Wednesday, December 31, 2008

(Inconsequential) Things I Like

To even out the post from a couple weeks ago where I posted what I don't are some things I like:

1) The Green Machine (extended tricycle that could spin out)
2) Batman and Robin Rub N' Play. (also from childhood...however, search Rub N' Play on Ebay and the first item that comes up is the Michael Jackson Rub N' about destroying a good childhood memory)
3) The way the crown of my head tingles when I'm at a library and I try to guess what book someone will take off the shelf.
4) The absence of pain in the seconds it takes to yawn or stretch.
5) Opera & Classical Music
6) Living in a time period when teeth can be replaced. And wooden teeth are not used.
7) Penicillin (not for any specific reason)
8) Being an early proponent of restaurants giving the wait staff PDA's to enter menu orders.
9) Wanting brake lights to be more than a toggle switch...and new brake lights that should demonstrate how "hard" someone is applying the brakes.
10) Morrowind
11) When I had ENT doctors checking my ears as a child and I would have the faint taste of ketchup in my mouth.
12) Sushi
13) Chicago Style Hot Dogs
14) Gyros and most Mediterranean food.
15) Old Movies
16) Being a good lip reader as a child.
17) Pitch-correction software for modern singers that allows them to always be 'on-pitch'. Now we just have to convince more of them to use it.
18) Family hugs
19) Our Swedish traditions for Christmas Eve (minus the herring...oh yeah and lutefisk (sp?) the perfectly good whitefish you ruin by chemically burning it which 'cooks' it and then washing off all those chemicals),
21) How everyone resists being commoditized, even though the pressure is constant. "We're not selling a product, we're selling a relationship"
22) Digital signatures and paperless offices
23) Wanting to raise chickens on the roof of my apartment building but not knowing how to approach the landlord.
24) Cellos
25) When the carbon dioxide from a newly opened can of Coke, won't let you catch your breath only to dissipate and receive fresh oxygen. Ah! Effervescence.

Overheard at the Airport

When a couple was attempting to sit down near an elderly lady, she said: "We are traveling with our retarded son. He is being escorted to the restroom."

Alternate acceptable phrases to be used next time:

'These seats are occupied.'
'These seats are being used'
'I'm sorry, but my family will be back soon and they are using these seats.'

All of which are better than the phraseology used.

Monday, December 29, 2008

From "A Team of Rivals" by Doris Kearns Goodwin

"'With his wealth of sympathy, his conscience, and his unflinching sense of justice, he was predestined to sorrow,' observed Helen Nicolay, whose father would become Lincoln's private secretary."

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Eve

We had a wonderful Christmas Eve celebration yesterday. I think we had 37 people at home. Several others couldn't make it because of the weather....there is SO much snow here in Milwaukee.

Pictures will be coming soon both of the snow and of the family (I hope).

As always, it was wonderful to be with family.

Some highlights:
-We read from Luke 2 and sang Silent Night together
-Some family stories were told in passing:
How my sister Brage used to take a Barbie doll and pull down it's shirt to nurse.
How my sister Rachel used to take the salt pellets from the water softener and eat them. And how she used to rub her broccoli against the huge salt blocks before eating the broccoli. I think she has a sodium deficiency.
How I didn't want to nurse as a child and how this may have led to intimacy issues even today and not being married at 35.
-Tobias has this way of bringing a lot of intensity into these gatherings. At Thanksgiving, he yelled at mom: SIT DOWN, THIS IS YOUR TIME; YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE RELAXING. Mom: is hard to relax when you're yelling at me. Tob: BE QUIET!...LET SOMEONE DO SOMETHING FOR YOU.
-Rob Jr. was a bit rebellious. We all think he is just like Rob when he was younger. We may all take restraining lessons again so we can hold Junior's arms across his chest on the floor, separate his legs and sit on him... for the years to come. In our short time together, he shoved, hit, kicked, cried, yelled, and head butted. At Thanksgiving, I told Rob and Claudie what an angel he was. They said I obviously hadn't met their child.

Even though I'm writing some personal and maybe not flattering things, I still love them all. And enjoy being with them.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ways Not to Lead Children to the Lord:

From my Sunday school teacher (Sunday night worship time) when I was a first-grader:

Teacher: Do you know that there was a teenager who was asked if he wanted to accept Jesus in his heart?... and he said he wanted to think over it a little while longer. Well, he walked over to the window to look out, and the window slid, cutting off his head. He's not going to get that chance again.


I just created a petition that lobbies Christian pastors to remove the USA flag from church sanctuaries. :-)

Reasons for this petition are located in the petition itself.

If you'd like to read more, please visit this site:

There is both a petition overview and an actual letter that can be viewed.

Monday, December 15, 2008

IM with Jara today....

[13:09] jbs!!!: hi
[13:10] Brent Anderson: hi
[13:10] Brent Anderson: sorry you're not feeling well.
[13:11] jbs!!!: me too
[13:11] jbs!!!: ken brought me some medicine. i feel better from that.
[13:11] jbs!!!: finally
[13:11] jbs!!!: my whole body ached
[13:11] jbs!!!: i hate fevers
[13:11] Brent Anderson: what a good boyfriend.
[13:11] Brent Anderson: bringing you some medecine.
[13:11] jbs!!!: yes. i couldnt' imaigne getting out of the apt.
[13:11] jbs!!!: i look awesome
[13:12] jbs!!!: i woke up this morning and my lymphnodes in my neck were huge
[13:12] jbs!!!: i kept trying to shake it
[13:12] Brent Anderson: go see a doctor!!!
[13:12] jbs!!!: i feel better now
[13:12] Brent Anderson: i just read part of a book on the bubonic plague yesterday.
[13:12] Brent Anderson: same symptoms!!!!
[13:13] jbs!!!: whatev
[13:14] Brent Anderson: i woke myself up, throwing up in my mouth.
[13:15] jbs!!!: what?
[13:15] jbs!!!: today?
[13:15] Brent Anderson: but i went back to sleep.
[13:15] Brent Anderson: yep.
[13:15] jbs!!!: are you SICk?
[13:15] Brent Anderson: it was aweful, that burning sensation in your mouth after the acidity of throw up.
[13:15] Brent Anderson: no...i'm fine.
[13:15] Brent Anderson: it was almost like a hiccup-throw-up.
[13:15] Brent Anderson: not very much coming up.
[13:16] jbs!!!: oh gross
[13:16] Brent Anderson: can i put our IM on my blog later today?
[13:16] jbs!!!: sure!
[13:16] Brent Anderson: thanks

Friday, December 12, 2008

(Inconsequential) Things I Do Not Like

1. Clowns
2. Figurines, especially unicorns, angels, singing fish, and Precious Moments.
3. Kitsch (see above)
4. Use of the quick phrase, by a US citizen, when describing France: "We saved their ass in two world wars"
5. Use of the phrase "perfect storm" when describing the current economic crisis.
6. The movie "Perfect Storm" (Might be because I was on several Asia plane trips when this was being played ALL the time; I felt hijacked).
7. Bailouts
8. Sins of Power more than Sins of Weakness
9. Consumerist Culture
10. Mimes
11. "Jared"...the stupidest name ever given to a business chain and especially to a jewelry chain.
12. Ultra-specific infomercial products like: fajita makers and microwavable plastic containers for pasta.
13. Ventriloquists
14. One particular brand of urinal, whose company has obviously not hired an engineer or anyone with any knowledge of physics, because no matter where you pee in the urinal, it all ends up back on your pants.
15. The Einstein mouse who I haven't killed despite numerous poisons, traps, and glue.
16. Songs that have the word "baby" in them more than 10 times.
17. Christmas themed sweaters, ties, and vests
18. Most comedians: especially Gilbert Gottfried, Bobcat Goldthwait, Pauly Shore, Dane Cook, and CarrotTop.
19. The Cubs getting my hopes up.
20. Neck hair combed up over the opening on the shirt.
21. Museums that only show the tools and spoils of war: swords, guns, and stolen gold.
22. Hummers
23. Taking my shirt off on a hot summer day and sitting on my vinyl couch at home and sticking to it. Just kidding.
24. Finding an anonymous bitten off fingernail on the table at the post office (the one mentioned in a previous post).
25. Church marquees
26. The Prayer of Jabez
27. Illinois Politicians
28. Celebrity baby pictures
29. Animal prints, especially in bedding.
30. Static electricity and that I am particularly prone to being shocked (I have lit up dark rooms with the arcs of electricity).
31. The futility of watering and fertilizing lawns to make them grow only to cut them.
32. The look of horror plus a look of affection from a large woman I bumped into at Union Station. There was a small gap between two people that I was trying to thread when she backed up and bent over (to get a paper out of a machine) when I rammed my bags into her backside. Sorry.
33. Lots of gold jewelry for men
34. Paisley
35. The monopoly of certain sports in cultures. Why not just start making up games/sports and start to play those?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Trail of Tears

My family has been been told that we will be receiving 2 acres of land in northwest rural Georgia, west of Atlanta and close to Alabama.

This is land that has been given to us by some extended family (on my mom's side) and had been divided many times before so that the original family tract would have been hundreds if not thousands of acres.

