Sunday, December 27, 2009

Turn the tub around, a failure of capitalism and all other modern systems

Take a fun song by Gloria Estefan, a good singer/actress Megan Mullally, some big money, and an excited cast of singers/dancers and you get a dedicated satellite channel (DISH Channel 125, labeled DANCE) and Internet site that lacks excellence in so many ways that it makes you doubt the ability of mankind to create anything of value. We take talent, energy, and money and transmogrify them into a black hole that sucks in our souls. And fills our minds with catchy kitschy tunes that drill themselves into brains. Boring, yet disgusting, yet slightly hypnotic. Kind of a "This smells disgusting - here smell it" moment.

I am referring to Turn the Tub Around, a marketing campaign for I can't believe it's not butter featuring Ms. Mullally singing a song about non-hydrogenated oils and such to the tune of "Turn the Beat Around." I don't know what they have on Mullally and Estafan, some sort of extortion or just a big pile of money, but at some point you have to bite the artistic bullet and say this is not something I want on my resume. I could sink to that level, because I don't have any artistic credentials, and I don't have a big pile of money. They have both, so they can resist.

You can see it at the link below. The links sends you to a Google search, so you can click on the ad at the top and make them pay something for your attention. After you watch it, you'll really want the minutes of your life back, but the knowledge that the tub people had to pay Google a few cents and also a few cents to their bandwidth provider may provide some comfort.

I'm not an artist, so on some level I can't really critique this creation. But I am a human, and I know this whole idea seems rotten, even inhumane. Why are resource committed to what is not even good enough to be a parody of a butter substitute? Couldn't we make a modern remake of the classic "I learned it by watching you" anti-drug commercial from back in the day? Who know how many lives could be changed? Do we need a satellite channel that broadcasts this commercial 24/7 for weeks?

And the idea that I would spend so much time thinking and writing about it is also rotten.

Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this tub!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

May I use my part of the trillions somewhere else?

I don't have the answers. I just want to call for some cool-headed debate on what is a complicated debate. You may slap me the next time you see me for my wrong-headed views, and I will donate $1 to charity (Subject to Global DanPark liability limits).

In this postmodern world, nothing is certain. Everything is up for analysis and debate. Except, one rock-solid tenet of belief: Global warming is imminently destroying our Earth, and Al Gore is its prophet. Only big oil companies and morons doubt the wisdom of fixing this problem at any cost. Think of the children!

Talking politics tends to me into trouble in life, so maybe I'll talk about it here to get it out of my system. I was a little hurt this summer when, after a political discussion, a new friend asked, "Are you an anarchist?" No, I'm just a little scared of the government providing all the solutions with a lot of unintended consequences. Climate change and carbon control initiatives are a way for government to assume a massive amount of revenue and control over the economy. Since we leave carbon footprints everywhere, control those footprints, and you control our lifestyles.

I don't have to doubt the premise of global climate change to doubt the intensity of its effects or the worthwhileness of spending trillions of dollars to make a slight modification, maybe around 1 degree, to climate predictions a century for now. For a few million dollars, we could be saving people from Malaria and AIDS and Africa. For probably a few billion more, we could educate those same people and lead them to better jobs. For trillions, we can maybe change their weather dozens of years from now.

Buy why not just change everything in case it turns out to be a problem?
The trillions of dollars it will take to stop or reduce the carbon used to power Duke University (take a trip to Coal Pile Drive sometimes and you'll see it is named that) to the car you drive to the higher prices you will pay for air conditioning, to more expensive groceries caused by higher trucking costs. If we are going to change every thing based on an invisible gas, we need to be really sure we know what we are doing. If it is a big problem, and after spending a lot of money, it will just be a slightly less big problem, we need to think hard about solutions.

But we don't know. Writer and intense researcher Michael Crichton pointed out that we don't know the weather 7 days from now with any confidence, so why should we change everything based on a forecast of 100 years from now. People assure me it's different. They wouldn't tell if they didn't know. But the East Anglia scandal has made clear that there is a lot of fudging and judgement calls to make the data "work." Will we have snow tomorrow: maybe? Will Pacific islands be underwater 100 years from now? Of course. If I make my predictions more dire, will more people listen to me, and will I get more funding? How well do we predict the number of hurricanes each season? How well do we predict each hurricane's path. When it comes down to it, most people believe because it's been warmer lately, forgetting that there is considerable natural variation from year to year and decade to decade.

Every process and every person and every animal (especially cows with their methane) are now enemies of the future, raising seas levels as they produce carbon, methane, and water vapor that will melt the planet. In fact, C02 is actually only 0.037% of the atmosphere (see Duke page). This little bit may cause a lot of trouble, but I would like to understand why, and our current news reporting doesn't bother to explain these ideas because the verdict has already been made.

Not every one who thinks this way is crazy. Robert Lindzen is a professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the WSJ, he writes

The answer brings us to a scandal that is, in my opinion, considerably greater than that implied in the hacked emails from the Climate Research Unit (though perhaps not as bad as their destruction of raw data): namely the suggestion that the very existence of warming or of the greenhouse effect is tantamount to catastrophe. This is the grossest of "bait and switch" scams. It is only such a scam that lends importance to the machinations in the emails designed to nudge temperatures a few tenths of a degree.

The notion that complex climate "catastrophes" are simply a matter of the response of a single number, GATA, to a single forcing, CO2 (or solar forcing for that matter), represents a gigantic step backward in the science of climate. Many disasters associated with warming are simply normal occurrences whose existence is falsely claimed to be evidence of warming. And all these examples involve phenomena that are dependent on the confluence of many factors.

Our perceptions of nature are similarly dragged back centuries so that the normal occasional occurrences of open water in summer over the North Pole, droughts, floods, hurricanes, sea-level variations, etc. are all taken as omens, portending doom due to our sinful ways (as epitomized by our carbon footprint). All of these phenomena depend on the confluence of multiple factors as well.

Consider the following example. Suppose that I leave a box on the floor, and my wife trips on it, falling against my son, who is carrying a carton of eggs, which then fall and break. Our present approach to emissions would be analogous to deciding that the best way to prevent the breakage of eggs would be to outlaw leaving boxes on the floor. The chief difference is that in the case of atmospheric CO2 and climate catastrophe, the chain of inference is longer and less plausible than in my example.

