Sunday, December 30, 2007

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Nebraska Dumb State Laws

Go to and enter your state.

Here are a few of Nebraska's:

-If a child burps during church, his parent may be arrested.

-It is illegal to go whale fishing.

-It is illegal for bar owners to sell beer unless they are simultaneously brewing a kettle of soup.

City laws within Nebraska that are dumb:

For the city of Lehigh:
Doughnut holes may not be sold.

A man is not allowed to run around with a shaved chest.

Keep that in mind...

Friday, December 28, 2007

Cool Links/Hints

1) I was listening to a lecture online from Berkeley where the professor recommended using the version for purchasing textbooks. He mentioned that the UK sets the pricing for their textbooks and this typically means a reduced price. However, once purchased, these books cannot be sold back to universities. There is a special mark in the UK sold materials. I was able to just randomly choose a textbook, enter the conversion rate and the Amazon UK book was about 7 dollars cheaper. Almost a 14% savings.

2) Donate your computing power from home. Thousands of personal computers (and game systems), being linked together via the internet, are surpassing supercomputer processing capabilities and are helping analyze some of the most intractable problems facing our world. Using BOINC (Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing) software you can download from the internet, you can volunteer for several projects: climate change in Africa, dengue fever, analyzing candidate drugs to stop the AIDS virus, etc. These projects borrow your processing power while the computer is on, but not being used. A BOINC screensaver shows the computer being harnessed for these worthwhile projects. An expansion of thought for people who are serious about tithing EVERYTHING (time, money, resources, etc.).

3) The advent of contests and public querys. Foundations are offering millions of dollars for the winners in the following categories: a) 100 MPG vehicle, $10 million purse b) astronaut glove, $400K purse. c) sequence 100 genomes in 10 days at a cost of 10K per genome, $10m purse. d) greenhouse gas scrubber, $25m purse. e) solve seven unsolved math problems, $1m purse per problem, f) improve Netflix movie recommendations, purse $1m. g) land on the moon, travel 500 feet and send data to earth. $20m purse. These and more from the latest issue of Wired magazine. Also, go to for a list of problems Fortune 500 companies are experiencing. See their deadlines and the prices they are willing to pay to solve these problems. Supposedly, these contests and public offers are quite successful as they bring a much wider talent pool to bear on particular problems.

4) Dateline has a special tonight about fake document services. Evidently Lima, Peru is a hotspot. Fake IDs were first created and then real passports from the fake IDs. Undercover journalists were able to travel between Peru and Chile. This is from the teaser on the Today show this morning. I remember Henry Kissinger talking about holding a fake Italian passport in case he was taken hostage. If he can do it....

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Heading Home to Milwaukee

I'm headed out on the early flight tomorrow morning. Should arrive in Milwaukee around 7AM Christmas Eve.

We celebrate Swedish style. The celebration, family get-together, and gift giving take place on Christmas Eve. Someone usually reads from Luke 2, which is one of my favorite memories.

Dinner involves swedish meatballs, rice pudding with lingonberries, korve (a potato sausage), and Dad breaks out the pickled herring. And a few non-Swedish dishes thrown in like ham, casseroles, etc. Every year Dad walks around offering guests the pickled herring, knowing that none of us like it but him. Its his joke that never gets old.

One year, my dear sister Catherine hosted our Christmas Eve celebration and prepared all authentic Swedish dishes, including lutfisk. Lutfisk is a perfectly good whitefish that is "ruined" by chemically burning it (its process of cooking it) and then the preparer washes it/soaks it really good.
It was an extremely enjoyable Christmas Eve and she prepared it right. Its just a Swedish tradition that I don't think will be carried on in the family. But kudos to her for trying and valuing tradition.

Mom and Dad always go to so much work to host our time together. Micah, Richie, and Catherine will be there (they weren't at Thanksgiving) and I'm really excited to see them. Rachel cannot be there. She's been given a Florida vacation for a couple of weeks (can't say I blame her leaving wintery WI for a couple weeks).

I hope that you all have a wonderful Christmas celebrating our Savior's birth. Thanks to all those who've sent Christmas letters and photos.

Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Weird Day(s).. (Will Come Back to Super Crunchers)

1) Yesterday, my mobile phone went from full-charge to low battery in about 6-8 hours. Without much talking. I even let people go early from conversations because of the beeping (real beeping) phone. I think its going to die at any moment. Which I've heard is good for cell-phones. Drain the battery and then recharge every once in awhile.

Anyway, so its beeping and beeping. I take it with me so as soon as it dies I can recharge it. 29 hours later I give up. I recharge it.

It never died. It pretended at the very end.... It wouldn't call, but it will do everything else. I could play games on it; I could listen to ringtones. And the every 5 minute beep.

2) Every once in awhile you'll see it. A guy who drops his pants to use the urinal. Unnecessary...but it sometimes happens. Thankfully todays' example didn't go barebottom.

