Monday, November 21, 2011

Our California Adventure

CA Adventure by silva888

Thoughts from Around the Web

Mark Steyn is a really great writer over at NRO. He posted some thoughts here about the Penn State scandal, and had this to say:

Defenders of McQueary and the broader Penn State protection racket argue that “nobody knows” what he would do in similar circumstances. In a New York Times piece headlined “Let’s All Feel Superior,” David Brooks turned in an eerily perfect parody of a David Brooks column and pointed out, with much reference to Kitty Genovese et al., how “studies show” that in extreme circumstances the human brain is prone to lapse into “normalcy bias.” To be sure, many of the Internet toughs bragging that they’d have punched Sandusky’s lights out would have done no such thing. As my e-mail correspondents always put it whenever such questions arise: “Yeah, right, Steyn. Like you’d be taking a bullet. We all know you’d be wetting your little girly panties,” etc.

For the sake of argument, let us so stipulate. Nevertheless, as the Canadian blogger Kathy Shaidle wrote some years ago: “When we say ‘we don’t know what we’d do under the same circumstances,’ we make cowardice the default position.”

I quote that line in my current book, in a section on the “no man’s land” of contemporary culture. It contrasts the behavior of the men on the Titanic who (notwithstanding James Cameron’s wretched movie) went down with the ship and those of the École Polytechnique in Montreal decades later who, ordered to leave the classroom by a lone gunman, meekly did as they were told and stood passively in the corridor as he shot all the women. Even if I’m wetting my panties, it’s better to have the social norm of the Titanic and fail to live up to it than to have the social norm of the Polytechnique and sink with it.

That’s the issue at the heart of Penn State’s institutional wickedness and its many deluded defenders. In my book, I also quote the writer George Jonas back when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were revealed to be burning down the barns of Quebec separatists: With his characteristic insouciance, the prime minister Pierre Trudeau responded that, if people were so bothered by illegal barn burning by the Mounties, perhaps he would make it legal. Jonas pointed out that burning barns isn’t wrong because it’s illegal, it’s illegal because it’s wrong. A society that no longer understands that distinction is in deep trouble. To argue that a man witnessing child sex in progress has no responsibility other than to comply with procedures and report it to a colleague further up the chain of command represents a near-suicidal loss of that distinction.

A land of hyper-legalisms is not the same as a land of law. I’ve written recently about the insane proliferation of signage on America’s highways — the “Stop” sign, the “Stop Sign Ahead” sign, the red light, the sign before the red light instructing you that when the light is red you should stop here, accompanied by a smaller sign underneath with an arrow pointing to the precise point where “here” is . . . One assumes this expensive clutter is there to protect against potential liability issues. It certainly doesn’t do anything for American road safety, which is the worst in the developed world. We have three times the automobile fatality rate of the Netherlands, and at 62 in the global rankings we’re just ahead of Tajikistan and Papua New Guinea.

But that’s the least of it: When people get used to complying with micro-regulation, it’s but a small step to confusing regulatory compliance with the right thing to do — and then arguing that, in the absence of regulatory guidelines, there is no “right thing to do.”

In a hyper-legalistic culture, Penn State’s collaborators may have the law on their side. But there is no moral-liability waiver. You could hardly ask for a more poignant emblem of the hollow braggadocio of the West at twilight than the big, beefy, bulked-up shoulder pads and helmets of Penn State football, and the small stunted figures inside.

And Jeff Jacoby had this to say in his article about American optimism:

Reno isn't the only Commentary contributor who points to America's ability to assimilate outsiders as a singular advantage in the present, and an ongoing reason for optimism about the future. Yes, remarks Harvard's Joseph Nye, China can draw on a talent pool of 1.3 billion people, "but the United States can draw on a talent pool of 7 billion." From every corner of the globe, dreamers, strivers, and self-starters have been willing to uproot themselves for the chance to make a better life in this astonishing land of opportunity.

