I am trying very hard not to buy any new items. I figure I have spent my yearly allotment of discretionary income. You know, buying a car and all. Still, I’m not sure if I can do something different myself, or if I need either a lens with a longer focal length or perhaps extension tubes.
Still, I am not entirely unhappy with the effect. Nonetheless, I was hoping for a little closer and a little sharper.
Just a couple more. Still trying different things.
I was living in Atlanta, and a good friend had come down to visit. There wasn’t much I liked about the city, and I didn’t have any brilliant ideas about where to take her, so we wound up at one of the malls. And, given our personalities, it should come as little surprise that we found ourselves hanging out in the Museum Store.
The key is in the set-up. It would work better if I had my back to my target, but then, of course, I wouldn’t be able to see his face. While he was behind me, I made sure my friend was facing him so that she could report his reaction.
If I were going to blame anyone, I think it should be the person who designed the packaging. The box made juggling sound so simple, all you had to do was buy this starter set, and you’d be juggling in no time. A friend had taught me, and it was a lot of trial and error. Thus, while I grant it would be possible to learn from whatever crappy instructions were included in the set, I thought they were playing down the difficulty just a bit.
The only reason it was possible at all was that there was an open set so that customers could try before buying. Of course, an open juggling set just means three soft balls, akin to hacky-sacks. If I had opened a set, I probably would have gotten into trouble.
Picking up the three balls, I immediately started to juggle them. Then I exclaimed that “It works!” My gratification was, of necessity, second-hand, but my friend reported an extremely shocked look on the innocent bystander’s face, followed by a dawning realization that I probably knew how to juggle before hand.
My work done, myself sufficiently entertained, we left the store and continued wandering the mall.
Maybe you had to be there. But at least you may understand why I chuckled at today’s XKCD:
In response to Warren Buffett’s op-ed in the New York Times, I’ve seen a number of objections which point out that not all rich people are billionaires, so raising the taxes on rich people might hit people of more modest means hard. Thus Buffett’s call for raising taxes on the rich makes a faulty assumption that all rich people have gobs of cash.
Indeed, according to the Financial Times*, the top tax rate kicks in around $370,000, a far cry from a billion, much less multiple billions. So Buffett’s call to tax the super-rich might look misleading since it would lead to raising taxes on people who make less than half a million dollars a year.
Except, that’s not what Buffett called for. He called for raising taxes on the SUPER-rich. Only in the most ham-fisted approach to implementing Buffett’s recommendation would we see taxes raised on people making only $370,000. Presumably, a more thoughtful reading of Buffett’s suggestion is to create a new top tax rate (or at least raise the current one) to cover people that are more reasonably identified as the SUPER-rich.
I have no doubt that some would support raising taxes even on those making $370,000, but whatever the merits of that suggestion, it isn’t Buffett’s. “Rich” is a relative term. If, however, we allow ourselves to define rich down to the point where a large chunk of the upper-middle class is “rich,” then we do make it look as though proposals to increases taxes on the rich will hit more people.
The problem is that people are responding to Buffett’s proposal without adopting his defined targets for higher taxes. In short, many objections are changing the discussion in order reject his argument. Call it a Straw Man, or a Non-Sequitor, it’s still failure to address Buffett’s argument.
There are other mistakes in this debate. One of the more common ones seems to be to claim that taxing the rich won’t solve the problem, so we shouldn’t do it. Of course, that conclusion doesn’t follow. Just because taxing the rich more doesn’t solve the entire problem doesn’t mean it won’t help, and it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be PART of a solution. The suggestion seems to be we need one action that will fix everything, and if one action doesn’t fix everything, then it should be rejected. Yet, complex problems often require complex solutions.
The other common mistake I see is an example of making the numbers say whatever you want them to. People on the left point out that the wealthiest pay a smaller percentage of their income in taxes than people in the middle. People on the right point out that the rich pay a greater percentage of the tax revenue of the federal government than those at the bottom.
