Friday, July 31, 2009

I can think of some clunkers I'd like to vote out...

So I know that 1 billion dollars is now chump change. That compared to the trillions of dollars The One is spending elsewhere, a billion bucks is a rounding error. But still, it's time for a good ol' rant...

So let me see if I can get this straight, based on reading articles here, here, here, and here.

- Congress first passes a law authorizing up to a $4500 rebate for trading in your old "clunker" and upgrading to a newer more efficient car. They fund this program for $1B or until November, whichever occurs first. So to start with we've got Congress taking money from some people, giving it to others, in an attempt at social engineering, based on fruity theories of impending environmental doom. Nice...

- 78 cars were disqualified from the program as "clunkers." Why? Because after an analysis of the data by the EPA, their mileage rating could not be accurately calculated... out to FOUR DECIMAL PLACES! Apparently 18 MPG isn't accurate enough for the EPA. They needed to know whether it was 18.2873 MPG or 18.2874 MPG. Seriously? Am I misunderstanding that sentence? Is there not one engineer who works at the EPA that could have laughed the regulator that came up with that out of the room?

- The program was supposed to run until November on the $1B dollars. That is 4 months from now. We are now 4 days... 4 DAYS!... into the program, and congress is already saying it is running out of money. "Few predicted the fund would run out so quickly” Really? No one in congress could figure out that when you offer someone $4500 for their $1000 heap, they might take you up on the offer? Really?

- As of Thursday, 22,782 cars had been traded in. Ummmm, 22,782 x $4500 = $102M. That is only one tenth of a billion. It would seem there is still lots of money in the fund. Can congressmen not do simple math, or am I missing something?

- So what would you guess that a program designed to encourage green thinking and get people to car about the environment would do with all these clunkers? Surely the earth hugging movement behind it all, the one that encourages us to compost and unplug our cell phone chargers, would find a way to recycle these old heaps. After all, vast amounts of energy were used to create the manufactured parts. And using the parts to repair other old vehicles would create just the kind of blue collar jobs the administration is looking for. So obviously, the most appropriate use for the cars is to shred them. As in crush them. Reduce them to rubble. Brilliant!

- So after all of that, what is the response of congress? Well, the program is "financially strapped." Its "early success threatened to sink the system." So of course... let's triple the budget. So when the program that was supposed to spend $1B to generate auto sales does so quicker than expected, it isn't declared a success, but instead generates emergency legislation to "save" it? Am I suddenly living in Willy Wonka world!?!?

If I decided my budget for a new TV was $1000, went to Best Buy and bought one that cost $900, and then declared that I had a funding emergency and forced you to give me another $2000 so that I could buy two more TVs... you would rightly think I was insane. Oh, and I actually bought the first TV with your money as well...

[Chris Rock voice on] It was supposed to spend a billion dollars you dumb... [Chris Rock voice off]

- Not to fear though... Obama's press secretary says if you were planning to get a car this weekend under this program, to go ahead and get it. The One himself.. "But I'm happy to report that it has succeeded well beyond our expectations and all expectations, and we're already seeing a dramatic increase in showroom traffic at local car dealers." "The program has proven to be a successful part of our economic recovery and will help lessen our dangerous dependence on foreign oil, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the quality of the air we breathe."

So why don't we just pay everyone to shred their cars and buy new ones? Heck, while were at it we should bulldoze all our houses and build new energy efficient ones. Think of all the energy we would save! And all the jobs that would be created in the construction industry! It's brilliant!

And we are even contemplating putting these imbeciles in charge our our health care? Really? Are we STARK RAVING MAD!?!?!

Hope 'n change, baby. Hope. And. Change...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Book Review: What He Must Be (If He Wants to Marry My Daughter)

I just finished this book while I was up in Utah. Although the title might lead you to believe it is just about daughters, it isn't. Voddie Baucham covers fathers and what they must be to raise Godly sons and daughters. What sons must be if they want to marry other father's daughters. What husbands must be. What daughters must be. I would say it is less of a "how to" manual and more of a "here are the criteria to strive for" book.