Super Crunchers is one of the most thought provoking books I've read in a long time.
If other people won't tire of it, I'll reference some sections that tackle:

-why some airlines, who know that frequent fliers won't change their carrier, will give worse treatment to those frequent fliers, but instead bend over backwards for the fliers that paid the most for their seat(s).
-how minorities and women get worse interest rates and pay higher prices at car dealerships
-how companies know that people purchase more pop-tarts when a hurricane strikes and so ship more pop-tarts to the stores when there is even news of an impending hurricane
-ask the question whether doctors are doing the right tests in annual physicals.
-delve into the "Magic Number" scam in government open bid contracts.
-whether good wine can be predicted with a formula that beats the experts, using just a few variables including average temperature and average rainfall in a particular region.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Small Snow Storm

My super went out this morning to clear the snow.

Instead of using a shovel, broom, or snow blower, he chose a leaf blower to blow the snow off the sidewalks. He has this awesome beard that become completely enveloped in the powdery snow.

Awesome. He gave up after about 6 feet and came back with an actual snow blower.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Super Crunchers

Day #3

I know you missed day 2. I wrote something for yesterday, but since it highlighted a website that has been taken down, its relevance seems to be in question.

From Super Crunchers, p. 59:

"In September 2000, the press started running with the story of a guy who said that when he deleted the cookies on his computer (which identified him as a regular Amazon customer), Amazon's quoted price for DVDs fell from $26.24 to $22.74. A lot of customers were suddenly worried that Amazon was rigging the Internet. The company quickly apologized, saying that the difference was the result of a random price test. In no uncertain terms CEO Jeff Bezos declared, "We've never tested and we never will test prices based on customer demographics."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Super Crunchers

I read this book over the weekend and was blown away. It has a similar feel to Freakonomics for you lovers of that read.

I wanted to highlight about 5 interesting facts from that book on successive days.

Day 1:
For WMF staff....there is a website entitled that may be useful to you. This website is useful for people who wonder when they should purchase their tickets. Should they buy tickets now or wait to see if the price drops? It always seems a gamble.

This website uses regression analysis (based on lots of different historical factors, date, and special events) to make a prediction about whether airlines fares are expected to go up, remain steady or go down. This can help someone make a determination about buying tickets now or waiting.

One problem is that only larger cities in the US are currently available. The datasets for other cities have not been compiled. However, you can also recommend that your city be added to their analysis.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Interesting Science Development #2

Taken from, but originally published by Popular Science. By Megan Miller.

In recent months, PopSci has covered various scientists' plans to curb global warming through carbon sequestration, mainly by feeding it to algae to make biofuel, or burying it underground.

Skymine uses the carbon dioxide emitted from smokestacks to make baking soda.

Today, a company called Skyonic announced a novel new system, Skymine, which uses the carbon dioxide emitted from smokestacks to make baking soda. According to Skyonic CEO Joe David Jones, the system will be powered by waste heat from factories, and will produce food-grade baking soda.

Last year, the utility company Luminant installed a pilot version of the system at its Big Brown Steam Electric Station in Fairfield, Texas.
There's still quite a bit of work to be done to make the current system viable on a large scale, but the baking soda idea offers solutions to some of the economic problems posed by other carbon sequestration methods.
For starters, according to Jones, the stuff can be sold for home or industrial use or buried harmlessly in landfills or abandoned mines.

Jones apparently got the idea for the SkyMine system while watching a Discovery Channel show with his kids. He pulled out an old college science textbook and immediately turned to a passage about converting C02 to baking soda. He'd found it interesting years ago and highlighted it for future reference.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Interesting Science Development #1

Turning Water into Fuel

A cancer researcher stumbles upon a way to set saltwater aflame. Neat trick, but is his discovery useful? By Michael Stroh November 2007
Abbreviated from Popular Science

Last winter, inventor John Kanzius was already attempting one seemingly impossible feat—building a machine to cure cancer with radio waves—when his device inadvertently succeeded in another: He made saltwater catch fire. TV footage of his bizarre discovery has been burning up the blogosphere ever since, drawing crackpots and Ph.D.s alike into a raging debate. Can water burn? And if so, what good can come of it?
Some people gush over the invention's potential for desalinization or cheap energy. Briny seawater, after all, sloshes over most of the planet's surface, and harnessing its heat energy could power all sorts of things. Skeptics say Kanzius's radio generator is sucking up far more energy than it's creating, making it a carnival trick at best.
For now, Kanzius is tuning out the hubbub. The retired radio- and television- station owner says the saltwater stuff is interesting, but a cancer breakthrough is what he's really after. Diagnosed with leukemia in 2002, he began building his radio-wave blaster the next year, soon after a relapse. His lifelong fascination with radio provided further inspiration.
The saltwater phenomenon happened by accident when an assistant was bombarding a saline-filled test tube with radio waves and bumped the tube, causing a small flash. Curious, Kanzius struck a match. "The water lit like a propane flame," he recalls.
"People said, 'It's a crock. Look for hidden electrodes in the water,' " says Penn State University materials scientist Rustum Roy, who visited the Erie, Pennsylvania, inventor in his lab in August after seeing the feat on Google Video. A demo made Roy a believer. "This is discovery science in the best tradition," he says. Roy thinks the sodium chloride in the water may weaken the bonds between the oxygen and hydrogen atoms, which are broken free by radio waves. It's these gas molecules that are igniting, he explains, not the liquid itself. Tests show that the reaction disappears once the radio waves stop. Roy plans to conduct more tests to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Meanwhile, researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center have made progress using Kanzius's technology to fight cancer in animals. They published their findings last month in the journal Cancer.
How to Burn Saltwater as Fuel: Inventor John Kanzius managed to burn saltwater to generate power. Here's how: 1. A generator emits 14-megahertz radio waves.2 . The waves bombard a solution of regular table salt and water.3. Exactly what happens next remains a mystery, but one theory posits that the sodium chloride may weaken the bonds between the strong>oxygen and hydrogen atoms in water. Radio waves break apart the bonds and liberate flammable hydrogen gas molecules. 4. A match ignites the hydrogen, generating an intense flame. 5. The resulting heat powers a simple engine.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Check your mail for what may seem like spam...