For somewhat of a rebuttal and summary of combating climate change, see .

And lastly, Global Warming, with its certainty of end times disaster, heroes like Al Gore, and vilification of evil resisters, is becoming a religion. It self-evidently true and questioning it is a fool's game. It is a cause that must be advanced at all costs despite any guarantees of return. Here's another Wall Street Journal piece on this issue: .

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Context: Are You Hearing What I Am Hearing

"I know that you think you know what I said. But I'm not sure whether you understood that what you heard is what I meant." - Alan Greenspan

Mr. Greenspan was just trying to be confusing so as to not reveal his next Federal Reserver move, but the idea that two parties bring different understanding away from a conversation stands on it own.

First some personal examples, and then the ones that matter more.

When Lara expertly scheduled house swapping to keep the costs for Europe low, she located a Andrea, who was near Rome and could lend us his apartment for free and then he could stay at our house later. With language problems which Google Translate mostly solves, we never actually spoke to her. She mentioned to add her on Facebook. Lara started looking through all the Andreas in the area, and found they were all men. She was a he. "Andrea" meant one thing over her and another over there. When he visits here, I might suggest going by Andreas or Andy. He's a body builder (though the gym there didn't open until 10, again our idea of a gym is different than theirs) and a bodyguard, so I guess he brings manliness to the name regardless.

Next confusion:with the way many apartments are wired up, the total current of the house is low. A washing machine is also a different reality over there - this thing ran at 100 RPM and heated its own very hot water. So using the washing machine and the oven blew the electricity out. I ran to the pay phone at the top of the hill to call Andrea. He answered, saying "Pronto." I tried to cobble together from the pocket translation dictionary that the lights were out. I was slow, so he kept saying "Pronto" again. I heard this as hurry up and spit it out, American boy! Later I saw Pronto meant "Ready," and he was saying to go ahead. He had the problem fixed by the time I made it down the sweaty hill.

One last confusion:We were planning our departure from Rome, and I put together a plan of Bus-->Subway-->Walk a Block-->Airport Train. I told of my well-researched plan. He said, "Buses are retardo." Oh, my, he's seen some insensitive movie from America and doesn't realize he's making fun of mentally disabled people. Don't they have those after-school specials to talk about these issues in Italian? How do I put this delicately when we don't have a language link that allows for delicacy? I held my tongue, thinking a better way to explain would come along. I eventually looked it up and retardo just means slow. Yes they can be retardo, with all the stops. He drove us to the airport and saved us a lot of time over public transportation.

Now More Important Context Questions
Understanding the Bible in Context
Two of our pastors at Emmaus Way, Tim Conder and Dan Rhodes, have talked about how we need to understand the context within the parts of the Bible were written and the context with which we are approaching the Scriptures. Their book, Free for All (Amazon CB), discusses this in a way that can be hard to take depending on your background. The Bible is unchangeable, a rock to hold onto. However, which angle you view the rock makes a big difference. It's hard to explain, so just read the book.

I can't just unprejudice myself, removing my German and Tennessean roots, middle class suburban upbringing, media influence, political leanings, marital status, and my feeling about indexing the capital gains tax to inflation. If I talk to other people who have valid different perspectives, although they may unfortunately not even know what a capital gains tax is, we may bring each other to a fuller understanding. It is not disrespectful to acknowledge context because the whole idea of a living Word is to be understood fully and received as freely as possible from cultural and personal constraints that aren't part of the message.

Rules about an ox falling into a hole in Leviticus have to mean something different to be understood today. Somewhere in my mother's upbringing, she learned that you take responsibility for what you do with hole digging. So when we dug giant holes on the beach, she insisted that we cover them up. And as a lover of beach walks, I wish everyone cared about me like the Israelites cared about an ox.

Understanding the Quran in Context
I have no familiarity with interpreting the Quran, but Salam Al-Marayati wrote an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesay where he speaks about the accused Fort Hood killer:
Maj. Hassan's critical fault in understanding the Quran was his failure to distinguish between two very important categories of verses: those tied to the specific context of seventh-century Arabia, and those that are absolute and permament.

Maj, Hassan's hodgepodge of verses from the Qran quote from extremists left out the most important Quranic verse in his section on enjoining peace and forgiveness: "God invites you into the abode of peace" (10:25)

Now I remember something like this belittlingly called situational ethics and that it could be twisted into whatever we wanted. But this implies that can remove ourself from a situation and our prejudices. And if we really want to abuse a system of ethics, we can find a way.

Understanding People We've Never Met

In Europe there were pictures of American products, people, and media everywhere. I worried that if these presentation were the primary input for how Americans are viewed, then we would look pretty bad. And if the primary thing we see about those in the Middle East are violent extremists, we can be lulled
into think we have the full picture. This front Page WSJ AP picture showing a many crying over his wife's coffin really brought home to me how he could be anyone anywhere in the world who is tired of violence and just wants to live in piece. I'm not a pacifist, and I believe in opposing injustice, but I really wish the terrorists who killed his wife would stop, so we could stop, and we could find solidarity over happiness instead of intense pain.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Paperwork and Redemption in an Italian Subway