"Optimism, by nearly all accounts, has been an integral part of our national DNA," writes James Ceaser, a scholar of American politics at the University of Virginia. The crises of the moment -- a limping economy, soaring government debt, a stifling bureaucracy -- are undoubtedly serious. But they are far from insoluble, and they certainly aren't grounds for terminal pessimism.

The nation that transformed an undeveloped wilderness into history's freest, most prosperous superpower; that overcame the cancer of slavery; that trounced totalitarianism; that still inspires the persecuted and downtrodden -- that nation isn't about to fade to gray. We have licked worse problems than those we face now.

Optimistic or pessimistic about America's future? The Gipper had it right: Our best days are yet to come. This nation has had a remarkable run, but you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Round-Up

Random bits:
  • So among the worst passwords of 2011 are the typical "1234" or "password" but I guess a lot of people are also using "monkey," "dragon," "trustno1," and "letmein." I love those. I hope some of you are using them. I think I might pick one of those up.
  • The Denver Broncos keep winning. No explanation whatsoever. It's so weird. That is all.
  • I hate BYU's sports schedule. I don't care about any of these games. Have you seen the basketball schedule? How in the world am I supposed to be interested in a win against Dixie State or their game tonight against Longwood? Where in the world is Longwood? I've never even heard of that school. Don't worry though, tomorrow we play powerhouse New Mexico State in football. Look out Aggies! You'll be the second team of Aggies we'll beat this year. Yay?
  • I can't believe how spoiled some people can be by just a little success from their sports teams. I had some back and forth last night with a guy on Facebook about the Angels being able to bounce back after last season. He thinks we're in bad shape as an organization, but they've made the playoffs in 6 of the last 10 years, and the 2002 World Series is still pretty fresh on my mind. How bad can they really be doing, right?
  • The Help. We saw that movie earlier this week and I really enjoyed. I really like the lead, Emma Stone, and I love movies that take place in the South, and I love stories about race relations. While there is still much progress to be made, it's amazing to think of all of the progress in just the last several decades. In the lives of many people still alive, things have gone from intolerable to pretty good. Very good movie though. For a time I was pretty fascinated with literature from black authors, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, and the like. Here's a famous one by Hughes that I always liked: What happens to a dream deferred?

    Does it dry up
    like a raisin in the sun?
    Or fester like a sore--
    And then run?
    Does it stink like rotten meat?
    Or crust and sugar over--
    like a syrupy sweet?

    Maybe it just sags
    like a heavy load.

    Or does it explode?
  • Not sure how I missed this song before the last couple weeks, but I just love it. Have a good weekend, y'all.

Keystone Pipeline Nixed Until After the Election

Something that's kind of crazy that you maybe haven't heard anything about? The pipeline Keystone pipeline that is supposed to be built between Canada and the US that would not only provide thousands of jobs, but also increase our energy independence. Go here for a story from the WSJ, here for one from The American, and one by Charles Krauthammer at NRO. I'm going to include some excerpts from each story without distinguishing. I don't really want to take the time to divide it up. It's all worth reading though:

Within days of the Keystone decision, Canada's prime minister, Stephen Harper, said his country would divert sales of the Keystone-intended oil to Asia. Translation: Those lost American blue-collar pipeline jobs are disappearing into the Asian sun. Incidentally, Mr. Harper has said he wants to turn Canada into an energy "superpower," exploiting its oil, gas and hydroelectric resources. Meanwhile, the American president shores up his environmental base in Hollywood and on campus. Perhaps our blue-collar work force should consider emigrating to Canada.

Recall as well the president's gut reaction in 2010 to the BP Gulf oil spill: an order shutting down deep-water drilling in U.S. waters. The effect on blue-collar workers in that industry was devastating. Writing in these pages this week, Alaska GOP Sen. Lisa Murkowski described how Mexico, the Russians, Canada and even Cuba are moving to exploit oil and gas deposits adjacent to ours, while the Obama administration slow-walks new drilling permits.

Wall Street Journal columnist Dan Henninger argues that President Obama is leaving private sector workers out to dry on Opinion Journal. Photo: AP.

