Friday, December 29, 2006


I'm guessing that it will be normal for me to post less often during the holidays. Hopefully 10 day breaks will not be normal.

Besides the obvious Christmas festivities and work, I have been doing very good with my running until this week. Sometime on Christmas day my right ankle began to hurt. I went running on the 26th and, although running was fine, I noticed that my ankle got worse. My Achilles tendon began to swell some so I have been staying off it for the last few days. I don't know how it happened, but I have to assume that it is related to the running. Hopefully resting it this week will allow me to get back to training sooner than if I pushed harder. I'm going to give it a try with a short run tomorrow.

I'm still trying to find the balance of what I write about here. I was doing lots of candidate endorsements before the break, but I want a better balance. I have found that there are two new candidates who have filed with the FEC since I last wrote. I guess I had better get caught up again because it looks like we are likely to have even more in the coming weeks.

Last night I got a call from my Grandpa and we got to catch up. I had not talked to him for a few months as he has been busy with his new wife trying to keep up with their combined 48 grandchildren. I don't know about her grandchildren, but I realized that of his 24 grandchildren half of them were married so we're all getting spread out a bit.

I can only imagine how busy it would get trying to keep up with 48 grandchildren. Anyway, it was nice to catch up with him, that's why I decided to do a little catching up here.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Michael Smith

With positions such as the desire to institute the draft for the Iraq war, I was not sure if I could consider Michael Smith as a legitimate candidate. Further investigation showed me a man who is as realistic about his candidacy as he is serious about it - neither he nor I fail to recognize that his candidacy is limited to his home state of Oregon.

I commend him as a person for trying to do something, but I can't endorse him as a candidate.

UPDATE 12/29/06: In case anyone sees this without seeing the comments - Michael Smith has dropped his position of supporting a draft. I think that was a wise move.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

George Phillies

I have finally found another candidate whom I can endorse unequivocally. His name is George Phillies. He has a solid understanding of politics and a clear agenda which can appeal to a majority of voters.

George is highly educated (PhD in Physics from MIT) and should have a good understanding of a variety of Americans since he has lived on the east coast (Massachusetts) the west coast (California) and the mid-west (Michigan).

As I said before - I endorse George Phillies for President.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Mike Gravel

Mike Gravel is a candidate with lots of experience in politics as an ex-senator from Alaska. He even tried to get nominated as a vice-presidential candidate earlier in his career.

I heartily endorse Mike Gravel as a candidate for President, with the hope that he might help to keep the discussion from becoming stale. Realistically, he has no chance of getting on the ballot. There are two reasons for this: first, he's from Alaska which only has 3 electoral votes; second, he is 76 years old. By the time he could get elected he would be 78. To put that in perspective - Ronald Reagan was our oldest president and he was 77 when he finished his second term. Mike Gravel would be 78 before he started his first term and would be 8082 (I got lazy - as noted in the comments) before his term ended. We will never have an octogenarian as President unless half the population of the United States is over 50.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Steve Kubby

Steve Kubby is running for president. That's the only "positive" thing I can say here. Actually, I was wrong, he has the best looking MySpace page I have ever seen - it actually fails to look like psychedelic vision out of a drug-induced dream.

He waves the flag of his home state by giving plenty of time to his position related to medical marajuana. (We are a long way from that being a major issue in national politics.) He advocates an immediate pullout from Iraq and decries illegal immigration.

In short, Kubby is serious about his candidacy, but he is not a serious candidate. If he became the president, the United States would begin to look as quirky and unstable to the outside world as Venezuela has come to look under the presidency of Hugo Chavez. I don't mean to imply that Kubby is like Chavez, only that he is equally far from the mainstream.

While I think that most voters would like to see a change in our political system, they don't want this kind of change. Kubby will get up to 5% of the vote in California and not more than 1% in any other state where he can get on the ballot.

I cannot even think of endorsing such a "candidate".

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Too Busy

Yesterday was one of those days. I wanted to get the Christmas lights up on the house and possibly write another candidate endorsement. Instead my day went something like this:

  • Get up with Isaac for night feedings at 2:00am and 5:30am
  • Run 6 miles at 6:00am
  • Help get breakfast on the table for the kids who have kept Laura up since I left to run
  • Talk about what the girls want to do today
  • Start putting clips on the house to hang the lights
  • Run to the store for extension cords and light socket adapters (skipping lunch)
  • Have a friend over for games
  • Finish getting the lights up
  • Go to a dinner/Christmas party
  • Put the girls to bed
  • Feed Isaac for his late feeding
  • Fall in bed - looking forward to the night feedings

I would love to show a picture of the lights on the house but, thanks to a shortage of lights at the store, I only have half the lights I wanted so it still looks a little weak - even by my meager standards. I guess you'll have to settle for a picture of what my hair looks like after a six mile run once I have run my fingers through it and it has had time to dry.

Hair after 6 mile run plus drying time.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Annual Family News

It's that time of year. Many people have probably already had at least one newsletter arrive in their mailbox from friends or family. Laura and I have talked about doing a newsletter many times over the years and every year we are moving/graduating/having a baby (pick one) and so it doesn't happen. This year we are again planning to start that tradition. For one thing, it would be a new kind of writing challenge for me in addition to all the other writing that I do (this blog is not half my writing every day).

Enter my brother's wife. Their son just had his first birthday - the day before Isaac passed the one month mark - and she used that as an excuse to give a family update in her blog - twice. She posted a nice little visual update and then she posted a written year in review.

While many of the newsletters I have seen over the years include pictures, I liked one thing she did differently. Her pictures spanned the year rather than just being recent photos. Unlike other newsletters, her written review was a snapshot of their family at the end of the year, not a summary of the year.

John Cox

I was not sure what to expect from John Cox when I started me research. I had never heard of him, and without any of the titles in front of his name that are so common among the well known candidates (Governor, Senator, Representative) I half expected to find that he was one of those people who has a message but will be happy if they can just get that message on the evening news sometime because of their campaign.

What I found was a very serious, dedicated candidate who really believes in his message. He has years of experience in various political areas, just none that are in the spotlight so much as where better known candidates have usually been.

Instead of finding a man who had ideas and dreams, I found a man who had experience in making things happen in his own life and in the lives of people around him. I believe that he is a candidate who will not be overwhelmed by the office if he should win the presidency.

Having been pleasantly surprised in my findings, I still had to decide if I would endorse John Cox for president. My conclusion is that - although I do believe that he could fill the office of the president - I do not believe that he is the type of man that this country needs at this time.

His tone is slightly too divisive and idealistic. We need someone who can be grounded in their morals and pragmatic in their direction. Some of John's ideas are not pragmatic. Others are good, but not focused on the issues that are the most important to us today.

Monday, December 04, 2006

More to Come

I just discovered a good listing of candidates and potential candidates for 2008. The real surprise came as I saw that there are two Republicans, two Democrats, and two Libertarians who have all filed with the Federal Election Commission as candidates. That is the standard I use for choosing when a candidate should be researched for endorsement purposes. The list also states who has formed exploratory committees and others who have shown that they are seriously considering candidacy.

Of the six official filings, I have covered one candidate so far. While I will not list the party of any candidate that I endorse, I feel that it is only fair to cover these first six candidates without grouping them in parties. I will jump from party to party for the remaining five candidates. Thereafter, I will endorse (or not) candidates in the order that I discover that they have filed for candidacy with the FEC.

I have also concluded that I may choose, in some third-party cases to research candidates for endorsement before they file with the FEC. In any such case I will clearly state that they have not filed for candidacy.

Tom Vilsack

Tom Vilsack is finishing his second term as the governor of Iowa. He did not run for re-election. My research indicates that Vilsack had a vision for his state and in his eight years in office he succeeded in implementing that vision to a great degree. This suggests the ability to focus on a goal and work with others to make it happen. This shows leadership.

In my searching, Vilsack came across as a candidate with ideas and experience who is ready to do more than talk about what should be done. Rather than forming an exploratory committee, he made his decision to run and filed his papers for candidacy. This suggests that he will take action once he makes a decision.

The language of his dialog is positive and issue oriented. I hope to see this kind of campaigning continue when there is a specific opponent to campaign against. In other words, I hope to see more of campaigning for issues and ideas and less of campaigning against other candidates.

I endorse Tom Vilsack for President.