We have been told that this land was given to our family by the State of Georgia. We also know that several of our ancestors participated in the Trail of Tears, forcing the Cherokee tribe from Georgia out west to Oklahoma.

Family history is not complete. I don't know that this particular land was forcibly taken by the State and/or given in return for complicity in driving away the Cherokee. But it seems suspicious.

I recommended to the family that they give this land back to the Cherokee tribe. They were not receptive. But it was a good dialogue and they asked the following questions in return:

1) Who are we to give it to? What would the Cherokee tribe want with 2 acres in the midst of a rural environment where they might not, even today, be received well? Also, if it is given to the leaders of the Cherokee tribe, how would we know this would go to actual descendants of the people who were driven from the land?
2) Since we are a bi-racial family, it was also stipulated that maybe with our family owning the land, this act is redemption in itself....because it means that lots of different ethnicities will be represented in ownership.

If it is true that this land was gained in such a manner, do we have the responsibility to give the land back? How can we make amends for the sins of our ancestors?...especially in light of clouded histories?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Post Office

While at the Business Center Post Office yesterday, the scab on my lip broke open and I started bleeding. A LOT.

I tried to blot it with my finger but there was just so much blood. I ended up covering both hands with blood and think I may have looked like the Joker in that meeting...smearing the blood across my face.

I tried to be non-nonchalant, tipped my chair back and trying to blot the sore.

Then a co-worker looked over and started to laugh uncontrollably in the meeting. I quickly stood up and said that I 'might' be bleeding and asked where I could find the restroom.

My lip was dripping blood at the time; I entered the bathroom and I tried blotting it with a paper towel.

Made me wonder if I am a hemophiliac. I doubt it, but I also doubt I will need to take blood thinners or aspirin to thin the blood when I'm older.

Maybe I can buy one of those experimental snake venoms that help clot the blood. To put over my lip.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Prayer of Oscar Romero

It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete, which is a way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
It may be incomplete,
but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference
between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation
in realizing that. This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.


The following prayer was composed by Bishop Ken Untener of Saginaw, drafted for a homily by Cardinal John Dearden in Nov. 1979 for a celebration of departed priests. As a reflection on the anniversary of the martyrdom of Bishop Romero, Bishop Untener included in a reflection book a passage titled "The mystery of the Romero Prayer." The mystery is that the words of the prayer are attributed to Oscar Romero, but they were never spoken by him.”

Credit to: Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC)
Congregation of Notre Dame --- Visitation Province

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Freakonomics Calendar

Nov. 25th, 2008

Two economists found that when a country takes over one of the rotating seats on the United Nations Security Council, it receives nearly 60 percent more foreign aid from the U.S. When the country leaves the Security Council, the aid falls back to the old levels.

Gratuitous Sex and Violence

Telemarketer: I was given your name by _______________. Aren't you tired of the gratuitous sex and violence in Hollywood these days?

Me: Uh.... yes.

Telemarketer: Don't you want to send a message to Hollywood to promote more family friendly movies?

Me: Where are you going with this?

Telemarketer: We would like to send you two family friendly movies on VHS tape to show that Hollywood needs to make more of these types of movies.

(I forget which family friendly movies they were, but they were clearly geared for children).

Me: I don't have any children and I don't even own a VCR.

Telemarketer: ...But wouldn't you like to send a message to Hollywood by purchasing these two movies? More would follow.

Me: You're asking me to buy movies for myself that I can't even watch. I don't have a VCR.

Telemarketer: But you're sending a message to Hollywood.

Me: What, that I'm stupid?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

I had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

I was able to travel home by train (a first). This year was the family "off" year so siblings with spouses visited the spouse's families this year. That meant only 18 for Thanksgiving.

However, we were invited to meet the cousins that Sat. evening afterwords. Dad graciously drove us down to Illinois and Uncle Pete and Aunt Kathy hosted the party.


-Of course the relationship time....being with extended family. We laughed a lot and consider each other our good friends in addition to being family.
-Lounging around the house. Normally I help out with the hosting prep but Mom and Dad really gave me the great gift of letting me relax.
-Reading two books...a book on contemplation and a book by David Sedaris.
-Starting and beating Call of Duty 5
-Watching some movies on my PSP (thanks Ron) including On the Waterfront with Marlon Brando
-Continuing the family tradition of watching James Bond in theaters Thanksgiving evening.
-Eating at Noodles and Co. with Mom and Dad during her work lunch break.
-Banana Cream pie AND Pumpkin Pie

I have a grateful heart for such a wonderful visit and for such a great family.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dressed like Papa John's

College is known for pranks and Asbury was no exception:

An Asbury college student dressed up in his old Papa John's uniform and went to the 3rd floor of Trustees holding a pizza box in his arm.

Knocked on some doors and mentioned that this pepperoni pizza had been ordered but that the guys ordering it weren't there and that he couldn't bring it back to the store....said he could sell it for $3.

Some fellows down the hall paid the $3 and brought it back into their room.

They came out a few seconds later shouting and swearing and looking for the Papa John's deliveryman. He was no where to be found....

He had pooped in a pizza box and sold that.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Maybe two years ago, Jara called me up one evening and asked if I'd like to grab sushi with her and several friends.

To which I replied: 'I want to, but I just ate 18 inches of Subway.'

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Working in the Cafeteria

I loved working in the cafeteria at college and became a student supervisor fairly quickly. I loved opening the dining hall...getting some biscuits and gravy in the morning and smelling the home-made donuts they would be deep frying.

I loved the old ladies each working at their own station....bakery, ovens, stove tops, salad bar, etc.

One of them in particular was always really sweet to me. I think the world of her and would love to visit her again in Kentucky. I'll call her "Rose". Rose loved moonshine (I never saw her drink)....called it 'corn liquor'. She said "you can drink as much as you like and not get drunk as long as you sip it". She also loved the chew. I would have LOVED to see her out on her porch spitting chew.

I saw her get up past her elbows in potato salad tossing and turning the ingredients. All those ladies worked harder than most people I know.

There were so many great stories surrounding that time in the cafeteria: late night studying after locking up, catching amorous students in the throws of love, pleasant smells of diesel from the morning delivery trucks, the storage area in the basement with all sorts of scientific equipment, the tunnels from the basement to other areas of the campus, bringing the outdated vending machine goods back to the dorms to give away, and meeting some really great student workers and the ladies of the cafeteria.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Market Failures Con't

Asymmetric Information:

One of the major problems in specific markets (health care, real estate) is that one party knows much more than other party when doing a deal. Steven Levitt illustrates this well in Freakonomics when talking about real estate. In real estate, the cartel of realtors control information about recent local house sales; recent local house sales that inform a seller how to price their own house. Consequently, the real estate agent strongly suggests what price to market the house and his/her motive in the sale is not the same as the buyer or seller. His/her commission is not greatly affected by a large decrease in the sale price. If the house ends up selling for $20,000 less than the asking price, this means the realtor only loses $600 in commissions.

This ‘priced’ to sell motive means that for the realtor, a quick sale is more important than the price difference between the buyer and seller.

Asymmetric information plagues the market because the "MARKET" is just series of smaller markets, many of which have their own characteristics and quirks.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

If You're Going To Put Old Reruns On T.V....

Why choose the following, which are currently being offered in Omaha?

1) Alf
2) Coach
3) Saved by the Bell
4) The Beverly Hillbillies
5) Golden Girls
6) Nash Bridges
7) Becker
8) Just Shoot Me
9) 7th Heaven
10) Wings

While they're at it, why not just put on:
Small Wonder or Mr. Belvidere?

Monday, November 3, 2008

My Neighbor 'Ernie'

When I first came to Omaha six years ago, I quickly moved into my current apartment complex.

I live across the hall from 'Ernie'. Ernie is great. He isn't loud in the evenings, he says 'Hi', and we sometimes exchange video games. Pretty much all the qualifications I have for someone being a great neighbor.

After the first year or so of being neighbors, we shared personal info...single/married, our job, etc. I told him I worked for a non-profit. He said he was currently unemployed but was volunteering and hoped to use this as a springboard for a staff position at that firm.

He also shared that he wanted to be a ninja. And that he had been practicing the last year with his nunchucks.

This explained a lot.

I had heard crashing sounds coming from his place, had seen windows broken throughout his apartment, and missing light bulbs. He told me that he had broken all but 2 windows in his apartment with the nunchucks.

I asked him what he would do as a what his responsibilities would be...
(My mind wandered to killing, kidnapping, sword play, and throwing star proficiency).

He said "We ninjas don't like to talk about that".

Friday, October 31, 2008

Breaking News

On the Today show this morning, Lester Holt reported that women who gain more than 40 lbs. in pregnancy are likely to give birth to heavier babies.

No Sh$%. Really?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fairy Tales

A few years ago, when there was more controversy surrounding the violence in children's programming on television, there was research done comparing the violence in nursery rhymes and fairy tales to the violence on television. Research showed that there was more violence in these 'tales of old' rather than children's television.

It made me wonder why these tragic tales are passed on from one generation to another, without context, and without explanation. Is the telling of tragedy important for young people to see the world properly, or do stories/habits perpetuate themselves across multiple generations while becoming divorced from their original meaning?