The events of the past six months involving six Euros and proving that all it is not lost when a machine fails. The System can redeem itself, in a small way. Viewing it through the lens of Economics, it's about incentives. The subway system needs to feel some administrative and financial loss when a machine fails - accountability that can push for change. No loss means no need for change.
  • circa July 1, 2009 A vending machine in Rome steals 6 Euros from us without giving us anything in return. We keep piling in the coins because the machines are often slow to register them. If only they all took credit cards. An old lady bangs on the window to get an uninterested employee to give us a claim form.
  • August 19 Having just returned to Europe, I am excited to go to the post office to collect a piece of international registered mail. After the poor clerk searches through all of the certified mail, she finds mine in the registered pile (I guess there's a difference?). She asks if I know what it is. A subway refund, I respond. At home, it turns out to be a speeding ticket from Spain from a secret camera speed trap. I guess fines move more quickly than refunds.
  • circa September 20 I receive an acknowledgment from the Rome Transportation Agency that my claim has been approved. For payment, I need to forward them my European banking account number, called an IBAN code. My address is labelled USA, so they know I probably don't have an IBAN code. But I have a lot of time, so spending hours for 6 Euros seemed to make sense at the time. My bank in Texas works with a lot of military families, so I thought they would have a way to use IBAN. No luck. Citibank, who gave me a free iPod to sign up for a checking account, is a multinational corporation, but it said no. I have a Scwhab credit card that gives me rebates through Scwhab brokerage. They said yes, the transfer could go through a Citibank affiliate in Germany where Schwab had an account and then come to America to my Schwab account. (See if you want the complex details). It was too complex with too many countries involved, but why not?
  • Oct 2 I faxed the bank information to Italy. It wasn't a simple account number, it was Schwab's account with a comment to use my account.
  • Nov 16 I received a letter. I provided a fax, but I guess they wanted to spend the Euro to send a real letter. It certainly make a better souvenir: "With reference to your last communication received on October 02st 2009 (ref. nr. 116174 - cl. 110427), We inform that We transmitted your IBAN code to the qualified office that will provide to refund you [sic]."
  • Nov 30, In my Schwab statement: 11/27 Funds Received FOREIGN CURRENCY DEPOSIT 8.95
Victory! And there were no fees to destroy the value of the refund. Cashing a foreign check at my bank would have cost me $20, but the electronic process was slow but free. Five months later, justice is served! The decline of the US dollar since then actually made me a profit of about $0.50.

Well, then Saturday Dec 15 came along. Lara went to and ATM and was issued a counterfeit $10 bill. The Bank of America teller told us to talk to our bank in Texas. I'm back on the hunt for justice.

Wireless Hospitality and 00:18:f3:f7:6a:67

When something doesn't cost you much, it's easy to share. The marginal cost of Internet use is near zero, so why not keep your personal wireless network open, like McDonald's or Panera? Sure there are security risks from your neighbors and passers-by. But I don't think they are going to use my printer at will, and the security is not impossible to crack for people who really know how to do you harm.

In Europe this Summer, we were in places with a dozen wireless networks, all of which were locked down. We just wanted to check e-mail or post to a blog, actions which don't tax a network. But we had to literally hold our laptop out the window to pick up the stray free signal in Italy. Another time, I sat on a flower planter outside an apartment building with a free signal as an old lady stared at me. Not from her window; she was sitting a few feet away. I'm not good on picking up on nonverbal cues, and I used this to my advantage. Give a little wave, don't make eye contact, and keep reading e-mails.

So I don't want to be that person locking others out of vital communication. But this hospitality is not unlimited. I haven't seen a cheap wireless router that can partition a small portion of bandwidth for public use (I did see a DSL service in France that allocated some wireless for other DSL users which is a really worthwhile idea in dense areas).

Without limits, guest users can hog bandwidth. And that's what I noticed Thursday. Sites like Google that don't ever go down were timing out. Speeds were slower. I checked the router ( for the default D-Link configuration. See to look up the location of IP addresses). At the same time, one computer on my network was connecting to sites in
  • Augusta, Georgia
  • Hammond, Indiana
  • Salzburg, Austria
  • Philadelphia
  • Medina, NY
  • Ontario, CA
  • Bogota, Columbia
  • Saint Catharines
  • ON Canada
  • Swansea, Z1 Great Britain
  • Denton, TX
  • Olive Hill, KY
  • Paterson, NJ
  • Marysville, OH
  • Tokyo
  • Saint Clair Shores, MI
And the bandwidth use matched the number of sites. This probably represented P2P file sharing, where each computer downloads files from many other computers while serving up files for other computers. These downloads are often illegal rips of copyrighted material though some providers like NBC use them for legal downloads. It could also be a virus checking other computers for vulnerabilities. This is not a gracious use of someone else's network. So I locked that computer out. In our small neighborhood with a small wireless range, five users outside of our house, from other computers to iPhones, have connected to our network recently. I don't have a detailed analysis, so it's hard to know how much each of them has used the network.

So MAC address 00:18:f3:f7:6a:67 is blocked from our network. Sorry. (A MAC address is a unique identifier for a network card). I don't know which neighbor was using it or whether they were just accidentally connecting to the wrong network. Things cleared up after the problem computer was gone. I am still faced with how to be friendly yet not abusable.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Who runs this planet, anyway? And a peppy tour guide.

(If you ignore everything else, please see the Chinese/Spanish/English tou
rist video at the bottom. This is a Youtube clip you aren't going to see anywhere else (maybe for good reason). Imported from a middle of the night Chinese satellite transmission, it's more than another dancing cat (I have no beefs with dancing cats:) ).

I at least partially take the view that America is different than other countries, like say Norway, and that we have a larger responsibility to the world as a country that has prospered in an outsized way. (See wikipedia for how this idea makes everyone from leftists to the Pope mad). However, our role in the world is changing, and China is certainly a candidate for future top global dog.
And they want us to know that. So CCTV-9 exists to tell us what China wants us to know about the world. Kuoyong, our resident expert with roots to China, Vietnam, Japan, and African-American parts of Dallas, agrees with me that CCTV is propaganda.
Do a search on CCTV for Tiananmen 1989 and nothing much happened - no twenty year anniversaries or any such event. Now a Google search says a massacre of around 500 people happened 20 years ago, with pictures of tanks. Scarily, a search also does not show the tanks. Sure, America has Voice of America, but it will actually acknowledge embarrassing stuff like the recent ease of entry to the White House for an uninvited couple (on this story, cut the guys some slack, it wasn't very difficult for a good looking girl to get into the Clinton White House either). NPR is funded with a lot of government money, and it feels free to mock the government,

There are broad global communication goals for China - also CCTVE for Spanish speakers (also on Dish Network) and new channels for Arabic and Russian speakers this year. Portuguese is in the works. Portuguese? They want to give everyone the news, the way the Chinese want it to be given.

But not to worry, the battle for our hearts and minds is not won yet.

