors from the other party, but they are won by convincing your people to show up to the polls and be excited about it.
  • I am also hearing some apprehension from women out there. They wonder if McCain is just trying to dangle a carrot out there and sucker them in. This is a legitimate concern. The answer to that for me is her showing her competence throughout the race. But if he does burn women somehow by 'using' this pick, they will not easily forgive. If any females read this, I would love your take on this. Do you feel like you are being 'played' here?
  • This lady has reformer credibility. She has fought corruption in her own state. And most embarrassing to me is that it was corruption inside her own party. She fits the bill as someone not putting up with junk just for the party's sake.
  • I think that I have identified my favorite quality about her so far. She looks, acts, sounds, and thinks what I would call normal. She is just your average American. Too often we have some elitely educated politically entrenched person running for either party. She has a life outside of politics. This is going to be her best strength and should be played as much as possible. Obama has presented himself as a man for the common person. She is a common person.
  • Palin - Jindal 2012 really excites me now.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

re: John McCain and Habakkuk

The following entry is entirely in response to my friend Philip's blog post. I found that my comment was getting very wordy and also worth a post here. To summarize, he asks the question, "Why vote for an only sorta good candidate?". And secondly, "If you don't like him that much, why not vote for the other guy?"

Great question to ask. Let me give you my logic and my worries on this thought.

  1. I feel that I have a responsibility to vote. I have great freedom that many people in the world do not have. Many people died to gain this freedom. I take it seriously. This means that I am not going to 'not' vote if the perfect candidate is not there. I am fairly sure that there will never be a perfect candidate. Spending all of time complaining about the lack of a perfect candidate and taking no action seems like a waste of time to me. Therefore I will take a stand and make a choice, even with a limited or imperfect set to choose from. So my first decision is that I will participate in the vote.

  2. The way I vote in virtually all elections is to line up the candidates on a whole array of issues and see who I agree with on each issue. Normally it is fairly lopsided. The candidate with more check marks wins the vote. Now, when I compare the two candidates that are in the race now, I get the same lopsided affect. So my second decision is that I will vote for the best person according to my personal philosophies, thoughts, etc.

  3. Now, a question that is often asked these days is, "Why not punish your party by voting for the other guy because they have strayed from their core values?" This is a valid question.

    • In the past years, McCain for instance has been known as a fringe Republican. In many instances he has undermined various party positions. He has also not being a traditional conservative. He prefers the straight talk Maverick label. I think of his as one of Moderates stuck in a 2 party system. However, as fringe as he may be, he is still miles apart from Obama. These are arbitrary numbers here, so do not take these seriously. If my ideal candidate was 100 out of 100, I would consider McCain probably a 65. My favorite primary contender was probably a 90. Obama is closer to a 30. Now Mr. 90 is no longer in the race. The highest person left is Mr. 65. And 65 is a lot better in my mind than 30. So part 1 of this answer is that I still think that McCain is a lot better than Obama. So lowering my standards to punish the party really seems like a contradiction of point 2. Also, I will say that if Mr. 90 was still in the race as a 3rd party, I would vote for him.

    • But the stronger argument in my mind is the following. Laws that are enacted get ingrained in our society. They stick fairly fast and people get used to them. In punishing my party, I can enable harm to be done that will last a very long time. This is my fear. I look at legislation that was enacted for the New Deal around 70 years ago. Some of those programs (Social Security being the obvious) are already straining our budget these days and will only get worse. Again in the 1960s, the Great Society legislation was passed. It had its plus and minuses. Some of the minuses in my opinion are the Medicare, Medicaid, and Welfare systems that strain our budget as well. These are pieces of legislation that have lasting fiscal effects on our nation. We are so dependent upon them now, that it is nearly impossible to get rid of them. This is just from a financial standpoint. The nomination of Supreme Court Justices is a vastly important function of the President. Do we want more rulings that allow municipalities to take our land or deny rights to the unborn? I personally say no. I see much more harm that can be done to my country in the long term. I do not think that it is worthwhile to punish my party.

  4. Since Philip brought it up, I do not feel a calling to punish my party or my nation. There may very well be one, but I am unaware of it. I think that there are certain citizens who are hoping for this, but I am not one of them. Also, if it is the providence of God, then I doubt that I will be able to stand in the way.

On the Edge of My Seat

The Carrot Has Been Dangled
Today is the 20th of August, 2008. The show's big star has all of the contestants lined up. There is silence among them. A grimace from one who can not handle the pressure. A look of quiet confidence from another. Who will be picked? Who will be deemed worthy of the prize? They have all courted in one way or another. The star has spent time with all of them, but now it all comes down to this special point in time. Bom, bom, bom! ...And we go to commercial. Come on! Just tell me already. Am I talking about the TV show the Bachelor? Not a chance. I am talking about the Veepstakes. Who is going to be the running mate in the election? Just tell me already! The anticipation is killing me...

