Thursday, July 31, 2008

Emptying the Bottle: July '08 Links List

1) A place where professional bloggers can “diavlog” or discuss issues on a split screen video.

2) What would you possibly say on this online funeral guestbook?

3) A rating of the effectiveness of local private charities by the Acton Institute.

4) Globalisation is changing the world. This video helps explain what exactly that means for us.

5) Use your prediction of future effects to raise money for your favorite causes.

6) What if the Presidential Candidates Pandered to Economists?

7) Upload a photo and see which celebrity you look like.

8) See Congress members have voted over the years on bills affecting free trade.

9) The Circumcision Reference Library.

10) The joy of $8 gas!

*As always, you can see what I find interesting on a daily basis*

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Trade Off of Socialism and Capitalism

The trade off between socialism and capitalism (or any incremental movement towards either) is that the first will result in the maximum level of equality of wealth for all, whereas the latter allows the maximum absolute level of wealth for all.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Renewing My Vows

"Here today, in front of our friends and family, I intertwine my life with yours. I am so thankful for having known you these four years. You have helped me to further understand myself, this world, and my place in it. I am a better person for having been your friend. But friendship has turned to love, and now you have become the lens from which I perceive all romance. I cannot hear it without thinking of you.

I promise you that as long as this world holds on to me, I will hold onto you. I will delight in the periods of joy, and I will endure the times of sorrow, to cry with and for you. I commit myself to a life of submission, service, and sacrifice to you.

I say this not in my own strength, but in the confidence that our Lord has a vested interest as well. God is my strength so that I can be yours. Christ bore my burdens so that I can bear yours. The Spirit leads me, so that I may lead you. Like Christ Jesus, I promise to love, serve, and if need be, die for you, my bride."

These were said one year ago today at my wedding. I was responding to these wonderful words from my wife:

"Harrison, I love your heart, your intentions, your passion and your strength. Thank you for pursuing me when I didn't want to be pursued, for accepting me when I didn't accept myself, and for loving me with your actions, your words, and your thoughts. Experiencing your love so completely has healed wounds in my life.

Harrison, I believe in you, in who you are, and in who you will become. I commit myself to you. To support you and your dreams for the rest of our lives. To encourage you and challenge you. To serve and respect you. To forgive you and to accept your forgiveness.

Right now it's easy for me to show you love and make our relationship a priority, but I know there will be a time when it becomes more difficult. It is then that I will rely on the strength of Christ to fulfill these commitments to you. Thank you for choosing me to be your bride."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Reader Request: Eminent Domain

To put it bluntly, I whole heatedly disagree with all (at least that I can think of) cases of the government taking private land for the “benefit” of the public. I am willing to acknowledge that there are times when the law can be used to maximize the greatest good. However, I’m not confident that public officials have the self-control to use it in just those cases. As for the case in question, my main concern is over the issue of “fair market value.” Now I don’t have any real estate experience, but I am confident that the actual value of something is meaningless unless you can agree to sell and buy it at that price. I’m sure the city officials believed they were offering a fair price, but do you really think the owner’s of the land thought so? It was apparently worth more than that to them or they would have sold it without having to be strong armed. In my opinion, if the benefits to the city were so large (which it seems they were), then the owners of the property should have been paid more for their good investment. There was surely some price they would have sold it for, it was probably just cheaper to lobby the government to do it for you.

Friday, July 18, 2008

In with the New

Along with moving to a new apartment in Durham (July 31st) and completing the requirements for graduation (July 22nd), there is also another big change in my life, Harrison2.0. If you haven’t noticed already, I have changed the name of my blog from the health spa sounding “My Shoulders.” In light of what this blog has become, I felt the new name, “Bottlenecked” was more appropriate. We have access to more information than any previous generation, yet making sense of it all has become difficult. This weblog is a place for me to slow down my thoughts, and my mouth, and really reflect. You can also visit at the new url The RSS feed is the same, so if you haven’t subscribed yet, it’s a great way to never miss a beat.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Seven Deadly Sins Get a Facelift

In case you haven't heard, Pope Benedict has recently released a new set of deadly sins. Here is the new list and my issues with each:

1) Genetic Modification: This totally ignores the huge benefits to genetically modified foods. Plus, what is the difference in what researchers are doing and what breeders do?
2) Experimenting on Humans: Does that imply nonconsensual experimentation or is consensual ok?
3) Polluting the Environment: To put it plainly, some pollution is good. In fact, some pollution is entirely unnoticeable. To ask for zero pollution is non-sense. Then there is the difficult task of deciding how much is too much.
4) Causing Social Injustice: Of the seven this makes the most sense to me, though it is a little vague. Is this trying to outlaw unfairness? What is unfair? Bill Gates makes more money in a day than I will make in a lifetime. Then again, I make more in a day then most sub-Saharan Africans will make in a lifetime. Is that fair? At least Bill Gates has helped to usher in one of the most important technological changes in the world?
5) Causing Poverty: I agree. But I wouldn't blame who most people blame. Poverty is not caused by greedy corporations; it's caused by bad governments who don't allow greedy corporations to make money.
6) Becoming Obscenely Wealthy: Again, thank you Bill Gates for helping me to have this blog. Might I also add we are all obscenely rich.
7) Taking Drugs: Don't tell my wife this; she loves her Tylenol, birth control, and Coca-Cola.

