Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Prop 8, Gay Marriage, and the search for happiness

Note: I wrote this during my Law class, so I don't present my thought well.

There has been a lot of backlash against the passing of Proposition 8 in California. Many different people are being called bigots for their support of the measure and it seems the entire gay community now feels like it has just been slapped in the face. So why all of this outrage and why is it so important for gays to be able to marry?

Gay Marriage
The people who supported Prop 8 may give many reasons for their support but it all boils down to one thing; they think homosexuality is wrong. They either see it as a religious issue (sin) or a natural issue (reproduction can only occur between man and woman).

People who opposed prop 8 see it as a rights issue. Gay people should have the same rights as everyone else.

I ask myself why gay marriage is so important to gays. Having the right to marry someone changes nothing (civil unions give gay couples all the benefits of marriage). It is not like Prop 8 is taking away a right to vote, or right to own property, or even the right to have relations with each other. It only takes away a the right to apply a label to a couple. So why is there so much emotion involved in this label that the modern world has rendered almost arbitrary? I believe it all has to do with the human desire for happiness.

The Search for Happiness
Most every human has a desire to be happy, but almost no one knows how to achieve it. One of the most popular paths to happiness is to indulge in every impulse that comes into our minds because to abstain from these impulses would be hard and therefore cause less happiness. This is the path taken by most(if not all) of young hollywood. Do these people look happy? Are these people content with their lives?

Many people who use drugs think that the drugs will fill some void in their lives and make them happy. The same is true of alcoholics. So if there is an abundance of evidence that shows that indulging in our impulses does not make us happy, why do people continue to do it? Because the true path to happiness is counter-intuitive, abstinence and moderation.

I do not doubt that many gay people are born with impulses of same-sex attraction. These people think that holding these impulses in and ignoring them will only lead to more pain and suffering. But like every other sin, holding back on these impulses actually makes us better and happier. If I were to act on my impulses every time I wanted to punch someone, I would be in jail and much less happy.

So, in my opinion, gay people are trying to be happy but failing because they are acting on soul depriving impulses. They know that simply acting on these impulses does not bring happiness, so they are trying to find out why they are not happy. So they have decided that they are not happy because their actions are not legitimized by society. They think that legitimizing homosexuality will make them happy so they try to get "rights" that heterosexuals have, like marriage. But marriage will not make them happy.

I am not saying that heterosexuals have a monopoly on happiness, but homosexuals will never find happiness in their homosexuality. They may find it in other aspects of their lives where they abstain from these impulses, but sin will never make one happy.

6/6/15 Edit:  Most of what I wrote above is utter bullshit. I wrote in a time in my life where I was never happy due to trying to live according to someone else's ideas of happiness.  I was never happy even though I had to pretend I was.  True happiness is loving yourself for who you are

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sub-prime/Credit nonsense

Since I helped contribute to the current crisis, I feel I have a unique insight into the problem. I worked at Countrywide Home Loans buying mortgages from smaller companies so Countrywide could combine all these loans into one giant loan bundle. Countrywide then sold this loan bundle to places like Fannie Mae and Freddic Mac. Supposedly the risk of a couple defaults would be offset by the huge amount of good loans in the bundle. These bundles were given AAA ratings (the same rating that basically only the US government has on its debt instruments) and investment companies would buy them up left and right.

This is not where the problem begins though. In the late 90's and early 00's the world as a whole had a lot of money and not enough places to invest it. So people were forced to think of new ways to invest money. Some people came up with the idea of investing in a bundle of mortgages since mortgages had an interest rate and therefore a measurable return. Now this would not necessarily be a bad thing except there was still too much money to invest and people were too greedy.

Because places like Countrywide needed more mortgages and most people that could afford one already had one, they were forced to relax the rules and let almost anyone qualify for a loan. I remember looking at many loans that Countrywide called "Super-Streamlined" which means that people would qualify for a loan based solely on what they said they made and how much money they said they had in the bank/other investments. There would be no verification of salary or even employment just a judgment call on whether someone in that line of work could possibly make as much as was stated (of course there was also no verification that they actually worked in that line of work). All they had to do was ask for a couple W2's to verify employment and wages. The only real verification there was, was a credit score. So any unemployed slob off the street could buy a $500,000 house as long as he was comfortable with lying and had a good credit score.

Now people are not always that dumb. Most people who could not afford a mortgage knew that they could not afford a mortgage and didn't even bother trying. But since there were commissions to be made, people went to these poorer people and lied to them. They told them that housing prices would always go up and that they would only have to worry about paying interest. If they bought the house now with an interest only loan (or a variable interest loan), they could sell the house in a year and pocket all the profit and never have to worry about paying any principle ever. So people got these loans and the housing market crashed. the values of homes were dropping and these consumers had huge payments on the horizon once the interest only period was over. They would have no ability to pay the mortgage and default.

