Well, I'm back from the conference and have a few minutes now to make a bit of a post about it. I had a good time. I got to see a lot of interesting presentation about geotechnical practice in New Zealand and Australia. I also got received some interesting feed-back on my work. I've got some stuff to work on from those comments, but I think it will make my results more useful.
Anyways, here's a couple of pictures. I'm not that great a photographer, and I certainly don't even try at enough pictures most of the time. Wellington is hugely different from Auckland. The geography defines the shape of the city in a way that many from the Western US would understand. We were treated to 4 beautiful days and I count that as fortunate. I've heard that Wellington can be pretty nasty with wind and rain.
14 November 2008
Well, I'm back from the conference and have a few minutes now to make a bit of a post about it. I had a good time. I got to see a lot of interesting presentation about geotechnical practice in New Zealand and Australia. I also got received some interesting feed-back on my work. I've got some stuff to work on from those comments, but I think it will make my results more useful.
31 October 2008
I've been listening to KCFR's series on the Senate candidates, and I just wanted to make a quick note about two things that surprised me. Udall is against gay marriage, on the principle that marriage is a religious institution and people of faith should be the ones to define it. He does support civil unions however. Second, Schaffer is against the "Definition of a person" amendment. Both of these really surprised me when I first heard them. Without being fully immersed in Colorado's senate race, I have to some degree replaced both of them with Strawmen who tow the party line. Listening to this series, not just this little snippet, but the whole thing, has given me a better perspective on the two candidates. To those Coloradans who have not voted yet, I recommend that you listen to them.
30 October 2008
I'm a bit of a blog machine tonight, but this story caught my eye. I'm in favor of this method of economic stimulus. Everything I've read about economic theory has said that checks sent to taxpayers are usually not helpful in the longterm. This article originally posted at Wired.
Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke have been racking their brains for something that might give the U.S. economy a bump. Their next try might be good for the nation's transportation system — but it's not going to be cheap.
Bernake is throwing his support behind a gigantic stimulus package that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other congressional Democrats are pushing through Congress. If it were to become reality in its current form, it would significantly boost spending on roads, bridges and other public works projects: like a giant toll that everyone in the country has to pay.
The stimulus plan, which would be the second this year, would cost between $150 billion and $300 billion. In addition to allocating funds for traditional infrastructure spending, lawmakers are also considering provisions that would give families and businesses tax credits for investing in green projects like wind and solar.
While there is significant support for the package on Capitol Hill, some economists argue that the economic impact of public sector spending is overstated. "If the government taxes or borrows $10 billion new dollars to build bridges and roads, it's sucking the $10 billion out of the private sector economy somewhere else," Chris Edwards of the Cato Institute told Marketplace. "You know taxes are going to have to be higher than they otherwise would be."
Others say that these types of projects take time to ramp up, minimizing their economic impact. But the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials disagrees. It estimates that there are roughly 3,000 highway projects that could begin within 30 to 90 days of receiving funding, and several U.S. governors have been pleading with Congress for money to restart their states' stalled construction programs. With the recession projected by many to be long and deep, investment in infrastructure would have a big economic payoff, especially in sectors like construction, where unemployment sits at over 10 percent.
But on the downside, infrastructure spending can be especially vulnerable to political shenanigans. "You don't want to build more bridges to nowhere," Global Insight's Brian Bethune is quoted as saying, referring to the infamous Alaska project that has been bounced around as an issue by both presidential candidates.
At this point the plan is being well received in part because the last stimulus package, which consisted of rebate checks to taxpayers, was a bust. "It gave the economy a sugar high that faded as the financial crisis intensified," economist Peter Morici told the Associated Press.
But priorities in Washington can shift quickly. Right now, if the package actually passes and what it ends up looking like is anyone's guess.
To me, this is similar to the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was hugely helpful in pulling the US out of the Great Depression.
Having looked again at the ballot I've realized that the referendums don't require too much opinion from me. Let's give this a go.
An amendment to section 4 of article V of the constitution of the state of Colorado, concerning the ability of an elector of the state of Colorado who has attained the age of twenty-one years to serve as a member of the Colorado general assembly.
I know what I was like at 21. I would not have been ready for a position in the state legislature and I doubt many 21 year olds would be. I agree the the age of 25 strikes a good balance.
Shall section 7 of article XVIII of the state constitution concerning outdated, obsolete provisions regarding land value increase be repealed?
Article XVIII, Section 7, authorizes the state to delay collection of additional property taxes when a property is improved by the planting of trees. There are, however, no tax breaks that take advantage of this. Nor is there any reason that such a law could not be passed if we wanted to have such a tax break.
Shall there be a repeal of section 5 of article XVIII and article XXII of the state constitution, concerning the elimination of outdated obsolete provisions of the state constitution?
Do we get rid of the law that prohibits saloons? I guess. I doubt we will see a resurgence in them.
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning ballot initiatives, and, in connection therewith, increasing the number of signatures required for a proposed initiative to amend the state constitution; reducing the number of signatures required for a proposed statutory initiative; requiring a minimum number of signatures for a proposed initiative to amend the state constitution to be gathered from residents of each congressional district in the state; increasing the time allowed to gather signatures for a proposed statutory initiative; modifying the review of initiative petitions; establishing a filing deadline for proposed initiatives to amend the state constitution; and requiring a two-thirds vote of all members elected to each house of the general assembly to amend, repeal, or supersede any law enacted by an initiative for a period of five years after the law becomes effective?
If you have followed this at all, you will notice that I think people who use the citizen's initiative process are generally short-sighted or attempting to serve specific pet projects. Making it easier to propose statutory amendments compared to constitutional ones may help in this regard. I feel that the Colorado constitution has been messed with too much in the last couple of years and people really need to knock it off.
