Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Thesis Progress (really)

I haven't had a personal post in what feels like a little while. Maybe it hasn't been that long. I can't really remember. This one isn't too personal. Just an update on school stuff.

I have been a graduate student at BYU for far too long to not have another degree. My thesis project has been the main thing slowing me down. That has partly been my own fault, but I will say that my committee chair hasn't been a ton of help either. There was a time last summer where I actually waited two, almost three months, before he gave me feedback on my thesis draft. It was a little bit ridiculous.

With impending events soon to occur in September, I really need to make some significant progress on my thesis so that it wouldn't hang over me through the Fall.

So I ended up changing my thesis topic. My original topic, sexual harassment, was going to be a beast to collect data on. It was at the point of being ready to be defended, and to begin data collection, but my committee kind of fell apart with the summer months, and in late May when it was ready to go, it was looking like mid to late July would be the soonest it could be scheduled. It was ridiculous.

So late last month, I talked to the Associate Chair of the Master's Program, whom I also happen to work with a lot at the internship office, and mentioned to him that I was thinking of changing my topic to something related to the internship office. The data was going to be a million times easier to collect, and I knew that he was interested that I finish as soon as possible. So it began.

In month's time, I got farther than I had in the last 3+ years with my other project. Today I defended my prospectus, I'll send in my application for review to get permission to survey human subjects. That will hopefully move through by next week, and we can collect data the next couple weeks. Hopefully data analysis can get done quickly, and hopefully it will only take me a few weeks to finish.

It's just amazing to me because it looks like this could actually wrap up pretty soon. I might have to kill myself to get it done before the baby arrives, but I think it's a real possibility.

And it makes me a little giddy to think about.

In 2 years time, I will have at least two graduate degrees from BYU. I could have a PhD also. Depending on my mood, I go back and forth on whether I want to finish it or not. The thing is, I could actually turn my work on sexual harassment into a dissertation. In which case, it's actually pretty far along then because it's already at the point of being ready to defend.

That's kind of amazing to think about. Then it actually isn't that far off from being done. Granted, data collection will be horrifying. Because it's an experimental design, we can only run subjects one at a time, for about 45-60 minutes at a time, and we'd need to get at least 100 participants, and ideally 150. So it was going to take months to complete data collection. And then there's the analysis and write-up, but still...

Anyway, things are actually moving along now. Real progress is being made. And that's really nice and probably more than you really wanted to know.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

These and Those

No real meaning in the post title. Sometimes I title these potpourri style posts "This and That" so I just decided to pluralize it. There ya go.

There's something really touching to me about this photo:

That is the South Korean President bowing to the nation as he apologizes for a bribery scandal that his older brother and former aides had a part in. Cultural customs can be beautiful, and there is something to me really beautiful about a world leader who knows he is beholden to his people for the actions that those close to him make, bowing to his people in acknowledgement of the mistakes that have been made. There's just so much humility and regret in that gesture, no?

The Aurora tragedy. I was listening to some talk radio the other day and one of the people was saying that we need to move away from even mentioning the name of the killer. Charles Manson is famous to this day because we have glorified him, however grotesquely, but that still helps those people achieve what they seek after - fame. So while this story is about the less than noble actions of one horrified father, this one details three boyfriends who gave their lives for their girlfriends:

Great evil often brings out the best in good men, men like Todd Beamer on Flight 93, Medal of Honor recipient Michael Murphy in Afghanistan, and now the Aurora three -- the three young men, each in different parts of theater nine, who gave their lives to protect their girlfriends.

Twenty-five-year-old Jon Blunk was sitting next to his girlfriend, Jansen Young, at the midnight premiere of "The Dark Night Rises" when the gunman (who shall remain nameless) opened fire in the dark theater. Blunk instinctively pushed his girlfriend to the ground and threw his body on top of hers. Blunk, a security guard, served eight years in the Navy and was in the process of re-enlisting in hopes of becoming a Navy SEAL, family and friends said. He was killed in the gunfire; his girlfriend survived.

Twenty-four-year-old Alex Teves dived on top of his girlfriend, Amanda Lindgren, when the gunfire erupted. Covering her body, he took the bullets so they did not harm her. She survived the massacre; he did not.

Matt McQuinn, 27 years old, threw his body in front of his girlfriend, Samantha Yowler, as the shooting continued. Yowler survived with a gunshot wound to the knee; McQuinn's body absorbed the fatal shots.

These men were three of the 12 innocent people killed early that morning. Their incredible sacrifice leaves us asking: Why? Why would a young man with his entire life ahead of him risk everything for a woman he has no legal, financial or marital obligations to?

I think I have a post brewing just about the Aurora stuff. (The other story is about a guy who, when the shots started firing, left his fiancee and two children, ran out of the theater, and even drove away from the scene. As my friend said, a real life Costanza.)

