Thursday, June 25, 2009

Civil Disobedience for LGB Marriage

A few days ago Instapundit wrote about civil disobedience for the cause of legalizing same-gender marriages.

When I was a graduate student at UCSB, I heard about a far more clever plan.

At the time (and probably now) UCSB had "married faculty and graduate student housing". These apartments were nice, and were very affordable compared to other local options.

But at that time (no idea about now) they were not open to same-gender couples. A legal marriage was required.

So some LGB graduate students created a plan. (These were the days before a -T was added to the acronym.)

As graduate students their incomes were all comparable, and writing prenuptial agreements would protect their current belongings. So there was no economic risk to getting married.

So the LGB graduate students would form pairs of couples, two men and two women. Then in these pairs of couples, men and women would go to a courthouse and get married, and then sign up for the wait list for "married faculty and graduate student housing".

Except for that apartment application, the marriages would be completely ignored. Once apartments were obtained, these students would live with their same-gender partners rather than the friend to whom they were legally married.

(In those days there was no active hope of California legalizing same-gender marriages. An ignored marriage to be terminated after both people left UCSB was not getting in the way of a genuine marriage.)

What could the university do against this plan? Many faculty were married to a spouse also in academia, often requiring the spouse to live in a different state or country: the university could not require residents of these apartments to be living with their spouse.

I never heard about if they actually carried out their plan or how it worked out. If you know, please tell me!

End of June, Same Financial Situation

Early in June I wrote a blog post with a link to the Heritage Foundation essay that created what is now one of Instapundit's currently favorite graphs.

How much is the explosion in Federal spending a cause for worry? A recent article explains the difference between the "monetary base" and the "money supply" in an attempt to quell inflationary alarmism. But the argument used is ephemeral: soon banks will begin giving more loans (after all, it is how they create profit).

As I mentioned back in January, spending is not at unprecedented levels.

Rather, it is the "double play" of both Congressional stimulus bills and the Fed increasing the monetary base when the latter would have sufficed.

And the fact that huge amounts of Federal government are now perceived as normal.

And the continued lie that this financial crisis was caused by too little regulation rather than too much government interference -- as if more Federal oversight is the key, rather than new ways of keeping financial sector healthy.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tuppence a Bag

It's Shabbat. May everyone's worship, prayers, and time with scripture be filled with God's presence!

If you need something restful...

Or some nifty Bible mapping...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Democracy that Isn't

Does anyone have a good reply to this blog post by James Rummel?

Any step towards democracy is good, but it seems most Americans think the election process in Iran is more genuine that it really is.

UPDATE: A great answer is in this article by Amir Taheri, which I found through this blog post. One key paragraph is:
In 1979, the people looked to the Shiite clergy for leadership. This time, the clergy is pushed into the background. The new "moral references" of Iranian society are no longer clerics; they are intellectuals, academics, lawyers and independent trade-union leaders. Whatever the struggle's outcome, one thing is certain: Mullahs will never regain their position of moral authority in Iranian politics.
This second blog post is a worthy companion.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Toddler Eating Log

Smiley is now old enough that he is getting most of his calories from solid foods and his nutritional needs have changed from what breast milk and formula provide. (Notably, he needs much more protein and calcium than when he was an infant.)

I looked online for a toddler eating log so we could keep track of if he is eating properly. I could not find any! So my wife, who is much more knowledgeable about nutrition than I am, helped me create a food log for Smiley.

This is worth sharing! Here it is, as an Excel spreadsheet.  (UPDATE: Now it has its own web page.)

The basic information is from the book What to Expect: The Toddler Years, pages 504-509. But we had to revise a lot of the serving size information, which was in some cases strangely inaccurate.

Our version is specialized to what organic food we can easily grow and buy for Smiley. Thus we have left off the serving size information for okra, plantains, and a few other foods that the reference book did include.

We starting to use the log this week. Previously we had been worried whether Smiley was eating enough green vegetable. It turns out we should have been concerned about grains instead. (He does not normally like breads, and we have not had much rice this week.)

(Sorry for the lack of posting recently. I have been spending all of my computer time doing other things, of which this is merely one.)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Resources for Creating a Fantasy World 2

I've found some more fun things fitting this topic.

First, for the sake of nostalgia, you can now download White Plume Mountain and other out-of-print adventures and rulebooks. (Some new adventures are also at the first link.)

Second, this link to Phineas's cartography is supposed to be nice, but is of no help to me.

Third, someone took the time to write a lengthy treatise on being a GM for the d20 system (as a .pdf file). Much of the advice is sound for any RPG.

UPDATE: Phineas's cartography is found! And "map per day" challenges for May and June.

UPDATE: The Cartographer's Guild is a pretty place, and has tutorials for map-making.

UPDATE: Paratime Design has lots of maps. A large, recent "one page dungeon" contest has compiled its submissions and winners here.

