Saturday, April 18, 2009

More embarrassment

hm_movie Since we won’t be able to pay a lot of personal attention to the kids in the upcoming week due to some other things going on, I felt bad and took my youngest and her friend to Hannah Montana: The Movie this afternoon.

They weren't going to our little theater in town, so we wanted a parent to be there to protect them "pervs". And, since I wanted the little tweens to be free for their tween talk, I sat a few rows back in one of the “single loser” seats. Unfortunately, as the theater began to fill up and the movie was getting ready to start, I realized I was now that “weird perv” sitting alone watching Hannah Montana at noon on a Saturday.

I suddenly went from being this guy:

…to being this guy, lurking at the playground:

No good dead ever goes unpunished I guess.

As for the movie, I’m not a Hannah fan, but overall it wasn’t as painful as it could have been. From the first 5 minutes I thought it would be terrible, but it wasn’t too bad. Other than the fact that I now have to move further away from the school.

Friday, April 17, 2009

You remember that feeling...

...when you were a little kid and you ran up to the person you thought was your parent in a store and they turn around and IT'S NOT THEM?
That unique and exquisite mixture of fear and embarrassment.

As it turns out, you can still feel that as an adult - especially if you drive a Honda Odyssey.
Honda Odysseys, as everyone knows come in several interesting colors - all of them silver. There's greenish silver, blueish silver, silvery silver, etc.
My wife's Odyssey is a sageish silver.

On the way home from the Seattle Tea Party, we stopped at a craft store and I had to run in to see if they had some weights for a Pinewood Derby car I was helping one of my kids with. (They didn't. They no longer stock Pinewood Derby parts. Michaels, why do you hate America so much?)

So I came out of the store and walked up to the driver's side of the silvery Odyssey. I came up to the door and - while my brain was still processing why there was someone already in the driver's seat - I tugged on the door handle. The door was locked. More brain processing. In the same instant a slightly angry, slightly frightened man looked me right in the eye.'re not my mommy!!!!
I mean, this isn't the right car.

I left the hapless driver sitting there pondering how lucky he was to have foiled the car jack attempt and backed up into the car behind me, knocking the side mirror a bit in the process.

I quickly found my way over to the RIGHT silver Odyssey - which was full of my family all laughing at me.

If I'd been in just my underwear, I'd swear it was a dream.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Reflections on Tea Parties

I’ve heard so much nonsense written about these tea parties. Let’s leave MSNBC’s homo-erotica totally out of the picture and just talk about reasonably reputable sources.

CNN says they are “anti-CNN”. Wow! Narcissist much? These are the kind of guys that Tweet, “I’m eating a really good sandwich right now” without realizing that even their friends don’t care.
This is the ranting of a network that has no idea how irrelevant they are in their own marketplace. <cough cough> ratings <cough>

Fox News says they are “anti-Tax” (same page, scroll down a little). Well, at least they aren’t saying they are “pro Fox”. They are a little anti-Tax, but not in the sense that we don’t think we should pay taxes.
In fact, I think 9 out of 10 party goers would agree that MORE people need to be paying taxes. A fundamental problem with our system now is that only about half the people pay anything at all and the top 2-3% of income earners pay the lion’s share. Everyone should be a stake holder in America. No one group should get a tax cut or tax increase. That is the epitome of fairness and avoids the
built-in danger of all democracies.
Somehow Fox News has seized for itself some sort of credit in this movement. I’m not sure how that happened. We all know that this idea is straight from
Rick Santelli on CNBC.

Republican party leaders seem to think this is an event supporting them. Hold on there guys. Please reference the Congressional Record from 2001-2006 and tell me why we’d be looking to you for leadership. I heard of some tea party events where Republican politicians were booed off the stage.

People everywhere are saying they are “anti-Obama”. I’ll concede there is a heavy thread of this but ONLY because he’s the current driver of this policy. Virtually all of the people at these tea parties were just as upset at the Bush-Paulson plan, which Obama has extended and continued. Virtually all of the people at these tea parties were just as upset at the Bush stimulus plan of 2008, and it was a mere shadow of the current one.
And Obama’s not alone. Pelosi and Reid are right up there on the anger list.

The key to “getting it” on these tea parties is to realize that what people are upset about are fundamental changes to the fabric of our culture and society that will have a starkly negative outcome. This isn’t a guess. You can look at many examples, the UK comes to mind. As Margaret Thatcher said, “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”

So the tea parties are not about throwing Obama out. They're not about cutting taxes per se. They are about stopping our trip down this change in our economic system. Consider:

There are two choices facing us: “trickle down prosperity” (AKA the way economies actually work, like it or not) or “trickle up poverty”.
We newly dubbed right wing extremist tea party goers prefer the former.

You can point fingers all you want, but the entire mess we are in right now has its roots in government intervention in the housing market that forced institutions to loan money to people who shouldn’t have gotten loans. In response to that level of risk, these same institutions created all kinds of securitization to protect themselves from that injection of business risk.
Further, the government institutions Fannie and Freddie have been piggy banks for politicians (
primarily Democrat ones) and pretended to be both private and public institutions depending on what suited them in a particular instance.

Capitalism and free markets didn’t fail. The thumb of government was on the scale the whole time and markets were trying to react and protect themselves as best they could until it all came down.

There are solutions for all this. “Bankruptcy” (sorting good assets from bad ones and getting the value from the good), “foreclosure” (removing you from property you don’t own and aren’t keeping your word in paying for), and “renting” (the place you live when you can’t afford a house). Just let it happen and it will all get better a lot more quickly.