I had not intended to suspend posting until I had done some research on the governor of Iowa, but that is how life played out so here, after four days, is some insight into the endorsement process. I freely admit that, even as an independent voter, I am not free from bias. The first time I hear about a candidate choosing to run for president I will probably have an idea, based on their position and what I have heard previously, of whether I expect they will receive an endorsement from me. For example, with Governor Vilsack I had heard very little about him which suggested a lack of showmanship. The fact that he was a two term governor of a state which was not known to be particularly liberal or conservative suggested an experienced public servant who was not a polarizing force. I would initially guess that I would endorse such a candidate.

On the other hand, I will openly admit that most third party candidates are likely to have a harder time getting an endorsement from me based partially on the wacky ideas I have heard from a variety of third party candidates over the years. My experience suggests that the majority of third party candidates have an agenda or a specific issue and lack the propensity to work with others. On top of that, most of them don't honestly expect to have a shot at winning and it shows in the way they campaign to their niche supporters.

At these early stages of campaigning, my endorsements have the possibility of changing as a result of new information. That being said, I am not at all opposed to getting through the primaries with candidates in each party that I endorse. In fact, I hope that the candidates who win the primaries from each party are candidates whom I can endorse.

One final caveat, when I endorse someone it should not be construed as an endorsement of a party. I never vote for a presidential party, I vote for a president. If I endorse Governor Vilsack it says nothing about the Democratic Party. If I endorse Governor Bush it is an endorsement for Bush, not for the Republican Party. (Honestly I do not expect Jeb Bush to run. I used him as an example because I do not want to suggest an endorsement for a candidate who has not yet chosen to run. In the case of Governor Vilsack, I will be posting the results of my research presently.)

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Looking Forward

I just passed 100 posts to this blog in just over 3 months since I started it. It was fun to see that. Despite that milestone I still feel like I am developing a feel for where this blog will go.

I have noticed that I enjoy writing politically oriented content when I find news of a political nature. Maybe that is because I am interested in a wide range of political topics and in political participation in general. With the official announcement today that Tom Vilsack would seek the Democratic presidential nomination for 2008, I have decided on one thing I will be doing with this blog in the future. I have decided that, for each person who announces their candidacy officially, I will research the candidate and make an endorsement for every candidate who I feel would make a good president. These endorsements will not indicate who I will be voting for (that has not been decided yet) but will indicate who I think deserves votes.

I will do this for any candidate who is running (not those who look like they will run) from any party so long as my research indicates that they could be a good president. In other words, don't expect to hear anything about the likes of General Zod.

Look for my endorsement, or anti-endorsement if I think they would not be a good president, on any candidate I hear about within a week of when I learn of their official candidacy. If you hear about a candidate that I have not yet listed please let me know.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

New Running Shoes

My birthday present netted me a free consultation with a famous triathlete of my acquaintance, the host of Tri-Talk, who gave me tips on equipment and preparation for my marathon. One of the suggestions he made was that I should visit Runners Corner to get myself some new shoes.

I knew it was time to get new shoes since the shoes I have been running in are older than my marriage. The fact that I have four children is proof that such shoes would not last through marathon training. The fact that I have glued the soles back on both shoes suggests that they might not last the week.

Tonight I took his advice and visited Runners Corner. They were great! I got a personal evaluation of my running prior to choosing which shoes to buy. I also got to go run in 6 different pairs of shoes before I settled on the two I liked the best I learned a lot about shoes, and running from the visit, and I also learned (from someone who has actually run the race) that I might want to choose a different marathon than Park City for my first marathon. My shoe guide ran Park City for his first marathon and he said it's one of the toughest courses in Utah.

So I may be changing races, but I am definitely going to enjoy training more. I had forgotten what running shoes actually felt like.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Getting Stronger

The running and the biking are obviously making a difference. I have noticed within the last week that I can run a mile one minute faster than I could previously and maintain that pace for the duration of my 3 mile runs. If I could maintain that pace for the full marathon I would blow the 4 hour mark away - I don't expect that, but it's fun to imagine.

I also noticed this morning that riding to work is easier than it was last week. With Thanksgiving I did not go to work for nearly a week. When I rode in to work this morning I was able to put the bike in top gear and maintain a much faster pace the whole way than I had been able to. I learned something very important, when riding at that faster pace in these winter months I need to wear a hat (besides the helmet) and a heavier coat to mitigate the wind chill factor.

It's nice to see improvement after only a couple of months.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Childhood Excitement

These last few days have been busy. The girls have had cousins to visit whom they have not seen since early June. As we have run from place to place, and activity to activity, I have begun to remember how children react to all the excitement that surrounds this time of year.

This is not a complaint, just an observation, but as the kids get all excited about one activity and then another event, and then a special visitor - not Santa specifically, but any special visitor who may come during the season, be it an grandparent, an old friend, a cousin, or an aunt who they have not seen in ages - they begin to forget some of the basic rules which they seemed to have learned. We find that they forget to listen to parents, they fail to do their chores, or they break some basic house rules. To make matters worse they start to get moody when the fun party does not come as fast as they wanted, or when it ends faster than they wished.

Having made this observation before, we will attempt to keep the activities at a reasonable level while still celebrating the season. So far we have not done very well. To the regular festivities of the year we have added a new brother (first boy makes it better than a new sister for the girls) and some of their close cousins are moving to New Zealand in a couple of weeks so there are extra parties and goodbyes to attend to.

Wish us luck as we try not to overload the kids while we indulge in the excitement of the season.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Lucky Me

As I have been spending the day with family I have had many questions about my new job. Everybody is just catching up with each other, and my job is new enough that those who are close still know very little about it. My mother-in-law asked if I had tomorrow off and I told her what my boss told me on Monday, "Thursday and Friday are mandatory holidays." When I asked what he meant by mandatory holiday the response was, "If you value your job, don't come to work on those days."

In retelling the story to her, I realized again how lucky I am to be employed with this company. I could not think of an atmosphere more compatible with my personality. They treat their employees right.

When you are looking to change jobs, it is normal to find a situation better than the one you are in. When you are coming from being unemployed you don't have that luxury most of the time. I am amazed that I could end up in a position that is so much better for me than the one I had before. My previous job was a good job with a good company, but it was not tailor-made for me like my current job seems to be. That's one more reason to say, "Lucky me."

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Start of Series

Now if I might generalize from my experience. . .

I had the opportunity, during the short time while I was working towards a PhD, to help teach a class, and more importantly to construct a blogging component for that class. In creating that component I faced the challenge of giving structure, for the purpose of making it possible to grade the assignment, to an activity which is best left unstructured. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that, while blogging can benefit from structure - such as regular posting or a consistent topic or objective - it does not benefit from structure which is mandated by anyone other than the writer(s).

From what I have seen, the structure should be discovered during the early stages of creating the blog. The assignment I gave was first, one of three options for the students; second, required a minimum number of posts (20 if I remember correctly); third, had a minimum duration (8 weeks with at least two posts in each week out of a 12 week semester); and fourth, had to have an educational purpose in keeping with the course. I hoped this gave enough structure for the purposes of grading, was comparably rigorous to the other options, and was flexible enough to allow those who chose this option to find their own blogging rhythm.

As I observed the blogs of the students who opted for this assignment I noticed as they went through the growing pains of finding things to write about, discovered their voice, and explored their chosen educational purpose. I also saw that their thinking (as displayed in their posts) changed to be less inwardly focused and more focused on building on the thoughts expressed by others. That is one of the benefits of blogging. Over time the focus changes from a desire to create from the single source of the authors mind, to building on the work of other sources with similar topics.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

What is Blogging?

Start of Series

In order to substantiate my claim of what benefits blogging provides for me, I think it is important to define what I mean by when I talk about blogging.

I have already indicated that blogging is more than simply posting thoughts here. Part of blogging, for me, is reading other blogs and commenting on things that other people are posting. I read a wide range of blogs, ranging from personal journals, to political commentary across the political spectrum. My most important criteria for choosing blogs to follow is that they must be generally thoughtful. In other words, I don't follow blogs which consist of nothing but rants on some subject. Nor do I follow blogs that have an extreme agenda. Some might have a purpose, or a focus, but they do not spout the "Doctrine of Open Source Software" (or any other cause) with their eyes shut to the limitations of their professed agenda.

Although I have less control over this aspect, I also find it very useful to receive comments on the things that I post. This helps to refine my thinking and sometimes to expose me to a new point of view. This was driven home to me recently as I received comments from a few people out of the blue. I have no idea how they found my blog, but they left comments which provoked my thinking.

Because I no longer make use of trackback in my blogging, I rarely make comments on my blog with thoughts I have had from things that other people have posted. This means that I have to get my material from other sources. Those other sources are my own experience and current events. A lack of current events (at least, current events I wanted to comment about) is what led me to start thinking about this current series. As i faced days where I felt there was little to say I began to consider - should I force myself to say something, or should I just let the day slide?

