Tuesday, July 28, 2009
The second is a diverting piece by Scott Sumner, whose usual beat is monetary policy. Today, though, he's posting a thought experiment on modern federalism called The American Union: or how a right-winger learned to stop worrying and love the EU. Now paging Dr. Strangesumner. (I also highly recommend his discussion of the monetary side of the current financial crisis: quite unorthodox and rather long-winded but decidedly convincing.)
Monday, July 27, 2009
1) Do you need to refrigerate or do anything clever in summer to preserve that much chocolate?
2) Any suggestions on breaking it up into manageable pieces?
Joy: "I think we'll need a pick axe."
3) Do you want to be my friend? ;)
Joy: "Ohhhh dear."
~About This Product~*ROFL*
~Our premium 60% dark chocolate. Measures 15 7/8" x 9 7/8" x 1 1/2".~
Wish us luck.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Hyrum is also learning to implement the accio spell. Joy asked him today to please pick up a piece of bread he had dropped. He not only did so, he did so without being asked when he later dropped a second piece. Later in the day, I was concerned about his runny nose and asked (not expecting much) if he would bring me a tissue. His face lighted up (hmmm, that's strange), he looked around a couple places, and ran over to the door where he picked up his shoe and started to bring it to me. Tissue ... shoe. What a wonderful kid. We laughed ourselves silly.
Saturday, July 25, 2009
“We have been looking forward to going to this fair since the first year I moved here and married Derrill. I found out about it and Derrill’s family has always enjoyed them in the past. We have just been taking turns going other places and this year was the fair.”
“After buying tickets you walk into a little village of buildings and what I saw first was a costume shop, so that you costume yourself. It was really fun to see so many people there already. It felt like we were joining something instead of creating something.” We had looked through the schedule of events for the day and decided contrary to stereotype that Derrill was most interested in hearing music and that Joy was most interested in seeing theatre. “These choices helped us a lot in prioritizing the possible events to attend.” There's a LOT there to do. You could easily come back for a second day.
“We started out (after a bathroom stop) at a Bagpipe and drum concert. Hyrum was really excited. Even before they started playing he would breakout clapping at what seemed to me random intervals.” Hy mentioned that they encouraged audience participation, which they defined as raucous cheering, rolling on the ground, throwing babies in the air, or something else I won’t mention in a family blog. “I’m sure we raised our eyebrows.” I obediently tossed Hyrum in the air at the end of every song. He loved it. As he’s gotten larger, the ceiling has been closer and closer, reducing Dada’s chances for babytossing. “Derrill also mentioned Hyrum has gotten more wiggly” and that reduces safety. We enjoyed them muchly.
Before lunch we tried out another couple acts, but we found them in poor taste. We later learned that the schedule provided a parental warning “which we hadn’t quite noticed” that warned of ‘Bawdy Baskets.’ We lucked out in not having chosen them, but we are good little Puritans and walked away.
They had an assortments of games that we didn’t play, but that looked fun: toss a cannonball into the cannon; really really long wooden slide; shooting crossbows at targets; archery; and the ubiquitous strong man competitions, dart throwing, etc. As several of our hopeful acts let us down, we had some time to amble through the shops instead. I tried on a very comfortable merchant’s shirt which I imagined buying someday when I’m a successful merchant. Joy tried on some floral, ribbony headwear whose name we can’t recall, also to be purchased when I’m a successful merchant.
We did get me a new Robin Hood hat, though. I’ve needed a Merry Men cap for quite some time. “They did have Maid Marian hats there too, but I didn’t try any on.” There was this fetching Byzantine number, though, that accented Joy nicely. “They looked like they’d last a bit longer, but I didn’t think they looked as pretty. Derrill started looking at hats while I was on the camel. We also got a wooden bird for Hyrum that you fill with water and it sings like a cardinal. That guy did a very effective sales pitch when he made my crying baby laugh." (It was quarter past nap time by that point.)
During lunch, I got to sit and chat with a fellow who performs as Will Shakespeare in a one man play (he's the fellow in gray there in the middle). It was a very nice conversation – what he does and why and how long. Comparing the different plays going on that day. Joy’s conversation with one of the behind-the-scenes folks was much odder. Joy had seen the Queen’s lady-in-waiting several times and had commented on her nice dress. “I, of course, didn’t even know she was the lady-in-waiting.” To me, it seemed like she really needed to spend 15 minutes in the shade with a bottle of water. She started this strange response about how nice clothing is, and how it feels, and that she has a lot of it. It was rather disjointed – she had to say something – “I bet they had to do that a lot.”