A couple days ago I received a letter about a settled lawsuit with major credit card companies VISA, Mastercard, and maybe Diners Club. It involved purchases or ATM withdrawals overseas and entitled me to part of the settlement. I can choose one of three options. Option #1 is $25 back immediately, options #2 and #3 involve percentages paid back for what I spent overseas via credit card or took in withdrawals. The time period is close to 10 years in the late 90's and early 00's. This looks a settled class action suit.

I plan to choose option #1. I'll keep folks informed whether I get the funds promised. I'd like to think that WMF staff especially can make BANK on this...if they've been consistently using their personal credit cards the last few years for major purchases (including travel) while overseas or even getting their salary from ATM credit card withdrawals. I'm hoping this might be a nice Christmas present. I figure WMF staff members could receive anywhere between $25 and $200 if they participate.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Being Home for Thanksgiving was Awesome!

I am SO thankful for family!!! I enjoy our time together and look forward to it all year.

For family: I've put up a slideshow to the right that shows 4 pictures (unfortunately only 4) but if you click on the pictures, you'll be taken to flickr's site which will show the remaining 42. Also, some of you may notice that, while I took a photo of you during the party, it isn't on flickr's site. I was disappointed with my picture taking ability and deleted some that were too dark or otherwise poor quality.

A special thanks to Mom and Dad for their hardwork and to Tobias for all the laughter. Richie, Micah, and Catherine...we missed you!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Compliment Invalidated?

While at church a few weeks ago, the lady in the pew in front of me complimented me on my singing. She recommended that I join the worship team upfront.

She mentioned that she was tone-deaf and that she could never sing upfront with the worship team or with the choir.

Still a compliment?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Time to Clean the Blender

After not using my blender for several months and having a hard time separating the components, I decided to try to clean the blender using agitation.. Agitation like in a washing machine.

Put in water and dishwashing liquid. Turn on blender. Clean as a whistle.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Whats the most communistic org. in the States?

I was thinking the other day that one of the institutions that looks most communist is one that fights communism...our military.

Let's take a closer look:

-while not a classless social organization, it receives most of its recruits from one segment of the population: the poor.

-it punishes dissent.

-it rewards those who accept the "party" ideology and promotes them.

-there is only the possibility of state run jobs. if you happen to do something you're good at, its usually an accident.

even though you take the ASFAB before entering the military (to match your strengths with your position, the likelihood that you actually do what you love, what you were trained for, or what you're good at doesn't match anecdotal evidence. my brother, who was excited about learning the trade of air conditioning repair, was saddened to find both a) that army air conditioners bear no resemblance to commercial air conditioners in the states and therefore renders most of his training useless and b) that he has spent much of his time shredding paper. unfortunately, he is set to be posted to iraq soon...presumably to be an infantryman.

-employment and job security are most important in a state-run job.

-less motivated workforce. up till now, said brother has recounted the laziness of those in the military. "go out drinking the night before, call in sick the next day. there is no ceiling for sick days. want to observe extra holidays? the military can observe all US holidays plus all the holidays in the country they are serving."

-wear the same thing, look the same, eat the same thing.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Chiropractor Visit

The last few months I've been visiting a chiropractor here in Omaha. I started going because of some lower back pain.

The ritual is always the same: 30 seconds of alignment for my back, neck, and right knee and then 20 minutes in another room for "shock therapy". This treatment allows me to lie face down and have electrodes placed at different intervals on my back.

Sometime I have 4 electrodes placed, sometimes 8. When I have 4 placed, they have been arranged differently each time. Sometimes 2 around my shoulders and 2 on my lower back. Sometimes 2 on my lower/middle back and 2 on my lower back.

I don't understand why they are placed where they are, except that they seem to be around nerve endings. And why sometimes 4, sometimes 8? Sometimes there are also "lasers" placed on my middle lower back and ice packs placed in different places.

Sometimes they actually hit the nerve ending and I can't take the "shocks" as strong as normal. My favorite is when the electrodes are placed at my shoulders. There is an involuntary jump in my arms when these "shocks" take place. It looks like I'm doing the chicken dance while lying on the table.

