Archive for May, 2010

5000 Barrels a Day

May 20th, 2010 No comments

By now everyone knows about the environmental catastrophe unfolding in the gulf coast.  Initial estimates of 1000 barrels a day were horrendous enough and soon upgraded to an estimate of 5000 barrels.  However a few weeks ago, new footage emerged showing the actual leak:

This lead to researchers to conclude the leak could actually be as high as 80,000+ barrels a day.  That means that every 3-4 days as much oil as the entire Exxon Valdez spilled is leaking into our oceans.  Just yesterday, experts testified before congress that the actually amount is most likely close to 95K barrels per day.

What really chaps me is that BP is refusing to acknowledge the extent of the flow (and thus the extent of the damage).  They are sticking by their early figures of 5K despite the fact they are woefully inaccurate and they are refusing to put forth the effort to actually figure out the flow rate.

After many unsuccessful attempts to address the problem, BP finally was able to insert a tube into the broken pipe to siphon off the oil.  They claim they are now capturing up to 5,000 barrels of leaking oil.  That just happens to be the magic number — the amount BP still claims is all that is leaking.

The problem is, the leak is still flowing.  Check out this footage:

This has been going on for a month.  Even when we aren’t thinking about it, or the news media isn’t covering it, thousands and thousands of gallons of toxic crude oil are blasting into our oceans.  It literally makes me sick to think about the towns in Alabama that survived Hurricane Katrina, only to be (irreparably?) damaged by this man-made disaster.

Now who thinks “Drill Baby Drill” is a good idea?

UPDATE: Right when I posted this, I found this article where BP finally admits the leak is bigger than 5,000 barrels, but still refuses to acknowledge the extent of the damage.

New Credit Cards

May 20th, 2010 2 comments

In 2000 I applied for my first credit card.  It was an MBNA card with a Blackhawks logo and a $750 credit limit.  In the decade that has passed MBNA has been bought out by Bank of America, my credit limit has increased over 3,000% and Beth and I have put over $100K on that card.  (Don’t worry… we are disciplined and have never paid interest on it because we always pay it off in full.  In fact, because of our reward program, we have made close to $1000.)

Well after 10 years with MBNA / Bank of America, the time has come for us to move on.  We had been happy with our card up until the last couple years.  It probably started with the Financial Crisis as I became increasingly uneasy with how Bank of America had behaved (See this article from CNN Money and this article from Bloomberg).  Then I saw this interview with Jim Wallis on The Daily Show where he talked about “divorcing your bank” to show your displeasure with how your financial institute was morally behaving.  It made sense, but we were pretty happy with Bank of America.

That changed a few months ago when we had to challenge a charge on our credit card.  Basically we were schemed by a junk yard in Nashville.  Hilltop Auto Salvage sold us a defective engine and then despite following their return policy, they charged us over $400 in restocking fees.  I worked with the claims department at BofA from the very beginning and followed their advice.  Unfortunately it was a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing and after nearly 6 months of misinformation, bad advise, poor correspondence and contradictory reports,  our claim got completely screwed up.  We were awarded the money and then 4 months later they charged us for it again.  The worst part was that I couldn’t get a straight answer.  I followed their advice to the letter, but each person I talked with contradicted the first.  Basically I was told I was denied because I followed the process they recommended.

After that SNAFU we were ready to move on.  We did our research and realized that if we switched to Capital One we could receive more cash back and not have to worry about paying “International Fees” (something very important for us as look to make our move).  They were a pleasure to deal with and everyone I asked said they have had never had a problem with them.  Plus, I think it is pretty nifty that you can design your own card.

To no one’s surprise, my card has been customized with my initials and a carbon fiber background:

Equally unsurprising, Beth went with a picture of giraffes on her card:

We would like to thank Luca Galuzzi who generously allowed us to use his picture from Ithala Game Reserve as the background for Beth’s card.  Check out his website, he has some incredible shots:

What started as a bad taste in our mouth with Bank of America turned into a pain in the butt.  Thankfully, in the end we have ended up with what we feel is a better option…. plus we have pretty cool plastic now.