USA production values win out, hands down. The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and even the old MTV News with Kurt Loder knew how to produce a news show better than CCTV (Global DanPark lawyers advise that this critique actually comes from John Smith, Anytown, KS 66505 - launch sequence code 3239-323-2121-ABFUI-图片可能 for your missile convenience). The clips don't roll together correctly, and the anchor is often left uncomfortably smiling. There are many many perfectly bilingual English/Chinese speakers. There are also those who sound like Mr. Spell. CCTV-9 prefers the latter. Subject/Verb agreement is not a valid treaty on the air. If you are trying to assimilate us, try not to sound like a 4-N-R. Durham has a Doppler 5000 XP Supreme With Expletive radar, but not CCTV weather. The level of charisma on air implies that a censor, armed with a rifle pointed at the head of the anchor, lurks behind the camera. You can almost see the dot from the laser site on her forehead, or so I hear if you have HD TV. Or maybe they have just chained the anchor to the desk.

If you want to bring the effects, they best be special, or we will cancel you like a poorly-conceived OJ book.

You have thousands of years of history and literature, are closing in on 2 billion people, loaned the US over a trillion dollars, possess H-bombs, and have an authoritarian grasp on power that includes the ability to erase even the recent past. And WRAZ Fox channel 50 in Raleigh can do a more professional newscast? Spend a little less on the H-bombs, please? There's a Chinese Ryan Seacrest or two scattered amongst them millions. Find him. Or maybe even that Slater guy from Saved By the Bell. He's actually into NewsISH things right now. You don't have to find a Chinese version of him - you can actually have him, we just might need him back occasionally for court-ordered SBTB reunion movies. Or maybe buy one of those iMac computer thingies that come with movie maker software. They probably make those in China. Take one off the line, play around with it, and see if you can produce a video.

And yet, Kuoyong and I watch, hypnotized by the quaintness of the technical aspects and the aims that are behind the news being delivered. Why aren't the Swedes delivering us news in English?

Years back, Sarah H and I even became hypnotized by CCTV-E. We watched a segment in English with Spanish subtitles featuring Chinese tourism. The Chinese speaker spoke English perfectly, with a Valley Girl sensibility. Well, just watch:

So I guess you can't spell propaganda without F-U-N. And USA USA USA USA!

And one last fun international fact. A-Ha is the Abba of Norway. I saw this in a guidebook Reading is good - kids, stay in school! USA USA USA!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Essential Christmas Gifts for ME!!! and Geeks

My soul has been your playground.
I have and will share relentless details of semi-interesting anecdotes.

I have poured my heart out to the web. Now, all I can ask in return is for you to fulfill my electronic dreams

Bluetooth Watch with Color ID $79.99
There is simply no way to do without the convenience of seeing the caller id of an incoming call. No more not hearing the cell phone ringer. The only thing better would be display of text messages, but we've got to give geniuses as NASA (or Taiwan) some time. I also questions why a geek watch wouldn't be digital, but who cares? It's got Bluetooth. And Bluetooth gets the babes (I'm married, but I need to retain the adoration of my adorable wife - I'm not letting myself go, electronically at least).
BlueTooth Ring Bracelet $59.99 to ring or show caller id
Wireless N adapter $40 - this is actually a good deal for a wireless N adapter
Scrolling LED belt buckle or name badge $30 or $40
Video watch with 8GB storage

They call this one the lecture-killer. The car driver-killer. The attention killer. I can watch Oprah all the time. Civilization has hits its peak. Head for the hills and get a shotgun; it's only downhill from here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

No Plate and the blood drive

This is more of a diary type post that I'm just not sure of being of interest to even everyone sitting on this couch, so I'll start with a more fun story of what happens when cops write down "No Plate" for citing a car without a plate and you have a vanity plate of "NO PLATE."
An urban legend that is acutally true:

By the way, is the place to visit before you forward any desperate sounding e-mail.

Last Friday's visit to Duke
I woke up unusually early today (early enough to get a free parking spot on Anderson St. Free or illegal - the signs are confusing, but there are other cars parked there). I walked a little through Duke Gardens and then onto Campus. I feel the opposite of elitist there. A townie. I don't even know what they call a townie. No one is mean, yet.... Although OU's football team has national prominence, I don't think my Oklahoma degree stacks up favorably to Duke. Anyway, its price tag shows in the beautiful campus. Duke "Chapel" is more of a cathedrał, the kind that would be busy with tourists in Europe. Here people don't seem to notice. An iPod is more interesting than the organ.

I wandered around into a student center. I don't know the name because building signs don't abound, excepting the somebody engineering school in the somebody building in the somebody center. Maybe the New York system, like PS # 15 would be easier. Again, I digress.

I saw a sign for a blood drive. Donating blood has been on my to do list for 3 or so years. The Red Cross would call on the three past donors in our house frequently. But it never happened, even with a lot of free time. I tried in France, but just like we worry about potential donors spending too much time in Europe, they worried that I had not spent enough time in Europe.
Today, I couldn't claim it was inconvenient, and I probably wouldn't faint, just get close. Dozens of IVs at Duke, and I still almost faint.

Lying on the stretcher, I remembered blood drives at OU, a source of much of my T-shirt supply. That made me think of a campus ministry meeting more than 10 years ago. Melinda, a nursing student, told us that she and other nursing students were giving vaccine shots nearby. "Come on out - we really need the practice!" Um, we all really like you, but no. She is gone already. Things aren't as they should be. She was the first girl , married to the first guy, I can remember at OU.

The nurse saw me squirming and asked if we I wanted something. Yes, please. Can we get an orange juice OVER HERE! Rang out across the room. I wanted to hide: don’t look at the ready to faint weak who needs orange juice.

Overheard from a nurse:
"Roy can't help because he's busy getting ready for the short bus." [the bus for special education kids] I wanted to stand up and say, "Us short bus people are proud!" But I was still in the stretcher and had a needle in my arm, so standing up would have been disastrous. The first part of my two bus trip to my magnet high school involved a short bus that was free at the moment. It had the handicapped symbol and the lift, and it added additional stigma onto going to the nerd school.

Everyone was friendly, and I was called sweetie a lot.

No T-shirt at the end, but did I really need another? Can you ever have too many T-shirts, given stains and the compelling need to avoid laundry cycles less than a month? To my shame, I have actually started to buy shirts. I am growing up. But I'm still cheap. The last purchase was 3 shirts for $10.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Garlic Fries and Economic Ethics: An Historical Perspective

It's Sunday night after night church. It's our only church - we don't get up early.