Just a few examples:

London Bridges falling down, falling down
Ring Around the Rosy, A pocket full of posies, ashes, ashes we all fall down.... talking about the Bubonic Plague
Humpty Dumpty Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the King's horses, And all the King's men Couldn't put Humpty together again!
Rock a Bye Baby Rock/Hush a bye baby on the tree top, When the wind blows the cradle will rock, When the bough breaks the cradle will fall, And down will come baby, cradle and all.
Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown. And Jill came tumbling after.
Old Mother Hubbard Old Mother Hubbard Went to the cupboard To get her poor doggie a bone, When she got there The cupboard was bare So the poor little doggie had none.
There Was An Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe There was an old woman who lived in a shoe, She had so many children she didn't know what to do; She gave them some broth without any bread; She whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

Monday, October 27, 2008

May Be Sexist

When I was in Romania several years ago, I was in a van traveling from Galati to Bucharest. There were two women in the back seats with me and a man driving.

The women were arguing from the minute we left Galati. My friend, the driver, stopped the van after they'd been arguing close to two hours. He filled the tank and then went into the gas station. He came out with some chocolate and gave them to the women. They quietly ate the candy bars and seemed generally in a better mood.

Later, as we were discussing the ride he told me: "I don't know much about women, but I know that."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

My Dream Last Night

In my dream, I peed a bed, which my sister Sharon made up for me.

To which she said something to the effect: "I don't mean to get in your business, but I haven't smelled anything that bad since I went to Shoney's."


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Family Memories

Do you think people can tell what year a particular year a home was sold? Not when it was built, but the last time the house was sold?

I think there is a good chance I would have been able to guess that our house in Illinois was purchased in 1971. That it was redecorated to suit the new owners and to "update" it's look at a particular moment in time.

Take a virtual tour: The front door opens to a landing (it is a split level ranch), so to the left and a half floor up and half-floor down are the upstairs and downstairs (half underground).

The landing has wallpaper: black & white fleur-de-lis wallpaper. The railings up and downstairs are cast iron in a spiral shape. Upstairs holds green carpeting with mostly brown & gold furniture in our living room. Curtains are heavy linen, I think gold colored, and fall to the floor against a picture window.

The kitchen has medium colored wood-stained cabinets, linoleum, and the refrigerator is dark brown.

The downstairs (family room) has brick wallpaper on one side and wood paneling on the other, has gold carpeting and mostly brown and green furniture. Curtains are dark brown and fall all the way to the floor against a sliding glass door. The sliding glass door opens to the back yard, a few steps up a concrete staircase.

That is the 70's design style....the triumvirate of brown, green, and gold.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

Ms. Obstinate

Coming into Kindergarten, I was enthralled by The Letter People....the blow-up character letters that, for me, sat on the long and tall window shelf around the classroom.

Each of these characters had a story that was to help us identify the letter. Miss A'chou, etc.

I was thinking that my teacher always pronounced Miss Obstinate as Mizz Obstinate, as if she was obstinate in being single. It striked me as being sexist...maybe not at the time, but several years later.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

What Makes Us Human?

I have been watching too much of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles so please forgive me if this question seems arcane.

What makes us human? I had always started with what I thought was a Scriptural reference point: that humanity is derived from God's breath in us....that we are born in the image of our Creator and the breath of life we received keeps us living.

But then I would look at humanity, and I would compare/contrast humans to animals. The animalistic traits of humanity did not have to define us. We were born with certain instincts, but could use reason to temper those instincts.
Humanity could be forward looking and could delay gratification for future benefits. Humans have a 'soul' and believe in an other-worldly connection, etc.

But then I started to compare/contrast humans to computers/robots...and where futurists believe computers/robots will be some day. And then being riveted by the quote from Sarah Connor: 'It is our flaws that make us human'.

I used to think that humans were 'better' than everything else...that we were the closest to God, in a sense, because we were made in God's image. But what if we were 'worse' than other things: in our intellect, in our ability to solve problems, even compared to the 'sinlessness' of a machine?

I recently read an Esquire magazine article where the author attempts to live a rational life for 30 days and points to its difficulty. He also says that popular literature is full right now on the fragile human mind. He points to several best-selling books that are popularizing this theory...that the human mind is beset with problems. There are over a hundred human cognitive biases listed in Wikipedia alone....ways that humans don't perceive/process situations well, don't make rational decisions, ways in which we are 'fooled' over and over, etc. Computers are expected to outperform humans in the near future in terms of calculations made per second and are already better than humans in many fields. Many futurists believe that in the next 50 years, a human will be unable to distinguish whether they are having a conversation with a robot or a human. That robots (or AI), will pass the Turing Test.

Humans can still be different than computers because of emotions. But many futurists believe that computers will become self-aware. Futurists believe this on many levels but mainly because the intelligence of AI is adaptive...which means it is learning by itself. It is learning upon learning, adapting to new situations/inputs. Is it possible that computers will develop emotions after they become self-aware? Are emotions necessary or even part of what humanity is about?

That led me down the road towards asking the difference between a sin and a mistake. Most people that I know get more angry about incompetence than they do about sin. I also think that humans generally make more mistakes than they sin....unless you count general self-interest as sin...and then almost every decision for every person is sinful....because humanity generally doesn't prefer the 'other' over him/herself. That is why 25,000 people will die today because of starvation, even though as a species we know how to prevent those 25,000 people from dying.

But if programmed right, a computer will be will be neither incompetent nor will it sin (at least in terms of oppressing the other). However, what if our ability to choose the 'other' over ourselves makes us different from a computer? Because a computer can be programmed not to 'hurt' but it might be difficult to program when to sacrifice itself for someone/something else? Or maybe even that can be sacrificing a queen so that the chess game can be won?

Where will humans distinguish themselves from AI in the future? Is it our flaws that make us human? Is it that one act in history....being breathed into?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Build Me Up Buttercup

I want to challenge the reader, when this song is being played in public places (restaurants, video stores, etc.) to look around the room and count how many people are singing along.

I was in Blockbuster and five people were singing this song quietly when I walked around.

It is one of my favorites and it is infectious!!!

"why do you build me up, build me up, buttercup, baby just to let me down?"

Sunday, October 5, 2008

When We Became An Adopting, then Biracial Family

When mom and dad started taking in children, we bore insults from mostly insensitive and not necessarily cruel people. When we became a biracial family, the insults increased.

Some of the hurts we endured:

-A dying grandparent wanted to take photos with just the 'biological' children.

-We would vacation every year in Georgia, but when we welcomed the first non-white child in the family, we were told we were no longer welcome to worship at the local Baptist church we had attended. Unfortunately, many of our distant family members were behind this 'dis'invitation. We were also 'disinvited' for a family breakfast that had become ritual.

-We were told by a black family who we were good friends with, that a white family SHOULD NOT take a black child because we could not care for that child properly...we would be unable to introduce the child to the hurts that s/he might face, be unable to translate culture, etc. We went ahead anyway. We knew the situation at the time: that tens of thousands of non-white children were not being cared for well...they were in group homes, institutions, in foster care. We knew that either situation wasn't ideal. The ideal situation would be that a non-white child would be adopted by a loving non-white family. But we still believe(d) that adopting a non-white child in a predominantly white family is better than being in a system like foster care. So we had to absorb the criticism and the hurts. And use it as fuel to be a better family for the children. Soon, we had several biracial children and this could help them not feel so alone.

-Our neighbors' Uncle Fred and Aunt Sophie. They were a Polish immigrant brother and sister living in the same house. I remember them in their 70's and 80's after they were both retired. Uncle Fred was as cruel as Aunt Sophie was kind. They would give us five pennies wrapped up in tape for a Halloween present. That was the extent of his kindness. Otherwise, his epithets ranged from "you damn kids" when we would lose a baseball in his yard to "did you take in n%$(#$"? One time, my dad made me go over to his house to shovel his driveway after a hard snow. Instead of thanking me, he came out of his house and yelled at me. "What did we hope to get out of this...what were we going to want later?" He called the police and social services several times over the years although nothing ever came of those calls. He was in my opinion, just an all-around jerk.

I love the idea of adoption. I love the theology of it. I love the practical love in it. I love my brothers and sisters. I love being welcomed by them into this new family and welcoming them. It is a reciprocal love.

I Would Never Hurt An Animal

Is a flying bat an animal? That might be a caveat.

A long time ago, in a different state, a flying bat came towards me in a room. Everyone was screaming.

I hit the bat clear back to the other side of the room with my tennis racket. I didn't kill it but I made it retarded. We let it go in the front lawn.


We had small experiments with pets growing up. A dog here, two rabbits there, a chameleon.

We had two rabbits: a brown rabbit named Frisky and a white rabbit named Snowball. Frisky died when we were on vacation in Georgia. Someone was looking after it...but possibly not enough.

It only a few weeks after Frisky died that Snowball "died of a lonely heart". It committed suicide by pounding its face over and over into the side of its cage. A mixture of red blood and white fur covering its face. How can a pet commit suicide? Doesn't it know that the owner will have guilty feelings forever?

Poor Snowball.

Friday, October 3, 2008

My Latin Blood is Boiling

After hearing that our delayed, now canceled flight out of India would not resume until the following day with no provision for food/housing, the passengers GOT MAD.