And, lastly, a couple articles about Justice Roberts and his possible end game, here and here. Chief Justice Roberts has received a lot of criticism about his decision, but as these articles mention, he actually might have been the one person with the most foresight when it comes to the whole health care issue. A couple excerpts, first, from the The Atlantic:

Many are saying Chief Justice Robert's decision to sustain Obamacare was designed to preserve the long-term political capital of the Court. I think he simply made the decision he ultimately decided was right on the tax issue, which the precedent strongly supported. But to the extent a long-term political angle may have subconsciously motivated him, there is a large one that commentators have so far missed.

The unseen long game is that sustaining Obamacare as a tax helps preserve the Republicans' ability to adopt two items on their own political wish list: the Paul Ryan plan to privatize Medicare and George W. Bush's plan to privatize Social Security.

Consider the Ryan plan. It would convert Medicare into a voucher that seniors could use toward buying medical insurance from either Medicare or private insurers. The voucher amount would equal the cost of the second-cheapest plan, so if traditional Medicare is not one of the two cheapest plans, individuals would have to buy a private plan to avoid paying extra.

In short, under the Ryan plan, Medicare would become a mandate to make contributions into a Medicare trust that you would later draw from to buy yourself medical insurance, which could be from a private insurer, and might have to be so in order to avoid paying a penalty. This looks a lot like Obamacare's mandate to buy yourself medical insurance. There are two seeming differences, but neither is telling. 

And now the Capretta and Levin piece from NRO:

Essentially, the Court struck down the mandate while retaining the penalty. So those champions of Obamacare who relied on behavioral economics to argue that the law’s individual mandate could be sufficient to avert an insurance death spiral must now contend with the fact that the Court has closed off that argument.

In the wake of the Roberts decision, participation in Obamacare’s insurance scheme is optional. Rather than a requirement to buy coverage backed with a penalty for violators, the law now offers Americans two equally lawful and legitimate options: buy expensive insurance (which Obamacare will make all the more expensive), or pay a modest (and still largely unenforceable) tax and just buy insurance for the same price later if you need it. Presented as a choice, not a command, this provision will invite a straightforward comparison, and for many Americans the choice it would pose would be a very easy one.

Obamacare was always going to lead to a disastrous meltdown of America’s health-insurance system, but in the wake of the Court’s decision, many of its former defenders should acknowledge this fact too. If you argued that the mandate was the linchpin of the system, and that it would work despite its low and unenforceable penalty because Americans are a law-abiding people, you should now see that the mandate as you understood it no longer exists. The CBO should certainly acknowledge this in its new score of the law’s effects on federal spending and the uninsured, due out later this month.

Of course, this doesn’t really make Obamacare optional, because although the law can no longer order consumers to buy what insurers are selling, it still strictly defines what insurers may sell. People would therefore only have a choice between Obamacare and nothing. Many will prefer nothing, but that’s hardly a great set of options to choose from.

Obamacare is optional in a different, more important way, however. The November election will serve as a referendum on the law, which can be repealed in 2013 with new political leadership. The Supreme Court’s decision has made the case for repeal even stronger.

There is a lot at stake in this upcoming election, this being one of the main issues.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

You Didn't Build That

So by now you have probably heard a good amount about this speech. What's funny is that Obama supporters are claiming that the President is being quoted out of context, but just as Romney notes in this cut from the Kudlow show, the context is worse than the quote:

Thomas Sowell notes in his column:

All the high-flown talk about how people who are successful in business should "give back" to the community that created the things that facilitated their success is, again, something that sounds plausible to people who do not stop and think through what is being said. After years of dumbed-down education, that apparently includes a lot of people.

Take Obama's example of the business that benefits from being able to ship their products on roads that the government built. How does that create a need to "give back"?

Did the taxpayers, including business taxpayers, not pay for that road when it was built? Why should they have to pay for it twice?

What about the workers that businesses hire, whose education is usually created in government-financed schools? The government doesn't have any wealth of its own, except what it takes from taxpayers, whether individuals or businesses. They have already paid for that education. It is not a gift that they have to "give back" by letting politicians take more of their money and freedom.

When businesses hire highly educated people, such as chemists or engineers, competition in the labor market forces them to pay higher salaries for people with longer years of valuable education. That education is not a government gift to the employers. It is paid for while it is being created in schools and universities, and it is paid for in higher salaries when highly educated people are hired.

One of the tricks of professional magicians is to distract the audience's attention from what they are doing while they are creating an illusion of magic. Pious talk about "giving back" distracts our attention from the cold fact that politicians are taking away more and more of our money and our freedom.

I think those examples that those liberal politicians give are so funny. Yes, government created all of those roads, but do people and businesses who pay the taxes that fund the building of infrastructure serve to build the roads or does the infrastructure exist to serve the people?