Hello again everyone. We really are getting down to the line here. I'm sure many of you have already voted using a number of early voting options, but since I'm a bit busy with other things, I haven't been able to finish up this series as quickly as I would like. Today, I'll look at the last four amendments on the Colorado ballot. We're skipping a few numbers because those measures have been withdrawn by their sponsers.
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning the allocation of revenues from the state severance tax imposed on minerals and mineral fuels other than oil shale that are extracted in the state, and, in connection therewith, for fiscal years commencing on or after July 1, 2008, requiring half of the revenues to be credited to the local government severance tax fund and the remaining revenues to be credited first to the severance tax trust fund until an annually calculated limit is reached and then to a new Colorado transportation trust fund, which may be used only to fund the construction, maintenance, and supervision of public highways in the state, giving first priority to reducing congestion on the Interstate 70 corridor?
Another taxation and budget issue wrapped up together in an amendment issue. The trouble with this one is typical of initiatives that are put on the ballot in Colorado. This is an amendment to the state constitution; its very difficult to change. My response here is fairly similar to several other initiatives such as this. A change in the severance tax policy would not be bad. As part of an overarching strategy, I think it would be wise to increase the tax on fossil fuel development and add further incentives to renewable energy research and implementation. I really dislike setting aside budgetary items in amendments. I-70 needs some work, but it really needs to be addressed in another way.
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning restrictions on campaign contributions, and, in connection therewith, prohibiting the holder of contracts totaling $100,000 or more, as indexed for inflation, awarded by state or local governments without competitive bidding ("sole source government contracts"), including certain collective bargaining agreements, from making a contribution for the benefit of a political party or candidate for elective office during the term of the contracts and for 2 years thereafter; disqualifying a person who makes a contribution in a ballot issue election from entering into a sole source government contract related to the ballot issue; and imposing liability and penalties on contract holders, certain of their owners, officers and directors, and government officials for violations of the amendment?
Alright, this amendment basically says that people with government contracts should not be allowed to donate that money to campaigns or use it for other political purposes. The blue book has probably pointed out the biggest problem with this issues: it prevents county or city level contractors from contributing money to candidates or causes outside of the limits of the person holding their contract.
SHALL STATE TAXES BE INCREASED $321.4 MILLION ANNUALLY BY AN AMENDMENT TO THE COLORADO REVISED STATUTES CONCERNING THE SEVERANCE TAX ON OIL AND GAS EXTRACTED IN THE STATE, AND, IN CONNECTION THEREWITH, FOR TAXABLE YEARS COMMENCING ON OR AFTER JANUARY 1, 2009, CHANGING THE TAX TO 5% OF TOTAL GROSS INCOME FROM THE SALE OF OIL AND GAS EXTRACTED IN THE STATE WHEN THE AMOUNT OF ANNUAL GROSS INCOME IS AT LEAST $300,000; ELIMINATING A CREDIT AGAINST THE SEVERANCE TAX FOR PROPERTY TAXES PAID BY OIL AND GAS PRODUCERS AND INTEREST OWNERS; REDUCING THE LEVEL OF PRODUCTION THAT QUALIFIES WELLS FOR AN EXEMPTION FROM THE TAX; EXEMPTING REVENUES FROM THE TAX AND RELATED INVESTMENT INCOME FROM STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT SPENDING LIMITS; AND REQUIRING THE TAX REVENUES TO BE CREDITED AS FOLLOWS: (A) 22% TO THE SEVERANCE TAX TRUST FUND, (B) 22% TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT SEVERANCE TAX FUND, AND (C) 56% TO A NEW SEVERANCE TAX STABILIZATION TRUST FUND, OF WHICH 60% IS USED TO FUND SCHOLARSHIPS FOR COLORADO RESIDENTS ATTENDING STATE COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES, 15% TO FUND THE PRESERVATION OF NATIVE WILDLIFE HABITAT, 10% TO FUND RENEWABLE ENERGY AND ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROGRAMS, 10% TO FUND TRANSPORTATION PROJECTS IN COUNTIES AND MUNICIPALITIES IMPACTED THE SEVERANCE OF OIL AND GAS, AND 5% TO FUND COMMUNITY DRINKING WATER AND WASTEWATER TREATMENT GRANTS?
This is again, a good place for the state to increase its revenue, but a bad way to target the spending of such.
SHALL THERE BE AN AMENDMENT TO THE COLORADO CONSTITUTION CONCERNING THE MANNER IN WHICH THE STATE FUNDS PUBLIC EDUCATION FROM PRESCHOOL THROUGH THE TWELFTH GRADE, AND, IN CONNECTION THEREWITH, FOR THE 2010-11 STATE FISCAL YEAR AND EACH STATE FISCAL YEAR THEREAFTER, REQUIRING THAT ANY REVENUE THAT THE STATE WOULD OTHERWISE BE REQUIRED TO REFUND PURSUANT TO THE CONSTITUTIONAL LIMIT ON STATE FISCAL YEAR SPENDING BE TRANSFERRED INSTEAD TO THE STATE EDUCATION FUND; ELIMINATING THE REQUIREMENT THAT, FOR THE 2011-12 STATE FISCAL YEAR AND EACH STATE FISCAL YEAR THEREAFTER, THE STATEWIDE BASE PER PUPIL FUNDING FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION FROM PRESCHOOL THROUGH THE TWELFTH GRADE AND THE TOTAL STATE FUNDING FOR ALL CATEGORICAL PROGRAMS INCREASE ANNUALLY BY AT LEAST THE RATE OF INFLATION; CREATING A SAVINGS ACCOUNT IN THE STATE EDUCATION FUND; REQUIRING THAT A PORTION OF THE STATE INCOME TAX REVENUE THAT IS DEPOSITED IN THE STATE EDUCATION FUND BE CREDITED TO THE SAVINGS ACCOUNT IN CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES; REQUIRING EITHER A TWO-THIRDS MAJORITY VOTE OF EACH HOUSE OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OR, IN ANY STATE FISCAL YEAR IN WHICH COLORADO PERSONAL INCOME GROWS LESS THAN SIX PERCENT BETWEEN THE TWO PREVIOUS CALENDAR YEARS, A SIMPLE MAJORITY VOTE OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO USE THE MONEYS IN THE SAVINGS ACCOUNT; ESTABLISHING THE PURPOSES FOR WHICH MONEYS IN THE SAVINGS ACCOUNT MAY BE SPENT; ESTABLISHING A MAXIMUM AMOUNT THAT MAY BE IN THE SAVINGS ACCOUNT IN ANY STATE FISCAL YEAR; AND ALLOWING THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO TRANSFER MONEYS FROM THE GENERAL FUND TO THE STATE EDUCATION FUND, SO LONG AS CERTAIN OBLIGATIONS FOR TRANSPORTATION FUNDING ARE MET?