We did get Joy one good theater piece, though. They performed a shortened version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Wisely, they decided, instead of shortening the entire play to 45 minutes, to just pick out a short section that could be done well in 45 minutes which still gave the flavor of the entire play. Since I was in that play many long years ago, that was my #1 concern. “I liked it. At first I couldn’t hear very well, but we got to a spot where I could hear better. It went on well from there. Puck was pretty funny.” I thought Bottom did quite a good job.
We ended the evening with a lovely trio of medieval instrumentalists – they designed and handmade their own instruments! – who told us the stories behind the songs and showcased 3 different versions of the bagpipe. Who knew? Their music (Bells and Motley) was really what I came to hear. Sitting under the sun, in the shade, listening to floating, lilting, harps, bagpipes, fiddles, and much more unique instruments was rapturous. Joy's favorite instrument is featured in the video above: a hand cranked violin with a keyboard. "I loved the harp, too. That was just my favorite of the ones he made." The strangest instrument - featured in the lower video - was a one-string fiddle that has 4-5 other strings inside the case to reverberate and make the string instrument sound like a reed. Funky.
Actually, the ending piece was the joust. The sound system needed help, and the choreography was silly. “When they finally got to the joust, the couple of minutes of joust was fine. That’s probably why they did the silly choreography: they wanted it to last more than a couple minutes of joust.” They made all of 3 or 4 passes.
They fist-fighted a lot. “They could have done some elimination, you know.” Several people jumped off horseback WWF style. Crude humor was made. Hyrum loved the large crowd cheering. “I think he liked the horses too.” The louder the crowd got, the more boisterous he was. He also clapped for the gratuitous violence, as you can see here. (Note: You can hear Hy screaming in the background. I can't change the zoom on my camera once it's started filming, so I can't get Hy in better focus when I move to him. You can still see his excitement."
Joy loved the mile high, moist chocolate cake we bought on our way out. “That was the best food I ate all day long.” We picked up some CDs of the groups we listened to. They did an effective job parting us from our money.
An exquisite chess set in gold and silver (which we did not get).
Friday, July 24, 2009
That testimonial from Joy reflects our delight with the South Beach Diet. Today, very officially, Joy is below the weight she was the first time she went in to her OBGYN pregnant. She is at her pre-pregnancy weight!
"I was starting to feel that I was never going to lose the weight, like it was a permanent part of who I am."
This is a thought I know all too well. My ambition in life was to hold the line and be happy remaining there. I was thrilled to finally get below 10 pounds for every year I was old because I got older (I've been tracking that more or less since I was 5 years and 50 pounds).
"Wow. That's crazy, Derrill. Glad we broke the cycle."
Since early June, Joy has lost almost 15 pounds. That was after a largely ineffectual and very painful first two weeks when her metabolism, taste buds, and carb cravings really did reset as the book claimed. "But it took almost two whole weeks to do it." She's been dropping about 2 pounds a week on average.
Since early May, Derrill has lost 25 pounds, after a gloriously successful first two weeks of 10 pounds. So I've also been dropping almost 2 pounds a week since the diet phase.
We've been asked a number of times if we're still "on a diet." We're on a lifestyle, yes. We can't eat everything we might like indiscriminately. We have a theory you don't either. "But we have taken a couple of days off the diet," which is even approved and encouraged to keep your sanity up. The guy just encouraged people to know what constitutes breaking and how to get back on your lifestyle.
"We've enjoyed finding desserts that work with the diet" - pound cake, cheesecake, sweetened riccotta cheese (which is the filling for cannolies), pudding, peanut M&Ms, Snickers. It's been easier to get our fruits and vegetables in every day and we're actually fairly glad to eat less meat than we were doing for our nutritionist the last two years.
The real change is carbs. We have a little whole wheat bread, pita pizza, or pasta each day and really enjoy it. "My OBGYN suggested I go down to 1 grain a day when I was pregnant with Hy and I thought he was insane. But because of his suggestion, I figured that this diet would be healthy even some day when I get pregnant again." We've discovered that we don't really need a bunch of grains to fill up, while before the mashed potatoes and rice were a large part of what made the meal feel filling. "We find ways to work in our favorite foods so that it can be a lifestyle. We found your taste buds really change when you go to only one grain a day. Our fruits taste sweeter, our breads taste sweeter, and Joy - have a cow - likes dark chocolate!"
While in DC, I went off the lifestyle for a couple days since it would have been very difficult to follow and enjoyed a small pizza as well as the sandwiches they were giving me. Then I got back on track, and I've lost what I gained as a result. "I think your family is going to notice a real difference when they get here in two weeks. 25 pounds."
