Friday, July 29, 2011

Life in a Day

One of my favorite blog reads these days has been the National Geographic Travel blog. I know that I've said that a few times before on here. They always post fun things on there, this movie trailer being one of them and I thought I'd advertise it for y'all. Something about it made me feel kind of emotional. It looks so interesting to me. And then I lamented that we don't really have more independent theaters around here even though the Sundance Film Festival takes place right around the corner from us. Weird.

A caption for the video reads:
What happens when you send a request out to the world to chronicle, via video, a single day on Earth? You get 80,000 submissions and 4,500 hours of footage from 192 countries. Producer Ridley Scott and Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald took this raw material — all shot on July 24, 2010 — and created Life in a Day, a groundbreaking, feature-length documentary that portrays this kaleidoscope of images we call life. National Geographic is bringing it to theaters starting July 24, 2011. Prepare to be amazed.

Amy and I went on a date with a couple that lives downstairs from us. They just got married about a month ago and I think we're going to become really good friends with them. Couples dating is really funny. We walked down one night and invited them to dinner and to play games with us and it felt like asking for a date. Amy and I had a post-game chat afterwards about how much we liked them. You know what else? They asked for the next date with us while we were still on the date, so you know that one went well. Plus, they friended us on FB the very next morning.

Really, we have been so blessed to have so many people around us that we love spending time with. We are never hurting for things to do or people to hang out with, and I couldn't love it more. The people in our lives are easily the greatest blessings that we have, of which there are many. It's really great.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sundry Comments from NRO Contributors on Marriage

As a response to what happened in New York recently these writers write the following.

Ed Whelan:
The idea that a man could “marry” another man (or that a woman could “marry” another woman) could be taken seriously only in a culture that has become deeply confused about what marriage is. That confusion is largely the result of what heterosexuals have done to marriage in recent decades. It will not be easy to rebuild a sound marriage culture. But the spread of same-sex marriage would make that rebuilding project impossible, as it would sever permanently the societal understanding of the inherent link between marriage and responsible procreation and child-rearing. The more confusion there is about the mission of marriage, the less well marriage will perform its critical mission. And the millions and millions of victims — children born into unstable or nonexistent families — will continue to pile up, with all the attendant disastrous consequences.
Matthew Franck:
What has been gained by the forces behind this act? Certainly not marriage for same-sex couples. They have gained a name, but not the thing it names. They have only destroyed a word’s meaning. And they have harmed the thing it does name, by teaching — one of the things the law does — that marriage has no connection to children and families, but instead is just a bundle of privileges from the government, to be taken up if it is in one’s self-interest. New York has struck a great blow, in the name of a false “right,” against real freedom. Same-sex marriage is inseparable from authoritarianism, as we will see when New York’s Christians, Jews, and Muslims lose the religious freedom to act on the truth about marriage as they know it.
Glen Stanton:
Marriage is so much more than a religious, Western, conservative, modern, or legal idea. Anthropologist Donald Brown, in his book, Human Universals, examining the qualities that all cultures at all times hold in common given their shared humanity, lists marriage as one of these universals. And for all the varied ways that different cultures have done marriage, one thing remains commonly consistent – or at least it did until the last few nanoseconds of our human experience. Marriage always brought the two amazing and mysteriously distinct parts of humanity together into an exclusive, socially valued, and protective union. Marriage has always existed to solve the paradox that humanity exists in male and female. 
Each of the couples we will see on Sunday — together with the New York legislature which enacted this new law — is proclaiming with a loud and powerful voice that male and female are now merely sentimental terms. Have a husband and wife, mother and father in your family if you like, but no one really needs them anymore. Male and female become to the family what the service agreement on your new SUV is: optional, based on your personal preference. This is exactly what New York marriage law now teaches, and it will not be without widespread consequence. How can it not?
Just thought those were some interesting points. Emphases are my own. For the whole article, go here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sasha and Twitch

One from last week's performance episode. I love Sasha, and anything that Twitch does has me sold too. It's just another one of those where everything just intersects perfectly - dancers, choreography, music, and performance. Loved, loved, loved this one.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Barefoot Running

This is all for you, Laura. Before I forgot to say anything about it. Yes, I've read Born to Run, and read some other things about the barefoot running revolution. These are all just my person opinions. I'm not an expert, but I guess I have some idea about this stuff. Here's my take on it:

If it isn't broke, then don't fix it, right? If you're running and everything is feeling okay, meaning that when you are in decent shape, you can run 3-5 miles without any unusual kind of pain, then it seems that regular running shoes work well enough, right? I have run 4 marathons. I'm partial to the Brooks brand of shoes. I have a neutral gait, so everything works pretty well for me.