What's interesting about the President's comments is that this has been called by many to be a defining moment of this campaign season. They reveal what he truly believes, and it seems to be something that is out of step with the electorate. It has also given Romney his voice.

The last week or so since the comments have been made, Romney has been seen has having renewed vigor, and it happens to be an area that is directly within the strengths that Romney possesses - stimulating business.

John Podhoertz had this to say about Romney:

The president’s “you didn’t build that” statement has not only framed the race between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney exactly as Romney needed, it has transformed Romney’s campaign. He gave a very good speech last week at the NAACP convention, but even the strength of that performance was as nothing next to what he’s done over the past two days. I’ve now watched Romney’s speeches yesterday and today centering on the remark and its meaning, and what I’m seeing is a Mitt Romney come alive—or at least, a Romney new to me. He has always been articulate and with a command of facts and figures, but the distanced awkwardness that accompanied them has suddenly vanished. In their place is a loose, fluid, confident, and passionate spokesman defending the free enterprise system against Obama’s government-centered approach. Romney has done something you hear people talk about theoretically but which doesn’t often happen—he has found his voice as a presidential candidate. And it’s all due to Barack Obama. I hope a fruit basket is on the way to the White House. It would only be polite.

This election season is going to be interesting.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

I can't believe  how excited I am about this movie. I guess the last movie I was this excited for was either the last Dark Knight movie, or maybe even Inception. Christopher Nolan can simply do no wrong. I have never had such consistently high expectations and had them so consistently met at the same time.

The amount of hype surrounding the movie is crazy. Tonight, at our local theater, there will be 11 showings at the midnight hour, meaning every screen in that movie theater will be showing The Dark Knight Rises. I've never seen anything like that before. I'm not even sure that The Avengers had that kind of hype.

Rotten Tomatoes shows reviews at around 87%, which is really great.

I just can't wait.
Just over 30 hours to go. I'm so glad we're going to see it in the IMAX.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Knick Knacks and Paddy Whacks

Kite-boarding looks like one of the raddest things ever. E.V.E.R.

The Church recently came out with this statement regarding its financial independence. This statement is probably coming out as a response to the Business Week article that came out a few days ago that you can find here. I actually know one of the guys who commented in the article, described as a devout member. This is the same guy that I referred to in a post from a few weeks ago. He and some of his buddies were the ones who supplied a number of the quotes in the article, and although they are mostly benign, I'm not sure they are entirely accurate, nor am I sure that they reflect the feelings of mainstream membership. These guys are not mainstream by any means.

It seems that a good number of people are having difficulty with the Church's involvement on the City Creek Mall, and how much money went into that. Some questions have been raised about how much money went into that project versus how much is given to humanitarian aid, that the numbers seems to be not well distributed. Others ask about the Church's financial transparency and why is it that the public doesn't have detailed knowledge about all of the Church's financial holdings and actions. The same guys I mentioned above wonder aloud why the Church disclosed everything up until the 1950s or 1960s, but curbed that practice. This to me is a non-issue. If we trust the leadership, believe its inspired, then why can't we trust that it's no longer necessary to continue that practice? That may be blind faith to some, but that seems a fundamental faith concept to me.

Lastly, the Utah v. BYU football rivalry is off during the 2015-2016 seasons.This is really foolish to me. The Utes called it off presumably because they either didn't want to have to deal with BYU's team and possibly disrupting their opportunities at a title run by losing to the Cougars, or there is more to be gained from a non-regional opponent whose program maybe has more national prestige. There are all kinds of things wrong with this kind of thinking, but I think the biggest is sacrificing a rivalry that goes to the core of passion within your fan-base. What does competition even mean anymore if there is no longer a team that you're desperately trying to beat? Any Yankees fan will always say that a win against the Red Sox is more meaningful than one against the Royals. Pick any other dozens of rivalries and that's the case. It gives meaning to the competition and without it, what is it that makes sports interesting anymore?

But alas, this is how things seem to be going all over the place in sports. How does Ray Allen join the Heat after what has happened the last several years? How does Nash go to the Lakers? (Although I will say, I never really considered the Suns a "rival". They were never both peaking at the same time, so that one doesn't mean as much to me. Pierce to the Lakers though? That's another story. Yuck.)

Anyway, back to the Utah-BYU games. Is there anything else that carries as much weight in sports in all of Utah? Not even close. Local sports talk radio doesn't even talk about anything else besides the Jazz and college football. And college football has much more broad appeal. It's a terrible thing.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Call Me, Maybe

A friend of mine did a post on the phenomenon of this song recently, and I wanted to jump on that train too, but missed the boat. Then I took a car ride to an airplane...I have derailed...

...and I'm back!

Okay, his post is here. His brother did a video too, and it's actually pretty good. I don't know anyone in it, so I can validate him in that respect. Anyway, there are a number of covers/parodies...

