Archive for May, 2007

Investment Guy on the Bus

A week or two ago I had an interesting experience on the 14 bus. I was riding home from something downtown (I forget what) at around 4 or 5pm. The bus was mostly full, and I found myself in one of the few seats near the back of the bus.

What caught my attention was that moments after sitting down, I was drawn into listening to a conversation between a teenager and a man in his late 20s or maybe 30s. The adult was telling the teenager about his (the adult’s) job as an investment banker and about investing. The teenager was listening and asking questions.

The investment banker was telling the teenager about investing in the stock market, what is the stock market, how does it “pay you interest”, how he (the adult) had done all this and was in the process of becoming wealthy, etc. The teenager — initially proud of the large roll of cash in his pocket — quickly got caught up in respecting his elder and hypothesizing about how much money there was to be made by investing.

Eventually, the teenager reached his stop and left the bus, waving goodbye to the adult.

It was particularly interesting that upon entering the bus, either of these two loud-talkers on the back of the bus could have been perceived as intimidating or dangerous but by the time we’d made our way up South Jackson street for 5-10 minutes, they both seemed intelligent and respectful. A future full of promise for all, and thanks to the “Investment Guy” on the 14 bus for putting sensible thoughts about money into at least one young mind.

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Airplane travel observations

Couple of observations about airplane travel (and some on airport dining) from our recent South Carolina trip:

  • Alaska Air has a lot of legroom in their 737s. Very comfortable flight back from Chicago -> Seattle!
  • It’s impossible to get first class upgrades. 2 legs of our trip were 100% booked in first class and the other 2 didn’t have this class of service on the plane. The good news is that Jodi and I got an entire row to ourselves on the final (long) leg of the trip, so it was pretty pleasant, even in steerage (see my above comment about leg room on the Alaska Air flight).
  • The Chili’s Too near the “H1B” gate (really, that’s the name of the gate!) at O’Hare is terrible. Avoid it like the plague. Service was awful, truly awful on the way to SC.
  • The Fox Sports grill down near the L gates was excellent though — very fast and quality service on the way back.

 

And, finally – flying on the weekends is irritating for two specific reasons:

  1. Every single person flying each weekend has NEVER FLOWN BEFORE IN THEIR LIFE, or at least so they’d have you believe. They can’t figure out how walk in an airport. They can’t figure out how to check-in with the self-service machines. They can’t figure out how to get through security without holding up the line. Ack! 🙂
  2. The airlines sincerely believe that I want them to talk to me throughout the entire flight over the loud LOUD speaker. Reassure me that they do sell drinks for only $5. That, yes, I can purchase the headphones for the movie in just a few moments. That this is the best opportunity to get 10,000 extra bonus miles by signing up for their visa card. Or… and this one is the worst of all… that I am incapable of finding one of the dozens of electronic signboards in the arrival terminal to figure out my connection gate and that therefore the best way to solve this problem is to read EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THE CONNECTING GATES FOR EVERY PASSENGER ON THE FLIGHT! This deafening process generally goes on for 5-10 minutes near the end of the flight, and ends with an announcement that now we have to turn off our electronic devices (ie – I’ve been unable to concentrate on — or ever really hear — my electronic device for the whole time).

Am I the only one who finds this annoying? Thank heavens they don’t seem to regularly do this for travel during the week.

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Jodi and I go to South Carolina

May 20-26: Jodi and I used a few days of vacation to visit South Carolina. We spent some time in Greenville visiting Sharai and Laura. Then to Charleston for some trips down memory lane, to the beach, and some nice dinners out. Finally, we rounded out in Columbia (literally — for instance, we went to Shealy’s for BBQ dinner). It was hot, although I’m told it was actually quite nice.

Photos at Doddsnet: http://www.doddsnet.com/Photos/2007/2007MayVacation/Default.htm

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Newsweek: God Debate

A recent newsweek article covered a discussion/debate between Atheist author Sam Harris and Christian author/evangelist Rick Warren. The topic was interesting, as was the article. A reasonable discussion about God, religion, society’s perceptions. etc.

But what I found particularly funny was the way Rick Warren ended the discussion (link to the last page):

Rick, last thoughts?
WARREN:
I believe in both faith and reason. The more we learn about God, the more we understand how magnificent this universe is. There is no contradiction to it. When I look at history, I would disagree with Sam: Christianity has done far more good than bad. Altruism comes out of knowing there is more than this life, that there is a sovereign God, that I am not God. We’re both betting. He’s betting his life that he’s right. I’m betting my life that Jesus was not a liar. When we die, if he’s right, I’ve lost nothing. If I’m right, he’s lost everything. I’m not willing to make that gamble.

I’ve highlighted the interesting part. Yes, you’re reading that right. Rick Warren just used Pascal’s Wager to summarily justify his Christian faith.

The problems with Pascal’s Wager as a logical approach to faith is that it encapsulates Pascal’s Flaw (in its various forms). Here are a couple simple and obvious reasons why Pascal’s Wager is flawed (thanks Wikipedia!):

  • Assumes God rewards belief – maybe God actually rewards skepticism instead
  • Assumes Christianity is the only religion that makes such a claim – if they’re mutually exclusive, they can’t all be right!
  • Does not constitute a true belief – if you’re only believing because you think it’s the “safest” option, do you really believe? (and do you think God would fall for it?)
  • Assumes one can choose belief – If you believe Scott Adams, there’s no free will anyway!
  • Assumes divine rewards and punishments are infinite – The Calvinists beg to differ.

Things are rarely binary-simple, unfortunately. Sorry Rick.

