Last year, a clerk failed to properly transcribe the VIN on the Camry. So we got the title for the Forester, but never got the one for the Camry. They sent us a form to fill out where we’d have a police officer verify the number of the car, but that fell through the tracks. It was important, but never urgent.

This year, I went to the DMV to turn in the form, and it created a problem. (Which would be, it turned out, one of several problems.)

Basically, the issue was this:
1) Without the VIN, the car was not officially registered.
2) Registration was required before they could accept the VIN verification form.
3) The car could not be registered without an accepted VIN verification form.

You can prove you have (unofficial?) registration by giving them the temporary registration card, but we didn’t have that. The lady at the DMV was actually skeptical there was any way out of this that didn’t involve buying a new car.

Other problems included the fact that the registration had expired on the Forester (I thought I had until the end of the month, but it turned out that it was the beginning) and that I didn’t have proof of payment of the property tax. That last one confused me a great deal, because we didn’t have to have anything like that the previous year. Further, how did they know we didn’t rent? To add on top of all of this, we moved without informing the DMV. I didn’t want to complicate matters by bringing that up.

It turned out that the state levies property taxes on vehicles. This isn’t too far from what Arapaho did, but in Arapaho they basically altered the cost of registration to meet (to some degree) the value of the vehicle. Here, you apparently have to make a separate trip to the Second County Tax Assessor. I went to the county courthouse to the tax collector’s office, and was told that I needed to go to the Assessor’s office. I went to the Assessor’s office, only to find out I had to go to the second assessor, because the primary assessor only dealt with land property. The Second Assessor was a little cubby hole in the back of the courthouse (metal detector and all).

Believe it or not, I found all of this easier than dealing with the DMV. The Second Assessor couldn’t give me a tax document without proof of registration, but when I explained the situation she did anyway.

When we got back to the DMV, we got a different lady who was much more helpful. Actually, she wasn’t helpful at all, but since it was a complicated situation and she had just started the job two days before, she took us to someone who could help us. Within an hour, everything had been settled. She basically called the person in the state capital who had transcribed the VIN number incorrectly, and they quietly corrected it, with everything quietly falling into place.


Category: Courthouse

Adam Ozimek has an idea for Republicans:

Here’s what they should do: offer a compromise to Democrats that passes a $15 federal minimum wage in exchange for cutting corporate tax rates.

Why would this deal represent a win for Republicans rather than just a compromise? Because regardless of the support it generates among fast food protestors and advocates, a $15 minimum wage would simply be untenable. The increase in unemployment would be swift and significant, and Democrats would be unable to deny it. The $15 minimum wage would be repealed very quickly in a bipartisan consensus.

Well, that’s certainly putting his money (or policy) where his mouth is, in terms of his opposition to raising the minimum wage.

The problem I see with the bargain is this: The effects of raising the minimum wage would be pretty unequally distributed. As would nixing the corporate income tax, though the effects there are harder to lay out.

minwagerentmapHigh-wage, high-cost places would likely not feel the increased minimum wage nearly as much. Nowhere would it be less felt, for example, in Western Dakota. After that, you’d be looking at New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, DC and other Democratic strongholds where you can afford to raise the minimum wage somewhat because (a) basement wages are higher to begin with, (b) there is more money flying around, and (c) it’s more justifiable there because of the cost of living.

This is why I don’t have any objections – or predict much in the way of negative consequences – when high-cost cities choose to increase their minimum wage. To the extent that we’re going to have a minimum wage, it makes sense that the minimum wage have some sort of relationship to purchasing power.

But that’s also why I am critical of the likely consequences of a state-wide or nation-wide bump. If you raise the minimum wage in Washington, you’re raising it in Seattle and you’re putting Eastern Washington at a distinct disadvantage. There’s less money out there to pay people $10-15/hr, and cities like Pullman would be at a disadvantage compared to cities like Moscow, right across the Idaho border.

minimumwageYou can get rid of the state line problem by raising it nationally, of course, but the disparities become more stark. Having the same minimum wage in Mississippi as in San Francisco makes little sense. The positive effects are more likely to hit the latter, the negative effects more likely to hit the former.