The technician dialed down the treatment a couple months ago, when she saw/heard my arms hitting the wall next to me. My chicken dance on the table was disturbing.

But really fun.

New Books Read

Things We Couldn't Say, Confessions of An Economic Hit Man.

Things We Couldn't Say was written by a Dutch woman who helped in the Dutch Resistance by providing ration cards and fake IDS for Jewish people in hiding during WWII. Good read. Had the blessing of hearing the author at Michael and Laura Alley's a couple of years ago.

Confessions of An Economic Hit Man is an important read. Incredibly depressing. The destruction caused by the marriage of US industry, government, and our military has overthrown leaders of governments, murdered and tortured, and enslaved populations with crippling debt. Run through the list of leaders/countries affected in the last 60 years: Iran (Mossadegh overthrown; committed to house arrest), Chile (Allende killed in coup and dictator Pinochet installed), Panama (assassinated Torrijos and installed military dictator Noriega who fell out of favor and was later arrested and put on trial in US in gross violation of international law), Guatemala (coup against Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán; he was exiled), Iraq (Hussein tried in kangaroo court and executed), Ecuador (Jaime Roldas; assassinated), Indonesia (Sukarno forced under house arrest after successful coup), attempted in Venezuela (Chavez; acknowledged by US State Department in coup attempt), attempted in Cuba (most well-known because of its failure against Castro), and these incidents don't cover anything the US attempted outside of the work-related or regional knowledge of the author.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Does The US Exhibit Malignant Narcissism?

Let me start with some backround from M. Scott Peck, demonstrating the common ways that a large organization may exhibit less than desirable traits and then ask the question whether the US, as a large organization, exhibits some of the traits consistent with malignant narcissism.

Peck says that "human groups tend to behave in much the same ways as human individuals-except at a level that is more primitive and immature." "why the behavior of groups is...from a psychological standpoint, less than the sum of their parts." p. 216

Peck describes several factors associated with group behavior that influence this primitiveness.

1) Specialization.

While Peck says that specialization has in many been an advantage in groups it also leads to the fragmentation of conscience. For instance, in war, when asked about the morality of the participants' part in the process, the responsibility was always assigned to another "department". "'Oh we appreciate your concerns, but I'm afraid you've come to the wrong people....This is the ordinance branch. We just supply the weapons-we don't determine how and why they're used. That's policy. What you want to do is talk to the policy people down the hall'. And if I followed this suggestion and expressed the same concerns in the policy branch, this was the reponse: 'Oh we understand that there are broad issues involved, but I'm afraid they're beyond our purview. We simply determine how the war will be conducted not whether it will be conducted'." p. 217 And on and on it went...we didn't make the bomb, we didn't drop the bomb, we didn't give the order. "Whenever the roles of individuals within a group become specialized, it becomes both possible and easy for the individual to pass the moral buck to some other part of the group....the conscience of the group can become so fragmented and diluted as to be nonexistent." p.218

In a group setting, it is much easier for an individual not to feel guilt for wrongdoing because the conscience is so fragmented.

2) Regression (Refers to acting like a child despite adulthood)

"Individuals not only routinely regress in times of stress, they also regress in group settings." p. 223 Peck says that this has to do mainly with giving power quickly to a group leader and the corresponding laziness with being a follower or group member.

3) Narcissim.

In a group setting, this is "manifested as group pride" or "enemy creation". "Deficiencies within the group can be easily and painlessly overlooked by focusing attention on the deficiencies or 'sins' of the out-group." p. 225
"Just as the highly narcissistic (evil) individual will strike out to destroy whoever challenges his or her self-image of perfection", so will a group.

"We are our attitudes. If someone criticizes an attitude of mine, I feel he or she is criticizing me. If one of my opinions is proved wrong, then I have been wrong. My self-image of perfection has been shattered. Individuals and nations cling to obsolete and outworn ideas not simply because it requires work to change them but also because, in their narcissism, they cannot imagine that their ideas and views could be wrong." p. 240

4) Victimization

We start with the premise that we are not a "villainous people". Since the enemy outside has already been created, we are the ones who have been wronged. This justifies conflict.

We are righteous, good-hearted, generous people. If we become villians it is because we are unwitting. We are villians out of ignorance. p.249 Peck says that laziness is an essential counterpart to evil. Evil is not resisted precisely because people are lazy.

5) Submission

Everything must submit to the organization; it does not submit to anything else. Therefore, it renders itself mentally unhealthy (refer to early Peck post).