Small Wheels

The Tata Nano is a new small car. This article believes it is too similar to the Citroen 2CV to be successful in the U.S.

But it is also quite similar to the best selling car in 2008 in the U.S., the Cozy Coupe.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Missing Quarters

The state quarters program began back when my wife and I lived in New York state.

Inspired by a great children's book, The Hundred Penny Box, I decided to start collecting one quarter for each year and state, looking forwards to the days when my own children would be old enough to care.

My grandmother once gave me a cute cigarette case: an ancient, yellow-green, heavy, steel turtle. Two rows of quarters fit nicely inside it.

When we moved to Oregon we unpacked that turtle, still partially full of quarters. Ever since, it has sat high on a kitchen shelf, unused.

Yesterday Smiley was quite content to eat and play with a stick of string cheese for ten minutes. I was really tired, and unsure what to do. So I took down that turtle and sorted its quarters as well as the other quarters we had in the house. Last night I finished by looking through the quarters we keep in the car to feed parking meters.

Currently the turtle has a quarter for each year from 1965 through 1998, and most of the fifty states. So I should keep an eye out for pre-1965 quarters and quarters for these states:
Oklahoma (Only one state left!)
The next quarters will feature national parks.

I'll update this blog post as we finish our collection.

UPDATE: Looking at my quarters, I've found out the "state" quarters also include Guam and District of Columbia.

Absurd DHS Begs for Oregonian Rebuttal

Amy Alkon wrote about the "minimal acceptable standards" published by the Child Protective Services office in Arlington County, Virginia.

That DHS demands (and has the authority to penalize violations without trial):
8 years and under: Should not be left alone for any period of time. This includes leaving children unattended in cars, playgrounds, and yards.

9 to 10 years: Should not be left alone for more than 1 ½ hours and only during daylight and early evening hours.

11 to 12 years: May be left alone for up to 3 hours, but not late at night or in circumstances requiring adult supervision.

13 to 15 years: May be left unsupervised, but not overnight.

16 to 17 years: May be left unsupervised for up to two consecutive overnight periods.
I plan to write to the Oregon Child Protective Services office, asking them to mock this absurdity as a father's day present to Oregon's dads. (My county does not even have its own CPS office, only a local branch for the state level.)

Oregon should brag about how safe its cities are, and how responsible its children are!

I need help brainstorming example satire. How about this to start?
2 years and under: An infant or toddler child unable to be left alone, at home, for up to five minutes while a parent is busy at the oven or in the restroom is in a dangerously non-child-proofed home. Why hasn't at least one room been made child proof? How about using the crib or a play yard?

3 to 5 years: A child of preschool/kindergarten age who cannot play safely in a fenced yard while unsupervised needs proper training about Oregon's many poisonous plants. If the neighborhood is one of the extremely few in Oregon that ever experience a kidnapping by a stranger then the family should consider a dog to cause loud alarm about sneaky trespassers for the adult who is at the computer or in the kitchen with half an ear alert for the child's noises.

5 to 8 years: A child of early elementary school age should be able to play unsupervised at the homes of many friends, with the parent of the friend home in case of an emergency (if you cannot trust your child at his or her friends' homes, your child needs different friends). A large group of children of this age should be able to play at a playground or park with only one adult watching by using well-established habits of always staying with a designated buddy, behaving properly around strangers, and checking in with the adult before entering a restroom or other building.

9 to 10 years: A child of late elementary school age should be able to play unsupervised in the neighborhood until the street lights turn on. A
child this age should also be able, without supervision, to use the local bus system (except for the Portland metro area), to help a lost younger child get help, and to prepare a meal for his or her family

11 to 12 years: A child of middle school age should be polite enough to not avoid eating dinner with the rest of the family just because he or she has a friend visiting. Even on nights with a sleepover, the otherwise unsupervised children should each communicate with their parents before going to bed and before leaving for school in the morning (for the guests who are away from home, a text message or tweet is minimally sufficient). A child of this age should be familiar with the habits of unsupervised yet safe internet surfing, household cleaning with bleach-water and/or vinegar, and rifle use, even if his or her own home does not participate in these practices.

13 to 15 years: An Oregonian teenager unable, with a buddy of similar age, to pack backpacks and then survive in the wilderness alone all weekend needs to catch up on time spent outdoors. (Not that teens should do this, but they should be able to.)

16 to 17 years: Huh? Although they are minors, in Oregon we don't call these people "children", at least out loud (but if they have never had a job and driver's license we probably call them "children" in our head).
As a tangential note and conclusion, I do not want to be insensitive to parents of children with special needs, but do not have room for such detail in this attempt at satire.

Investment Portfolio Analysis

To finish up some recent blogging about investments, I should link to the very nice Instant X-Ray tool on the Morningstar website.