No subject sits more centrally in the American political debate than the economic plight of the middle class. Presumably that means people making between $50,000 and $175,000 a year. The president fashions himself their champion.

This surely is bunk. Mr. Obama is the champion of the public-sector middle class. Just as private business has become an abstraction to the new class of public-sector Democratic politicians and academics who populate the Obama administration, so too the blue-collar workers employed by them have become similarly abstracted.

Here comes the craziest twist: if the opponents of the XL succeed and prevent its construction, there is a strong possibility that Alberta’s oil sand-derived oil will be piped westward to Canada’s Pacific coast and loaded on supertankers going to Asia, to feed China’s grossly inefficient industries.

And there is more. The XL is to deliver an equivalent of about 6 percent of total U.S. crude oil consumption in 2010, a small share that the country should be able to do without. Indeed, it could have done that already in the past if it had steadily improved the performance of its vehicles rather than keeping it flat for two decades between 1986 and 2006.

    The new pipeline would add just over 1 percent to the already existing network of crude oil and refined products lines that crisscross the United States and parts of Canada.

Either way, the United States will need oil imports for a long time to come, as even the fastest conceivable transition to non-fossil energies cannot be accomplished in a matter of one or two decades. If the United States chooses to cut itself off from its largest, most reliable, and most durable supply of crude oil, from where will it, with its continuing high use of transportation fuel, get its future imports? Crude oil production in two other major U.S. suppliers in the Western hemisphere, Mexico and Venezuela, has been declining (by, respectively, more than 20 percent and more than 15 percent between 2005 and 2011), and in the Middle East the United States faces enormous competition from China.

So what happened? “The administration,” reported the New York Times, “had in recent days been exploring ways to put off the decision until after the presidential election.” Exploring ways to improve the project? Hardly. Exploring ways to get past the election.

Obama’s decision was meant to appease his environmentalists. It’s already working. The president of the National Wildlife Federation told the Washington Post (online edition, November 10) that thousands of environmentalists who were galvanized to protest the pipeline would now support Obama in 2012. Moreover, a source told the Post, Obama campaign officials had concluded that “they do not pick up one vote from approving this project.”

Sure, the pipeline would have produced thousands of truly shovel-ready jobs. Sure, delay could forfeit to China a supremely important strategic asset — a nearby, highly reliable source of energy. But approval was calculated to be a political loss for the president. Easy choice.

It’s hard to think of a more clear-cut case of putting politics over nation. This from a president whose central campaign theme is that Republicans put party over nation, sacrificing country to crass political ends.

It's pretty huge news that really isn't making the rounds. This is the American president sabotaging our interests for the sake of his political career.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

We're Going to Disneyland!

For a few weeks I had been begging Amy to go down to California because the Raiders happened to be playing a Thursday night game against San Diego down in San Diego. There aren't a lot of opportunities for me to see my guys and I wanted to take the opportunity to do so. She wasn't convinced until she learned that Scott and Elisha were coming down to go to Disneyland, and that we wouldn't be seeing the Reids at all over the holidays, so we made a weekend of it.

We flew in Thursday and took advantage of some of the somewhat shady deals that people advertise on Craig's List to get some discounted tickets. It's a lesson in economics really. Charge exorbitant prices for something that's in high demand and someone else will figure out how to make a buck supplying it for a cheaper price. The nice part is that I now have my buddy who works at the Grand California that I can call on for when we want to visit the park in the future.

It was a lot of fun to visit. I hadn't been in a couple of years, and I was never really a Disneyland veteran like most of the people who live down in Southern California. I never got an annual pass, but now it seems like everyone I know who lives down there has one. My brother, best friends, single friends, everyone.

The really great thing about Disneyland is that everything is so professionally done. The rides are good for mid-level type of thrill-seeker, but the decor, the shows, the look and feel of everything is absolutely top notch. My favorite has always been the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and Toy Story. The holiday decorations were really amazing, especially on Haunted Mansion. We didn't get to see It's a Small World, but I'm sure that was great too.

