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Wide White: December 2007

Friday, December 28, 2007

A good time to buy

My wife and I have been considering buying a home for a while. There are a few points in this article that confirm to me that anytime over the next year or so should be a great time to buy.

Here are a few points that should make any Twin Cities home buyer happy.
WASHINGTON - Sales of new homes plunged last month to their lowest level in more than 12 years, a grim testament to the problems plaguing the housing sector.
New-home sales dropped by 19.3 percent in the Northeast. They plunged by 27.6 percent in the Midwest and they fell by 6.4 percent in the South.

Over the last 12 months, new-home sales nationwide have tumbled by 34.4 percent, the biggest annual slide since early 1991, and stark evidence of the painful collapse in the once high-flying housing market.
To help bolster the economy, the Federal Reserve has sliced a key interest rate three times this year. Its latest rate cut, on Dec. 11, dropped the Fed's key rate to 4.25 percent, a two-year low. Many economists are predicting the Fed will lower rates again when they meet in late January.
Can you say, "It's a great time to buy!"? Of course, that assumes that you can actually afford that loan that you're getting. Therein seems to lie the problem with so many people...

Loan amortization

I don't even know what "amortization" means. I looked it up and had to go to the definition of another word just to figure out what it meant.

Still, I love this loan amortization schedule! Download it if you're trying to figure out what you can afford for a home or car loan and have an idea of what kind of interest rates you're approved for. It's very helpful and even after you have the loan it helps to know how much you're saving if you pay more than the minimum monthly payment.

12/28/2007, 3:53 PM - Check out another great resource here. H/T: James.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The "Me Monster"

I work with a guy who I think can be aptly described as a "me monster". He's a nice guy, he just really likes to talk about himself. The problem is, I don't want to hear him talk about himself. It's not as interesting as he thinks it is and some of what he says is so crazy that you wonder how accurate it is.

Brian Regan sums up such a person like no one else has ever summed it up.

How true that is.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

An even-handed look at the Republican front-runner

I've had a few posts indicating some favoritism towards the Republican Party's sudden, newfound leader in both Iowa and national polls, Mike Huckabee.

Now, here's for a look at the biggest issue I have with him that has stuck in my craw (when in Arkansas...) for a while now.

As governor of Arkansas, he raised taxes. Not just once, but multiple times. I don't know if he supports this at the federal level or if he did it to meet budget shortfalls, but in my opinion, the best way to solve any budget shortfall is to cut excess spending somewhere.

In fact, Huckabee has gone so far as to draw the ire of the influential Club for Growth, a conservative anti-tax group. Their spokeswoman, Nachama Soloveichik, said,
"If you look at Huckabee's record, on economic issues, he's is the worst Republican in this race."
Ouch. That's harsh.

And therein lies my problem. The only other viable candidates that I trust to hold the line on taxes AND support the right to life are Ron Paul and probably Mitt Romney. Paul likely doesn't have a chance and won't be able to bring any compromise to the bipartisan Washington cronies, and Romney is...well, he's Romney. There are a lot of problems with him, not the least of which is his inconsistency on the issues (including the issue of abortion).

So, that leaves me with Huckabee as the most viable pro-life candidate.

Ouch. It's going to be a long year...

What a cool old man

This guy wrote Christmas cards for his barber to send to all of his friends...

...AFTER he died.
ASHLAND, Ore. - Even in death, Chet Fitch is a card. Fitch, known for his sense of humor, died in October at age 88 but gave his friends and family a start recently: Christmas cards, 34 of them, began arriving — written in his hand with a return address of "Heaven."

The greeting read: "I asked Big Guy if I could sneak back and send some cards. At first he said no; but at my insistence he finally said, 'Oh well, what the heaven, go ahead but don't (tarry) there.' Wish I could tell you about things here but words cannot explain.

"Better get back as Big Guy said he stretched a point to let me in the first time, so I had better not press my luck. I'll probably be seeing you (some sooner than you think). Wishing you a very Merry Christmas. Chet Fitch"

A friend for nearly 25 years, Debbie Hansen Bernard said, "All I could think was, 'You little stinker.'"