They were arguing with the Indian Airlines staff, when an Italian reporter came up to me. He said rhetorically "You look so calm right now", "How is that?" MY LATIN BLOOD IS BOILING!!!

Mandy Mowers Quote

Brent: Was M.Night's movie "The Happening" scary?
Mandy: It was scary how bad the acting was.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

12 Year Anniversary with WMF

Jara was kind enough to send an inner-office e-mail about my anniversary with WMF. How I came to WMF is a bit of a miracle in and of itself.

Here are some memories from my time:

1996- brought Papa John's pizza to a board meeting meal. This would kick off the trifecta of Subway, Chinese food, and Papa John's for board meeting meals for six years. Which we became so tired of, that we resolved never to eat this again at any board meeting ever again.

1997- My first overseas trip. Spent time in Chennai and Kolkata. And loved the 40 hour train ride between them (36 hours normally plus cabin fire adding 4 hours). Broke my heart to see such suffering in the world. I remember NOT giving water to a child because it was hot and I was worried about my water lasting through the day. I pray for forgiveness for that moment.

1998- I traveled to Nepal; rode a motorcycle with Stuart Erny, ate momos with Gautam, and saw a fairly undeveloped Gotatar (a lot of rice patties as far as the eye can see).

1999a- I traveled to Romania; played soccer with mine workers and children living on the street. Was assigned position of goalie until I let a goal pass. Then I was pointed to by a 3 foot kid who gestured to get out and to let him be goalie.

1999b- Our first staff retreat in Atlanta. We had something like 60 people. We went to the Coke Museum, MLK Center, and ate on-sale oysters for .25 per oyster....cleaned the place out!!!

2000- We started getting interested in encouraging staff members to invest in 403(b) retirement vehicles through salary deferrals. We saw how much the market had been growing the previous few years. I think the stock market today is lower than it was when we started investing. :-)

2001- Our exploratory trip to Sierra Leone. We see bombed out cars and buildings, pass road check-points that have military personnel and machine guns, and thankfully new staff make a presence there. Ministry continues in Sierra Leone amidst the war-torn population. Later I will get to meet Noah, an inspiration in WMF.

2002- The WMF USA office moves by caravan from Kentucky to Nebraska carrying all 4 staff members' possessions AND all office possessions in one UHaul medium size truck.

2003- WMF leaders travel to El Salvador for a Field Forum meeting. Jared Landreth smiles the whole trip because we are staying at a coffee plantation; we tour their coffee fields and their roasting plant. We also visit the home and grave of slain Catholic priest and leader Oscar Romero.

2004-WMF sees a lot of staff leave the field and refocuses its efforts on caring for staff and making it sustainable in the midst of difficult environments.

2005-I travel to Argentina and Brazil and spend great time with our staff there. In Argentina, I am able to attend an Argentinian BBQ or Asado. There may be a video of me dancing after that dinner. I don't where it is.

2006-Partnership Platform is introduced in a more formal way in Sri Lanka. PP is one of the most exciting initiatives in missions (I think) in that it is creating opportunity for true partnership between the West and the majority world. Each WMF organization is a sister organization to the other. I have a hope that each field ends up looking like a picture of heaven. There might be Romanians, Canadians, Kenyans in a place like Peru and there might be Peruvians, Bolivians, and New Zealanders serving in Nepal.

2007- The Great Flood. Our office is inundated with water from a tenant upstairs who left the (I forget)...toilet or the bathtub running. We spend several months recovering, because of construction, paint, insurance funds, etc.

2008- I travel to Bolivia and Peru. A lot of my favorite people in the world are in WMF. Many of them are living in Bolivia and Peru. Just when I think I get to be away from the pomp and splendor of the 4th of July festivities in the States, we meet some missionaries from the US in Peru and celebrate with fireworks at their house AND sing the national anthem. There are small US flags everywhere by the food and I think some people have US flag decals on their faces.

Monday, September 29, 2008

I thought this was funny on

The 10 Spot Blog
by Pete McEntegart

Repeat after me

* 12:03 PM ET 09.29

As many of you know, I root for the New York Mets. Some might have noticed that the Metropolitans suffered a minor setback yesterday to fall short of the postseason for the second year in a row.

Am I disappointed? Sure. But I’ve learned to take a detached, philosophical view of the fortunes of my favorite teams. It’s just sports, after all. Grown men playing children’s games. A pleasant diversion, granted, but not life and death.

Since I’m a giving person, I’d like to share this hard-won knowledge with whatever readers are still able to find the 10 Spot. Here are some of the things I’ve been telling myself this morning to help keep sports in perspective:

10. There are 1.3 billion Chinese who don’t give a darn which old people win

9. A strong gag reflex is actually nature’s Heimlich maneuver

8. If your team balloons its payroll, maybe it will be judged “too big to fail”

7. Enjoy the outdoors, before it’s consumed by global warming

6. How’s this for feel-good: a new novel about Wall Street!

5. Take the kids to the park now that the authorities pledge it’s predator-free

4. Learn a skill, like field-dressing a moose

3. At least those damn bank CEOs won’t get golden parachutes

2. Just be glad you have your health, since you likely have no medical insurance

1. This year’s collapse was 50 percent improved!

Read here at:

Friday, September 26, 2008

"Transition Town"

Tuesday night I was able to attend a seminar about "Transition Towns", towns all across the world committing to local resilience, zero waste, being carbon neutral, fossil fuel independence, local food producers/food security, net-zero energy consumers, etc.

The presenter was Michael Brownlee, who works with Boulder Valley Relocalization. Boulder County is one of the first counties in the US to attempt to become a transition town and reduce their dependence on oil, encourage energy conservation, etc.

The seminar took place in two parts: 1) the bad news and 2) good news if we start to adapt to conditions that will force us to adapt anyway. By adapting early, we can head off some of the worst shocks we will face.

Mr. Brownlee shared about peak oil and global warming. Peak oil, conceptually, is where world oil discovery and production will start to decline in the next few years while world oil demand will continue to rise. This will force oil prices to keep rising. Oil geologists are fairly consistent in their assessment about peak oil coming and coming soon. The new consensus seems to be towards a peak oil year closer to 2010 than 2015 or 2020 which was previously forecasted. After 2010, oil will only get more expensive.

One new problem that I hadn't expected, which we saw in an unrelated field this summer, is hoarding/export stoppages for particular products. When there was a fear this summer of shortages of rice, many countries just stopped exporting rice in order to lessen political pressures within their own countries. There is a real possibility that this will be the case with oil. There is speculation that exports of oil will completely stop 9 years after peak oil. Within the 8 years after peak oil, exports of oil will decline each year until the 9th year, when exports will completely stop.

Mr. Brownlee cited a number of different sources to defend the concept of peak oil, including the commissioning of the Hirsch Report by the Department of Energy in 2005, which immediately suppressed the report. The Oil Drum, an oil think-tank, expects oil to rise to at least $300/barrel in the next 5 years.

Since so much of our economy is based on cheap fuel, we can see facing a number of shocks to our way of life. As a side note: for a good movie documenting the effects of evaporating oil supplies, view The Power of Community to see how Cuba fared after the Soviet Union collapsed. We don't think of all the products that come from oil: plastics, fertilizers, etc.

Cuba was forced to rely on the following:
-neighborhood organic gardens
-utilizing a more vegetarian based meal system
-riding bicycles
-using public transportation
-helping each other in the midst of potential threats to community.

Transition towns hopes to emphasize the following in adapting to the shortage of oil.

-local production of food, energy, and goods
-local development of currency, government, and culture,

To read one town's transition, look at the Kinsale Energy Descent Action Plan 2021.

More soon....

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Poll Question on this Morning

Would you eat Ben & Jerry's ice cream if it were made with human milk?
Yes 10% 14980
No 90% 133262

Linked to it is the following article from Channel 5, WPTZ Waterbury, VT: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent a letter to Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, cofounders of Ben & Jerry's Homemade Inc., urging them to replace cow's milk they use in their ice cream products with human breast milk, according to a statement recently released by a PETA spokeswoman.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Which is Worse?

1) Being driven home by a little-league baseball assistant coach, looking under the floormat on the passenger side and seeing pavement go by, because a two foot rectangle piece of metal had been removed from the underside of the car? (The assistant coach who had a wooden leg....insert menacing laugh).
2) Having my uncle sanitize a bedpan at a local hospital, fill it with chocolate pudding, and walk around the hallway eating from the bedpan?
3) Having Dirkson, our black lab/irish setter mix, get loose one day only to look for him a little less hard that day? He was a dog that ran over our first fence, then jumped over it when it was reinforced, then dug under it after we heightened the fence. He ate the siding off the house and the t.v. wire to the antenna on the roof. He also dragged me through a number of ditches forcing me to take a shower with my clothes on.
4) Having a cousin put all his boogers on the wall going up to the bedrooms of his townhouse, and naming them all?
5) Playing card games late at night, in rural Georgia, during a hot & muggy summer, with a great aunt with a glass-eye?
6) Having huge black crows fly towards and dive-bomb all the kids coming out of our house each morning on our way to school?
7) Playing Dukes of Hazzard, cutting local cattails, and pretending these were the dynamite arrows they shot.
8) Putting peas in the ice cream of a sister who refused to eat them for dinner, only to have dessert ruined for her.
9) Being part of a mens' choir, which was named glee club?
10) Having my voice change so late in life, that a musical piece had to be abandoned by the choir director, because my voice couldn't go that low?...even to second tenor range (I'm a baritone-bass now).