It was a really fun weekend. I enjoyed the parks more than I thought I would, but the sad part is that my sole reason for wanting to in the first place - Raiders game - didn't even happen. My brother wasn't up for spending up to $100 for tickets to the game when they hadn't been looking so great. Turns out Carson Palmer really turned it on, Michael Bush killed the Chargers, and the Raiders pulled out the win. Happy for the win, disappointed I wasn't there in person. I can't believe that.

There will be some video up shortly, but just wanted to get something posted because it's been a long time since I've come back around.

There ya go.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sports Innocence Lost

Some time ago I was listening to sports talk radio and they were talking about when each of them had lost their sports innocence. You can probably figure out what they meant, but just in case it's not clear, they were referring to that point in time when they had realized that the sports world isn't entirely magical. Athletes are people and sometimes they are unfaithful to their wives, sometimes they cheat, and sometimes people associated with sports can be more than selfish.

I don't remember what their various responses were, but for me it was easy to pick out exactly when my sports innocence was lost. 20 years ago yesterday was the day that Magic Johnson announced that he had contracted the HIV virus and that he would be retiring from professional basketball. I was 11 years old at the time and the Lakers were just coming off their NBA Finals loss to Michael Jordan's Bulls. I remember sitting on the leather couch and watching the screen and having no idea what HIV or AIDS was, and wondered how something could be so serious that it would derail the career of someone so iconic who was not far removed from the peak of his athletic abilities.

I had never even heard of the disease before then, didn't know how it was contracted, or what it was capable of doing, but if it could pull down both Magic Johnson and the Lakers, then it was something really serious.

If I had to name another time, I think I would have said either Bo Jackson destroying his hip in the AFC Championship Game against the Bengals or OJ Simpson's epic drive in Al Cowling's Bronco. I loved Bo for obvious reasons (Raiders RB and EVERYONE loved Bo Jackson), and I loved OJ because of the Naked Gun movies. Those movies came at the perfect time for a boy my age. Each of those events I remember very vividly.

Anyway, I bring this up not only because it was the anniversary of that announcement, but because of some of the recent swirling going on with Penn State and Joe Paterno. I am not a fan of Penn State, and I wouldn't even say I'm a huge fan of college football, but the news about the possible blind eyes that were turned about the defensive coordinator and former heir apparent of Paterno sexually abusing young boys is just heartbreaking. On more than one occasion I've heard of people refer to Penn State with reverence, even calling it Camelot. It's such a sad story to associate with the program and with Joe Pa only because he was otherwise probably one of the most revered people in all of college athletics.

It's just a sad thing to lose your innocence. What's weird is that sometimes it feels like you can lured back into believing that some things are just unthinkable, and then it happens, and you're left with nothing but heartache. It's a sad time for those boys and for Penn State.

Provo Halloween Half

There has been a theme for me this year of not preparing very well for my races. I had been running in the weeks leading up to this one, but not as regularly as I would have liked. With a pretty steep drop in elevation, about 2000 feet over the 13.1 miles, I thought it was going to shred my quads just like the Deseret News Marathon did. That one only had 1000 more feet in elevation drop, but then again, twice the distance. I also played a soccer game the night before, and although that one was too tough, I thought maybe I was self-handicapping too much to have a decent race.

Turns out I was okay. I thought I would come in somewhere around 1:50 or so because I felt less prepared for this one than I was for the Thanksgiving Point Half, and I ended up finishing that one in 1:48. The race started out right next to Aspen Grove with a temperature somewhere around 35 degrees or so. I've learned this past year that race temperatures aren't that big of a deal to me unless they are really cold ( below 30, apparently, for me) or really hot, anywhere above 85 degrees.

I didn't end up having anyone run this one with me, but I did bump into a few people I knew during the race. I ended up recycling an old mad doctor type costume I had used a few years ago and I think it worked out pretty well. Costumes are funny, because there are different audiences for each. There is the funny costume crowd, but there is also a very loyal gross costume crowd that really appreciate blood and gore. Turns out my fake blood splattered all over the front of my scrubs did the trick for these people.