"As they [organizations] become larger and larger, our institutions become absolutely faceless. Soulless. What happens when there is no soul? Is there just a vacuum? Or is there Satan where once, long ago, a soul resided? The Berrigan brothers, are correct when they say that the task before us in nothing less than to metaphorically exorcise or institutions." p. 251

So does the US exhibit signs of narcissism? My diagnosis of course cannot be clinical, but to me, the US does seem to exhibit at least a few signs.

a) like any nation-state, it is preoccupied with its own security, its own functioning, its own image.

b) it does not submit to anything else but requires that everything submit to it. (you're either with us or you're against us). This is also evidenced by an unwillingness to participate in the world court or other supranational bodies that the US doesn't control.

c) we resist any kind of critique. have you ever heard the following defensive statements when the US is confronted by a scandal?
when confronted by Abu Ghraib- congressmen and women said ..."we are the greatest country in the world"....not as a precursor to "we shouldn't be doing this" or "we have the power to stop this". just a statement. like when someone is arrested for a crime and says "this isn't me".

or when confronted by another country like France: "we saved their butts in WWII. they've never thanked us. about time for a little gratitude."
By the way, they saved our butts in the American Revolution. We would never have beaten the British without their help.

or "we are at a cross-roads in history confronting islamo-fascists; we have no other choice but to take this fight to them and confront their evil" "we are the initial victims, but we will end being the victors."

Can we not confront our capacity for evil in the US? Do we always have to perceive ourselves as the best, most generous country with the highest ideals in history? Can we not see that our nation's history is mixed with some generosity and lots of oppression?

Friday, November 9, 2007

I'm Out of Touch

This weekend, when trying to talk about Conor Oberst setting up a record label here in Omaha, I called his band Blind Eyes, instead of Bright Eyes.

Sorry Conor.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Evil is Malignant Narcissism

M. Scott Peck, in his book People of the Lie, suggests that truly evil people demonstrate "malignant narcissism", a term coined by Erich Fromm.

Interestingly, Peck says this narcissism is characterized by an "unsubmitted will". p. 78 He goes on...everyone who is mentally healthy submits themselves to something higher than themselves. Be it God, an ideal, truth, etc. The narcissist is consumed with his/her own image and his/her desires (specifically that they not be intruded upon).

"In Buber's word, the malignantly narcissistic insist upon 'affirmation independent of all findings'." p. 80 Peck distinguishes between sin "missing the mark" and evil, which the malignant narcissist demonstrates, which involves both a denial of any sin, cover-up, and/or blame-placing.

This kind of narcissist has an "unacknowledged sense of their own evil nature. Indeed, it is this very sense from which they are frantically trying to flee. The essential component of evil is not the absence of a sense of sin or imperfection but the unwillingness to tolerate that sense. At one and the same time, the evil are aware of their evil and deperately trying to avoid that awareness." p. 76

Thus the attempts of the truly evil to get rid of the guilt instead of the sin.

Contrast this with psychopaths or sociopaths who don't seem to have a moral grid. They can commit an unspeakable act and not know either that they have done something wrong nor the harm that this action caused.

Tomorrow I'll probe into the problem of division of the conscience within organizations, and because the US gov't is itself a big organization will ask the question if the US demonstrates signs of malignant narcissism.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Try this at home, its fun:

From the September 13, 2007 edition of The Economist. Algorithms
Business by numbers

People often make mistakes when they key in their credit-card numbers online. With millions of transactions being processed at a time, a rapid way to weed out invalid numbers helps to keep processing times down. Enter the Luhn algorithm (see [above] ), named after its inventor, Hans Luhn, an IBM researcher. The numbers on a credit card identify the card type, the issuer and the user's account number. The last number of all is set to ensure that the Luhn algorithm produces a figure divisible by ten. If it is, the card number has been properly entered and the processing can go ahead.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Life Stories

After receiving a warm towel to freshen myself at the beginning of an Asia flight several years ago, I thought about carrying this into my life here in the States.

In fact, from my travels I've thought about other new practices I should adopt here in the states.

1) no shoes worn in the house.
2) slippers (adapted from flip-flops) throughout the house.
3) eye mask used on occasion at home along with ear plugs.

However, the one related to the story above is how I wanted to create a warm towel for soothing refreshment.

To start the process, I boiled a pot of water. A big pot, since I didn't have something small. I hung a large towel over the pot to aborb the moisture wafting up into the towel. The towel, limping from the moisture it absorbed, curled under the pot and fell onto the burner. Said towel caught on fire. Finally was manuevered to the sink and doused with water. Emergency averted.

Jara told me later that I should wet the towel and put it in the microwave. Genius.

My Amway Encounter

When I was working for a bank a few years ago, I stopped one morning on the way to get some gas.

There was a car just across the pump and a fellow I never met, broached the conversation: you look like you're going places!

Figuratively or literally?, I asked. (I wish I asked).

So anyway, I listened to a few of his tapes...the success stories of good salesmen. Double diamonds or something like that.

Never did enter Amway.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Andre Rieu

I used to think that PBS put its best programming on during their fund drives; to remind people how different and great PBS is and also as an expression of thanks for people's support.

But after suffering through several seasons of fund drives (seeing both NE and IA PBS fund drives) and therefore seeing Andre Rieu (violinist) in concert over and over, my new theory is that they hold their regular great programming hostage and won't put it back on the air until people fork over a little more dough. As we keep trying to see America's Test Kitchen, Everyday Food, History Detectives, Antiques Roadshow, etc., but instead see flipping Andre Rieu, we can't take it anymore and call in our credit card number.

