Post-industrial economics lesson, Christmas Edition

Conversation with the seven-year-old:

He: Dad, why does my new guitar say Made in China?

I: Well, that's where it was made. Lots of things are made there.

He: I thought it was made by elves?

I: Well, it came from the elves, but they probably subcontracted out the manufacture.

He: Oh. Dad, what does subcontract mean?


Another sign the holidays are here

Today was the last day of school, and our oldest has posted holiday visiting hours for her room. Apparently there are no exceptions.


You know it's Christmas when

... the radio in our office lobby is playing Christmas At Ground Zero.

Everywhere the atom bombs are dropping
It's the end of all humanity
No more time for last-minute shopping
It's time to face your final destiny

It's Christmas at ground zero
There's panic in the crowd
We can dodge debris while we trim the tree
Underneath the mushroom cloud

Seriously. It's catchy, though.


Election day

This is funny because it's there's so much truth to it, but nevertheless: Get out and vote!

While walking down the street one day a US senator is tragically hit by a truck and dies. His soul arrives in heaven and is met by St. Peter at the entrance.

"Welcome to heaven," says St. Peter. "Before you settle in, it seems there is a problem. We seldom see a high official around these parts, you see, so we're not sure what to do with you."

"No problem, just let me in," says the man.

"Well, I'd like to, but I have orders from higher up. What we'll do is have you spend one day in hell and one in heaven. Then you can choose where to spend eternity."

"Really, I've made up my mind. I want to be in heaven," says the senator.

"I'm sorry, but we have our rules."

And with that, St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. Everyone is very happy and in evening dress. They run to greet him, shake his hand, and reminisce about the good times they had while getting rich at the expense of the people. They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster, caviar and champagne. Also present is the devil, who really is a very friendly guy who has a good time dancing and telling jokes. They are having such a good time that before he realizes it, it is time to go. Everyone gives him a hearty farewell and waves while the elevator rises...

The elevator goes up, up, up and the door reopens on heaven where St. Peter is waiting for him. "Now it\'s time to visit heaven."

So, 24 hours pass with the senator joining a group of contented souls moving from cloud to cloud, playing the harp and singing. They have a good time and, before he realizes it, the 24 hours have gone by and St. Peter returns.

"Well, then, you've spent a day in hell and another in heaven. Now choose your eternity."

The senator reflects for a minute, then he answers: "Well, I would never have said it before, I mean heaven has been delightful, but I think I would be better off in hell."

So St. Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down to hell. Now the doors of the elevator open and he's in the middle of a barren land covered with waste and garbage. He sees all his friends, dressed in rags, picking up the trash and putting it in black bags as more trash falls from above.

The devil comes over to him and puts his arm around his shoulder.

"I don't understand," stammers the senator. "Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and clubhouse, and we ate lobster and caviar, drank champagne, and danced and had a great time. Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and my friends look miserable. What happened?"

The devil looks at him, smiles and says, "Yesterday we were campaigning..... Today you voted."


Sugar rush

Took all four kids trick-or-treating tonight. It was a clear, starry night, which was a major improvement over the rain we got the year before.

The youngest was old enough to walk this year. (Last year, he rode in the stroller. Unconcerned with keeping up with his siblings, he sucked the chocolate off candy bars right through the wrappers.) Since the weather was nice, they filled up their buckets in half an hour and went back out for more on the next street. I'm pretty sure their haul weighs more than the two-year-old.

Hmm, I already wonder how many more times the oldest will want to go out with dear old dad trailing along behind.


Lutheran Guy

In honor of Reformation Sunday (tomorrow) and for your amusement, I present a song written by my wife's aunt. I think she did a great job.