(Not necessarily worth a blog post, I thought but the people who were there said it deserved commemoration. Concerning the horrid events last night post church at what was supposed to be a love feast at Tyler's. Trigger earns a fry-strong wrist band for not backing down on his fries to J--. Yet...).

Not but an hour past a message of scarcity being a done thing at the communion homily, scarcity hit the fan at dinner. Let us take guidance from the witnesses of the past.

From "A Faithful Understanding of Economics," 1261 AD, Saint Rusty of the Shack:

The fundamental question is not are there enough fries? This is an etherial gnostic issue. The incarnate question is why were there not enough fries that night? The solution to the fries shortage, some puritans may say, is to sacrificest thou fries for another. But this misses the truth that more fries layeth 100 meters away in the kitchen, where an abundance of fries, rotting in the putrescent opulence of their unused quantity, just as the parable of the two barns predicteth. Petty fighting and stealing amongst the masses, a total breakdown in social order, imposition of mandatory tips, skirting the rules on splitting tabs doe large parties, near rioting - these are the results of rationing arbitrarily based on green pieces of paper or worse still paperless remuneration, a sign of the end times as sure as the Olsen twins reproducing.

This leads certainly to the conclusion - the means of fry production belongs to the eatertariat! The masses must claim what is theirs.

The them is us: Your insistence on paying off student loans, my insistance on not draining our 401k, certain women's insistence on wearing clothes other than those boughteth at the Costco, music fans who must pursue music made after 1998. Selah. We give the power to the beast by returning our riches unto his lair and bely the truth that scarcity is no longer amongst us.

In the short term, fry stimulus may soften the shortage. However, only a benevolent, authoritarian state directly representing and controlling the masses can reprioritze the creation and distribution of fries to relieve this artificial fry shortage. Eaters of the world unite! The streets will flow with the ketchup of the non-believers!

This is part of one an 1800 part series: the author embarrasses himself.

Friday, November 20, 2009

UC Protest

'Some police carried beanbag-firing shotguns.' I love technolgy. I
love this country!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

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We now return to our regularly scheduled blog

The trip is over, and one week later I can now climb steps without pain. Before I regretted having stepped onto the gas pump island instead of going around it.
The trip went well, the Grand Canyon was great, but I am ready to be home.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Trip Summaries

A link to a Google map of the journey is below. Going west is flying. East is driving. It counts 5100 miles in 7 days.

By Modes of transportation

Lara's car (Greensboro)-->AA Plane (DFW)-->AA plane (PHX)-->Lisa's car (dinner and Clothes Depot for the belt)-->Avis Rental Car (Flagstaff hotel, Grand Canyon)--> On foot hiking (View of the Colorado River)--> Lisa' car (Kansas)--> Vicki' Dad's tractor (briefly)-->Lisa's car--> (Kentucky)-->Budget Rental Car (Durham)-->Durham bus,route 1 then 3 (home from rental car)

So we've got a personal car, rental cars, airplanes, a bus, and lots of hiking

By Location (see Google Map)

Durham-->GSO-->DFW-->PHX-->Flagstaff-->Grand Canyon-->Scottsdale-->Tucumcari, NM-->St John KS via TX and OK-->Junction City, KS-->Richmond,KY via MO, IL, and IN-->Home @ Durham via Knoxville, Wytheville, Winston-Salem-->Budget Car Rental in Durham-->Home

Let's compare that to a normal day: stay at home and a maybe a car ride to McDonald’s and maybe a few minute walk if I'm motivated. I enjoyed the trip, but much recuperation lies ahead.

The lone drive - Friday

Normally eight hours of driving plus stops wouldn't be a big deal. But after 6 days of averaging over 8 hours/day of traveling, I was a little worried. I don't remember doing more than 8 hours of driving alone since 1999, when I drove back to college in Oklahoma from a summer job in Minnesota.

I took I-75 to 81 to 77 through Tennessee instead of the West Virginia I-64 route because I had been through West Virginia many times while going to Indiana and I was tired of the steep mountains and tolls.
It was different with beautiful mountains, but at some point, the mountains become like the fields of Kansas and deserts of Arizona: more of the same.

By dinner I was ready to be done and not ready for road food. I saw a Super Walmart, pulled off the interstate, and scavenged for quick but not fast food. A memory bloomed. That new Walmart in Texas was in the news for Sushi. Suddenly I craved sushi. I’m not high class enough to worry that it’s Walmart sushi. It’s not to be found in rural Virginia. Next best choice: yogurt with mix-in oatmeal, tapioca pudding, orange juice, and a box of Kix to snack on.

Dear Budget Car Rental,
Sorry for all of the crushed Kix in front of the driver’s seat. My Kix accuracy was less than stellar. On the other hand, if you had the amenities that Avis had for the same price, like cruise control and XM radio, I might have taken the trip more quickly and avoided a hasty, ill-conceived Walmart meal. No cruise control! For shame.

I arrived in Durham at 10 PM. It was very good to be home.

The next morning I relaxed and dawdled until I realized at 11:50 that the rental car was due. I arrived right at Noon, when it was due. I walked across the street to the bus, which goes downtown and then out our way. This is the only bus route I know because I used it once before to see Toy Story at the mall. It’s strange how random ideas (did I really have to see Toy Story when I was without a car? Yes, it was in 3D and could leave theaters at any time). That’s why some tech companies allocate time for employees to work on weird ideas - you never know what useful information it may bring.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Arrived Durham 10 PM EST Thursday

Happy to be back. More stories soon about cereal for dinner and a third-world rental car on the way back. Lara is happy I'm back too, as are at least on of the kitties.

The Long Day and the Long Post - Wednesday

Kansas is like Indiana, only more so.

I didn't mention everything in my last post as I tried to get to sleep
last night. After a lot of food and a lot of dessert (about 3
servings of Honeymoon Delight), Vicki also gave us 2 loafs of pumpkin
bread and some special Kansas flour. An excellent gift for a road
trip the next day lacking in home-cooked goodness amongst fast food.

