Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Editor's Note

I just added a slide show of my Picasa Web Albums in the sidebar. Thanks to Phydeaux3 for creating it. The only upgrade that I would like to see in this widget or probably in PWA is to allow for a single RSS feed that can randomly select any photo that I have posted on PWA. Nonetheless, what I have now is pretty cool.

Phydeaux3 also has a pretty cool label cloud that I am going to implement as soon as Google Pages starts working again.

I also added a couple of Google AdSense ads to see how that works. I am not planning on making much money, but it will be cool to see how it works out.

Drunk Santa

My friend Liz forwarded this to me.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

Australian Wildlife

Check out these two videos of Australian Wildlife that Lori and I shot on our honeymoon last month.

We took these videos with our Panasonic VDR-D300 video camera. I used a combination of Panasonic's video editing software and a trial version of Adobe Premeier Elements 3.0 to edit the video and create an MPEG file for upload. We used DVD-RAM disks to record all of the fotage, which turned out to not really be a clean process because Premeire Elements cannot talk directly to the camera when the camera is using a DVD-RAM disk. The process that I had to go through was to use the Panasonic video editing softare to pull the data onto my PC as an MPEG file and then import that data into Premeire Elements for editing. Premiere Elements is a much better video editing product than the Panasonic program.

When I switched to a DVD-RW Premiere elements was able to talk to the camera because it appeared like a DVD drive so for the future, I am going planning to use DVD-RW disks.

Becker Posner

This afternoon, I read a couple of really interesting posts on Gary Becker and Richard Posner's blog. This blog is a really interning idea because Becker and Posner both present their viewpoints on an issue. It's not exactly a debate in that it seems that both men sometimes agree on certain aspects of the issues, but it is certainly illuminating. The last three issues that these two debated were reports on wealth inequality, the case for subsidizing student loans, and whether to raise the minimum wage.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Education Reform

The Commission on the Skills of the American People has just published a new report: Tough Choices or Tough Times describing how they propose to reform our primary and secondary education systems. The executive summery of the report lists 10 problems with our current education system as well as a ten point plan for reform. Highlights of the report are that the commission would fund education systems at the state rather than the local level by essentially creating a statewide voucher program, establish state exit exams and allow students who passed those exams to leave the school system bound for either community college or advanced studies, and reform teacher compensation to attract more talented teachers and motivate teachers to excel instead of just remain employees.

All of these points seem like good things to do, but good luck getting them implemented. Such drastic overhauls would be terrible news for the existing teacher's unions, which have prevented reform for decades. Education vouchers are just a toe in the water compared with the recommendations in this report. We need real reform, but are only likely to get tweaks at the margins.

I will try to include more details as I have a chance to do further analysis.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Beach Takeoff

This YouTube video shows a plane taking off from a sand beach in Fraser Island in Australia. I have never seen something quite like this, so I recorded it for everyone to see. My Dad is a professional pilot so he was really interested to see this as well. Enjoy...


So I just started playing around with Dodgeball, which is a mobile social networking service. Basically that means that dodgeball will help me coordinate with my friends when we are going out for the evening. The idea is to replace sending a text message to everyone in my address book with sending a single text message to Dodgeball and having them relay it to everyone else. There are also a bunch of other features that you can check out on their site.

It seems like the biggest problem with Dodgeball is that no one is using it. According to this dude Dodgeball is a has been. The service has apparently been around for years and was even acquired by Google over a year ago. I just registered and I am only user number 58804. So that is not too good. Also I currently only have two friends, one of which is my wife. Finally, by "checking in" (sending a message to Dodgeball) four times I am currently tied for the lead as the top user in Boston over the past ten days. I am planning on going out again tonight so it looks like I may be able to take the lead alone!

Nonetheless I do think that Dodgeball could be a really cool service if I can get enough of my friends to sign up. One pretty interesting feature is that Dodgeball only sends messages to friends who are in the same city, which means that a particular user just has to keep updating his location and Dodgeball can take care of informing the people that are close enough to meet up.

One application where I think that this would work really well is for coordinating tailgating at Notre Dame (or other college) football games. Oftentimes I randomly run into friends that I didn't even know were in town. Obviously we could have emailed or called each other prior to the game, but most of the time it is not really convenient to let all of my friends know what I am doing especially if it is unlikely for them to actually be able to meet me. I think that there are probably a bunch of situations just like this were Dodgeball will come in handy. So sign up and be my friend!

Andrew Sullivan on Christianism

Andrew Sullivan just published a great post explaining his definition of "Christianist" and why he believes that many people take offense to it. I believe in a universal truth represented by the Catholic Church, which illuminates the nature of God and points toward how we ought to interact with our neighbors. Of course, my faith also teaches that each individual must freely choose to accept faith. This, I think, is the main tension between what I consider authentic Christianity and Christianism. Although I believe that Christianity is universal and want everyone to believe in it, I cannot force my faith upon them, especially through the use of state power.