LUTHERAN GUY (to the tune of American Pie)
By Cynthia Strieter-Boland

A long, long time ago
We must all remember
How the Reformation got its start

A boy to Hans and Margaret born
Was baptized on the following morn
The child of the Luther’s was named Mart

Young Martin Luther got the call
When a lightning bolt caused him to fall
He sold his books for law school
And took up studying God’s rule

He entered the monastic life
In the peaceful Erfort countryside
And something touched him deep inside
The day he took those vows


    My, my this here Lutheran guy
    May be famous, but he’s dangerous
    And a thorn in our side
    Them good ole boys at the Vatican cried
    Saying, “Just recant or you will be tried”
    ‘n’ he said, “Here I stand, I won’t be denied”
He started on his quest with love
And the utmost faith in God above
‘n’ let the Bible be his guide
But he stood up to the monks who told
How works could save your mortal soul
And tried to teach “by grace we’re justified”

Well, he said John Tetzel was a crook
‘cause of the indulgences he took
Then late one Halloween night
He gave the Vatican a fright

He nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door
Never meant to start a holy war
But this is what he was called for
The day he took those vows
Archbishop Albert with the Pope
And Cardinal Cajetan all spoke
‘bout Martin Luther’s heresy
So they called him back to Rome to see
If a Diet of Worms could ever be
Enough to make him stop his blasphemy

He was excommunicated then
By a jury of his former friends
The courtroom was adjourned
The verdict was returned

And while Martin left that day from Rome
To Castle Wartburg his new home
He recalled the fervor he had known
The day he took those vows
He met a girl who’d been a nun
And escaped the convent on the run
Katharina Bora was her name
In Wittenburg as man and wife
Mart’n Katy started their new life
And pretty soon six new Lutherans came

Now the printing press was all the rage
And Martin’s words were on each page
The Word was also spoken
For the rules had all been broken

And the three that he admired most
The Father, Son and Holy Ghost
Were praised with an angelic host
The day he took those vows

They let another one slip away.

The Cards have just beaten Detroit in Game 4, forcing a must-win for Detroit to bring the World Series back home.

Come on guys, bring it home. You really don't want your only win to be clouded by the stain of pine tar on Kenny Rogers' hand.


Michael J Fox isn't the only celebrity with an opinion

And not all opinionated celebrities agree with each other.

When it comes to stem cell research, maybe people will give Fox's opinion more weight due to his illness. I have sympathy for the guy, but his situation doesn't change whether the the relative value of adult versus embryonic stem cell research.

The truth is that I'm not convinced whether one is more promising than the other. I also remain unconvinced that embryonic stem would be worth harvesting embryos, even if we were certain of the benefits. Even if the benefits were beyond our wildest dreams.

The other thing which disturbs me is the idea that somehow when a celebrity (any celebrity) enters the political arena as a spokesperson for a candidate or an issue they are somehow above the fray. It's late enough in the political season that I tend to sigh or groan almost anytime I hear a poltical ad, because I've heard the ads once, twice, three dozen times in just the last week and I'm aware of the spinning and the truth stretching and the attempts at damage control. Like everybody else, I get tired of the spin from all the candidates.

But celebrities aren't above the kind of behavior that makes the average citizen sour on politics. From Fox's ad for Claire McCaskill:

"Unfortunately Senator Jim Talent opposes expanding stem cell research," Fox claims. "Senator Talent even wanted to criminalize the science that gives us a chance for hope."
According to Lifenews:
Though the ad makes it appear Talent opposes all kinds of stem cell research, he has voted in favor of spending millions in federal funds for adult stem cell research, the only kind of research that has ever cured a single patient.

What Talent has opposed is forcing taxpayers to pay for studies using embryonic stem cells, which can only be obtained by destroying human life.

H/T: Michelle Malkin

Decision time

I'm not a person who deals well with change. I avoid it whenever possible, and I delay it as long as I can. Even when I know it's going to be good for me, I procrastinate. This is probably one of my most frustrating qualities (certainly to my wife), but even to myself.

The big change I've been resisting lately has been to leave our church home.

I've changed churches twice in my life, and both were related to a change of residence. Both times were somewhat awkward because of the need to meet new people and learn new customs and accommodate slight variations in the liturgy. The Lutheran church, much like the Catholic church, leans heavily on an organized liturgy, which makes the general order of worship very consistent between congregations.