Extremist chatter: A report from the Tea Parties

As a new member of the Homeland Security watchlist, I went to two Tea Party events yesterday. One in Bellevue at lunch time and one in Seattle in the evening.
Thanks for the idea Rick Santelli.

Bellevue Crowd 1 Bellevue Crowd 2
The Bellevue event was on the lawn at City Hall and was really well attended for a mid-day event. Using the technique of counting a section of the crowd and then multiplying that across the area, I came up with about 1200 people. There were some empty pockets here and there though, so let’s call it about a thousand. I’ve not seen an estimate of the attendance in any of the press reports.

In general, I’m really opposed to Republican politicians glomming onto these events. Let’s not forget that they spent like drunken sailors while in power and that the first round of bailouts was a product of the Bush administration. (And, as someone at the event said, at least the drunken sailor is spending HIS OWN money.)
However, a Bellevue City Councilman, Conrad Lee, spoke. Mr. Lee is an immigrant (a legal one, thank you Mr. Lee) who came to the US 15 years ago. He said that at the time he was just looking for economic freedom and opportunity. He found that but he found something more that he hadn’t expected in the political freedom and the opportunity to make a difference. It was a great story and I love hearing from first generation (legal) immigrants.
Another speaker was Toby Nixon. Toby is also a Microsoft employee and happens to be an LDS guy. He is a former state legislator and now the head of a policy group. In his talk, he said, “There are four boxes that protect our freedom. The soap box. The ballot box. The jury box. And the ammo box. Preferably in that order.” (insert wild applause and hoo-uhs) He elaborated on each of the first three and one of the things I appreciated was his call to stop trying to get out of jury duty. I’ve never been sure why people do that. Do we want juries left in the hands of complete morons?

My hastily made sign read “Pay your own #!?@~$">#!?@~$ mortgage!” on one side and “Dude, where’s my country?” on the other.

I had to leave a little early to get back to work for a 1pm feature review meeting. Good time though.

This was a family affair for us (except our oldest who is at college). We got to the event a little late. I was puzzled why the woman MC’ing was dressed as Alice (from Alice in Wonderland). As I write this, I’m just remembering the tea party scene, so I suppose it makes some kind of sense.
There were more people at the Seattle event, but still less than two thousand. I haven’t seen any estimates, but it was much more organized in the sense that they had sign up lists to stay involved going forward and “official” people in little yellow hard hats who were moving through the crowd doing various “official” things.
And it was in Seattle, so there were a few nuts. There was one anti-Walmart guy and one guy who was either for or against bioengineering, but we couldn’t really tell. He was dressed in a black facemask and goggles and had a cape made from a UW Huskies flag. <head scratching> Not sure what was up with that. Seattle Crowd

The worst part is there were a couple of people with really offensive signs. One depicted a Barak Obama figure with strings going up to a Star of David and a stereotypical “evil Jew” controlling him. That doesn’t even make any sense. I don’t think Obama has shown himself to be even a friend of Israel. In addition to being anti-Semitic and evil, it just doesn’t make any sense at all.
The other sign was a single “counter-protestor” with a reference to sexual activity that is the current way of talking about the Tea Parties on MSNBC. I would wager that more people saw this guy’s stupid sign at the Tea Party than were watching MSNBC in that same 2 hour timeslot nationwide.

Anyway, great energy in the crowd and a fun family event. Here we are being escorted away by the horse mounted riot police.*
Riot cops? Really?

* OK, not really, we just happened to be walking in front of them on the way to the car, but seemed funny they were there.

I think daughter #2 was hoping for some window smashing and car burning and may have felt a little disappointed when we all dispersed peacefully at the end.

So how about you? How’d you spend your April 15th?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What the heck was up with my ACT?

I was digging through some old transcripts and such.
Just a note that I keep carefully filed by stuffing them in the folder/frame thing that my Associates degree came in and stuck in a box in the garage with things like old plastic models I never built and my children’s blessing dresses. But I digress.
Anyway, so what do I find there but my ACT score report from when I was in high school.
For better or worse, when I took the ACT, I didn’t think it was a big deal. I don’t think my parents were even aware that I took it. I remember driving myself to the BYU campus (I’m pretty sure) on a Saturday morning (in October, apparently) and just taking the test cold with zero prep. I think I did pretty well, although I apparently had no more ability to rub two numbers together then than I do now. And what was up with that English score. I’ve always been a big fan of English and I use it almost daily. I’m actually planning a trip there. <sigh>


Now, again for better or worse, taking the ACT for my two oldest was a different matter. It involved lots of worrying, lots of practice tests, planning to take it once and then at least once more.
They’ve both done well and I’m very pleased with the effort they’ve put into it.

So the really interesting thing about this is not my scores or the fact my parents didn’t love me enough to make me take practice tests until I cried. (like I do)
No, the interesting thing was the ACT “Interest Inventory”.


Since I now work in the software industry, which is usually considered pretty technical, I appear to be woefully misplaced in the job market.
I mean I do pretty well for myself now, but apparently I would be KILLER in the Arts or Social Services. I really should reconsider a career as a case worker with troubled youth. Maybe I could straighten them up by making them take ACT practice tests over and over again while I fire live ammunition over their heads – just so they are prepared for test day.

My lovely and gracious assistant pointed out that tests like this are always out of step with what is really happening in the world and that “technical” to the ACT fuddy-duddies of 1985 probably meant internal combustion engines. She’s great about making me feel better about myself. (But I still got a higher ACT than her. <nyah-nyah>.)