It generates a much more thorough overview of an investment portfolio than the similar tools on Fidelity's website.

A Different Kind of String Telephone

Smiley has yet to really talk on the phone, to the great disappointment of his grandmother and great-grandmother.

He talks a lot as he plays, so they can hear that on the phone. But once we put a phone to his hear he becomes quiet.

When on the phone normally use an earpiece, so the relative we are talking to can hear Smiley in the background. This led to a funny incident on Monday. Smiley had brought his toy telephone over to mommy so she could pretend to talk on the phone. When she tired of talking into the red plastic headset, he put the pull-string up to her ear, pretending it was an earpiece on a wire.

Storing Up Treasure

A few days ago I mentioned that my family is using the trust GLD as a defense against upcoming inflation.

Investing in gold is emotionally interesting for a religious reason.

It would feel really weird to buy a safe and keep American Eagle bullion coins in it. I am sure this is because Yeshua taught (in Matthew 6:19-20)
Do not amass for yourselves wealth on earth, where moths and rust consume, and thieves break in and steal. Instead, amass for yourselves wealth in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes, and thieves do not break in or steal.
However, I am used to owning investments towards a future retirement, without it feeling weird at all.

In part my investments do not seem as "real" as a safe with bullion because I always think about them long-term.

Also, the investments do not ring the same "amass wealth on earth" alarm bells because I only think about managing their growth, never about spending them. Perhaps I'm strange, but I've never thought about what my retirement might be like! (Similarly, and quite atypically for a parent throughout most of history, I have never thought of my child as an important part of my security in old age.)

Moreover, now and then God will tell me to give some of my investment's worth to someone else (all that I "own" is really God's, after all). So I am very used to thinking of the investments as wealth I steward, rather than personal treasure.

Of course nothing I wrote in the previous three paragraphs could not also apply to a safe containing bullion--but I'm not used to that, so it would seem weird.

While getting the links to write about quarters, I found out that the U.S. Treasury in minting new $1 coins.

When I was in graduate school I enjoyed using Susan B. Anthony dollars when shopping in Santa Barbara and Isla Vista. In those days I wore a belt pouch and mostly used cash for ice cream and comic books. Those coins had just the right heft, size, and value.

Returning to the present, Eugene has many homeless people who ask for money on the street corners. I know and help support a few of them. Having some $1 coins in the car would help: I could flip one to a homeless friend even if my car was not first in line at the traffic light, and the coins would be a conversation piece and reliably survive rainy weather.

I'll have to check if my bank stocks the new $1 coins.

Oddly, it would not seem weird at all to keep a bunch at the house if the only way to acquire a supply is to order a bunch directly (without shipping fee) from the Mint.

Interestingly, keeping a bunch of currency-value coins in a safe with plans to give them away sets of no "amass wealth on earth" alarm bells, even though keeping bullion-value coins towards retirement does. This is sensible yet irrational: the difference stems only from my personal history and hangups since Yeshua's words about moths, rust, and thieves apply equally to both.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Myths Perpetuated

President Obama's speech may have avoided common invention myths, but it fell for commonly accepted Palestinian propaganda.

I've blogged about these myths back in March and August of 2006.

The blogger Ace also mentions, while giving some praise for the speech, how President Obama not only often neglects the dignity of his office but at times brings into it odd "responsibilities".

UPDATE: Andre Aciman writes in the New York Times about a second and related significant flaw in President Obama's speech: ignoring the hundreds of thousands of Jews expelled from Arab countries during the 1900s.

Smiley's a Rat

Back in December I learned that I was a water rat.

Today Smiley ate dinner at a Chinese restaurant for the first time. He is an earth rat.

Six Times Worse

Today I stumbled upon the answer to a question I never thought to ask, but should have...

At Instapundit, Megan McArdle links to a blog post that links to someone's compilation of statistics for people killed by their own government during the 20th century.

This sentence jumped out at me:
Also, this democide murdered 6 times more people than died in combat in all the foreign and internal wars of the century.
We should be six times as alarmed and outraged by governments killing their own people than fighting wars against each other!

Myths Avoided (Well, Maybe Not)

Today President Obama spoke at Cairo University.

Back in 2006 myself and others blogged about an exhibit at the Science Museum in Manchester which perpetuated false claims about Islamic inventions. President Obama's account of Islamic inventions avoided all of these incorrect ones.

Perhaps President Obama's list is also erroneous (I only know enough to spot the error in his claim about "order of algebra"). But even if it is, his speech writer did well to avoid past yet still-common misconceptions.

UPDATE: Oh, well. I gave him too much credit. He did mention fountain pens, which were debunked in that earlier series of blog posts. The magnetic compass and printing press were invented by the Chinese. So the only discovery he got correct was the spread of disease.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Sowerby's Balance

I wrote earlier how skateboarding seems to be so much a matter of balance.

