Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Real Life Parable

23 ¶ Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would atake account of his bservants.
24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be asold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him aan hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very asorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that adebt, because thou desiredst me:
33 aShouldest not thou also have had bcompassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had cpity on thee?
34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.

OK, so I cut and pasted a parable from the Bible (Matt. 18:23-34). I want to compare this to our current economic crisis. I think I should state that I don't agree with the approach the government is taking, but what is happening closely parallels the scripture that I cited.

So here is what is going on, in case you live in a cave. Banks got themselves into financial trouble by loaning money to people who were unable to pay the money back. Some banks failed and many more were on the verge of failure, so the government decided to intervene to prevent a complete fallout of the financial market. It was along the lines of $700 billion. For someone who makes under $20,000 a year, that seems like quite a bit of money.

The idea was that this would give banks some cash on hand so that they can continue to make wise loans and provide people with the money that they need to keep the economy afloat.

As we compare this to the above parable, this was the government (the Lord) forgiving the banks a debt. I know that they didn't really 'forgive' anything, but they pumped a bunch of money into the private sector so they didn't fail.

In the parable the servant then turned and demanded payment from one of his fellowservants. In real life, the banks took the money and are decreasing available loans on people who have always payed their bills on time so that the banks can make more money.

I am eagerly awaiting the moment when the banks get to meet their tormentors.

The parable may not be a perfect fit, but when I read what was going on in finances, I thought of that parable.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Family pictures

We were taking some pictures and rather than just posting the good photos, I thought it would be interesting to post some sequences of photos along with the dialogue that was going on at the time.

--Hey boys, sit on the pile of corn stalks and smile!!

Mugwump, you were supposed to be on the corn stalks. Jaguar, I think you are going to need to stay for another picture and Sixpence, I think looking at the camera would be helpful
Good job Mugwump and Sixpence. You are on the cornstalks and smiling. How about if you try looking at the camera.
Thanks Mugwump, that was a valiant attempt, but somehow that wasn't exactly what I was envisioning with this photo.

How about a different background, the corn stalks look poky

Hey boys. SMILE!
Mugwump, that wasn't a smile. That was a lot like a squint. Let's try again.
Um, Everything fell apart there. Mugwump, thanks for opening your eyes, but that isn't a smile. Sixpence, that is definitely not a smile. And Sans, you were far more discrete in the first photo.
You know I think this works better with a 'less complex' subject.

We'll try a different pose of the boys.

Hey boys. SMILE! (while it is evident that the Mugwump is making faces, you cannot tell that Sixpence has his tongue going in and out constantly).
Mugwump, that's an awful face. Sixpence, stop sticking your tongue out. Good work Jaguar in the background, although a smile wouldn't be bad.
Thanks Mugwump, that's a step in the right direction. Sixpense, what are you doing? Wait, what did the backrow kid just stick in his mouth?
Mugwump, you look like you are causing mischief. Sixpense... that's not getting any better. And the Jaguar in the back is looking to put something else in his mouth.
Sixpense and Jaguar, that is looking pretty good. Mugwump, we didn't need to see your tongue.

OK, this set of photos did not have a happy ending. We never really got the boys together to cooperate on a good picture.

How about this one...

--Hey, Sixpence, smile for the camera.

No, don't pucker up, I wanted you to smile. Hey, the Mugwump is under the thing you are sitting on, Mugwump, look up!
Sixpence, I was really hoping for Mugwump to look up, not you. Let's try this again. Mugwump, look up. Sixpence, look at the camera.
You know, when all is said and done, this photo would have been better without the Mugwump.