As you would imagine, many of his suggestions are pretty much the antithesis of popular cultures notions of romance, men, women, dating, love, etc. Some of them are even foreign to typical evangelical churches, although I think he makes a good case for them. For instance, he has totally written off the whole notion of dating for his daughter. She is 18, and hasn't been on one. Ever. He expects a young man to come and ask his permission not only to marry her once they have dated for a while, but before they ever go on their first date. And he isn't going to just grant it automatically, as his standards are pretty high. Old school. And I am not sure I disagree with him (I just heard Katie's head explode), I'm just not sure how exactly to pull that off.

It is definitely worth reading if you want to be challenged in how to raise your sons, your daughters, and how to be the head of your household that God intended.

One part that was especially impressive was the story of Rowland Taylor, in discussing the role of a man as protector of his family.

Rowland Taylor was a pastor in England in 1555, starting during the reign of Edward VI, and ending during the reign of "Bloody Mary." Foxe's Book of Martyrs says:

"Taylor was a mild man, humble and without pride. None in his parish were so poor that they could not approach him as a child to a father, and none were so rich that he would not rebuke them when they sinned. His preaching was forceful, firm, and true to the Word of God"
Good combination of gentleness and strength.

After being thrown out of his church by "the papist violence that overthrew the true doctrine of the Gospel of Jesus Christ" he was encouraged by his friends to flee to a location where he would be in less danger. He refused, saying:
"For myself, I am fully determined, with God's grace, to go to the bishop, and to his face tell him that what he does to me is insignificant... Remember the good shepherd Christ. He not only fed His flock, but also died for His flock. I must follow him, and with God's grace I will do so."
Taylor confronted the bishop, was accused of being a heretic and blasphemer, and was told to submit himself to the Roman pope. He refused.

While in prison, he gave his son a book of the sayings of the old martyrs. In the back, he wrote:
"I say to my wife, and to my children, the Lord gave you to me, and the Lord has taken me from you, and you from me: blessed be the name of the Lord!... Trust in Him by means of our dear Savior Christ's merits: believe, love, fear, and obey Him. Pray to Him, for He has promised to help. Count me not dead, for I shall certainly live, and never die. I go before, and you shall follow me after, to our eternal home."

The night before his execution, his wife and daughters (one adopted) waited outside the prison for him to be moved. The sheriff and his men allowed Taylor to talk with his wife, where they embraced and prayed the Lord's Prayer. "Watching them from a distance, the sheriff and his men began to weep." After they had prayed, Taylor kissed his wife and told her "Farewell, my dear wife. Be of good comfort, for my conscience is quiet. God will stir up a father for my children."

Rowland Taylor climbed into a barrel of pitch, put his back against the stake, folded his hands, and began praying.
"Then he stood still in the fire without either crying or moving, with his hands folded before him, until [one of the sheriff's men] struck him on the head with a halberd and split his head open so that his brains fell out and his corpse collapsed into the fire."

Writes Voddie, of Rowland Taylor:
"Rowland Taylor was not Rambo or captain America. He was an ordinary man whose life bore the marks of a genuine walk with Christ. He was a protector of the weak, a defender of the faith, and a martyr who faced death with dignity...

Those of us raising sons would do well to read them stories of men like Rowland Taylor... We need to hold such men up as shining examples of what genuine faith in Christ looks like. Moreover, we need to remind them of the cost of discipleship and the danger of friendship with the world.

We must also help our daughters hold such men in high esteem, for if they do they will be unlikely to settle for less. How can a young woman hear stories of men like Rowland taylor and find weak, selfish, godless men attractive? A man who is characterized by such holiness, gentleness, compassion, resolve, and bravery is certainly capable of being a protector."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Go west young man (or.... north)

Last weekend, I headed up to Salt Lake City to see my BFF Jonathan.