These facts are not in conflict, and neither proves any policy point unless you combine it with some conception of distributive justice. Should we ask everyone to contribute the same amount to the government (implied by the claim of those on the right)? So that a poor person should pay the same amount to the government as Warren Buffet? Or should we ask people to pay the same percentage of their income (what is often called a flat-tax)? In this scenario, Warren Buffet would pay significantly more than I would because he makes significantly more, though we might each pay the same percentage of our income. Or should we have a progressive tax scheme, where those at the top pay a greater percentage of their income than those at the bottom, even though they will still end up with more?
One might argue for any of those positions. But the numbers, by themselves, prove nothing. Everything depends on how we understand fairness and social responsibility. Saying the rich already pay for a quarter or half (or whatever) of the federal budget doesn’t mean that they are heavily taxed. Indeed, they are taxed at a lower rate now than they were under Reagan.
We can’t have a productive argument on these issues unless we agree to the definitions of the important terms, as well as understanding what all the different numbers really mean.
* You can read the Financial Times article for yourself. I’m sure you can find this factoid out elsewhere, but this is where I found it. The article argues for raising the rate on those making over a million, and establishing another rate for those making ten million, returning the top rate to its level under Reagan.
I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but apparently there was some kind of debate in Iowa last night. Apparently there are some foolish people with over-inflated egos who foolishly want the job of President of the United States.
Now, before you assume that that’s just a partisan swipe, let me assure you, I have reasons for saying that.
Why are these people foolish? Well, because they want the job. I think you’d have to be crazy to want to step into the mess that this country finds itself in right now. Sure, you can blame the current crop of politicians if you want to, but that just makes you more foolish. I love blaming people as much as the next person, but this mess is going to last awhile. I think Obama is foolish for running for reelection, and any of the GOP candidates is foolish for running against him.
As far as inflated egos, do you really think you can single-handedly fix this? I’m not saying the POTUS doesn’t have a role to play, but you have to have a pretty big notion of your own capabilities if you think you can fix it. Still, I wish you the best.
For me, the most telling moment was Michele Bachman’s comment linking Tim Pawlenty and Barack Obama.
Bachmann hit first, listing Pawlenty’s record on issues such as health care: “That sounds a lot more like Barack Obama, if you ask me.”
As someone who suffered under Tim Pawlenty’s version of leadership for eight years, let me assure you, Tim Pawlenty is no Barack Obama. For some, that will sound like a ringing endorsement. What it tells me is that Michele Bachmann is so far off to the right, that her ability to distinguish two very different leaders is seriously compromised.
How far away do you have to be to think someone who signed a no-new-tax pledge is just the same as Obama? How far away do you have to be to think someone who signed a pledge opposing gay rights is the same as the person who finally put an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”?
Bachmann is so far to the right she is out of touch with reality. That might not come as a surprise to some of you, but I think it’s important to underscore just how far gone she is. She could have easily distinguished herself from Pawlenty without insinuating (the obviously false claim) that he is like Obama.
Of course, Bachmann isn’t just so far to the right that she can’t tell the difference between a right-leaning Republican and a left-leaning Democrat. She also can’t see the dictionary.
She once said that she studied tax law out of deference to her husband, to whom she is “submissive.” She was asked if, as president, she would submit to her husband’s opinion.
“What submission means, if that’s your question, is respect,” she said.
That is NOT what ‘submission’ means. It just isn’t. In the very conservative Christian view that she was identifying with in her earlier comment, wives submit to their husbands, not vice versa. If ‘submission’ meant ‘respect,’ then husbands should submit to their wives, too, since they should respect their wives.
But the submit relationship runs only one way. ‘Submission’ means ‘defer to,’ at the least: husbands are in charge of their wives. So which is it, Rep. Bachmann? Are you submissive to your husband, as your particular brand of Christianity requires? Or not?