So that is how I define blogging, it is a process of ingesting information, processing that information, and then constraining my thoughts to the confines of written language where I invite others to critique what I have posted.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Benefits of Blogging

Start of Series

When I started blogging, I noticed that there were a lot of people blogging about blogging, especially in the circle of educational bloggers. Very soon I began to dislike those types of postings. This leaves readers here to wonder - why am I doing the same thing now?

In the past few months of blogging, and especially the last two weeks, I have had times where I was not sure what I wanted to post, but I wanted to post. That left me asking what it was I was trying to accomplish by blogging.

The answer to that question was that I wanted the benefits of blogging which, according to my definition of blogging, are an increased capacity for thinking and communicating. That may sound like a very generous description of the benefits, but I believe it is true for the type of blogging that I try to do.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Why Blog?

This is going to be short, and almost without substance, but my history of blogging comes from a background of education where the question has been asked, but never completely answered, what is the benefit of blogging?

I can only answer that question in regard to my personal experience. Even with that limited scope it will probably take more than one post to answer, so expect a series of posts trying to answer the question, "What is the benefit of blogging, from an educational perspective?" I expect to write about why I blog, how I blog, and what benefits I have seen. I might even throw in a post about how my experience might be generalized for other people. I might even take the time to define what I mean when I talk about blogging (hint: it's more than just posting things here).

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Title Game

Some people who think they know me well would be surprised that I am an avid sports fan. I love sports for their athleticism, and I love good sportsmanship. I appreciate a wide variety of sports and I follow a number of sports, each for different reasons. I follow baseball because of the complexity of the sport - a 162 game season makes it all the more interesting. I follow golf because I know how difficult it is to make the shots that the professionals hit all the time - I'm just happy on any hole which I shoot in par. I follow college football partly because, with 119 Division 1-A teams, there's a lot to look at.

For those who follow college football, the story of tonight is that Ohio State beat Michigan to finish their season unbeaten. Being unbeaten is not the amazing thing - it is possible the Boise State and Rutgers will also finish unbeaten. The amazing thing is that this is the second time this year that Ohio State has beaten the number 2 team in the country. Michigan was ranked second to Ohio State going into the game, and Texas was ranked second to Ohio State when Ohio State went in and trounced them back in September. Now Ohio State will have to face the second ranked team in the nation for the title game on January 8th. I doubt that any team has ever beaten the second ranked team three times in a season, but right now there is no reason to think that Ohio State will not beat whoever they end up playing.

That brings me to my point in posting. Michigan may be that team. Mike Lopresti, a sports columnist for USA Today, says that a rematch would diminish the value of tonights game and that it would be unfair to Ohio State. I have to agree. I don't think any team could rightly be asked to defeat Michigan twice this year - except maybe the Indianapolis Colts (unbeaten in the NFL so far). On the other hand, it may be that no other team has a better claim to the number 2 spot than Michigan - their only defeat was on the road at Ohio State by 3 points.

I have concluded that if the title game does end up being a rematch and Michigan wins then we should have co-national champions - unless Michigan wins by more than 10 points. Whoever wins the title game will be voted #1 by the USA Today/Coaches poll (they are contractually obligated to vote that team #1) but if Ohio State loses a close game to Michigan the Associated Press poll should vote Ohio State #1 to create a split title since they will have split their games.

Just my 2 cents.

UPDATE 11/19: After considering my proposal, I have decided that it would not be fair to send Michigan to the title game. Under the conditions I have proposed they would have no chance for an undisputed title. If all they can get is a split-title or no title, the game is not a fare shake for them. I call that another reason to avoid a rematch. Michigan is too good to deserve such a poor fate. Send them to the Rose Bowl and let the voters choose whether to give them a share of the title if they win and Ohio State loses.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Becoming Comfortable

After a week at work I am becoming quite comfortable with my new position. The first half of the week was a bit empty since more than half the people at the office were gone for one reason or another. Over the last two days I have been able to meet the people who had been gone and get a better feel for the culture of the office and the personalities of all the people I will be working with. I have also had more interaction with customers and projects so my feel for the position is deepening. The more I know about the work and the people, the more I like where I am at now.

To top it all off, Laura came to visit the office with the kids so my co-workers got to meet my family and my family got to meet the people I work with. After the visit, Laura said to me that she was amazed at how comfortable she was with the people in the office. She really felt like it was the right place for me to be. I guess that up until then she was still not totally comfortable. That makes sense to me because she knows very little of the details of the work and she knew nothing about the company. At least in the case of BYU, where she knew no details concerning the work I was interviewing to do, she knew BYU and felt very confident in them as an institution.

It's nice now that she feels more confident in Rapid Intake as a company and can tell, like me, that it is a really good fit.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Making a Change

I have been thinking about getting rid of comment moderation. Over the last few months the number of comments has grown, as I had hoped, but thankfully there has been no comment spam. For that reason I am getting rid of comment spam so that comments will be immediately available when they are posted. I can still delete spam comments if they come, but unless the get bad I will leave comment moderation off. No more waiting until I get time to approve and publish your comments.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Desk Job

When I was interviewing for this job they warned me that, being a small company, people have to wear a lot of hats. I liked the sound of that because monotony is not my bag. What they didn't tell me was that this desk job included making my own desk. I spent a large portion of the day, between customer service calls, working on building my desk so that the person whose desk I have been borrowing can have his space back when he returns tomorrow.

Building the desk and a small utility stand was a fun project, but I would be very surprised if I ever had another job where I would be required to build my own workspace.

Reasons to Avoid War

Most people would think that reasons to avoid war would be obvious to anyone, but I think this reason is very damning to our current war efforts. The New York Times had an article about various murder cases related to the war in Iraq.

Later in the article it discusses a case where an Iraqi civilian was killed by American military personnel. This doesn't sound strange considering it is a war, but this is what caught my eye:

As part of the plea agreement, Private Jodka testified that he participated in a plan formed by the squad leader, Sgt. Lawrence G. Hutchins, to kidnap and kill a known insurgent. In the dark, the squad kidnapped and killed the wrong man.

This is a perfect example of military personnel doing something wrong which they justify as being right in the name of war. I am not talking about the mistake of getting the wrong man in the dark. I am talking about the plot to abduct and kill a terrorist. If it had been a legitimate operation they would have been planning to capture and interrogate the terrorist. In that case, getting the wrong man would have meant that they could free him.

Why this is a good reason not to go to war is that anytime we go to war we set the stage for these kinds of "operations" orchestrated by men like Sgt. Hutchins (who appears to deserve the bulk of the blame here).

Monday, November 13, 2006

First Day

Well, today was much like most first days - filled with more administrative concerns than most days will be. I enjoyed working with my co-workers - those who were there. It was a hectic day as we had some technical hitches at the office this morning in addition to the natural chaos that comes with a new person starting at a company as small as this one.

I started walking home tonight so that Laura would not have to come all the way to Main Street, where the traffic is the worst, to pick me up. Just that short walk towards home in the crisp, chill November air was enough to assure me that I am going to enjoy being this close to home. Cutting out 7 to 10 hours of commuting each week (which I would have if I were working much farther from home) might give me that time so that I can settle down the way I would like to.

All in all, I am very optimistic about working outside my house for the first time.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Starting a New Day

The reality of tomorrow is starting to sink in for me. I will be starting to work after two months and for the first time ever I will be working a regular, full-time job outside the house. All my previous outside jobs were part-time or irregular hours for student positions and the like. While I expect to feel the transition myself, it is my family that is likely to feel this change the most.

Laura has never had a time when I did not set my own schedule based on our family situation. On top of that she is still getting used to having four kids, so this is a double burden for her.

Savannah and Alyssa will notice the difference, but I expect they will just roll with the change.

Isaac will not know the difference.

Mariah will probably take it the hardest. She was not around for my schooling so she has never known me to go away to any form of work. She was as old as Isaac is now the last time I returned from work-related travel. She is the ultimate daddy's girl and she has become very clingy in the last day or so. I have no doubt that she will adjust to this new reality as well, but she is going to notice the change and probably hate it for the first few days or weeks.

