Further Musings

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

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Saturday Morning Finances

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Some strange behavior by the faithful Hyundai has us researching car options.  Our new personal finance crush has three interesting and thought provoking articles on car buying.  Lots to think about.

Also thinking hard about leaving Sprint for Ting.  Preliminary calcs look like our monthly bill will go from $171 a month down to $90 a month.  That’s about $1,000 a year in savings.

If we didn’t have working Sprint phones we’d head over to Republic Wireless.  $20 a month for unlimited text, talk and data?   (you have to buy their specialized phone). That would save us $1,300 a year.  Yes please!

Ah sleepy financial Saturday mornings.

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March 16, 2013 at 10:05 am

Posted in Geeky Blogs

Sons of Providence

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Sons of ProvidenceThis afternoon I finished Sons of Providence, the tale of the Brown brothers, Moses and John, for whom the high school I walk by and the university I walk to are named for.  It taught me a lot about Rhode Island’s early history.  I had no idea that the stain of slavery was so deep so far north.

The book is about the history of Rhode Island, the Revolutionary war period, and the slave trade.  The “triangle trade” was a prominent source of Rhode Island’s wealth throughout the 60 years covered in the book.  Rhode Island merchants commissioned voyages in “the Guinea trade” that left the Narragansett Bay with rum bound for Africa, then came to the Caribbean with hulls full of slaves, and finally returned to RI with sugar to make more rum.  This trade started before the war and continued long after slave trading was banned by the Congress.

The Brown brothers serve as a conduit for this story.  Their first slaving venture killed about 100 of the 167 slaves and half of the crew.  It also lost money.  In the wake of this disastrous voyage Moses became a Quaker and eventually authored the first state level laws against slaving and was instrumental in having the Congress outlaw slaving.  John worked just as hard to oppose the laws, and when he failed, to create ways to work around them.

The book also tells the tales of the Brown family’s dominance of Providence politics, deep work in the State legislature, and deep involvement in the Revolution.  John comes out as both a hero who burns a British ship beached in the Bay and a deeply self-interested man who cons the fledgling navy on several occasions, putting purse well above money.

They were complicated men whose complicated relationship was shaped by the tides of the times much as they shaped the times.  All in all it was an interesting book.  Certainly worth the read if you like that period in history.

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January 27, 2013 at 3:37 pm

A Life to Aspire To

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This video pretty much encapsulates my true calling in life.  If you get bored with the hunter-gathering bits skip the five minute mark where he and his wife cook dinner with an impromptu accordion ballad.   It’s all fantastic.

I wonder if Charity is up for this…

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September 5, 2012 at 8:27 am

Posted in Geeky Blogs, Laughter

Tilley Hat

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This week my Tilley Hat arrived.  I’ve been geeking out on it, especially with the “Brag Tag” that goes inside.  The eight small cards all have a cheeky story on one side and the following on the other:

Privileged Information: Most Tilley Hat wearers, and the person beside you is a prime example, are interesting people of sterling character.  It is well worth cultivating their acquaintance!  To that end, you’ll be pleased to learn, it is customary to provide the giver of Tilley Hat procurement information A WARM HUG, OR STAND HIM OR HER TO A DRINK.

I think that last sentence is Canadian.

My favorite colorful story from the other side

Elephant trainer Michael Hankenberger of the Bowmanville (Ontario) Zoo had his Tilley Hat snatched from his head and eaten by an elephant. Three times.

Michael later would pick up his Hat, wash it thoroughly, and wear it.  He has declined to accept a new one in order that we may have is well-traveled ‘Tilley’ for our museum.

We are secretly pleased.

Love it.

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July 1, 2012 at 8:49 am

Posted in Geeky Blogs

Evidence of … something

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We’ve rented 57 discs from Netflix since we moved to SC.  Over the same time frame last year in Chapel Hill we rented 26.  I think that’s a statistically significant difference.  But significant of what?  Restedness?  Loneliness?  Boredom? Probably a bit of each.

I’m dead curious what the Rhode Island tally will be.

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June 1, 2012 at 8:38 pm

Posted in Geeky Blogs

Insights on Organizations

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Currently reading Bureaucracy by James Q Wilson at night (#GeekAlert).  It’s amazing that wisdom and insight about how organizations function is free for the taking if you can find the book and devote the time to reading it.  As someone deeply involved & interested in three complex and important organizations (the church, the university, and government) I’m eating it up.

This bit was particularly insightful.  Reminded me a great deal of many of the church leadership meetings I’ve been to over the years where we hashed out what the mission statement of the church is:

In trying to understand the success of these organizations, one has to understand how they … decided … to perform their critical task.  By critical task I mean those behaviors which, if successfully performed by key organizational members, would enable the organization to manage its critical environmental problem… for the Texas Department of Corrections, the critical environmental problem was maintaining order among numerically superior, temperamentally impulsive, and habitually aggressive inmates.  The critical task became the elaboration and enforcement of rules sufficiently precise, understandable, and inflexible that inmates would never acquire the opportunity for independent or collective action.

Notice that I have referred to tasks, not goals.  It is often the case that many analysts and executives who wish to improve an organization begin by trying to clarify its goals.  Sometimes this is useful.  But often government agencies, much more than business firms, are likely to have general, vague, or inconsistent goals about which clarity and agreement can only occasionally be obtained.  Often any effort to clarify them will result either in the production of meaningless verbiage or the exposure of deep disagreements. 