It’s one thing to distort the Constitution to paint your political opponents as traitorous miscreants; it’s another thing altogether to distort your native language to try to make it mean something it shouldn’t. The first is, unfortunately, par for the course lately. The second is just ignorant. Ignorance is also par for the course lately, it seems. (Some might object that it isn’t ignorance, but that she is being intentionally deceptive. I’m pretty sure that’s worse.)
My favorite “find” at the Winnipeg Folk Festival was Caladh Nua. I was listening through some of their stuff this morning as I work. When this song came on, I felt compelled to share. All of their stuff is lovely, and their version of this song (a song I heard years ago on a Clannad album) always grabs me.
I’ll leave it to the reader to find a translation, but I love this for more than just the sound, though it is enjoyable merely on those merits alone.
I have been chewing on the credit rating downgrade from S&P (from AAA to AA+) for days. Reactions online have been predictable: blame, blame, and more blame. Unless it’s just out-and-out denial.
What’s missing, however, is any serious attempt to understand the complicated issue. That’s frustrating enough, but it gets worse when people pick-and-choose. If you think the credit downgrade is a serious criticism of our financial policies, you have to take all of the criticism.
S&P didn’t just say that we needed bigger cuts. It didn’t just say we needed more taxes. It said both. Thus, the blame is not solely on the Tea Party for not being willing to raise taxes, nor on the Democrats for being unwilling to cut more. It’s on both.
On the other hand, if you dismiss S&P’s analysis of the fix, then you can’t use the downgrade to criticize whoever it is you want to criticize.
Congress should have stepped up and enacted the Simpson-Bowles recommendations. And Obama should have shoved it down their throats. But nobody was willing to take the hard steps recommended by that commission. Instead, we’re left with a bland deal that doesn’t address the heart of the matter.
As these thoughts have been swirling in my head, I opened the paper today to a surprise. I found someone who seemed to share my view on the mess, but it was in one of the most unlikely guises. I cannot remember ever agreeing with anything Charles Krauthammer has written. Ever. But his column from last Thursday (published today in my local paper) struck me as being dead on.
If people as polar opposite as Krauthammer and I can agree on this, maybe there’s hope for a deal in Washington? Of course, that assumes the politicians are as reasonable as he and I are. So maybe not so much hope after all.
The trouble with movies like Rise of the Planet of the Apes is that you know where it has to end up. Its not a question of having seen the original; its right there in the title. At the end of the movie, the apes have to be in charge, right?
As a result, the success of the movie doesn’t hinge on a surprise ending. Instead, it hinges on the details of how you get to that ending. There are a few obligatory moments (the Charlton Heston movie playing in the background, the quote from the original Planet of the Apes movie). But this movie still has a lot going for it in the details.
What the movie succeeds at doing is making the apes more sympathetic than the original ever did. Certainly, it wraps the story in a morality tale about the dangers of mistreatment of animals. In that way, it would be a mistake to claim the movie is breaking new narrative ground.
Yet the story is told well enough to draw you in. And the CGI for the apes is so good, that they can easily tell a good bit of the story, even though they cannot talk (mostly). Indeed, one of the amazing things about this film is how much the special effects are barely noticeable. CGI has come a long way.
As seems only right, the apes drive the show, leaving James Franco and John Lithgow (as well as a few other human actors) to fill supporting roles. They both play their parts well enough, though I still have trouble seeing past Franco’s role on the TV show Freaks and Geeks, so imagining him as a scientist is difficult for me.
Still, the humans’ stories aren’t what we are here for. We’re here to see how apes took over Earth. And in this, the movie tells a compelling story. It also manages a few a surprises, even though we know the ultimate outcome.
At some point, when I wasn’t paying attention, I must have become an adult. Like, for real.
I mean, I never would have believed I could have walked into a car dealership, have someone pay attention to me, and then (five hours later) drive off the lot in a new car.
When did this happen?
Did it happen when I got my doctorate? Did it happen when I got my first job? When I got married? Bought a house? When I actually stayed at the same job for longer than a decade?
Honestly, it never really occurred to me that I could do this.