It will be interesting to see how this change affects Mariah and the family as a whole. At least with the office just over a mile from home I will not have to deal with lengthy commutes and we will have the option to visit for lunch and have the girls come see the office some time.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Partisan Playground

Three days after the elections I get an email calling for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. It sounded a lot like playground politics. "You impeached our president so now that we are in control of congress we will impeach yours." I thought it was typical of staunch partisans that they would exaggerate their position from the outset. The email started with:

"On Election Day, the American people voted overwhelmingly for change." (emphasis mine)

I wonder about the threshold they use for "overwhelming." The fact is that if every race that remains undecided were to fall to the Democrats there would be 42 seats that changed hands in the House and the Senate combined. That is only 8% of the 535 seats in Congress. Only 6% of the Senate changed and 10% of the House. That sounds like a vote for change, but not an overwhelming vote for change. In fact, 25% of the seats that changed were still in doubt after 24 hours. (All the numbers I am using assume that every seat still in doubt goes blue.) To make this vote less overwhelming, the talk now is how the incoming Democrat representative are pragmatic and populist more than liberal. We really don't know what to expect from this new Democrat controlled congress. See Update

I visited the forum where the email originated and found more level-headed thought being expressed. Things along the lines of, "President Bush deserves to be impeached, but it won't accomplish anything positive in the country, so don't bother."

Nancy Pelosi, likely the next Speaker of the House, has indicated that she will not pursue impeachment. Level-headed people from across the political spectrum will agree with her that impeachment is not a good course of action for the country at this time. The partisan impeachment proceedings against President Clinton should serve as proof of why we should not go down that road right now. At least when the Republican congress impeached Clinton they could be forgiven for having no memory of the last time we had an impeachment. This Democratic congress has no such excuse.

I looked around the forum site and they had a poll for people to vote on what they would like to see happen in the first 100 days of the new congress. They categorized the various suggestions. I discovered an interesting trend as I read the options. I found that I agreed or disagreed with them on a category by category basis.

  • Constitution & Courts
    • I disagree heartily with almost every option
    • I especially disagree with the constitutional amendments they propose
  • Economy, Business, Labor
    • I agree with some of the options
    • I am undecided on some of the options
    • I disagree with a couple of the options
  • Elections
    • I agree with almost all the options
    • I disagree with one option and think a couple of options are redundant
  • Energy & Environment
    • I am undecided on the majority of the options
  • Foreign & Military Policy
    • Many of the options sound like vague ideals rather than solid plans
    • I agree with their positions on torture
  • Government & Congress
    • I agree with most of the options
  • Investigations
    • Lots of redundancy related to the Iraq war
    • Many of the options sound like they are living in the past
  • Media
    • Sounds like a bunch of ways to expand government
  • Social Policy
    • Sounds exactly like the Democratic party line

This got me wondering what kind of people were running the forum. The answer came in a different poll they had. This one asked who they would vote for in 2008 for president. The answer was overwhelmingly Al Gore. He got more than 1/3 of the votes with 13 candidates in the poll. Hilary Clinton (supposedly the front runner) was not even in second place on this poll, she got less than 1/8 of the votes. So these are Gore Democrats. This is nothing against Al Gore, he merely represents one faction of the Democratic party. The question is, what do the Pelosi Democrats think, or what do the Dean Democrats (the official party leadership) think? Lest anyone see this as bias, Republican factions include the McCain Republicans, Frist Republicans, and Mehlman Republicans.

UPDATE 11/14: I just found confirmation of what I had said about how overwhelming this vote for change was.

The scale of this loss was on par with the post-war average for such elections: close to 30 House seats versus the average of 32, and likely six Senate seats compared to the average of eight.

In elections during which the president’s popularity was low because of war, scandal or recession, however, the average is 47 House seats and eight Senate seats.

This "overwhelming vote for change" was about average, if not a little below average for the current situation.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Getting Answers to Old Questions

I just remembered something I wrote back in September. Tuesday made it possible to answer some questions I asked clear back then. I had said that "between the presidency and the two houses of congress each of the major parties should be in control of at least one of the bodies - thus forcing the various governmental bodies to compromise in order to make things happen." We now have Republicans in control of the White House and Democrats in control of the House and the Senate.

I had asked, "would this administration be better if their party did not control both houses of congress?" An early analysis of that question came in the New York Times today. From the article:

“You’re seeing the George Bush who has always been adept at playing the hand he is dealt,” said Charlie Black, a Republican strategist with close ties to the White House.

Vin Weber, a Republican former congressman and lobbyist, put it this way: “I’ve never thought that George Bush was a rigid ideologue; I’ve never thought that he was a hardened partisan. He is a businessman first, and in business you don’t spend a lot of time crying about changed circumstances. You figure out quickly how to adapt, and that’s what he’s doing.”

Certainly this does not answer whether this "M.B.A. president" can make things work with a Democratic congress, but we'll find out.

I also said that "those in the House have some incentive to do something because they will face re-election in another two years." The New York Times article adds another incentive for Democrats to work with Bush:

“Their whole theme has been the do-nothing Congress,” Mr. Black, the Republican strategist, said. “Now, if they get in there and make themselves vulnerable to that charge, it hurts them in ’08. He knows that they have an incentive to get things done, and he’s going to take advantage of that.”

If anything is to happen, the president must move toward the center. I still hope, as I said in September, that this will force the Republican Party to come back toward the center. Having lost the House and the Senate, I hope they will have the motivation to do so. They can hardly pretend that this was just some small setback.

Code for Old Blog Tools

I thought I would add the html code from some blog elements that I am putting away but which I may want to use again.

Here is the html code for the election projections:

<a href=""><img alt="Click for" src="" border="0" height="72" width="72" /> <img alt="Click for" src="" border="0" height="72" width="72" /></a>

Thursday, November 09, 2006


I stumbled on to another example of blind loyalty by our senior senator. In character for the man who said that the alternative to attacking Iraq was, "we could have attacked North Korea, Iran, or Syria instead," Senator Hatch said that, "you'd have to tarnish every young American who served over there," for Donald Rumsfeld's legacy to be marred by mistakes in Iraq. This suggests that there is no difference of position between the soldiers on the ground and the men that give them their orders.

Just as it is possible for commanders to give good orders which are poorly executed by the men on the ground, so in this case we have had a series of mistakes from those at the top which have generally been well executed by the soldiers on the ground. Thus there is distinctly a difference between the soldiers on the ground and those that give them orders.

If Senator Hatch meant to suggest that making mistakes in Iraq does not prove that Donald Rumsfeld is evil, then I have to agree with him. What he does not acknowledge is that even a good leader may be tarnished by mistakes without becoming a bad leader. For example, the legacy of Robert E. Lee was tarnished by the actions at Gettysburg. Pickett's charge was well executed by George Pickett and his men, but it was a colossal mistake by General Lee. None of this makes General Lee a poor general. Similarly, the mistakes made in Iraq will surely tarnish the legacy of Donald Rumsfeld without reflecting poorly on the soldiers who served there (not including Abu Ghraib participants). While this tarnish is in fresh view, it should be remembered that the perspective of history will determine whether Donald Rumsfeld was good or not. Either way, we can safely say that Secretary Rumsfeld is no General Lee.

My Sign

I thought it would be fun to show the sign I made for our front lawn announcing Isaac's arrival.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ideal Politics

Now that election day is over - here are some things I would like to see (ideally) in politics:

  1. Two candidates running against each other who canvas together, advertise together, and publicly seek to achieve 100% voting in the area covered by the office they are seeking.
    • I could just imagine two candidates who have different views coming before the voters and saying "Vote for me, or vote for him, just vote."
    • I could imagine mailings and flyers where one side presented the views of one candidate and the other side presented the views of the other candidate. The bottom would read "Paid for by the committee to elect the next representative of State House District #21"
  2. No negative campaigning - that would be necessary for #1 to work
If those things were to happen I think we could have real political dialog happening, and we could hardly fail to get good people elected - I can imagine that only good people would engage in such a campaign.

I know this is extremely idealistic. I would be very surprised to ever see such a thing.

Now for some results of yesterdays elections.

Nationally, NPR has a story on how the base of the GOP failed on election day. I think they got the story backwards. It would be more accurate to say that the GOP failed the voters before election day. Thus the results at the polls.

I also saw that Donald Rumsfeld is resigning as Secretary of Defense. This is good news, but a few years later than it should have been.

Voters chose not to retain Judge Leslie Lewis. This means that voters were getting the information being presented about her. To put this result in context - 54% of voters voted not to retain her. All other judges were retained, receiving between 88.32% and 76.55% support for retention. In other words Judge Lewis received 30 percentage points less support from voters than any other judge in this election. Now the question is - does it require the kind of negative publicity that Judge Lewis received to make voters drop a sitting judge? While I believe that the majority of judges do a good job, I still believe that voters suffer from a dearth of information on their judges so it is difficult to make meaningful choices with our ballots where judges are concerned.