Note: these interest only mortgages were not the worst of them. There were also negative amortization loans that worked much like student loans. Where people would not even make the interest payments for like a year and that interest would be capitalized into the principal up to 120% of the original value of the loan. So while housing prices were dropping the principal of the mortgage was increasing.

What is sub-prime anyway?
Originally sub-prime referred to anyone with a credit score below 620. Traditionally companies would make very few of these loans but would charge people a higher interest rate to compensate for the poor credit history. But with the demand for mortgages banks were lending to more and more sub-prime people. These people naturally have a higher risk of default and when these loans went into the bundles, the people valuing the expected return would take this into account and lower the return of the investment. But this is NOT were the problem was, the problem was with people who were labeled Prime, but should have been labeled sub-prime. Like I said before, the only thing that determines "Prime" is a credit score above 620. While I was working at Countrywide I had a credit score of 760 (which is pretty good), so I would have received a prime loan even though I was not making nearly enough money to pay for a mortgage in Southern California. So the problem was that these bundles were full of "sub-prime" loans that were labeled "prime." So the people valuing these bundles never accounted for these high risk loans and therefore said they were worth a lot more than they actually were.

So many investment firms and banks were paying a lot of money for these AAA rated investments. They did not know (or ignored) the huge flaw in the system. So when people started defaulting like mad on their mortgages, the people that valued these bundles (we will now start calling them Collateralized Debt Obligations or CDO's) realized their mistake and devalued all the investments. So banks and investment firms that invested heavily in these CDO's saw there investments tank almost overnight.

Most banks will hold onto little cash and sell their investments when they needed more. Since no one would buy these toxic CDO's (no one knew how low their values would go), banks could not meet there deposit obligations and they would crash.

The bailout
Now the government wants to help these firms by buying up these toxic assets. The firms will get their cash back (or at least a fraction of it) and the economy will keep on ticking. But is this the right thing? Many people made a lot of money by taking risks and taking advantage of everyday people. Now that their sins are coming back to bite them in the butt, the government wants to step in and make it all better. Yes, the economy will suffer if the government does not step in, and yes it will be hard for people to get loans, but should we just let people get away with this fraud? If banks stop lending to people, someone else will see a chance for profit and step in. That is how the market works. This problem happened because the government let their own institutions (Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) run amok. And the solution to poor government is more government?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Getting married!!!

Since I met the girl of my dreams, I decided to marry her. Luckily for me she came to the same conclusion. I asked her to marry me shortly after building that fence on May the 29th. We both knew it was coming so my challenge was to try to still make it a surprise.

She came out to California to see me and I had her convinced that I was going to propose at Disneyland. I would "accidentally" drop hints about proposing at Disneyland and such. I knew that Disneyland would be a hassle and maybe not that special considering there would be like thousands of people there. So I planned to propose on the beach at sunset a few days before we went to Disneyland.

My first task was to get her to make the suggestion to have a bonfire on the beach. Just so I don't give away my secrets of mind control, lets just say that it worked. She was so excited to hand out at the beach at night with a roaring fire to keep us comfortable.

I then had to enlist my sister to help me set everything up. Since I would be with Kristy the whole day, it would be hard to surprise her if she saw me putting out a candle-light dinner on the beach.

We then had a beautiful day at the beach where I told her all day how much I loved her. We then went looking for a grocery store to buy hot dogs and marshmallows (I had to keep her hungry with food coming at the fire). When we finally got to the location I stopped the car about 100 feet from where my sister set everything up. We walked along the beach until she saw the bonfire next to a candle light dinner and 100 roses. I proposed to her at sunset on the beach and she said yes.
This is a picture of me on my knee proposing.

This is a shot of the ring on my hand (I know I should have been a hand model)

So now it was time to plan the wedding. I had a job during the summer in San Diego while Kristy was working near Salt Lake City. So this cause a lot of headaches and plan tickets to SLC and back. Kristy did an excellent job of planning the wedding without much help from me and I will always be grateful to her.

Since we both worked all week and I could only visit on weekends, we were not able to get a marriage license all summer (the clerks office is closed on weekends). Since I was coming up a few days before the wedding (my job officially ended the day before the wedding), we decided to get the license the day before the wedding since she was still working the other days. So on that Friday we had a bunch of stuff to do to get ready and totally forgot about the license until 6pm one hour after the offices had closed for the weekend. I almost died. for the next 3 hours we were calling everyone we knew to try to find connections to any county clerk in the state of Utah. After what seemed like forever, Kristy's Uncle found someone who was willing to come into the office on Saturday and give us a license. It was a miracle.