We've been members of this congregation for six years, and had two of our children baptized there. Our kids have done bible school there every year since our oldest was three, and it's the only sunday school they've ever attended. We've also made some good friends in our time there who have encouraged our growth in faith.

In the last year or two, though, we've felt increasingly called away from our church. Much of the problem lies in the progressively shrinking membership. Enrollment at our church, like many small mainline congregations across the country, has been sliding for some time. We've alternately attributed this to intra-congregational strife, bad seeds, poor organization, poor advertising, forgetful membership, an economic downturn, and competition from more contemporary megachurches. I've come over time to doubt that any of these was truly a cause, and some were mostly imagined.

Whatever the cause, the result has been that the sunday school has declined from 8-10 or 10-12 kids in a class to 3, 4, or 5 kids in a class. As the number of students has decreased, the number of parents willing to be involved has also fallen.

The same symptoms have hurt the nursery, which has existed only sporadically. There aren't many families with children younger than sunday school age who have a need for a nursery, but we invariably have one of our own - and for the last two months another. Our youngest son, who is threeish, doesn't belong in a worship service once the sermon starts, and an ambulatory foster child who's never been to church belongs there even less.

With little congregational support for the nursery lately, our options have been to leave worship after communion or to have one of us sit in the nursery every week. That didn't seem so bad when we were taking our second or third child out. Now that it's the fourth... and the fifth... We believe we've been called by God to be foster parents of young children. Should we assume He does not mean for us to be in church?

The idea of leaving is complicated by the fact that there aren't other Lutheran churches nearby that are attractive at first glance. That means we've had to consider other denominations, which is a particular hurdle for me. My grandfather was a Lutheran minister his entire life, and I grew up in the church where he baptized me - the same church where I was confirmed and where I later married my wife. Leaving that church was difficult, but staying was simply impractical because our home was in the city twenty miles away, and there were half a dozen churches within a 10-minute drive. This time around, I'm afraid moving outside the Lutheran church will be a lot like abandoning family. The liturgy, the hymns, the history... It's not part of my faith exactly, but it's part of me nevertheless.


No evidence of a young boy wrapped in a red towel was found

"Rare Meteorite Found in Kansas"

OK. Not that rare.


Haloscan comments

Found a link to The Logical Philosopher with some explanation of how to show Haloscan comments and trackbacks. Working on getting those implemented in my limited spare time, so if your comments have disappeared, that's why. Also helps to explain the infrequent posts.

When it's all done, the Blogger comments won't show at all.


Pwned, 6-0

Kenny Rogers and the Tigers over The Big Unit, that is.

8K's and 5 walks, vs 4K's and 5 earned runs. And did you see the line drive to Rogers's head, which he knocked down in time to make the play?

Nobody thought Rogers or the Tigers could perform like that. Well, maybe noone outside Detroit.



Stop the ACLU says:

  • The ACLU thinks that parents have no right to know if their pregnant underage daughter is seeking an abortion.
  • The ACLU believes anyone, for any reason at any time should be allowed to abort a child.
  • The ACLU opposes abstinence education.
  • The ACLU has fought to have constitutionally-sound displays that include the Ten Commandments removed from public property.
  • The ACLU is on record as supporting polygamy.

Sure glad they're standing up for all our rights, eh?

Hat tip to Conservative Thinking



After two months of night classes, my wife and I were licensed to be foster parents this summer. Last week, we received our first long-term placement: a bright, adorable, attractive one-year-old girl.

Only thing is, she screams bloody murder when I walk into the room. With my wife or with the kids (especially our oldest) she's fine, but she has no use for adult males unless there's no women around.

Now I'm a big boy, and I can handle it. With four other kids in the house, it's not the first time a baby didn't want to be held by me. And it isn't even truly that she doesn't want me to pick her up, because she'll reach for me if no one else is there: she just prefers to be held by women. But she looks terrified when I pick her up.

Could be nothing. Maybe she's just not spent that much time around male family members. Or maybe it's more than that. I know I'm a stranger to her (and moreso than the rest of the family because of work) and that I'm just projecting here, but I can't help be angry at a world in which a little girl is terrified that she would be left alone with a man.