At some level, the Texas and Michigan prisons may have had similar goals – to keep order, rehabilitate inmates, incapacitate criminals, or deter would-be criminals.  But if either organization sought to improve itself by thinking harder about these goals, it probably would have discovered that it did not know how to do some of these things (rehabilitate), could only guess at whether it was able to do others (deter) and would have been internally divided over the relative importance or even meaning of others (order, incapacitation).

At Carver High, “educating children” was to some degree a purpose shared by everyone, but if a new principal had devoted himself or herself to clarifying the meaning of education, there would have occurred an interesting seminar but not much change.

Wilson, Pg.25-26.

Brilliant.

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May 21, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Drones in America

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This week’s New Yorker contemplates the future of life with drones as regular part of American life.  What will this mean for our privacy, both from the government and from each other?

The technology is amazing.  Hummingbird shaped drones that get attacked by other hummingbirds because they’re so life like.  And then there’s the swarm below.  So far these guys only function in the lab… but they’re coming… and I kinda want one!

.

Less fun but more technically wondrous.  How awesome would it be to work in this research lab?!

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May 12, 2012 at 8:23 am

This Old House

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As we hoped and prayed this spring about the new job in Rhode Island we also watched a lot of TV.  One of my favorite Saturday morning shows is This Old House on PBS.  This season they renovated a gorgeous beach house just outside of Providence.  In addition to installing siding and expanding bathrooms, the show features what is unique about the local community.  Learning about lighthouses, clambakes, and Newport mansions helped us get excited about living in the Ocean State.

After the interview we took 25 minutes and drove down to see the house.  It was cool and the view out onto Narragansett Bay was even better.  It definitely helped get us excited.

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April 17, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Posted in Geeky Blogs, Travel

Thinking on Reading

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Tonight I picked up Lords of Finance: the Bankers who Broke the World for some weekend reading.  The first page has only this written on it:

Read no history — nothing but biography, for that is life without theory – Benjamin Disraeli

Tis a pretty interesting thought.

It seems that biography forces writers to deal with topics they would prefer to ignore.  John Adams was full of death and sickness in ways that I would have skirted if I was simply trying to write a compelling tale.

Biographies also always link broader historical themes to concrete events in individual lives.  Much better from my perspective.

I think I’ll start reading more of the genre.

 

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January 13, 2012 at 9:15 pm

Better than Harrods

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What’s better than Harrods?  The National Geographic store across the street.  Sheer awesomeness for the owner of one National Geographic Global Pursuit Trivia game.

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January 1, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Posted in Geeky Blogs, Travel

Amazing Music Making

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So fun.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt so musically talented.

(make sure to click on the squares)

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June 14, 2011 at 10:17 am

Wired Headset Please?

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The WHO released a report today classifying cellphones as a “possibly carcinogenic,” in the same class as DDT and engine exhaust.   Yikes.  Now that’s scary.  The “possible” modifier is because we won’t know for sure if cell phones cause a rash of brain cancers for another 20 years.

I’m pretty religious about using my wired headset.  You?

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June 1, 2011 at 10:22 am

Posted in Geeky Blogs

The Truth Wears Off?

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The talk of the town (or at least the house) for the last two weeks has been “The Truth Wears Off” from The New Yorker.  The subtitle is “Is there something wrong with the scientific method?”  It’s a great discussion of how scientific results tend to become weaker over time.  Since we take powerful medicines, change laws, and alter our personal behaviors based off of scientific studies this is pretty problematic.

I’ll let Lehrer sell you on the existence called “decline effect.”  Two things really stood out to me about it all.  First, the decline effect really challenges the inherent reliability of the scientific method and therefore our ability to know things.  Knowing which medicines save lives is pretty important to me and not knowing whether or not to trust results is pretty challenging.  Second, the list of objections Lehrer received and his replies were fascinating. I particularly liked this quote by the author

I think the decline effect is an important reminder that we shouldn’t simply reassure ourselves with platitudes about the rigors of replication or the inevitable corrections of peer review.  Although we often pretend that experiments settle the truth for us—that we are mere passive observers, dutifully recording the facts—the reality of science is a lot messier. It is an intensely human process, shaped by all of our usual talents, tendencies, and flaws.

Amen.

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January 9, 2011 at 5:51 pm

Posted in Geeky Blogs

Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction

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The NY Times has a nice article (complete with handy video summary) on the effects of teenagers growing up wired in on smart phones.  Classes here at UNC are filled with students typing away on their phones in class so its pretty interesting to read research about how the constant stimulation effects their brain chemistry, their grades and their ability to read books.

As a good friend of a 14 & a 16 year-old it’s really interesting to read about how their peers are using technology and how it effects them.   Their parents are very involved in the level of technology that the girls use.   I’m pretty thankful for that.  That really hit home with this quote:

“Sean says he sometimes wishes that his parents would force him to quit playing and study, because he finds it hard to quit when given the choice. Still, he says, video games are not responsible for his lack of focus, asserting that in another era he would have been distracted by TV or something else. ‘Video games don’t make the hole; they fill it,’ says Sean.”

Sigh.  Broken in a new way I think.  Anyway, thought it was worth reading.

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November 21, 2010 at 3:35 pm

Posted in Geeky Blogs

Waldo and the Angst of the World

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Brilliant.

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October 22, 2010 at 11:38 am

Posted in Geeky Blogs