That’s a policy problem, but it’s also a political one. If the positive effects are felt primarily by the constituents of one party, and the negative effects felt primarily by the other, it’s hard to get that bipartisan consensus to repeal it. At the least, there would likely be enough support for it to hold the minimum wage where it is while inflation catches up to it. Which leaves some states better off and some states worse off (and I think this is an optimistic assessment, when we’re talking about $15/hr), if you represent the latter, you’re not doing your job if you sign on to this bargain. Especially when (by my seat-of-the-pants assessment) the benefits of the corporate tax elimination would primarily go to wealthy and blue states (and Texas).


Category: Statehouse

The employment premium for going to a for-profit college may be so bad (PDF) so as to not demonstrate any advantage over those who did not attend at all. Elite colleges, on the other hand, worth it.

Fargo Uber Alles! The Gateway to the West has been named the best small city for businesses and careers. (For anyone wanting to attribute that to the oil boom, just so you know it’s on the other side of the state. Here are some other booming towns and cities.

There’s an old saying that when an unfaithful man marries his mistress it creates a job opening. Turns out, it’s true.

The Economist looks at the costs of foreign aid, to the recipient nation.

Joshua Neuman said no to drugs, because of this comic book. Trainspotting and Requiem of a Dream both had indentations on my views of the subject.

Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering is constructing and employing cyborgs. Well, more Iron Man than cyborg, but cool all the same. Cooler or less cool than cyborg moths, I’m not sure.

Coming soon to an eaterie near you: Cricketburgers! Or bugburgers. Or something.

Microsoft considered – and hasn’t ruled out – renaming Internet Explorer to escape its sketchy reputation.

The next big name in Smartphones may be… Lenovo! The prospect excited me a lot more before I discovered what Lenovo did to the Thinkpad line.

China bet big on Shale Gas, and it hasn’t worked out.

Stacking cells: A possible new innovation in solar energy could make it as cheap as natural gas.

Arguably, food trucks are safer than restaurants.

Does the college define its students, or do students define the college?

Shinzo Abe is standing up to China and Korea… but not the United States.

NASA and BYU are working on origami solar panels.

Good to know: Fictional products cannot violate trademarks.

Moscow has an army of online trolls at its command. Daisy Sindelar wonders how much they matter.

It’s kind of funny when conservatives are saying “OMG what about the birds!” and liberals are saying “They’re just birds, get over it.

Drill, Baby Drill! The benefits of rote memorization in math.


Category: Newsroom

Clancy had a patient that required consultation with the Poison Control Center. I asked her exactly what Poison Control was (A federal agency? A part of the CDC? State agencies?). She said she didn’t know, but that no matter where you were, you always called a single number. She remembered the number because of a song she was taught in medical school.

One of the things we do to pacify and entertain Lain is music videos. She loves the Animaniacs. In particular, she likes this song:

When I was in the fourth grade, we had a presentation that had a song that included all fifty states, in alphabetical order. Unlike Wakko’s song, it didn’t include capitals. To this day, I can recite all fifty states in under thirty seconds. It’s entirely due to that song. This is the song I memorized (though I didn’t memorize the intro):

I managed to get it down to 19 seconds

When putting Lain to sleep, I often use They Might Be Giants songs that I have the lyrics memorized to. Maybe I should throw this one into the mix.


Category: Theater

spermrace

It is a general problem in this country and the world the extent to which contraception is a “woman’s issue.” This is the product of a lot of things, including but not limited to the unavoidable that women can get pregnant and men cannot, and so they are closer to the center of the repercussions of pregnancy. There is also a substantial amount of social bias perpetuating this assignment of responsibility, together with and independent of the logistical repercussions. But it doesn’t end there. Another big factor is that women have far more tools at their disposal to avoid pregnancy than men.

I’ve had various unintended paternity scares over the years. Not for lack of protection, but due to the protection I thought we had either malfunctioning or not being properly utilized on her end. The result being that I was left either with condoms or at the mercy of the precautions she took, or didn’t take.

The truth for me is, I hate condoms. Not out of some abstract opposition to the manliness of passing off my sperm. I hate them because they diminish my enjoyment to almost null, I don’t feel protected with them (the two earliest “scares” involved condom malfunction), and – at the risk of TMI – they can negate my ability to perform at all no matter where I am when it goes on.

Which, for a guy who wants to be careful about such things, and who doesn’t want to rely on the efforts of someone else, something of a problem. I wore the condoms. I didn’t (usually) whine about it. Truthfully, I didn’t even know how much I hated them until I thought that I would not have to wear them again.