The opinion question that I felt was under-publicized passed with over 66% support. I don't think that indicates a good campaign for the issue since every ballot issue on my local ballot passed with similarly high margins. Some of them probably should not have passed - at least not that easily.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Big Day Today

Today was a big day for me.

Laura and Isaac came home from the hospital. Both are doing very well. The girls are excited to have their brother home - especially Mariah. I got to take the candidate yard sign I had and flip it around. Now it reads "It's a boy."

Today was the day that potential employer #2 had promised to give me an answer. There was a little bit of a glitch this morning as they were trying to come to a final decision. That made a bit more work for me. They did make their decision finally and now I was able to make mine. I am going with employer #1 who has made a very generous offer and has been very patient in allowing me to field another offer. Here we are, 12 days after their initial offer, and they are being gracious enough to allow me to start next Monday so I can help with my new baby.

On top of that it was election day. I voted.

Reactions to Voting

First, an issue I have long thought about. I think that the option to cast a straight party ballot should be removed. Voters should be voting for candidates, not parties. I have no objections to a voter going down the ballot and voting only for the candidates from a single party, but they should be required to go down the ballot, not just cast a straight party ticket.

On to my reactions.

I have never used the electronic voting machines before and I was pleasantly surprised by one feature - I got to read the printout of my ballot before it was officially cast. I thought that was great. Assuming that the very paper I read (but could not touch since it was behind a window in the voting machine) is the same paper that would be read in the event of a manual recount, or an audit of the votes (which I believe/hope is mandatory) then I am confident that there is no way, short of collusion, to manipulate actual votes cast.

This means that the machines cannot be responsible for any problems related to the results of an election where they are used. Admittedly this only applies to this model of voting machine. I can't speak for any other model. This also says nothing about efforts which discourage voters from casting votes or efforts which seek to disenfranchise specific portions of the electorate. Those are separate problems.

As for the ballot itself - I was disappointed with the number of offices in which there was no Democratic candidate. It is a sad statement when one of the major parties fails to even field a candidate. The worst section of the ballot was where I got to "vote" for county officials. Almost without exception, at the county level there was a Republican candidate running unopposed. I don't mean no to say there was no Democratic challenger, I mean no challenger at all. If it were not for the fact that we could put challengers on the ballot it would be like voting for Saddam Hussein when he was in power in Iraq - no challenger means that he won between 95% and 100% of the vote - it's not an election.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Choose Your Words Carefully

As I was driving around today between the hospital and various other places I noticed a number of news articles about the verdict in the Saddam Hussein trial. Their titles got me thinking about the power of words.

One paper titled their article "Dictator gets Death." Another talked about the "deposed Iraqi leader." A story on NPR referred to the "former Iraqi leader." Other news outlets talked about "Saddam Hussein," "Saddam," or "Hussein." The thing that I began pondering was how those different references to the same event and the same person can elicit different reactions from the audience.

"Dictator gets Death" was probably chose for it's use of alliteration (it would have been better for that purpose as "Deposed Dictator gets Death") but it has the potential to make the reader think less of the defendant than a story about the "former leader." The author may have intended to illicit that reaction or may not have intended any special reaction. Using words such as dictator and tyrant, which have subjective definitions and vivid connotations, can sway the audience to a particular side of the debate even when the facts are weak.

I have learned to be aware of the use of manipulative verbiage - even when I agree with the position - in order that I might avoid being swayed by an emotional reaction to the particular words rather than a logical reaction to the facts of a debate. I also try to avoid using terminology which will manipulate an audience when I am discussing an issue. I believe it is counter-productive to be clever with our words unless we are very careful that our cleverness does not interfere with our meaning.

This is not a complaint against any title. It is a reminder to me that there may be a million ways to say what appears to be the same thing but if we dig deeper we can discern that each of those million ways can throw is into a different mindset through which we filter the information we are receiving.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Pictures as Promised

Here is the first picture I took of Isaac.

This picture was two experiments combined - first, use the self timer on the camera (I had never done that with this camera before); and second, get four children to look at the camera at the right time. I cropped the image, but this is us, today, after I brought the girls to the hospital from church.

One more of Isaac - lest we forget who's day it is.

Welcome Isaac

The surprise today was that Isaac decided to have a birthday. Stats and story follow.

Name: Isaac David Miller
Arrived: 7:13 am 11/5/2006
Weight: 7 lbs. 3 oz.
Length: 18 1/2 inches

At 4:45 Laura woke me up saying "I think we're going to have a baby today." She had been timing contractions since 3:30 after they had been waking her up since 12:00. Laura had been wanting to wait until her mom got home this afternoon, but Isaac had other plans. We called our friend, Kandice, to come watch our two sleeping children and Savannah (who was awake for all of this). I had to pack the bags and call the midwife on duty. Laura and I got dressed and rushed to the hospital.

Laura was 8 cm dilated by the time we arrived around 5:45 - it's a good thing we had pre-registered after Laura's last checkup - and she was at a 10 within an hour. They barely had time to get an epidural in her. Isaac's head was nearly out by the time Laura realized that he was crowning. He came after about 10 minutes of pushing. Aside from the extra pain - the epidural was just kicking in - it was the easiest birth we've had.

Isaac was almost 3 weeks early so we were not expecting this, but he and Laura are doing great. In our rush to get to the hospital we forgot the camera. We will have pictures up in the next few days.

P.S. Thanks to Kandice for her supporting role.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Judging Judges

Last week someone pointed me to and asked me what I knew about the court she serves in. I think the name of the site makes their position obvious. I went back to my voters guide to see if it had anything about the judge. It appears that Judge Lewis has the lowest ratings of any judge in the voters guide - based on surveys from attorneys who have argued in her court.

I have long thought that our system of voting to retain judges was flawed based on voters not having sufficient information on the judges in question. I have been thinking about this ever since I wrote about ballot measures. When I opened this story today I found myself sadly unsurprised that the judge in the story was none other than Leslie Lewis.

This has me thinking that I have an opportunity this week to find out if I was right about the system lacking information. It seems that we have lots of information on Judge Lewis and on Tuesday we will discover if that information is getting through to the voting public.

Update 11/8/2006: The results of the elections are in. The results on retaining judges are telling

A Little Headwind

In case I was getting too comfortable with my running, today was a wakeup call. I had my first 5 mile run. With the way 4 miles had been feeling lately I figured it would not be too hard on me. I did not count on having to run against a 10 mph headwind most of the way.

At first the wind felt like a nice breeze that would keep me cool. By the third mile my pace started to slacken. Early in the fourth mile I began to feel how much my strength was being drained because of that extra resistance. I was walking into that wind for quite a while. Based on my time and my energy level at the end of the run it felt like a 6 mile workout rather than 5.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Good News on Frontrunner

I was excited to read this news. Now if only we could get to the point where they ran the same story with one little tweak. I would like it to read that "Frontrunner Commuter rail line in Utah County is 50% complete." That will take a while.

Voters in the areas covered by the Frontrunner line in the report approved money for Frontrunner 6 years ago. They expect to be up and running in less than 2 more years. In Utah county we have the chance next week to approve money for the southern portion of Frontrunner which will run through our county. If it is developed at the same pace we could have commuter rail by 2014. First things first, the voters in Utah County need to approve the Opinion Question on the ballot next week which would provide money for Frontrunner. That is why I was lamenting that there seemed to be so little publicity about the issue.

Future Milestone

I figured out today what my second running milestone will be. It will be when I commit to a specific marathon. I was looking at the options today. I figure I can be ready as early as July and I don't think I want to run my first any later in the year than September. I don't plan to travel very far so St. George and Top of Utah (Logan) are out. That leaves about 4 possible marathons. Now I just have to select one of them and register, along with my continued training.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Good News From Iraq

The report that the Iraqi Prime Minister called for the removal of American military checkpoints in Baghdad was the best news I have heard from Iraq in a long time. The reason it was good news is because we removed the checkpoints. I'm sure some would argue that the fact that violence escalated in Baghdad afterwards means it was a bad move. I disagree.

One message that needs to be sent loud and clear to the Iraqi government, the insurgents, Iraqi citizens in general, American citizens, and the world is that Iraq is a sovereign nation. That means that the duly elected Iraqi government is in charge of that country If they ask something of the American military in Iraq, we should do as they request. This is a clear case where that happened. Too many people think that we can make Iraq stable. The fact is, we can't. We can help them, but they are the ones who make it stable or not. The citizens of Iraq are the ones who determine is this experiment in democracy works.