This amendment is trying to fix some of the funding conflicts already in the state constitution by creating more of them. I think that summarizes my opinion on that pretty well.
As some of you may know, I still haven't received my official Colorado ballot, and so I will most likely not get to actually vote on these ballot issues. I have submitted a write-in ballot for the federal and state elections, so my voice will be heard in that way at least. I guess I'm also doing this blog, which may help to raise attention to some of these ballot issues. I'm at a conference on election day, so I won't be able to follow everything, but I will do my best to keep an eye on things.
If I have some more time, I'll cover the four referendums on the ballot as well.
24 October 2008
I meant to talk about this a few days ago because I think it is shocking. Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann calls for a return to McCarthy-ism in America. Regardless of which party she is from, promoting the idea that some Americans are anti-American or have anti-American views is stupid. All of us want what is best for the country, we just have different views about what is best.
23 October 2008
Hello again to everyone. I haven't had as much free time for posting lately, but I thought that I should try to make some time to go over a few more of the ballot issues that Coloradans will be seeing this year. I should also speak about one of my biases. I think that the Citizen Initiative method in Colorado is a bit broken. Activists of all stripes tend to use this process in an attempt to lock things into the state constitution that cannot be easily changed. We elect our General Assembly for a reason. We use a republican model for a reason. Sometimes, it is better to leave the lawmaking in the hands of people who dedicate their lives to it. They are (or should be) experts on it. It is the same as trusting the advice of a doctor or lawyer in the appropriate situations. Therefore, unless I see an initiative that actually changes something that is wrong in the constitution, I will probably vote it down. Even if it is a good cause, a worthy initiative, I will try to block it. Our legislature is in charge of the State budget. If you would like to see more funding go to a specific project, write to your representative or senator and get them to do something about it. Vote people into office who you think will push the causes that you care about. Certainly, our representatives should take the opinions of the electorate to heart, but they also owe us their judgement. If the electorate is pushing Issue X but Rep. Smith knows that passing Issue X would cause a $2 mil shortfall in state revenues, he should vote against it.
Now, on to the main event.
Alright, this is a constitutional ammendment that prohibits government employees from having certain types of witholding. Simply put, I think this is unnecessary. There are already laws that people can opt out of any witholding that they don't want. I'm voting "no" for this.
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning deductions from governmental payroll systems, and, in connection therewith, prohibiting a governmental payroll system from taking a payroll deduction from any government employee except deductions required by federal law, tax withholdings, judicial liens and garnishments, deductions for individual or group health benefits or other insurance, deductions for pension or retirement plans or systems, or other savings or investment programs, and charitable deductions?
SHALL THERE BE AN AMENDMENT TO THE COLORADO CONSTITUTION CONCERNING VOTER-APPROVED REVISIONS TO LIMITED GAMING, AND, IN CONNECTION THEREWITH, ALLOWING THE LOCAL VOTERS IN CENTRAL CITY, BLACK HAWK, AND CRIPPLE CREEK TO EXTEND CASINO HOURS OF OPERATION, APPROVED GAMES TO INCLUDE ROULETTE AND CRAPS OR BOTH, AND MAXIMUM SINGLE BETS UP TO $100; ADJUSTING DISTRIBUTIONS TO CURRENT GAMING FUND RECIPIENTS FOR GROWTH IN GAMING TAX REVENUE DUE TO VOTER-APPROVED REVISIONS IN GAMING; DISTRIBUTING 78% OF THE REMAINING GAMING TAX REVENUE FROM THIS AMENDMENT FOR STUDENT FINANCIAL AID AND CLASSROOM INSTRUCTION AT COMMUNITY COLLEGES ACCORDING TO THE PROPORTION OF THEIR RESPECTIVE STUDENT ENROLLMENTS, AND 22% FOR LOCAL GAMING IMPACTS IN GILPIN AND
TELLER COUNTIES AND THE CITIES OF CENTRAL CITY, BLACK HAWK, AND CRIPPLE CREEK ACCORDING TO THE PROPORTION OF INCREASED TAX REVENUE FROM VOTER-APPROVED REVISIONS IN EACH CITY OR COUNTY; AND REQUIRING ANY INCREASE IN GAMING TAXES FROM THE LEVELS IMPOSED AS OF JULY 1, 2008 TO BE APPROVED AT A STATEWIDE ELECTION, IF LOCAL VOTERS IN ONE OR MORE CITIES HAVE APPROVED ANY REVISION TO LIMITED GAMING?
