As part of a post on gun control, Gordon Atkinson describes the history of hunting in his family:

I am not a hunter, but I come from a family of hunters. One of my grandfathers grew up in a poor family of sharecroppers. When he was a boy, his family hunted animals, killed them, and ate them…
My uncles and father hunted with my grandfather, but by that time hunting was no longer a necessity. It was something that they enjoyed. There were old rituals involved that reminded them of their roots and of the land and of our close ties to it. They chose to hunt and eat what they killed instead of buying all of their food from a store.
My father moved to the city, and I grew up in that environment. I went hunting with my grandfather, father, and uncles when we were visiting East Texas. It was something that men did together in our part of the world…

I don’t want to get into the gun control issue, but Gordon’s description of the tradition of hunting in his family caused me to reflect on my own history with hunting and guns.
Guns were an important part of my upbringing. I learned to shoot at an early age, had a BB/pellet gun from as early as I can remember, and had gun safety drilled into me. My dad hunted some for sport, mostly with business contacts in South Texas (though we always ate what he killed), but I was mostly only involved with deer hunting which we did primarily for food purposes.
Living in the Texas hill country, we shot deer close to home, and we weren’t concerned with killing bucks with big racks. We also butchered and processed all our own meat (unlike many hunters who take their deer to a meat processing plant). I never knew whether we were eating store-bought beef or home-processed venison.
I have not hunted since I left home for college, but I go through phases when I would like to take my son Samuel hunting. It’s important to me that he learn where his food comes from. After reading Gordon’s post, though, I realize why I have never done so. It would lack the social significance that Gordon describes. For Samuel and me to hunt, we would have to go about it as other suburban sportsmen–get a deer lease, buy gear, etc. It would be an event or an outing, not part of our family routine, as it was when I was a kid.
I also recently bought Samuel his first BB gun. He shot targets with it for a few days and then lost interest in it. I realize now that I was disappointed with this. To me, getting your first BB gun is an important rite of passage. In his suburban life, it was just another toy.

Color me unimpressed

The buzz in the geek world today is all about the new search engine Cuil. I did the exact same thing that half the other geeks in the world did when they read about Cuil: entered my name and searched.
I immediately saw the following problems:

  • I don’t know where they got the images that accompany the link to my resume and to my blog (heat death of the universe). They are not images that I’ve ever seen before.
  • The text blurb associated with the link to my blog seems to be some random post which was probably on the home page the day they spidered the site. Odd.
  • The text blurb “Stan Taylor is an Australian criminal…” accompanies the following links: “math lessons – Stan Taylor” and “The Ultimate Stan Taylor Dog Breeks Information Guide.”
  • The only categories listed pertain to the Australian criminal Stan Taylor
  • One link and blurb are in Dutch, the rest in English

Maybe that’s good for their first draft, but I know I won’t be using Cuil for my Internet searches any time soon.
UPDATE: At least the random photos associated with my sites weren’t pornographic (link is NSFW, contains a thumbnail-sized porno image)

Hospitals benefit from long E.R. wait times

An article in Slate, Waiting Doom: How hospitals are killing E.R. patients, explains how long emergency room wait times are often to the hospital’s financial advantage:

The first source [of patients] is [the ones] who come in through direct and transfer admissions. They are more likely to come with private insurance and need procedural care, both of which maximize profits. The second source is E.R. patients, who are more likely to be uninsured or have pittance-paying Medicaid and less likely to need high-margin procedures. Do the math: If you fill your hospital with the direct and transfer admissions and maroon the E.R. patients for long periods, you make more money.

Yet another side-effect of America’s sick health care situation.
(via Eliot Gelwan’s blog Follow Me Here…)

A beautiful theology

From an interview with Kate Braestrup, Unitarian Universalist minister and chaplain to Maine Game Warden Service*:

The longer I work and live, the simpler my theology gets . . . Fundamentally, it still comes back to that God is love . . . If nothing else–and that’s a big if–God is that force that drives us to really see each other, and to really behold each other, and care for each other, and respond to each other, and for me, that is actually enough.