Americans need to recognize that no amount of military might will enable us to dictate the way things will work in another country. We can disrupt the existing system, but when it comes to setting up a new system we can only suggest - we cannot force. We have Americans saying that women should have the right to vote, and that the majority cannot trample the rights of the a minority. The fact is that Iraqis can reverse those decisions the minute we leave the country - no matter how long we stay. They are the only ones who can make lasting decisions.

We should also recognize that there is no way to forcibly end the insurgency so long as the perception remains that the government in Baghdad is under American control. If jihadists view the government of Iraq as autonomous from America they will not support the insurgency unless their goal is to fight Iraq. Until then, they will come make trouble in Iraq as a fight against America. Our goal is not to stop the fight against Iraq, only the Iraqis can do that. Our goal is to help the Iraqis and stop the fight against America.

The only way to stop people from fighting against America is to treat people with respect. We need to treat them with respect when we visit their countries and we need to treat them with respect when they visit our country. That responsibility does not rest solely with the government. That responsibility also lies with the military, it lies with each corporation, and it lies with all Americans.

If we respect Iraq and Iraqis we must be there to support and help, not to dictate. If we do not respect Iraq and Iraqis we will never be able to help and we should cut our losses because we cannot change them. We must respect them for who they are or else we have no business there.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Campaigning for Ballot Measures

As we approach elections next week there is a ballot measure which has been severely underexposed in my opinion. In Utah County it is on the ballot as an "Opinion Question". In Salt Lake County it is "Proposition 3". I have no idea how it has been publicized in Salt Lake County, but here we are one week before election day and I have not heard nearly enough about it here in Utah County. I saw a brief article about it at yesterday (less than 125 words long) but besides that I have only seen a couple of signs and I got a letter from my mayor on Saturday about the issue.

The subject of the opinion question is funding to expand the commuter rail system in Salt Lake County into Utah County. I am happy to see that everything so far has been in favor of the question. What disappoints me is that so little has been said. I would not be very surprised to learn that the letter from the mayor was the first thing many people had heard about this issue. I even signed up to post a yard sign in favor of the issue, but I have yet to receive a response. We need to find a way to get more information to the voters early enough for people to make informed decisions at the ballot box.

Update 11/8/2006: Here are the results of the elections. The Opinion Question passed but maybe not for the right reasons.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Running: Milestone 1

I had to take some time off running for a bit when I got sick, but I got back on my training schedule and met a milestone today. Saturday I had a 4 mile workout which is a normal distance so far. Today was another 4 miler but unlike every previous run I did not walk a single step.

When I had done three mile workouts I was running 2 1/2 miles and then walking for a bit before finishing at a run. When I started 4 milers I ran 3 or 3 1/4 then walked and then finished running.

On Saturday I increased my pace and it wore me out. That is why today's run was so surprising. I ran at the faster pace - about the pace I hope to run for my marathon. I decided early in the run to go at least 3 1/4 miles before walking.

At about 2 1/2 miles I decided not to walk before 3 1/2 miles.

At 3 miles I thought, "I could possibly run the whole distance."

At the 3 1/4 mile mark I committed to run the whole way. The really amazing thing was that at 4 miles I still had energy. I'm sure I could have gone another 1/4 mile without walking.

Blogging or Thinking

I made a little discovery yesterday about the pattern of when I post to my blog and when I don't. It comes down to the "Time Matrix" discussed in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. The time matrix suggests that all activities and concerns can be broken down into four quadrants. Quadrants one and two are labeled "important" while quadrants three and four are labeled "unimportant" Quadrants one and three are labeled "urgent" while two and four are "not urgent." The idea is that we should spend out time in quadrants one and two instead of the natural tendency to focus on quadrants one and three. Quadrant three "urgent/unimportant" is full of things that grab your attention which can be ignored, like a ringing telephone. Quadrant three is the reason we invent things like caller-id.

When I am busy thinking about things in quadrant one I tend to miss writing in my blog. I get buried in thinking about the problem at hand and do not take the time to relax and filter my thoughts through the lens of language. I missed a week when I thought I was going to be getting a very nice job because I did not want to write about the company and then have nothing come of it. I missed this weekend because I was thinking about how to address the conundrum of responding to a job offer while waiting on a second possible offer. Ideally I would be able to get both offers and make a decision. So far I have been stuck with one offer and the second employer has been delayed by some vague internal emergencies. I solved that by coming to an agreement with the first employer. We set a date for me to make a decision with or without the second offer.

So there it is. When I am not blogging, it is probably because I am stuck in quadrant one.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Senator Hatch

I found it interesting while listening to Senator Hatch's interview on RadioWest that he uses the very same arguments as to why Senator Moss should be replaced back in 1976 as I have been using to argue that Senator Hatch should be replaced in 2006. He said that Senator Moss was not representing Utah. I have said that Senator Hatch represents the GOP more than he represents Utah.

When asked about Iraq he quoted the White House line about how this was the reason that we had not had another terrorist attack since 2001. I think the only affect this has had regarding terrorist attacks is that the terrorists have another target to hit. They can attack the green zone in Baghdad and it is an attack against the US. The only thing he said about Iraq that I agree with is that he praised the men and women who have served there. The war was a mistake and we need leaders who can admit that and look for the best way forward. We do not need leaders who doggedly insist that the war was necessary but not perfect. Senator Hatch implies that the only alternative to attacking Iraq would have been to attack North Korea, Iran, or possibly Syria in place of Iraq. Apparently we desperately needed to go to war and Iraq was the target of choice.

I thought that the Senator was off base when he implied that those who criticize the war are just people who are critical of everything. ("I think that the critics are just doing what critics always do.") He fails to recognize that many of those criticizing the war are people who are generally supportive of their leaders, but who refuse to be blinded by the party line. He claims that "the liberal media criticized World War II during Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge." I'd like to see evidence of that, even though he did rattle off the names of a dozen newspapers when asked about it. If I ever do see proof of that statement, I'll compare the criticism from the 1940's with the criticism of this war - I'll bet that the criticism of the current war is much more specific and well founded - not to mention more widespread.

When I wrote about Pete Ashdown I had intended to cover the Orrin Hatch interview from a neutral perspective. After listening to the interview I no longer wish to do so. Senator Hatch seems more and more to represent the GOP rather than Utah. He doesn't even talk about the concerns of our state - he talks about the concerns of conservatives. I recognize that Utah is a conservative state, but when coupled with statements like, "we didn't have to attack Iraq, we could have attacked North Korea, Iran, or Syria instead," I find it impossible to overlook the fact that we have a conservative senator or a Republican senator rather than a Utah senator. I'm voting for Pete. I think he'll represent Utah instead of representing a party.

Highlight of My Day

After being out of work for over a month, you would think that getting a good job offer yesterday would have been the highlight of my day. It wasn't. Later in the day Alyssa, my three-year-old, came in to the office to tell me that she wanted to read Hey Diddle Diddle to me. She brought her book of nursery rhymes to me. It was opened to the correct page and she stared at the picture while saying the rhyme. I'm not sure if she had memorized it or if she was reading the picture, but she got it exactly right.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Employed Again

Today I finally received a job offer. I have been expecting something soon from a number of places. The call today was from one of the two companies that I am most interested in so I can dismiss some of the less interesting possibilities out of hand if they make me any offers. I will wait to hear about my other favorite position before I make any final decision, but I am very happy to have a good offer on the table.

So technically I am not yet employed, and I can't even say for sure what job I will have, but I can say for sure that I will have a good job very soon. I expect to be at work in under 2 weeks which means that I will have been unemployed for less than 8 weeks.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Insurance Racket

I had to deal with changing health insurance today with the business office at the womens clinic that Laura goes to in preparation for our new baby. That gave me the opportunity to review prices for their services. I discovered something very disappointing. In the last year, with insurance through my work, I have paid as much in premiums (not counting what the company was supposedly paying toward the premiums) as the clinic would charge an insurance company. The only money I saved by having insurance, even with the large medical expense of having a baby, is that I am not being charged the higher prices that they charge those who don't have insurance. I don't quite understand that policy. Why should they charge more to those people who can't afford insurance? Isn't that like kicking a person while they're down?

Anyway, that's the insurance racket. My portion of the price of insurance every year is enough to pay for a major medical procedure, like 9 months of prenatal care plus delivery and a hospital stay.If we weren't having kids I'd be throwing away a new car every year in insurance premiums - and that's when the company is paying the bulk of the costs. If I were to pay for that insurance myself for three years I would have paid for a major injury - like being seriously hit by a car. If I put that money into my house instead of my insurance I would have the house paid off in 11 years from the time I bought it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


I was up very early this morning talking to Laura about foundations. We were specifically talking about the foundation that we are laying for our children which will affect them throughout their lives. We also talked about the foundations that we received from our parents. As I thought more about it I recognized the foundation of our government - the Constitution. Then I remembered the words to the hymn "How Firm a Foundation" which remind me that the foundation of my faith and the faith of other Latter Day Saints, as well as the faith of Christians in general, is (and ought to be) firmly founded in the excellent word of Christ.