I think the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. One of the biggest reasons why people get injured is because they don't have the muscle composition to support the activity that they are doing. Being strong and having good muscle tone is the biggest factor in preventing injury. I think I've been able to run with so little injury concerns is that I've always done running activities my whole life, and before I even took up running, I was regularly working out 4-5 times a week. That, in addition to eating well, are the two biggest factors in allowing a person to exercise without injury concerns.

Anyway, the people who are the most fit are fit in every way. That's what's so good about people who do Cross Fit, because it's a whole body work-out regimen. That's why triathletes are so fit, because they are wholly fit. They can run, bike, and swim. The best runners are the ones who can do all of those things, and will do a variety of different kinds of runs - hill work, speed work, long runs, interval training, etc. Running only short runs, doesn't necessarily mean you are fit. It just means that you can do short runs. And runners should try and run on a variety of different surfaces: grass, sand, dirt, asphalt, etc.

I think the same applies to barefoot running. Although the type of stride is different when running barefoot as opposed to running in shoes, I think it gives you dimension in the way your body can bend, flex, react, and absorb different patterns of running.

I'm actually interested in trying it out at some point, just to see if it can help me add some depth to my running. The Vibram 5 fingers are popular. I think I'm most interested in some of the other minimalist running alternatives. The Nike Free shoes sound pretty cool, Nike Zooms, FeelMax, among others. I think all the major brands are coming out with their own variety.

Anyway, take it for what it's worth.

Deseret News Marathon

I had all kinds of hesitations about this race. I was worried about the race temperature because of a mid-summer race time; I was worried about how that temperature would affect my training; More recently I've been worried about how an achy back from sleeping on a bad mattress would affect my running. There were a number of things concerning me.

And all of that has contributed a lot lately to just not wanting to run much recently. I got through my 20+ long runs, but my most recent one was my worst ever. I couldn't run the whole time. I had weird chills going through my back and shoulders. I just really struggled with it. My previous one was fine, but it just really left me not feeling very confident at all about my training.

Flash forward to this morning. We got a nice hotel room at a nearby Marriott and Amy took me at 3:00 to catch the 3:15 AM shuttle up to the start of the race. The temperature was fine down in the valley, but we started from Big Mountain which is 7000 feet higher in elevation, so I was pretty cold up at the top. I had about an hour and a half to kill before the start time which would be at 5:30 AM.

One of my favorite things about running these races are the random little friends you make along the way. I happened to meet a guy named Carlos, about age 30, from Brazil, also running his fourth marathon, also in a Phd program. Turned out we had a lot of things in common and we talked for about 30 minutes, and then we ran about the first 5 miles together before he dropped off behind me.

I felt okay for the first half of the marathon. I did have to go to the bathroom once, which is not great, but once I did that I didn't have much problem with my digestive system afterwards. My first half was about 1:50 or so. Not great, but okay considering that I wasn't trying to set any PRs this marathon. And that's when the struggles began.

Around mile 17 we finally got out of the mountains, crossed up around, over, and passed Hogle Zoon, and I was just having the hardest time. I was not in the right kind of shape for this marathon. My calves were tightening and I had to stretch them out a couple of times. The quadriceps become your shock absorbers when you are going down an incline, and mine were just shot. I told Amy that the very fastest I would run would be 8 minute miles, but I was nowhere near that. I was between 9-10 minutes from 17-22, and then almost 10 through the end of the race.

The night before the race we had seen the mile marker for 21 which was right by our hotel, so I was pretty sure I would see my wife there. I thought really hard about just giving up when I saw her. I was worried about having her get back to work at a decent time, and I really was just dying. I knew that I could finish a marathon so that wasn't a motivating factor for me to get through the end. I knew that I wasn't going to break any records either. To tell you the truth, I'm really not sure what it was that kept me going through the end. I knew that I would have a horrible time, and it's actually kind of humbling for me to acknowledge finishing at such a slow pace for me, especially when I remember how old and slow the runners were who I ended up finishing with.