Not that the original set was God breathed or anything, but these new ones just don't have the same ring as the old. I also don't think Brad Pitt and Morgan Freedman will be signing up for the remake of the movie Seven using the new list. Wrath, envy, sloth and the other four seem to all deal with the heart, whereas these new ones are focused on the action. Maybe that's telling of the world today. We deal with our actions on the outside (behavior modification), but the motivations of the heart are rarely considered. Nevertheless, in the spirit of the day, here is my own list of the new new deadly sins (and by deadly I mean especially harmful):

1) Absolving yourself from your most basic parental duties
2) Forming your own religion based on ideas you have personally created
3) Hindering progress in protection of your own interests
4) Blaming the infamous "them", ex: terrorists, corporations, China
5) Being unproductive. If people wouldn’t pay for your services, you may not be producing anything
6) Telling people what they want to hear, instead of what they need to hear
7) Making your own list of sins based on your own ideas and not those of scripture

Monday, July 14, 2008

Thursday, July 10, 2008

In Honor of Wal-Mart

In honor of Wal-Mart’s new logo, I’d like to take a minute and discuss the controversy over the retail giant. There are many claims that Wal-mart is bad for Americans (low wages for workers, bad for small business, etc) and bad for foreign laborers (low pay, poor working conditions, etc), but just how accurate are those claims?

The former director of economic policy for John Kerry stated that Wal-Mart alone increased the welfare of American shoppers by at least $50 billion a year. In fact, most of these savings went to low and middle-class citizens because of their frequent use of the company. The poor also spend a disproportionate amount of money on groceries, which makes them the main beneficiary of lower food prices. In that same article they claim that the presence of Wal-Mart’s is responsible for a 10-20% decrease in prices. Furman even claimed that the retailer was a “progressive success story.” Now that’s not the big scary Wal-Mart you hear about.

So the customers are satisfied, but what about the workers? When Chicago got their first Wal-Mart, sadly because of politicians this was only 2 years ago, 15,000 people applied for 400 jobs. Surely these workers aren’t in a rush to get abused and underpaid. They may not all get health insurance, but they can buy it for as low as $11 a month. I bet the local shops can’t beat that.

But it must be bad for the community as a whole, right? No, in fact, employment growth is better in areas that have a Wal-Mart. A study at the University of Missouri even found that a new Wal-Mart kills 50 retail jobs, but creates 100 and without decreasing wages.

But if customers are better off, workers are better off, and even local communities are helped, surely the foreign workers must be hurt. Except that the facts say otherwise. From 1990-2002, Wal-Mart is credited with lifting 5,520,000 Chinese people out of poverty. Making knickknacks for wealthy Americans may not be your dream job, but it is for many. There have been roughly 100 million rural Chinese moving to the cities to earn more than twice what made farming.

I'm not saying that the corporation of Wal-Mart is philanthropic, or even nice. What I am trying to show is how when corporations seek profit, we all profit. I'll leave you with a quote from Michael Strong, a man who suggests Wal-Mart may deserve a Nobel Peace Prize. “Act locally, think globally: Shop Wal-Mart.”

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

If You're Reading This, You're Rich

If you watch the news or read the newspapers, you may hear about how hard the American life is. Rising gas prices (fear not), the housing crisis (see picture to the left) and how all the American jobs are going overseas (even though somehow we still have one of the lowest unemployment rates in history). Not to trivialize the real and awful pain in this world, but I think it's beneficial to remember just how good we all have it.

US GDP per capita in 1820: $1,287.00
US GDP per capita in 1950: $9,573.00
US GDP per capita in 2005: $41,889.59
All in current US $ (so inflation is held constant).

That means, that since 1820, Americans are on average 32.54 times richer. UPDATE: To compare that, let's consider someone who makes 32.54 times more than the average American today. That comes to $1,363,087.26 a year! That means even if you were 8 times richer than the average person in 1820, you would still be considered below the poverty line in America today! You can even see the difference in the short run:

US Life Expectancy at birth in 1968: 70 years
US Life Expectancy at birth in 2002: 77 years

The biggest killer of Americans, heart disease, is a problem caused mostly by the abundant accessibility of food and the relative physical ease of our jobs.

And finally, the fact that I am able to put my thoughts here on this site and that you are able to read them was at one time unthinkable and is increasing still:

US Internet Users in 2000: 563.382 per 1,000 people
US Internet Users in 2005: 692.712 per 1,000 people

Most of this data comes from

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Oil Speculators are Good

Hear me as a caller on the radio show Christian Worldview Today explaining why oil speculation may actually be a good thing. Click here and drag the progress bar about 1/3 of the way across (approx. 2 min. long).

Friday, July 04, 2008

Myers-Briggs: ENTP

"Quick, ingenious, stimulating, alert, and outspoken. Resourceful in solving new and challenging problems. Adept at generating conceptual possibilities and then analyzing them strategically. Good at reading other people. Bored by routine, will seldom do the same thing the same way, apt to turn to one new interest after another."

Go here to figure out your Myers-Briggs Type

“Whatever the circumstances of your life, the understanding of type can make your perceptions clearer, your judgments sounder, and your life closer to your heart’s desire.”

It even affects how many friends you have on Facebook!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Money > Time

The New York Times’ Freakonomics Blog recently posted one of the most interesting things I’ve ever read. In his paper Daniel Hamermesh states that the average American is three times richer than in 1955, but life expectancy has only increased at 10%. This means that for most people time has become relatively scarce compared to money. We have more money, but less time to spend it. Don't you find this true in your own life? You feel stressed out because you can’t do everything available to you. Also interesting is the divergence between the rich and the poor. The wealthy feel the stress of time much more since the price of their time is higher. This has only reaffirmed my desire to teach. Sure it is a low paying job, but it is comparably less stressful. The best part of the article was the author’s solution/advice: give your money away. It’s something we should all think about as I expect this disproportionate growth to continue increasing at increasing rate.