During the discussion this morning I realized how vital a good foundation is in any endeavor. In our lives, Laura and I have both noticed that any strength we have comes from the strength of our foundations. Wherever there was weakness in the foundations we gained during our formative years we find that we are constantly struggling to compensate while we try to fix the underlying foundational layer. It is obvious why we are so adamant about trying to give our children the strongest foundations we can give them.

My later reflections had me thinking about how the strength of our nation comes from our Constitution. Where there is weakness in our country we can generally trace the origins of that weakness either to a weakness in the Constitution (which we can fix through the amendment process) or to our society contradicting or misinterpreting the Constitution.

As for spiritual foundations, our faith can never be stronger than the foundation for that faith. Although the word of Christ is a strong foundation we must be careful that we are not contradicting that word, or misrepresenting it in our lives. If we are we will find that we cannot enjoy the true strength of that foundation.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Party Time

As I left my house this morning I noticed that someone had been to my door (and every door in the neighborhood) and left stuff. When I returned home I went to see what kind of prizes I had won. It took me about 1 second to figure out that it was the Republican Party - here's what they left:

  • Orrin Hatch - Senate
    • I have just repeated his entire message. Apparently he has nothing to say for himself - I checked both sides just to be sure I was not missing anything.
    • STRIKE 1
    • I was tempted to go around the neighborhood and remove the "Orrin Hatch" card from my neighbors' doors.
  • LaVar Christensen - 2nd Congressional District
    • All he has to say about himself is "I won't just go along to get along in Congress." Sadly, the rest of his handout is "Democrats might take over Congress and make Nancy Pelosi the Speaker of the House." As much as I disagree with Rep. Pelosi on many issues, I am not casting my vote against her or anyone else. Too bad I know nothing about LaVar.
    • STRIKE 2
  • Ken Sumsion - district 56 (state congress)
    • Ken sounds like a nice guy who might make a good representative. I may vote for him depending on who else is running.
    • BALL 1
The moral of this story is Give me a reason to vote for you - otherwise I won't. The Republican Party almost struck out with me. We'll see if they get one more strike before November 7th.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Come November

I had fun reading in the New York Times about how various people in the Republican Party are pointing their fingers at each other regarding why they seem to have so little public support. There are certainly a wide variety of reasons for people to be disenchanted with the GOP. I think I best heard this type of situation with the party summed up something like this:

A party gets into power based on a set of goals or ideals. After staying in power for a while the only ideal left is to stay in power.

That appears to be the case here. Party leaders only want to keep the party in power while constituent groups are tired of being associated with the party while feeling like the party is no longer looking after their interests.

Although there are many causes, I think that the public lack of support is an exaggerated response to the Foley scandal. My personal views of the party are completely unaffected by this news, but I would not be surprised to learn that for many people that was the final straw. The Democrats would jump on that issue if it was all they had to work with, but there's so much more for them to address. For those who are unhappy with Iraq, the economy, immigration, or anything else, it might be enough for people to say "not this too - I'm leaving."

Whatever the results on November 7th, I hope the Republican Party wakes up and starts to focus so that when 2008 rolls around nobody can be sure of which way the election will go. That, in my opinion, is the best recipe for solid political dialog. That would be a welcome change from the meaningless political rhetoric we have been subjected to lately.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

17th Amendment

I love being invited to comment on things. In this case, I have been pointed towards an article from September of 2002 by John W. Dean on the 17th Amendment to the Constitution and whether it should be repealed. As a brief reminder, the 17th Amendment changed the way that senators were selected. Originally senators were chosen by state legislators while representatives in the house were selected by direct election. That structure, and the election of the president by the electoral college are the two fundamental differences between our government and a pure democracy.

Dean suggests that the 17th Amendment, along with the 16th Amendment (legalized income taxes) were the driving forces behind the expansion of the federal government in the last century. He also points to Federalist No. 10 which suggests that the purpose of the Senate is different from the purpose of the House of Representatives. The Senate was not expected to represent the citizens of their state, but rather the government of their state. In fact, what James Madison describes for the Senate sounds more like what we might have if the Republican Governors Association and the Democratic Governors Association were to come together in a governing body.

The article cites law professor Todd Zywicki from George Mason University in saying that "the true backers of the 17th amendment were special interests" who "hoped direct elections would increase their control, since [direct elections] would let [the special interests] appeal directly to the electorate, as well as provide their essential political fuel - money." Although that assessment sounds right, I cannot prove it. I can say that the change has voided any significant difference between Senators and Representatives. Now the difference is that Senators serve longer terms and do not represent a set number of constituents.

Dean concludes:

Repeal of the amendment would restore both federalism and bicameralism. It would also have a dramatic and positive effect on campaign spending. Senate races are currently among the most expensive. But if state legislatures were the focus of campaigns, more candidates might get more access with less money -- decidedly a good thing.
Zywicki adds:
Absent a change of heart in the American populace and a better understanding of the beneficial role played by limitations on direct democracy, it is difficult to imagine a movement to repeal the 17th amendment.

I agree on both counts. I believe that the founders did not structure our government as they did based on whims. They knew what they were doing and most of us do not understand what they were doing, much less why they were doing it. They allowed for amendments because they knew it would be necessary to make changes at times - I think the founders would have applauded the 14th Amendment. But I also think that it is not wise for us to use the amendment process to fundamentally change the form of government that they set up. Sadly, most citizens are not sufficiently informed to understand the differences caused by this amendment.

What Makes a Good Day?

If you are like me, you have wondered at times what kids think about different things. I wonder how they view the world around them as they try to make sense of it. I am especially curious about what they think before they get a vocabulary.

This morning as I went to get Mariah, my one year old, out of bed I realized by looking in her eyes how she decides whether a day is good or not. If she wakes up, it's a good day. She is just excited to be alive. She loves bringing happiness to everyone around her. This is not to say that she is happy 24/7, but the only time she is unhappy is when her focus on life is being distracted by more terrestrial concerns, like being hungry or tired.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Thanks to J. Max Wilson for helping me discover this commentary on academia by Orson Scott Card.

I have personally encountered theoretics in my education, especially my graduate education, and was sadly able to understand the entire course description he posted. I enjoyed Card's illumination of the cause and effects of theoretics in academia (I also enjoyed the words of Lee Smolin which Card quoted extensively). One thing that was not discussed was the facet of theoretics which makes it so hard to detect and dislodge in a timely manner - it is as hard to prove any theoretics-cloaked groupthink right or wrong as it is to prove that String Theory is right or wrong. Like String Theory, we tend to assume that the groupthink is right in the absence of conclusive evidence to the contrary (this is the benefit of doubt).

In my studies the groupthink was about concepts such as constructivism, learning objects, and simulations. Like String Theory, all of them have proven to be ethereal, and like String Theory none have managed to be the grand unifying theory that their original proponents seemed to hope.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


After three years in Iraq (and three years worth of news and commentary on Iraq) I just had a new thought on the situation this morning. What would happen if we left Iraq now?

I am not an advocate of cut-and-run but I think we have to ask ourselves that question if we are to make an honest assessment of the situation. The only reason to stay in Iraq is if we want to prevent what would happen if we were to leave. The general consensus seems to be that if we leave there will be anarchy and its attending chaos. I am beginning to wonder how much worse it would be than it already is.

I know the Bush Administration would argue that it would be worse, and that they don't intend to leave until Iraq is stable. I believe that violence would get worse soon after the US military leaves, but will Iraq ever be stable?

Sometimes a temporary solution to a problem may prevent a final solution (like propping up "friendly dictators" rather than allowing other countries their autonomy). Currently in Iraq there are thousands of Iraqis dying each month. What would it look like if we left?

What if, in the absence of the US military, Iraq entered an unchecked civil war where 10,000 Iraqis died each month for 6 months before they reached some sort of stability and the death tolls fell to 500 per month. The reason for my thoughts this morning was that I began to wonder if that was inevitable. If we stayed in Iraq for two more years and then pulled out would they have a short period of extreme instability as soon as we left before things settled down? Perhaps they would have 10,000 casualties per month for only two months.

