Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mo Madness

It's March Madness time. Office dwellers across the country (including myself) are filling out brackets and prepping their trash talk for their co-workers. Today, though, I discovered an entirely different game: Mo Madness, the Mormon culture tournament. It was apparently put together by a guy who writes a blog called What Mormons Like. Basically, he's asking you to vote for elements of Mormon culture. There are some interesting matchups, to say the least: Donny Osmond vs. Mr. Krueger's Christmas, “moisture” vs. “darn it”, funeral potatoes vs. scrapbooking, J. Golden Kimball vs. Star Wars gospel analogies, canning vs. “fetch”. Gladys Knight rubs shoulders with Napoleon Dynamite and David Archuleta. Greg Olsen paintings vie for position against fry sauce and BYU football. Anyway, take a look if you want a chuckle today.

Monday, March 16, 2009

More Events in the Autism World

There are bills in the House and Senate that propose to allow the creation of tax-free trusts for those with disabilities, similar to 529 college savings plans.

Research published recently in Pediatrics (the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics) have identified a gene that may be a contributing factor to autism and gastrointestinal disorders occurring together. The study found that over 55% of those with autism and gastrointestinal disorders carried a variation in a gene called MET. Over 30% of people with autism also suffer from gastrointestinal disorders, compared to less than 10% of those who are not autistic.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Trillion with a T

I'll try not to talk about bailout/stimulus-related stuff after this, but I ran across a page that really put things into perspective. Have you ever wondered what a trillion dollars looks like? (This is why I react negatively to the latest rash of advertisements that use the word “stimulus.”)

A while back, someone posted a thread on a message forum I frequent, asking the following question: “If you had one billion dollars, how would you spend it?” (That's billion, not trillion.) The question wasn't asking you to just rattle off a few things you'd buy, it was asking you to sit down and give every cent of that $1 billion a name, to really think about it.

So I gave it a shot. For me, a chunk of it wouldn't actually get spent; I would do boring things with it like save/invest it. However, I quickly discovered something startling: I was having trouble figuring out how to use it all. I had imagined it would be difficult to decide how to spend a small amount of money; a large amount, I reasoned, would be easy to fritter away. I did all the responsible and charitable things I could think of with my imaginary wealth, and there was still a bunch left over. I started indulging in fun, frivolous things, and I still wasn't spending it all. I went nuts, spending the invisible money like a whole aircraft carrier full of drunken sailors, and I still couldn't spend it all. I finally spent the last of it by divvying it up between the investments and charitable donations I'd already thought were getting insanely generous chunks of cash.

It's pretty clear to me that, when it comes to money, most politicians and I are not even on the same planet.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bill Watterson Explains the Bailout

I have mentioned my admiration for Calvin and Hobbes previously. What I didn't remember was a particular Sunday strip he did a decade and a half ago which seems eerily reminiscent of today's economic situation. That is, until someone emailed it to me today. I'll refrain from posting the comic itself to avoid running afoul of copyright issues, but here's a transcript of the comic. Setting: Calvin sits behind a makeshift lemonade stand (an inverted cardboard box), on which rest a cup and a pitcher of greenish liquid with a lemon suspended in it. On the front of the box is scrawled: "Lemonade $15.00/glass." Suzie comes up to the stand:

Suzie: 15 bucks a glass?!

Calvin: That's right! Want some?

Suzie: How do you justify charging 15 dollars?!

Calvin: Supply and demand.

Suzie: (looking around) Where's the demand?! I don't see any demand!

Calvin: There's lots of demand!

Suzie: (skeptical) Yeah?

Calvin: Sure! As the sole stockholder in this enterprise, I demand monstrous profit on my investment! And as president and CEO of the company, I demand an exorbitant annual salary! And as my own employee, I demand a high hourly wage and all sorts of company benefits! And then there's overhead and actual production costs!

Suzie: But it looks like you just threw a lemon in some sludge water!

Calvin: Well, I have to cut expenses somewhere if I want to stay competitive.

Suzie: What if I got sick from that?

Calvin: “Caveat emptor” is the motto we stand behind! I'd have to charge more if we followed health and environmental regulations.

Suzie: You're out of your mind. I'm going home to drink something else.

Calvin: (enraged) Sure! Put me out of a job! It's you anti-business types who ruin the economy!

Calvin fumes for a bit, then goes and finds his mom.

Calvin: I need to be subsidized.

I tell ya, it's spooky.