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Tea Party: We Need Your Love!


Apparently, cartoonists all over the country are coming down hard on the Tea, (not a real), Party fraud:

Maybe the working class animals don’t need your love after all!


Bruges Waffles and Frites

Belgium is my favorite European country, for a lot of reasons. Definitely high on the list are historic battlefields, chocolates, beer, fries (frites, pronounced “frit” or “freet” h/t jdberger and Becky, see comments) and waffles. Yesterday I found out about Bruges Waffles and Frites here in Salt Lake City, which means I’ve got to do another food-related post (yesterday it was falafels).

Bruges Waffles and FritesIn Belgium, frites are a specialty. You make a run to the neighborhood frituur to get them, or make your own (lots of people have a vegetable garden where they grow potatoes). Remember the short-lived “freedom fries” fiasco? It was utter nonsense because so-called “French fries” aren’t. Everyone in France can tell you pommes frites were invented in what is now Belgium during the 17th Century.

Waffles (wafelen) in Belgium come in many varieties, none of which are the same as what IHOP calls “Belgian waffles.” They are a sticky, sugary treat best served fresh and hot. It’s common for people to make their own. Belgian waffles were a hit when they first came to America at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. I remember standing in line at the re-created “Belgian Village” to eat one.

Bruges Waffles & Frites is across the street from Pioneer Park, near Caputo’s Market. Proprietor Pierre Vandamme named his shop after the famous medieval Belgian city (better known as Brugge in Belgium, because it’s in the Flemish-speaking part of the country).


Game Theory: Knowing math will set you free

Recently, I’ve been doing some reading into game theory.  Classic game theory works on the premise that each person is a rational actor (as in classic economic theory) and will act to maximize the benefit to themselves.  Contemporary game theory however holds that how people perceive self-interest is different than traditional game theory holds; people will at times make choices that don’t benefit them in traditionally rational ways but which work to their perceived benefit.  Game theory teaches us that collaboration is actually more beneficial than cooperation, the trick is apparently to figure out with whom to cooperate.

Case in point:

In one experiment called “traveler’s dilemma,” two students chose numbers from a range. Each would get cash equal to the lower of the two numbers picked–for instance, $150. That means they would do best if both picked high numbers. But there was a counterincentive: The student who chose the higher number had to pay a $5 penalty. The game was played just once so the students couldn’t learn cooperation. By Nash’s theory, each should have tried to undercut the other just a bit to avoid the $5 penalty. In doing so, both inevitably would have chosen the lowest allowable number. In real life, though, most of the students picked the highest allowable number, to their mutual benefit. As long as the penalty for being the high-number picker was small, there was no “race to the bottom.”

So what happens here is a different kind of calculating – in this case we both come out better so who cares if one of us pays a small penalty.  The only scenario in which this doesn’t work this way is if we hate each other and want to hurt each other.  If the penalty is larger – say $50 not $5, that changes how we figure the benefit of the game.  It’s a question of whether or not the penalty is a disincentive. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hazing And Community

Over the weekend while I was at the gym, there was a show on TV about hazing. It was so absorbing I did over an hour of cardio so I could see the whole thing.

As part of the show, they discussed recent incidents of hazing in American high schools and colleges. In one incident, a girl’s sports team began what was supposed to be an initiation (disturbingly filmed by onlookers) that turned into a violent hazing incident in which at least three students were seriously injured, including one girl whose ankle looked as if it has been snapped (her foot was dangling at the end of her leg) as people carried her away. The incident lasted over an hour and for most of that hour, onlookers cheered and filmed the attack. Several of the older girls were suspended from school and lost their right to play sports.

In another incident, a football player was hazed as a “birthday ritual” in which he was stripped naked, his arms and legs duct-taped so he couldn’t move, then other players delivered a “birthday spanking” which including shoving the empty roll of tape between his buttocks and hitting repeatedly. Criminal charges were brought in the case – including against the coach who was in his office a few feet away while the attack was taking place. (IMHO the coach knew what was going on and was probably involved in planning the attack; he just didn’t give a shit what happened; when criminal charges were brought against him, he complained that his reputation was ruined; I think he got off easy since he was eventually acquitted.)

A third incident involved a fraternity where a pledge was so severely hazed he eventually died – the details were sketchy (and I was getting tired) but apparently he was found in the basement of the frat house in a coma. It was clear he had vastly over-consumed alcohol but there were apparently other injuries that could not be easily or readily explained.

As part of the show, the producers interviewed a psychologist who has written about hazing. Read the rest of this entry »


What About a Sin Tax For War Profiteering?