Even so, I would have given my left arm for a Male Pill. I would have loved there to be something that would have allowed me to take more control over my reproduction in a way socially acceptable and palatable to me. Science appears to be getting closer to there. The response, so often, tends to be similar to that of Jessica Valenti:

But the options men do have, they’re not necessarily using.

After all, condom use across the United States is on the decline despite ease of use and a near total lack of pointy-things aimed at men’s sensitive bits. A report from the Centers for Disease Control showed that there was a 4% decline in condom utilization between 2006 and 2010, and among teenagers condom use decreased almost by 50%. In both cases, the decline of condom use was correlated with large increases in the use hormonal and other (IUD, etc) methods of birth control.

And while condom use has improved in the west and China, it has declined in Africa and India, and the most used form of birth control in developing countries is still female sterilization.

It is a shame that more men do not use what is available. I wish I could say that she is wrong insofar that this would get us even in the ballpark of parity in contraception usage.

But the dismissiveness here is maddening. The truth is that men don’t have a lot of options, and having more options will increase usage. Further, it will provide more and better arguments in favor of men taking more control over there reproduction. The more men who do it, the more of a social expectation there will be.

The dismissiveness that often follows around discussions of a “male pill” mostly serves, in my view, in letting men off the hook. Rather than the common assumption that men who don’t want to wear condoms simply don’t want to be responsible for contraception, these developments are a great way to delineate between those who would demur for specific reasons and those who want to evade responsibility. The more options out there, the fewer excuses men have.

This is not unrelated to scoffs (which Valenti alludes to) of attempts to make condoms more pleasurable, less restrictive, and so on. Whether it’s that condoms suck or there is a lack of choice, the more reasons and excuses we knock down the better. While condoms will always have the advantage of STD protection, protection only works if you actually use it. The more ways we get people to use it, the better.

With a sample set of one, at least, Valenti’s quasi-dismissal of this innovation on the basis of a prick to the prick represents a profound misunderstanding of where the objections to condoms lie, seeming to attribute it to questions of manhood rather than the very real logistical issues they represent. I would honestly prefer a jab to the penis over taking the pill, and I’d rather tinker with my hormones once a day with a pill than put on a rubber. The only thing better would be if I could put copper in my crotch.

Valenti herself does express at least some excitement, but the attitudes she contributes to counterproductively sends a message that we shouldn’t bother because men will be men.


Category: Bedroom

Gordon Lightfoot participated in a Reddit Ask Me Anything.

A peek into the sinister world of debt collection. It’s a very gripping story.

Astronauts can teach us about sleep. Also, the smell of space.

Britain has a phantom alien cat problem. Wait. What?

I mumbled and grumbled with the USB port came out. What, another one? But I was sold on the ability to hot plug in on a computer that was already on. Even so, I had no idea of its staying power. ArsTechnica gives us the history of the USB, the port that replaced just about everything.

A gripping World War II tale of a chicken farmer, a pair of princesses, and twenty-seven imaginary spies.

Dubai knows that the oil wells will run dry. They’re already working on their next phase.

Julian Morris presents the case for plastic bags.

The link between poverty and crime may have been overestimated. Or, alternately, may be purely a function of where a family started out when the first child was born.

Officers in California have allegedly been using official resources to screen online dates. Once upon a time, it was really easy to get DMV information online. I actually used it regularly (it contained height-weight measurements).

Once upon a time, I would have been thrilled at the challenge of The World’s Spiciest Bowl of Noodles. That was before the Ghost Pepper incident.

The stated reasons for increasing H1B visas are not matching up with reality, at the moment.

How men and women approach posted job requirements. It was only chance that I didn’t approach it the way that women seem to, and decided to just kinda go for it. It’s definitely something I hope to pass on to Lain.


Category: Newsroom

wpid-20141009_123236.jpg

The scrape on my hand, from the ride down the stairs, has entered the itchy phase of the healing process.

A part of me hopes that it leaves a scar to remember it by.

We’ve since decided to move the gate away from the top of the stairs. It cuts off the balcony room from the other two bedrooms, but after the incident I just rarely felt safe walking down on the top of the stairs. The gate’s placement was such that the lower bad made it impossible not to skip a step, which when you’re carrying 25 pounds of cuteness, isn’t optimal.

I am hoping to get another gate soon so that we can place it where we’ve had it.