Books: Keep, Loan, Sell, Give away

May 19th, 2010 No comments

A couple weeks ago I wrote about having to whittle down my book collection.  With much difficulty, I have decided which books I am ready to get rid of.

Most of these are available

I basically have created 4 lists.  I have The Keepers that are staying with me, The Give Aways that are up for grabs, The Sellers that are being listed on Amazon and The Indefinite Loaners which are those books I want to keep, but can’t take with me.

The books that are listed as Give Aways are free to take as long as you will use them.  The represent a smorgasboard of reading: everything from real life adventure stories to Christian reference.  We can arrange for you to pick them up or ship them if you are interested.

The books that are listed under Indefinite Loaners are books that I want to keep in my collection, but probably won’t be able to use when we move to Swaziland.  I want to make sure they have a good home.  They are yours until I may need them again (probably in 5-10 years) but again, only only if you will use them.

The books I have down as For Sale are being listed on Amazon.  These are books that have been helpful to me, but still have a decent market value.  I have included the going rate for each of these.  Funds generated from these books will go towards our move to Swaziland (which is after all the reason I am selling these books).  Here is the deal though, if you as my friends and family have a use for one of these books, I would gladly pass it along to you.  But, I would ask that you consider making a donation to help pay for our move.

Sound good?

Here is a list of the lists:

I have also included an embedded version of the Sellers since those are generally the most significant:

Categories: Random Tags: , ,

Why I hate capitalism

May 18th, 2010 5 comments

I have always struggled with the idea of capitalism even from an early age.  I guess I took my teachers seriously when I was told we should share our things.  It never seemed fair that some should have so much while other have so little.

But where did my deep seated disgust with the whole system develop?  I have traced it back to my first year of college at WKU.  I took a Micro Economics class as part of my Gen-ed requirements.  Overall I liked the class, and enjoyed the teacher (we are even friends), but there was one day that I found particularly disturbing.

We were learning about oligopolies and collusion; to demonstrate the effects, we performed a class exercise.  We were divided into two teams, each of which were responsible for selling similar widgets.  Each “day” one representative from each team would meet together and determine the cost of widgets for that day.  The first day we could either sell them for $10 or $12.  If we both decided to sell for $10 we would get $100 each, if we both decided to sell for $12, we would get $120 each.  However, if one of us sold for $10 and the other for $12, then the lower priced seller would earn $150 and the higher priced seller would earn $50.  This was intended to mimic the increased sales that would occur due to lower prices.

Of course there is a catch.  After the “representatives” met they would go back their teams and then determine what their prices would be.  It was at this point that teams could decide if they wanted to be honest or if they wanted to scheme and undercut their competitor.  We did this for five “days” and each day the prices would increase so by the end of experiment the widgets could sell for either $50 or $60 and the profits would be $500|$500 or $600|$600 or $750|$250.  Oh, and at the end of the game, the teams would be rewarded with bonus points on their next test.

If you follow the game it makes sense that at every meeting between teams you would both agree to set the higher cost.  If both teams are trustworthy you can earn 20% more that if both teams are dishonest.  However, if you can get the other team to trust you and you undercut them you earn 50% more (and the other team only earns 50% of what they would have). The game ended up being so disturbing to me I still remember exactly how it played out:

  • Round 1 – The stakes were low and both teams trusted each other.  Both teams charged the higher price and everyone profits
  • Round 2 – Both teams continued to trust each other, but my team thought that the only way to get ahead would be to strike early so we chose to undercut them and made the big profits.
  • Round 3 – (This was the round I was the negotiator for my team) – I was able to convinced the other team that the reason we went low was because we thought they were going to undercut us.  They believed me that our motives were defensive and not offensive (lies!).  We both agreed to trust each other and go with the higher price,  Then my team saw another opportunity to maximize their profits and intentionally uncut them again.
  • Round 4 – No one trust each other after being burned two rounds in a row and both teams charged the lower price
  • Round 5 – Again, both teams had no trust for each other and charged the lower price.