"When we read people's success stories in the book, we were like, 'yeah, right, whatever. No craving for carbs??' But I had misunderstood the word 'craving.' It means painfully in need of, like being addicted." Joy and I had very different experiences in those first two weeks, which is why I didn't think it made much difference. I just wasn't as addicted, probably thanks to earlier summers with Mr. Atkins. "I still like my breads. I often still think of them first. But I don't feel like I'm going to die because I don't eat them for every meal. I feel I can eat as much of the good food I want - guilt free - and not have to go hungry, and the breads are just a nice addition."
There is a third phase to the diet where we get to add a bit more grain to something closer resembling normal, but we'll get there once we've reached our ideal weights.
So we are rapidly becoming South Beach converts. It's been kind of fun as we were doing it to discover who else in the branch is converted. Who would've imagined this was even possible?? "Now is the day of our weight loss. We shall rejoice and be glad therein."
(PS - Derrill would encourage all the silent ladies who read this blog for Hyrum to pretend this is a woman's blog and actually make comments congratulating Joy. I have this theory I get fewer comments than my fellow blogging spouses because I'm a guy.)
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
reaction to President Obama’s speech in Ghana by guest blogger Leonard Wantchekon, NYU Professor of Politics
Overall, I like the theme of the President Obama’s speech in Ghana. Africans must own their future by strengthening democratic institutions and the rule of law in their countries, and by becoming less reliant on assistance. I also like the idea of a real partnership between Africa and other developed countries based on trade. It is very much in line with what most of us would think. He said:
"America can also do more to promote trade and investment. Wealthy nations must open our doors to goods and services from Africa in a meaningful way. ..."What I find a bit questionable is this:
"Africa is not the crude caricature of a continent at perpetual war. But if we are honest, for far too many Africans, conflict is a part of life, as constant as the sun ... These conflicts are a millstone around Africa's neck."My sense is that in saying this he has helped to perpetuate, perhaps unwittingly, the very caricature that he questions. Conflict is NOT as constant as the sun in Africa. While this may have been the reality of the 1970s and the 1980s, it is certainly no longer the case. He forgot to add that many of these conflicts were proxy wars between the US and the former Soviet Union (such as that in Angola), or were manufactured by France (such as that in Congo Brazzaville).
The average African country is at peace. Moreover, it is a democracy, albeit one with relatively weak state capacity, such as Liberia, and Mali. Zimbabwe is the exception, not the rule. And even in Zimbabwe, where there is 90% unemployment, incredible hardships and repression, most people want democracy, not another war.
Freedom, especially freedom of the press, has also drastically improved in the majority of African countries, to the point where Reporters Without Borders have ranked several African nations above developed countries such as Italy and Japan.
... In terms of the strongman syndrome, things have changed for the better. All across Africa courts and unions have tried (most of the time successfully) to block and prevent constitutional changes that would allow the sitting president to run for an additional term (African presidents have therefore been less successful than the Mayor of New York City in this regard!). Afrobarometer surveys suggest that 75% of Africans reject military rule, 73% reject a one-party system, and 79% reject strongman rule. ...
[People responded to the initial blog post, and this comes from his response.]
How many countries that can be considered to be at war, in Africa? The two clear cut cases are Somalia, and Sudan. But you can add Chad and to some extent Congo. That is 4 out of 54 countries in Africa. That is 7 percent of Africa. You can throw in Nigeria or Kenya because of electoral violence. But would we call India a country at war? ...
[If] we want to promote investment and tourism in Africa, it is really counter-productive to exaggerate the security situation. We also need to report progress, which has been significant in the past 10 years.
The map on the right comes from the US State Dept. Humanitarian Information Unit. I see only 4 countries where there is widespread conflict (as opposed to hot spots), but a number of other countries do have hot spots than acknowledged above. Even so, the percent of Africa in conflict is quite low compared to historical averages and stereotypes alike. I found a similar 1999 map from the BBC and it shows a similar, albeit less-detailed, picture.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
The conference ended each day at 5pm, after most of the interesting sites had closed, so I wasn't really able to go see much. Tuesday was the All-Star game (so close! We almost finally won.). But Wednesday night was open and available, so I went walking. I wandered for 3 hours altogether, from the hotel down to the mall, circling the Presidents in a grand, 10+ mile loop. Rather than try to present all of that at one large post, I'll make a handful of small posts with pictures by topic.
First stop of interest along my route: the US Treasury, with Albert Gallatin (Wiki: a Swiss-American ethnologist, linguist, politician, diplomat, Congressman, and the longest-serving United States Secretary of the Treasury. He was also a founder of New York University). I haven't heard much out of Treasury in the last two years that I could cheer, but their recent announcement that they will be auctioning off the shares they currently own in other banks is a very welcome event (more info: here, courtesy Donald Marron).