Simple version of this ammendment: allows cities to set new limits on betting, and changes the allocation of the revenue. I'm not against a constitutional change that would allow the expansion of gambling options. However, tacking on the changes for the revenue targets is not so good. This gets a "no" from me.
SHALL STATE TAXES BE INCREASED $186.1 MILLION ANNUALLY AFTER FULL IMPLEMENTATION BY AN AMENDMENT TO THE COLORADO REVISED STATUTES CONCERNING AN INCREASE IN THE STATE SALES AND USE TAX TO PROVIDE FUNDING FOR LONG-TERM SERVICES FOR PERSONS WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES, AND, IN CONNECTION THEREWITH, INCREASING THE RATE OF THE STATE SALES AND USE TAX BEGINNING ON JULY 1, 2009, BY ONE-TENTH OF ONE PERCENT IN EACH OF THE NEXT TWO FISCAL YEARS; PERMITTING THE STATE TO RETAIN AND SPEND ALL REVENUES FROM THE NEW TAX, NOTWITHSTANDING THE STATE SPENDING LIMIT; REQUIRING AN AMOUNT EQUAL TO THE NET REVENUE FROM THE NEW TAX TO BE DEPOSITED IN THE NEWLY CREATED DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES LONG-TERM SERVICES CASH FUND; REQUIRING THE MONEY IN THE FUND TO BE USED TO PROVIDE LONG-TERM SERVICES FOR PERSONS WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES; AND PROHIBITING REDUCTIONS IN THE LEVEL OF STATE APPROPRIATIONS IN THE ANNUAL GENERAL APPROPRIATION BILL EXISTING ON THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF THIS MEASURE FOR LONG-TERM SERVICES FOR PERSONS WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES?
This is a good example of the worthy cause that should not be an ammendment. Although this is only a statutory ammendment, I'm still against this on the basis that it is an ammendment. Certainly we should fund programs that we have so that they reach the people that need them. Again though, this should just be something that the legislature should take care of in their annual budget vote. If we need additional tax revenue to cover the costs, it can be brought before the voters as a referendum. I would encourage the proponents of 51 to get out and encourage the General Assembly to fund this program. Adding an ammendment to change the sales tax and lock that revenue into one program is not the way to go about this. Fiscal situations change every year, which is why the budget is voted in on an annual basis.
I've been rather busy lately, and I feel the need to explain my abscence from the blog. I've had weekly committe meetings working to hammer out my funding. I've found out that one of my supervisors is leaving the University at the end of the year and that is somewhat throwing a wrench in things. Anyhow, as part of the funding thing, I am writing a progress report, which is basically turning out to be a sort of kernel of my thesis. It's a lot of work, and I'm being forced to really examine my figures that I'm planning to use. The process is helping, but its forcing me to work really hard right now.
I'm leading our Bible study on Job tonight, and haven't really had a chance to prepare for that yet. Hopefully, I can find some time during dinner to do that. I've read the passages that we'll be studying at least. Now I just need to look through the questions a bit more.
Posted by jarthurs at 10:26 AM
14 October 2008
13 October 2008
A lot of work today. I've been looking threw the pictures that I took using the scanning electron microscope last week and trying to characterize the microfabrics of my various samples. I need to get the book out of the library that has the detailed pictures about microfabrics in order to do a really good job of though. Right now, I'm just looking at the types of particles and contacts that exist. My intact samples seem to be quite loose and the particles are only in edge to face contact, with the exception of clay microaggregate which form face to face contacts. Any way, here is an example photo. I think it pretty cool stuff. You can see a lot of clay particles in this picture. They are the things that look like a cross between a stack of books and a snake. This whole thing is pretty cool.
Recently, two prominant conservative writers have written editorials supporting Obama. The first is Chris Buckley, son of William F. Buckley. The second is Wick Allison, former editor of the National Review. I think Allison's argument is a bit stronger and more appealing. I think his assement of what conservitism and liberalism as ideals is very good and in fact reaffirms my position as a centrist. Namely, I think I have a bit of the liberal idealism for what ought to be done, but I also look back at what has been done to see whether or not it worked. Anyways, both are good reads.
Also, I had trouble expressing this when I was asked about it the other day, but I have to say that I think the wall of seperation between church and state must go both ways. Neither should have undo influence on the other. I hope that makes more sense.
10 October 2008
This really bugs me. The ammount of civil liberties that have been stripped from American citizens since the Sept. 11 attacks is terrifying. These actions are unconstitutional and have not even been proven to make us safer.
On a side note, I think the advertisement for salad dressing on the page using a clip from The Flaming Lips "Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Song".
I've had a look at the Colorado Blue Book online, and I am rather intimidated by the shear number of ballot issues. Over the next week, I'm going to try to give my views on the various amendments and referendums on the Statewide ballot. For the purpose of this blog, I'll be quoting the measures as they will appear on the Adams County ballot.
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning a prohibition against discrimination by the state, and, in connection therewith, prohibiting the state from discriminating against or granting preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting; allowing exceptions to the prohibition when bona fide qualifications based on sex are reasonably necessary or when action is necessary to establish or maintain eligibility for federal funds; preserving the validity of court orders or consent decrees in effect at the time the measure becomes effective; defining "state" to include the state of Colorado, agencies or departments of the state, public institutions of higher education, political subdivisions, or governmental instrumentalities of or within the state; and making portions of the measure found invalid severable from the remainder of the measure?
Proponents of Amendment 46 claim that it removes affirmative action. Opponents say that it would cripple many outreach programs (especially those sponsored by universities) from targeting minorities and women. This would also include scholarships and similar programs. Propenents say that we have reached a point in our society where race, ethnicity, and gender are no longer the relevent deciders about economic status. They claim that instead, economic class should be used as the primary determinative factor in the allocation of scholarships and outreach programs.
