Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Atlas Shrugged

The people who are funding my summer fellowship insist that I read Ayn
Rand's 'Atlas Shrugged' and attend a discussion group on it. I was
expecting the book to be total trash, but it isn't. It is, mostly, a
well-written story. The characters are cardboard stereotypes, of
course, but the stereotypes are ones that I have not seen before, so
that keeps it interesting. However, I am only about one-sixth of the
way through and it is already starting to get a bit tiresome and

Monday, June 23, 2008

Speeding Tickets?

The police were stopping people in my town yesterday. It was about
11:00 on a Sunday night. There were two police cars, on different
streets. The police simply parked in a spot on the street, and turned
on the lights to stop people. It looked like they were stopping
anybody going faster than 25, but maybe they were on the lookout for
something specific.

If they were simply issuing speeding tickets, then this makes me happy
because I am usually a pedestrian.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sermon Example

The pastor started the sermon today by showing us this video:


The message was about how easy it can be to miss the things that God
wants to show you. It was a good sermon.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Game Theory

Yesterday, the Gaming Guild played a fascinating game called Cutthroat
Caverns. The setup of the game requires that the players cooperate to
defeat monsters, but only one player gets points for the victory. It
is possible, and often required, to sabotage other players in the
hopes of claiming the kill. However, if this happens too much,
everybody dies and the game ends. Players take their turns by playing
various attack cards face down, and can use other cards to alter or
manipulate attacks and effects.

It is an excellent way to create tension and force players to think.
You have to cooperate just enough to kill the monster, but not so much
that the other players can take advantage of you. There is a lot of
bluffing, calculation, and manipulation involved. At least, that is
the intention.

I played the 'naive' cooperative strategy. I shunned cards that
disrupted the other players, and sought out cards that simply attacked
the monsters for a lot of damage. This worked quite well, mostly
because it was unexpected. For example, in one turn, I had used a
special card to play two attack cards face down. Another player
played a card that would have given him credit for the second attack.
I said, "That would be an excellent way to disrupt my cunning strategy
... if I had a cunning strategy." and flipped over the first attack
card, which was enough to kill the monster and claim points. My
opponent shook my hand and said, "Well played, sir!"

If everyone expects you to be sneaky and tricky, than brute force is
often the most cunning strategy.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


I just turned down a free trip to Hawaii.

Because I am an Economics student, The PhD Project people offered me
an all-expense-paid trip to the Western Finance Association
conference. I would be able to go; I do not have any prior

But it would not be right. I would not benefit from the conference;
it would be a waste of their money. I am not going to waste resources
like that, even when they are freely offered to me.

Moral Sense Test


I always like these things. It is good to think about what you think
and why you think it.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Today at church the pastor gave a good sermon on sin. He talked about
the difference between things like pride that are always sin, and
things like alcohol that are sometimes sin. He used Romans 14 to talk
about how an overly legalistic view of the latter is wrong and can
split the church. Some things, like eating pork or drinking wine, can
be wrong for some people and okay for others. He stressed that we
need to be smart, follow our conscience, and don't insist that we know
what is best for everyone.

It was not the normal pastor; they did a 'pastor swap' with another
church. This seems normal for the church. They like bringing in new
ideas. The church seems intelligent and open, while keeping a good
community and a good understanding of core values.

I like this church. I think I'll keep going there for a while.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Scandinavian Education

"So, I ask him, was Finland's high score a mirage, caused by nothing
more profound than sensible spelling and good exam technique? No, he
says; the country's schools do two exceptional things—and he can prove
it, with charts.

The first shows "inter-generational income elasticity" in various
countries. This is the technical term for the correlation between
people's income and that of their parents. In Finland it is low:
parental income is a minor influence on earning. In other words, Finns
switch economic classes easily. In Britain and America, it is high,
meaning the opposite."


This is a good article on Scandinavian education.

In the USA we have more economic freedom and opportunity than in
socialist Finland. But the freedom to succeed means nothing if you
are unable to take advantage of it.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Earlier, my mom threw a lot of turnip seeds in the garden so she could
eat turnip greens. They grew nicely, producing greens for months.
Recently, she finished off all of the greens and pulled out the plants
to make room for other things. This left a big bag of turnips that
she had no intention of eating.

Because I am a tightwad and I will eat anything, she gave me the
turnips. I chopped them up and threw them in the crock pot along with
a few leftover carrots and some spices. The first attempt was
tolerable. The second, with a slightly different spice mix and a good
dose of vinegar, was better.

However, it occurs to me that I was only able to eat them because I
knew that I could easily eat something else if I felt like it. It was
a matter of choice, not necessity, and that made it bearable. If
turnips were the only food available, or if I had to eat them for more
than a week, I would probably hate them.