"It was amazing," she said. "Just so Chet, always wanting to get the last laugh."

The mailing was a joke Fitch worked on for two decades with his barber, Patty Dean, 57. She told the Ashland Daily Tidings this week that he kept updating the mailing list and giving her extra money when postal rates went up. This fall, she said, Fitch looked up to her from the chair.

"You must be getting tired of waiting to mail those cards," he told her. "I think you'll probably be able to mail them this year."

He died a week later.
It might be slightly creepy, but I still think it's neat.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Have a great Christmas!

There are a lot of things I want to write about.

I want to write...
...about the hour-long wait at Macy's for the Nutcracker display last Saturday after my wife and I saw the Hollidazzle Parade.

...about how great my birthday was last week (my wife got me money for Cubs tickets at great is that!?!).

...about how we had 10 family members stay overnight with us in our two-bedroom apartment two nights ago and how much I love it when my family comes to visit and how much I just love my family in general.

...about how excited I am that my brother and future sister-in-law are planning to come with Jamie and me to the Pacific Coast next year.

...about how difficult it is to deal with some small group-related things and how my introvert cries out and wants to take a break from being a small group leader, though I love the people there and know that's not the right decision.

...the Christmas letter that would have been fun to send to family and friends to thank them for the blessing they've been to us and to publicly thank God for blessing us so much over the last year.

...about how close I've grown to my in-laws over the last year and how grateful I am that they've welcomed me into their family the way they have.

...a love letter or a song to my wife that would tell her how special she is to me and would make her cry. (Okay, so I probably wouldn't post that...)

...about how fed up I am with the circus that the presidential primary election has become. email response that would answer the questions I need to answer in the 78 emails in my inbox at work.
But, I don't have time to do all of that. I have the desire, but I don't have the time.

So, in lieu of posts about those things, MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

I'll see you all next week.

Monday, December 17, 2007

And then you have the hutter

Carla posts things her kids say. In lieu of kids, I post things my wife says.

Jamie: "How many guys are on the field at one time?"
Me: "11."
Jamie: "Okay, so you have the quarterback, and then you have the hutter, and then you have-"
Me: "Wait, the hutter?"
Jamie: "Yeah, the guy who hikes the ball to the quarterback. He says, 'hut, hut.'"
Me: [laughing] "Okay...that's the center."
Jamie: "You have the quarterback, and then the center, and the running back, and the wide receiver, and the rest of the guys just run around block for the other guys."

I guess that's about right... She's got the gist of it anyway.

There's nothing like initiative at work

And there's nothing like a Dilbert comic strip to sum it all up.

(If it's too small to read, click on the comic strip to open up a larger version.)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

RIP Dan Fogelberg

I don't know many other guys my age who could tell you who soft-rock singer Dan Fogelberg is, much less name a song he sang. But my dad used to listen to one of his hits, "The Leader of the Band", so listening to the song brings back memories of growing up, and it has great lyrics.

Fogelberg passed away this morning at the age of 56 after battling prostate cancer for three years.

Ignore some of the goofy early '80's musical elements and listen to the words in this song, written for his dad.

An only child alone and wild
A cabinet maker's son
His hands were meant for different work
And his heart was known to none
He left his home and went his lone and solitary way
And he gave to me a gift
I know I never can repay

A quiet man of music
Denied a simpler fate
He tried to be a soldier once
But his music wouldn't wait
He earned his love through discipline
A thundering velvet hand
His gentle means of sculpting souls
Took me years to understand

The leader of the band
Is tired and his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through my instrument
And his song is in my soul
My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man
I'm just a living legacy
To the leader of the band

My brother's lives were different
For they heard another call
One went to Chicago and the other to St. Paul
And I'm in Colorado
When I'm not in some hotel
Living out this life I've chose
And come to know so well

I thank you for the music
And your stories of the road
I thank you for the freedom
When it came my time to go
I thank you for the kindness
And the times when you got tough
And papa I don't think I said
"I love you" near enough

The leader of the band
Is tired and his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through my instrument
And his song is in my soul
My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man
I'm just a living legacy
To the leader of the band
I am the living legacy
To the leader of the band

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Sacred Sandwich

A friend just told me about this website called The Sacred Sandwich. I laughed out loud when I read this "article" from the mock publication.

