My View of Government

This is my response to Tim’s My View of Government post. I thought he did a great job with it, keeping it concise and not too confrontational. I’m not sure I’ll do as well as he did in those respects, but here’s my attempt:

I believe in the rule of law over the rule of power.

  • Laws should be written to require as little interpretation as possible. When a law requires subjective, case-by-case judgement on where the law does or does not apply, it invites abuse of this power. Laws should apply to all equally, and should not be created for the benefit of one group over another.


  • Freedom needs to be reestablished as a guiding principle in the government of our country. Every time a new law or program is proposed, the legislature should be asking how the new measure impacts our freedom. Lately, freedom seems to be a “nice-to-have”, as long as it doesn’t get in the way of the new program we’ve envisioned. The freedom to choose between obedience and punishment is not true freedom.
  • Government should have less control over our lives. I find it disturbing that so many people want to hand over management of more and more of their lives to the government. People want the government to tell them how to be healthy, make sure they save for retirement, protect them from bad investments, and force everybody to be nice to each other. When a person is elected to office, they don’t suddenly gain some great insight into our lives that enables them to make better choices for us than we can for ourselves. Nobody can make better choices for you than you can. If you don’t like making your own choices and taking responsibility for them, too bad. Welcome to adulthood.
  • The founders of the country chose to specifically protect religious liberties for a reason. Freedom of religion is more than being allowed to believe what you want, and it’s more than freedom of speech. Freedom of religion means being allowed to practice your religion, as long as it doesn’t infringe on the rights of others. A person’s viewpoint (political or otherwise) should not be treated as invalid simply because it is influenced by religion.

Limited Government

  • Government office should not be viewed as a means for philanthropy or other projects. Everyone in this country has their own idea of what would make a great society – feeding the poor, protecting the environment, dealing with the punk kids that hang out on the corner, and so on. Just because you were elected to the Senate doesn’t mean that we want you to impose your great idea on everyone. Don’t forcibly take people’s money (i.e., taxes) to fund your pet project.
  • The current number of laws and taxes on the books is out of control. I realize that government is complicated, and that not everything can be boiled down to a simple statute or two, but why do we measure a legislator’s value by the amount of legislation he/she puts forth? I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that a person should be able to be familiar with the bulk of the legal code, at least the part that applies to them. When the U.S. Code is over 200,000 pages, this is not possible.
  • Our military presence has really gotten out of control, both in terms of size and scope. Our military budget is roughly equal to that of the rest of the world, combined. Why? Well, have you heard the story of the guy who was bitten by a rattlesnake, and instead of going to the hospital, he runs around the desert chasing the rattlesnake until he dies? Well, this country is that guy. I don’t even remember if he ends up killing the rattlesnake in the end, and I’m not sure it matters.

And finally, a rant that didn’t quite fit in anywhere else:

  • The “American Dream” is not home ownership. It is not a college education. It is not a steady income, or insulation from unhappiness. “It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

We’re not opposites, but we attract

A couple years ago, as we sat in church on Sunday, listening to the talks, Chelsey quickly turned to me. “We missed our anniversary!” Neither of us had even remembered it for a moment. It had taken nearly a week to remember that it was our anniversary – our fifth anniversary, no less –  the first anniversary that marks any sort of milestone.

Here’s to a wife who could not be more perfectly suited to her husband!

Google Spreadsheet: Round to the nearest item in a list

Just wanted to share this code I wrote for Google Spreadsheet. Basically, you give it a value and a range of cells, and it will round the value to the nearest of the values in the cells.

As it turns out, Google Spreadsheet just uses JavaScript, so this was pretty easy to do…

function RoundToList(val,listrange) {
   var diff = Math.abs(val - listrange[0]);
   var retval = listrange[0];
   for ( var i=1, len=listrange.length; i<len; ++i ){
      var newdiff = Math.abs(val - listrange[i]);
      if (diff > newdiff) {
         diff = newdiff;
         retval = listrange[i];
   return retval;

Why BMI is stupid

BMI: 28.8 = “Overweight”

BMI: 29.8 = “Overweight”, almost “Obese”

BMI: 31 = “Obese”

Friday Music Post: Bastion Medley

Two songs from the beautiful game, Bastion. Definitely worth a play.

Friday Music Post: “This Must Be The Place” (Naive Melody)

I’m wrapping presents before my wife gets home, so no time for chit-chat. Talking Heads today.

“Occupy” exaggeration

Yes, indeed, math is how you know when they’re lying to you.