This one got the ball rolling:

And this one got a lot of attention too:

As did this one:

And now there is this one that I think is really fun:

Has there been another song that the world has heard more times in a several month span like this one? I don't think so. It doesn't hurt being the catchiest song ever.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

California Dreamin'

My apologies to you, Constant Reader. I left without even so much as a goodbye, but be happy to know that I'm back.

Amy had a trade show down in San Diego, and because it was close enough to the 4th of July, I came down and picked her up and we made a good 9 or 10 days of it. We have plenty of video and pictures to share, but let me give an overview of the trip and some tidbits:

  • Arrive Wednesday to lunch in Irvine with Dave and Caitlin and the kiddos, napped, and then straight down to pick up my lovely wife in San Diego where we stayed in the luxurious Omni Hotel and ate on her company's per diem at Cheesecake Factory.
  • Thursday turned into a really fun day as the overcast sky burnt off quickly and we visited Pt. Loma in San Diego and walked around the tide pools and such. Something that I just love, love, love about my wife is how easy going she is. Without much of a plan and a willingness to go anywhere or do anything, she is just always fun to be around. Even pregnant, with her back achy, and her feet swelling up from time to time, she is a real trooper. This would come in handy a number of times during this trip as traffic or just getting lost would crop up and while a lot of people might get soured, she just always has such a great attitude. I cannot say enough about how much I value this quality in her. 
  • Friday beach with the Reids, wonderful day, but sadly, neither her nor I took many pics or video because we thought the 4th would give us our fill of beach related pictures...
  • Saturday pool with Dave and Mason. IHOP for dinner. Games.
  • Sunday baby blessing of Doug and Kris' baby boy, Sean. That was really fun because I've actually never been present for any of the blessings or Ryan's baptism. It's just never worked out. We got to see Doug and Kris' new place, visit with the Reid family, and see some old friends. Really fun. We also picked up a stroller and car seat.
  • Monday LA day. Amy drove up in the morning to LA. We dropped by Venice beach, walked the boardwalk, saw the skatepark (which I really loved seeing), then made our way to Santa Monica. We walked the pier and then had lunch at the hipsters only joint, Swingers. It's a really fun little place and was totally packed at 2pm on a Monday. Then we made our way over for some pics in front of the LA County Museum of Art with the light pole display , and we shot for some sightseeing around Dodger Stadium as we were going to see the game that night against the Reds with good friends, Matt and Laura, but we encountered the mess of downtown LA, no parking, and one way streets, all while searching for a convenient bathroom. After an hour (no exaggeration) of driving, we finally gave up and started making our way back to the stadium. We had great seats with Matt and Laura, and it was really fun to visit with them. I love how chatty Laura is, and it's crazy to think we've been friends for so long. It was my first trip to Dodger Stadium. Loved: the organ, palm trees in the back, view of the city form the stadium, and the regular who dressed up and sang Don't Stop Believing during the 8th inning, and all the foul balls coming our way.
    (If you're curious, he's actually an actor and was in Easy A. I think he's the chubby kid at the pool who propositions the girl. Interview with him here.) Didn't love: Dodger dog and Dodgers suckin' it up.
  • Tuesday saw my brother...and I don't remember what else we did.
  • Wednesday 4th of July beach day. Left early, had little trouble parking, but the whole day was overcast. Up until this day, the weather had been awesome, but it didn't get hot enough to burn off the cloud cover, so no one went in the water, and we didn't get as much video or photos with the cloudy skies. A shame. Fireworks at Tustin High.
  • Saw Mom again. Amy and I saw Moonrise Kingdom, which, if you're a Wes Anderson fan (Fantastic Mr. Fox, Royal Tennenbaums, Rushmore, etc.) then you'll like this one. Dinner with Doug and Kris at Woodranch Grill, an awesome restaurant I had never tried before. Angels game, and a good one too. Angels win 9-7, and my first exposure to the magic that is Mike Trout. Oh, and I finally got to try the Kogi BBQ truck. Too much flavor for my pregnant wife, but I just loved it. I'm sad that it's taken me so long to finally have some.
  • Friday drive home. Stopped at a few places to let Amy's swollen feet settle down. One of those places was the Calico Ghost Town, a place I've always seen on that UT-CA trip on the I-15, but never took the time to stop at. It was fun to check it out. Very touristy now. Once I'd like to see just a completely abandoned ghost town with no one occupying it. Just empty and ruined. That'd be really cool and a little haunting.
Something really fun about these trips is hanging with the Reids, seeing all the kids, playing games and all that, but what I really enjoyed this time was seeing all the little girls. Quinn (15 or 16 months), Madison (5ish), and Kathryn (about 3) are just some of the cutest most fun kids.  It just made me so excited to think about having my own little girl next year and doing beach and pool stuff with them. I can't wait for it.