Let's compare these two scenarios to see what the cost would be of "staying the course" for two more years. The war is costing us roughly $100 billion per year and (conservatively) 50 US casualties per month. That translates into a cost to the US of $200 billion dollars and 1200 more lives. What does that purchase give us according to my scenario? Assuming 2500 Iraqi casualties per month while the US is on the ground, there would be 80,000 Iraqi deaths (60,000 over 2 years at 2500 per month plus 10,000 per month for two months of instability) before they achieved stability. If we were to cut and run under my scenario there would be 70,000 Iraqi casualties (60,000 over six months of civil war plus 500 per month for the next 20 months) before they achieved stability.

I don't pretend that my numbers are accurate, if they were it would be easy to decide to save $200 billion dollars, 1200 US lives, and 10,000 Iraqi lives. I think my numbers should be just realistic enough to make people want to see real estimates of the cost of continuing this war. Let's get experts to consider all the factors so that the public knows what they are supporting, or opposing.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


In the past weeks I have been exploring my interests and finding out what I like to do with my time. It has been a nice discovery period. I now come back to a question I have had before - how do I strike the balance when there are so many things I am interested in doing, and have the opportunity to do. I see all around me the people who are doing so much that they have no life, just activities.

The best approach I have found so far to deal with this question is to choose one activity and go with it until I know whether I am too busy, or not interested enough, or if it sticks. Once I have settled the activity into, or out of, my life I can approach another area of interest.

Saturday, October 14, 2006


I have noticed in many narratives how time seems not to flow but to jump and halt. It occurred to me today that real life is just the same. Sometimes you blink in May and find that it's Christmas. Other times you feel like you have been standing in front of the stove for the last six months waiting for your dinner to cook.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Third Parties and Independents

I got my voter information pamphlet in the mail today in preparation for election day and it got me thinking about the third party and independent candidates. I have also had comments on my poll regarding the fact that I have only listed Democrats and Republicans as options.

My stance on these candidates and parties is that they are a good part of a healthy political system. Considering how rarely they ever get voted into office I wonder if they serve any more functional purpose than to promote fringe ideas which might later be adopted by one of the major parties. The keyword there was functional. Does anyone see any other tangible benefit that comes from these types of candidates and parties in our system?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Victims of Party Politics

The news today that Mark Warner had decided against seeking to be the Democrats' nominee for President in 2008 was proof of how we all suffer from politics that is driven by party affiliation rather than being driven by what is best for the country. I consider it to be good for the country to have two strong parties that can debate the issues from different perspectives, but when that escalates to our current system it becomes counter-productive.

One Democratic official friendly to Mr. Warner said: “He realized how hard this was going to be. He’s a great general election candidate, but he thought he would have difficulty winning the primary.”

When candidates find it necessary to make themselves appear more extreme in order to "energize the base" for primary elections and then attempt to appear moderate for the general election the result is that the voters can never tell which version of the candidate to believe.

That is one of the greatest failings of party-driven politics.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Political Polling

I have begun to wonder how people view presidential hopefuls before the heavy campaigning gets underway. To that end I have created a poll on my blog where people can vote for those people who have been identified as potential candidates for whom they would be willing to vote.

You can vote as often as you would like - I believe that the poll will only allow a person to vote once every two weeks.

I was only allowed to include 20 options in the poll I created so I included 10 of the most prominent republican hopefuls and 10 of the most prominent democratic hopefuls. I have listed all of them alphabetically. I have made no indication of their party affiliation, although some of them will be obvious.

There were another 11 potential candidates that I could have included. If I notice candidate who are consistently failing to get noticed in the poll I may drop them and add some of these other candidates that I could not include.

What I had wanted initially was a ranking system similar to the way college football teams are ranked where voters would rank the various candidates and their rankings would be weighted to give an overall ranking. If anyone has an idea of how I could do that I would love to hear about it.

I am looking to have this circulated as widely as possible so feel free to let friends of all political persuasions know about this poll. Also I would appreciate if anyone has any ideas of how else I can make this poll known to a wider audience.

UPDATE: I have decided to make create a separate page for the poll so that it is not necessary to scroll to see it. It will still be included on the sidebar here, but it can also be found at If anyone does choose to share the poll with their friends, that page is where they should probably point.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Internet Outage

As if to prove what I said yesterday about becoming dependent on modern conveniences, I had to endure a total lack of internet access until 5:00 pm today. To add insult to injury, my mom called and asked if I had received her email.

Oh well, I have the email now.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Questions on Class Economics

I have been enjoying a variety of books and movies on late 19th century life lately and it has me thinking a little bit. I was reading one of the books in the Little House on the Prairie series and came across an interesting statement. The school children in a small, isolated town are trying to get home during a blinding blizzard. The first building they encounter is a hotel. All of the children continue to their homes, except one, because they cannot afford to stay in the hotel. The one boy who could afford to stay was able to do so "because his father had a regular job." A regular job meant regular pay. His father managed a train depot - the 19th century equivalent of a middle class job today. Later I read this statement:

Railroads and telegraph and kerosene and coal stoves - they're good things to have but the trouble is, folks get to depend on 'em.

That got me thinking about how we have so much talk about the importance of our large middle class today. It seems to me that the middle class is dependent on their "regular jobs" and is the most vulnerable to becoming dependent on railroads, telegraph, kerosene, and coal stoves or their modern equivalents (cell phones, cable television, internet etc.). That got me wondering, is society really better off having a sizable middle class rather than being broken mainly into the rich and the working classes?

I theoretically fall into the middle class today (minus cell phones and cable television) and I am not sure that there is much benefit being in the middle class and having a slightly higher standard of living coupled with greater expectations and demands on my wallet. To me that seems to breed greater discontent proportional to the supposed security that the middle class enjoys over the working classes.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


I have been looking at the advertising by Comcast for their big bundle - three services for $33/month (each). I say to myself "that's $100 a month to Comcast." Then again, Cable can easily run $50/month so that's a steal. Their internet service goes for $40/month so I guess $100/month to include phone is not bad. Of course I don't want cable so it's not a deal for me, but then I realize that they were advertising that their digital phone service would be about $14/month so it's really only about $4/month worth of savings.

I save a bunch on Cable, a little on internet, and pay two and a half times for the phone. Nice marketing.

Friday, October 06, 2006


I am currently trying to define what I want in my life. It's like having a fresh start because I have not felt like I was going anywhere so I can pick any direction that I want. As I reviewed some old goals that I have had from various times in my life and decided which of those goals to begin pursuing in earnest. One of those goals that has been floating in the back of my mind for nearly half my life is to run a marathon one day. As I face this fresh start I thought about that goal and reasoned that you can't just decide one day to run a marathon and then run it the next day. That goal requires that you start training months in advance. With that in mind I finally decided that I might as well start running so that I will be prepared when I am ready to select a marathon and run it.

Having made that decision - today marks my first run. It was raining and cool and generally the kind of weather that nobody runs in unless they are committed to running. In the face of all that I decided that I had better run today or else I would find a new excuse to procrastinate tomorrow. I ran a short route today - three miles. I did slightly better than I had planned (I had planned a very conservative pace) and based on today's run I think I am going to set a goal to finish the marathon, when I get to that point, in four hours.

My younger brother will laugh when he learns that I have decided to take up running. He was an avid runner back in the day - before he rediscovered "the one true sport." Of course he can't complain that I have taken up running again considering that he recently convinced his wife to start running.

Thursday, October 05, 2006


I have been thinking about the comments I got from my personality posts I have to admit that I did not understand at first what Jason meant when he said:

"The trick, for me at least, is to find reasons to love whatever job you have. I've enjoyed forklift operating, fruit picking, yard work, construction, mail sorting and inventory control. None were exciting, none were interesting, and none made any real difference in the world. But I learned to love the work"

My initial reaction was to disagree with the idea that few people get to make a difference through their employment. After stewing on the comments I had received, I found the flaw in my thinking. I had been wanting to have meaning in every aspect of my life. I wanted to have meaning in my work, my family, my religion, my community, and any hobbies I might choose. When I said I have no personality it is because I had allowed those parts of my life that were not fraught with meaning to sap the meaning from the other areas of my life. I had abandoned hobbies unnecessarily and shut my eyes to other meaningful aspects of my life.

With renewed perspective I now recognize that I need to have meaning to my life as a whole and allow that purpose and drive, those goals that I am pursuing, to invigorate me and infuse meaning into the more mundane things which are necessary whether or not I find intrinsic value in them. That is what I understand Jason to have meant when he said he learned to love the work he had rather than moaning that he was not doing the work he might have chosen for its own value.