I tried to hold myself back over the first several miles where the descent was steepest, but I still ended up running about seven and half minute miles over the first six miles, which was when we exited into the Provo Canyon.

Sam Cassell hitting the game winning shot: Large Marbles
My favorite: The chicken-walk
High-steppin to the end zone

The race is really spectator friendly as it follows along the Provo River Trail. I've mentioned this before, but I'll say it again, I LOVE LOVE LOVE running along the Provo River Trail. It's scenic, downhill, and just wonderful to run on. With so many parking lots scattered throughout the canyon, Amy had an easy time finding me and getting pics of me. As a result of that, I ended up coming up with as many different kinds of run-bys that I could.

Once I finished I couldn't believe how good I felt. I finished somewhere around 1:43. I didn't feel a huge need to stretch or even sit down, which turned out to be good because I had to spend the next 45 minutes sorting through bags to find my own because they were so disorganized. They still don't have race results posted even. It's a very poorly managed race. It's funny, but every time I finish one of these I have very specific complaints and suggestions that I'd like to make. It really makes me want to organize one of these some day to see if I could put together a better race. In any case, I had more fun at this race than I have had in a long time. My energy felt great, legs never gave me a problem, and I just really enjoyed the course. I'll most likely end up doing this one again. Oh! And I can't forget to mention the shirt and medal - two big reasons why I even wanted to run this one in the first place - black, longsleeve shirt with skull and crossbones, and a medal to match it. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday Round-Up

Couple of articles that I thought were interesting:
  1. This one by Charles Krauthammer about who is responsible for us losing Iraq. This excerpt, to me, is the most significant part:
    The second failure was the SOFA itself. The military recommended nearly 20,000 troops, considerably fewer than our 28,500 in Korea, 40,000 in Japan, and 54,000 in Germany. The president rejected those proposals, choosing instead a level of 3,000 to 5,000 troops.

    A deployment so risibly small would have to expend all its energies simply protecting itself — the fate of our tragic, missionless 1982 Lebanon deployment — with no real capability to train the Iraqis, build their U.S.-equipped air force, mediate ethnic disputes (as we have successfully done, for example, between local Arabs and Kurds), operate surveillance and special-ops bases, and establish the kind of close military-to-military relations that undergird our strongest alliances.

    The Obama proposal was an unmistakable signal of unseriousness. It became clear that he simply wanted out, leaving any Iraqi foolish enough to maintain a pro-American orientation exposed to Iranian influence, now unopposed and potentially lethal. Message received. Just this past week, Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurds — for two decades the staunchest of U.S. allies — visited Tehran to bend a knee to both Pres. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

    It didn’t have to be this way. Our friends did not have to be left out in the cold to seek Iranian protection. Three years and a won war had given Obama the opportunity to establish a lasting strategic alliance with the Arab world’s second most important power.
  2. And this other one by Victor Davis Hanson about how Obama has staunchly resisted the wake-up call that last November's midterm elections were. An excerpt:
    Aside from the fact that the midterm referendum clearly illustrated that the proverbial people wanted a change in Obama’s policies and voiced that desire by, in the president’s words, “shellacking” his party, LaHood’s allegations about Republican partisanship, even if they were true, still make little sense. From January 2009 to January 2011, Obama controlled the presidency, the House, and the Senate. Congress passed everything he asked for in order to revive the economy and, he said, to create jobs: Obamacare, more stimulus, new regulations, serial $1 trillion–plus deficits, almost $5 trillion in new aggregate debt, and record extensions of unemployment insurance and expansions of food stamps. Nothing seemed to help.
  3. And lastly, I think this one should be the most upsetting. From the guys at Powerline, they talk about how the Solyndra execs ended up leaving with taxpayer money. Lots of it.  It's amazing that this company handed out such large bonuses to its executives and with hardly any passage of time, months only, they went bankrupt. An example:
    Karen Alter, senior vice president of marketing, received two $55,000 bonuses on April 15 and July 8 of this year, on top of her $250,000 annual salary.
    And there's more in there about that. 
I'll get to my experience running the Provo Halloween Half Marathon this weekend, I think. Just wanted to drop that on y'all.