Truth be known, we didn't get any great pictures of all of the boys together... or in pairs for that matter. We did, get a couple good pictures of the boys individually. I need to get better at photoshop if I ever want people to think that my boys sat nicely together for photos. Here are the best photos of each of the boys.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Just for fun

I found this the other day and feel that it describes the American people far too well. I watched this and didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Impact of Living

I regularly read no impact man. I think that you should too. I once wrote an email to Colin (no impact man's real name). I simply wanted to let him know that I appreciated how his blog had a similar topic that I wanted mine to have, but he had a way of ALWAYS putting a positive spin on everything he writes. I fear that I often come across as bitter and upset. I'm not really. It just seems to be my writing style. Colin, on the other hand, will sometimes apologize for a post that he felt was too negative, when in reality it would not have even compared in negativity to my more positive posts. That may be a slight exageration, but I really feel that my writing poorly reflects my actual feelings, whereas his blogs accurately reflect his feelings. OK, I don't know what his feelings are, but his posts accurately reflect my feelings.

He posted the other day about whether it would be better if everyone committed suicide because it would drastically reduce human impact on the earth. Of course I feel that is not what the world is about, but I think that the concept is thought provoking.

Environmentally, no matter what we do, we will have an impact. Breathing consumes oxygen and produces carbon dioxide, which is classified by the EPA as a pollutant. Most of us in life will make a greater impact than just the carbon dioxide that we produce. Let's start at birth. How much energy is in a hospital to deliver a baby? Don't get me wrong, I understand and believe that a birth is worth a little extra energy to help assure the life of the newborn, but is a hospital really necessary? Sometimes, sure, but always? Likewise, C-sections are amazing procedures that save babies and mothers. That's great. They are necessary in about 1-2% of births. They are used in some hospitals in more than 40% of births. That is waste. It's a waste of energy, a waste of resources and a waste of health. Sorry, that was a tangent I didn't intend to follow.

What other impacts can we make in life? Life is about a lot more than environmental impact. If that is all that life was about suicide would be a viable option. Fortunately life is about making impacts. When it really comes down to the purpose of life, environmental impact is of a minimal importance. The impact that we have on others is huge. What do we do to lift those around us? What do we do to make the world a better place? How can we improve the lives of everyone on this earth.

While I don't think that environmental impact is the basis for evaluating our lives, I think it is telling. What does it say about a person if they are concerned about the state of the earth for generations to come? I would say that person is caring about others and trying to improve the condition of the earth for future generations. That's a positive impact on others and is good.

Contrarily, what does it say about a person when they 'don't care' about the mass quantities of resources that he is using and the impact that it has on those around him and those who will come in the future? Is that a person that is making a positive impact?

I want to make some clarifications. I do think that some negative environmental impacts are well worth it when they contribute to greater positive impacts of a different nature. However, I think that those impacts need to be considered and compared with what is being gained when doing good.

Make an impact in life. Do something to help others. Sure, helping prevent the degredation of the environment is a good impact, but making others smile and helping individuals do things they couldn't do themselves are also important impacts. Make your impact on earth worth the environmental costs.

Friday, October 10, 2008

What if...

I was referred by minus car to a great post today, and it was along the lines of something I was going to write about. I have the time and interest, I'm going to write. First, you should go read the original post that I read today, here.

So the stock market is tanking. That's fine, I'm 'in it for the long haul'. I know that the market has 'normal fluctuations' and I know that historically, 'the market has always been a good investment over time'.

I'm not a dooms-day sort of person, but I want to think a little. Almost everyone seems to think that this is a dip in the market. We can call it a recession and it may develop into a depression; that's fine. The final assumption that almost everyone makes is that in the end (whenever that is), the market will return to 'normal' and our stocks will increase in value and go back to how it once was. But what if it doesn't? I think we should think on that point a moment.

We have some money in retirement accounts. We have lost $10,000 so far this year. That's OK, I'm quite content without it. Honestly, I don't feel the impact of this financial issue. If it weren't for the news I get from NPR and the internet and the fact that I checked my stocks recently, I would have no idea that Americans are in financial turmoil. How is it that I'm an American, and this is a really big deal, but I haven't noticed?

Next question. We have some extra money lying around. Should we invest it? I know that the stocks are currently 'on sale'. The big index funds are currently available for ~30% off previous prices. What a bargain, I should buy. I should take the $10,000 out of my savings account and put it into a big mutual fund, it's bound to go up if I give it enough time. Just think of the money I could make.