My opinion will have to be limited to gender issues because it is the one I am most familiar with due to my field of study. Women are underrepresented in the maths and sciences. This is a fact.
This chart from the WISEM program at Mines.
|CSM Female Students Percent of Total Enrollment Fall 1992 - Fall 2004|
|Year||% of Total Undergrad Students||% of Total Grad Students||% of Total Females|
Source: Fall 1992-2004 CSM Registrar’s Reports
In terms of anecdotes, most of the girls that I went to school with would have been perfectly qualified to pursue careers in science and technology. There is a fairly well reported phenomenon of girls losing their interest in science and math during middle school, primarily due to pressure to not be perceived as "too smart". This is generally a group that should be targeted and that is distinctly not related to their socio-ecomonic status. This effect is seen in all women regardless of their family's income.
For reasons such as these, I must oppose this amendment. Certainly, economic status should be taken into account in recruitment programs etc., but we should not remove gender and race from the equation either.
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning participation in a labor organization as a condition of employment, and, in connection therewith, prohibiting an employer from requiring that a person be a member and pay any moneys to a labor organization or to any other third party in lieu of payment to a labor organization and creating a misdemeanor criminal penalty for a person who violates the provisions of the section?
I've had a bit more difficulty in my thinking about this one, and I still have not made a solid decision either way. On one hand, I feel that participation in any organization should be voluntary. If you work at a place, you should not be required to participate in the company picnic or what not. On the other hand, Unions do a lot of work to advocate for their members, not limited to collective bargaining for wages. If Union enrollement at traditionally Unionized trades is not required, enrollment may drop, and the ability of the Union to help the workers could be lessened. My other inclination is to say that things are working as they are. Another thought is that this is an amendment and if it passes is very hard to remove or change. Things which I might not be opposed to becoming some sort or law (ie referendum or bill brough forth through the general assembly), I am against they idea of them being a part of the State constitution. With all of those qualifiers, my current inclination is No for this amendment. I will be looking in more detail at the arguments for and against before I make a final decision on this, and I encourage anyone reading this to do the same.
Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution defining the term “person” to include any human being from the moment of fertilization as “person” is used in those provivions of the Colorado constitution relating to inalienable rights, equality of justice, and due process of law?
This amendment is primarily designed to challenge abortion rights as designated in Roe v. Wade. One problem with the amendment is that it is scientifically absurd. There is no medical or scientific way to know the moment of conception or fertilization. Further, a recent study on in vitro fertilization has shown that roughly 40% of fertilized embryoes created have genetic issues, ussual missing or extra chromosomes, and would likely not become implanted in the womb. In other words, 40% of fertilized eggs are likely to result in miscarriage. This makes the law very difficult to enforce. This amendment gets a No.
So far, three amendments and three "no" votes for me. For those who are looking at this through Facebook, please come to forscience.blogger.com, so that you can have a look at the various links contained throughout this post. Comments are welcome, especially in regards to 47.
23 September 2008
Crystal and I decided to try something a bit different last night. For obvious reasons, lamb is a lot less expensive in New Zealand than beef. Given our need to live on a budget, we decided to try making some burgers using lamb mince. They turned out really nice. I grilled some mushrooms to put on them as well. All in all, a culinary success, which is good considering that we bought enough mince to make burgers two nights.
My research is going alright. I spent a good portion of the day checking on my last shearing test. The test was finally finished near the end of the day. So, that's that. I'm not able to use the lab again for a few weeks. But I have some other stuff planned, including a field day next week and preping some samples for the Scanning Electron Microscope. I'm really eager to have a look at things in the SEM. It's really a huge part of my PhD work that I've mostly put off because I know it will be difficult. Nonetheless, I'm sure that it will be scientifically rewarding.
In my free time, I've been playing through Warcraft 3 again. Not sure why, just seems like a fun thing to do. I've been putting in 20-30 minutes per day on the Wii Fit, though I'm don't really seem to be losing weight yet. We'll have to see what happens after a week or two. I definitely feel like I'm getting a workout by doing the yoga, strength training, and aerobic activities. The balance games feel a lot more like fun and less like excersize, so I'm not sure how much they help, but I do a few of them anyways.
I've also started reading The Once and Futute King, which is a really good book. When I picked it up from the library, I had no idea that Disney's The Sword in the Stone had been based on it, but it became clear rather quick, and a check at Wikipedia confirmed it. A really good book so far. I've one more chapter to get through The Sword in the Stone and then I'm on into the later parts of Arthurian ledgends.
08 September 2008
A lot of my relatives are probably looking on in horror as I espouse my political opinions. Most of them are Republicans in the traditional sense. They believe in small government, fiscal responsibility, and social conservitism. I've been an Obama supporter for most of this election. With the way his campaign worked, I heard a lot more news about him than any of the other candidates (except Ron Paul, but most of the things I heard about him were how crazy his policies were). For the entirety of the primary season, I was willing to concede to McCain that he represented some sort of reform (at least within the Republican party). He was generally more moderate than the neocons, and had tried to push for smaller government and less spending. However, his choice of Palin as his running mate throws all of that out the window.
Things I don't like about Palin
- She is branded as a reformer who moved Alaska politics away from "the Good Old Boys".
I might think this was the case if it wasn't for the blatant cronyism she demonstrated during her time as mayor and governor. She tended to completely clean house of all appointees and put new people in place who would be completely loyal to her. Many people that spoke up against her were fired.
- She is also branded as a fiscal conservative.
In a state with budget surpluses and a huge tendancy towards earmarking, she managed to move a city from low debt, to enourmous debt during her term. The only congressional earmark that we heard of her turning down was the famous "Bridge to Nowhere" which was only turned down after much public outcry.
