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Wide White: December 2008

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Washing out the darkness

My sister and cousin are in Guyana on a 5-month mission project and they're keeping a blog. I had to laugh at this quote from my sister, recorded by my cousin:
One little boy asked Ellen how her skin got so white, and she said something like, "When I was born, they washed all the darkness off with water."

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

If you have Windows Vista and don't like it

Microsoft Windows 7 is available in a beta version, although you'll have to figure out how to download it since it isn't publicly available yet. I've been toying with the idea of getting a laptop but really don't want to get one with Vista. Hopefully this eggs Microsoft on to release Windows 7 earlier than they would otherwise. By most accounts, Vista is a mess...

In lieu of a witty year-end summary post

I have no Person of the Year or Top 10 list.

I do have this video.

Nothing like a year in review of a backyard!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Advice for next year

Resolve to buy all of your Christmas gifts by December 1st. We've done it 2 years straight and it's helped keep our sanity in check. You'll also do a better job of finding gifts people actually want rather than settling with whatever you happen to stumble across. And it gives you a lot more time to bargain-hunt!

(I know this is late for 2008, but I didn't want to take the misery of those who waited till the last minute and rub it in.)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry what?

Jamie and I were just discussing "Merry Christmas" versus "Happy Holidays." We agreed that "Happy Holidays" isn't offensive, as this season does include many holidays. What is offensive is corporate policies against saying "Merry Christmas."

Jamie was relaying what could be for many a bit of a dilemma she faced with the terminology to use when presenting a gift to a Hindu coworker from India. The coworker actually said "Merry Christmas," presumably because he recognizes that in our culture, that's the appropriate greeting accompanying this holiday.

All of that lead to this question: When in a country like Saudi Arabia, what is the appropriate greeting with their big holiday? Do they say, "Merry Ramadan?" And would Christians - particularly those offended by anyone of any other religious belief NOT saying "Merry Christmas" - use that greeting when immersed in that culture?

I know, it's a stupid question, but it's the kind of thing we discuss and ponder on a three-and-half-hour-long drive.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Job security

I just found out today that yet another friend was offered a buyout. I don't have any friends who have yet accepted a buyout or been laid off, but I wouldn't be surprised if it comes soon, especially if the holiday season failed to meet retailers' expectations hopes.

So it meant a lot to me when my boss told me this morning that I'm one of the last three people he'd ever let go (out of 50+ who report to him) if it ever came to that. As he put it, "You can sleep easy."

Job security isn't what keeps me up at night, but I got his point. And as much as I know that my treasure is not on this earth, it sure is helpful to know I won't have any problem sustaining my small family with our few earthly needs.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Smell like Burger King

They're in strong competition with "Be My Mac."
Burger King Launches 'Flame'-Broiled Body Spray

NEW YORK — Looking to beef up your mojo this holiday season?

Burger King Corp. may have just the thing. The home of the Whopper has launched a new men's body spray called "Flame." The company describes the spray as "the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat."

The fragrance is on sale at New York City retailer Ricky's NYC in stores and online for a limited time for $3.99.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas quotes from "The Office"

I was inspired by Dustin to throw out a few quotes from an December 2005 episode.

Michael: Presents are the best way to show someone you care. It is like this tangible thing that you can point to and say, "Hey man, I love you this many dollars worth."

Michael: (About his oven mitt) So Phyllis is basically saying, "Hey, Michael, I know you did a lot to help the office this year, but I only care about you a homemade oven mitt's worth."

Kevin: I got myself for Secret Santa. I was supposed to tell somebody, but I didn't. (smiles in excitement about his gift)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Rocking the headscarf

This issue seems to come up at least once a year or so.
Ga. judge jails Muslim woman over head scarf

ATLANTA – A Muslim woman arrested for refusing to take off her head scarf at a courthouse security checkpoint said Wednesday that she felt her human and civil rights were violated. A judge ordered Lisa Valentine, 40, to serve 10 days in jail for contempt of court, said police in Douglasville, a city of about 20,000 people on Atlanta's west suburban outskirts.
I have two thoughts on this.