So after we got our license we were married at about 4:30pm August 23rd, 2008 in the Salt Lake City Temple.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Building a Fence

So yesterday I started building a fence. I have never built one before but was fairly confident I could do it. My girlfriend had her doubts about my abilities in that particular field, but I was unwavering in my determination to build a fence.

So I started yesterday by taking out an old termite infested fence (sorry no pics). I basically kicked it down. I then had to dig three holes to sink some posts into them. This is where the fun started.

I had been digging for no more than 3 min. when, because of my amazing strength, my shovel broke. Now this shovel has a lifetime warranty on it so I returned it to Home Depot where I bought it. Turns out Home Depot no longer carries that brand of shovel so if I wanted a replacement I would have to send my broken shovel to the manufacturer. So I just bought a new shovel and also bought a pickax for good measure (might have been a mistake).

I got home and started digging again. I dug two holes on the two ends of the fence with little trouble (Well i may or may not have missed the ground with the pickax and hit the side paneling of my house on one swing instead). The center hole was a much different story. First I had to remove a little bush with some wicked demon roots. So i used the pickax to cut up the roots in a circle around the bush. After about 5 swings in a particular area i noticed a small piece of plastic i hit. Turns out this was a 3" PVC drainage pipe that I basically destroyed. But why that pipe was there or where it was draining to or from, I have no idea, so I just ignored it and moved on.

I eventually took the bush out of the ground. Next on my to do list was to continue digging the third hole. First i tried digging on the right of the aforementioned busted pipe. I hit concrete about 3" down. Next I tried digging on the left of the damaged pipe only to find a smaller PVC pipe for the sprinklers. So I went back to the concrete and decided to dig it out. turns out to be one of the easier parts of this job. It came right out with no problem. Being quite proud of myself I started to dig again. The very next swing of the pickax hit a 1" PVC pipe that basically exploded on impact. Water was flying everywhere (sorry no pics, I was kinda preoccupied) and filling up the very holes I just dug. I had to fight the urge to frolic around as a child would in the sprinklers (it was almost 100 degrees out there) and find a way to shut of the water. I shut off the water to the entire house first and then proceeded to find a particular valve that only controlled the water to the backyard. With that task completed I sat back and took a break so I could think of how I was going to fix this problem.

I ended up going back to Home Depot (third time in 24 hours, first was to get the wood to build the fence). I bought a small length of pipe, a connector piece and a compression pipe thingy. I cut off the broken piece of pipe and attached the purchased parts with some purple primer and blue glue stuff (plumbers probably know what that stuff is). I waited an hour and then turned on the water. Success!!! I could now continue to dig the third hole (it has only taken 6+ hours to dig three holes).

So I dug the hole, measured the wood, mixed the concrete and sank the posts (turns out I needed more concrete so back to Home depot for a 4th time). I then called it a night (mostly out of exhaustion but also it was getting dark).

So I woke up today and started working on it around 9am. The concrete was working well and the posts were still standing. I connected some cross beams and was ready to put up the final parts of the fence.
I think my dad is hiding from the camera unlike my brother-in-law's gut.

So I then nailed the panels onto the fence and the job was done, at least for now. I still need to paint the fence (maybe learn some karate in the process)
View from the front. I will fill in that gap with some dirt...later...maybe next week.
View from the back. The post you see closest to me is in the hole that caused all the problems.One more view from the back yard. I think it looks pretty good for my first ever fence.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

My girl

Kristy getting ready for big band night (aka the night of magic)

Monday, May 12, 2008

My niece

So this is my niece and probably the cutest baby ever, well cutest until I get around to producing one cuter. I took this when she was 8 months old.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Facebook Friends

Anyone who has used facebook understand what a "Facebook Friend" is. Theses are the people that you have had very limited contact with (or no contact at all) that request you as a friend. Warning: You may be a facebook friend. If this is the case, please do not continue reading.

There was a guy in high school who I maybe said 5 words to in the course of my high school experience. Now this was not you average 5 word sentence. I mean I said 5 single words at 5 different times to this guy (yes I kept count). The other day he requested me as a friend on facebook. I taken aback. This guy was asking me for permission to see some of the most private details of my life. Things like which Friends character am I or with whom I am in a complicated relationship or what my favorite book is. These are the types of things I hold dear.

I really didn't want to add him as a friend, but I wanted to look cool to my other facebook friends and now the total number of facebook friends has increased. For the most part, facebook friends aren't all that bad. Most of them are only looking to increase the number of friends they show to there own facebook friends. But this guy from high school is by far the worst kind of facebook friend --- He is a facebook spammer friend.

