Further Musings

Beauty smote his heart, he looked up from the forsaken land & hope returned to him

Archive for April 2007

Playing with the New Camera

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One of our festiva maxima peonies in the sun.

peony-in-the-sun.jpg

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April 30, 2007 at 6:48 pm

Posted in At the House, Pictures

The Wages of Destruction

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Today I finished The Wages of Destruction: the Making and Breaking of the Nazi War Economy. It’s a tome of a book and somewhat inaccessible to those without a macro-economic background . . . but it was interesting, breathtaking, and chilling. The Nazis truly were a terrible and ruthless regime. Seeing the statistics of forced labor, general murder and terrible destruction helped put the whole in perspective.  It was a coherent and convincing narrative supported amply by economics and statistics.

I won’t summarize the main themes here as others have done so far better than I could.

Couple of thoughts about the book:

1) It’s a good read to begin to understand what a non-market economy looks like. The Nazi’s violated many of the economic rules we take for granted. Tooze shows what the effects of these violations were and why the Nazis changed the rules.

2) I really liked the use of counterfactuals. Understanding the other choices someone could have made helps one to understand why people made the choices they did. This is a much more satisfying way of explaining a decision than simply saying it must have been the best choice. It forces one to explain why the choice was the best one.

3) I wish that more histories where written with as much attention to the economic influences and factors that play into why leaders make the choices which they do.

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April 26, 2007 at 1:55 pm

15 minutes that will change some stereotypes of how rich and poor nations are

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This morning in my public investment theory class we watched this video clip which I highly recommend. It’s a bit long but very engaging.

If you’re like me and are constantly constructing and amending a mental map of the world, then this video is an interesting check on whether or not our map is really accurate.

I’m currently thinking about how to work this into my class in the fall . . .

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April 19, 2007 at 12:26 pm

Quote of the Morning

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Friday mornings are one of my favorite parts of the week. I drag myself out of bed at 7am and head down to Weaver Street Market for two whole grain blueberry pancakes, a cup of coffee and an orange, all for $5.14. Normally it’s a couple of graduate students, a professor and a database programmer.

What I like most about Friday mornings is the unstructured and interesting conversation. We’re not there with a grand purpose or vision. We’re just there to eat and yack. There is a lot of genuine love for each other and a lot of laughter; it’s something that I really enjoy.

Our conversation can be pretty varied. We usually talk about our lives (jobs, kids, vacations, grills) but as those include some random pursuits we’ve been known to watch videos of cell locomotion between our discussion and speculation on other topics. I think we safely qualify as pretty geeky as much of our conversation today was speculating about whether or not the data one guy received yesterday was generated by a random number generator, hearing stories about terrible college calculus experiences, and confessing that none of us really understand either Monte-Carlo simulations or hidden Markov Models.

Usually our programmer utters the most memorable line of the morning and I often wish for a tape recorder to catch it but today J took the prize. As he and I were driving back towards campus I was telling him about how Charity and I left our gas stove on overnight on Tuesday mistaking the stink of the gas for the stink of the fish we had just cooked. (Oops.)

After hearing about this, mutual speculation ensued about why Charity and I are alive. He then offered this pearl:

“I’d like to die with just enough dignity that people say it was a tragic accident and not a bone-headed mistake.”

What a fine line!

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April 13, 2007 at 8:11 am

Posted in Geeky Blogs

Google’s Solution

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Over the last two weeks Charity and I have been plotting our route through Europe this summer.

Today Charity sent me the link to another B&B in southern France. After surfing the site I stuck the address into Google Maps just to see what where it was. And then for fun I hit the get directions button and typed in Chapel Hill, NC.

It worked!

Total time: “about 29 days and 20 hours.”

Method: Drive to New York, walk off the pier, and swim.

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Written by furthermusings

April 12, 2007 at 4:43 pm

Posted in Geeky Blogs

In the Sunshine under the Bay Window

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Currently the afternoon sun is beating through the windows and it fills the bay window around me with a soft yellow sunlight. The soft tick-tock of the granite clock is mixing with sounds of a neighbor mowing and the cool air of inside the house is just sharp enough to remind me from time to time of its presence . . . which is a temperature I love.

The end of this school year is approaching and being back in this house has me thinking a bit about my first year of graduate school when I lived here by myself.

I said something the other night to Charity about that first year, the one I spent in the house by myself. That first year was a quiet, prayerful year, fresh off my 9 moves in three post-college years, and barely off the plane from Sarajevo. I spent a lot of time that year coming home and being still. No cable. Intermittent internet. She asked me if I would live here again in retrospect. The answer was yes, of course. But not because of the price or the location (which were great!) but because I think it was a good place to be, a good place to listen and to be still.

When I moved in here the house was still very much the house of the owners. I lived among their furniture and sat beneath their paintings and pictures. I think in some ways it was like living in a museum, not because it was old, but because it was full of unfamiliar things behind which lurked a part of their story. I would look at them and wonder why that painting or that photograph hung on the walls.

It was also a little strange to move back into a faint but real part of my life. I had slept here, visited here, been babysat here as a child. The most distinctive memory of the house (other than the famous Michigan coasters) was of the winding staircase which greets one just inside the massive wooden door. Elizabeth and I loved that stair with it’s irregular shapes and hard, smooth wood.

I spent much of that first year, now almost four years ago, on those stairs, perched half-way up them. It was as close to a vista as I could find here in Chapel Hill peering down through the windows across the perfectly level shelf of a front yard to the street below where strolling college students frequently walk past and occasionally a particularly aggressive car roars by. It’s a place from which I’ve offered many prayers that first year: prayers about the two years to come in graduate school and about what God might prepare me for.

And as I write this, I think that there are two ways in which I’ve loved this house.

When I moved here I loved it for what it meant. I loved it not just because of its layout, its hardwoods or its garden full of many surprises. I loved it because it meant something. Because these people and this place had meant something. The house and the gardens seemed constructed with such care. And every time I paused that first year and fingered something I had something in my hands to think about: to wonder about what the Bavarian mugs meant and why a picture of my family from 1988 graced the table in the corner under the collection of ornate teaspoons.

Today the reasons I love this house are different. It’s much changed since I first arrived again after many, many years absence with my folks in the fall of 2003. The downstairs is full of our furniture and our paintings adorn the walls. The furniture is almost all changed and only the granite clock, built by the owner, given to me and ticking in the background as I type, remains the same.

Today, I love it for its light and I love it for its gifts. I love it for the gift of the flowers in the front and in the back. I love it for the light that streams in the late afternoon. I love it for the layout which has soaked into me and taught me what I love in a house. I love it because every time I think of why I get to live here, because a man who befriended my father 10 years before I was born gave me an unlooked for blessing and then gave me the unlooked for blessing of his friendship, I’m washed over by a wave of gratefulness. And I’m grateful that that wave laps at me whenever I notice the house I live in. Its pretty cool that I get to have gratefulness touch me with such wonderful regularity.

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April 5, 2007 at 10:14 pm

Spring in Chapel Hill

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Blog posts have been few and far between this spring. Much is afoot here in Chapel Hill with gardening, trip planning and school. The weather is beautiful and I am thankful for the flowers. They are beautiful and abundant with the dogwoods and redbuds blooming alongside the azaleas.

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Written by furthermusings

April 4, 2007 at 3:39 pm

Posted in Pictures