First, annoyance and a little anger at the court for making much ado about nothing. It's not like she's posing for a driver's license photo with her face covered.

Second, I'm equally annoyed when Muslim countries force their cultural and religious practices on Western women. However, Western women in Muslim countries often comply and wear the headscarf.

So - annoyed or not - the court shouldn't have demanded that she remove the headscarf. However, in light of the court's demand and out of respect for the court and this country's (or that Georgia court's) practice, she should have removed the headscarf.

Monday, December 15, 2008

If you need a place to send your money

I recommend The Refuge.

It's a Christian radio station out of Duluth that has towers across the Upper Midwest. If you haven't heard them, listen in. (It's not always my style, but what is? More often than not, they hit the nail on the head.)

President Bush is a dog

According to this guy.

You've got to give Bush points for agility.

Friday, December 12, 2008

We're all cutting our debt

My wife and I have been working on this for a while, though admittedly we haven't been aggressive enough until more recently. There's a dangerous safety in having a double income with no kids and it took us a while before we buckled down and decided to live strictly off of my income, putting Jamie's exclusively towards debt (something I think my mom advised me to do long ago). We have no single debt (other than our mortgage) over $6,500 and even with surprises like a recent dental implant - ~$2,500 out of pocket - and other potential unexpected expenses, we should be at $0 by 2010.

I see many people in far worse shape than I am in and I know I have no reason to complain, but I still hate the debt that I have. For all of the "valid" reasons I have for what debt I do carry, it embarrasses me that I've had to borrow money to pay for things that I could not buy myself. For most, there's pride in owning (or paying a bank for) items that reflect your societal status. For me, while some of that no doubt exists, there's more pride in actually owning (not making payments on) what I have. More importantly, there's freedom with being able to give money to others without having to think, "Which debt could I be paying off with this money?"

A few others (thanks for the posts Pat!) that I know have also been working hard to eliminate the burden. And now, it looks like the rest of the country is finally starting to take heed.
Households cut back on debt for first time ever

WASHINGTON - U.S. households, hit by declining home values and stock market losses, have cut back on their debt levels for the first time on record as loans remain scarce amid what appears to be a deepening recession.

The Federal Reserve on Thursday released it latest quarterly look at consumer and business finances showing that households reduced their debt levels by 0.8 percent at an annual rate in the July-September period, the first drop on records that go back more than 50 years.
Mortgage debt fell at an annual rate of 2.4 percent in the third quarter, the largest decline on record. Mortgage debt had fallen at an annual rate of 0.1 percent in the second quarter. Those two quarterly declines are the first such drops in the Fed survey that dates back to 1952.

[H/T: Owen]
0.8% is a small victory, but it's one I'll take! Until people care about their personal debts, they won't care about our national debts. Our nation's broken financial policy is reflective of our own gluttonous personal financial state. Spending is not the answer to solving this mess. Responsibility is.

If you're struggling, I recommend Dave Ramsey as a solid resource for getting out from under the baggage.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I'll be seeing this guy tonight

Third row!

Aren't you glad it wasn't you?

Because you know you wouldn't have known any better either!
One of Europe's most prestigious scientific research institutes has had to issue an apology after discovering that the calligraphy used on the cover of its flagship publication to illustrate a special China edition was in fact an ad for a Hong Kong strip joint.

The institute hastily replaced the cover...from the online and English edition of the publication, Max Planck Research, but not before the German language version of the periodical had been dispatched to subscribers.
What's even better is they actually did check to see what it said before going to print and missed it.
The calligraphy, which was vetted by a sinologist before publication, was believed to have "depicted classical Chinese characters in a non-controversial context".

