Thursday, September 18, 2008

Paying Back a "Pay It Forward"

As some of my longtime readers (all 5 of them) may recall, back in 2005, I went down to Houston to help out in a post-Katrina Red Cross Shelter. While I was there, I stayed with one of my best friends and his wife, who live in Spring, a suburb of Houston. The hospitality they showed me was far more generous than anything I did by going down there. They fed and housed me, they entertained me, heck, his brother gave me my first taste of God's Own Food.

Well, they say that no good deed goes unpunished, and Gustav Ike has them in a bad way. They thought their house had come through undamaged, but they've discovered that the roof is leaking, and the drywall in the master bedroom is... well, not DRYwall anymore, and not WALL for much longer. They don't expect power back for another week (he called me from his cell phone, which they use the car to recharge). They can get some food in the local grocery stores, but the lines are long there's not much left by the time they get in some times, and they're running out of money -- today they had to go to FEMA for MRE's. To top it all off, his wife's temp job is up, so they're down a paycheck as of this week.

My friend is not one to beg, he prides himself on being self-reliant, but things are tough, and he has agreed to let me ask my readers for help. This is a chance to give direct aid -- it isn't tax-deductible, it's not giving to an overarching charitable organization, but it is taking the bull by the horns and doing somehting to help someone. Hell, he helped me do the same for others 3 years ago, I have no problem asking for help for him now.

He says the most useful way of sending aid directly is through gift cards and gas cards. If any of you are interested, contact me in the comments or via email, and we'll talk.

Musical Geography Trivia Question of the Day

Where does the southbound odyssey start, and where does it end?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Quote of the Week

A tip of the Toque to Patrick at Born Again Redneck.

"Lurking just below the surface of the second-guessing about Sarah
Palin's fitness to be president is the serious question of whether we still
believe in the American people's capacity for self-government, what we mean when
we affirm that all American citizens are equal, and whether we tacitly believe
there are distinct classes of citizens and that American government at the
highest levels is an elite occupation. "

-- Steven F. Hayward, commenting at The Weekly Standard

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Just Keep Telling Yourself

There is no liberal media bias. There is no liberal media bias. There is no...

A tip of the toque to Ace of Spades.


My granddad used to like to say, "Figures don't lie, but liars sure figure". It was his gruff way of reminding people that numbers and statistics, no matter how technically accurate, can be presented in such a way as to imply much more than they really say.

The point was also driven home to me in my college statistics class. I did ok -- Math is not my passion, and statistics really pushed my limits. I escaped it with a C -- and that was just introductory statistics. But what DID stick with me, no matter how much the actual mathematics started to swamp me, was the professor's constant reminder to us whenever we were presented with statistics to ask questions -- never accept uncritically the assertions made by those presenting the statistics. Ask about the methods used to gather the information. If, for instance, the statistics are from a survey, and the presenters claim that X% of people favor Y, ask questions -- how many people did you ask? How were they selected? How representative of the population in general was the sampling? What exactly did they ask the people surveyed? How were the questions worded? Was it a yes/no question? If not, how many responses were available? How were THOSE worded? As you can see, statistics involves more than just numbers.

I have been struck by the importance of this recently, given the fact that one of the Obama campaign's main points of attack against John McCain has been "John McCain voted with President Bush 90% of the time".

Ninety Percent.

It's an interesting statistic to me, because it's the exact same number quoted by the Jeff Merkley campaign in attacking Gordon Smith -- "He voted with President Bush 90% of the time".

So let's start asking questions.

The first question that sprang to my mind was "How did you come up with that figure, 90%?" It seemed the obvious question to ask, but I soon realized that the answer to that question was dependent on another more fundamental question -- How do you define "Voted with President Bush"?

Obviously you can't mean "Voted the same way that Bush did", since Bush, not being a member of Congress, doesn't vote. So what DOES it mean? Voted in favor of 90% of the bills that Bush then signed into law, and against 90% of the bills that eventually passed but he vetoed? Voted 90% of the time the way Bush actively urged congress to vote? Voted the way the Republican Party leadership urged you to vote? Voted with the majority of your fellow Republicans? Please clarify.

But ok, for the sake of argument, let's accept the 90% claim for now. My next question is, how many times did Obama vote "with President Bush", using the same standard to determine the percentage? 0%? I doubt that10%? 20%? 50%? And if Obama voted "with President Bush" say, 30% of the time (as an example, I'm not making the claim that he did), would it still be fair to criticize McCain or Smith for all 90% of their pro-Bush votes? This is important to ask because just saying "they voted with Bush 90% of the time" and presenting that as a criticism implies "They voted wrong 90% of the time". That's unfair to both the senators AND President Bush. NO matter HOW bad a president you believe Bush is, it would be unreasonable to argue that he's been wrong about everything.

Here's what I mean: If Obama and the Democracts and the Republicans and Bush could all manage to agree on, again, say 30% of all the laws passed, that means that the Dems and Bush disagreed 70%, and the Dems and McCain disagreed 60% of the time (90-30=60), with McCain and the Dems agreeing with each other and against Bush 10% of the time. So even from the Democratic POV, arguing that Bush was wrong 70% of the time, McCain was only wrong 60% of the time. Given the way that the country is so split down the middle on so many issues, do you really think that's a strong criticism of your oponent?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Is This "Hope", or "Change"?

