December 27, 2012

The Wretched

Elizabeth and I rarely go see a movie in the theater. When we do, it's almost always at the second-run theater that plays movies that have been out for a few months already, because those theaters usually cost about $1.50. If we see a new movie in a "nice" theater, it's almost always because someone gave us a movie theater gift card.

Well, on Christmas morning I was given a movie theater gift card from my parents-in-law. It worked out perfectly, because I'd already told Elizabeth that we were seeing Les Miserables in the theater no matter what. I had the gift card in my possession for about 32 hours before using it to buy tickets to Les Mis (and some popcorn).

So now here's my dilemma. Les Mis is about 2 hours and 30 minutes in length. I wanted it to last 10 hours. It was so good. But now that I saw it on the second day of its release, I have a very long time to wait until I'm able to see it again (when it comes out on DVD), or I have to pay to go see it again in a theater. Which is a bummer.

And that's the end of this enticing tale.

November 27, 2012

A NEW blog for more Jake & Elizabeth than you ever dared to dream.

As anyone who reads this blog probably already knows, my wife and I are moving to Ames, Iowa at the end of this week. It's a big change for us. We're very excited about my new job and the friends and family we'll be living closer to, but it's also a tough change, as we've had to say goodbye to a significant number of important friends here in Colorado who have supported and encouraged us over the last five and a half years.

As Elizabeth and I wade through this significant transition in our lives from being newlywed graduate students living far from family to being not-so-newlywed "grown ups" living much closer to family, I thought it made sense to document our lives a little bit differently. So, I've created a new blog where Elizabeth and I will BOTH blog (or at least that's the hope) about what we're learning and what God is doing through us in this next season.

I plan to continue blogging here, but probably not any more frequently than I already do (which I realize is not very frequently). To see more frequent updates from my lovely wife and I, check us out at: Subscribe and follow!

October 3, 2012

Introducing Milton Friedman

The following quotations come from the late Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman. The first two come from his book Free to Choose: A Personal Statement. The third is from a response he gave to a questioner at one of a series of lectures he gave along the same topics and ideas as that book. The youtube video in which the third quotation is found can be seen HERE. Together, these quotations provide a few of the reasons I hold to economically conservative beliefs.

"A society that puts equality -- in the sense of equality of outcome -- ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom, and the force, introduced for good purposes, will end up in the hands of people who use it to promote their own interests. On the other hand, a society that puts freedom first will, as a happy by-product, end up with both greater freedom and greater equality. Though a by-product of freedom, greater equality is not an accident. A free society releases the energies and abilities of people to pursue their own objectives. It prevents some people from arbitrarily suppressing others. It does not prevent some people from achieving positions of privilege, but so long as freedom is maintained, it prevents those positions of privilege from becoming institutionalized; they are subject to continued attack by other able, ambitious people. Freedom means diversity but also mobility. It preserves the opportunity for today's disadvantaged to become tomorrow's privileged and, in the process, enables almost everyone, from top to bottom to enjoy a fuller and richer life."

"In the past century a myth has grown up that free market capitalism -- equality of opportunity as we have interpreted that term -- increases such inequalities, that it is a system under which the rich exploit the poor. Nothing could be further from the truth. Wherever the free market has been permitted to operate, wherever anything approaching equality of opportunity has existed, the ordinary man has been able to attain levels of living never dreamed of before. Nowhere is the gap between rich and poor wider, nowhere are the rich richer and the poor poorer, than in those societies that do not permit the free market to operate."

"A society that aims for equality before liberty will end up with neither equality nor liberty. And a society that aims first for liberty will not end up with equality, but will end up with a closer approach to equality than any other kind of system that has ever been developed. Now that conclusion is based both on evidence from across history, and also, I believe on reasoning, which if you try to follow through the implications of aiming first for equality, will become clear to you. You can only aim at equality by giving some people the right to take things from others. And what ultimately happens when you aim at equality is that A and B decide what C shall do for D. Except that they take a little bit of a commission off on the way."