Did I actually just use "BFF"? I'm never sure what to call Jonathan. "Best friend" seems kind of, well, un-manly. Plain old "friend" doesn't properly convey his ranking in my hierarchy of acquaintances (small as it is.) "Bro" just seems too California surfer dude. Let's just say I've known the dude since kindergarten, and we can pretty much complete each others sentences.

Anywho... I drove up to Utah. I left Thursday after work, with the intention to get somewhere higher in elevation and cooler in temperature, sleep in the car, and then start up again in the morning.

I hit Page, AZ at around 8 PM, after catching the sunset over the Marble Canyon / Lee's Ferry / Vermillion Cliffs (in the distance.) Click on the picture to see the larger version.

My lovely wife should recognize this picture, as I took one on the exact same sign 11 (?) years ago, right after we started dating, as I was driving up to Utah for Jonathan's wedding.

After stopping at the Rocking V Cafe in Kanab for dinner (excellent fish tacos!) I jumped back in the car and kept moving. I am a notoriously bad night driver. I cannot stay awake. Heck, I usually fall asleep in cars during the day. But a strong coffee and the fear of hitting one of the 436 deer (approximately) that were standing right on the shoulder of the road kept me awake all the way to I-15. Once back on the interstate, 80 MPH speedlimits and no traffic, and I ended up driving straight through.

I got to Salt Lake at around 3 AM. Rather than wake anyone up, I just pulled up in the driveway, laid my seat back, and went to sleep.

Jonathan was surprised to see me sitting on his porch in the morning, since he didn't expect me until later in the day. Well, technically it isn't his porch. It is his in-laws. They've got a great old Victorian built in 1892 that they are restoring. They were kind enough to let me crash on their living room floor for a few days, despite the fact that they already have their daughter and son-in-law living with them. Knowing Jonathan as well as I do, I'm not sure how they have put up with him for a year. And having me around certainly doesn't help him stay out of mischief. ;)

Jonathan showed me the sights of Salt Lake...

The largest copper mine in the US (world?) This thing was a huge hole in the ground...

Those trucks might look all tiny and cute, until you see a normal pickup behind one for scale...

Literally the only pictures of either of us that I took the whole weekend...

Panorama of the whole mine (click for the full size.)

The next day we went to this huge army surplus store. Jonathan has been there before with his parents, but his mother never wanted to go walk around the junkyard itself. I can't imagine why. But as a result she missed out on cool things like this old train car and a massive pile of old WWII helmets...

And just because I think you should meet Jonathan's in-law's lovely dog...

(Sorry Mrs. Edwards, I couldn't resist!)

The poor dog was literally used as a kick dog by some college guys, and as a result has a few issues. But the Edwards have adopted the little thing...

We pretty much just hung out and did nothing all weekend. Lit a few fireworks, saw Public Enemies (the movie, not the rap group), went out to dinner. Mostly just discussed politics, culture, and whether beauty really is in the eye of the beholder (Katie... ahem, and here and here.)

I've got to imagine poor Mrs. Edwards now thinks I am a total whack job. Jonathan brings out the, ummmm, best in me. Most of what we discuss I half believe, but ramp up the level of hyperbole just to tweak Jonathan's wife Katie. It's a tradition dating back to when I first met her when they were dating, and I believe I said that someday I was going to give my children serial numbers instead of names. ;)

I also gave Katie's sister a special gift. You can read about it on her blog here...

After what was not nearly a long enough weekend, I made the long drive home on Monday.

After a morning Starbucks, I had a weeeee bit of energy. Figured I would burn some time on the long road trip. So, Ipod on shuffle, and I get to be a rockstar in my own mind...

Since this time it was actually in the daylight, I took a few pictures along the way. The drive is beautiful (again, click to view the full size.)

I saw this absolutely massive house north of Kanab. Probably needs a house that big for all the wives...