My first half put me on a 3:45 finish time, but my second half slowed down to a near crawl, closing up at 2:24, so a full half hour longer than my first half for a total time of 4:14. I walked a lot of the last few miles, but I did manage to run most of the last couple miles, albeit at a very slow pace.

I thought the course was really pretty. For a small marathon, I actually thought it was pretty good. So far the Long Beach marathon is my least favorite of them all. The weather was very, very accommodating today too. I think the race start temperature was in the low 70s, and was overcast at the end, maybe high 70s.

I finished it. This was by far my hardest marathon. This was about 100x harder than running the 3:28 in St. George was last October. I didn't have enough training for this one. The 7000 feet of descent just destroyed my legs to the point that I couldn't really run on them from mile 17-18 on. I was in so much pain, in fact, that I was just about in tears following the race. I didn't have much cramping afterwards because that actually came during the race. It was just really, really hard, but I did it. I finished it, even though I didn't have anything to really prove, other than the fact that I'm just kind of stubborn. This is going to sound dumb, but I think my two biggest motivators were that I knew Amy had to get back to work, and I wasn't going to see her anywhere else other than the finish line, and that I wanted the finisher's medal. I wanted to have this race under my belt and say that I had run it, even though it just about killed me to do it, and I'm not proud about my time or how poorly prepared I was for it.

I'm happy I did it. I didn't injure anything. No muscle pulls/strains, and my joints are all okay. Everything is pretty sore, and climbing down stairs is a huge chore, but that's always the case with marathons. Amy asked me immediately after I finished if I wanted to run another, or take a break for awhile. I just told her that I couldn't answer that question yet. It really is the furthest thing from my mind at that point. All I could think about was how much everything was hurting.

My sincerest thanks goes to my wife. I hope she already knows that. I think I thanked her at least several times on the way home. Thanks also to all of the wonderful, wonderful volunteers, especially the policemen directing all of the traffic for us slow runners even though we totally held people up. They never made me wait at an intersection, and they really were just so cool the whole time. I really do want to volunteer more for race support at these things. I can't even say how much I appreciate all of the people who help out through the whole thing. Thanks to the random girls at about mile 23 who were handing out Otter Pops. That really did save me at the time, even though it did make me walk.

And thanks, race people, for playing Milli Vanilli when I was running through the finish. Now this song will be associated with the Deseret News Marathon for me.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Overcoming Pride

Sometimes I take the bus to work. Every time I take the bus to work, I end up getting pretty good naps in. While it takes a little bit longer to take the bus (a little over an hour, as compared to about 45 minutes driving myself), I don't have to pay for gas because of my awesome bus pass that only cost $100 and is good for the whole year. The biggest selling point for the bus, however, is that I get to take a couple of good naps. Frankly, I'm amazed at how rested I feel with them even though the seating is just a little bit tighter than is comfortable, and it's mostly upright. 

Well, sometimes I'm really sleepy on the bus, even after I take my nap. And sometimes I wake up a little late and miss my exit. It's never been more than one or two exits which is not a bad walk.

But maybe this time I woke up and nothing looked immediately familiar to me. And maybe this time I realized that I was almost in Orem, which would be about two cities over from my home destination of Pleasant Grove. With my wife out of town, I didn't have the obvious person to call, but there were still others that I know in the area that could have helped me out.

Sometimes I'm prideful, so prideful, in fact, that I would rather just walk the two plus miles in my suit and in about 90 degree weather. 

Sometimes I think I have too much pride. And then sometimes I post things on my blog and I think that if I can laugh a little bit about my plight, then maybe I'm overcoming my pride. 

Just a little bit.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

This and That

  • I was reading an article about sprinting a week or so ago. A researcher of the mechanics of running said that the root of sprinting is essentially how hard your feet hit the ground. He then said that the world record holder in the 100m hits the ground with more than 1000 lbs of force with each stride he takes. 1000 lbs!
  • But in the end, humans are naturally adapted to running long distances. This is our evolutionary advantage over other animals. We're not even close to being able to run faster than other animals, but we can run much longer than any of them over long distances. Even horses.
  • Read this post yesterday about what brick and mortar restaurants and Borders bookstores have in common. A hint: adaptability.
  • There is a trailer for the Amazing Spiderman movie that is coming out next summer. It looks cool, but I can't believe they're rebooting the series so soon. It's been less than 10 years since the first, and I thought that one was really good to begin with, soooo...why the reboot?
  • I run a marathon in 4 days. I'm feeling okay about it. 
  • I miss my wife. She's been gone since Sunday. My house is quiet. I think the solution is for us to get a dog to keep me company.
  • I love these:

  • Funny how white that audience is, isn't it? Like totally white. As evidenced by the dancing.
That's it. That's all I got.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The End Is Here: HP 7.2

Amy and I caught the last Harry Potter movie on Friday. It was really good. It's hard when expectations are skyscraper high, but I think mine were just about evenly met. What's really nice about the movies is that they are able to stand alone. Having read the books, you can watch the movies and still really enjoy them without feeling like they didn't get it right. And you can probably watch the movies without having read the books and still be quite entertained. They do a really great job with all of it.

I can understand that the nature of the story is not one that grips every reader/watcher. Fantasy and magic and wizards and witches just may not be your cup of tea. At the same time I still have a hard time understanding when people feel like the series is overrated. Set aside the thing about how Rowling creates this whole alternate world and weaves a wonderfully fantastic tale through 4200 pages of literature. Every time I revisit the story I remember how perfectly she illustrates core principles and values that everybody should cherish and yearn for more of always - loyalty, devotion, determination, courage, among others. Are those not things that we yearn for?

I wrote this post a couple years ago when I got through reading the series, and I still feel this way now:
Several years ago Orson Scott Card spoke at a symposium at BYU. From what I can remember, his topic focused mainly on the importance of fiction and how it shapes societal trends and values. He brought up an example from the TV show Friends when Ross's ex-wife gets married to her lesbian partner. The ceremony is performed, and sanctioned by a religious minister, and one of the father's of one of the bride's attends in his military uniform. Symbolically then, the show portrays the acceptance of same-sex marriage by both religious and government leaders. This was not by accident.
Card's point in this example is that fiction often presents the breeding ground where ideas and principles are placed. How we embrace the stories put forth often leads to the adoption of the associated ethics and morals that are on display in the piece of fiction, and conversely, our rejection of the story necessarily leads to the denial of those same values. I've made this point on here before, so I'll spare you the same argument again other than to simply say, it's not ever just a story/book/movie/tv show. Our patronage of these products facilitates their growth and acceptance, not of just the final product but what values they promote.
My point (as well as Card's) in bringing all of this up is that Harry Potter is the kind of story that we should want to embrace. It is the kind of book that parents should be reading to children. Not only is the story itself very compelling and entertaining, but Harry is truly a heroic character in spite of the flaws that Rowling clearly portrays him having. He constantly sacrifices, conquers in the face of heartbreaking tragedy, and triumphs over evil. His friends perfectly characterize loyalty and devotion. The story deftly illustrates good and evil and the type of dedication that is required to overcome. Rowling draws from her own loss of her mother to describe Harry's struggles with loss. In the form of the dementors she personifies the suffocating effects of clinical depression. It really is amazing how much real life is captured in her fictional books. I love love love these stories.

And the story really is so much about relationships. You see it when Professor McGonagall stands up to Snape. You see it in (spoiler!) Snape's relationship with Harry's mother and how much he cares for the boy, but Rowling does so well to keep that point hidden until the very end, when it becomes most crucial to the plotline. You see it with Harry and his friends, Harry and Dumbledore, Harry and everyone else in the story. And then of course there is the contrarsting example of healthy relationships that is portrayed through Voldemort and all of his followers. His hold was always tenuous at best over his minions simply because he governed through fear when love is obviously such a greater tactic. The flaws of his leadership is characterized best by the Malfoys who desert him in the end because of the love that they share with one another, even though they may hate Harry.

This series reminds me of growing up reading the Chronicles of Narnia as a kid. I just loved Peter's courage and I wanted to be him. Obviously Aslan was an inspiring symbol as he was used to represent the Savior. But this is my point. So much teaching comes through these stories, and we could do worse than to have kids wanting to be like Harry, to be the kind friends that Ron and Hermione were, and to entertain ourselves through literature that supports the kind of values that we hope to perpetuate.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Oh, California (Shakes head, disappointingly)

Friend of mine posted this article on FB today about the new mandate from the governor for public schools to teach gay history. What's the point? Isn't history, history? It's not like teachers ignore the contributions of gay members of society. We read several pieces from Oscar Wilde, and you know what? I love his stuff. The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of my favorite books, and the Importance of Being Earnest is probably one of the most clever plays ever written. Did our teacher mention that he was gay? Yes. Did it matter to anyone? No.  History is history. Does it really make a difference who made it? Shouldn't those details come naturally as a part of the course of learning? Why this emphasis?

