Archive for January, 2006

Friday, January 27th, 2006

This is a complete aside, but I found out today about a very interesting website Where’s George?!. The idea is to track the path of US Currency. It does it through the cooperation of averages Joes who enter their current zipcode and the serial numbers of the money they have on them. When future people do the same thing, one can see where the money they spent has gone. In some cases it can be very surprising like this one that made it from Ohio to Kentuky to Tennesse to Florida to Texas to Utah to Michigan over the course of 3 years. They’ve tracked (at one point or another 76 million bills totaling $430 million.

Pretty interesting stuff if you ask me.

The difference with a feeding tube

Friday, January 27th, 2006

A long time has passed now since Teri Schiavo has died, but for those who truly care about the care of the elderly/disabled, the issues is still of great importance.

One of the blogs I have on my blogroll on the right hand side of the blog is for Wesley J. Smith. Mr. Smith made a name for himself by writing the book “Culture of Death” in 2001 before the phrase became a media sensation. The book is not about abortion or euthenasia but about the current state of medical ethics and the transition from needs based care to “quality of life” based care. I’m told it is a very good book and I’ve heard him speak about the subject at a conference and it was very compelling, so I suggest everyone read the book (it’s on my stack to read).

In any case, on his blog one of the issues he often comments on (along with stem cells and cloning) is feeding tubes. He today re-made a point that his made many times that for some reason struck a cord with me:

Food and water are different than other kinds of medical treatments because EVERYONE, no matter who you are, WILL DIE without food and water. While the same is true for air/oxygen, the significant difference is that air is readily available at our noses in normal circumstances. So while people make comparisons between ventilators and feeding tubes, they are not equivalent. If you wanted to make an appropriate comparision, removing a feeding tube would be the same as removing a ventilator AND sealing the room so that no more oxygen can get in.

I think we all agree that sealing a room so a person can’t breath is immoral. Similarly, in the western world, refusing to provide food to ANY person, whether they be a homeless person on the street or a person who can’t swallow (because remember that all a feeding tube is, is a simple tube that goes down ones throat past where the bypass to the lungs is so that one doesn’t inhale (literally) the food), is similarly immoral.

Being thankful

Wednesday, January 25th, 2006

I was reading today on a Catholic blog where the author is anticipating a major pay cut at his job and was pretty worried about how he was going to make ends meet.

What instantly popped in my head was how thankful I am for the life I have. I’ve got a stable job at a pretty good company (although not what it once was as far as employee treatment). They pay me enough that I can afford to pay for all of my family’s needs without asking my wife to contribute financially. I am able to do this and was able to purchase a beautiful home at a time when it was affordable for me to do so on a 30 year fixed morgage at a pretty good interest rate.

But even more importantly, I have a wonderful wife whom I love dearly and two incredibly wonderful boys who bring me so much joy I want 20 more of them.

There is much for me to be thankful for.

Taxing only the rich

Monday, January 23rd, 2006

I was reading this heavily biased story when a thought of mine re-occured to me. The statement that did it was:

“It’s (a new ballot initiative to pay for pre-school for all children) also about taxes, as it would raise the state income tax rate on the richest 1 percent of Californians – married couples earning over $800,000 or individuals over $400,000.”

I fundamentally disagree with this type of taxation particularly when put in a ballot initiative. The basic premise of these types of techniques is “we want this type of benefit… but we don’t want to have to pay for it.”

Listen, I’m OK with a graduated tax (where lower income is taxed at lower levels), but whenever we’re going to increase taxes, EVERYONE’S taxes need to be increased. They don’t need to be increased the same amount, we could choose to increase rich people taxes more than poor peoples, but if a new initiative needs taxation, then we’d all better be willing to contribute at least something. To at least be willing to make SOME kind of sacrifice, even if it is pale in comparison to what another group will be making.

Even if it is $50 a year for the “average family” as opposed to $100K for the millionare at least then we all have to make a trade off; to say to ourselves “is this really worth spending money on?”

Otherwise there will be no limit to our ability to spend money wastefully because it will be “free money”. I’ve already heard people basically admit it with statements like “Hey, if it only affects the millionares, why wouldn’t we do it?”

Why? Because it isn’t fair no matter much money the millionares have. We’re all citizens and we all need to contribute.

Tightwad hill website?