- She is a blatantly cynical choice which is attempting at once to appeal to both the conservative base and women who supported Hillary Clinton.
I'm sorry McCain, the women who supported Clinton were mostly pro-choice, pro-equal pay, and pro-women's rights. As a social conservative, Palin is against all of those. That makes this aspect of her appointment hugely insulting to the intelligence of Clinton's supporters.
Otherwise, I found the speeches, especially Palin's and McCain's, hugely lacking in policy. For the most part, Palin bashed Obama, including his work as a Community Organizer. I'm sure there are many social workers and such that were offended by that. Meanwhile, McCain spent most of his speech, discussing his experience as a P.O.W. The thing is, we've all heard that story many times. Yes, its moving. John McCain wouldn't sell out to his Vietnemese captors. I wanted to know what you would do to help the country now and in the future.
There is also this weird thing with the Republicans trying to brand themselves as the party of change, ignoring the fact that they controlled both Congress and the Whitehouse for six of the last eight years. I'm sorry, you can't rally against the Man. You are the Man.
I'm not going to go into any of the other two-faced talking that has been done by people in the McCain campaign, I'll leave Jon Stewart to do that.
03 September 2008
One of the reporters at Wired Magazine's blog site is being criticized by the internet masses for reporting on Obama's answers to the science debate question. I would say critisizm would be due for biased journalism if the story wasn't already so biased. Obama's campaign is the only one that has issued a clear science and technology platform. McCain has refused to respond to Science Debate 08 and has tended to change his position on a number of issues. I'm somewhat skeptical that Obama will be able to deliver all the funding he has promised, while cutting taxes, the fact that he has a clear platform speaks volumes.
So far, the McCain campaign seems to be for drilling and continued use of fossil fuels, and denies global warming. Not very good there.
Obama seems to have changed his mind about NASA funding, which is good.
In terms of money for all the funding that Obama proposes, most that is supposed to go towards clean energy would be derived from a Carbon Cap and Trade system. Urging companies to clean up and using money generated from that the invest in energy technologies is a pretty clever plan.
02 September 2008
I was just reminded of the outrage response to an attempted mandate of the Human Papaloma Virus vaccination for pre-teen girls. This is a vaccine that has been shown to have a huge success rate in reducing the instance of cervical cancer in women and it is most effective when adminstered before a woman is sexually active. Some right-wing people have claimed that it promotes promescuity in women. These people have a fundamentally different view of the purpose of government I think. I see the separation of church and state as an important thing. I'm certainly a Christian and have my beliefs, but I do not feel that it is the responsibility of the government to create laws that force everyone to follow these beliefs. I ussually try to avoid double posting like this, but I thought this was important enough to bring up.
I think part of the reason that this has been coming up is because of the forthcoming election. I have a gut reaction that decided my initial feelings about the election, and sense that point in time I have been slowly unravelling my feelings and beliefs to figure out why that reaction occured. The fact is, the Republican party no longer fights for the things that I believe in: small government, fiscal responsibility, and less interference in citizens' lives. This comes back to my belief on legislating morality. I do not share the view on many social issues with the Democratic party platform, but their general tendancy to provide equal protection for all citizens is important to me. Their stance on investment in alternative energy technologies is also important. Drilling any of the US oil reserves is only a stop-gap measure and will not provide the consumers with any real relief. It also doesn't help any with concerns of global warming. I used to take the view that there have been huge swings in temperature in the ancient past of the earth. More recently I saw the comparison between ancient and present day CO2 levels, and that was enough to convince me that something is going to happen.
I just listened to a woman on NPR state that she does not trust the numerous studies funded by pharmeceutical companies related to possible side effects of the standard infant vaccination schedule. I really can't understand people like this. There is a very strange anti-science faction developing in the US and it worries me. These are people who feel that the results published by scientists are simply opinions within a cloud of many opinions. This simply is not the case. Scientists are ussually very good at self-regulation, meaning that, if someone publishes results that are BS, they will quickly get called on it. We ought to listen to the experts because they are exactly that. Experts. Most of them have spent their entire lives studying the topics on which the publish, so they really do know what they are talking about.
The other part of this argument that worries me, is that measles cases are on the rise. I remember getting some of my last booster shots when I was in elementary school. I'm sure that as an infant I did not find them comfortable. However, I'm glad that I have been vaccinated against these diseases. Some people argue that some of the vaccines increase the risk of autism in children, but there is no scientific evidence for an increased risk of any disorder associated with the vaccines that most children receive. There is also a very small contingent of people who espouse a religious belief that prohibits vaccines. I cannot fathom this argument. Holding oneself to the tenants of their faith is one thing, but forcing that faith onto an infant is quite another.
I'm not sure what else I can say about this. I just wish that scientists got the respect that they once did. I don't think people should blindly follow them, but they shouldn't refuse their advice as "elitist" or anything of that sort.
01 September 2008
Scientists and Engineers for America, a non-profit, non-partisan group sent out a questionaire to the presidential candidates asking them about their stances on science and technology related issues. So far, only Obama has responded.
18 August 2008
Originally from Science Friday
In recent years, the use of ethanol as a biofuel to help deal with the ongoing energy crisis has received a good deal of attention from Washington. But can we produce both food and fuel -- and can ethanol truly replace oil and gas?
In this segment, Ira talks with ethanol biofuel advocate David Blume about common misconceptions about the use of ethanol for fuel, and about Blume's vision for decentralized, community supported ethanol production in the US. Could a neighborhood ethanol distillery be in your future? Teachers, find more information about using Science Friday as a classroom resource in the Kids' Connection.