Special interests groups. Always special interests.

And you may have heard about the "Amazon" tax that California passed recently that forces online retailers from California to charge sales tax. The idea was to try and cover some of the budget shortfall, but it recovers very, very little and will only serve to alienate companies from doing business in the state.

This post here by economist MJ Perry talks about how businesses are leaving California in record numbers. An average of 5.4 businesses leave California a week. A week! Where do they go? In order:

  1. Texas
  2. Arizona
  3. Colorado
  4. Nevada/Utah
  5. Virginia/North Carolina
It breaks my heart, this California business, or lack thereof. Every time I go home I remember just how much I love it down there, but I really cannot think of a place that is more hostile to my interests than that state. It's so upsetting. 

Something I do love about California? Still love KROQ. Sometimes I'll pop over to the website to see what new songs I'm missing and I am always surprised by how much of the stuff I just don't know about. Everything takes so long to filter our here to Utah. I really, really like this new song from Incubus:

Plus, the morning show is pretty funny. Nothing here in Utah even comes close. Well, 97.1 has some people that I do enjoy. This morning KROQ is having a contest for people to win tickets to an LA show and the trick is that they have to tell them which orchestral version of RATM song the guys in the studio are singing. Awesome, right? It's probably enhanced by the fact that I'm listening up here at the COB in a suit and tie and these idiots on the radio are doing guitar riffs and drum beats with their mouths in the most obnoxious way possible.

That's what I got for now. Have a good one, dear ones.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Other Shoe Has Now Dropped: Here Comes Polygamy

One of the reasons conservatives opposed the state sanctioning of same-sex marriage was the natural extension that it could open the door to allowing for polygamy. "But that's just not true! People wouldn't jumped to those kinds of conclusions!" cried the libs. Well, here it comes.

(Ironic that Mormons are largely conservative, so ideologically we would naturally oppose this when this was a Church endorsed practice for a good number of years. Some members of the Church even think that this practice will follow after this life. But you knew all of that already and I digress...)

Kody Brown, of Sister Wives fame, was forced to move from the state of Utah after the television show made their lives plain for all to see. Utah, afraid of the association between itself and its past "lurid" history, tends to come down pretty violently on any open attempts at polygamy (think, Warren Jeffs). As a result, the Browns, all 21 of them, moved down to a Las Vegas suburb to escape some of the heat that they were facing. (Incidentally, when Amy and I traveled down to California last and stayed in Vegas on the way down, her cousin(?) had actually come back that night from hanging out with one of the kids belonging to that family and had been taped at Yogurtland by TLC, doing the things that polygamist kids do, which apparently is go eat frozen yogurt by the pound.)

(I'm going to try and limit any more parentheticals.)

