Thursday, June 23, 2005

cost of war

although i'm certain there is some benefit to the iraq war, i think it is so small compared to its cost that it may as well not exist at all. indeed, the cost may well be incalculable. we can, however, calculate a lower bound: the cost of the war in iraq is at least the amount of money we (the people and taxpayers of the united states) have paid to wage it. reasonable estimates place this figure at about $178 billion, increasing at a rate of $6 billion per month. (to stare at the number like the "total sale" rotary counters at the gas pump, go to

there are several other sources of cost, though, some of them a bit hidden. for instance, what is the opportunity cost of spending that money? in other words, what else could we have spent it on, and what would we have gained from the alternate choice that we do not gain in this case? my answer may be different than yours because i always tend to think that education (whether my own, or others') is the best long-run investment decision. so, if i were president, we would have paid for 1,000 school teachers for each of the 50 states for 50 years with that money.

50 states x 1,000 teachers x $71,400 per teacher x 50 years = $178,500,000,000
seventy-one thousand per teacher includes costs like retirement benefits, health care costs, insurance coverage, subsidized school supplies, etc.

if you were just slightly more intelligent than the grand poo-bah w himself, you might have simply given it back to everyone in the form of tax breaks or a simple check in the mail. that's about $600 for every man/woman/child in america. boy i could sure use that money right about now...

the human cost is also high. more than 1,700 soldiers have died in the war, according to, with at least 13,000 wounded. iraqbodycount tries to keep a tally of iraqi civilian deaths - they place the number at between 22,000 and 25,000.

keep in mind that much of this is needless. for proof, look no further than the now-infamous downing street memo.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

ways to lend a hand

you may not have noticed, but each of the posts i do about books includes a link to the amazon page where you can order and purchase. by using the links and actually ordering things, you support me (and christie) in our efforts to get to berkeley, pay tuition for each of our schooling, and generally succeed in life.

if you have any urge to buy something from amazon, use the "buy stuff at" link in the sidebar on the left. better yet, save that link as a bookmark and use it every time. anything you purchase after clicking that link will be credited to me as the one who referred the buyer.

i might be experimenting with some google text ads or the like in the near future, but no banner ads, i promise. ok, that's the end of my sales pitch. not that i expect all 3 of you reading this to pay my tuition with referral fees, but something is better than nothing.

Monday, June 20, 2005

maiden voyage

christie and i now own a 1983 vw vanagon l, with a spritely air-cooled flat four non-diesel engine (safe top speed: 55 mph), a four-speed manual transmission, and, because of a lot of hard work by christie and less hard work by me, a double bed with extra room for our boxes and things to carry with us to california.

pictures forthcoming, as soon as i find the transfer cable for my camera. for its maiden voyage, we drove it (successfully) from d.c. to charlottesville and back this weekend. we rewarded with the beginnings of a new paint job, highlights of which are a big purple dragon, an astonishingly good copy of a japanese print showing an ocean wave and spray of water, and a profiled cross-section of a pregnant woman integrated into a nature scene so she looks like a mountain. we'll do some work on it this week at the vw dealer. other than that, we plan on purchasing a repair manual for older vw's, some spare parts, and a triple-a plan.

any suggestions for a name are welcome, but you might want to wait for the pictures.

books: grendel

i was supposed to have read this in high school - i think it was my ninth grade english teacher who had a thing for old english/anglo-saxon literature. none of it seemed even vaguely familiar, however, so i must assume that i only pretended to read it those 12 years ago. better late than never.

this novel tells the story from the 8th century anglo-saxon epic beowulf from the perspective of the villian - a monster named grendel. how complicated can a ravenous murdering monster really be? more so than you can absorb on one reading only, i promise.

among the many interesting things to talk about is grendel's view of religion. i had a difficult time deciding whether his disrespect of the high priests of the danes was due to his professed rationalist objectivism or whether he simply resented the fact that these humans would worship a wooden statue ("the destroyer") rather than he, a destroyer in the flesh. perhaps it was a bit of both - grendel seems genuinely confused at the religious fervor shown by some and play-acted by others.

in truth, if you want to get the full effect, you'll probably need to go read beowulf as well. it's in the public domain, being 12 centuries old. you can read the full text in both modern and old english here. check it out for no other reason than to see the first word: Hwaet! (according to my 8th grade english teacher, it has a breathy "h" sound and ryhmes with "bat".) transalation: pay attention! or listen up! try that on your kids or students and let me know how it works.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

books: siddhartha

this is my second reading of one of herman hesse's best known works, siddhartha, the last being a few years ago when i first moved to d.c. after graduation. it's good to re-visit every once in a while, especially in times of change or stress. written in a sort of hypnotically simple, almost biblical prose, this story of a young man's quest for enlightenment never fails to remind me that life is not as complicated as it seems, that action is more important than words, and that love is more important than knowledge. you might say it gives you a bit of that "perspective" thing everyone seems to keep losing, but i'm not sure what that means exactly.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

more summer reading

while i wait for the new harry potter book, i borrowed me talk pretty one day by david sedaris from my roommate. i can't say what i expected - nothing, really. i'd heard of it, but that's about it. this book is the funniest i've read in a long time.

there isn't much of a story. it's more like a series of roughly chronological autobiographical essays that give you some insight into his mind at various points in his life. what makes it them so brilliant is his extraordinarily dry comic cynicism directed at everything around him and, often, himself. a good lesson in modesty.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

my new addiction

i never thought i'd be saying this, but i've been bitten by the harry potter bug. christie decided not to pack her set of volumes 1-5 just in case i felt like reading them. finally, i decided to give them a try. and i can't put them down. i'll finish #5 tonight or tomorrow.

these are surprising books - the story is fresh and exciting and i feel swallowed up by the emotions of the characters, their victories, their enemies, their embarrassments, their failures. if you haven't, read these books - preferably before you see the films, which are remarkable in their faithfulness to the novels.

i browsed (the author's website) the other day, and learned a cool and interesting fact - the Weasley twins (George and Fred) were born on april 1st. it must be fate.

the sixth book in the series (harry potter and the half-blood prince) is set to start selling on july 16, 2005. that's just around the corner, so get your copies of the earlier stories and get started - it won't take you long. you can pre-order it from amazon for only $17.99, guaranteed to arrive the day of the release.

do me a favor and use the following links to order from amazon - i get a small cut of the proceeds that way... it will pay for the extra gallon of gas this summer on our trip from sea to shining sea.

Purchase Harry Potter Box Set (Books 1-5)
Pre-Order Harry Potter Book 6