Executive Director of the International Institute for Ecological Agriculture
Author, "Alcohol Can Be A Gas" (International Institute for Ecological Agriculture, 2007)
Santa Cruz, California
Segment produced by:Charles Bergquist
This is some pretty cool stuff. A former farmer talking about ideas to make ethanol useful. Similar to subsriber farms, where a group of local people pay a fee to the farmer to receive a portion of the harvest. Farmers could do a similar thing with ethanol. A small distillary at the farm would allow production of the alcohol for consumption by local people. I haven't previously had too much faith in ethanol as a viable alternative energy. This would make it nearly as useful as oil. The difficulties of carbon emmisions and alcohol tending to corrode engine parts still remains however.
15 August 2008
Lately, its seems that all I hear about the US Republicans are their attack ads. I really dislike this style of politics, since I feel that public figures ought to be elected for their own merits, rather than the fact that they threw more mud at their opponent. Pointing out differences in policy makes for good argument and debate. Pointing out "weaknesses" that don't directly relate to the ability to govern is stupid. This is the latest.
18 July 2008
I seem to make a lot of posts on Friday, usually about that fact that it is Friday. Well, I guess this is another of those. This week has not been terrible, though I was really busy at the beginning of the week. I was running back and forth between engineering and geology trying to get a lot of work done. I've put 12 more samples through the X-Ray Diffractometer. That's a special device that use Bragg's law of refraction to determine the spacing of atoms in the crystal latice of minerals. Because various minerals have distinct crystal spacing, I can determine what minerals are present in a given sample that I use. The 12 samples that I ran this week are whole rock samples, meaning that I crush the entire sample and put it in the machine. Later, I'll be working on clay mounts, where I purposefully try to concentrate and allign the clay minerals in the sample. This is done because many clays have similar signals, and concentrating them makes the signal stronger. It also allows me to do some clever things that manipulate the signature crystal spacing of the clays, like adding ethylene glycol and baking them at 500 °C.
After a long break from the campeign, I am planning to bring my Pirate themed world back to active play with my RPG friends. I'm planning to give the world a significant rewrite though, because there was a lot of stuff that I was never completely happy with. Some parts of the history didn't quite make sense. And I feel that the game plot itself had become rather confused and tangled. I think we'll restart at first level in a small town. I'm going to make a bit of a series out of crafting the starting town for the players. Keep tuned for that.
In other news, I may be moving this blog over to the Gameslave. Chris and I are looking into it now, so it won't happen for at least a week or more.
08 July 2008
Despite a few setbacks, I'm keeping the research going. I had some samples go missing during the time that the lab was moved. I also had to spend way too much time trying to get the lab equipment to work. I was only able to get through two sets of samples during the time I had available. Now, the lab is needed for teaching again, so I won't be able to use the equipment again until the end of the next semester. But, I have plenty of other testing to keep me busy while the weather is cold and rainy.
I took the car in to get a WoF today, and as long as that turns out alright I'll be free to get my registration renewed. All this is good cause it means I'll have a car for another year. There isn't really a whole lot to report other than that. Chris, Crystal and I have begun recording a podcast for our gaming website every other week. You can find it over at www.thegameslave.com. Its not exactly a high quality production. Its basically just three friends talking about games and giving our views on the latest game related news. Still, we've been having fun with it. Mainly, we're just recording conversation that we would have anyways. If you're interested in that sort of thing, have a listen.
16 June 2008
My laptop died this weekend. Another dead hard disk. Somehow, I just seem to have terrible luck with these things. I'm trying to write my article for the Young Geotechnical Professionals Conferance, but the words just don't want to come today. My experiment is going well today though. There has been a definite peak in the strength curve, so that makes things pretty cool. Also, the bank actually found a way to make things more convenient for me, simply by changing what type of account I use for my savings.
12 June 2008
Hello everyone. This post may be a little obvious to many, but I have returned to New Zealand. The flight back was an adventure of its own when it felt like our plane was going to drop out of the sky shortly after leaving DIA. After a rather long and turbulent flight to California, we arrived in LA, navigated the maze that is LAX and found our international flight. The trip across the Pacific was much less eventful. I watched Juno. I'm not sure how to feel about that movie. I think I enjoyed it, but I may have been too far gone from the Nytol as well. I'll try to catch it again whenever it comes out to video so that I can form a real opinion about it.
Arrival in NZ was standard except that we came from the opposite side of the airport that I am used to. Every time that I have arrived in NZ so far, the plane has parked at a gate on one side of the terminal. This time, they were on the complete opposite side, which meant that going through customs and immigration felt somewhat backwards compared to normal. We purchased some duty free and were picked up by a friend. My birthday ended up with just going to Mexicali for some tasty food. I can't really complain. I got gifts from everyone before I left the US. I do feel like I was missing some cake though.
This week I have been in the lab. If you've been following my Twitter posts, which are conveniently located just to the right of the main blog, you would have an idea of this dilemma. To summarize: I'm trying to calibrate a data logger and everything possible is going wrong. Today (Thursday) things are finally looking up. I have a sample in the triaxial testing apparatus. It's sitting in the water and saturating so that I can have undrained conditions at failure. Especially because I don't want the sample to be unsaturated, cause that makes the geomechanics much more complicated.
I'm pretty sure that Crystal will have a raise. The operations manager, her boss, is going to talk to the owner about giving her a raise. Both of these guys like her, so I think we should see a slightly higher income from now on. This on top of my funding means that we can upgrade our life style slightly. Going out to eat is an option again. Before, we were really splurging if we didn't cook a meal. Now, things are going to be alright.
As I mentioned earlier, I've got Twitter now. The feed updates on this page or you can go direct to my Twitter page and add me or whatever.