Tag: foster


Bach'n it

My wife took our oldest out of town for the rest of the week, and today was my first full day alone with the other three kids. Forgot how much I always liked the smell of Play-Doh.

Oh, come on. You do too.


Twenty years later...

... (and a handful of abominable VHS tapes in our library) and I can still correct some of our kids on the names of the Care Bears. There must be something more useful those neurons could be remembering.


Quite a week

Father's Day was great. The oldest kids hand-made a birdhouse and painted a storage container for me. They put a lot of work into it. I'm really blessed to have kids so eager to show their love. Also got this which I've been listening to back and forth to work all week. Watched Walk the Line a month or so ago, and it got me hooked.

Also, YD had her dance recital on Sunday. Her mom, big sister, and Grandma went to see, while I watched the boys. She loves to perform for people, when she's in the mood. The upshot is, she really enjoyed dance, which means another year of lessons. It's nice to see her have an activity she enjoys though, that's different from what her older sibs do. It's strange how different four kids can be.

Yesterday a huge storm system passed through here. I'm told we made the national news. Longest day of the year according to the calendar, but it looked like early evening all day long when it wasn't raining. Thunderstorms here, with lots of flooding. Tornados elsewhere in the area. We got 4 inches of rain at the house, and about 3/8" on the floor at one end of the basement. It scared the kids a little, I think. We were mostly worried about the new drywall, but glad we hadn't gotten to carpet yet. At the office this morning, the parking lot was flooded until after 10am.

Today is our 10th wedding anniversary. I love my wife, and I give thanks to God for her. Only He knows where I'd be without her. She observed earlier this week what a long time ten years is. That's something you hardly have any appreciation for when you get married in your early twenties. We were relatively mature when we got married, but even so we had a lot of growing up to do. I'm quite certain it's only by grace that marriages last 'til death do us part.



Sign that the end is near.

I'm watching shows (as I work in the evening) during which they run advertisements for bail bonds. Their slogan: "You call, you walk."

Color me disturbed.



I never really appreciated the term. Sure, I've taken pleasure in the suffering of others. I'm human, after all. Not sure I've ever enjoyed it this much though. Lileks's saga of the Oak Island Water Feature seemed to have come to an end on Friday. (He's been mentioning it on and off since last September.) What a relief to read this morning that it still leaks.

I'd have thought he'd be having nightmares about it by now - but I'm guessing not since he hasn't written about them. At any rate I'm happy to say his continuing pain is our gain.



Scrappleface is always on target. Sometimes painfully so.

When asked how an outsider with no expertise in cryptology could break the code and comprehend the secret, the Popes spokesman said, To reveal the mystery, first lift the cover of the Bible. Then carefully examine all the text on the first page. Slowly turn the page. Repeat the process until the mystery becomes plain.
Taken out of context, one might almost think he had a point, eh?


Away for a little while...

I know it's been a while since I've posted. Unfortunately, it probably still will be for a while.

It's gotten very busy at work recently, and then a fourth of our department took 3 weeks vacation. He deserves it, so I don't begrudge him, but it means I don't have much time to post or even read blogs lately. (Work isn't the only priority which comes ahead of the blog.)

Hopefully things will calm down soon. Meanwhile, if you drop me an e-mail, I won't ignore it.


In case you've forgotten

There are some things about the Bush presidency which should please anyone who claims to love freedom and human rights. Here's one.

China and Russia last night thwarted a year-long diplomatic drive by Britain to impose United Nations sanctions on the perpetrators in of the violence in the Darfur province of Sudan ... The United States, which backed the British initiative, reacted angrily by threatening to call a public vote of the 15-nation Security Council that would force Russia and China into making a formal veto. Source: The London Times
Who's our ambassador to the UN? John Bolton. He's the guy President Bush appointed last year during Senate recess because his nomination was opposed by just about everyone to the left of -- well, the President, actually.

