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.