Circling the Treasury and White House (forthcoming), you come to a much talked about institution of late: the FDIC. They're the ones who promise that your deposits are safe even if a bank goes under. In that unhappy event, the FDIC takes possession of the bank (aka nationalizes it) to unwind its debts and make sure you get your money back. So we've had a program of bank nationalization for over 70 years, and it's worked pretty well.
I was surprised to look to my side Thursday on my way to work and realize I was passing by the Inter-American Development Bank. The IADB is unique among the development banks because the developing countries are its majority shareholders - that is, they have a big role in calling the shots. This has on average tended to increase accountability and legitimacy, both in the bank and in the countries getting loans.
We packed up the car Monday morning and transferred to another car. We were in that car forever! We finally landed in Alexandria, Virginia where Dad's "adopted" sister and her family live. Mom and Dad adopt a lot of people.
They have a little girl who's 9 months old in 12-18 month clothes named Emma. I liked Emma a lot. I even learned to say her name! emMa. Ma. Ma. emMa. She's really cute. I couldn't stop hugging her. Until she started pushing me away, anyway. I'd respect her space, then give her another hug to let her know I understood and it was okay.
I always wanted to play with the book or toy she was playing with, and I'd follow her parents when they put her down for a nap or when they got her up. They taught me about a wonderful new food: grapes! Grapes are wonderful. I could eat them all day.
I really missed my Dada. I didn't get to see him for two whole days! I just about drove Mama out of her skin with missing him.
Thursday Dada came back to us and we piled in the new car again. When I woke up, I was back in my own little bed. We had a nice Friday at home while Mama and Dada did laundry and I tore up the place (at least, when Mama and I weren't doing errands.) This is me eating peaches all over the place.
Saturday we got in our old car again! What's up with all this driving around? We got to a place where everyone was dressing in bright colors. My favorite part was at the beginning where these guys in dresses played really loud music on drums, bagpipe, and Rauschfeif - the noise pipe. It's the top part you stick on a bagpipe. They were a lot of fun and, as they requested, Dada tossed me in the air at the end of every song. They seemed to think excitement was throwing babies in the air. They said I'd have to come back for their other gigs.
This is me in a mirror while Mama looked at some headdresses.
I got to meet the queen (she's blindfolded so it doesn't ruin the surprise). Mama talked to her lady in waiting and complimented her on her dress. The lady was weird: she started to go off about how nice it was to have clothes and how nice they felt.
Mama got to ride the camel. She was way up high and giggled. She had never ridden on a camel before. Dad says I can ride on a camel some day when I'm older. Mama said the camel walks like it's pregnant: waddle, waddle, waddle. It has a slow waddle.
I also really enjoyed the jousting. I'll have to get Dad to post some videos. We got back in the car, they changed me into my jammies, and I woke up back home again, ready for church. I wonder what they have planned for me next week!
Friday, July 17, 2009
So what are we celebrating this year?
Year of animals!
In the Chinese calendar, it's the Year of the Ox, aka buffalo. Check out the link for ideas on what this means and what to do about it. The UN has declared it the Year of the Gorilla, with Jane Goodall as the obvious choice for advocate, to preserve the species. It's also Year of the Shark according to environmentalists who aren't satisfied with saving one species a year. Which one should we celebrate? Maybe we should decide by cage fight... Year of the Gorilla vs. Shark Grudge Match!
Year of science!
To celebrate 40 years since a giant leap was made for mankind and 400 years since Galileo first used a telescope to study the galaxy, it is the International Year of Astronomy. We've already celebrated by repairing Hubble and launching the world's largest telescope to find earth-like planets around other stars.
Year of trench workers!
Two professions, actually. His Holiness is celebrating the Year for Priests while the military rejoices in their non-commissioned officers (Year of the NCO).
In California it's the Year of the Olive, while the Jewish Zodiac celebrates the Year of the Pickle. The pickle demonstrates its seasoned maturity over the days when it was just a cucumber. [The Jewish Zodiac ("Remember the Sabbath Brunch and Keep it Holy") tells me that I was born in the year of the Lox, meaning I am thin, rich, and very high maintenance. "Consider retiring to Boca. Compatible with bagel and schmear, although you top them." Happily, Joy and Hyrum are both bagels.]
And the FAO winner:
The Food and Agriculture Organization, to whose data and conferences my dissertation owes its life, has actually decided to abandon the food side this year in favor of ...