But then this weekend, during Sunday school when everyone is giving thanks for something that happened this last week, a lady gives thanks for being able to see Andre Rieu in concert the night before! She won the tickets in a radio contest and loved the performance.

Ouch. How can I be so different that I cringe at what she loves?

There is a solution for everything...

In less than two days watching t.v., I noticed that there is a solution for nearly everything:

- LIPITOR: Cholesterol
-ASMANEX: Control Asthma
-AVODART: Shrinks Prostate
-SPIRIVA: Breath Better
-RENEWIN JOINT THERAPY: With Condrointen for Joints
-YAZ: Control PMDD
-ZETIA: Cholesterol
-VERAMYST: Seasonal Allergies (part of commercial it works is not entirely known)
LOESTRIN24: Shorten Periods
DETROL LA: Overactive Bladder
ORENCIA: Arthritis
GARDASIL: Vaccine for Cervical Cancer
CYMBALTA: Depression
HUMIRA: Arthritis
BYETTA: Weight Loss?

You are also encouraged to talk to your doctor regarding the following conditions: Ulcerative Colitis, Insulin and, and the Lap-Band System Surgery for a new form of stomach shrinking.

This doesn't include the 13 over-the-counter pharma/testing products also being encouraged or the 4 agri-business/pharma products advertised.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Thomas Friedman stole my line...

Many of you heard me years ago share the following:

If you are one in a million Chinese kid, there are still 1,000 more just like you.

Thomas Friedman is now using essentially the same line on his book tour. Except that he uses the figure 1,200. :-(

Mine was hyperbole and I mostly stopped using it. But it has a life of its own.

Feels like a mid-80's carson joke

We all know that Colonel Moammar Qadaffi has been leading Libya for decades. But since he's leading the country, why hasn't he promoted himself to General?


Oh...I shouldn't have looked at Wikipedia. Colonel can be the highest rank in a country with smaller military forces.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Cool Link

Want to send a railroad car of corn from Omaha to Chicago? See how much it will cost using Union Pacific's price guide.

Put in the route, the type of product being shipped, the type of railcar to ship the product and out comes the price.

Usually a combination of a flat rate and a fuel surcharge. Shipping by rail is so much more efficient than by truck.

With higher fuel prices, this bodes well for rail companies. Investors, like Warren Buffett have really driven up shares of railroad stocks in the last couple of years.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

New books read

I've read a few more books since my last post: All the Shah's Men, Kite Runner, Irresistible Revolution, Good to Great, Corrections, and Fahrenheit 451.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Kill Corn Ethanol

Have you noticed that your vegetable, dairy, and meat prices have skyrocked this last year? The reason is that demand is so high for ethanol (currently made from corn), that corn prices have risen considerably. Because farmers knew that corn prices were rising, they stopped planting other crops to plant more corn. Wheat and soybeans prices also increased dramatically because they were taken out of production. The price of corn remained high however due to high demand, and since corn is used as feed for dairy cows, beef cattle, hogs, etc. these prices have also gone up.

I was hoping to start a petition online to kill ethanol produced from corn.
Ethanol, produced from corn, is a loser because it obtains so LITTLE energy from the process, but also because it encourages the planting of one crop at the expense of other crops, at the expense of biodiversity, and at the potential expense of some forests that will be burnt down to start planting corn because of its high price.

I've already read that Mexican families have been unable to make corn tortillas for their families, because the price has risen so dramatically. Traditions and dietary habits that are hundreds of years old have to be abandoned so we, the rich USA, can put it in our gas tank.

Corn the fuel v. Corn the food is an unethical choice.


Whenever a lender and a borrower agree to do business, the lender lends money usually according to terms set by the lender but agreed to by the borrower.

Many times my debt has been "bought" by another lender, either because another company bought out my lender outright or bought the accounts of that lender. My debt obligation was transferred to the new lender. I don't believe there are laws that the new lender must keep the same terms as the old lender. I feel like with several private student loans and credit cards, that the terms changed.

I wonder if there is a possibility that debtors could gain the right to approve or not approve their debt being transferred to a new lender. That a proxy vote could be held regarding this debt transfer. Conceivably, borrowers enter into an arrangement with a lender based on all sorts of conditions: interest rate, penalties, customer service, etc. Since new lenders can impose new conditions that can change all of the original terms, I think that debtors should have a voice in who "holds" their debt.

I recently ran into a bank employee whose own mortgage was sold out from under him. His mortgage, which he arranged at the bank he worked for, was sold to another business without his consent. I understand this helps provide liquidity for home sales (which are fairly illiquid), by introducing them in the financial markets, but it also can help create other problems because when these are combined with other mortgages and placed into financial instruments, the ability for the market to assess its risk seems weaker: hence the recent sub-prime mess that has affected the stock market.

Has anyone heard anything about debtors having a voice in their debt being sold?