Here were the scores:

  • Round 1: $120 | $120
  • Round 2: $300 | $100
  • Round 3: $450 | $150
  • Round 4: $400 | $400
  • Round 5: $500 | $500

If we had all been honest all the time, everyone in the class would have received 14.4 bonus points (Both teams would have earned $1440).  If we had all be dishonest/untrusting we would have all earned 12 bonus points ($1200 each).  As it played out, my team won 17.7 bonus points and our competitors only got 12.7.

The experience still makes me uneasy when I think about.  It was the dishonesty and selfishness built into the system that really bothered me.  I was able to be better off because someone else wasn’t as fortunate.  On the other hand, the losing team received less because they were trusting and desired the best for everyone.

Obviously this is not how the system practically works in the real world, but the principles are right.  Everyone has to look out for their best interests and the only way you can do that is by hurting others.  If you are a buyer you are trying to get something for the lowest price possible, regardless of how much time, effort, or money the seller might have invested in the widgets; if you are the seller, you are going to try and extract the most money out of your product regardless of how much you have invested and what the buyers circumstances may be.

The system works and everyone benefits if people are honest, but once that trust is lost, everyone is worse off.

So… if you boil it down… the real reason I hate capitalism is because of a game I played once in a class where I was lucky enough to get extra bonus points because I was shrewd and dishonest.

Categories: Thoughts Tags: , , , , ,

Happy Mother’s Day

May 9th, 2010 1 comment

Happy Mother’s Day to my mothers and grandmothers.  Thank you for who you are and what you do.


Mikayla 097

Mikayla 131 

June 2008 010

2009-09-02 Somerset and Chicago 026

Categories: Family Tags: , , , , ,

We can’t take it all: Books

May 4th, 2010 No comments

We are two and half months away from our summer trip to Swaziland and just a little over a year away from when we actually plan on moving.  That has Beth and I looking at things in new ways.  We are asking questions like “What are we going to do with our dishes?” and “Who is going to keep Shiloh?” We have spent close to two years trying to accumulate less and downsize where we can.  In my mind I have already begun making a list of what things we will want to take with us and what needs to be given away, sold, loaned out or put in storage.

I knew early on the hardest thing for me to part with would be my collection of books.  Not because they are so valuable (although I do have several thousand dollars wrapped up in them), but because in many ways they define me.  To help the transition, I moved most of my academic collection out of my house and to the church.  That way other people could use them and if I left them there I wouldn’t feel like they were lost.

Now, as we are beginning to investigate actually job opportunities, and we realize there is a decent chance I will be able to teach at either a school or the University, I have begun thinking about what resources I would need.  That, along with our overall planning for the future, has prompted me to start a list of books I already own that I want to take with me.  Since my training is mostly in Biblical Studies (especially the Hebrew Scriptures) a majority of the books are from this field .  I have also included books from fields like Christian History and Theology to have as a reference, but I must admit I do not feel qualified to teach anything but basic topics in these areas.  Finally, there are a few books that have been so influencial for me that they had to be included.  You will note I have not included any fiction or pleasure reading — I figure I can pick that up while I am there.

Stack of books from my first semester at Asbury. Only one of these made the list.