Enter the dog, Cameron. On a previous trip from CA to IN, we stopped
in Phoenix to visit Lisa. Cameron got through a zippered bag and into
our stash of individually sealed Fiber One bars. Fiber One. One. You
don't eat a lot of these at once despite their tastiness. Given the
amount she ate, gastronomic disaster was imminent. Lara and I took her
for a walk, and things played out like we expected, on the sidewalk.
To put it delicately, a doggie bag wasn't going to clean this up. It
doesn't rain there often enough to naturally clean the sidewalk. So
far the first time in my life, I returned to the house, got some 409
and scrubbed the sidewalk. More than the sidewalk was dirty. Lisa
found a nearby in-ground sprinkler, which was malfunctioning in a way
that made it into a doggie bidet. Sorry, but I am telling this story
for a reason.

Back to Kansas: We didn't have an impenetrable Lucite case for the
bread, so if we let our guard down, the bread would go down like a
case of cheap beer in a freshman dorm room.
We got to the hotel around 10. It was a decent place, Great Western
Hotel in Junction City, KS. It was pet friendly and had super fast
Internet. Pet friendly is good. A dog in a hotel turns out to work
well. Pets friendly doesn't work as well. Cameron quickly discovered
that two dogs were one wall away in the next room. She gets very
anxious/crazy around other dogs. Barking, squealing, scratching on the
door to the next room created a non sleeping condition. Benadryl
wrapped in pumpkin bread worked well. Score one for the pumpkin bread.
I had a little bit using a plastic spoon to scoop it out before sleeping.
At 7:30 AM, Cameron was awake and very aware of the other dogs. Time
to abandon ship! No shower or shaving. Lisa put Cameron in the car
briefly to avoid disaster. I was still sleepy and my brain was still
rebooting. Then I thought of the pumpkin bread. Even triple wrapped
bags won't stop Cameron the Hungry. I rushed to the car. It was gone.
No bags or crumbs even.

It reminded me of a radio show I heard yesterday saying it was better
to suffer intense loss after deep devotion than to never have had the
relationship (they used the example of CS Lewis in Shadowlands). I had
a plastic hotel cup full of warm pumpkin bread from Vicki, heated in
the mini-microwave. That was enough. The saying goes, now that my
barn has burned to the ground, I can see the stars.
I would rather just walk outside knowing that my barn was secure
behind me as I looked to the stars. But that's just me expecting too
much. It's like asking the genie for more wishes.

Then Lisa walked out with the bread. We were both tired last night. I
didn't want to go back to the car. The closest thing to a hotel safe
was the microwave, so I put it in there to keep it from the dog. The
next morning the brilliance of the idea vanished from my mind in the
hurry to get moving. I need to carry a pocket pack of post its. Maybe
a cross between Post-its and tissues, so you could use a sheet for
either purpose without carrying two packages. What's the e-mail for
the patent office?

We crossed the Mississippi River without incident. Lisa feels like she
is officially back in the East.

We ate at Culver's, a regional chain famous for butter burgers and
shakes. I had enough road food, so I opted for another salad. Two
salads for a main dish in a week may be a record for me. There was
outdoor seating, so we didn't have to sit on the curb with the dog.
The marble benches at 47 degrees were a little chilly. The marble acts
like a pizza stone in reverse.

Driving went well until construction east of Louisville where traffic
merged into one lane. I had to keep my foot on the break because the
car wanted to go more than 2 MPH. I thought of a modern analogy to the
barn story above. My traffic having slowed to a crawl, I can see the
stars through the sun roof. It was a nice view. Lisa complains
,screams, and braces herself in anticipation of a crash less than most
of my passengers, but looking at stars out the sunroof instead of
watching traffic makes her unhappy.
(The screams are often helpful and necessary. I want to be a good
driver. I want to be a good singer and dancer. We'll see if that

We got in to Richmond, KY around midnight. Due to a change in
circumstances, I went online and booked a rental car . The plan to
spend the weekend and head back to NC on Sunday with L and E fell
apart due to some family and friend problems including a funeral and
cancer involving family and friends. I drive back Friday. Prayers

Drive Strong

Looking at it on the computer, it looks more like modern art than a picture of band on my hand. But the meaning of the art of the art could be:

This is my drive strong bracelet ™. Okay, it is actually a rubber band
I found on the floor in Lisa's AZ house. But still it's nice to have
something you can't lose in your cavernous luggage, hotel room, car,
or the dog's mouth.

Last leg home to Durham

Heading to Lexington for a rental car then home via Knoxville and I-81 for some new scenery. Leaving 11:15am

Made it to Richmond, KY

We arrived at Lisa's parents. I'm renting a car and driving back tomorrow to some changes in circumstance that are preventing a fun weekend in Kentucky.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

2018 est mile 21 east

2018 est mile 21 east of Louisville on I 64. You can't speed through. 2 mph so everybody sees you. .

I'LL side of Saint Louis at 1517 cst

One way to (not) fix a door lock that doesn't work.
5-6 hours to go.

Vicki in Kansas - Tuesday

Tucumcari to St John passes through NM,TX,OK, and KS with no interstates. It's not necessary. There are stop lights, but it feels like and interstate because there so few cross streets. Most towns we passed were a few blocks long, smaller than the Phoenix airport.

About 2% of the nation's workforce farms for the rest of us and some for-ners too. This is amazing but devastating for the population of the Midwest. It's a shame to have empty business, houses, and churches in one part country with other
parts lacking. But there are still plenty of wonderful people.

We toured the main square, seeing where Vicki's Aunt Vida has owned a building (here name is still there) and where Vicki's sister works. There were not street performs like Indian look-a-likes playing Celine Dion on a wooden flute (AmericaA few blocks away is here childhood home. We met Vicki and her 95-day year old Dad at the grain bins. Where he showed us a tractor. Just the climb up into was a bit difficult to me, and I wasn't sure what I could hold onto amongst all of the gadgets in the John Deere.

We headed back to their house, and we talked as Vicki finished an elaborate dinner with a family recipe mac and cheese, Priba in a Bowl™ named after iconic Oklahoma entertainer and accountant Kevin Priba, and Honeymoon Delight™, an ice cream dish wish I accidentally named in a PG-13 comment at our campus ministry. Yes my honeymoon was better than the cake, but with Lara as a good cook, I get it all.

We had to say our goodbyes to head to Junction City, where we start a long leg to Kentucky tomorrow.