Political Musings

I am very involved at HUCC here in Salt Lake City; as such I often play church politics, and I do so willingly.  I was recently told I am in fact very skilled at church politics.  People want to believe that in church we should “above” politics.  Church politics, far from problematic, are inevitable.  Politics are nothing more than the way people do things in groups.  The question is what kind of politics will we have.

I have a tendency to see politics through the lens of “healthy” versus “unhealthy” – healthy politics are honest, and may be bare knuckle, but are rarely brutal or destructive in their intent or outcomes.  Unhealthy politics are characterized by back biting, fighting, gossip, and can often be malicious in their intent and harmful in their outcomes.

In healthy politics the official and unofficial power structures mirror one another – in fact they may be the same.  They mirror on one another in the ways decisions are made.  If the unofficial power structure is highly democratic and participatory, engaging a broad base of people in full voice decision making but the official power structure has a tight circle of decision makers who act in arbitrary ways the mismatch indicates an unhealthy politics.  Conversely, the official power structure may claim be participatory and democratic but decisions are made by the unofficial PTB who then presented for approval by the larger group.  Again, this is an unhealthy system. 

Decision making and authority go hand in hand in sublte ways.  Control of the agenda is effective control; you can prevent issues from coming up or you can bring issues to the fore that have been avoided and ignored for a long time.  How a person leads a meeting, how they facilitate meetings, how they engage people in the process of planning and holding meetings are all indicators of the ways in which the politics are being played.

Persons insecure or uncomfortable with authority can tend toward overly controlled meetings – insecure in their authority they prefer clearly defined rules of order.  The other extreme – chaotic unproductive meetings often arise from a reluctance to assert authority.

In churches, we often pretend no one plays politics.  I believe this damages our churches because we are then shocked and offended when someone plays politics openly.  Politics however are not bad or good; they are necessity and how we approach them and how we play them is a huge indicator of how we will succeed or fail in instutions, whether government or church.  My goal – willing to play but be open and honest about the need for politics and fair in one’s application of playing politics – seems to me healthy and a good response to a necessity.  Politics are often associated with the notion of deviousness; in fact good politics is based as much as possible in observation and understanding of persons and their motivations and needs and desires, which people communicate in a hundred ways.

This feels like part one so more later.

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Broken Thinking

Wednesday afternoon, I felt a familiar, deep, disconcerting pain behind my eyes. Acting quickly, I took a dose of Imitrex. Within a short time, the pain had lost its edge and become a dull, pressure-pain. After exercise and a hot shower, I went to bed – still with that pressure-pain but hopeful it would be gone after a good night’s rest.

Thursday, I awoke with a sharp, disorienting full blown migraine. For those who don’t suffer them, let me explain. A migraine is not a headache like any you’ve ever had. For me, they start behind my eyes and rapidly wax to an intensity that makes walking difficult; I experience sensory alteration – depending on the severity, it can be simply sensitivity to light and sound or visual impairment including difficulty focusing my vision and having “fractured” vision (classically called auras) and ringing in my ears. During a migraine, I feel physically disjointed and experience decrease in my coordination and balance. I feels as if my entire body is dangling from the crown of my head, my eyes water, my skin is hypersensitive to variations in temperature and touch; I’ve been in so much pain I have a hard time forming coherent sentences. Noise and light are all but impossible to bear. I remember floating through days at school in a haze of pain. I have suffered headaches and migraines my entire life (I was six the first time I had a full blown migraine). As an adult I have two separate prescriptions for migraine medication which allow me to function as necessary. (Several years ago, after 48 hours of pain, I went to the clinic where I received an injection; 45 minutes later, the pain went away and I felt as if I was wrapped in cotton for the next twelve hours.)

The experience of a migraine is an odd one – during migraines I experience broken thinking and heightened awareness. At times, I’ll stay at work during a migraine because driving home is a worse idea. Sometimes, the solutions I create while working with a migraine demonstrate exceptional creativity – if that’s the right word. When thinking with a migraine, I make weird connections, odd logical leaps, strange slips in thinking that somehow work out. I have sizable financial models with weird formulas that somehow produce reliable results.
Read the rest of this entry »


Must See! John Stewart on The War President

Must see John Stewart on The War President


Elections Clerk Bruce Funk Being Pushed Out for Doing Job?

(Wed 29th SL Trib article)

A letter from the Emery County District Attorney David Blackwell and County Commissioner Ira Hatch accepting Elections Clerk Bruce Funk’s resignation effective April 1st was hand-delivered to Bruce’s office today. (I will post the letter soon.)