September 11, 2012

Phelps the Olympian

Timothy Dalrymple is a blogger I read from time to time. In mid-August he wrote a two-part post arguing that Michael Phelps is not the clear-cut greatest olympian of all time. (Part 1 here, Part 2 here)

If you're at all interested in sports in general or the olympics in particular, they're both entertaining reads. Dalrymple's main point (among many) is that not all gold medals should be weighed equally when it comes to determining history's greatest olympian. Put simply, swimmers have many more medals available to them than all other sports. He gets pretty detailed, and if you like reading interesting stuff that doesn't, in the end, mean anything (which is pretty much the case with everything sports related), it'll be fun for you.

I didn't read his second part until recently, and it appears comments have been closed on that post, so I'm writing here to share a few of the thoughts I would have written in comment form if I could have.

I don't think I flat-out disagree with hardly anything in either of Dalrymple's posts, except I do believe Phelps is the greatest olympian ever. Dalrymple's most troublesome piece comes at the very end when you realize that he doesn't have anyone in mind who is the greatest olympian, he just doesn't think it's Phelps. That's a problem for me. It's easy to argue against the "greatest-ness" of anyone or anything. It's much tougher if you actually have to make the case for another. I could give you a hundred reasons why Tom Brady is not the best quarterback ever. It's much tougher for me to tell you who is. And that's what I was waiting for from Dalrymple, but he never got there. He made many good points, and brought up some important limitations to declaring Phelps the greatest olympian simply because his medal count is highest. But the weakest arguments he made were always when he brought up other olympians by name. He named many extremely impressive and accomplished olympians who would deserve to be on any "top 10 olympians" list, but none of them were properly or exhaustively compared to Phelps, and they all have as many arguments against them as Phelps does.

If you asked 100 olympic enthusiasts of varying ages from around the world to name the top 3 olympians of all time, is there any doubt that Phelps' name would show up on 100 ballots? It's a subjective thing to try to determine, but it has a more clear-cut answer than many other subjective sports questions.

September 10, 2012

What Life is Like

Ever since Forrest Gump immortalized the words, "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get," people have been comparing just about everything you can think of to life itself (ironically, it's common now for a box of chocolates to come with a label under the lid that tells you exactly what you're gonna get). I recently saw video of a guy who liked to play pool and he said, "Life is like a game of pool. When you find your shot you've gotta take it. You may have to walk around the table a few times, but sooner or later you have to take that shot." It made me think that we could probably compare anything to life in one way or another. In the shower (where I do my best thinking) I started to come up with some other things life is like. Now I'm taking a break from writing a thesis, so here are 15 things life is like.

Life is like a library. Even if you know exactly what you're looking for, you can get yourself lost.

Life is like a shower head. If you let yours get rusty you're gonna have stuff going every which-way until you dip it in some CLR.

Life is like a wristwatch. It keeps going 'round and 'round.

Life is like a notebook. The pages are blank until you fill them in.

Life is like a bottle of shampoo. When you're near the end it's no use shaking it up and down or banging it against the wall -- it's over, man.

Life is like checking e-mail. Most of the time it's boring and predictable, but when it's not it's awesome.

Life is like blogging. You can BS your way through a lot of it, but sooner or later you'll get found out.

Life is like taking a test. You can BS your way through a lot of it, but sooner or later you'll get found out.

Life is like wearing white after Labor Day. For most it's not terribly fashionable, but some people pull it off nicely.

Life is like God. You'll never fully understand it.

Life is like a woman. You'll never fully understand it.

Life is like working out. Sometimes you sweat.

Life is like eating vegetables. It can really suck.

Life is like winter time. Football.

Life is like politics. You don't have to participate very long to find some real jerks.

What else is life like?

July 24, 2012

Some Olympic Inspiration

"The Americans? We're going to smash them. That's what we came for."
These words were uttered by French swimmer Alain Bernard a few days before his team would compete in the Men's 4X100 meter relay at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. Bernard had reason to talk. He was the world record holder in the 100 meter freestyle, and by all accounts, the world's fastest freestyle swimmer for that distance.

So when Bernard dove into the pool at the Water Cube as the French team's anchor leg with more than a half-second lead over the Americans, it was pretty clear that his prediction had been correct. It would be devastating for the U.S. team to lose this race, largely because of the hype surrounding American swimmer Michael Phelps' quest for 8 gold medals at a single games -- a feat that would eclipse Mark Spitz's long-time record of 7 golds. But the loss would be even more bitter because of Bernard's arrogant trash-talking. No one likes a loud-mouthed bully. Especially when he's on the other team and he's about to win.