Anyway, here is an article that gives a basic rundown of the events. An excerpt:
The lawsuit is not demanding that states recognize polygamous marriage. Instead, the lawsuit builds on a 2003 United States Supreme Court decision, Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down state sodomy laws as unconstitutional intrusions on the “intimate conduct” of consenting adults. It will ask the federal courts to tell states that they cannot punish polygamists for their own “intimate conduct” so long as they are not breaking other laws, like those regarding child abuse, incest or seeking multiple marriage licenses.
More commentary on the topic from Matthew Franck over at NRO:
Of course the complete dismantling of all civil regulation of marital relations and sexual conduct is exactly where we have been heading ever since Justice Kennedy’s deeply foolish Lawrence opinion.  The Times manages to find one law professor willing to stick her fingers in her ears and say “la la la I can’t hear you” to the proposition that the Lawrence reasoning has propelled us in this direction.  And Professor Turley, dutifully speaking for his client, wants us to believe that his claim is a moderate and limited one.  But literally no one else has reason to believe such tripe.  Here we go.  Here we have always known we would go.
And then there is this from Stephen Hayward at Powerline:
Meanwhile, I have been waiting for the next shoe to drop before commenting on this issue, but I didn’t think it would happen as quickly as it has.  A polygamist has brought a lawsuit in federal court arguing that laws against polygamy should be struck down on the very same “right to privacy” grounds that the Supreme Court struck down state sodomy laws in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas case.  What, exactly, is the argument against polygamy if gay marriage is justified not simply on an expansive “right to privacy,” but also, as Justice Kennedy notoriously put it in his famous “mystery-of-the-universe” clause that each individual has the right to pursue their “own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life”?  Law professor and uber-blogger Ann Althouse comments, “I think the Lawrence-based argument for decriminalizing polygamy is much stronger than the Lawrence-based argument for requiring the government to give legal recognition to same-sex marriage.”  Gay marriage advocates always dismissed the question of why gay marriage wouldn’t open the door to a revival of polygamy as absurd whenever it is brought up, ignoring that polygamy has a much longer record in human history than gay marriage—indeed it is still widely accepted in the Islamic world.  Further, what, exactly, is the argument against polygamous gay marriage?
What's interesting about Kennedy's Lawrence opinion is that he states that the state doesn't intrude into private matters of the home and does not pretend to be omnipresent, but it really does in so many other ways. Obviously when it comes to endangering other citizens The State will go to great lengths to enter into the home. But even with simpler things like education. Heck, especially education. I just learned the other day about how Amy's sister was threatened by their school district because of the family's affinity for taking vacations, even though their kids tended to be the most academically accomplished of all of the students. In any case, The State takes a great interest in governing parental behaviors while ignoring other ones that may not be politically expedient at the time. Such is life.

So there you have it. Just like Franck said, "Here we go. Here we have always known we would go."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Little Moment of Win

Amy and I bought a mattress just before we got married. Our only experience prior to this was buying our own very cheap individual mattresses, but now we had a little bit of money, we wanted to get something that would last a long time. We happened upon a sale at Macey's, chose something probably a little too quickly, and that was supposed to be the end of it.

Then over the course of the past several months it has just been slowly wreaking  havoc on my back. I know Amy doesn't like it all that much either, but it has been really doing a number on me, to the extent that I can point to the specific vertebra in my spine that is taking the brunt of it. I wake up in the morning and it hurts to take deep breaths and my back always feels tight. It's even to the point that it's been affecting my running. The mattress is just too soft.

We're well outside of the return period, but I thought that if I called their customer service and pleaded my case enough, I could get them to take it back and we could get a different one, probably with some penalties, but worth it.

I never got belligerent or demanding. I don't do that as well as some people, but I was really persistent and kept thinking of everything I could to plead my case. I called today and it took about an hour of begging, but I finally got them to agree to it. The customer service rep talked to her manager at least four times, and in what was probably my last ditch effort, she cut me off mid-sentence and told me that they would do it with a restocking and delivery fee.


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Field of Dreams 2

Loved this video.

"I walked through two miles of cornfields. Let's play some football."

The most interesting thing though: Dennis Haysbert as this generation's James Earl Jones? I like it.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Party Rockin

A few things I wanted to post:
  • I've totally gotten Amy into So You Think You Can Dance. It's kind of awesome. The show is promoting a national dance day on July 30, and they have several different tutorials on dances to learn. I'm hoping that we'll really do it and get into it. Start with this video if you're interested:
  • Over at Powerline, I read this blogpost about the conservative case for taxes. I thought it was really insightful. Here is a key excerpt:
    But here’s the case: one problem with our current tax policy is that at the moment the American people as a whole are receiving a dollar of government for the price of only 60 cents.  (I don’t say a “dollar’s worth of government,” but let’s leave that snark for another time.)  Any time you can get a dollar of something at a 40 percent discount, you are going to demand more of it.  My theory is simple: if the broad middle class of Americans are made to pay for all of the government they get, they may well start to demand less of it, quickly.

    There’s corollary point to this.  Back in the Reagan years, there was a vigorous internal debate about whether to resist tax increases because “starving the beast” would hold down spending.  But evidence is now in: this strategy doesn’t work.  My witness on this point is the Cato Institute’s chairman, William Niskanen (who was chairman of Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers at one point, and a person whose libertarian credentials are hard to beat). Niskanen noted this striking finding [1] in a Cato Policy Report a while ago:

    In a professional paper published in 2002, I presented evidence that the relative level of federal spending over the period 1981 through 2000 was coincident with the relative level of the federal tax burden in the opposite direction; in other words, there was a strong negative relation between the relative level of federal spending and tax revenues.  Controlling for the unemployment rate, federal spending increased by about one-half percent of GDP for each one percentage point decline in the relative level of federal tax revenues. . . One implication of this relation is that a tax increase may be the most effective policy to reduce the relative level of federal spending.

