Further Musings

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

Archive for May 2007

A Musing

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The NYTimes ran an article titled “Oil Industry Says Biofuel Push May Hurt at Pump” in today’s paper.  The gist of the article is that a governent push towards biofuels is keeping oil companies from investing in increasing their production thereby driving up prices . . . oops.

“Gas prices are spiking again — to an average of $3.22 a gallon, and close to $4 a gallon in many areas.

And some oil executives are now warning that the current shortages of fuel could become a long-term problem, leading to stubbornly higher prices at the pump.

They point to a surprising culprit: uncertainty created by the government’s push to increase the supply of biofuels like ethanol in coming years.

In his State of the Union address in January, President Bush called for a sharp increase in the use of biofuels, along with some improvement in automobile fuel efficiency to reduce America’s use of gasoline by 20 percent within 10 years. Congress is considering legislation calling for a nearly fivefold increase in the use of ethanol.

That has forced many oil companies to reconsider or scale back their plans for constructing new refinery capacity.”

So here’s my wild thought, what if it’s not an oops?  I don’t think this is true but here’s a conspiracy theory that popped to mind:

Let’s say that “the government” had the goal of reducing oil consumption in mind.  Theoretically this could have all kinds of nice benefits: decreased pollution, less asthma in children, less dependence on foreign oil and other benefits you can probably think of.  It would have all kinds of costs as well.

The best way to reduce US oil consumption would be to raise prices.  From a societal standpoint the best way to raise prices might be increasing the gas tax.  This would be regressive, but theoretically the government could make it up to those of us not-so-rich people with tax breaks/credits in other areas.   The problem is that this solution is politically intractable.   Would any politicians have the courage to call for this solution even if it was “the best one”?

So . . . what other way could the government raise the price of gas without having the public approve of it . . . oh yeah, they could create uncertainty in the oil markets, thereby raising prices and having the same effect and inducing the same benefits . . . except that all that money that would have been raised in taxes is instead collected by the oil companies . . . but all those good things (less asthma etc) would still be achieved . . .


Granted, this argument stipulates that 1) consumers would believe that prices are permanently raised therefore adjusting their behavior and 2) that numerous politicians could collude in this way, but I thought it was an interesting thought experiment.

So that’s my musing for the afternoon.

Written by furthermusings

May 24, 2007 at 2:46 pm

Posted in Politics

Bocce on a Warm Spring Evening

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Since the planetarium keeps a much nicer lawn than we do and it’s only a couple of minutes walk away Jason and I wandered over to play a game of bocce.

We got a lot of looks from passersby and also from the campus paper’s photographer who attempted to take this same shot as we were bowling. That made for some interesting and athletic maneuvers on his part as the balls raced towards the jack and towards him.


I’ll have to play on a real surface someday and see if the weighted balls actually do curve as promised.

Written by furthermusings

May 22, 2007 at 8:54 pm

Posted in Pictures, UNC

Appointment in Samarra

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Instead of turning on the tube for my lunch break today I just finished the last few pages of John O’Hara’s 1930s novel Appointment in Samarra which draws it’s title from the slightly chilling story quoted at the beginning of the novel (see below).

Appointment in Samarra is a short, dark novel which introduces a character that you like and then drags you down with him as he destroys himself over the course of three days. It’s not a cheery or redemptive read. It’s the story of a likable, self-destructive man who through sex, alcohol, and intermittent rage crosses the banally horrid, petty, destructive underbelly of small Pennsylvanian town in the thirties and destroys himself.

I am left with the same feeling at the end of the book that I had at the end of reading the opening quote . . .


There was a merchant in Baghdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture; now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me. The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the market-place and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning? That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Baghdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”

-W. Somerset Maugham

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May 17, 2007 at 12:31 pm

Posted in Reviews

An Iris in the Front Yard

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Durn if these aren’t pretty!



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May 8, 2007 at 7:07 pm

Posted in At the House, Pictures

Movie Premier

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On Friday Charity and I attended the invitation only world premier of Turbulence which featured our young friend, Finn, in two supporting roles.