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Which is Worse?

In honor of Jara's "which is worse?" blog entries:

1) One brother taking gum out of a urinal and eating it.
2) Leaving another brother at a rest stop (failing to keep the count-off method once back in the car on vacation). *We didn't leave the off-ramp...we were seen backing up the 15 passenger van back to the gas station oasis.
3) Forgetting said brother's birthday.
4) Hearing about neighbor boys who had helped each other get their diapers off and then using the poop for finger paint all over the bedroom and themselves.
5) Having my younger brother's friend come over frequently to our house and mysteriously poop somewhere (numerous times; never in the toilet...always in a closet or under some stairs).
6) Having one sister get in the car and put the car in neutral, only to have the car roll down the driveway across the street into a ditch.
7) Having to listen to 14 hours straight of the dueling pianists, the Bowker brothers, on tape while traveling to/from Georgia.
8) Having to listen to Kenny G for same trip, different year.
9) Breaking all the piano keys off my dad's (who was a music teacher at the time) keyboard (or whatever those early mini-electric pianos were called).
10) Seeing my dad dressed as the bearded lady (with a dress on) for Fall Party. (We didn't do Halloween at my house).

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Nature v. Nurture

My parents have been mom and dad to lots of adopted and bio children (11), but also have welcomed into their home: missionaries, unwed mothers, foster children, teenagers with developmental difficulties, and neighborhood children that still call our folks: mom and dad. We have had our fair share of small victories and a lot of heartache. I have loved being a part of a big family despite these heartaches.

Being a part of a big family affords small experiments regarding nature v. nurture.

At the start of our big family, mom and dad thought that by nurturing children in the home, that almost all of the problems they had experienced previously could be overcome. All of the "nurtured" abuse a child experienced could be overcome by the overwhelming love and security that being part of a loving family afforded. But also they believed that genetics, personality, etc. would not play a heavy part in how well the child survived or thrived.

Mom and dad were heavily on the "nurture" side of the spectrum.

We were able to welcome all different ages of children and adults into the home to test this theory. One child we took home from the hospital when he was 7 weeks old; his only trauma came from the drug-use of his mom. Certainly, mom and dad's "nurturing" would create a fertile environment so that he would thrive.

And after 32+ years, they are on the opposite side of the spectrum. That almost everything can be attributed to nature and very little to nurture.

You can chalk it up to perceived failures: children making bad choices (prison records, low college graduation rates, etc.). Growing up, you can also see how different each child is: that each child expresses him/herself completely differently based on personality. Even being reared in the same environment, there is wide disparity regarding: temper, willfulness, the ability or inability once enraged to come back into rationality for some time, a child's propensity to throw things/break things. We saw all the typical heartache kinds of things: abuse, drug-abuse and addiction, trouble with the law, etc.

Mom and particularly dad have studied some of the research on nature/nurture. Evidently, there are certain parts of life that are statistically prone more towards nature or nurture. For instance, athletic ability might be 95% geared towards nature, 80% of IQ towards nature, personality 55% towards nurture, etc. These statistics are made up....I don't remember the figures my dad relayed...However, it is interesting that these topics are being studied and researched.

I personally think that mom and dad may come back towards the middle of the spectrum in a few years. That they will see the nuances of the nature/nurture debate within our own family. (But I've also been saying that for several years...oh, just wait till the boys get out of their teenage years...just wait till the boys get out of their early twenties and start getting jobs, etc.)

There is research to suggest that certain behaviors are statistically better in an adopted home, than in a difficult home environment. (Steven Levitt and college participation for adopted children). And I'm almost positive that all of the children are happy having been a part of the family and that new opportunities were created because of mom and dad's love.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Introducing 'Mary'

My first conversation with ‘Mary’ in the stairwell of my apartment building (9.4.08): I am 6’6”, white and lanky, and 34. She appears to be black, light-skinned, and around 25 years of age.

Mary’s dialogue: bold
My dialogue: italics
My simultaneous thoughts left unsaid: { }

Do you know if ‘Jim’ is in?
I don’t.

You’re really cute (repeated 3 times during conversation).
…Uh…thanks and finally…you’re pretty.
{No one has ever said that to me before; … she must be high}

Do you smoke weed?
{She is high}
‘Jim’ does.

Do you have anything to drink?
I don’t have a lot of anything …mumbling off into incoherency
{I can’t send her off with a bottle of whiskey}

Can I wait for ‘Jim’ with you in your apartment? I’m bored to hell.

{Oh my gosh, I REALLY don’t want her in my apartment but am I appearing impolite?}

I’m ‘Mary’.
Hi, I’m Brent. Nice to meet you.

Now that we know each other, can I come and wait in your apartment?

Can I recharge my phone with your charger?
What kind of phone do you have? Let me see.

Yes, come on up. I think my charger will work.

Door opens.

Please, have a seat.

All you guys in these apartments seem to have painted. Did you paint this yourself?

I am really wanting to get me a white boyfriend.
{Some people have told me I should look for a woman of color; I agree. Just not her}

Have you heard the phrase: once you go black, you never go back?

Nervous laughter

At this point, she makes some other remark which I don’t remember…maybe telling me I’m cute again. I think it’s inferring that she would like me.
Why…is it because I’m black?
{I have black, no…bi-racial, family members. Let me show you my family picture}

Why are you so nervous?
The phone charger isn’t working. Let me get you a beer before you go.
My mom is going to f’in kill me. She’s already mad… (she goes on)
{I stop listening although I do keep trying to look at her pupils to see if they are dilated or jumpy}

Can I have five bucks? I need the money for the bus.
I don’t have money.

I’m not going to rob you.

What I meant was that I don’t have cash. I use a credit card.

It was nice meeting you.

She points to the beer on the table to make sure I really offered it to her, takes it, and leaves. All of this takes less than 5 minutes.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


I was thinking about how much I've been away from family since college.
Averaging maybe 3 visits home per year the last 10 years.

I started thinking that if my dad lives the average life expectancy of US men (76), and he is 67 now, that gives me 27 more visits with him.

Makes me really appreciate all the time we spend together.

Back in Omaha

I got back to Omaha early Tuesday morning (around 12:30AM).
I didn't want to unpack everything when I got home so I used an extra toothbrush I had in my medicine counter.

I was really sick the next two days.

Makes me think I brushed my teeth with the toothbrush I used to clean the bathroom.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Being in a Big Family

Last night we started talking about some of the more unusual parts of growing up in a big family.

1) At different times, all the kitchen cabinets holding food were padlocked. This wasn't to be controlling. Kids would be up at all hours of the night and eat all the cereal, milk, frozen pizzas, and lunch meats while mom and dad were sleeping. Sharon and Rob believe that this led the children to take the doors off their hinges.
2) The refrigerator was under lock and key at night.
3) The thermostat has a plastic industrial casing on the outside (with a lock) that prevents the children from constantly changing the temperature.
4) Day-old bread was purchased regularly at a special store.
5) Saturday night was bath night and oatmeal for dinner.
6) We ate pretty healthy: Shaklee, co-op foods, very few desserts, fruits and vegetables, no sugar cereals, etc. In the few times that our family was eating sugar (in desserts) then Hostess knock-offs would also be purchased at the day-old store.
7) Hand-me down clothes were welcomed.
8) When handing out gum, only half-sticks were given. *This ritual has continued to the present day as my dad just offered my sister Catherine a half-stick after she bought the gum for him. (He did offer to pay for the pack, but it is so ingrained to have half a piece.)
9) A can of soda used to say that there were 2 servings per container. This was all the proof needed for everyone to share their soda.
10) The oldest kid would always have their own room in the house and sit in the front seat.
11) Our autos went from sedan to stationwagon to van to 15 passenger van.
12) Extra food donated to our church camp that couldn't be used in summer was given to us. Lots of government peanut butter and cheese.
13) Very little privacy....

When I was young, I had a very strict sense of right and wrong. And maybe a bit of a Catholic sensibility on morality (except for stealing change from mom and dad....). When a friend and I were looking around for change throughout the house, we came upon some condoms in my parents bedroom. I was horrified and the next time I saw mom in the house, I yelled 'MURDERER'!

Mom was more disgusted than anything else and told me I would talk to my dad when he got home.

Friday, August 29, 2008

In Chicago

I took a flight yesterday into Chicago and am staying with my sister Catherine. Brage is already here from Minneapolis and Sharon will be here in a couple of hours.

We have our cousin Laura's wedding tomorrow and are really excited for her.

I'm told that a lot of the family will be able to come but not everyone.

It is SO fun to be with family.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Small Rebellions

I wonder what are all the ways in which we are rebellious. Sometimes its a sign of ethical protest, sometimes a selfish act.