Thursday, September 6, 2007

2007 Books Read

After giving up television for Lent earlier this year, I have found my desire to read has been rekindled. I think this may be my best year ever. New books read so far this year: On Job, Leadership and Self Deception, Exclusion and Embrace, Sacred Rhythms, God of the Empty Handed, A Long Way Gone, Announcing the Reign of God, The Open Secret, Spirituality of the Road, Master and Margarita, No Greater Love, Blood Diamonds, Development as Freedom, Starfish and the Spider, Life Together, Twilight Labyrinth, 1984, The Emotionally Healthy Church, Singles at the Crossroads, Art of Crossing Cultures, Tipping Point, Clergy Renewal. Reread: Can you Drink the Cup?, Chasing the Dragon.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Quick Inventory of My Clothes

I got the crazy idea to inventory my clothes last week; I wanted to see where my clothes were produced. I was surprised by how many countries were represented. Many of these clothes were hand-me-downs, many were gifts, many were purchased. An interesting analysis, if I knew the dates when the clothes were either made or sold, would be to assess whether the countries have changed over time. (Possibly due to exporting production to countries offering lower wages.) All clothes except for socks and coats were evaluated. Also, shoes were not evaluated.

Produced/Assembled In:

Bangladesh 9
Cambodia 3
Canada 3
China 4
Domincan Republic 14
El Salvador 1
Gautemala 6
Haiti 1
Honduras 20
Hong Kong 8
India 11
Indonesia 9
Jamaica 2
Jordan 2
Korea 3
Lesotho 1
Madagascar 2
Malaysia 1
Mauritius 2
Mexico 5
Nepal 1
Northern Marianas 1 (Technically a US Territory)
Pakistan 2
Peru 2
Russia 2
Singapore 1
Sri Lanka 3
Taiwan 2
Thailand 2
Turkey 4
Turkmenistan 1
Vietnam 3

Friday, June 15, 2007


I was able to visit my friends Rich, Rebecca, and Ben a few years ago in Rio de Janiero. They are doing some amazing work there among children living on the streets.

When visiting, I proposed that we see a soccer (football) game. I had always wanted to go to a Latin America soccer game. I had heard that they get CRAZY and wanted to see the excitement. Ben and Rich knew of some local teams that were playing and the fans hated each other. Normally these teams would be playing in a nearby stadium but it was under renovation. Another stadium had to be used, a stadium in a sketchy and largely unfamiliar neighborhood.

We debated whether to go and were told NOT to go by locals. Since the game was free, everyone was going. This was going to be a particularly rough event.

We decided to go anyway. We went with a large crowd. About five guys and four girls. Rich and Ben boxed our group in, one taking the lead and one following the group..both keeping an eye out for trouble.

I was particularly comforted when we had to go through a security check at the gate and were patted down for weapons. I thought this was a good sign. There wouldn't be any knives or guns. That had to eliminate a lot of potential threats.

The crowds were already excited, but when the game started they went NUTS. Chanting, singing, huge flags waving, big drums and deep bass sounds, firecrackers in the stands, huge waves of people jumping up and down with wildly flailing arms. Some of the words were translated and they were the worst curse words and threats you've ever heard at a game.

Rich and Ben advised us to leave the game before the end. All the parents were taking their children from the stands and careful boyfriends were taking their girlfriends home a little early. We all wanted both to beat the rush and also avoid problems that large crowds can exacerbate.

We got lost on the way out of the stadium, not finding the appropriate exit, and then starting to walk the wrong way home. In fact, besides probably loosely circling the standium again, we were walking the opposite way from home. We ended up changing direction and walking with several other small crowds. We talked loudly in English, relating our stories of the game, while Rich and Ben again looked to avoid trouble. Rich was in the lead and Ben was following the group. We had walked for about 10 minutes before I felt a tug on my rain jacket. I had taken it off a few minutes earlier because it was too hot. I carried it in my right hand.

He pulled, I pulled. He pulled, I pulled and the motion turned me toward him. Time started going very slowly. He jumped kicked me in the stomach but I held my ground. Being someone who abhors violence, I remember thinking that I couldn't punch him, but somehow kicking him seemed fine to my quickly formed moral grid. I was mostly frozen however. At this moment I felt the hand of Rich on my chest, like he was holding me back and giving the robber consent to take the jacket. All in one motion the sense was conveyed that the jacket wasn't worth fighting over and that he could take it. (Only sunglasses remained in the pocket of the jacket; I had taken out my passport earlier in the day).

This fellow ran back across the street to his friends and Ben quickly approached from behind. He had simultaneously been robbed. Someone came behind him and went for the wallet in his back pocket. This violent action ripped his jeans along the seam from the pocket all the way down his pants. He had a big strip of material missing from his pocket to his socks and his boxers were showing.

He was imploring the attacker the whole time to calm down in Portuguese. When this attacker went back to his group of friends, amazingly he was beat up. They had only heard the group speaking English and now were upset that they had robbed someone who was "local", a fellow Portuguese speaker. The mob beat this attacker and someone brought Ben's wallet back to him (without the money) and apologized for the attack.