One of Shamus's commenters points out that this is also true for bicycling.

Government Promises Update

I've already written a few times about how the government has made more promises than it can keep.

The basic situation has changed little since those posts. But the issue has been in the news lately, so here are some more recent links.

In Mid-May there were reports that Social Security went red for the first time. Medicare already went red last year.

The total cost of the promises is well over $100 trillion (just pension and Medicare total nearly that amount). The current Federal spending binge is alarming but comparatively tiny.

The currently hot proposal to use national health care to deal with overcommitment at this scale are almost too silly to write about.

Does anything really believe Social Security will last until 2037, and Medicare until 2017? It's silly to keep taxing younger people for these programs. A better course would be to act promptly in an effort to at least save what job pensions can be saved.

Surely our president has the courage to address this issue. But I am not sure he has the personal history to see its importance.

Photoshopped Penguins!

From two Worth1000 contests: Dancing on Ice and cut out.

(Scroll down a bit to see each picture.)

And not about penguins, the picture Yoda Borguereau is hysterical, although I must break for the first time my blog's unofficial rule against links to nudity to link to it. That whole Star Wars Ren contest is great.

Smiley is Walking!

Smiley is now walking. So far his record is 15 steps before falling down.

Here are a bunch of May videos that show how he learned to walk...

His main help was pushing has wagons, especially the lighter one. By the end of May he was very fast, frequently provoking comments from parents at the playgrounds we visit. He also began to enjoy using his wagon to play chase.

During April and May he also would more and more frequently push boxes and his little ice chest around the house. He had started this way back in February, but by the end of May was very fast with these too.

For many weeks Smiley would stand mainly when steering a wagon, to pick it up and point it in a new direction. He learned to do this with the more cumbersome boxes too. (With his latest box we purposefully did not tape shut the open flaps, so while pushing it upside-down he has to take much more care when lifting it over something.)

On May 12th he started to stand up to better manipulate things with his hands, such as string or sticks.

On May 25th he took his first real steps. Before this he would take one step towards an object he wanted and then fall down.

Last night, at 7pm, he invented a new game and started walking.

The back story to this new game began about a week ago. I found out that the Party City store near us (and next to a grocery store we use) gives free helium balloons to kids. So for a few days he was enjoying a balloon, in the air and then on the floor. But the balloon finally got worn out, so last Friday we had bought him a purple ball to push around and roll on top of.

Last night he began to walk while carrying the purple ball. After so many hours walking and running with his wagons, I should have guessed that he would start really walking with the "Dumbo's feather" of carrying something.

After a long time of that game he did some walking without carrying anything. He kept his hands raised, which made me smile. I am unsure if it helps his balance or if he is simply in the habit of having his hands up while doing "walking hands" to practice walking with his parents.

When for Stocks? Now!

Fidelity recently published a few articles, describing economic cycles, examining the current economic trend indicators and analyzing when historical precedent teaches to reinvest in stocks during a recession.

My wife and I changed our investments around in February, with a plan we hoped would minimize the continued loss as the recession finished its cycle yet also would capture all of the eventual rebound.

I forgot at that time to write down where the investments were in February. But our investments have increased steadily. They are up 11% since mid-December, and 7% since early April. So far our plan is succeeding.

(UPDATE: I later checked the comparative change in the S&P 500. It has increased 7% since mid-December and 12% since mid-April. So we are "succeeding" by stably enjoying more than half the overall gain while having much less than half the overall risk.)

What did we do?

Well, it's a secret.

But I can describe our "Big Plan" without revealing much about what parts of it we actually followed. (Each investment requires a fee to purchase and sell, so investing in everything below would be quite costly.)

For more theory behind all this, please refer back to that February post and all its links.

First, to prepare for long-term large inflation use gold (GLD) and Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (FINPX). These have been positive since February: short-term increase was unexpected.

Second, we did decide that the local Pacific Continental Bank (PCBK) has value unfairly depressed by its sector. We've invested in it, at least until the banking sector has recovered. This is clearly the riskiest part of our new allocation. So far it has done well, but that means little.

Third, a few stocks are simply too good to pass up when the market is low. We considered buying some BRKB, GE, and JNJ for the long-term picture.

Fourth, to emphasize the market sectors expected to rally first we considered funds for consumer staples (FDFAX) and MidCap (FNMIX, FMIMX).

Fifth, to take advantage of sectors favored by the Federal "Stimulus Plan" we considered funds for materials (FSDPX) and energy (FSENX, FSESX).

Sixth, we expect the current administration to be sufficiently anti-business to drive big companies to do more overseas, so we considered funds for Latin America (FLATX), Southeast Asia (FSEAX), and India (IFN).

Finally, for completeness we considered a second bond fund (FGOVX).