    Other economists have reached the same conclusion [2].  In other words, if you want to limit government spending, instead of starving the beast, serve the check.  (Well, I can hear everyone now, there’s goes your invitation to Grover Norquist’s Wednesday meetings! True that.)  Right now the anti-tax bias of the right has the effect of shifting costs onto future generations who do not vote in today’s elections, and enables liberals to defend against spending restraints very cheaply.  Time to end the free ride.
  • An article over at NRO talks about a case of overly restrictive separation between Church and state. Article is here. An excerpt:
    This isn’t the first episode of such trouble. In May, with the approach of Memorial Day — always a day of proud and sorrowful reflection at veterans’ cemeteries, typically characterized by invocations of God’s mercy and His blessings on our country — Ocasio required that the ministers who planned to speak at the cemetery submit their proposed prayers to her in advance. Pastor Scott Rainey of Living Word Church did so, and was told to revise his prayers to be more “inclusive” — by excluding specific reference to his own religion. Appealing to the VA in Washington, Rainey was referred to a deputy in the general counsel’s office, who backed Ocasio.

    Rainey took his case to federal district court in Houston, where Judge Lynn Hughes sharply rebuked the VA and Ocasio, issuing a restraining order against them on May 26. As Hughes said in his opinion, “the government cannot gag citizens” in the name of “some bureaucrat’s notion of cultural homogeneity.”
  • I read a pretty cool article on ESPN about what The Decision (Lebron's televised decision to choose the Heat over the Cavaliers) looked like through the eyes of the kids at the Boys and Girls Club where it was televised from. It was a really fun look, and it also reminded me of how important the Boys and Girls Club was for me when I was growing up with two parents who worked and no one else who could look after me in the summers. I still even remember one of the guys that I really looked up to - George Gorey. I ought to look him up. It takes a village...and I feel like I had all sorts of people that I owe so much to because of roles that they played for me during my childhood. Here is the article.
  • A friend of mine will occasionally send out songs or albums that she's really into, and I do the same thing every time. I'll just set it aside for a month or three, start get into the music on my own, and then remember that she sent it to me way before it all got big. That's happened at least three times that I can think of right off the bat. Anyway, the latest is this song. And I just love love the video.
  • And that's all I got for today. Have a great weekend, y'all!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Party in the USA

This is very journaly and sans pictures, so brace yourself.

I had my last long run before the Deseret News Marathon on Friday. It just about destroyed me, and maybe I'll write about that somewhere else, but not here. Because of that run, I thought beforehand that I wouldn't want to drive the full-length of I-15 between Utah and California so I suggested to Amy that maybe we should stay with her aunt and uncle in Las Vegas, stay the night, then drive the rest of the way in the morning. That plan would have been fine, but it ended up making the drive feel much longer than normal, and it made Saturday feel pretty darn short, even though we got in around lunch time.

We arrived to have lunch with the Dave and Caitlin and company, then parted to do some shopping and take care of a few things. That left us with just enough time in the afternoon to drop by the pool before we would go to the Angel game that night. Living in not-California means that I only have a couple of opportunities each baseball season to catch an MLB game at Anaheim stadium. We had terrible seats, but at least they were inexpensive, and the Angels did us the favor of actually putting some runs on the board. They've been pretty hot as of late with their veteran players finally stepping up to lead the team. Jered Weaver pitched the game against Clayton Kershaw, which should have actually been a premier match-up, except that Kershaw was overmatched and Weaver was in his All-Star form. There's nobody's pitching motion that I like more than Weaver's. He has long limbs that really just whip that ball out over the plate. It's a really cool thing to see.