As a population:
-When driving we turn our headlights on to notify other drivers of police cruisers up ahead.
-We use radar detectors
-We speed
-In the Freakonomics calendar yesterday, it said: "Among the many forms of customer sabotage, one of the most prevalent occurs in bookstores, where customers hide books by certain authors (Ann Coulter and Michael Moore, for instance) out of political protest. Some stores have even eliminated garbage cans, since too many partisan books were ending up in the trash)." This hurts the bookstores and could be considered theft.
-In video stores we hide the movies we want for a later time or hide "bad" movies from the public.
-A large portion of certain sectors of the economy don't report their earnings to the government: waiters, child care, construction crews, and small business owners.
-Three major revisions to US tax implementation have netted the government billions of dollars: making parents file their childrens' social security numbers if they claim them (eliminating millions of extra exemptions), having employers withhold and file taxes (thus eliminating the government trying to collect from millions of people and now only collecting from thousands) and eliminating much of the overseas tax shelters.
-Stealing cable, stealing music, stealing movies by downloading them off the internet.
-Not saying what is really wrong with our house/car/boat when selling it.
-Betting online even though its illegal.
-March madness betting pools at work.
-Spouses having affairs, violating their covenant and contract with each other.
-Deliberately watering the lawn in non-approved watering times.
-Calling in to work sick when not sick
-Using work items (computers, phone, time, pens) for personal use.
-Not paying enough when sharing a meal at a restaurant.
-Running stop signs.
-Claiming more tax deductible donations to the IRS than actual donations were made.
-Not returning library books
-Not returning tools, books, movies of friends

We all have our justifications for why we do what we do. Sometimes I wonder if we actually obey that much at all.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Rides To/From High School

Traveling to high school by bus, the kids were always half-asleep. On the way home from school, the kids were rambunctious.

Some highlights from rides home:

1) Some guys got trial lipsticks from departments stores and would flick them out of the bus into passing passenger cars. I saw one get flicked into a car with the red lipstick making a diagonal line across a woman's white blouse.

2) We got pulled over by a policeman once because there was so much paper being thrown out of the windows while driving. He didn't arrest anyone, and by the time our bus pulled away from the cop car, the front of his car was covered in paper.

3) Guys used to buy hair conditioner and throw the conditioner all over people on the bus.

4) Guys would fill water guns with urine and spray people.

5) Bus seats are incredibly fire retardant. I know a kid who had his lighter trying to burn the plastic seat almost the entire ride home.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Playing the Lotto

I don't really like gambling, because structurally it preys upon the poor. Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, who run Berkshire Hathaway, said something similar at their shareholders meeting in 2007. However....

When the Powerball gets above $147 million*, Jara and I will buy one ticket each. My justification is that the reward is then greater than the risk. Because the odds of winning are 1 in 146,107,962.

I need help with the math part. But if I simplify and say that I was getting odds that were 50/50, the price to enter was $1, and the prize was $2, then I shouldn't enter because it's a break-even proposition. Any prize over $2 should be taken from a mathematics perspective.

So what am I missing?
1) Is it that I didn't figure out the odds of someone else splitting the ticket prize with me?
2) Is it that I didn't figure that the immediate cash value is less than half of the stated prize, because the prize is structured as an annuity over 30 years?

*Actually I thought the odds were closer to 175M to 1, so that was our historical target for buying a lotto ticket.

Things I Learned on the Zoo Train

1) Zebras' stripes are not black and white; they are brown and white
2) There is a scimitar horned antelope-looking animal whose horns are so close together on their head that they often fuse into one; which has given birth to the myth of the unicorn.
3) An ostrich's eyeball is bigger than its brain.
4) A peacock only refers to the male. Peahen refers to the female.

Sadly, I already knew this (from Wikipedia):
Elephants replace their teeth six times. At about 40 to 60 years of age the elephant no longer has teeth and will likely die of starvation, a common cause of death.

Monday, August 18, 2008

In Honor of Dink

So Josh Duenke is coming to town. He is visiting with his wife and children and the Landreths have invited us to a get-together on Thursday.

I plan on going to visit; I like Dink.

However, back in college, Josh pushed me (on purpose) into a urinal while I was urinating, causing me to pee all over myself.

Jared says I always tell that story when Dink comes. So this time its on the internet.

Is an Epidural a Sin?

I know...the question is absurd. And it is asked in a tongue-in-cheek way, mostly. I asked this question in a personal journal a few years ago, but had forgotten about it. It was resurrected by a comment thread in a previous post.

My reasoning goes like this:
In the beginning, God punishes humanity because of their wickedness. There are three general categories of punishments in early Genesis (besides the punishment of specific people like Cain). I may write later about God's graciousness in spacing out these punishments and letting humanity demonstrate its intentions over time.

If today, humanity tries to "undo" some of the punishments of God, is that a new form of arrogance and rebellion or is it good and part of wanting to bring about the Kingdom (which reverses the sin-order)? To use an analogy: If a parent punishes a child, say, by making them go to their room, at what point does the child rebel against the parent and subvert the justice of the punishment? Leaving the room early? Decorating the room so that it has all the features of the family room (t.v. & playstation 3)?

When I have heard about people wanting to live past 120 years, this has been criticized as trying to "undo" the punishment of God. Yet we put pesticides on our crops each year to minimize the thorns and thistles we experience. And many women use epidurals to counter the pain of childbirth. However, when we talk about reviving a common language, people get scared about one world government and say that God confused the language for a reason. So which punishments are to be taken in fully and which are to be countered?

From the Fall (Genesis 3)
1) Women: Increased Pain in Childbirth
2) Women: Desire for her Husband. He will rule over her
3) Men historically but both men and women: Cursed is the Ground
4) Humanity: Thorns and Thistles come from the ground. Humanity shall eat from the plants of the field (Refer to earlier post and comments about whether eating crops is part of the curse of God)
5) Humanity: Death
6) Humanity: Banished from Eden

From General Human Evil (Genesis 6)
7) Humanity: Lifespan shortened to 120 years
8) Humanity: The Flood, wiping out most of humanity

From the Tower of Babel
9) Humanity: Confuses their language
10) Humanity: Scatters them across the world

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Book of Job

One of the best books I've ever read was Gustavo Gutierrez's "On Job". This book was fascinating, healing, and ground-breaking (at least for me).

As you may know, the story of Job takes place chronologically early on in the Bible story, somewhere in Genesis.

Gutierrez writes that the book of Job sets the tone for understanding the right nature of our relationship with God. It is designed to be revolutionary and to counter-act the prevailing attitudes of the day about religion.

In Job's day (and I think in ours), we have a notion that we have a quid pro quo relationship with God. We obey God and we are blessed, with material provisions or health or family. God blesses us and we give thanks....a reciprocal relationship that Gutierrez says is no different from any superstition.

The story of Job is trying to disconnect the state of the world (its blessings AND its curses) from our praise of God. I find myself praising God for good things that have happened. But when I have traveled overseas, I have asked myself what people are praising God for? A woman isn't praising God because of having a good family, because her dad might have abused her. A boy isn't praising God because he has good health; years of drug use has taken its toll. An older woman isn't praising God because she has a lot of possessions to leave her children; she is destitute and alone in the world. If the West praises God for material blessings, will our praise become silent when we don't have as much? (I have left out of course, the reality of praising God for Jesus and His redemption of humanity, despite the rough shape of things around us).

There are a number of beautiful parts of Gutierrez's analysis. What he says is that Job acts honorably by requesting/even demanding an audience with God. He wants to know the charges against him. Gutierrez then builds an interesting case where he separates Job's innocence from Innocence. What I'm getting at is that Job is not without sin, because humanity is not without sin. But Job is not guilty of any personal sin that predicated God's punishment (which God validates later in the story).

God, in his complete love, granted Job's wish and met with him, which is exactly what Job wanted. Everyone else around Job had the old notion that Job MUST have sinned because of these bad things that were happening...Quid pro quo: God punishes because man has been disobedient. But God is turning this notion on its head. Both the wicked and the upright have bad things happen to them and both the wicked and the upright have good things happen to them.

I probably even took his analysis farther in my mind, in that I felt I could hold on to my existential beliefs about the world and so much of its "randomness" because this would be the truest test of our obedience. For instance, as a society we make all sorts of laws to create incentives to do the right thing. Without penalties, humanity falls into all sorts of traps. Even for Christians, how long after police officers stop writing tickets for speeding would almost everyone be speeding?
Incentives (both carrot & stick) are our best measure against our sinful nature.

The truest test of our REAL desire to do right is a world without incentives....a "seemingly" random world where a person is just as likely to be punished for doing right as for doing wrong. This bypasses behavior modification that human structures put in place to get us to do the right thing. A "random" world means that Job is honored if he theoretically praises God in good times AND bad (or just as tell God why he is frustrated and doesn't understand; sometimes I think this is a more childlike, pure, and honest form of praise anyway).

Gutierrez emphasizes that God answered the call of Job by meeting together: God and man/face-to-face. I have gotten hung up on the "stern-ness" of the words of God while talking to Job. I have become afraid of calling on God because of the awesomeness of God's reply to Job's questions that dwarf humanity.

But Gutierrez doesn't lend as much analysis to God's words as he does to God meeting with Job at all. This alone is the victory.