JUNE 2007 --- Soul Village Fellowship, a church for postmodern “Christ-followers” in Fort Collins, CO, has announced the recent hiring of Miller Conway as an interpreter for their Sunday morning service. Conway, a former UN translator, has been given the task of translating Pastor Jay Windom’s sermons for those in the congregation who are still struggling with understanding the church’s ongoing “emerging conversation.”

As Pastor Jay gives his weekly postmodern message, Conway will be sequestered in an audio booth where he will provide the English translation. The audio provided by Conway will then be fed to small headphones located in front of each worshipper to be used in case they have difficulty comprehending the pastor’s deeper thinking.

Pastor Jay says he is pleased with the addition of Conway and added: “My missional aspiration to transformulate a new pathway of synergistic relationship with God in order to find our True Selves within the realm of our perceived existence cannot be fulfilled without exploring that higher mystery within a postmodern metaphysical construct. If people don’t get where I'm coming from, then I’m glad Miller Conway can facilitate a conscious understanding of the divine in the midst of their healthy confusion.”

When asked if he agreed with Pastor Jay’s sentiment, Conway replied, “I have no idea what he just said.”
I find much of modern Christianity, regardless of its label, becoming very undefined, vague, elusive, lacking definition, asking lots of questions without providing answers, etc. While that problem carries a lot more seriousness than the humorous tone of this article indicates, the article does do a good job of rather irreverently exposing some of those problems.

The Mitchell Report fallout

The famed Mitchell Report is now out, naming numerous baseball players who are accused of having used performance-enhancing drugs over the last number of years to boost their game.

If all of this is true, who wins?

Barry Bonds.

How could Barry Bonds win out from a report that implicates him as a steroid-user? Because, he was already labeled as a steroid user. His all-time home run record chase brought boos and asterisk signs from around the league.

But if this report is true, it not only takes the attention away from Barry Bonds alone (and his current federal trial over lying about steroids to the feds), but it shows that Barry wasn't alone. It shows a culture of steroid use that permeated baseball over some 20 years.

If the report is true, rather than hound Barry for being a tainted player, the past 20 years will be viewed as the steroid era of baseball, with Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire being just a part of that era.

Oh, and the home run records will continue to be broken. Didn't anyone watch steroid-free Alex Rodriguez this year? He's on pace to shatter Bonds' all-time record. And I hope he does. It will help make the Mitchell Report a blip in the past.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

World's best mathlete


Weird term for this guy, but then, he's a weird unique guy.
LONDON (AFP) - The world's fastest human calculator on Tuesday broke his own record for working out a 200-digit number using nothing but brain power to produce the answer in just over 70 seconds.

Alexis Lemaire, a 27-year-old Frenchman, correctly calculated the 13th root of a random 200-digit number from a possible 393 trillion answers.

The so-called 'mathlete' produced the answer of 2,407,899,893,032,210 in 70.2 seconds, beating his previous record of 72.4 seconds, at London's Science Museum.

A computer was used to produce a random 200-digit number before he sat down to calculate the answer in his head.
Lemaire, who attends the University of Reims in northern France, began demonstrating his prowess by finding the 13th root of a random 100-digit number but gave up trying to improve his performance when he calculated an answer in under four seconds in 2004.

Like an athlete, he trains his brain daily for the far harder task of finding the 13th root of 200-digit numbers.
Just try to fathom that. Try to comprehend finding a root, much less the 13th root, of a 200-digit number. I can't even fathom a 200-digit number, much less its root!!

I suddenly feel very mentally small.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

It's not every day you see a fire

Okay, so this was yesterday, but I'm a little slow on my posts...

This was taken out of my window at work. A few minutes before this picture it was billowing black. It had simmered down to billowing white by this point. Not real exciting (my wife wanted to know, "Where are the flames?!?"), but at least you get to see part of my view from work.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Working on the commode

I'm due for a post, and what better topic to post about?