Tuesday, January 17th, 2006

For those not in the know, Tightwad Hill is a hill just behind Memorial Stadium that is high enough to allow very good viewing of the games in the stadium. For just about every Cal football game there can be multiple hundreds of fans watching the game from this free location.

Well, it turns out that there is an official website (Hat tip: The Seventh inning Stretch)

Are you a heretic?

Friday, January 13th, 2006

I found a great quiz. You should try it out! It’s a quiz with various statements regarding who God is. You have to try and pick the correct ones (from a Christian perspective) without picking some false ones that reflect some heresy in the early Christian Church. The one clue I will give you is that there are no 1/2 right statements so there is no need to pick anything other than the two extremes of Agree/Disagree (it’s a range of 5 between the two). The goal is be 100% Chalcedon Compliant and 0% on any of the heresies (of which there is a bunch including Arianism, Gnosticism, Adoptionist, Nestorianism, Donatism and Pelagianism).

As an FYI, Chalcedon Compliant means in compliance with the Fourth Ecumenical Council or the Council of Chalcedon held in the fall of 451 AD. For more information on the Council see here.

Vacation graphic and metrics!

Tuesday, January 10th, 2006

Below is a graphic with the GPS routing of all of the driving I did over the course of the vacation. Here are some metrics:

-Total hours driving: 44
-Miles driven: 2680
-Average speed: 61 miles an hour (officer, I was NEVER over 65…)
-Longest individual trip: 610 miles from uncle Rick’s ranch home
-Shortest individual trip: 70 miles to and from Wendy’s Parent’s house from home
-Earliest trip start: 7:00 AM when leaving uncle Rick’s ranch for home
-Latest trip start: 6:00 PM when leaving for Vegas Bowl
-Earliest trip end: 10:00 AM arrival at Wendy’s Parent’s house on Christmas day
-Latest trip end: 3:15 AM arrival in Vegas for Vegas Bowl
-Highest elevation: 6070 ft. when entering Yosemite
-Lowest elevation: 20 ft. at Tim’s Wedding in Oxnard
-Northern most point: Latitude 39.522 N at Wendy’s Parent’s house
-Southern most point: Latitude 34.228 N at Tim’s Wedding
-Western most point: Longitude 121.613 W on drive to Wendy’s Parent’s house in Gridly
-Eastern most point: Longitude 113.833 W at uncle Rick’s ranch

Here’s the picture (click on picture to see full size image):


Tuesday, January 10th, 2006

As I said in my vacation post, I went to my brother-in-laws wedding on Saturday.

Well there was one thing that bugged me very profoundly: the “minister”. Wendy’s family is not Catholic and although they went to a Christian Church for a number of years, it didn’t really stick and none of Wendy’s immediate family attend church on a regular basis. Tim, being 5 years younger than Wendy probably doesn’t even have many meaningful memories from going to church as a boy as he was pretty young when they peeter out.

For whatever they decided to get a minister to do the ceremony but instead of finding a church that they wanted to attend and finding a pastor associated with that church, they decided to get what I will forever more call a rent-a-minister. I doubt this guy has any formal religious training to justify the term minister (at least in the traditional American use of the term) and even more importantly, didn’t seem to view his job as being all that religious in nature. It was clear from the conversations I had with Tim, the “minister’s” planner and the “minister” that Tim and his fiancee only met to arrange the logistics and payment of the wedding ceremony. The ceremony was outside at a golf course and had no association to any church.

It was clear from the beginning of the ceremony that he didn’t know these two people and was just spouting out some canned ceremony he got from somewhere (maybe he downloaded it from the place he got his “minister license” on the Internet). Then to top things off, he read from scripture and picked about the worst verse I could think of that has the word love in it. I forget where he started, but I think he skipped the beginning of the passage or maybe just a few lines, but here it is from the beginning up until where he stopped:

“There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build.
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
A time to love…” (Ecclesiates 3:1-8

I’m pretty sure avoided the kill part in that passage and he definitely stopped with ‘a time to love’ because verse 8 continues:

“…and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. ”

What kind of IDIOT picks a passage from the bible in regards to marriage that is not about love but just includes that word in a long passage of positive and negative things for whick the point is “all things will come to pass”. A book that starts off “Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity!” The book of Ecclesiates is a book about the transient nature of life and that we must look to a higher source for our meaning. Traditionally the Jewish people have had a hard time with the inclusion of this book in the Hebrew scriptures (which is of course the Old Testament) because many thought it over-emphasized that lack of meaning of our lives. Point being, this is not a book you should be quoting from as a sign of our earthly love for our spouse unless it is part of a larger sermon about needing to place your faith in God above all things (and that will sustain your marriage). But that’s not what he did, that’s the only scripture reference he made. In fact, outside of saying “in the presense of God” he made no indication of God having any role in the marriage in any form other than quoting from Ecclesiastes and saying “this is this couple’s time to love”. And don’t even get me started about that statment!