There was no shortage of detractors in the media at the time, either. In the Senate, at least, one mind is being changed:

"John Bolton at this point is a changed man," Voinovich told reporters. "I want reform of the United Nations, so I've worked with John and stayed on top of John to make sure he takes this wonderful opportunity."...Bolton's appointment expires next January. If Bush reappoints him, Voinovich said he "might not take the same position as last time." Source: AP

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Happy Easter!

Sure, it's late in the day (today) but I figure people have been celebrating for 2000 years. So what's 12 hours here or there, right?

Ariel's got a great Easter post up at Bittersweet Blue.
LaShawn also has a great read here.

If you haven't read already, stop by and check them out!


Q&A, part one

It seems like the first thing major media does whenever stories like this or this come out is assume they are of equal or greater merit than the Bible. Doesn't it seem like the thing that a responsible journalist should do is to be skeptical and investigate? But who's got time for that, right?

A friend once insisted to me that the entire Bible was an elaborate deception fabricated centuries ago out of whole cloth. How or why someone would carry out such a complicated ruse, he could never explain to my satisfaction. So in light of recent news items, I submit some answers to my own questions.

Would people go to the trouble of creating false gods? Indeed, the Bible itself is full of people who worshipped false idols. Roughly all of the peoples in the promised land (before the Israelites moved in) were idolaters. Moses and Aaron challenged Pharoah's sorcerers in Egypt, and Elijah had the faith to stand up to the followers of Baal. (1 Kings 18. Read it!) And idolatry isn't limited to the Old Testament. The New Testament letters of Paul and Peter are replete with references to idols, and our lives are filled with the idols we've created: job, money, politics, status, pride, television, food, fitness, family, blog...

Wait a minute, you say, those aren't idols. They might be distractions, or personal weakness, but they're not gods. Some of them aren't even bad things! Fitness? Family?? And the blog? Fuhgeddaboudit!

Are you sure? Has one of those things (or something else that isn't God) become the center of your life? There's no shame in admitting it. I certainly have a hard time making Him the center of my life, though I'm asking Him to work on me.

Well, this post was going a totally different direction when I started, but this seems like a good place to stop. I'll try to continue back in that direction later in subsequent posts.

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New problem, easily solved...

...I hope. Back in January our hard drive crashed, taking all of our important documents with it: Tax returns and resumes, mostly. Not to mention some recorded audio of our kids being genuinely cute. And so I learned about the importance of regular backups.

Well last night the computer wouldn't start up at all (no fans, no hard drive, etc.) but the little LED's which indicate a network connection came on fine. I'm thinking it's the power supply, having been down this road once before several years ago. So I'll be picking up a new one for cheap tonight and crossing my fingers.

A hard drive and a power supply failing within 6 months of each other. That leaves the CD drives, the motherboard, and the RAM. So I guess we haven't replaced half the computer yet. Regardless, when the MB goes, it's time for a new unit.



Test No. 3

18 out of 20. Genius, I say!

Well, actually it came from a third party. A completely objective, anonymous third party, whose credibility in measuring such things is not verifiable. So it must be true.

I couldn't get number 7 or 19, by the way.

Hat tip: Mac Stansbury, guest-blogging at Alabama Improper.



Peace at any price

Captain Ed reported that United for Peace and Justice was protesting in front of the Pentagon today, in an attention-seeking effort to build opposition to the presence of American troops overseas. Normally, I'd ignore this sort of thing because it just doesn't interest me that much, except I noticed that one of the featured speakers is local rabble-rouser Mike Ferner of Veterans For Peace.

I almost regret posting this, because it continues to draw attention to him. (You see, Ferner likes to see his name in print.) When he isn't giving speeches, he's writing about people getting arrested in connection with their opposition to the war.

When that doesn't satisfy him, he seeks to be arrested himself. Earlier this month he was arrested for interrupting a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee. On New Year's Day, he was arrested for defacing a few bridges here in the area. Then he had the nerve to imply that the arrest was violating his freedom of speech.