In honor of my mom, I stopped at this historical marker. I have no idea what occurred at this location (something important, I am sure.) I only stopped to take a picture to harass my mom, not to actually read the information...

I stopped at the bridge over the Colorado River at Marble Canyon...

(click above for large version)

As I walked up to the bridge, I was scanning for boulders small enough for me to lift. Unfortunately, the fine authorities of the state of Arizona had anticipated my mischievous intentions...

Every fiber in my being wanted to violate that sign. Like I couldn't just look over the bridge and see if anyone was down there. Sheesh...

(click above for larger version)

Finally, Chief Yellowhorse apparently catches some really big dreams...

As always, my visit with Jonathan and Katie was far too short. Although I am sure Katie was happy to have her normal, calm, unoffensive husband back after I left. I know he is a perfect angel when I am not around... ;)

PS: The preacher at the end of the video above is Matt Chandler. I downloaded his series on Luke, and made it through 20 of the 43 sermons on my trip. All of them were good, but if my memory serves me, these were particularly good...

Skeptics Welcome (Luke - Part 1)
A Righteous Response to Absurd Promises (Luke - Part 2)
Of Danger and Ditches (Luke - Part 16)
Hope in Real Life (Luke - Part 18)

PPS: Mr. Edwards, I timed myself writing this post. It took me approximately one minute forty three seconds. Including editing the video...

I keeeeed, I keeeeed... ;)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The UPS man cometh

The doorbell rang this afternoon. I figured it was yet another "genius" who can't read the "No Soliciting" sign.

Instead I spotted the big brown truck making a beeline for the end of the street, and found this on my doorstep.

Hmmmmm, Amazon? Weird, I haven't ordered anything from Amazon lately (a fairly unusual occurance.)

Deciding the likelyhood of an Amazon mail-bomb was low, I cautiously opened it.

Sweet Enola Gay! A Ch-ch-chia Obama!

I can now grow my very own replica of the President. Specifically, the Chia Obama "Determined" (as opposed to "Happy.")

Based on the name on the receipt, my sister and brother-in-law apparently thought that the one piece of decor that our house was really lacking was a green haired replica of The One himself. Thanks!

Hope 'n Change baby, Hope 'n Change!!!

(I wonder if including the words "Obama" and "mail-bomb" in the same post is going to get me on some Secret Service watch list?)
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Another one bites the dust!

"Bites" Get it? Get it?

Ella called me at work today to tell me that she had wiggled her second tooth out. Paige sent me the poor quality cell phone picture.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mount Baldy, Attempt Two

Saturday, 5:30 AM: Gina and Tim knock on the door of our hotel room. My mom and I snap awake from a dead sleep. Dumb alarm was supposed to go off an hour ago!

It would have helped if I had set it for AM instead of PM. Doh!

We snag some breakfast, load up, and head out for the trailhead of Mt. Baldy. Tim and I are determined to actually get to the top this time, after having just missed it a few months ago, and Gina and my mom are determined not to slow us boys down...

8:15 AM: After taking the wrong road out of Show Low and having to detour 18 miles down a dirt road, we arrive at the trail-head and hit the trail...

9:18 AM: Barely an hour into the hike, and the girls already had to stop for a break and a snack...

My mom also claimed that her feet were swelling, and pulled this odd maneuver in the middle of the trail to reduce it...

The scenery looked pretty much the same as last time, but quite a bit greener and with more wildflowers.

12:18 PM: We make it to the same posts that Tim and I turned around at last time, thinking it was the Indian reservation markers. This time we know better, and take a short break before heading up to the peak.

We were planning on stopping for lunch here. But as we sat down, the clouds got darker and the thunder started rolling. Actually, we had been hearing thunder for quite a while, but it stepped up in intensity as we approached the peak. Instead of having a leisurely lunch, we decided to make a break for the top before we got zapped.

12:40 PM: We make it to the top.

Obligatory self-portrait at the top...