The first part especially resonates with me. When I was younger, I was constantly worried about whether I could express a coherent personal theology. But now that doesn’t bother me so much. My personal theology is pretty much just the Golden Rule, and I’m okay with that. I don’t sweat the rest of it.
* That quote is about 31 minutes into the podcast of this interview.

What’s the deal with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?

I’ve never exactly understood in what way Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were public or private entities, but I’ve had the vague understanding that the federal government somehow guaranteed home loans through these organizations. Now that they’re heading toward insolvency, it’s time to understand this stuff.
Apparently, my vague understanding was common but wrong. According to Robert Reich:

Investors in Fannie and Freddie have always believed that the loans issued by the two giants were guaranteed by the federal government but technically they aren’t. The guarantee has always been assumed but has never been put into law explicitly, and the liabilities have never been carried on the federal books.

Though it’s not obligated to do so, Dr. Reich believes that if Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae are heading for insolvency, the federal government will have to bail them out in order to combat the deepening economic crisis:

As a practical matter, we’re facing a Bear Stearns squared. Fannie and Freddie are way too big to fail — especially now. There’s no question the government will have to take over the companies, which means taxpayers will get stuck with the tab yet again.

Finally, here’s the heart of the problem:

Fannie and Freddie are treated like giant investor-driven entities as long as they’re healthy and their investors and executives are doing well. But when they start to go down the tubes they become public entities with public responsibilities, and the rest of us have to bail them out.

Disaster Preparedness

In an article in today’s New York Times Magazine, Eric Klinenberg ponders why people don’t prepare themselves better for possible disasters. He comes up with two possible explanations that resonated with me:

One major concern I heard was that there are simply too many things to worry about. Participants complained about having to prepare for too many specific disaster possibilities and in turn feeling overwhelmed, if not helpless.

[M]any people simply don’t want to live in a culture of preparedness. The notion is off-putting, and downright scary for some, because it seems to place fear and defensiveness at the center of our public and private lives. Careful planning means dwelling on the uncomfortable topics of our own mortality, the vulnerability of our loved ones and the fragility of our planet, and there’s a psychological price to be paid for that.

I live in an area where serious natural disasters are unlikely (or unlikely to be serious), so the only real concerns I have are man-made disasters.
My thinking regarding disasters is as follows: I’m not too worried any disaster that leads to a temporary (let’s say three days or shorter) breakdown of social infrastructure (electricity, municipal water, shipping of goods to stores, etc.). We can probably manage one way or another without any particular preparedness. And if there’s a disaster that leads to a prolonged breakdown of social infrastructure, then we’re all screwed, and no amount of preparedness short of stocking an entire room with food, water, guns and ammo, gasoline, etc., will help us through it.
I’m not saying that I am not preparing for a serious disaster because I don’t think it’ll happen. On the contrary, I think our social infrastructure is extremely fragile and the likelihood of such a breakdown of society is easier to cause than most people want to believe. It’s just that I’m not willing to put the time, effort and money into preparing for it. I just assume that I, along with many people, probably would not survive such a disaster, and given the cost/benefit analysis, I’m okay with that.


Here’s an inventory of the electronics that we took on our recent vacation to New Mexico:

  • Three ipods
  • Two laptops and all the cables for the associated electronics
  • Two digital cameras
  • Two GMRS two-way radios
  • Three LED flashlights, and the AC cord for the one that’s rechargeable
  • Portable DVD player
  • Samuel’s Nintendo DS

I’m a big photography fan, so I brought my laptop primarily so that I could upload, view and edit photos from my dSLR camera (The house we rented didn’t have internet access, so I couldn’t upload the photos to my Flickr account until we got home). We also brought Katie’s laptop so that we could work (check email, etc.) concurrently when we had internet access. Due to the lack of internet access at the house, we only used her laptop at the hotel on the drive up there. We could have left it home.
The ipods, DVD player, and DS were very helpful on the 14-hour drive each way; the the two-way radios were useful once we got to New Mexico, since we had to take two vehicles whenever we all wanted to go somewhere.
I don’t really have a problem with what we took. In fact, I probably wouldn’t even have thought about it if it weren’t for the fact that we vacationed with a family that had virtually no electronics along. Just an interesting observation: we are a wired family.