Gutierrez tells of the static nature of conversation from Job's friends, in contrast to Job's transformation in dialog and understanding...even before God talks with Job. There is a pre-conversion of understanding with Job because he expands his predicament from just his own suffering to the suffering of humanity. He rightly places his pain in the context of the pain of the world and that God should respond not just to him but to humanity.

God comforts Job by being with him in his pain. Something foreshadowing Jesus and God bearing the suffering of the world.

Another Silas Quote

Silas and Kimberly just got a dog for the family on Wednesday: A five year old, trained & vaccinated short-haired pointer* named Brownie.

Which promptly ran away on Friday.

And they are all praying they can find Brownie again. I saw a picture of the dog and it is quite beautiful.

Silas was saying that Jedidiah was walking the dog and it took off. And that everyone was really sad. I said "Oh, does Jedidiah blame himself for the dog running off?" to which Silas cut me off by saying "WE BLAME HIM".

He only said that in front of me. When talking with Jedidiah he said that even though Jedidiah didn't do the right thing, that we give grace to each other when we don't do the right thing. And not to feel bad.

So there was good parenting too.

*I'm not 100% sure that I remembered correctly the type of dog....I don't know dog breeds.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Silas West Quote

Silas: "Our neighborhood has a lot of character. It also has a lot of characters."

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Garden of Eden

I have to say that I was mad at God for a long time because of the story of the Garden of Eden in Genesis.

I didn't understand why God would put the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden and then tell Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree. At my worst point, I speculated about who was the greater villain, God or the Devil (the serpent). At my worst, I thought that God may have been the greater tempter in the story.

People would talk to me about Adam and Even needing to be given a choice to do right or wrong, be given free-will, and be given the chance to do the right thing in spite of the "allure" of the wrong thing...eating of the fruit. They also talked about the serpent and that the real sin was pride...wanting to be like God.

I was not convinced, because I thought that Adam could have sinned in any number of ways (by refusing to name the animals, etc). He could have evidenced rebellion against God in any number of ways besides eating of the fruit.

So all these reasons fell on deaf ears.

Matt Timm told me that Orthodox Christians have a different interpretation of the story of Eden. In Orthodox Christianity, God intended for Adam and Eve to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, just not yet. They were not mature enough to eat of the fruit.

What I understand from this is, if God says that we are His children, made in His image, breathed into, and are co-heirs with God, then this was God's design for Adam and Eve. Additionally, they were immortal (since that was one of the punishments of their sin...the sudden introduction of death and returning to the earth). This design of God to have Adam and Eve mature before eating of the fruit fits with this picture of God loving His creation and inviting humanity into close community. This fits with God wanting closer and closer community as time passes.

I was comforted by this interpretation of the story of Adam and Eve.

One of the more interesting parts of meeting with Wes Jackson is that he believes the story of Eden is confused with the story of Cain and Abel. To Wes Jackson, the Fall is intermixed between the two stories; eating of the fruit entailed more a loss of innocence than a sin and was more accidental than pertinent. The story of Cain and Abel highlights Wes' belief that sin entered the world through farming (the first time we started to damage the planet). Abel's sacrifice was acceptable because it was of the hunting & gathering period (offering meat from grazing animals). Cain's sacrifice was unacceptable because his offering came from farming, which raped the land of its nutrients. To Wes, we need to either cross-breed crops from annuals into perennials (making it like grazelands for humanity) or return to hunting and gathering.

I found this perspective fascinating even if I can't accept in wholly.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Jason from Kentucky

When WMF was in Wilmore, our office was located in a church ministry center that also held other Christian non-profits and residents. At one time, it may have been a retirement center.

When WMF first moved in, we had a neighbor named Jason. I developed a friendship with him, probably because we were so different. Jason was a red-bearded home-town guy. He had held one or two jobs in his life but didn't like working for other people.

He was a trapper. He asked farmers nearby if he could trap on their farms and then would collect the animals, get their skin and meat, and hold the meat in his deep freezer. He used it as a bed; his mattress was located on top of the deep freezer.

He used to brew some sweet tea and we'd drink and play chess out on the porch after I'd finished a day of work with WMF.

He'd yell at me, in a good natured way: "Get a job, Brent". And he also didn't understand much about computers because, when I introduced him to Command and Conquer, he broke my mouse by slamming it again and again against the desk because his computer army wasn't doing what he wanted.

He talked about being in high school and his dad would call in to school, saying that Jason had a fever and needed to be excused. Jason said his dad just left off the part that he had DEER fever, and was going out hunting that day.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Rituals and Superstitions

I've been privileged to attend some weddings and wedding receptions this summer. One of which, Daphne and Caleb's, was refreshing in its departure from some of the rituals we normally keep but whose meaning has become divorced from its form or practice. It made me start thinking of all the rituals and superstitions we practice in the States but don't know why.

Why do we?

-Have a bouquet toss at receptions?
-Have a garter toss at receptions?
-See newly husband and wife cut the cake together and shove it in each other's faces?
-Have the father walk the daughter down the aisle when the preacher says "who gives this woman to this man?" Why not abandon this altogether because of its sexism? Or have a mother walk a son down the aisle while the preacher says the same thing?
-Why in the movies do preachers pronounce someone MAN and wife? Is it that manhood is conferred upon marriage and intercourse? Or is it sexist because the wife's relationship is dependent on her relationship to the man and the man's identity is not dependent upon anything else?
-Why, as a Christian, do we celebrate Christmas with Christmas trees?
-Why do we celebrate Easter on a Lunar calendar (moon based calendar) instead of a Solar calendar?
-Why do men wear neckties or collars?
-Why do we ask: If anyone has anything against this couple getting married, speak now or forever hold your peace? What do we hope is going to be accomplished? A big scene? A preacher calling off the wedding?
-Why do so many hotels not have a "13th" floor elevator button but skip over it to 14?
-What if, at the beginning of time, men started wearing their hair long and women wore their hair short? Would that trend continue today?

Monday, August 4, 2008


Bob Mabrey was telling us that it shouldn't be so subtle when parents give their children luggage as a graduation present.

Teenagers think: 'Oh great, this will come in handy as I pack for college' or something to that effect.

But really, to Bob, it means "get out".

I Was Legally Deaf as a Child

When I was an infant I had terrible ear aches that has led to a little scarring in my left ear. I also had fluid in my ears so doctors put tubes in them when I was three and, when they fell out because I was growing, again at seven.

In that time, I had to have an older boy walk me to school because I couldn't hear the traffic. I also became an expert at reading lips. I was legally deaf but I grew out of that hearing loss.

Nowadays, I don't usually have trouble hearing but I don't always do well separating noises. When there is background noise, I can have trouble separating sounds. It is the worst when I'm on my cell-phone. Folks at WMF make fun of me, because I'm usually shouting into the phone. HELLO, THIS IS BRENT!

Also, I'm almost always covering the other ear with my finger because it seems like the person on the other line is always whispering. Even when my phone is at its highest volume setting.

It has become a running joke between Ron McAvaddy and I. He would always laugh really hard when getting into my car because the radio is always so LOUD. I gave him excuses...that I need to hear it over the engine, over the A/C, its talk radio so it needs to be louder to hear the conversation. I could tell that each excuse just made Ron laugh harder. So my excuses turned to: "I was legally deaf as a child and I had to have an older boy walk me to school."

Friday, August 1, 2008

Being Welcomed At the Airport in El Alto, Bolivia

What a fun way to be received! Two mariachi guitar players and singers wrote their own songs for my arrival!!

Thanks to everyone in Bolivia and Peru! I enjoyed being with you so much!

Market Failures Con't

One of the most severe critiques of the free market is its inability up till now to price-in externalities. Externalities are hidden financial costs passed off to others without those people being compensated. Years ago, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani wasn't able to get strip clubs out of the city based on moral grounds. So he calculated the increased costs for the city and the surrounding neighborhoods in purely financial terms. He was able to show that surrounding these establishments there were more fights, more DUI's, and more vandalism... all of which required a greater police presence which cost money. He was able to get rid of these establishments by putting on paper the actual costs.

I read recently that the true cost of gasoline is close to $15 a gallon. What needs to be taken into account is government subsidies to the oil companies, the cost of roads, the cost of fighting wars for oil, and pollution. Charging the "real" or "true" price of a good would help people make better and more rational decisions.

Another example might be a factory that produces plastic 2 liter bottles and employs 100 people but produces a byproduct: air pollution that increases cancer for its 5,000 residents by 400%. The social costs of such a factory are born by the residents, but should be incorporated into the cost of the 2 liter bottles, with the increased medical bills being born by the factory and/or its insurance policy.

In the States, workers that are endangered generally get paid a premium for the risk they endure. Policemen and women, miners, utility workers all get paid a premium. And there are even charts that provide guidelines for how much someone will be compensated in a general accident if they lose a toe as opposed to a foot or are injured in another way. Somehow, we have tried to make economic trade-offs when faced with loss of life/loss of health/loss of limb.