It really ticked me off. I would have much preferred that the ceremony just be done by a Justice of the Peace as they call them. If you’re going to deny the religious importance of a marriage by not actually being concerned with having a real minister do it, why put up the charade of a rent-a-minister? I’m sure Tim and his new wife have no idea what this “minister’s” theology is and what the religious nature of a marriage is in his book. And they don’t care. So why would they have him come and preside over their wedding as a “minister”? At least with the Justice of the Peace, all that their saying is that this ceremony is to legally bind the couple as man and wife, which is something that all couples that are getting married are interested in. But if you’re not interested in making a conscious statement about the religious nature of the marriage (and to do that it seems appropriate to me that the person performing the marriage has the same view (not just A view, but the SAME view) of the religious nature of the marriage) just make it a non-religious ceremony and get on with it. But to hire a rent-a-minister… that was an injustice to God and everyone seated there including Tim and his new wife.

The value of a small parish

Tuesday, January 10th, 2006

As I said in my big vacation post, Wendy and I went to a small parish for our Chirstmas Mass in Oroville. Oroville is a pretty small town (20K people?) to begin with but its Catholic community is even smaller. The church only fix about 100 people. It had an old California Mission feel to it, but that’s not what was noteworthy to write about.

What was noteworthy was that despite the REALLY crummy music by three elderly ladies with guitars you could feel how close-nit the community was. Everyone knew everyone’s name and everyone knew we were visitors. They were welcoming and you could tell they were serious about their faith and understood the importance of community. I don’t get that feel at the VERY large parishes we have down here in the Sacramento area. All of these 3000 family parishes that seat 800+ people in the sanctuary and have 6 masses every Sunday (there were only two in Oroville) really create an impersonal feel. Unless one makes a conscious effort to be involved, one can go to Mass every Sunday (or not) and no one will know the difference. That wasn’t the case in Oroville.

Seeing that close-nit community made me yearn for a smaller parish. Sadly, until the Priest shortage is rectified, there is no reason to hope that we can add the 4-8 additional parishes in the Roseville/Rocklin/Granite Bay region necessary to get the more manageable community sizes that would facility actual community.

Such a shame.

My vacation

Tuesday, January 10th, 2006

Well, I’m back at work after two weeks off, and what a two weeks off it was! Read the below post about the beginning of the vacation and the Las Vegas bowl where the Cal Bears beat BYU! This post picks up where that one left off.

After the game in Las Vegas ended around 9 PM, Brian and I went to my Uncle Rick’s desert ranch outside of Yucca, AZ. Uncle Rick and Aunt Garnette had come up from their vacation ranch to watch the game with us and we caravaned to the ranch with them. I would tell you how to get there but it’s WAY back (like 20 miles back) off some gravel roads from Yucca. I made sure to get GPS coordinates for the place because I don’t know if I could find my way back without them!

The route to Yucca, AZ from Las Vegas took us over the Hoover dam, another place I’d never been. I was surprised just how narrow the canyon the dam was in. From that standpoint the dam was pretty small. However the depth of the dam is AMAZINGLY deep. We didn’t stop, but from the Car not only could I not see the bottom of the canyon, I couldn’t see the lake’s water (which I’m told was low) from the top of the dam. It was a very impressive canyon. I was also suprised by how deep in the canyon the dam was. We were probably a good 200 feet (heck, maybe 500) below the top of canyon when on top of the dam. Finally, it is clear that dam puts out a LOT of power. The power lines coming out of there are as big as the power lines coming out of a nuclear power plant. I’ll have to go back there sometime during the day and walk around to see the entire facilities…