In the picture below, you can see the peak of Mount Baldy in the background. You can't actually hike all the way to the peak without a permit, as it is sacred Indian ground. So we settled for the peak about 1/2 mile to the north, that is nearly the exact same height (11,400 feet) and is actually higher than you can legally climb on Mount Baldy itself. Good enough for me!

What you can't see in the photo is that there were people on top. We could hear them whoopin' and hollerin' from half a mile away. Must have been doing a rain dance or something. Ummmm, thanks guys!

As you can see, the rain dance worked. We spent all of about 5 minutes on top before the rain started turning into hail. Then we skedaddled out of there, getting pelted by pea to marble sized hail. Those suckers hurt when they catch you in the face!

We made our way down the mountain, and out of the hail. My mom wanted to pose by the wing of the airplane wreckage...

We stopped on the way down to enjoy the views (click on it to see it full-size)

At some point on the way down, Tim and I were enlisted as the pack mules. Gina and my mom claimed various war injuries were causing aches and pains, and would we pretty please carry their packs for them? Actually, I had to convince my mom to let me carry hers, because she was bound and determined to carry it herself, even if her shoulder was in pain.

Storm clouds kept threatening the whole way down, but other than a few sprinkles we hardly felt a drop (click on the pic below for full size)

If you recall my post from the last hike, in addition to beating our ankles up in the snow drifts, Tim and I had to jump the 12,436 trees (approximately) that blocked the trail. Since then, the forest service has obviously gone through and cut them all. On this hike, we had to hop zero trees (exactly). Here was a picture from last time...

And this time the same photo looked like this...

A weeeeee bit easier to find the trail in that second photo.

Some penstemon along the trail...

4:03 PM: We finally reach the meadows on the way out and take a break to eat.

4:30 PM: The weary crew makes it back to the car, after hitching a ride back to our car with some kind stranger in a pickup truck.

We made our way back to Show Low, were we found pretty much the best blackberry cobbler ever at Mama Bear's Restaurant, and then collapsed into the beds at the hotel before heading back down to Phoenix Sunday morning.

The post hike analysis?

Tim's GPS > Phil's GPS: Sorry Phil. Thanks for letting us borrow it last time, but you need some better maps on that thing. It helped that we knew were we were going this time, but Tim's GPS also showed us on the trail the entire time.

Things in my backpack I didn't use last time that I did use this time?
Rain coat.

Things in my backpack I didn't use last time, still packed the second time, and still didn't use? First aid kit, lighter, fire starter, compass with signal mirror, whistle, extra pair of socks, toilet paper, flashlight, pepper spray, pocket knife, leatherman, handgun. You would think I would learn my lesson...

How my out of shape engineer body survived the second time? Compared to last time, I thought the hike seemed longer, higher, harder, less air, and more painful.

Did the girls slow the boys down? Ummmmmmmmm, no. As much as it pains me to admit it, I think my 83 year old... 75 year old... 63 year old... totally awesome mom is in better shape than I am. I was seriously sucking wind trying to keep up with her. Pretty sad (for me,) but it is true. They both made the 15 some odd miles and 2200 foot climb without hardly a hitch. I was seriously impressed. And humbled...

Friday, July 17, 2009

What in the world is this?

Spotted this parked on the shoulder right at the eastbound entrance ramp of Country Club onto the US-60. I actually went by it on the highway first, and had to turn around and come down the ramp to get pictures (with my lousy cell phone.)

Coming down the ramp onto the freeway. See the green Cavalier parked on the shoulder?

Get a little closer. Emergency flashers are on. See something odd on the trunk?

Same picture as above, just zoomed in with the brightness adjusted. There are two boxes mounted on the trunk, one facing off to each side. Cables run out the rear passenger door and to the mounted devices. I am fairly sure I saw someone sitting inside. No indication that this is any type of official vehicle. There is, however, a bumper sticker for the local Spanish radio station...

So what on earth is this thing? Some kind of undercover photo radar? Smog detector?
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