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Jesus Camp

Jodi and I watched Jesus Camp (documentary) the other day, and found it to be quite an interesting movie. Even more interesting were the comments I read online afterward which pointed out that, as a documentary with no narration (ie – it’s the fundamentalists in their own words), this documentary is appreciated by both fundamentalist types and those who find it to be a scary development. I suspect it’s pretty rare that both sides of an issue see the documentary and think it “proves their side”, so it’s a sign of a good documentary.

The documentary covers a number of young people at their homes, at their local church, around their neighborhood, and when they go off to a North Dakota fundamentalist/evangelical summer camp (where they do things like praying to “bless” a cardboard cut-out of George W Bush and cry/speak-in-tongues passing around plastic representations of a 7-week-old aborted fetus). It also covers a couple of the primary “preachers” (most present in the documentary was a children’s minister named Becky).

Proving my point that “both sides” find value in this documentary, I found the perspective of the fundamentalists in the movie to be terrifying. The children seem brainwashed (comments about “wanting something more from life” when one participant was only 5 years old and the vacant-looks of the one girl who was constantly searching for opportunities to “preach” to people in order to please her parents). The scene in the bowling alley where the vacant-eyed girl put another bowler (not with their party) on the spot about God’s plan was just over the top, and her parents were so proud of this socially unacceptable behavior. While, the other perspective on this, of course, is how wonderful it is that these young people have found their way so early and so absolutely.

Funniest point in the movie: While they were going around the lunch table talking about how terrible Harry “the Warlock/Satanist” Potter was and how they wouldn’t want to watch these movies or read the books EVEN IF their parents would let them, when we came to one young man (clearly a disappointment to his parents) who furtively pointed out that his mom didn’t let him see the movie but his dad took him (implying that he liked the movie). Oh, the humanity! The looks of horror from his fellow tablemates were absolutely precious… they clearly didn’t understand what to do when someone went “off script” from what the adults were prompting the kids to do.

Scariest part of the movie: When Pastor Becky commented that the radical fundamentalist Muslims have it right — they get to the kids when they’re young and impressionable and brainwash them (of course she didn’t use this word) into becoming part of “Gods Army”. She implied that we have a lot to learn from them and should emulate this sort of training to create our own ultra-nationalist “Christian army”. Wow.

Most ironic moment(s) in the movie: When some of the young, impressionable kids make a trip to the mega-church where Ted Haggard was preaching (this was before his “downfall”). Ted says some incredibly ironic things in the context of God knowing about sin (“I KNOW what you were doing last night”, etc). The simple fact that these young people were “idolizing” this preacher and his ultra-conservative message while he was secretly living a double-life adds an interesting — and quite likely initially unintended — angle to an already great documentary.

If you’re worried about the direction our country is going (whether you think it’s going “straight to hell ever since we took prayer out of school” or whether your opinion is that “the necessary and constitutional separation of church and state is crumbling”), this is a movie that’ll speak to you. Recommended.

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Ambler Warning

Recently I’ve been trying to alternate a fiction book, then a non-fiction book, etc. In that spirit, after finishing “The Mighty and the Almighty” back in April, I launched into a Robert Ludlum book: The Ambler Warning.

I usually quite like Robert Ludlum books – the Bourne Identity (and the rest in this series), for instance, were quite engaging and were what got me into this author in the first place. But this book was different. It’s actually been a month since I finished reading it (running a bit behind in all of my blog posting due to being so busy at work lately)…  so I don’t remember a lot of details. The main character was some sort of assassin who had lost his memory, except he thought he hadn’t. And he has some gift where he can always tell whether a person is lying. And he’s running from lots of people (and who, WHO are they REALLY?!). Ok, so far, standard-fare Ludlum plot. And of course there was a standard-fare Ludlum climax and plot-twist.

But it was really boring. My exact post-read notes were: “Boring. Slept through it. Stupid, stupid, stupid.”

Ouch. That’s a pretty stirring indictment of the book, even for me (I have a fairly high tolerance for finishing books, even when they’re stupid and/or boring). There are much better books to read, so I highly suggest not to bother with this one.

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Catherine visits in Seattle

(My youngest sister) Catherine was out here for a few days to attend a medical conference. She stayed with Jodi and I and we fit in some sightseeing and food during the times she had breaks from the sessions. It was fun having her out here, since I think the only other time she was here was on her road-trip with my mother — which was well before Jodi and I were living out here. Catherine blogged a bit about her trip here.

And here we are at SeaTac (thanks for the use of the camera, Catherine! I did a lousy job of being a photographer this trip!):

seatac

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Morrissey in Seattle

Last Sunday I went to the Paramount to see Morrissey perform here in Seattle. It was a good show, and I’m glad I went.

But, without a doubt, it made me exceedingly aware that despite owning 6 (yes, six… I just counted) Morrissey CDs, I’ve evidently never fully made the transition from The Smiths. I was disappointed to only recognize a handful of the songs he played (I’m guessing most were from his newest CD, which I do not own). And I was most disappointed that 1/2 way through “The Boy with the Thorn in His Side”, he aborted the song and made (what appeared to be… it was quite muffled) some snide comment about The Smiths or Johnny Marr or something like that. Seems like it’s time to let go of the ancient disagreements…

Whatever. He’s a great talent and I can’t stay away from his wonderful music. But I can totally believe the nasty stuff that’s been written about his attitude over the years.

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Dad and Cheryl Visit Seattle

April 23-30: Dad and Cheryl arrived in Seattle for a Monday->Monday visit. Jodi and I were working a bunch during the week, but they got out and about to an amazing degree! We had some Brazilian food, went to the Museum of Flight, did some wine tasting, had Salty’s brunch, went to Kerry Park, toured Theo Chocolate factory… lots of great stuff! ]

See Photos at Doddsnet: http://www.doddsnet.com/Photos/2007/2007AprilDadVisit/Default.htm

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