Yes, It Was Me
You may be wondering who jinxed the Texas Rangers, that would be me. In my previous blog, I warned the Dallas Cowboys to watch out and put the region on notice. Since that time, they have gone 2-10, lost Ian Kinsler, thrown poor stand-ins up against major league hitters, and basically lost all interest from the city. Way to go guys!

and Yes, I am still Watching
According to Forbes magazine, the Texas Rangers have the most loyal fans in baseball.
No team's attendance is less tied to its on the field performance than the Rangers', and nowhere else in the country do fans peel off at a slower rate when the club has thin years.
I am not sure that is something to brag about. But yes, count me in that hapless group.

Where's the Passion?
The Cowboys are tanking the pre-season. Fine, the Indianapolis Colts do it every year. But this assumed Super Bowl contender needs to find motivation. My fear is that the Cowboys are going to take 2-4 weeks in the regular season to find that special something. You can't afford to do that in today's NFL. I am not sold on this team yet...

This Just In
Poll results change more often than the weather. McCain is up by 5! Obama is up by 5! Its a toss up, but I think Obama has it! Not only that, all of these results are at the exact same time. I am personally part of that swing 10% of voters that flips a coin before a pollster gets an answer out of me.

My Hero
Josh Howard apparently went off on a reporter for asking him at a youth event whether or not he is a good role model. I guess the admitted drug use, street racing, and not showing up for his team could be emulated. Of course, that lifestyle doesn't lend itself to being successful in life. Someone please get this joker out of my town...

Friday, August 08, 2008

Training Camp Fun

Let's Move On
Since I am a Cowboys fan and remember the rivalry of the 90s, I have always treated Brett Favre as a enemy to be booed. This off season has turned that sport's rivalry distaste into a full on personal dislike for him. I don't believe for a moment that in the past 2 months he has had any desire to be a Packer. His actions and comments to me seem all about getting to play wherever he wanted. In the process he dragged his old team and teammates through his mess. That irks me. His constant shenanigans have wasted both their time and my sports viewing time. He tried to squish an I into TEAM and it just doesn't fit. I am thrilled that the Packers did not just give him whatever he wanted. The small town country boy rolling in on his private jet and making demands was not given the silver spoon in this case. Trading him and more importantly getting back anything of value was a great move. I hope the Packers go to the NFC championship and lose to the Cowboys while the Jets sit at home in January. Sorry Jets fans, but I can't root for you this year.

Saying the Right Things
I am always somewhat irked and very leery of the how the Cowboys treat their team as a rehab center for people who have messed up but have talent. Do I want a headcase on my team? No. Do the Cowboys care? Apparently Not. This years special project is Adam Pacman Jones and so far, he is staying clean. Do I like this guy at all as a person? From what I can tell from the past, no. Will I cheer for him if he stays clean? Yes. For what its worth, I am very skeptical that he stays clean once he gets back to the big city.

The Spurs of the NFL?
I wonder about the Patriots this year. For many years in the NBA, the Spurs have been the model franchise, aka the dynasty. How have they done this? By blowing off most of the regular season, shoring up their playoff position, and dominating the playoffs. Did the rush to the perfect season drain the Patriots last year? Many might say yes. Do the Patriots try to pull a Spurs this year? Maybe. I can see the question "What is it all for if we don't win the Super Bowl?" being asked. I can also see the Bill Belichick of last year running up the score in every game. This will be an interesting story to watch.

On The Record
I thought about doing my season predictions here, but I figured that I should wait until at least another couple of weeks. Baseball is all that I have really been following, so my official prediction would be like throwing darts at win numbers.

Lonely At The Top ?
We are constantly told about the NFL is the number 1 sport by far in America. Since the Rangers have surged in Dallas, I don't sense the full scale bull rush to the football world like I have in previous years. This city used to switch entirely to football in mid-July. Baseball is winning over fans; maybe not in attendance just yet, but in the consciousness of fans. Watch out football, here we come...

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

An Outsider's View

Alexander Solzhenitsyn was a man that was before my time in many respects. Therefore when I heard that he had passed away a few days back, I did a little research to learn more about him. He won a Nobel prize for his Gulag expose that brought to light many of the problems with the former USSR. In 1978 he gave a speech to graduates of Harvard that really shows off his skill. He was able to use his outsider's view of the U.S. to look at us and point out places that needed improvement in order to better our society. I will highlight some of them below.
  • When the modern Western States were created, the following principle was proclaimed: governments are meant to serve man, and man lives to be free to pursue happiness. (See, for example, the American Declaration). Now at last during past decades technical and social progress has permitted the realization of such aspirations: the welfare state. Every citizen has been granted the desired freedom and material goods in such quantity and of such quality as to guarantee in theory the achievement of happiness, in the morally inferior sense which has come into being during those same decades. In the process, however, one psychological detail has been overlooked: the constant desire to have still more things and a still better life and the struggle to obtain them imprints many Western faces with worry and even depression, though it is customary to conceal such feelings. Active and tense competition permeates all human thoughts without opening a way to free spiritual development. The individual's independence from many types of state pressure has been guaranteed; the majority of people have been granted well-being to an extent their fathers and grandfathers could not even dream about; it has become possible to raise young people according to these ideals, leading them to physical splendor, happiness, possession of material goods, money and leisure, to an almost unlimited freedom of enjoyment. So who should now renounce all this, why and for what should one risk one's precious life in defense of common values, and particularly in such nebulous cases when the security of one's nation must be defended in a distant country?