As we continued to walk, we quieted down and picked up our pace. Police had already started firing tear gas and people were coughing loudly around the bus stops. We were willing to pay extra for a taxi, but we thought we might even break even if we could all squeeze into one stationwagon/van taxi. Nine fares on a bus might equal one taxi fare. We eventually found two taxis that took us home.

There are several versions of this event circulating. Being personally involved, I believe my version of my attack is the most true. Other versions, being circulated by Ben or Rich, show that my attacker was mostly a kid, and probably half my size. They also debate whether there was a jump kick involved in the robbery. But I am confident that he was a late teenager and ready to rumble. And his friends across the street would have jumped in if their friend was in trouble. It didn't stop either attacker that there were five men and four women as part of our group.

As so often happens, cliches about the event build up before the evening ends and the story is retold. The biggest guy in our group told me that if he had seen what had happened, he would been the first to get into the fight to help me. But I seemed to remember him out of the corner of my eye, frozen like everyone else.

I recently retold this story to friends, and I let it slip that "the joke is on him [the robber], that jacket didn't breathe". Evidently this was the funniest part of the story, but I really didn't like that jacket. It was hot and a personal sauna. But maybe I'm just justifying myself for having not responded.

Requested Stories


This story begins when I agreed to help some friends move. We began on a Saturday morning in December. The husband had rented a UHaul and we knew we wanted to put the heaviest furniture in the UHaul first. We started with our first piece of furniture: a wood chest. The sky had just started to produce snow. We started carrying the chest up the ramp and as soon as I tried to set my right foot inside the trailer, my foot gave way. The snow had made the aluminum floor in the back of the truck like ice. My foot slipped and I face-planted the wooden chest. I heard a crunch and could immediately feel my broken teeth bobbling about inside my mouth. I was afraid to open my mouth, because I knew that my friend would be horrified. But I also needed to know how bad the situation was. His expression would tell me everything. It did: shock and terror.

As I felt my teeth with my tongue, I could feel two broken teeth...probably the two front teeth. When I was able to go inside, I saw that one of my front teeth was still hanging from a permanent retainer installed years earlier. The other I could spit out into my hand. I quickly removed the retainer and the other half-tooth.

A friend of their family, an angel, set up an emergency appointment at a local dentist and I had the two broken pieces glued back to my teeth. The work done was superb, but these teeth were fragile and would always remain fragile. I debated whether to keep these teeth and about 11 months later (in time for insurance) I decided to have crowns and posts put in, with new porcelein teeth.

For those of you who don't know about posts, this means that they drill/wittle/shave the remaining parts of your teeth and connect them to metal posts. These "posts" allow the new teeth to fit snugly in the mouth.

I would need to try on several sets of teeth over a few weeks before the permanent teeth could be made. When I received the third set of temporaries, with the permanent set to arrive on the following Monday, I set out for a cross-country journey by plane. These temporaries were a little loose, but I could wait three days. Only the permanents would be properly cemented.

That weekend I was to travel from Nebraska with a quick stop over in Chicago before on to New Jersey. I left the Omaha airport too early for lunch so when I arrived in Chicago, I had to run to the next gate and wolf down something. Being a native of Chicago, I had only one option: Chicago hot dogs. I bought a hot dog from the closest vendor to the gate and started eating. Within the first few seconds I knew something was wrong. I couldn't feel my front teeth. I had a bite of hot dog (with Chicago style toppings: relish, mustard, pickle, tomato) still in my mouth so I searched for my teeth with my tongue. Nothing but soft items. I didn't trust my tongue so I spit my hot dog back into the wrapper to search with my eyes and fingers. No teeth. I had swallowed my temporaries.

I was disgusted and threw the rest of my hot dog in the trash, boarded the plane and called my friend Ron for advice. Ron told me to force myself to gag, to vomit up my teeth. As soon as the plane took off and the seatbelt light came off, I went back to the lavatory and stuck two fingers down my throat. I was reaching as far down as I could, gagging and spitting, but nothing else was coming up. I tried for several minutes in pain, eyes watering, but nothing important came up.

When I arrived in New Jersey, my friend Silas met me at the airport with one of his daughters. He immediately saw something was wrong. "What happened to your teeth?" I said "I swallowed them in Chicago". His daughter was scared by my missing teeth.

Even though I was traveling to be with Silas' family, I had already booked a nearby hotel, because Silas' family were already guests in someone else's house. Silas still kindly offered to have me stay with them and told me I should cancel my hotel room.

I told him privately that I better not. "If I see those temporaries later tonight or next morning in the toilet, I'm going to wash them off and put them back in." Somehow the thought of picking my temporary teeth out of my stool in the toilet was less embarassing that going to church the next day with missing teeth. Go figure.

I never recovered the temporaries and suffered through lots of lisps the remaining part of the weekend, and trying to covertly cover my mouth while talking (think George and Jerry trying to fool the deaf woman who could read lips). My permanents arrived on schedule that Monday morning back in Omaha and have been great.

As I look back on that experience, I wish I would have finished my Chicago style hot dog.