The only problem is, Bruce hasn’t resigned. Bruce was elected by the people, and cannot be fired unless he breaks the law, which he hasn’t.

Let it be known, Bruce is a republican, an active Mormon, and a brave man. Who will step up to defend him?

Bruce is one of only a few unique county elections clerks around the country who have spoken truth to power by standing firm on their oath to perform their jobs – in this case to insure fair elections.

Bruce Funk is under pressure to resign for bringing to light his concerns about 40 Diebold voting machines delivered to his office. He is a soft spoken man and a classic patriotic American in the Utah tradition. He was still reeling from the events of last night in which Utah State Officials came down to Emery County and excluded Bruce from a series of closed-door meetings with Diebold officials (who flew in on a private jet) and county commissioners after which Bruce was encouraged to resign.

“They made me a pretty nice offer if I resign, but then I thought, no, if I resign, then what kind of person am I after all these years of protecting our voting rights”.

The Salt Lake Tribune article today quoted Funk:

Diebold’s $40,000 estimate is exaggerated to frighten other clerks from questioning the machines’ integrity, Funk said. “What they are really saying is, ‘We don’t want anyone else to think of doing this.

And said:

Commissioner Ira Hatch said Emery County will go forward with the Diebold machines.”. “We’ve decided we are going have Diebold come and go through these machines and see if they are compromised,” he said, adding the company may be able to work with them on reducing the cost.

Funk has been advised that no one, especially Diebold should be allowed to access to the machines except under his authority and under his conditions. That is why his position is an elected one.

With no where else to turn, Bruce contacted Black Box Voting. They describe the situation here and here.

“Bruce Funk, the elected official who has run elections in Emery County for 23 years, noticed a critical shortage in flash memory/storage in seven of his 40 brand new Diebold machines. He arranged for an independent evaluation, a right granted to Utah county officials in the Diebold contract. Black Box Voting secured the services of Harri Hursti and also Security Innovation, Inc. for the Emery County evaluation.”


Cheney Shoots Other Rich Guy

In an apparent accident, the most powerful vice president in the history of The United State of America shot another millionaire.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot and wounded a companion during a weekend quail hunting trip in Texas, spraying the fellow hunter in the face and chest with shotgun pellets.


Open Thread

Did you see the Sunday morning news shows?

George Will said “Everytime I hear the administration’s legal rational for wiretapping I get a headache”

I thought Howard Dean laid out the democratic platform, again, quite well, including something along the lines of being strong on national defense by not liying to our soldiers about the reasons for going to war, making sure when we do go to war, that we are fighting for something worth dying for, and or course, give them the proper equipment to fight.


The Incompetence of World Domination

I started out this morning thinking about how secretly hopeful Senator Buttars must be that his doctors’ education wasn’t dictated by him and why we have to repeat another painful “Scopes Monkey” cycle.

Then as I was scraping eggs from the frying pan into the sink I began ruminating, as I frequently do, about how in spite of the 99.9% of scientists who agree about the cause of global warming, so many with no scientific education will defend Bush’s denial of it with such conviction and how a longtime director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies resigned after being silenced by the administration and a 24-year-old Bush-campaign-worker-NASA-appointee who lied about graduating from college.

So I decided to write about the incompetence of the Bush administration at every level.

Then I read a letter to the editor today which described well the irony in the juxtaposition between Barry Goldwater conservatism of less government encroachment and the republicans of today which I always chalk up to the unintended consequences of the unholy alliance between Bush and the Christian conservative crowd and the subsequent mob rush to “get religion” further consolidating an inordinate amount of power in one party’s hands which insured their being able to “produce” for the corporate campaign contributors which fostered the hysterical money-grab ending in the complete abandonment of conservative principles, Abramoff, wire-tapping, etc.

And so I decided to write about that.

But while reading about the administration’s attack on our national parks, I stumbled upon this great read recounted in the tradition of medieval story telling; starting with the discovery of gun powder and on through the ebbs and flows of our preeminence in science and its importance in maintaining military superiority ending with what was for me the revelation that the Bush administration’s miserable record on education, science, research, energy and the environment and the unprecedented string of resignations and terminations from government office of the most highly regarded and experienced professionals is merely the fallout of a well-orchestrated and utterly corrupt plan to achieve world domination of western Christianity.

“[Scientific] Materialists also undermined personal responsibility by asserting that human thoughts and behaviors are dictated by our biology and environment. The results can be seen in modern approaches to criminal justice, product liability, and welfare. In the materialist scheme of things, everyone is a victim and no one can be held accountable for his or her actions.”

…and so I decided to write about that.


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