Instead, the text was identified by many Chinese internet users as similar to wall posters found in the red light district of Mongkok in Hong Kong which spruik strip clubs and brothels.
I don't know much anything about the Chinese language, but I'm guessing someone will be brushing up on their skills with the language.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

As if a 4% approval rating weren't bad enough

After the scandal Illinois went through with Republican Governor George Ryan, you'd think his Democratic successor would have learned.

Apparently, he hasn't.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested by FBI agents on federal corruption charges Tuesday morning.

Blagojevich and Harris were arrested simultaneously at their homes at about 6:15 a.m., according to Frank Bochte of the FBI. Both were transported to FBI headquarters in Chicago.

In one charge related to the appointment of a senator to replace Barack Obama, prosecutors allege that Blagojevich sought appointment for himself as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the new Obama administration, or a lucrative job with a union, in exchange for appointing a union-preferred candidate.

Another charge alleges Blagojevich and Harris conspired to demand the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members responsible for editorials critical of him in exchange for state help with the sale of Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs baseball stadium owned by Tribune Co.
"The breadth of corruption laid out in these charges is staggering," U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald said in a statement.

"They allege that Blagojevich put a 'for sale' sign on the naming of a United States senator; involved himself personally in pay-to-play schemes with the urgency of a salesman meeting his annual sales target; and corruptly used his office in an effort to trample editorial voices of criticism."
Who would have thought that in Illinois, a Democratic governor would have a lower approval rating than President George W. Bush? (As of October, long before this arrest, his approval rating stood at a paltry 4%.)

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Every donkey has its limits

...and this one just hit his.

Friday, December 05, 2008

These weren't my thoughts on Santa

But I like them.
I worry what to teach my kids about Santa like I worry what to teach them about Rumpelstiltskin.

That is, I don’t.
(Check out these very short, very cute videos for more.)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Job Market

This is just funny. Really funny.


Not a guy you want to hang up on.

On Wednesday, the Republican congresswoman [Ileana Ros-Lehtinen] got a call from President-elect Barack Obama, didn't believe it was him, and hung up on him. Twice.

According to Ros-Lehtinen's flack Alex Cruz, the congresswoman received the call on her cell phone from a Chicago-based number and an aide informed her that Obama wanted to speak to her. When Obama introduced himself, Ros-Lehtinen cut him off and said, "I'm sorry but I think this is a joke from one of the South Florida radio stations known for these pranks." Then she hung up.

Moments later, Obama tried again, this time through his soon-to-be chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.

"Ileana, I cannot believe you hung up on the President-Elect," Emanuel said. And then--yes, you know what's coming--she hung up on Emanuel saying she "didn't believe the call was legitimate."

A short time later, Ros-Lehtinen received an urgent call from Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, who informed her that she indeed hung up on Obama.

So, Obama tried again and this time he was successful. (Phew!)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Trivial Pursuit

I love Trivial Pursuit, which is why I love this quote from comedian Christian Finnegan:
You know what I'm great at? Trivial Pursuit. What good is that gonna do you in life? It has the word 'trivial' in the name. The game is basically telling you that you pursue trivial things. Trivial -- as in not important. Trivial -- as in maybe you should've gone to grad school.


I was told last week that my blog is boring. I suppose not posting anything is boring. But apparently even what I do post is boring.

I have a few options.

1. Change the posts so they're less boring.
2. Continue posting boring posts.
3. Stop posting altogether.
4. Decide this person isn't my target audience and my posts actually keep you on the edge of your seat.

3. is out. Too many protests last time I suggested it.

I might just try 1. This blog began as a political blog, but I've long since left politics and while I consider myself a casual (some would argue that) observer, I'm no longer engrossed in it day-to-day.

I've been very slowly redefining this blog ever since. In some ways, I'm continuing to redefine it. But rest assured, part of that redefinition is to keep it less boring.

Starting now.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

For those who love Mario Kart

It's the only video game I've ever really enjoyed. If you don't know the game, you won't understand the song.