Of local note: Ferner was the favorite candidate for mayor here in Toledo in 1992, but lost narrowly to current mayor Carty Finkbeiner. Sure am glad we dodged that bullet!

Michele Malkin was there and has some pics.



This just in:

Bush may actually be Hitler. Mr. Right has the scoop.

Hat tip to the Jawa Report.



OK, So I'm a geek

But I want my next sheet of stamps to be this one.


Freedom of speech (blah blah blah)

There was some hoopla last week about a poll (PDF) which indicated unsurprisingly that Americans are more familiar with elements of pop culture than the freedoms explicitly listed at the top of the Bill of Rights. Sad perhaps, but as I said, unsurprising.

Unfortunately, some people support those First Amendment freedoms so vehemently they'll attack anyone who disagrees with them on the interpretation. Case in point: Stop the ACLU's primary site has been taken offline by what is known as a denial of service attack (DOS). They're working on the problem, and have a secondary site up here.

Of course it's highly possible the people who did this aren't citizens at all, which means they probably can't even be prosecuted.

On the other hand, the folks at Stop The ACLU are in good company. Congratulations!



Ears like a dog

So I'm driving home from a class last night with my wife, doing 60 mph on the expressway and carrying on a conversation about the topic of the night's class, when I hear this clicking sound. "What's that sound?"

She shrugs. "I don't hear anything."

I check the keys. They're swaying as they dangle from the ignition, but not banging into anything. "Is it your watch?"

She holds her watch up to her ear. "No. I don't hear anything."

I hold my wrist up to my ear to check my watch. It's clicking away the seconds. "Must be mine." And we went on with our conversation.

A few seconds later, the clicking is still bugging me because it doesn't sound like it's coming from my side of the vehicle. I grabbed her arm. She stopped talking in mid-sentence while I held it up to my ear. "It's definitely your watch."

I've awakened before to the sound of my own watch, clicking away a few inches from my face in the silence of the night. Who can hear a wristwatch from three feet away while carrying on a conversation in an automobile at expressway speeds? Just doesn't seem normal.




Sunday: KindHearts of Toledo was raided by Treasury agents as an alleged front operation for funneling money to terrorist organizations Hamas and Al Qaeda.

That's about four miles away from my house. I've driven past that place probably a thousand times (though I'm not sure how long they've been there.)

My first thought: it's unsettling to think there could be terrorist fundraisers that close to home, but I'm willing to wait for a trial to assume guilt. (It's not like I was giving them money, so whether I presume them guilty doesn't really contribute to anything.)

Yesterday: The FBI arrested three Toledoans on charges of conspiracy to commit terrorist acts against Americans.

They showed the houses and street names of these guys on the local news, along with reaction from neighbors. One of the three lives about a half mile from the church where two of our children attended preschool.

My thoughts now:

  1. Assume guilt. It's still true that whether I think they're guilty has no bearing on anything. In a court of law, they can be innocent until proven guilty. The court of public opinion doesn't work that way.
  2. Interrogate the snot out of the SOB's, using whatever means necessary.
  3. Two of them are American citizens. What's the penalty for treason again?
Side note: The Justice Dept. commended the local muslim community for its support in this case. But there were a number of community leaders on TV last night saying they expect a public backlash against law-abiding muslims following these events. They're right, of course. There will be, but there shouldn't be. There are honest hard-working muslim citizens in this nation who love their country and deserve the respect of their countrymen. Some have earned our respect this week, and we shouldn't forget it.



Taxes on windfall profits

Why do we need them, since there are already corporate income taxes which (theoretically) are taxes on the profits made by a business? The idea that we should tax "excessively" large profits at a higher rate than others implies that there is such a thing as an excessively large profit.

It assumes one of two things:

  1. Either that a corporation lucked into an exceptionally high earnings year without significant planning, preparation, or risk, and that's a dubious notion in itself,

  2. Or that while the corporation may have laid the groundwork for its success, it isn't entitled to benefit from it.
It further assumes that larger profit values should be taxed progressively: the more a company makes, the higher the tax rate should be. It suggests that the purpose of a business enterprise is to generate revenue -- not for its owners or shareholders -- but for the government.