Three bathroom stalls at work should be plenty for our floor. Yesterday, it wasn't. So, what do you do? Do you turn around and leave the bathroom, only to return 10 minutes later to check in again? Then everyone wonders why that guy just walked in and walked out. But how much more appropriate is it to just stand and wait?

Well, I elected to stand and wait. It helps that I have a phone on which I can play solitaire. It makes it look like I'm actually doing something while I wait. It also makes it look like I think the bathroom is a great place to hang out.

So I waited. And waited. And I started to notice tapping inside the stalls. And then I realized that those people weren't really taking care of business. Well, they may have been, just not the type of business that requires a commode. They were working or playing on their phones.

What the crap? They may have needed to take a crap when they went in there, but it sure doesn't take 8 minutes to finish up with that! Who keeps people waiting for a commode so they can finish text messaging, emailing, or playing their game?

So, I stood there and played solitaire. A few games of solitaire, actually. And then I finally got my chance to take one of the stalls and I sat down at last and took care of business.

And as I sat there, annoyed that I had been kept waiting so long, I pulled out my phone and played some solitaire.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Learning football positions

My wife was trying to arrange a swap this evening. "You clean the kitchen, I'll watch your football game and tell you what happens." She was providing hypothetical play-by-play: "Number 87 caught the ball, he's on the 30, the 20, the 10...oh, he fumbled, and it's recovered by a big fat ugly guy, number 1-something."

I told her that a big fat ugly guy would likely have a number starting with something like a 9, not a 1. She asked for more details about what I meant, so I showed her the NFL rules regarding player numbers.
QB, P, K
G, T
She was going through the list of positions and doing a pretty good job of associating the abbreviations with the full position names. "RB, that's running back. WR, that's wide receiver."

Then she said, "TE, ooh, I know that, it's tight end. That's what you are, you're my little tight end!"

Oh boy...well, whatever it takes for her to be remotely interested in football...

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Early Christmas shopping

Throughout and even after college I stopped buying individual Christmas and birthday gifts for my family. With 10 siblings, it just wasn't affordable. My brother and I did go in on a few group gifts both during and after college, but that was it.

So, now that I'm married and financially stable, Christmas shopping is back on the table. I'm still not ready to tackle birthdays just yet, but the nature of Christmas being a one-time event makes things much easier.

My wife and I (emphasis on "my wife") resolved that we would try to have our shopping done by December. For two people who often put things off until the last minute, it was ambitious. I guess you could say that it's part of a larger goal of ours to be more regularly on time, ahead of schedule, prepared, etc.

A few weeks ago we walked over to the Mall of America (we can see it from our apartment building half a block away) and found gifts for most of my siblings. Gifts for the rest of my family were knocked out last week at stores in San Antonio, the Denver airport, and a Denver area Target. Jamie has been working on gifts for her famly over the last few weeks and yesterday she made her final purchase.

We finished our Christmas shopping on November 30th. And over half of the presents are already wrapped!! (That was my wife's doing...I probably would have put off wrapping them until Christmas Eve, whereupon I would have found the darkest plastic bags, triple-bagged them so you couldn't see through, and presented my gifts in bundles of crinkly, balled up plastic to my family on Christmas Day.)

Considering that this is our first crack at Christmas shopping as a married couple and that we're still DINKs, this tradition may be short-lived. But I'm going to live in the now, and boy does it feel good!

New description

For those of you who actually notice such things, you'll notice that I changed my description. For nearly two years my blog has read, "unfair, unbalanced, uncommon sense".

So why the change to "Thinking out loud since 2/11/06"?

I decided I didn't like the arrogance of the old description. It was intended to be sort of tongue in cheek. Still, is it right to convey an attitude of being the authority on what is right and wrong? I don't think so.

I'll still post my thoughts and beliefs on what is right and wrong, along with random observations. I believe it's important to have convictions, as difficult as they may be to conclude and to stick to. However, I don't want others who come to this blog to immediately be blasted with a dose of in-your-face you're-wrong-I'm-right attitude. I think the old description could give way to that.

Hopefully this more clearly states what I'm doing here.

Thanks for reading.