Sunday turned out to be a really busy day between making sure that we saw both of my parents, managing schedules, while still trying to make sure that we made a full block of church meetings. Normally we would just go with the Reids, but we needed a more accommodating time for our appointments, which meant that we would go to church in a random ward. I thought the Irvine stake would work out well for us since I would know people in just about any of the wards and it would be fun to see old faces. We weren't able to attend my old family ward, but I thought it would be a good idea to see if we could make one of the wards on the other side of Irvine where the Redfords go to church. Turns out that we picked the right ward, just the wrong Sunday, as they happened to be away on one of their Shasta trips for the summer. It mattered little, however, because I was able to run into a guy that I had signed up with for last year's St. George marathon. I got to catch up with him, and a few other people that I just happened to know, people who I forgot would also be apart of that ward. One guy who bore his testimony in sacrament meeting had some familiarity to me as well, but I couldn't place it until we were in Elders Quorum. When I heard his voice again, saw his face up close, and heard his name, I put together that we had both served in Chile together as part of the same group of missionaries that arrived and left together. That was a fun little reunion for me.

But the best part of the meetings was how Amy and I felt while there. We have appreciated our family ward here in Utah, but in some ways people have been slow to acknowledge our presence. It was a couple of months before anyone from the bishopric met with us, before we got home and visiting teaching assignments. Even now, three months later, we still don't have callings. When we dropped into this Irvine ward we had all manner of people come up to us and ask our names, our lives, if we were visiting or staying. I even had a few different soft pitches from people saying that I should move there and be a part of the ward. The classes were all so engaging. The quorum and relief societies felt united and interested in each other. There was a great sense of familiarity with everyone. It was exactly how anyone would hope to feel attending a new ward. It was a really great experience. Amy and I are hoping that we can be the kind of people who would lead the way in making our own ward as welcoming as it was in the Irvine Westpark ward.

Every evening in California ended with games. Always games. Glorious games.

The day of the 4th started quickly. We left at eight to pick up some items for a salad, some last minute essentials, and then were ready to leave just a little after nine. We celebrated the day with about five other couples and three sets of kids. Although the parking is very limited at Newport, that also naturally limits the number of people who are actually on the beach, leaving us with plenty of free space for whiffleball games, catch, and whatever else we can think of. The day was hot, but with the water cold it was a perfect situation to be in. It was just so nice to hang out in the ocean water. There were even these little fishes that would swim up the shore, lots of shells buried in the sand, and just a clear, clear blue-green water. It was just spectacular. Freedom dawgs graced our festivities, along with a couple of other salads, a number of red fruits, and plenty of desserts to snack from.

That night we watched a fireworks show right over by Tustin High School. They were fun.

It's just fun to be at home, around people that I love so much. I love how familiar Mason is with Amy and I. He seems to have a pretty good crush on her too. I love being around Ryan and Tyler, especially how much Ryan is growing up and wanting to be a part of everything. I love being at the beach all day long. I love napping on the warm sand with the rolling waves drowning out the sounds of everyone who is at the beach. I love free and plentiful snacks to munch on the whole day long. I love playing games with people that just really love playing games, even if I only seemed to lose the whole weekend long. And I just love being around people that are so close to my heart. You know what else I love?

America! God bless the U-S-A!

Friday, July 1, 2011

I Got You

In years past, I used to blog pretty regularly about So You Think You Can Dance. I had review posts of the show. I've seen a live taping. I even went to the tour a couple years ago. And then they had it on straight from summer and in the fall season, and it was just too much. I liked it as my summer show because there wasn't much else on, and I liked leaving it there. Plus, having it back-to-back like that was just overkill for me. I saw a few last summer, but not much more. I don't even know who won.

I wouldn't quite say I'm back all the way into it, but I do still really enjoy the show. I think it's so fun, the dancers are so impressive, and I just love dance as an art form and as an athletic sport. There is so much to it, and so much expression that comes through it.

Anyway, this past Wednesday had one routine that really impressed me. I watched it again just a minute ago and it still gives me chills every time I watch it. I'm a sucker for the lyrical hip hop routines that Napoleon and Tabitha come up with, and I just loved the concept for this one, the dancers, and the music. It takes a lot to have a stand-out performance because you need the right intersection between all of those factors. Plus, Melanie is just adorable. Lots of impressive dancers this season. I think this one got it:

It's awesome, right? I just love that one. I'll probably even watch it again once I'm done writing this.

Well, this is me signing off for the weekend. Time to head back to California for Summer Christmas, catch a ball game, some beach time, and hang out with some of the people that I love most in this whole world. I'm so excited for it.

I probably will have one more post coming this weekend in honor of the 4th because I have been reading some interesting articles related to our country's military, so maybe check back in a few.

Oh, and I better give a shout out to Canada day. Lots of great things happening this weekend. Have a great holiday, dear ones!