New Year’s Resolutions, 2008

After spending the last few days pondering–while working out, drinking coffee, and cleaning my house–my resolutions for 2008, I think I have decided on a few. I decided to keep the list fairly short, so I will have less of a chance of losing focus. Heregoes…

1. Maintain my weight level. I’m in shape; in fact–all things being equal–probably the best shape of my life. I want to keep it that way. I’m at 135 right now, with body fat just inside 10%. I’d like to keep the body fat right where it is.

2. Read through the Bible at least once, and complete two inductive book studies. I haven’t decided on the two books yet, but I’m leaning in the direction of Proverbs and Luke. If I complete two and am on a role, I might throw another study–probably Mark–into the mix.

3. Gain at least a functional (written) knowledge of at least one foreign language. I speak English and Redneck, but really want to expand my horizons. Being of Iranian descent, Farsi is one choice, but I’m leaning more in the direction of Spanish or Chinese, as those are the two that will probably become increasingly dominant.

4. Gain a better proficiency in data warehousing and newer, emergent programming/development technologies. I want to keep a leg up on where my organization–or what is going to be left of it–is going.

There are other things that I would like to accomplish, but those do not rise to the level of “resolutions”. I’ll see how this works out on 31 December 2008.

To the rest of you, Happy New Year!

Vox Day Reviews “Liberal Fascism”

Christian uber-libertarian columnist Vox Day, in his weekly column, provides a really nice review of Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.

I’ve always considered fascists, communists, and all brands of socialists–including national socialists (nazis)–in the same boat. Just different flavors. They all believe in the centralization of government and the harnessing of economic and political power to benefit the people. Some–such as the soft socialism of Western Europe–are more benevolent albeit inefficient while others–such as the Stalinist USSR, Mao’s China, Hitler’s Germany, and Mussolini’s Italy–were notoriously brutal and destructive.

Each requires a large government apparatus; each requires a police state; each requires government control of economic assets.

For the better part of the last eight decades, the American Left has embraced those ideals. While very few of them would call themselves doctrinal communists, many of them would privately say, “Ya know, communism (or socialism) could work, if the right people were in charge.” They view themselves as “the right people”.

Sadly, the GOP has also embraced that same fascist framework, as they have become a party of big, authoritarian government. Whereas Reagan moved in the direction of more personal liberties and freer markets, the modern GOP has foisted increased federal monstrosities in education (No Child Left Behind), health care (Medicare Part D), defense (an endless, protracted, war that will cost trillions of dollars), and economics (with spending on steroids).

Ergo, this election season, among the top-tier candidates (Hillary Hussein Edwards and Rudy McHuckarompson) you have a choice between left-leaning fascists and right-leaning variations of the same. The GOP will give you Herod the Great (Rudy), Caiaphas (Mitt), Herod Antipas (McCain), and Pilate (Huckabee). The DNC will give you Jezebel (Hillary), Ahab (Obama), and a kinder, gentler Karl Marx (Edwards).

Outsourcing Pregnancy! India Finds New Market Niche

If you want kids, but don’t want to risk childbirth, don’t fret: hundreds of thousands of mothers in India–with wombs at the ready–will carry your child for a fee. Just arrange the payment and wack off in a cup, and in nine months you can pick up your kid.

Here’s a wrinkle, though: given that the child is born in India, with an Indian woman carrying the child, would the child be a citizen of India and not the United States?

Alamo Bowl: Penn State 24, Texas A&M 17

I’ve always been a Penn State fan, even before I moved to Pennsylvania in 1982. That year, my dad took us to the Penn state-Pitt game, as Penn State was contending for its first National Championship. I was in 10th grade. Dan Marino was the quarterback for Pitt.

Penn State won 19-9, and would go on to defeat Herschel Walker and Georgia for the National Championship. Todd Blackledge, Curt Warner, Greg Garrity, Kenny Jackson…they were my heroes in those days.

But the one I admired the most was JoPa: Joe Paterno.

25 years later, JoPa is still kicking and coaching at 81 years old. And yesterday, Penn State finished off a fine season with an Alamo Bowl win over Texas A&M, 24-17.

Go JoPa!

Soccer Captain Collapses and Dies

Phil O’Donnell, a 35-year-old husband and father of four who happened to be the team captain for a Scottish soccer team, collapsed and died during a game today. More than likely, we are looking at some sort of heart anomaly, much like that which took down American marathoner Ryan Shay this year in the Olympic trials.