We arrived at my uncle’s ranch at about 11 PM and since it was dark, I couldn’t see much other than what was inside their small vacation house. When I woke up in the morning, what I saw was amazing. There were Joshua trees everywhere and TONS of cactus. One always stereotypically thinks of the desert as miles and miles of sand with a cactus every couple hundred yards. That was not the case here. Not only were there tons of different types of vegitation it was as dense as a redwood forest. Of course, most everything here is under 10 feet tall so it doesn’t have the enclosed feel of a redwood forest, but there really was that much vegitation. We were only there for one day (two nights) but we managed to take a hike up to a nearby hill to see the entire valley, play a round of frisbee golf (uncle Rick has a full 18 hole course, all that is missing are cart paths and a score card), and visit with some of their neighbors who live there year-round.

That evening we got a call from my wife Wendy. She had been called by the Yucca fire department saying they were towing my car. I had left my car at the empty lot right next to the fire station and uncle Rick drove Brian and I into the ranch in his really nice truck. Since the roads to the ranch were all gravel and somewhat bumpy, we thought it best to leave a Jetta in town. Well, apparently the fire department didn’t take to kindly to that. After talking with Wendy we realized that they were only threatening to tow the car and it may still be there. Nevertheless when uncle Rick and aunt Garnette drove us to pick up my car to head home the next morning (now the 24th, the game was the 22nd, we spent the 23rd at the ranch) there was some question as to whether the car would be there. Both Rick and I were somewhat confident that the car would be there because Yucca is such a small town that it would be a hassle for them to tow it and they wouldn’t do it for a few days. Thankfully we were right.

Brian and I made the 9 hour trek back to Roseville (interestingly, although Yucca is two hours from Vegas, since they are off of I-40 and I-15 respectively and those two freeways meet in Barstow which is where one cuts over to Bakersfield, the driving distance from my house to either place is about the same) arriving there about 5:15 PM on Christmas eve. Sadly because of some miscommunication between Wendy and I, she wasn’t expecting me back because of the towed car incident and had stayed at her parents place not expecting me until late at night. I was pretty exhausted, so I slept in Roseville (Brian drove home to Oakland) and drove the hour and a half to Oroville to meet up with Wendy and the boys in the morning. We had a nice Christmas day, including Mass at the small Parish in town (more on this in a later post), in Oroville and came home in the evening after dinner.

Think that was the end of my travels? As Al Pachino says, “I’m just getting warmed up!”

The following day (the 26th) we all got in the car and drove to Yosemite. It is somewhat of a Christmas tradition for my Mom to take me and Brian to Yosemite around Christmas time. We haven’t gone for the last few years because of having little babies both inside and outside of Wendy. This year with our youngest being nearly 1, we decided it was time to go again. Yosemite usually has light snow in the valley and heavy snow on the top of the walls. This year it was BONE DRY. It even rained for a day while we were there. We took Gregory and Andrew up to Badger pass so that they could play in the snow but despite the fact that there was snow up there, it was raining and the boys didn’t have any fun. Thankfully, Gregory loves bus rides so the trip up to Badger pass wasn’t a complete loss.

We stayed in Yosemite for three nights and then drove home. For those counting, I’m now up to 31 hours of driving (9 to Vegas, 2 to Yucca, 9 home, 1.5 to Oroville, 1.5 home, 4 to Yosemite, 4 home) and I had only been off of work for a week! Thankfully I got a full 6 days at home to relax, watch football (stinking USC and Oregon killed the Pac-10 bowl record!) and catch up on some ToDo items.

But it wouldn’t be any fun if that’s where it ended, would it? Last Thurday, Wendy, the boys and I got back into the car and made the 6 hour trip to Oxnard (in Southern California between LA and Santa Barbara) to go to my brother-in-law Tim’s wedding. His fiancee’s (now wife) family is from Oxnard. We had a fun time down there and the wedding, particularly the reception was a lot of fun (more about the ceremony in a later post). But the driving, particularly after a week of so much driving took its toll and after the 7 hour trip home (we took a route up the coast to Pismo Beach to have a little more scenery) we were all (particularly the boys) very glad to be home.

For those counting I spend 44 hours, more than a full work week, in the car on my Christmas break. That was a bit too much but the trips were a combination of fun and important and was glad I went on them all. Tune in next month for my update: the month stayed at home.

(Actually expect a couple more posts, as indicated above, soon)