From my understanding of the stock market, now is the time to invest and history shows that I'll be glad I did in the future. But, what if the stock market doesn't increase in value? What if things continue to decline? What if financial institutions as we know them cease to exist? Surely the financial system that we have now has evolved from an ancient financial system that at some point came to an end. Who is to say that this evolution isn't about to speed up?

This is the point that I wanted to make and also the point from the blog I referred you to at the beginning; I don't think anything is a sure thing. While I think that things will likely return to 'normal' at some point, I have this little thought at the back of my head saying that it is quite possible that HUGE changes are in store. What would I need if the financial institution as we know it dissolves into nothing? I would need just a few things. Top on that list would be a home and some land where my family could live. Next on that list would be more knowledge than I currently have on how to grow enough food for my family for a year. I'd probably also need some equipment to do that much farming.

Maybe instead of investing in the stock market I should invest in a house on a couple of acres of fertile land with sufficient rainfall. Boy would my family think I was a freak if I sold everything I have in order to buy a farm in preparation for a financial disaster. (Don't worry family, I won't be buying a farm anytime soon).

What is the sign that it's time to buy the farm? How bad does the financial system have to be? I feel like I'm trying to predict the future, and I'm not good at it.

Don't take the wrong message from this post. I don't think that everything is going to fail, and if it does, I think it will put up a long grueling fight before it's ultimate collapse. The point that I want to make is that we shouldn't assume that everything is going to return to 'normal' (does anyone else think it's odd that we refer to prosperity as normal). If peak oil is real and banks are in as bad of shape as some people say they are and there are other major issues in the economy, things could get ugly. I certainly don't hope for that, nor would I predict that, but I think it's a bad idea to neglect to recognize it as a possibility.

Then if you really want to get the meaning of this post, go back to the site I have referred to several times and read about things of value and things that have no value. It's thought provoking.

I hate it when I post on the economy, I'm far from an economist. Next time I'll try to post more about the conference I attended. I'll give you a little glimpse into what it was about. It was about obesity and everything they said could be generalized to be either about eating less or exercising more to prevent obesity.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Plastic water bottles

I just got back from a conference in Phoenix on obesity. It's hard to live environmentally on the road. I used way more disposable dishes than I would have liked. I ate more meat than I would have liked, and I was in Phoenix where everything is air conditioned all the time.

There were also a couple of things that I felt went well. I did a lot of walking and carpooling and I shared a room with others. The big thing was that I never bought a disposable water bottle. That is one of my new goals in life, not buy disposable water bottles. In fact, I'm going to make a valiant attempt to not buy any beverages in disposable containers. They are extremely wasteful. Some people pay more per gallon for water than they do for gasoline. And they could be getting the water for free or virtually free from a tap. To exemplify this point, the hotel I was staying in had a 1 quart bottle of water in the room for the bargain price of $5.25.

So why is bottled water so bad? It's not so much that the water is bad, or that it's overpriced; the problem is the container and the fact that the container makes it portable. They use petroleum to make the plastic containers that will later just be thrown away or 'down-cycled'. Then with the new container, they use mass amounts of petroleum to ship it around the world providing over-priced water in petroleum packaging. It gives everyone the convenient opportunity to pay more to pollute the world when they could simply fill a glass with water from the tap for a very low price. Or you could even go to a public drinking fountain, forgo the glass and have free water.

The funny thing is that 40% of bottled water is tap water put into a bottle and even the really expensive bottled water can't be distinguished from tap water in taste tests. Do the world a favor, stop drinking out of plastic bottles.

Oh, and if you have a Nalgene bottle, I learned at the obesity conference that the bisphenol A that can leach from Nalgene bottles and other plastics is associated with obesity (as well as other issues such as cancer, etc.). My family has moved to stainless steel and glass for our drinking pleasures.

The Woulfes just commented that they thought that the Nalgene bottle thing was silly and there are many other things that cause obesity to a greater extent than bisphenol A. Eating too much, for example, causes obesity. I agree with the Woulfes completely, but I thought it was interesting that there was any link at all between plastic bottles and obesity, so it tied in well. Getting rid of Nalgene bottles would be a very poor weight loss method.