I think that I first articulated this general principle about six or seven years ago, but only in the last couple of years have I been able to firmly hold the political positions that it requires. I really do not want to be in favor legal abortions because each one is a tragedy. Homosexuality seems very foreign to me, but I accept that it is real so I have to support some version of gay marriage to grant everyone the same basic legal protections that I enjoy. It has been tough for me to come to hold these positions, but they are pretty much the only option if I want to be honest with myself.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Live each day as though it is a bonus day

Sunday's Gospel reading introduced John the Baptist and his ministry of baptizing people in the Jordan River. Fr. Peter's homily focused on the act of baptizing and the reality of rebirth. He told a story of fly-fisherman who lost his balance in the middle of a river and was pulled under a sheet of ice. Seeing what had happened another man came to the rescue and saved the fisherman's life. This near death experience prompted the fisherman to view each day as a bonus day in which he could do nice things for others. Fr. Peter compared the fisherman's experience with the experiences of the people whom John baptized.

I found this analogy inspiring and hope that everyone I know can live each day as though it is a bonus day.

Editor's Note

I just switched to the the beta version of Blogger. I had to recreate my template and some of the links, but the new version looks like it operates pretty well.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Rip Current Drowning in Ocean City

I am a little late in posting a link to this article describing the events that led to the death of a 24 year old man in the waters off Ocean City, Maryland. I was involved in the search and rescue efforts following reports that the man was likely submerged in the water. The newspaper version of the article included a picture of paramedics attempting to resuscitate the man after he was found. I actually appear in the background to that picture.

Unfortunately this tragedy once again highlights the potential dangers of swimming in the ocean.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Andrew Sullivan on the Minimum Wage

So I am currently quite confused about Andrew Slavonic position on the minimum wage. Yesterday he wrote:

Just to scramble things up, I also favor a raise in the minimum wage. I didn't
used to. But I've been persuaded by the evidence that the benefits outweigh the
costs, and that its worth has been deeply eroded in the recent past. The plight
of the working poor in a globalized economy deserves addressing.

But back in May he wrote the following when discussing a list of progressive policy proposals:

Most I dislike (progressive taxation, clumsy statist environmental policy,
indexing the minimum wage, ending abstinence education, making Medicare even
more costly).
Since I could not find any other references to the minimum wage in the interim, I was completely confused about what caused him to reverse his position about the relative costs and benefits of increasing the minimum wage.

Then to add even more confusion into the mix, Andrew linked to a post on Greg Mankiw's Blog, which he described as a "A sane, smart argument against raising" the minimum wage.

I would tend to agree with Andrew that the plight of the working poor deserves addressing, I am just not sure that the government should address it by raising the minimum wage or even that the government is the entity that should address it in the first place.

As a bonus after browsing on Greg Mankiw's Blog, I found this post discussing a survey of PhD members of the American Economic Association. Check it out to see the areas where economists agree and where they disagree. One of the main areas of disagreement is interestingly enough on the minimum wage.

Recent Pictures

Here are a couple of pictures from our recent trip to Australia.

This album contains three beautiful panoramic landscape shots.

My Windows on our Honeymoon album contains pictures looking our some of the windows where we stayed in Australia.

Finally, this album contains some of the best pictures that we took on our vacation.

David Kuo's Open Letter

David Kuo has written an open letter to James Dobson and Chuck Colson to reiterate the argument that he recently spelled out about his desire for Christians, as an organized group, to take a break from politics. It is hard for me to see how authentic Christianity can ever square itself with political power. State sanctioned abortion, gay marriage, gambling or anything else short of religious persecution cannot impact an individual Christian's faith the way power and hypocrisy can.

Krauthammer on Iraq

Charles Krauthammer has an interesting post on National Review Online about the current state of affairs in Iraq. Krauthammer makes the point Iran and Syria really have nothing to offer us in Iraq so there is no benefit in negotiating with them. I think that Krauthammer offers a pretty accurate analysis of the situation, but then he offers this prescription:

The U.S. should be giving Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki a clear ultimatum: If
he does not come up with a political solution in two months or cede power to a
new coalition that will, the U.S. will abandon the Green Zone, retire to its
bases, move much of its personnel to Kurdistan where we are welcome and safe,
and let the civil war take its course. Let the current Green ZoneƂ–protected
Iraqi politicians who take their cue from Moqtada al-Sadr face the insurgency
alone. That might concentrate their minds on either making a generous offer to
the Sunnis or stepping aside for a new coalition that would.

Giving the Green-Zone politicians and Sadr the opportunity to face the Sunni insurgents alone would seem toguaranteee an all out fight between these groups. I am not sure how the outcome would be anything other than the victoriousmilitiaa putting its leader in place. At present I cannot see any better approach than a continuation of the current strategy of building up government controlled forces with US advisors to hopefully temper their worst impulses.