A Tip of the Toque to NRO via Ace of Spades HQ.

Obama's latest criticism of McCain? He's so out of touch, he doesn't even know how to send an e-mail.

Well, it's a fair cop, to be honest. John McCain doesn't use e-mail. You got him there, Barack. He he... yep, nailed him to the wall.

One small problem. The reason he doesn't use e-mail? His war wounds prevent him from:

"combing his hair, typing on a keyboard, or tying his shoes. Friends marvel at McCain's encyclopedic knowledge of sports. He's an avid fan - Ted Williams is his hero - but he can't raise his arm above his shoulder to throw a baseball. "

Nice, there, Barry. Way to keep it classy. What's next, questioning his patriotism for not saluting the flag?

Monday, September 08, 2008

Blogging Buddies

Yesterday, one of my favorite bloggers was in town, so we got together for a couple of beers. Ken's a great guy, as nice in person as he is on his blog. Thanks again, Ken, for the beer and the company. Next time I'm buying.

Gainfully Employed

A big thanks to all the well-wishers regarding my recent big news. So without further ado, here's the scoop on where I interviewed yesterday, how it went, and what I decided:

My working interview on Friday was at a local university other than U of O. The interview yesterday was at Marche'. The interview went ok, but the chef there has a poker face, so I don't know how well HE thinks it went. He informed me that if they decide to call me back for a second interview, it'll be a "stage" (French, pronounced "Stozh"), which means working one shift without pay (but I'd be fed) to see how I work out.

I've decided to go with the University job, unless Marche' offers me either A) a really good shift and higher pay (in which case I'll leave the university job); or B) a part time position (where I can moonlight after the other job).

I know it sounds crazy, giving up a job at a high end restaurant to work as a prep cook and steward at a college cafeteria, but there are several reasons I went with this decision:

1) The college job is M-F, 6:30-2:30, regular work hours, which allows me to actually have a family life, and also minimizes the amount of time The Lad has to be at daycare.

2) The pay is $10/hour, which is pretty good for a starting wage in this town.

3) Because the job revolves around the school year, I'll be getting Christmas and Spring breaks off with pay. The downside is that I'll be layed off every summer, but as I mentioned before, there are a couple of possibilities there: I can find seasonal work (perhaps at King Estate, I'm told they do hire seasonally), and I can also use that time to start and build my own business.

Today was my first day on the job. I'm sore and exhausted but also elated. It's good to finally be back at a steady, full-time, permanent job. I loved culinary school, but that was the longest stretch of unemployment/underemployment I've been through in my entire adult life, and I'm glad to have it behind me.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Palin the Destroyer

This is the movie quote that comes to mind whenever I think of the aneurisms being suffered by the likes of Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, et al, regarding the turn of events in the presidential race.

Negotiating from a Position of Strength

Well, the "Working Interview" turned out to be an emergency fill-in for the person who just quit. I worked 2 hours, through the lunch rush, survived a minor catastrophe (not my fault), and have the job if I want.

I'm still going to the interview on Sunday, just to see how it goes. Actually, I'm looking forward to it a lot more now. There's a lot less pressure on me -- if I don't get it, I'm still employed. If I do, then I have to weigh my decision. But it's nice to have the "do or die" pressure off of me.

So here's the dilemma:

The interview Sunday is at probably the single best, and undoubtedly the best-KNOWN, restaurant in all of Eugene. The menu is exquisite, the owner AND the chef have stellar reputations. Working there for any amount of time would be a feather in my cap.

The other job is working in an educational setting. It's not nearly as prestigious, though it isn't exactly mere cafeteria work. It won't look AS good on a resume. But what it WOULD afford me is saummers off to pursue my OWN business -- I hope to save up and buy a concessions trailer and start doing fairs and festivals, selling my barbecue. I would have winter and spring breaks off, with pay, which would allow for vacations AND for moonlighting.

But the big draw is the annual summer layoff. That's three months free to try my hand at self-employment, as well as the possibility of working seasonally in some of the more tourist-driven businesses around (like King Estate). I've reached the conclusion that the likelihood of me, at this late stage in the game (I'm 40), working my way up through hte ranks from prep to line to chef de parti to sous to Chef are pretty slim. My best shot at self-employment will be to start soon, start small, and grow my business at the same TIME as gaining experience.

In terms of pay, I doubt either place will be offering a wage significantly higher than the other, but we'll see. That's DEFINITELY a consideration, but it would have to be in the neighborhood of $1.00/hour difference at LEAST for that to be enough to decide one way or another on its own.


No, not the Obama kind. Real hope, right now, and a request for prayers and good thoughts.

Most of you know I quit my job two weeks ago. The job hunting has been pretty discouraging since then.

But that's just changed. A couple of days ago, I got a call from one of the best restaurants in Eugene, I have an interview with them on Sunday. And less than an hour ago, I got a call from a former culinary classmate, and now have an interview in less than an hour at another location.

Both jobs have different strengths and weaknesses. At this point I'd be happy with either, but if I get offered both I want to make the right choice. I'll explain more after the interview, wish me luck.