12 May 2008
So, after all the long waiting and hoping I've got some grant money, courtesy EQC. And its being funneled through the IESE, which means that I might be moving office again. In order to provide me with more supervision and some better mentoring, and to help springboard their Engineering Geology/Geotechnics branch, I'll be moving to IESE new offices in mid-late June. I'll take it, if it means getting out of this freezing building before we get to far into winter. It really is a good opportunity for me as well. I'll get to be in close proximity to more people who will care about my research. Ever since the only engineering geologist lecturer here went onto retirement/contract, I've felt pretty lonely (intellectually speaking). Most of the other people in the department are busy researching things related to geochemistry and petrology or paleontology. I just don't share as much in common with that sort.
Anyways, also less than 72 hours from being back home in sunny Colorado. Both Crystal and I are looking forward to our little break. Fortunately, I've gotten my lab work to a good point before I head home. I may have some writting to do while I'm there as well. It'll be good for me to get at least some work done during the three weeks I'm away. I keep thinking about my timeline back home, and the thought that the time will be nice, but not nearly enough keeps coming up. I guess I should enjoy the opportunity while I can.
I have a lot of movies to see while I'm at home and the prices are more reasonible. The much higher cost of living is probably the biggest turn of of NZ for me. The people, environment, and setting are all great. I love the geology here, especially because I feel like people researching here actually have a chance to find something that's really new and could actually impact the country as a whole. I just don't think I could have that feeling working back home. All of the geology in Colorado seems to be so well understood. Maybe its just cause I'm doing my research here that I feel that way.
This post has dragged on a lot longer that I had originally intended, but at least that gives everyone a fair update to what's going on. To those of my family and friends living in Colorado, I look forward to seeing you soon.
06 May 2008
Its really snuck up on me. I tried to ignore the whole thing so that I wouldn't get excited prematurely, but now its right on top of me. I'm going home for three weeks to see my family. I'm really excited about all of this. I'll get to see people who I haven't seen for more than a year. It'll be weird taking a break from my work for awhile, but I think it will be well worth it. I really don't know what else to say. I'm definitely excited by it but not really looking forward to the actual travel part. Oh well.
I gotta get home and get the dinner going for Crystal. Hopefully I'll remember to talk a bit more about this soon.
21 April 2008
Not a lot of news to report really. Went to a wedding for some church members this weekend. They'd asked me to play my guitar a bit with some others for the ceremony. It was pretty good. Nice ceremony and a really pretty setting.
Finally made some tuna noodle casserole last night. For those who don't know me too well, this is one of my favorite home style meals. My favorite comfort food so to speak. My mom had given me the recipe a while back, but it took a long time of me needling Crystal about it before she was willing to give it a try. She has some sort of prejudice against casseroles. Anyways it turned out great. I adapted my mom's recipe, I think I made it really tasty. I added some fresh mushrooms and some frozen veggies (carrots, peas, and corn). It turned out really good. I'm looking forward to the leftovers tonight. I'll need to cook it a little hotter next time though. I didn't brown on the top that well. But the veggies and mushrooms made it really tasty. Normally the dish just has some cream of mushroom soup added. But Crystal and I are both crazy about mushrooms, so more it always better for us.
Research is going alright. I've been stuck in the lab doing that contract work most of the time, though I should be finished with it relatively soon. And I might have some news about a grant in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully. Things are sounding promising, but I don't want to say anything more.
04 April 2008
So, after several weeks of waiting, we have finally heard something about Crystal's visa/permit application. Looks like she has been approved. I can finally stop being worried about things. Looks like life will get more boring again, but better that than worries about being a criminal.
12 March 2008
I've finally gotten my new student visa and permit. After several weeks of annoying set backs and spending about two hours waiting in line, I'm legal to be in NZ for another year. Now, I just have to jump through a few hoops to get Crystal's permit renewed and everything will be ducky. I still think the fees that are charged for this process are pretty exorbitant. $130 for mine and $280 for Crystal's. Assuming a billing rate of about $30 per hour, that would mean that someone is looking at my permit application for about 4 hours. Crystal's gets over 9 hours of inspection. Somehow, I really doubt this is actually the case. Besides that, if you apply from within the US, there is no fee. I would assume that there would be less of a fee when you are involved with the main branch rather than an international office. But since when has reason or logic ever permeated into any form of government, let alone immigration.
We are supplying to INZ a copy of our marriage certificate and proof of our address, which should be sufficient to prove both "living together" and "in a genuine partnership". I think what annoys me, is that in principal, my permit is easier to get than Crystal's, when I think that the opposite should be the case. I.E, I feel that once I have proven myself here for legitimate reasons, Crystal should pretty much just be allowed to be here. After all, that's what the law states. Partners (not necessarily spouses) are guaranteed a work permit for the period of the main applicants student permit. After my experiences last year, I've decided that INZ requires an annoying amount of proving of a partnership, especially when marriage is not enough to satisfy them.
In any case, I no longer feel nervous about not having my passport in my possession. Since it is the only ID that I have that everyone in NZ will accept for everything (especially the procurement of alcohol) I don't like being without it.
Anyway, study is still going well. I have an abstract and article due at the end of this week, though I am primarily waiting for feedback from Colin before I send them off. In fact, I'm just waiting for a final ok from John before I send the abstract off. I think it all looks pretty good and am excited at the prospect of presenting at these conferences. Crystal wants to come along to the one in Egypt, and I can't blame her for that.
15 February 2008
Well, I've been bad about updating for the last few weeks. Christmas is over, and life is pretty much back to routine for both Crystal and me.
We are however, finally seriously looking at purchasing plane tickets for a trip home. The plan is to spend three weeks at the end of May back home. We are just organizing to make sure that we have all the money stuff figured out.
I've been doing a lot of field and lab work lately, and I'll be in the field again next week. I'm also getting a short article ready for a conference in September. Thankfully, this conference is in Auckland so that I won't have to do any sort of travel to go there.