One without a foot hazard, though.


Category: Home

Buying a new house necessitates a lot of stuff that needs to get done. Especially when the Inspection Report is 95 pages long, as ours was. The three big things on our list were: Plumbing, Deck, and Roof.

The roof is really perplexing, though it makes sense if we consider that they are completely indifferent as to whether or not they get our business. I contacted them about doing the roof which they had provided an estimate (to the previous owners) for. A week passes, nothing. I try again, nothing. A week later, I email them, and they call me back and say that they can’t do a contract until I’ve picked a color. We pick a color, but then no contract. A week later I call them, leave a message, and write an email, and then we get the contract. I sign and return it, then nothing for two weeks. I call them and they say that they need a deposit. I ask how much, and hear nothing again for a week until I follow up and they finally give me an amount. That’s where things currently stand.

The bigger issue has been the plumbing. The water pressure in the new place has dreadfully low pressure. One place we lived in Deseret had a shower that was so weak that we used gallon jugs of water to wash ourselves, but here it’s not just a shower, but every shower. Also, there was no vent in the laundry room and there was no hookup to the sink downstairs (among other, minor things). By way our our deck guy, we a general handy man.

Things started off swimmingly. He got the hookup downstairs and added a laundry vent on the day that he mostly came to appraise the pressure situation. The next day he came with a water pump and a tank and started work. Then things started going off the rails. The laundry vent wasn’t doing its job. No problem, we thought, we’d just have him take a look.

Except the next day, he didn’t show. I called, and he called back saying that he was going to have to go to Millsburg to get a couple more parts.

The day after that, he didn’t show. I called, he didn’t call back.

The day after that, he didn’t show. I called twice. He didn’t call back.

The day after that, he didn’t show. I called twice. He didn’t call back.

The day after that, he didn’t show. I called, he didn’t call back.

At this point I am wondering if he took our deposit and ran. Except that he has ties to the community (and didn’t seem that sort of person besides, and perhaps most importantly he left his tools here). We knew that he lacked reliable transportation, and in one of the many messages I left him I told him that we would come pick him up. Still, nothing. Meanwhile, we had to disconnect the vent and had the tube just running out an open door (when in use). Finally, I looked at the invoice and drove to the address and visited him in person.

He was apologetic about not having gotten to it. He seemed perplexed that I was upset that he couldn’t call me back. He seemed to think that he shouldn’t call me back until he had the parts, which was apparently the issue (he couldn’t find them anywhere).

I had to call and go over there because, among other things, he has no email address. The deck guy also does not have an email address. The roofers do have an email address, though it’s the free one that comes with a Comcast account. Deck Guy has an absolute aversion to talking on the cell phone. Handy Man has a phone and it can even receive texts, but he said he hasn’t the first idea how to send one. I’d forgotten how hard it can be to communicate with people – when all else fails – that either don’t have an email or rarely respond to one.


Category: Home

AlterEgoRemnants of Dixie remain in Brazil, where Conferederate expatriates set up camp after the Civil War. Here’s a video.

Chinese movie theaters are experimenting with text messages on the screen to create a social viewing experience.

Is idiocracy upon us? The Flynn Effect is allegedly in reverse.

Antarctica may not be as lifeless as we think.

New Jersey plans to test the transportation of the future: solar powered commuting pods!

Halting the depletion of the Ozone layer is considered one of environmentalism’s greatest recent accomplishments. But not everyone got the memo.

A good idea: In Delaware, you can bequeath your Facebook account.

Slow down… for the dragonflies!

What potential future Detroits can learn from the fall of Detroit.

Urban heat islands are cooking our cities. Summer differentials of seven degrees for Las Vegas, six for Albuquerque, five for Portland, four for Seattle.

Some fluoride in the water is good, but the experience in Maine may be that too much fluoride is very, very bad.

Japan has declared war! Against astronaut litter.

Saturn moon Enceladus has a sea about the size of Lake Superior, now a top candidate for life.

Andrew Lilico thinks that instead of spending $3,000,000,000 mitigating climate change, we should go to Mars. Mars One is still working on getting us there.

Fraser Nelson argues that Britain is poorer than every US state but Mississippi. No, actually, says Tim Worstall, the poorest. I comment on it here.


Category: Newsroom

You might have heard about the lesbian couple that went into the fertility clinic and came back with a surprise, in the form of a black baby. She, in turn, is suing the clinic that gave her the wrong sperm.