The market has not done a good job of incorporating these costs. Ideally, each product sold should list as much information as possible: what are its ingredients (crops, natural resources, etc.), where each major ingredient/natural resource was ‘harvested’, if for clothes or food...what pesticides, steroids, antibiotics, fertilizers, and fungicides were used, the wages of the "harvesters" and other laborers, how far it traveled and by what method of transportation.

There would certainly be a point when the cost of calculating the information would be greater than the benefits. But legislators could decide on the biggest 4 or 5 economic factors and establish charts rating how efficient the companies were at estimating their costs (ALL their costs) or passing costs onto employees or the environment (both people and the earth).

On a small scale, this has started happening in some food circles. Interested consumers can purchase pork at the beginning of that particular pig's life. Buy the piglet and watch a pig-cam to see how well/poorly their pig is being treated, their living conditions, as well as knowing who sired the pig and if any antibiotics, steroids, etc. were given to the pig.

This has also started happening by some countries who are financially capturing the value of their ecosystems: forests and rainforests. In Costa Rica, payments are made to landowners for their "ecosystem services". The landowner agrees to preserve their forest for 20 years and the governments sells carbon offsets based on that land staying forested. The value of the forest is being calculated based on its contribution to the following areas: biodiversity, scenic beauty, hydrological services, and carbon sequestration.

I heard recently that some countries are demanding payment from the West for keeping their forests intact because they serve as the proverbial 'kidney' of the world. They are filtering a lot of the West's pollution and carbon and should be compensated.

The poor of the US and the poor of the world bear the brunt of externalities more than the middle-class or upper-class. City dumps and high polluting industries tend to get placed in poorer areas because the poor complain less. On top of their earlier economic problems, health concerns get added to the mix as they experience higher rates of asthma, cancer, birth defects, breathing disorders, etc.

I remember traveling to Lima, Peru years ago and in a poor neighborhood seeing a creek that was an unnatural neon green. I remember being told it was a diaper factory. Not only were the factory workers paid a low wage, but the entire community was suffering because of the pollution. That neighborhood paid the price for disposable spending on disposable diapers of the West.

I have heard several times that the climate change we are experiencing is being felt in some regions more than others. For instance, the Arctic and parts of Alaska are seeing their temperature rising more than the continental US. This is causing numerous problems in Alaska: threatening polar bears, killing trees, raising sea levels, causing drought, etc. These climate changes are affecting native Inuit peoples more than US citizens. Eventually we may see a world court where these charges can be settled. The Inuit people should have the right to bring a legal case against the US people and seek damages.

If the market is to function better, it must start to incorporate externalities in its disclosure and pricing. Even mandating that labels on goods incorporate more information would be a good start. The market doesn't have to fail in pricing could start to make relevant costs more 'visible' to consumers. In that way, all of our decisions would be more rational because we would be able to take into account important information previously unreported.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wes Jackson and the Land Institute

On Monday, Phileena Heuertz, Daniel Lawse and I were able to travel to Salina, KS to meet with Wes Jackson. Wes Jackson founded the Land Institute in 1976 to revolutionize crop production. He realized the academic institutions he studied and taught in, were part of the problem for long-term soil erosion.

Academia was concerned with greater food output and was happy to throw ever greater amounts of petroleum based fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides on crops but which in the long term, reduced a soil's fertility. It led to soil erosion, demolished root systems, and depleted the soil of natural resources.

Since that time, Wes Jackson has been consumed with converting the world's plant life back from the monocultures of today (almost all arable land is devoted to production of corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, sorghum, etc.), and increasing biodiversity. Interestingly, he is also hoping to cross-bread these crops so that these crops go from being annuals to perennials. By cross-breeding over many (50+) years, they hope to breed a hybrid that produces crops but is a perennial.

For instance, wheat might be bred with a particular grass that is a genetic cousin of wheat. That offspring would be bred again with a similar offspring or even a parent like wheat again. Over enough time, they could produce a grass-like wheat crop that would keep producing food.

Instead of tilling the soil each year and replanting, Wes believes they could get 7-8 years of crops from a hybrid perennial crop. This would eliminate much of the soil erosion because the root systems would stay in the ground. Root systems of some of these early hybrid plants have been 3 feet deep.

Wes is 72 and was working on a 50 year land bill to present to Obama and McCain when we arrived. He gave this task to someone else and talked with us for 4 hours. We received a tour of the Institute and also a history lesson, philosophy, genetics, etc. lesson.

He was gracious to answer our questions and even used some visual aids in his yard to help make a particular point. He invited us into his house and poured us some water. He showed us a small cabin of Leland, a friend of his, that I may mention in a future post. The cabin doesn't have much more than a small bed, a small nightstand, a wood stove, and a bucket that he could pull from underground for his "refrigerated items". Leland passed away 3 years ago.

Being an introvert, I thought I would be overwhelmed. I wasn't. Phileena, Daniel and I talked all 8 hours (4 hours there and 4 hours back) and we were in conversation 4 hours with Wes. It was one of the best days...great company and a fantastic time with Wes Jackson. I can count on two hands the number of speeches/sermons/lessons I've heard that were better. Thank you Wes Jackson (and Phileena for all her work setting up this trip and introducing us to him; she had met him while on her sabbatical at Duke. He was giving a convocation with Wendell Berry).

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Amero

The past two days, I've been inundated with junk e-mail referencing the falling dollar and the amero.

I had to look it up on Wikipedia.

The amero is a suggested currency to replace the American dollar, the Mexican peso, and the Canadian dollar. Much like the euro is replacing many European national currencies (those countries that are part of the European Union), the amero is a theoretical currency for all of North America.

There are actually coins you can buy off the web called the Amero, although these seem more commemorative (Similar to Franklin Mint informercials you might see on television). These coins also don't seem to have a standard conversion rate from the dollar: the gold coins are much more expensive than the silver and copper coins, and the value of the coins seem more closely tied to the value of the metal than a currency's actual value.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Should It Be Illegal for Those Under 21 To Join the Military?

I've traveled to a lot of countries that have, in the past, been accused of exploiting child soldiers. Many times these children are forcibly taken from their parents. But child soldiers can also be lured into joining the ranks of soldiers because its perceived much like any other gang....its a family, a broken family that provides a certain amount of freedom, power, and respect.

Child soldiers are supposedly good soldiers. They do what they are told, are easily persuaded and manipulated, quickly develop into good marksmen, and are smaller targets for the enemy.

Leaving aside the conversation about the ethics of an army built on conscription, at what minimum age should volunteers be allowed in an army? In the United States, applicants may join at 17 with a parent's permission but face delayed entry. Most applicants start their training at the minimum age of 18.

However, recent studies have shown that human brains do not fully develop until our early 20's. The prefrontal cortex, which "controls impulses, calm emotions, [and] provide an understanding of the consequences of behavior and allow reasoned, logical, and rational decision making processes" "do not fully develop until the early twenties."
-The International Justice Project, citing other academic research projects.

Instead, adolescents use a different part of their brain: the amygdala, which is "typically associated with emotional and gut responses."

"Studies by Dr. Deborah Yurgelun-Todd and her colleagues at Harvard Medical School using functional MRI scans show that teenagers when interpreting emotional information use this part of the brain rather than the rational decision making region: the prefrontal cortex. Conversely, adults in the same experiment relied more heavily on the frontal cortex. In assessing the results of the tasks set to the two groups, Dr. Yurgelun-Todd found that all of the adult participants interpreted the emotional information correctly in comparison to under half of the adolescents."

Dr. Yurgelun-Todd says that "Adult brains use the frontal lobe to rationalize or apply brakes to emotional responses."

There are other parts of the brain that do not fully develop in adolescence including the corpus callosum, which are the axons that help both the left and right parts of the brain communicate.

The author(s) are careful not to suggest that this impedes an adolescent from knowing right from wrong. It does however, suggest that adolescents may have difficulty "controlling their desires", understanding the ramifications of their decisions, and perceiving their "time horizon" differently than adults so they are only concerned about the next 1-3 days whereas an adult engages in "long-term planning".

For more information, see:

This suggests that an adolescent may make an emotional decision to enter the military and may be predisposed to make emotional decisions in combat once in the military. Rationality may have little force in decision making for many of the adolescents caught in the midst of combat. Combine this with stories of basic training where soldiers view battle scenes while listening to loud rock music and this suggests that the military knows about these emotional responses and deliberately manipulates young soldiers for its own ends.

Anecdotally, I have heard a soldier that remarked that he got caught up in the loud music and battle scenes and started hating Arabs (shown in the videos) until he took a step back and started processing that brainwashing. Other studies have shown that the military has made great strides in its training to psychologically help its soldiers be able to kill the enemy (The most helpful suggestion instead of an offensive command, is defensive: to protect your battle buddy).

With the development that has taken place in neuro-biology, should a new minimum age be considered for military service? Say 21?

Suggestions that the military is exploiting the most vulnerable and manipulating them for the military's own ends can be thwarted somewhat by raising the minimum age and by recruiting more soldiers from among the richer classes. Raising the minimum age would put rationality at the forefront and allow each volunteer to make sound decisions when joining the service and also in combat.

This would also perversely shut down the argument of soldiers that they should be allowed to drink alcohol at 18...since if they are able to fight and die for their country they should certainly be allowed to drink. Actually, both are harmful to brains that are still developing.