Here’s another reminder to keep your thinking cap on. I found the following chart at

Wow! Look how much bigger the “Military” budget is than everything else! In fact, the 59% “Military” budget is more than ten times the other blocks combined. But wait, the other blocks add up to 41%, which shouldn’t be that much smaller than 59%.

Hopefully you see where I’m going with this. The sizes of the blocks should be proportional to the numbers they represent. Instead, the length of one side of a block is proportional to the number, so the size of the block is proportional to the number squared. In other words, the 4% block should be twice as big as the 2% block, but it’s not. It’s four times as big. Likewise, the 15% block should be 7.5 times bigger than the 2% block. It’s 56 times bigger.

So, what’s the big deal? The deal is that the picture is deceptive. The 59% block is ten times the size of all the others combined, when it should only be half again as big.

That’s why they switched

I always laugh when I hear this insurance marketing line. In fact, I just got a letter from Allstate, trying to get me to buy car insurance from them. In the first paragraph of the letter, they ask,

Did you know that people who switched to Allstate saved, on average, $336* a year?

“Oh, my goodness,” I’m supposed to say to myself, “If I switch, I’ll save about that much!” No, wait, it means that of all the people who could switch, the ones who do save that much on average. What that number really means to me, though, is that, on average, people are willing to switch to Allstate if they can save $336 by doing so. On average, if a person could save $300 a year by switching to Allstate, it still isn’t quite worth it to them.

I won’t discuss the “6 Month Policy Premium**” they list for our two vehicles ($171 TOTAL, roughly one fourth what they quoted for me earlier this year). Betcha can’t guess what the “**” means.

Response to “teaching moments for the CTR impaired”

This post is in response to a similar post from my friend Caron. Basically, she poses the question, “When do you point out to people that they’re doing something wrong?”


This is a tough question for me. I think my wife and I fall on opposite ends of the reaction spectrum – I tend to react less; she tends to react more. I think you’ve got every right to react if you’re acting in your own self interest – car backing into you, about to hit your car, loud people at the movie theater, etc. It’s probably worth considering what type of reaction is warranted, though. A protracted rant on looking behind you before you back up is probably not going to help – in fact, the person might chalk the whole incident up to you being crazy instead of considering their own mistake. Same thing goes if someone else is in some sort of danger (to safety, property, etc.).

On the other hand, if you find that you’re just trying to be the police, refrain. You’re not likely to change people’s behavior. It sounds like this might have been what was happening with the chipmunks. ;)

I think the difference is that you can change people’s behavior in the short term, but probably not in the long term. If you can stop someone from hitting your car now, that’s really all you need, even if they’re not careful in the future. On the other hand, telling someone not to walk on the grass when they’ve obviously seen the sign already – probably not going to change anything. This might seem a selfish way of looking at it, but I think you’ll just end up annoyed and annoying if you’re constantly evaluating other people without any direct reason.

This rule probably only works with strangers, though. With friends, I think the rule is this: would they want to be told, or do they need to be told? The obvious example is telling someone their fly’s down. It’s a little embarrassing for them at first, but they’d rather know. Also, if something they’re doing is hurtful to you, they need to know. Just be careful with friends. It’s easier to hurt others’ feelings than I think we realize sometimes. Maybe they need to know that bringing up their dead mother to everyone they meet makes people uncomfortable. But you’d better really butter them up for that conversation, because it’s going to be a tough one for them, whether or not they need to hear it.

Rio (the movie)

We took the kids to see Rio on Saturday. It was pretty meh. My biggest gripe with it though, is that the opening scene (among others) seemed to be created with the mindset, “You think Disney has amazing musical scenes? Well, check out this spicy little number!” And then, 30 seconds later, you can’t even remember the song. In other words, stop trying to out-Disney Disney. Every attempt just falls flat. Besides, my favorite parts of the movie were the scenes that had more of a non-Disney feel to them anyways. Sometimes Fox humor can actually be funny. Like the bird voiced by, who delivered hip-hop cliches at inappropriate times. I got a kick out of that. But every time the music started up, I just thought, “I hope this doesn’t last long.” Just do your own thing, guys, and stop trying to be another Disney.

It probably didn’t help my attitude that the couple behind us were commenting on everything that happened. “Oh, no! Ha, ha, ha! That’s really cute!” The volume of their voices would have been appropriate for a baseball game. Even after I told them off, though, they still just could not shut up. And they laughed at all the childish jokes.