It changes the after-tax income from the reward for a wise investment of time and resources into merely the charitable indulgence of a beneficent government. In effect, it punishes successful businesses for an effective and efficient distribution of resources, which is a goal which should be in everyone's best interest. Such punitive taxes amount to a financial disincentive to invest in market segments where the demand is highest, potentially diminishing the supply and raising prices on the product -- oil anyone?

One more thing before I wrap up. I'm not suggesting here that taxes are bad, per se. But I do think there's a moral implication to tax policy. This nation has long recognized a strong right to property, and the idea that a corporation is in business to generate revenue for the nation (rather than for shareholders) represents a sharp retreat from a dearly held American value.

For more on the topic, check out Stephen Green's Monday post on Vodkapundit. (I know, I'm late in getting to this.)

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Cuteness, or From the mouths of babes

The small cross which hangs in our sons' bedroom falls off the wall with the banging of a door or the stomp of a 2-year-old's foot. It's a daily occurrence.

And while our kids recognize drawings or paintings of Jesus, and they know the Lord's prayer -- when I pray with OS at bedtime, YS chimes in with "Father...power...glory...amen" -- it's probably that cross that gives them most physical reminder of Christ.

Today, I'm told that little cross fell off the wall while our youngest was being changed. Deciding he'd caused Jesus to fall off the wall, he said "Sowwy, Jesus".

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And the lesson for today is...

Plan ahead, but not too far ahead. And when you plan ahead, expect the unexpected.

We've been working on finishing the basement recently, with the idea that we'd turn it into a rec room / office. We had removed a lot of the clutter in the fall, then put up a partition wall to separate the laundry room from the rest of the basement.

We installed styrofoam insulation on the outside walls two weeks ago, and we're now ready to run the electrical. Right now, we only have two outlets in the basement, which are dedicated to the washing machine and the sump pump. For lighting, we have four functional -- but not attractive -- single-bulb fixtures which are typical of every unfinished basement I've ever seen. So we're planning to add about a dozen wall outlets and a couple of lighting circuits to give us some flexibility to place furniture and a television and to select lighting.

As I was saying, we're ready to start running electrical this weekend because I took the time around Thanksgiving to map every electrical circuit in the house. I spent most of a day turning off circuit breakers and then running around the house checking to see which outlets and lights were without power. I needed to do this because our breaker box is completely filled, and it was possible I'd have to combine some circuits to make room to wire the basement.

So what's the problem? Well, I'm notoriously disorganized. Scattered. I wasn't born with the place-for-everything-and-everything-in-its-place gene. Fortunately for me, my wife isn't just beautiful and smart -- she's also congenitally neat, and she's got my back. So when she advised me to put that map somewhere I'll be able to find it, I listened.

That's right, I put it in the one place I knew I'd be able to find it: in the home computer. That around Christmas. I copied the information into the PC and threw away the original hard copy. You can guess what happened next. The first week in January, the hard drive crashed and burned. Two months out of warranty, and me without a useful backup. This weekend, it looks like I'll be re-mapping all the circuits. And next weekend, I'll be backing up my hard drive. So, like I said, when you plan ahead, expect the unexpected.



That's disappointing...

And I'm in Ohio.

Eric Florack reports that the House Majority Leader is John Boehner. via Fox News



Groundhog Day

In an effort to prove that I am at least as prescient as a large rodent, I have two predictions to make:

  1. There will be six more weeks of winter.
  2. The day after tomorrow will end with the letter y.
Let me know how I did.



Reversible? That's just gross.


I'm number one!

If you search for "grinding gears" on Yahoo, that is.
Simple gratification, that's what I'm talking about.

On the topic of birthdays...

Happy birthday to our daughter, who is four today. She was uncharacteristically patient in waiting for her brother to open his presents last night before digging in to hers. The girl deserves a prize.