    Even biology knows that habitual extreme safety and well-being are not advantageous for a living organism. Today, well-being in the life of Western society has begun to reveal its pernicious mask.
    He points out that living a life of total abundance leads to a weaker society. He also shows how man's search for contentment is usually never ending and constantly yearns for more.
  • The defense of individual rights has reached such extremes as to make society as a whole defenseless against certain individuals. It is time, in the West, to defend not so much human rights as human obligations.
    This quote really focuses in on a societal shift that I think hurts us as a whole. What this points out is that the freedom to do whatever I please for freedom's sake leads to moral decay and a sense of being totally shielded by rights. When you fall into this mindset, you lose your sense of being obligated to treat others well because of the focus on your own freedom.
  • Hastiness and superficiality are the psychic disease of the 20th century and more than anywhere else this disease is reflected in the press. In-depth analysis of a problem is anathema to the press. It stops at sensational formulas.

    Such as it is, however, the press has become the greatest power within the Western countries, more powerful than the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. One would then like to ask: by what law has it been elected and to whom is it responsible? In the communist East a journalist is frankly appointed as a state official. But who has granted Western journalists their power, for how long a time and with what prerogatives?
    He really takes both the press and their readers/viewers to task. Why do I say readers? Because we demand instant knowledge and instant perfection that is unattainable by human standards.
  • All the glorified technological achievements of Progress, including the conquest of outer space, do not redeem the Twentieth century's moral poverty which no one could imagine even as late as in the Nineteenth Century.
    This is a sharp jab that really hits home. We pride ourself on our achievement, but at what cost.
  • There is a disaster, however, which has already been under way for quite some time. I am referring to the calamity of a despiritualized and irreligious humanistic consciousness... ...If humanism were right in declaring that man is born to be happy, he would not be born to die. Since his body is doomed to die, his task on earth evidently must be of a more spiritual nature. It cannot unrestrained enjoyment of everyday life. It cannot be the search for the best ways to obtain material goods and then cheerfully get the most out of them. It has to be the fulfillment of a permanent, earnest duty so that one's life journey may become an experience of moral growth, so that one may leave life a better human being than one started it... ...It would be retrogression to attach oneself today to the ossified formulas of the Enlightenment. Social dogmatism leaves us completely helpless in front of the trials of our times.

    Even if we are spared destruction by war, our lives will have to change if we want to save life from self-destruction. We cannot avoid revising the fundamental definitions of human life and human society. Is it true that man is above everything? Is there no Superior Spirit above him? Is it right that man's life and society's activities have to be determined by material expansion in the first place? Is it permissible to promote such expansion to the detriment of our spiritual integrity?
    This is by far my favorite quote of his. He really calls out man's search for achievement and asks whether it is all worthwhile without a higher spiritual calling.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

AOM: Banned From Vegas

Kimberlee and I have a fascination with the card game Speed. We enjoy the game and we are both naturally competitive. Tonight we tried to play, but Ms. Mollee kept wanting to get in on the action. She recently had her 'special' lady surgery and so she has been cooped up for a couple of days. All of that energy poured out when we started to shuffle the deck.

She then proceeded to migrate different sets of cards to different parts of the living room. She was quite proud of her stash.

After all was said and done she told me to pick a card. I am still amazed that she knew that I had chosen the 3 of hearts.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

AOM: What Is Your Greatest Fear?

My buddy Philip suggested that I start a series a while back, and today that series begins. The Adventures of Mollee is all about my young dog and seeing things from her perspective. Today's post focuses on the deep feelings inside of us that make us shake and become restless. What do you worry about that keeps you up late at night.

Is it a natural disaster?
How about being attacked?
Or do you have everything riding on a hot stock?

For Mollee, none of these ever phase her. She is a beacon to the Monks of this world. Food, shelter, family; these are all secure. Her deepest dread is by far the monstrous bath!

I let her secret out. If you ever need to secret information out of her, just threaten a good soaking and she will become putty in your hands.

After she escapes the vile trenches, she still has to deal with a blocked door and oh so powerful hair dryer.

But our meticulous work is not enough. Oh no, she has much higher standards. Mollee takes this job into her own hands and makes sure to remove every drop of water.

After all is said and done, we get an extremely disgruntled yet good smelling puppy and she gets to give us the evil eye while lounging on her throne.