I’d had the thought prior to Kevin Williamson articulating it, but it actually represents something of a clash of liberal pieties:

While one must pity the poor little girl who is being treated like a defective Honda Civic, it’s a delicious clash of progressive pieties. The mother — and somehow I suspect that I’ll be informed five minutes from now that it is wicked to call the half of the couple who carried the child and gave birth the “mother” — Jennifer Cramblett, among other things complains that it is difficult to find a place to get her daughter a decent haircut. It should be a hoot watching her make that case in court. I’m a white, conservative guy from Texas, and even I know better than to go skipping merrily into the cultural minefield that is black women’s hair, a subject that calls to mind my favorite cowboy proverb: “Never miss a good chance to shut up.”

Same-sex couples are riding a wave of cultural ascendency, but we should not kid ourselves: This is America, and race still trumps everything. You doubt me? In 2008, I reported in National Review about the case of an adoptive couple who had raised several children with severe disabilities but was denied the opportunity to adopt another disabled child because the authorities doubted their commitment to preserving the girl’s cultural authenticity — they’d said they intended to raise their children to be “colorblind” — and because their community in Alaska was judged to be too white, something that might damage the girl’s self-esteem. The girl in question suffered both from fetal-alcohol syndrome, which had left her mentally disabled, and from Russell-Silver Syndrome, a form of dwarfism that left her with an asymmetrical body, a triangular face, a malfunctioning digestive system, and other problems. It is unlikely that she would ever develop the mental capacity to feel racial alienation, much less that that would ever become a top-ten problem in her life. But race is the alpha and the omega to some people. If only we had a good word for people like that…

I had actually bet that it would go in the other direction. On the one hand, you do have the racism and a sort that, had it come from a married couple in Arkansas or South Dakota – even ones registered to the Democratic Party – would be called out pretty freely, and the protestations dismissed. While racism may be the greatest of all sins, there is a greater quantity of liberal values in the other direction.

The first and foremost is the homosexuality. That itself may not be such a big thing – though it’s definitely something – except that it’s a story about two women. Two women seeking to exert their reproductive freedom. Conservatives and pro-lifers often look at “reproductive freedom” as a euphemism for the right to kill, but it genuinely does go beyond that. The only fathers in the entire country who are excluded from having to pay child support are sperm donors. Further, those who have sought to hold men accountable for their offspring have never even broached the issue. Why? Because hurting these men would hurt the women who want desperately to have children.

In feminism versus racism, I’d honestly bet on feminism most of the time these days. So while some are surprised by the sympathetic or at least comparatively neutral coverage these women have received, I’m not. So when the couple argues that it’s not about race, some liberals are – even those that see race everywhere else – are going to believe them.

With the petty politics out of the way, let’s get to the meat of the issue.

When I tweeted a link to the original story – retweeting someone who thought the lawsuit was awful – Dave in Hackinsack wanted to know what grounds there were for objection. Especially given that it’s undisputed that the clinic did, indeed, screw up.

This is a fair point, but ultimately I find it unconvincing. If we had to use a donor to have children, like this couple I would (probably) check the Caucasian box. And though I disagree with the clinic here, I might look a bit askance at someone who specifically wanted a child of a different race (though that would depend on the reason). Some of that is the desire that the kid look like the rest of the family. Some of it is the concerns brought up by Cramblett. A lot of it is concern over the assumption that the child isn’t mine – or ours – and that he might be mistaken for a burglar when coming home. But these, ultimately, are pretty First World Preferences. And it’s a difference between all-things-being-equal preferences, and initiating a lawsuit over. If you want a child, and you get a child, you love the child as best you can. And if it was a mistake, you file it away as the best mistake ever. Loving the child you have, instead of any inkling of regret over the child you would have had if everything had gone according to plan.

So while I am vaguely sympathetic to the pickle that this woman is in, and the legal case does seem substantive, there are some lawsuits you don’t file even if you can.


Category: Newsroom

Queenland

Greetings from Stonebridge a fictitious city in a fictitious state located in a tri-state area in the interior Mid-Atlantic region. We're in western Queenland, which is really a state unto itself, and not to be confused with Queensland in Australia.

Nothing written on this site should be taken as strictly true, though if the author were making it all up rest assured the main character and his life would be a lot less unremarkable.


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