Indoctrinate them while they're young

Our youngest son is getting a Fisher Price Imaginext playset for his birthday. It's sort of a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-Book of playsets. Comes with an assortment of parts which imaginative tykes can assemble however they wish so that the adventure is always new. They're pretty cool toys, really, and in my opinion a heck of a lot more interesting than LEGO's entry-level product, DUPLO.

I like the toy, and more importantly YS will too. But get a load of the text on the back of the box:

Imagine...a primitive civilization of humans and dinosaurs, living in a lush, green land.
Gets the reader thinking about the environment. OK, sure, humans and dinosaurs missed coexistence by millions of years, and a "civilization of dinosaurs" requires a lot of imagination, but then the kids who play with these toys have a lot of imagination.
One side--the predators--is using up its natural resources, wiping out everything and everyone that gets in their way.
Seems like they've set up the meat-eaters to be the bad guys, and not just because they eat other creatures, but they use up the natural resources? When I was in school, (a long time ago) I learned that the decomposed bodies of prehistoric life were the source of the things we think of today as natural resources. Was this copy written by the executive board of PETA or the Sierra Club?
The other side--the ecovores--wants to preserve their land. And they're willing to fight to make that happen.
OK, hold on right there. I let the substitution of "predators" for carnivores slide, because it's pretty accurate, but ecovores? Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it sounds to me like they're implying that a vegetarian diet is more ecologically sound than a carnivorous one. The paragraph winds up this way:
The battle begins at T-Rex Mountain: Will the predators succeed in destroying the land, causing their own extinction? Or will the ecovores stop the destruction and make the land a place where dinosaurs and humans can live together peacefully for all time? In the world of Imaginext, anything is possible!
OK, so now it's clear they're framing the action with the idea that carnivores are at best self-destructive and at worst evil, and that the herbivores are wise, and salt of the earth too. Is there a political message there, or is it just a misguided effort to apply a good versus evil motif to a child's toy in order to make it more appealing to the parents?

I'm not really implying I think there's a conscious political motivation here from Fisher-Price. To a certain extent, kids think along the lines of good vs evil anyway, and when it comes to dinosaurs, the ones with open mouths and big teeth are going to be the ones on offense.

And I'm not worried at all that the text on the outside of the box will influence how our kids play with the toy. After all, I'm the only one who actually read the box. As for YS, he's two years old. All he knows for sure is that dinosaurs are big and scary and go RWARRRR!!!!



An Appeal from Center-Right Bloggers

From N.Z. Bear.:

We are bloggers with boatloads of opinions, and none of us come close to agreeing with any other one of us all of the time. But we do agree on this: The new leadership in the House of Representatives needs to be thoroughly and transparently free of the taint of the Jack Abramoff scandals, and beyond that, of undue influence of K Street.

We are not naive about lobbying, and we know it can and has in fact advanced crucial issues and has often served to inform rather than simply influence Members.

But we are certain that the public is disgusted with excess and with privilege. We hope the Hastert-Dreier effort leads to sweeping reforms including the end of subsidized travel and other obvious influence operations. Just as importantly, we call for major changes to increase openness, transparency and accountability in Congressional operations and in the appropriations process.

As for the Republican leadership elections, we hope to see more candidates who will support these goals, and we therefore welcome the entry of Congressman John Shadegg to the race for Majority Leader. We hope every Congressman who is committed to ethical and transparent conduct supports a reform agenda and a reform candidate. And we hope all would-be members of the leadership make themselves available to new media to answer questions now and on a regular basis in the future.

Sign me on.



This is really cool.

The Music Genome Project picks songs based on the example criteria you give it. Give it a try.

Hat tip: Althouse.


Lions farm coaches in San Fran

If Hall-of-Famer Mike Singletary was to sign on at Detroit, he'd be the third member of the 49ers coaching staff in a row to jump to the Lions head coach position, following Marty Mornhinweg and the recently-fired Steve Mariucci.

Mariucci came off a great run with the 49ers. Mornhinweg, was an assistant coach, as Singletary is now. Is he ready? I don't know. Will it matter. Probably not.