Unfortunately for Bernard, the anchorman for the U.S. team was 32-year old veteran Jason Lezak.

Lezak was swimming in his third Olympic games, and had been part of the only U.S. teams in history not to win gold in this event in 2004 and 2000. He apparently didn't like those losses.

When the swimmers flip-turned at the halfway point of their legs, Lezak was still a good half-body length behind Bernard. To overcome such a deficit would be like going into a football game halfway through the fourth quarter losing by 35 against Tom Brady's team. It just isn't going to happen for you. Nice try, but better luck next time.

But Lezak kept fighting. Inch by inch he gained on Bernard, and when he finally had no more room in the pool to gain on Bernard, he touched the wall eight one hundredths of a second ahead of the arrogant Frenchman.

The win kept Phelps' hope for 8 golds alive. Lezak's leg had been the fastest ever swum. It was about as close as we can get to describing something as superhuman.

With the London olympics kicking off in a few days, this story has been on my mind a lot lately. It's the most vivid and exciting olympic memory I have. I still literally tear up when I read accounts of it or watch the video of it. So I thought I'd give you the chance to re-live it as well.

HERE's an ESPN story about the race from four years ago.
Here's the youtube video of the full race. The quality isn't great, but you can see enough to know that Lezak had no shot (until he did).

July 3, 2012

Fight Club and Christianity

Someone on twitter posted, "I wish the first rule of Christianity was exactly the same as the first rule of Fight Club." Now, in case you don't know, Fight Club is a movie in which the most oft-quoted line is, "The first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club." To reassure everyone who re-tweets the original tweet, I'd just like to say, it is. The first rule of Christianity is: you do not talk about Fight Club. But I don't think that's the point of what these folks are trying to say.

I think what someone is trying to communicate with this line is that they wish Christians would shut up and mind their own business. Unfortunately, this desire is not only oxymoronic, it's also simply moronic. Asking a Christian not to share the good news about Jesus is similar to asking CNN not to share the news about anything. "I wish CNN would stop broadcasting news and mind their own business." How stupid.

June 26, 2012

Apartment Swap

A little less than a year ago our apartment flooded. You may remember reading about the lovely event here. A couple of times since (and once or twice prior), it's happened again on a much smaller scale. After just about every heavy rain (which is fairly rare here), at least a small bit of our carpet somewhere ends up wet.

About three weeks ago we got hammered with a major storm, and we woke up on a Thursday morning with wet carpet throughout much of our apartment. It took them from Thursday morning until Monday evening to get our place livable again. It was frustrating, but we're flexible enough people that we survived. Still, with all of this water that's sat in our apartment over the 3 and a half years we've lived in it, we were sure there was mold and probably other organisms making a nice little home out of our home. We sat down with the manager of our apartment property and politely demanded that something be done. We reached an agreement that they would transfer us to another comparable unit for the same price and on the same lease term we were already on. And we got them to give us a reduction on our rent for June, since we were unable to live in the apartment we were paying for for a few days.

The following Thursday, we left for an Iowa/Illinois trip whose purpose was primarily twofold: 1) We had a friend getting married in Illinois, and 2) We hadn't yet met our newest nephew, Judah, who was born in March. Along the way we got to see each of my brothers & sisters-in-law (though for much less time than we would've liked!), and Elizabeth's family too.

We got back from our trip last Monday night, and had a move date of Saturday. So we had about 4 days to pack & prepare to move about 300 yards away. To make a long story long (but probably not as long as it could be), we got moved on Saturday in the 104-degree heat with the help of some wonderful friends who loaned time, toil, and trucks.

This whole post is really to tell you this little bit of info: Our new apartment has the exact opposite floor plan of our old one. As you look at the kitchen, the fridge is to the right instead of the left. The light switches are located on opposite sides from what we're used to. Everything is backwards. So, for the last few days, both Elizabeth and I have had numerous embarrassing moments where we can't find what we're looking for because we're looking where it used to be placed. It's been a little humorous (except when you have to pee in the middle of the night and run into walls and trip over dressers on the way to the bathroom).