Here are a few pictures from the visit:
Vicki in Kansas

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Vicki in Kansas

We finally made it after a lot of NM,TX,OK,and KS driving.

8:15 leaving Tucumcari for St. John,KS!


First Day of Driving Phoenix to Tucumcari, NM- Monday

I got some real sleep last night, and I feel generally feel good. My
calves, however, are very soar. I am avoiding steps, even single ones,
as much as possible. Mostly, I am glad that the feeling of total
exhaustion is gone.
We got an early start, so we rearranged hotels to travel farther today
and less on the dreaded long Kansas to Kentucky leg of the trip on
Wednesday. There's no great way to avoid either 3 too long or 4 too
short days. The Motel 6 in Albuquerque canceled with no problem since
we called before 6 (industry standard I thought, at least when we
traveled more a few years back). The independent hotel in Kansas put
Lisa on hold. Or at least tried to put her on hold because Lisa heard
the lady yelling at somebody else for a while. She then angrily told
us that she would let it go this time, but we had better not do it
It's okay to have cancellation policies and even penalties, but I
hadn't considered it a moral issue. I guess first they allowed hotel
reservations to be abrogated, and that led quickly rioting, looting,
and a general breakdown of the social contract. In Kansas they keep it

The picture I sent was the closest I've seen to an urban sombrero
(from Seinfeld), but it wasn't dark enough. It was cheap, but Lisa
said it wouldn't fit in the car. I pointed out that she had a sun
roof so that I could just wear it while driving. She was not
convinced. I'm not sexist, but I think a male traveling companion
would have found a way. And then he would convince me to wear it
around town and to church. Okay, maybe it's for the best. To put it
spiritually, sometimes God doesn't give you what you want because you
sometimes want stupid things. Said by a guy who spent dozens of hours
to cheaply set up a used cell phone to take and send sombrero pictures
from the New Mexican dessert.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Grand Canyon Pics

New Mexico

On the road to Albuquerque

Bon voyage at 1015 mst

Grand Canyon Day - Sunday

The drive to Flagstaff went well. It turned out the car had XM
satellite radio, which helped the drive. As L can attest, the music
is nice but the constant action of switching between stations is what
keeps me interested. Blues,80s,50s,NPR,comedy,90s,etc.

The Best Value Inn was nice enough. I was issued a key card and TV
remote control on a friendly checkin. The location was a little
problematic. Flagstaff must be a transportation hub because the train
whistle went off all night. It's not immediately present, but like a
housemate's alarm that rings when he is away, it's hard to ignore. I
slept on and at 5:30, I went with the early departure. Around 7, I
was at the south rim entrance. For complex yet legitimate reasons, I
am entitled to a lifelong national parks pass. I just recently
discovered this. I pulled up to the gate, showed the ranger a couple
of documents, and had the pass in a minute. It is worth thousands of
dollars, but the transaction was the quickest politest federal
interaction I have ever had.

After some wandering, I found a space next to the Bright Angel
trailhead, in my family's tradition. It was a little, so I started
with a fleece and pants, but I progressed to shorts and a shirt by the
middle of the day. I started at about 7:39
Top at rim, elevation 6860 ft
25 min first rest,shaky legs
50 minutes first rest house 5729 ft
1:40 second house, 3 mile mark 4748 ft
I noticed I had much less professional equipment than the standard:
hiking packs, ski poles-like walking sticks, shoes, fancy water

2:30 campground 3800 ft 4.5 mile mark
Plateau point 1.5 miles more. I saw the Colorado river! I didn't get
to touch it because would have required a lot of hilly climbing. That
was a very good choice, as proved by the next few hours.

3:15 plat point saw Colorado river
3:50 Back to campground
4:53 2nd Rest house 2000 ft up to go

I finished lunch, with the aid of kind strangers with water. They
implied I looked like I was at death's door.They also wanted to give
me some electrolytes. The truth is that I always look like I am at
death's door when I do intensive exercise. But the water was awesome.
I had planned to fill up at the taps I saw at the rest houses, but
they did not work (although they were not labeled as such).

6:12 1st rest house, 1000 vertical feet left
7:50 back to rim

The beauty and grandness of the descent into the canyon are that are
always new vista-you can't see everything. This is also the tragedy of
the ascent-you see a top and then a next top and then a next. You've
got a thousand vertical feet in between rest houses and it's hard to
know if there's 100 or 400 feet left. So when it's done, you are
elated that this isn't another trick.

Wonderful and inspiring views, yes, but the ascent makes everyone look
drained and sullen.

I was tired at the end. I drove to the nearest food place and drank a
lot of Coke.

Got the rental car returned with 17 min to spare (not counting 29 min
'grace' period).

Sunday, November 8, 2009

First Light at Grand Canyon

Just the start

On my way to GC at 515 mtn

How often does the train come? So often you won't notice. More on that later.

Flagstaff at 2300 mtn time

Got in tired but okay. Details at . Hoping to get up
early tomorrow to see the Grand Canyon.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

What To Expect at the GC Saturday

I'm going to a bit of trouble to see the Grand Canyon. It's four
hours from Phoenix, and there's no cheap hotels near it. So I am
staying midway in Flagstaff. That means getting up as early as
possible to make it there with enough time to hike a bit and then
drive back to Phoenix to return the rental car at a very solid
deadline (you pay for entire extra days not hours). I am not good at
getting up early, but it's the Grand Canyon!

My most extensive hiking at GC was when I was 19. I wanted to go to
the beach for Spring Break. Everybody else wanted GC. I've seen
small ditches before; I can imagine a big one, was my thinking. 5 of
us piled to Brad's Mom's car and drove from Norman, OK to the GC. Brad
briefly picked up a hitchhiker, so with six of us, Kim had to sit on
my lap (in the most decent manner possible - church lap).

I was amazed at how the views kept changing as we went down and the
vastness was more than I could comprehend. My spirits lifted. It was a
very tough time, and I needed some lifting. We got halfway down, and a
couple of us thought we could make it down and back up in a day (never
mind the signs saying not to attempt this under any circumstances).
However, it was obvious that the group as a whole was barely going to
make it back up. It's not good to be semi-delirious on narrow paths
with big dropoffs one guy discovered: I'll walk on the edge-it's so
much smoother.