Here is my list of “Keepers” (shoot me a comment if you think of any good ones I am leaving out):

  • The New Interpreter’s Study Bible, NRSV -This was my seminary bible and still my favorite for reading through (I figure I can leave my leather-bound Thompson Chain here in the states.
  • BHS and NA27 – You have to start with the original texts.
  • Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar, Pratico and VanPelt – This is not the Hebrew grammar I learned on, but I have found it is the best for catching me back up when I find I have let my language skills slack.
  • A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, Arnold and Choi – A concise reference that is phenomenal for making a budding scholar look like they know more than they really do.
  • Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, Mounce – The Greek counterpart to Pratico and VanPelt.  My Greek is much rougher than my Hebrew, but this is a good grammar to get back up to speed.
  • Life in Biblical Israel, King and Stanger – An excellent reference and even better bathroom reading.  This book is the gooey center of the cinnamon roll – it really helps the text come alive through detailed contextual insights.
  • A Biblical History of Israel, Provan, Long and Longman – More of a reference than anything else.  Well documented and easy to use as a gateway for deeper studies.
  • Harper Collins Concise Atlas of the Bible – Another great reference.  Not especially thorough, but very helpful.
  • Epic of Eden, Richter – If I ever have the opportunity to teach an introduction to Old Testament, I would want to teach it like Dr. Richter.
  • An Introduction to the Old Testament, Brueggemann – While I don’t agree with him on all fronts, my theology and understanding of the Old Testament is most shaped by Walter Brueggemann and this is a great primer/survey.
  • Introducing the New Testament, Achtemeier, Green and Thompson – Not my favorite New Testament Survey, but the only one I own.
  • Christian Origins and the Question of God Trilogy, NT Wright – These have long been my go to reference for all things related to New Testament concepts.
    • The New Testament and the People of God – This is the best book I have found for laying out the setting of the New Testament and its implications
    • Jesus and The Victory of God – My Christology is largely shaped by Wright’s thoughts in this book.
    • The Resurrection of the Son of God – I don’t have this one yet, and in practice, I use it the least so if space is tight, I may only take the first two.
  • Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible – By no means my favorite source for Biblical information, but handy to have around when you need to look up things you have forgotten (like which ecumenical council discussed the Arian controversy?)
  • History of the World Christian Movement, Irvin and Sunquist – In my undergrad and seminary career I have read quite a few Church History books and this one is by far the best.  I am anxiously awaiting Volume II.
  • The Story of Christian Theology, Olson – I am very weak in my knowledge of the history of theology and this is the only book I have to reference.
  • Challenge of Jesus, N.T. Wright – While Wright does discuss Christology in this book and it does have academic merit, for me, it is a defining book in how I understand the nature of Christianity.
  • Prophetic Imagination, Walter Brueggemann – I know I sound like a broken record when I mention this book, but one of the most important concepts in my life that I live by is Brueggemann’s idea of the prophetic imagination and criticizing/energizing culture and community.
  • The Politics of Jesus, John Howard Yoder – I may never have the opporutnity to teach from Yoder’s book, but I will certainly be able to live by it.
  • Walden, Henry David Thoreau – One of my sources of rejuvenation.
  • Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community, Martin Luther King Jr – We named our daughter after King; surely I must take his most seminal work.

So I was able to whittle my collection of several hundred down to 22. Even then there are so many that I am leaving out that I would love to include.  In reality, this list is probably too large when you consider how much we can actually take with us; but…. at least it is a start.

Things I have become

May 2nd, 2010 No comments

A few days ago while reflecting on my daughter’s first birthday I wrote about things that at one time described me, but no longer apply.  I wanted to flip that around and identify the things I have recently become.  The last five years have been particularly transitional (and our future plans will only serve to continue that).

Just like the last list, these descriptors are varied.  Some are the result of philosophical/theological shifts, some reflect major life transitions, and others have slowly developed based on changing life circumstances.

Here are things that I have become:

  • A gardener
  • A grant-writer
  • A pacifist
  • A stay-at-home dad
  • A distiller
  • A father
  • Less goals-oriented
  • A master of biblical studies (I even have a degree that says so)
  • A polyglot (although my skills are fading)
  • More progressive
  • More free
  • A whiskey expert
  • A better cook
  • Theologically liberal
  • Post-modern
  • A blogger
  • Balding
  • More appreciative of fine food and drink
  • Domesticated
  • Completely intolerant… of racism and bigotry
  • More aware of my flaws