Spammers are the "friends" that invite you to add at least 28 applications a day and notify you of every uninteresting thing they do on facebook. Maybe they are just craving attention and just wanna be loved. Well if they were a real friend I might feel more inclined to give them attention, but there aren't. They are and will always be just a facebook friend.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Evil Swivel Chairs

Now before everyone starts to get mad at me, I am not saying that all swivel chairs are evil, actually quite the contrary. I love swivel chairs more than I love ball-point pens, and that is saying something. What I hate though, are the swivel chairs that don’t lean back.

Today I got into work really looking forward to twirling and leaning in my very own swivel chair. You know that swivel chair that you have been using for years and you have it set just right. Well, today someone stole my chair and replaced it with a chair that swivels but is locked in an upright position

Now I have nothing against people who like to have good posture, but sitting in a swivel chair that is locked straight up makes me feel like I should be a productive employee. When I am able to lean back in my swivel chair, that guilt that people feel when they are playing solitaire at work just seems to fade away like an uncomfortable dream involving the French.

Luckily I still have a cube within 20 feet of a window that overlooks the parking lot. I could spend days looking out that window instead of doing work.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Stencils Are The Best!!!!

I don't think I have met a stencil I did not like. If there is a better way of making the same repetitive patterns and letters over and over again, I have not heard about it.

All my friends think I have amazing calligraphy skills, but my secret is simply stencils. Sure it may take more time than it is worth, but how else can you write things on normal paper and have the world believe it is typed? I once tried cutting letters out of magazines and arranging them into words and sentences for an essay I wrote in High School, but for some reason the teacher got all freaked out and called the police. After having to go through a costly court battle about my intentions, I decided I would only use stencils from that day forward.

And stencils are not just for writing letters about how peoples loved ones can be returned, but they can also be used for cool pictures. Like check out this cool stencil ->
I used that to make myself a tattoo for Christmas. It is funny because I see the Pope as more of an AK-47 guy. That gun totally doesn't suit his personality type. I think it is called ironic. But I digress. Stencils are and always will be off all of the following: da chain, da hook, da hinge, and da faschizzle.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Is Obama the savior of America?

Why do liberals like Obama so much? Would they like him if he was white?

Why is there such a double standard in America? Naturally we should not attack Obama because he is black or Hillary because she is a woman, but that does not mean we cannot attack them on relevant issues. People are so afraid of being seen as a racist if they attack the man on almost any issue. I see no reason why we cannot treat politicians as scum no matter what their race or gender.

Today I heard on NPR that Obama has a quest to unite Americans for change. That is such crap. Obama only wants to unite Americans so they vote for him. Obama, like almost every other politician out there could really care less about anyone besides themselves. It is a sad truth, but no one is out for your best interest, only your votes.

People of true principle are just not found in government anymore simply because they could never get elected. Even though I disagree with most of what he says, Ron Paul at least has a view that he sticks to no matter what. If was the most unelectable person this campaign season. If the founding fathers were running in this day, they would drop out after the Iowa caucuses. A sad state of things in this once great land.

Reparations for slavery

Driving into work the other day I heard some guy from Florida on NPR almost demanding that people give African-Americans money and other things if they can prove that they are descendants of slaves.

As a Caucasian-American, I am appalled by the way that my ancestors treated people of African origin. Even though my genealogy only points toward the north and California, I still feel the burden of guilt of what people of my race did.

That being said, I think reparations are not only a shallow idea but they will also perpetuate animosity on both sides. Monetary compensation of any kind will never "make things right." There is no way to make things right, only ways to make things better today. Dwelling on the mistakes of the past will never bring justice or peace. African-Americans who receive money as a reparation will still harbor ill-will towards white people.

Reparations will create very hostile feelings amongst white people who will see it as a race tax; a tax for being white. African-Americans will use the existence of this tax as proof that white people owe them something. This will never improve race relations in this country, it will only make it worse.

As was mentioned on the program, I think memorials and museums would be a fantastic idea. It will honor those who died and were treated horribly by white slave owners. But if every one's goal is to break down the race barrier, to bring everyone onto equal ground, and improve the quality of life of all Americans, the African-American community must follow the words of Nelson Mandela and forgive the white people of this country. I cannot speak for all Caucasian-Americans, but I ask the all African-Americans to forgive us. We did terrible and unspeakable things and we feel horrible about it. The only way to true racial peace is through forgiveness, not punishment.

But the African-American "leaders" in this nation try to perpetuate the problems with race and not let people heal (Al being the worst of them).

Over 230,000 white people died trying to end slavery (this is just the deaths of the northern army). And if African-Americans have to prove slave ancestors, the people that actually pay the reparations should only be the descendants of slave owners.

And if reparations are for the Jim crow era, shouldn't all oppressed groups get reparations for their sufferings? What about the Irish? The Chinese? The Mormons (there was actually a law making the murder of a Mormon legal. The law wasn't repealed until the 70's)? Don't they deserve some money for the hardships their ancestors put up with?