Well, I don't have the same mental and physical stamina I did 13 years
ago. And I have a rental car to return and night's sleep to have
before driving to Albuquerque on Monday.
So can this little jaunt by myself meet my expectations?
I'd prefer to not have expectations, like the first time, but even my
memory is not that bad (for that time period anyway). We'll see.

Phoenix has a big airport. I had to tell Lisa to pick me up at
Terminal 3 on the North side, which was completely out of vie of the
South side. We went to Sonic because we couldn't think of anything
else. She is excited about moving back East.
I remembered I needed a belt after we left Durham, so we stopped at
the Clothes Depot in what seems roughly equivalent to the Holloway
street area of Durham. I ended with a belt, a buckle that is either a
gang sign or a sports team emblem (I'm not really current on either),
some cheap gloves (another thing I forgot) and 3 T-shirts for $9.99.
They are nice shirts, for me, but that just means they aren't free and
emblazoned with a corporate logo.

We then drove to the car rental place, which is as big as the
Greensboro airport. You could hold concerts in there or put in a full
sized basketball court. I had to wait until 8:30 pm because the due
time is 24.45 hours after the rental time.


We arrived at PTI airport with plenty of time at 11 am. I was
momentarily panicked to see it labeled GSO. Oh no, Greensboro has two
airports. Okay I guess they changed the name to include the whole
triad. It is amazingly not busy with no waits at checkin or security.
You don't have to be in such a hurry with the laptop,toiletries, and
shoes. They even had chairs to take off your shoes. Chairs! I haven't
seen that in several countries. Other parts of the airports have
rocking chairs.
They even have free wifi, with a few technical glitches, which seems
to be the norm. You spend 20 minutes connecting and 15 minutes
surfing. Either way, you are killing time.
I am very tired. Like don't put in the contacts because they'll fall
out tired. I got less than 2 hours of sleep last night because of
pre-trip adrenaline. I was even already packed, but doing so much in
one day keeps my brain running. I hope this insomnia thing wears off
before the Grand Canyon trip tomorrow . If I don't sleep then, I can
just start the trip at 4 am.
L dropped me off and is visiting an old friend in Greensboro for a
sleepover. She wasn't happy to see me go for a week, but Chinese food
and girl movies beckon.

We now transition to a

We now transition to a travel blog, featuring my trip to Phx to NM to KS to KY back to NC. I leave GSO around Noon Sat.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Our own crazy cell phone fake tree tower

This one is fresh to N NE Durham. Could this be a trend?

Fourth Floor, A Dump Truck, A Video Camera, and an Obvious Conclusion

"It's just like, it wants out. We're getting it out of here." It's weird that this logic doesn't get you arrested.

It wasn't just a one drunken night, prank - it took several days over a few months and a lot of beer to get the dump truck out of the abandoned factory and onto the ground. According the article, "Detroit has 80,000 abandoned lots and buildings," and the police are busy enough with the ones that aren't abandoned, so it's kind of a tourist wasteland.

Fortunately, a videographer was passing by. It's actually decent quality video.

So what do you do with all of these abandoned buildings? Most cities eventually bulldoze blighted properties, but 80,000 is a big number.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

East Campus and the wall

I actually stepped foot on Duke's East campus for the first time in 8 years. I forgot I my OU shirt was on, but I actually got a friendly comment.The transracial comment left me feeling less divided by the 3 foot wall surrounding the East campus. I saw a little girl climb on it - it's not really keeping anybody out. But it is still a divider that proclaims an us and a them - those that afford, somehow or another, to pay tuition that is more than "them" bring home in a year. Those that need tall Police contact poles and suggesting at those that make the poles necessary.

It kind of reminds me of an article on how deer still know the iron curtain border is there, even though many of them have been born after the fall of the USSR:

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

North Durham's Cell Phone Curiosity

A Durham landmark: the cell phone tower / tree at Roxboro and Murrary Aves. It looks better in this picture than a wider zoom, with one "tree" sticking out. See the usual stuff, like Duke Gardens, but don't miss this (failed) attempt to blend technology and nature.

A map for those who want to trek to North Durahm is on Google Mapps on . Satellite and street view just pick up a gravel lot - I guess they haven't captured the new tower yet.

Monday, November 2, 2009

First, Good People

Before you can really listen to us at Turf Management Ethics: The Blog, we need to establish that we are Good People. So here is an example of our ever-abiding love for all things good: A Susan G Komen Debit Card. What does that even mean? I called up the bank because they would give a little money to breast cancer research. But how do debit cards and breast cancer connect?

I am not pro-breast cancer - a fact I repeated, under oath to the grand jury during my indictment. I have a friend who died from it, a friend who had a scare, and a friend who battled it and won. I overcame my squeamishness about buying a stamp with the word "breast" on it. I have supported products and walks and such.

But the sheer proliferation of related products is amazing. The list of products is amazing, from pink lint rollers (thank your 3M), Huggies diapers, checks, a 5K walk on a cruise ship, a pink Kitchen Aid, and a renegade non-Komen-endorsed Snuggie. Maybe this is capitalism at its best, helping a little with every purchase. But couldn't we just give the money quietly with one hand and but what we need with another. Instead we end up with marriages not made in heaven, like the Pepsico Fitness Center on Duke's Campus.

We are defined by our consumption - still conspicuous but now a littlemore auspicious, with our economic (or uneconomic) choices describing us as good or bad people. Thus we defy the idea that it's not what goes into us that counts; it is what comes out of us. If you use a PETA cobranded Visa to purchase a fair trade,organic, cruelty free soy latte in a 100% post consumer content, compostable cup made from wind power and carbon offsets from a company that advertizes its support of Venezuelan orphans, and you then insult the waiter and forget his tip, how good of a person are you? Whatever you learn from this blog, tip the waitress well. Brad taught me that in college, and it's stuck more than Calc IV (Gentle ladies close your ears: Calc IV don't stick to the ribs so well - it's just as likely to come back up as it to come down).

Not that we can't purchase positively, but at some point, we are either declaring ourselves externally to be wonderful peope or we are justifying our shortcoming to ourselves. Try giving without the bumper sticker or taking off the bumper sticker after a few years.
-D Rant Ended