Like distance runners, soccer players are endurance athletes. Only their work is more anaerobic than that of the marathoner. Plus soccer players run on grass whereas most marathons are run on roads. Steroid use in soccer is probably rare, and soccer players are typically not bulky athletes that present the red flags for heart problems.

That is not to say, however, that soccer players are immune from heart defects.

In 2003, a player from Cameroon died, apparently from a heart defect. And just this year, a Spanish league player died from a heart condition.

Hopefully, this will be the mother of all wakeup calls to get athletes tested for such defects.

Come to think of it, given that I spend an inordinate amount of time doing cardio and strength training–approximately 10 hours per week–I think I’m going to have a heart scan this year.

Pilgrim and I Could Really Change the World…for the Better

There is a special place in hell for people who kill their own parents. The same is true for people who wantonly kill children. Of course, I am referring to human trash like Michele Anderson and her boyfriend Joseph McEnroe. Pilgrim and I just want to arrange the appointment.

The people of the State of Washington know what they need to do. But Pilgrim and I would be happy to save them the tax dollars.

Boundless: My $0.02 on “Attractiveness”

Many years ago, I had a lady in a church who practically threw herself at me, even though I had made it clear that I was not interested. She had never been married, and it was hard not to feel bad for her: she had played the piano at everyone else’s wedding in that church. I’m sure she was sick and tired of being the pianist and not the bride.

But there was no way I could marry her. Not for all the coffee at Starbucks.

She was 17 years my senior (one year younger than my biological mother) and looked much older than that. I say that not to be mean, but I was not even remotely attracted to her. No amount of sympathy on my part could change that fact.

So when Christian leaders get preachy with me and insist that “beauty is only skin deep”…and “you need to quit being so vain”, I find myself resisting the urge–sometimes unsuccessfully–to tell such folks to do what Dick Cheney told Pat Leahy (D-VT) to do on the Senate floor.

Let’s be brutally honest:

  • Looks matter
  • That is true for both sexes (At 5 foot 3, I have been shot down more times than I can count by women who want their men taller.)
  • That has been true since man and woman have had eyes
  • That will always be true
  • There is no escaping that fact.

On the other hand, the issue is not whether looks matter, but rather how realistic men and women are with respect to their expectations of their mates. To that extent, I think Michael Lawrence of Boundless is generally on the money.

Personally, I consider myself a middle-of-the-roader with respect to looks and appearances.

While I am a gym rat with respect to fitness–I am that out of medical necessity, as keeping my weight down is essential to avoiding back surgery–I do not expect her to have the same devotion to fitness that I have.

In other words, while I have high standards for myself, I don’t expect her to have her bar that high. For me, the key word on that front is reasonable. (I may be short, ladies, but I am very fit. Trouble is, most of you will look right over me. LOL)

Lawrence is also on the money with respect to one’s expectations in terms of character. Looks will only get her foot in the door with me. Without character, she will get dumped, and fast. Here are some ways she can really impress me:

  • A demonstrated desire for the things of God
  • Active participation in the ministries of the Church
  • Regular Bible study
  • Demonstrated maturity and stabilty
  • Ability to put up with my talkative, geeky streak.

It’s that last one that gets me in trouble. 😉

Ultimately, it’s long past time that both sexes grew the heck up and looked at each other through the eyes of Scripture. If we are brutally honest with ourselves, we’ll be in better position to look at each other with grace while extending legitimate accountability.

While men are more visual–let’s be honest, ladies: we are more wired that way–we guys need to grow up and do a better job focusing on character. Being visual does not require that one be shallow. After all, the Scriptures do tell us that “beauty is fleeting.” That is the part of Proverbs 31 that men and women often overlook. 😉

On the other hand, the ladies need to grow up a little and quit using the fact that we men are visual–which has been true since the beginning of time–as an excuse for engaging in self-destructive behavior and then blaming men for it.

If you don’t take reaonable care of yourself, it is your own fault if I pass you up.

2007 New Year’s Resolutions, a Review

These were my resolutions for 2007. Let’s see how I did:

(1) Get my emergency fund to 6 months. After buying my first house, and getting situated, I am not even close here. Stuck on two months.

(2) Get my body fat inside 10%. I accomplished this within the first six months of the year, and have held steady. As of right now, I’m down 25 pounds for the year. Body fat is just above 5%.