A Wild and Wooly 2009: Natural Fibres Year
[Picture of Douglas Fairbanks in Wild and Wooly (1917)]
By this announcement and attendent celebrations, the FAO hopes to assist impoverished natural fibre farmers. The list of the privileged includes:
cotton [Harvested today by machines called cotton pickers and cotton strippers],
flax (Worst comes to it, eat your shirt and get 100% of your B1 and Magnesium)
sisal [from a plant in Africa and China],
hemp ('It's not just for smoking anymore'),
abaca [related to the banana],
jute [in India and Bangladesh],
silk ('I'm wearing discarded worm housing!'),
wool ('Clothing for the sheeple'),
alpaca [llama hair],
camel ('Without us, some lawyers would be naked, and we wouldn't want that'),
angora [Do you mean the Angora rabbit, the Angora goat, or the Angora cat?],
coir [coconut hair! Dude, where can I get a coir hat?]
and cashmere [Persian wool actually from Kashmir originally]
"England’s rise as a world power was built on wool and textiles, while silk for centuries held a central role in international trade. ... Celebrations of IYNF will include conferences, exhibits, and fashion shows in many countries, including an International Mohair Summit in South Africa and a Creative Fibre Festival in South Caterbury, New Zealand."
So remember, if you see a non-comissioned priest in a mohair suit sitting on a pickle-eating ox while he tries to find constellations of a gorilla and shark dueling in the heavens, offer him an olive. This year's for him.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
He also, for the first time in months, ate a grain this weekend!
Joy made him some oatmeal, and he refused. But I offered it to him a few hours later, and he ate it, and then he ate some more! It's wonderful!
"He fed himself. That's the sweet goodness."
Hyrum is getting better at hugging. Particularly when it's time to get his diaper changed, he stands up and grips Joy or me with tender, fervent affection. We're so hug starved usually that he can delay his diaper change for 2-3 minutes that way! But sometimes he's willing to hug just because he wants to. And it's so sweet when he does.
Hy is also doing better with the concept of "soft." He'll slap one of us in the face and (after a brief time out) we remind him to be Soft. He then strokes our cheek so softly and lovingly!
We mentioned his love of music and conducting earlier. Here he is opening my Fathers' Day card from last year and conducting the Seventh Inning Stretch today.
Friday, July 10, 2009
For at least the last 30 years, a favorite game has been to remind people just how much these numbers mean. Let's have another round!
How big is the debt....
as a Pyramid scheme?
10,000,000,000,000 --- We got our 13th zero some time this year.
as a pile of $1 bills?
It would stretch from earth to the moon three times over.
as a Road Trip?
$30,400 is your share as of Feb 2008. Put it at about $33,000 now.
(Hat tip Donald Marron, former CBO head)
From Oct2007-June2008 we had a $286 billion dollar deficit. It's grown to $1 trillion this year already as tax revenues fell 18% and the TARP, bailout, and stimulus funds kick in.
That's what we've already added to the debt this year so far. 11% growth in 3/4 of a year with a pledge to spend 500 billion more.
The debt increases by a trillion dollars as far as the eye can see.
And that's before Medicare, Social Security, National Health Care, and other entitlements ratchet up when the boomers retire.
J. Reuben Clark - "Once in debt, interest is your companion every minute of the day and night; you cannot shun it or slip away from it; you cannot dismiss it; it yields neither to entreties, demands, or orders; and whenever you get in its way or cross its course or fail to meet its demands, it crushes you."
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Monday, July 6, 2009
"I hold my political views to be self-evident, and that all men who disagree with them must be either incredibly stupid - for failing to perceive what is self-evident - or incredibly dishonest and evil - for perceiving what is self-evident and rejecting it."
To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, "not many people, I admit, would formulate a [political ideology] in precisely those terms; but [I suspect] a conception not very different lurks at the back of many minds."
Perhaps a third quote would close the thought: Benjamin Franklin, on encouraging his fellow delegates to sign a Constitution he said he did not approve, said "having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is therefore that, the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment of others. ... On the whole, sir, I can not help expressing a wish that every member of the convention who may still have objections to it, would, with me, on this occasion, doubt a little of his own infallibility, and, to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument."
Would that it were easier to doubt our infallibility!
Sunday, July 5, 2009
1) All people are created equal
2) They are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights
3) Among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
What are some truths you hold to be self-evident?
We mentioned Hyrum is at the 92nd percentile for height. I've learned a couple new ways to think about that this week as he approaches his 16 month birthday:
1) He is as tall as 21 month olds in our nursery.
2) He has started wearing 24 month shirts and size 8 shoes.
3) He can not only climb onto the couch and into his high chair, but into the car!