After making a brief appearance as federal official informing a basketball super-star that his girlfriend (an all-world soccer player) had disappeared in the deep woods following an airplane crash, Finn played opposite an absolutely adorable turtle (played by 7 year old girl) for the remainder of the film as a chimpanzee on the crash scene.

In the tradition of avant-garde film, the actors and actresses choose their roles and the plot was formed around their choices. We were quite impressed by the coherence of the resulting plot which we won’t spoil for you here.

The man of the evening was kind enough to let me have my picture taken with him, though I think he was taken aback by the paparazzi like media presence of Charity with the camera!


Written by furthermusings

May 7, 2007 at 1:55 pm

Posted in Church, Pictures

An Amendment

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As the heat of this first summer day dies away in the west, I’ve spent the last twenty minutes of this early evening reading over the posts that are currently visible on the blog. I noticed that it takes a while to get to something of substance. The last month’s posts have been comprised of a few funny stories; the striking, brilliant white glimmering of the the peony in the previous post; and a riveting set of book reviews (I know you were riveted).

Before reading through the posts I was sorting through some pictures from this spring and I’m struck by the contrast between some of the photos. Life today, in the full bloom of spring, feels like the photos of the last few days: full of light and sun and hope and anticipation but as the pictures filed under “Spring 2007” reminded me, the pensive darkness of the previous months really isn’t that far away.


It’s hard to think it’s been just three weeks since I successfully defended my masters thesis . . . not many more since I passed the PhD qualifying exam which hung like an ax over my head for five months as I worked every Saturday between October and March to prepare for it . . . Charity worked for months and months and months on her masters project, a process which beat and demoralized her not just for seemingly endless months but for the prospect of many more months ahead if the committee dragged her into another round of revisions. All of these things disheartened us, not just for the evenings and Saturdays spent on arduous tasks, but also for their ominous, foreshadowed potential of failure after so much struggle. How many nights of tears? How many days of frustration?

To be honest I’m not sure how to think about those many months and many nights from the light and sunshine of the other side. Could it ever have looked that bleak? Couldn’t we see that in May the outcomes which we knew would be decided for good or ill would be here and our lives less full of anguish? And should I think about the darkness of those months or let them roll past and fade into a forgotten past as much as we can? . . . but they were so poignant and so full and so heart wrenching.

In early April, as good result after good result rolled in, pass, pass, pass, our good friend, SC, examined us with excitement. I think he was looking to see if our shoulders had visibly shifted in posture and he speculated about what kind of people we would be like as we frolicked in the sun, still newlywed, now newly minted with graduate degrees.

It’s interesting because I think we have done a lot of frolicking. We have done a lot of gardening, some reading, and our upcoming trip has us full of excitement. It feels good to be done, to have the burdens which have laid so heavy for so long removed. It feels good to have degrees, credentials, and at least the illusion of status. It does feel like our burdens have been lifted.

The binary nature of the shift is a bit disorienting. Less than six weeks ago it was unclear if either of us would graduate and we both wondered if we could have toiled for so many years to come out beaten in the end. Just four weeks later, we both have degrees and that’s not likely to go away. I think for some people a degree is a triumph or a forgone conclusion . . . or something they conquer and at the end they feel like mountain climbers: surveying the view of the future from the peak they have labored up. Our degrees feel like we have emerged through a dark, brutal battle, full of feelings of helplessness and dread . . . and one that was partially of our own making. I’m not wishing to return to it.

In some ways I feel like the hostas I transplanted a couple of weeks ago into the bed under the window I’m sitting in. During the winter I had moved some rocks not realizing that there was a hosta bed underneath and when I shifted the rocks this spring I found the hostas: pale, smushed and growing sideways in an effort to find light. I’ve since moved them to a bed of speckled shade and they are making a come back.

For us I don’t wonder so much about our come back as how (and whether or not to) feel/process/understand those many dark months.  Especially as the beauty and hope of the spring sunshine and the light-shade mix around us.

Written by furthermusings

May 2, 2007 at 6:18 pm

Posted in Pictures, Reflections