(3) Design the first phase of my robot project. I switched projects, instead tinkering a lot with my LEGO Mindstorms NXT kit. Fell head over heels with the LabVIEW interface. Loving every minute of it.

(4) Compete in at least three tactical pistol and two long-distance shooting matches. Back problems kept me out of the long-distance matches (I can’t work the target pit–which is required for all shooters–because I cannot stand on my feet long enough to handle the stress), but I did shoot in four tactical pistol matches. Had a top 10 finish in one of them, and my shot efficiency was very good.

(5) Read the Bible at least four times through this year. I got through only once, but did some extra studies that I needed to do.

(6) Learn Python and increase my proficiency in Linux. I didn’t get out of the gate on this one, instead devoting more time to robotics and amateur radio. Gotta have better focus next year.

Optimistically, I got 50%–buying the house was a good move although it distracted me from building the emergency fund, and I executed the purchase relatively well. My back problems hampered me in my shooting and my robotics and ham radio expeditions–while beneficial–took me away from Linux and Python. My Bible studies weren’t bad, but they need to improve.

Compared to previous years, I was better than average. But I’m sorta disappointed.

Kentucky State Budget Shortfall at $300 Million for FY 2008

Incoming governor Steve Beshear has received a welcome package from his predecessor in the form of a budget shortfall. Between now and 30 June 2008, that shortfall is projected at $289 million. For all intents and purposes, it’s $300 million. (In reality it’s over $400 million, but the surplus from last year will offset some of the shortfall.)

Right now, Beshear is talking of 3% cuts across the board. This will probably work for this cycle. He is also talking of a hiring freeze–also a good idea. Trouble is, we’ve been under a hiring freeze for the last four years, and this has not stopped spending from skyrocketing.

This year, as the legislature begins its session, they will have to come to grips with some very nasty realities:

  • We have a state government apparatus that is large and is growing at a faster rate than taxpayers can support
  • We have a myriad of state agencies that are demanding double-digit increases in spending
  • We have an education system–K through 12–that is a shambles in spite of a decade of unprecedented spending.
  • We have a state employee retirement system that, as a defined benefit plan, is underfunded and whose obligations–which include retiree health care–are only increasing.

Ultimately, taxpayers are going to have to decide exactly what the heck it is they want out of their government. Most of my gripes on this blog apply to the federal government, but at the state level this is also the case. Taxes are already high in Kentucky, even though we do not have a large, wealthy taxpayer base.

When you get outside of Louisville, Lexington, Frankfort, and the Greater Cincinnati area, per-capita income drops substantially. When you raise taxes, even on cigarettes, it adversely impacts those who live on the margins. You can only sell so many bonds to cover your shortfalls; you can only raise taxes so much.

When your neighbors to the south–Tennessee–and to the north–Indiana–are holding the line on taxes and surviving, the pressure is on you to hold the line, too. Something will have to give.

Beshear says he plans on balancing the budget without raising taxes or laying off state employees. Perhaps that is possible in this cycle–although I have my doubts–but the larger issue is the structural size of government. Unless Beshear addresses that reality, this cycle will come back with a vengeance.

This is not a Democrat or a Republican thing; this is about Economics 101.

My prediction: cuts in state agencies will cover most of the shortfalls for this year, and Beshear will work with the General Assembly to come up with a creative plan that includes some bond sales, some budget freezes in various departments, and a small tax hike on cigarettes and alcohol, that plugs the gaps for the next cycle.

But the problem will return again, as Medicaid and education spending (including postsecondary) will create budget obligations that result in huge shortfalls.

The day of reckoning will happen; it’s only a question of when Beshear will face it, or will be able to defer that event to the next governor.

Home Sales Continue Slide…November Rate Lowest Since 1995

The housing debacle is only beginning, and it will get worse before it gets better. As long as the government doesn’t do anything stupid, like foist a bailout onto the taxpayers, or keep printing money to prop up a few big banks, or interfere with lenders and borrowers and their transaction of business.

In other words, as long as the government stops doing what they are doing, this too shall pass, within two to three years.

Unfortunately, the government keeps expanding the size and scope of government; fighting undeclared wars; meddling in the affairs of countries we ought to be leaving alone; committing troops all over the world when they belong here defending our borders; dishing out welfare to corporations, illegal immigrants, rich farmers, and poor countries; and foisting bailouts onto American taxpayers.

And the American–to date–has been too stupid to call the government on their collective shenanigans.