My car is (was, I guess, since it’s no longer mine) twenty years old. It had been totaled. Not by me. But one of my very skilled brothers put it back together. And I bought it. And drove it all over western New York, down to Atlanta, and out the upper midwest. Despite having slammed into a tree early in its life, that Celica lasted through a lot. And it got me where I need to go. It was fun to drive. But it was showing its age.
Ronni’s car had been paid off for a little while now, and I had begun thinking about what I wanted next. All my cars, up until now, were whatever happened to be available. And I didn’t mind. My last two, both Celicas, had been very reliable, so I was thinking about another Toyota. Years ago I had considered a Prius, but sometime last summer I got it into my head that a Rav4 would be nice. Finally, I could have a car with cargo space.
About a month ago, I requested a quote on the Toyota website for a Rav4. The local Toyota dealership began contacting me, wanting to get me in for a test drive. I got emails and phone calls, and I began to wonder if giving them my info wasn’t a mistake. Today, though, Ronni and I had some time, and I thought I would swing by, just to take a look.
The guy I had been talking to was headed out of town for the weekend, but another salesperson helped me. She had me take one of the Rav4′s for a test drive, and it was smooth. At some point during the drive, I mentioned that I had been interested in the Prius, but that I kind of liked the idea of more cargo space.
She told me that I would be surprised by the Prius and should at least take a look. I should have known that it would be roomy because both Celicas had a surprising amount of cargo room in the hatchback considering they were both two doors. The Prius was comparable to the Celica, though clearly the Rav4 had more.
We took the Prius for a spin, too. It was a white 2010 with 38k miles on it. It seemed to handle funny, I thought, though the salesperson and Ronni both thought it might be the wind. I wasn’t sure, and I didn’t think it seemed quite as nice.
As we drove back to the lot, however, the salesperson (let’s call her Cheryl, since that is her name) noticed that, contrary to what she had thought, they had a new 2011 Prius on the lot. The Barcelona Red color of the car was brighter than the maroon of my Celica, and it caught Ronni’s eye immediately.
We took the 2011 out around the block, and I didn’t notice the handling issue of the 2010. (It felt like the 2010 was out of alignment, but maybe it was just the wind.) I spent another ten or fifteen minutes weighing the pros and cons of the Rav4 and the Prius, but in the end, the decision seemed obvious.
I like smaller cars with better gas mileage. The Prius wouldn’t be a sports car like the Celica, but it was more my style, and how often did I need a big cargo space, anyway? Besides, it’s hard to argue with 51 mpg in the city.
As Ronni and I knew from last month’s mortgage refinance, we still have decent credit. The dealership got us a very good rate on a 66 month loan. Foolish or not, I decided to get an extended warranty (for peace of mind, if nothing else, since I had never, ever owned a new car before). All the paperwork took several hours, but by the end, I no longer owned the Celica, and I had a brand new car.
A car that starts by pushing a button. A car whose dashboard is in the middle of the car. A car that, when I first got in it, had 8 miles on it.
8 miles. I own a car that has less than 20 miles on it right now, as it sits in my driveway.
Well, technically, a bank owns it. But they’re letting me drive it while I give them money towards owning it myself one day.
Seriously, when did this happen? When did people start letting me buy stuff because I seem responsible enough to pay them back? Big things, like houses and cars? Wild.
I’ll take more pictures with a better camera when it stops raining.
So now that everything is done (except straightening out the bill, but that’s in progress), I thought I’d post some pictures from our recent involuntary remodel.
As soon as the contractor started looking under the linoleum, we knew the problem was going to be bigger than planned:
A week and a half later, though, the problem was removed. See? Improvement! Right?
Well, it didn’t take long before we could at least walk on it.
Finally, three and a half weeks after we first discovered the problem, we finally got everything done. New paint job. No silly wallpaper. No textured ceiling. An exhaust fan that actually exhausts. Things finally seem to be returning to normal.
I just keep waiting for something else to go wrong. *knocks on wood*