This song has been my anthem this week.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Around the Web

You know what's crazy? The world oil boom that has been going on. This post talks more about it. Do you know where it's not happening? The middle east. This has huge implications on world events and all the strife that is happening overseas. It's happening mostly in Canada, the US, and Brazil. There is more oil here in the United States than in all of the middle east combined. And for all of the efforts to curb drilling in Alaska and in other places, it has been exploding in North Dakota. It is so big there that there is actually a budget surplus. They are considering repealing state income taxes because there is an overflow of money. The state has a real estate shortage, and unemployment is down to 2-3% statewide. You know what else they're good at? Education. People are flocking to North Dakota. Weird, right? You won't see me there, but it's amazing what's happening.

Only a few decades ago the middle east became relevant in global economics because of the huge oil reserves found in those countries. Those countries and their issues won't disappear, but they won't have they same effect on the rest of the world that they do now. 

This article is pretty interesting. It talks about "fracking," and how all of this money went into clean energy, but the real breakthrough came in traditional energy - oil. I'm going to post a good chunk because I know very few of you will follow the link, but it's worth learning about:

Venture-capital investing is inherently high-risk, so it shouldn’t surprise or bother anyone that many of these startups failed -- some rather spectacularly. Solyndra, the solar-cell company, for example, went bankrupt even after receiving a $535 million in loan guarantees from the U.S. Energy Department. But similar failures happened during the dot-com bubble. Remember and its infamous sock-puppet TV ads?

What is worrying is that almost a decade of energy investing hasn’t produced any home runs -- no green-energy equivalents of eBay, Amazon, Google or Facebook. The modest, incremental advances we have seen don’t perceptibly move the needle on the energy problem.

In the meantime, however, a real revolution has happened in traditional energy -- one that poses a serious challenge to companies and investors betting on alternative energy. This breakthrough is arguably one of the greatest advances in energy production since the 1960s. And it came not from a Silicon Valley company, or from MIT or Stanford, but from George Mitchell, the son of a Greek goatherd who immigrated to the U.S.

After graduating from Texas A&M, Mitchell tinkered with a variety of long-known techniques that had never been used in combination. One of these was horizontal drilling, which originated in the 19th century, was adapted for oil production by the Soviets in the 1930s and was perfected by oil drillers in the 1980s. A second idea was to inject fluid into the rock to fracture it into lots of pieces, thus allowing the gas and oil inside to flow more easily.

A third technique that Mitchell tried was adding sand to the water to help prop open the cracks that formed in the rock. Together these approaches, collectively called hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” allowed drillers to inexpensively recover gas from tight shale rock.

Not so long ago, many people believed that the cost of oil and gas would rise indefinitely, thus supporting the market for alternatives. Mitchell’s miracle has changed that calculus, much to the chagrin of the Silicon Valley venture capitalists who caught the green-energy bug."

Anyway, kinda neat.

Lastly, there is this article that I shared on Facebook last night that asks the question, are public teachers underpaid? The answer, as you might guess from knowing anything about my politics, is no. It's an interesting article though, and if you read, you'll be ready to respond to all of the annoying Facebook posts about how nobody appreciates teachers and they are grossly underpaid and all that garbage. After posting it last night, a couple people commented at length on it, asking questions that were actually answered in the article itself, not the blurb that's posted in that link. What's interesting to me is how emotional the conversation gets anytime anyone mentions anything about teachers and education. It surprises me that the subject is as touchy as it is. I'm excited to watch Waiting for Superman.

For all of you who made it this far, congrats. I feel like no one ever gets through these politics/current events posts.

Is it possible for feet to look gay?

Because I think these do. I was looking for the white cotton, striped socks that were so common in the 70s and 80s, but seemingly impossible to find now, and I came across this pic. Those are supposed to be a man's feet, but those socks and that pose make me wonder.