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April 29, 2008

Moving Update « Stuff Important to Me »

We are now (sort of) moved into our new home (no furniture).
But we do have internet access, so that's a good thing.

We purchased a 2002 Ford Explorer XLS for $5500 out the door. It has come in handy...but man, I wince every time I look at the gas gauge. Then again, there are plenty of Durangos and Suburbans and Excursions and Expeditions out there in addition to plenty of other Explorers. If they can deal with it, so can I. And heck, the Explorer really is the 00's version of the 70s Ford LTD station wagon we had when I was a kid. Which is why we bought it: we want to go camping with a pop-up trailer next summer.

The house is a mini Money Pit. It looked nice when all I was looking at was size, room layout, overall condition. After moving in, there are various assorted leaks and badly-done caulk jobs. They threw a cheap coat of paint and cheap carpet on top of everything, and that made it look "clean". And we got it for cheap...$82k for 1600 square feet ain't bad. But I'm going to have to spend another $2-3k just fixing their badly-done jobs, if I want to do it right (to include getting all new doors for every room). I don't think my wife will okay that budget expense right now, though...keeping the old place in Hawaii, buying more furniture to fill up a bigger house, and the down payment for the new place have all depleted our savings significantly.

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Posted by Nathan at 05:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

April 22, 2008

I'm moving now. I'll be out of touch for a few days.
Email contact is probably the best way, but even that may be out for about 48 hours.
We'll see.

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Posted by Nathan at 08:18 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 18, 2008

Request for Help (Updated With Answers to Comments) « Kidblogging »

The more I hear about what the judge actually said, and the more I reflect on the way things went, the more I'm sure that the judge had a pre-determined outcome (or at least a threshold in her favor that was impossibly high) and merely gave excuses for his decision.

- It is undisputed that the Custody Evaluator testified the kids want to live with us.
- It is undisputed that the Custody Evaluator testified that it is a risk to the kids well-being to send them to my ex-wife. (risk meaning not certain, not risk meaning danger).
- It is undisputed that she let the Custody Evaluator believe she had been married just four months, when she actually had been married two years.
- It is undisputed that she lied to me and her own kids about the marriage.
- It is undisputed that she refused all attempts to seek mediation for our differences
- It is undisputed that she refused to let the kids stay with her for a while in 2006 (to give me a short break from parenting responsibilities).
- It is undisputed that she did not pay the court-order child support for more than 2 years.
- It is undisputed that when the court demanded she pay child support, she did so only at the unemployed level, despite being employed for more than 2 years.
- It is undisputed that she did not notify the Child Protection Agency that she had found employment (as required by law and the original parenting agreement)

Further, the judge ordered that we not "go negative", that he didn't want to hear all the things the other parent did wrong. We went positive, and just talked about our successes as parents.

She went negative, and the judge even had to counsel her to restrict herself to answering the question, rather than going off on complaints about my failures as a parent.

But he still rewarded her with custody of the kids. We still lost. We followed instructions, we proved there was no reason to change custody, and, in fact, there was the potential for harm to the kids if he did change custody.

He still changed custody.

And apparently gave her more rights than we ever had in the first place. (She refused to let the kids come back even 5 days before school started last summer, now she demands ---and gets!--- 3 weeks!!!)

His reasons:
1) If I was staying in Hawaii, he would have given us custody. But since I was moving to Texas (not my choice, only due to military orders), this "is a good time to let them get to know their mother better".
2) San Angelo, TX is in the news in relation to the polygamy cult. Since my wife has never lived on the US mainland, the social upheaval regarding the cult trial isn't a good situation to expect my wife to continue being a good stepmother.
...but I still get to have the kids come stay with me for 2+ months this coming summer, 5-6 weeks away.

Here's what I need:
Can someone put me in touch with a Men's Advocacy group? I need legal advice, and/or legal funding assistance. I think this could be a very good case to highlight the ridiculousness of Mother Bias in our courts.

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Posted by Nathan at 11:15 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

April 17, 2008

Busy « Blogging »

Packing household goods today.
No posting, probably.

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Posted by Nathan at 10:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 16, 2008

I Was Raised By Books « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

One thing people used to say about me:
"You're a really nice guy, and you're really intelligent...but sometimes you have bad judgment."

That's a tough one to get over. If you have bad judgment, then how can you get better judgment? The only way you have to evaluate your decisions is the same judgment ability that led you to make bad decisions in the first place.

Well, I've made some progress. As stupid as it may sound, it took me until I was nearly 40 before I learned to stop making decisions based on emotions, and to stop making decisions based on avoiding worst-case scenarios and/or fears.

I still have farther to go on this, obviously.

But I was thinking about why I am that way.

Here's what I came up with:

I was raised by books.

Not quite the same as being raised by wolves, because you end up relatively clean and with relatively decent table manners.

But everything I learned about how to be a man, a person, a friend, a co-worker, etc, came from books.


Partly because I was the youngest of 6 kids, and my parents' version of raising their sons was semi-benevolent neglect. They made an effort to prepare their daughters for life, but by the time I came along, they felt my academic excellence meant I didn't need any help, maybe. I realized this when I read a book on running a church youth group, and it said, "Find out what your youths' parents are teaching at home, and work that into your program," and I was stunned by the concept of parents teaching their teenagers anything. As long as I wasn't causing trouble (and I never did), my parents just watched me play sports and ate dinner with me. That was about it.

But I can't fault them.

Because ever since I was younger than I can remember, I thought books held some secret to life. I believed what I read in books. If a book claimed to have an answer to where life came from, or the nature of God, or how to stop war, or what women really wanted, I ate it up. Now, I never found any of those things that convinced me they had found the Truth in any of those books...but I sought it.

And along with all that, I saw justifications given for just about any behavior. In books, you know the protagonists reasons, and they lie, cheat, prevaricate, dissemble, run away from problems, seek revenge, etc...and unless the book is a morality play, everything works out for them in the end.

This is a powerful lesson to a 6-year old reading pre-teen and teen level books. And to an 8-year old reading adult-level books.

It's only been recently that I've realized how this has adversely affected my character.

I don't allow myself those lower standards anymore. I don't think that it is okay to take the low road just because I'm upset, or because I think it is important enough. I no longer try to get myself out of trouble by shading the truth. I no longer put my highest priority on avoiding trouble.

It seems like this realization happened too late. My personal life is in shambles right now, and has been for the last 6 years, plus. I don't know what even the next few weeks will bring.

Luckily, I'm mature enough to not let it affect my work. And I'm mature enough that it's not even affecting my mood. My life is a shambles because I made it that way. Right now, I don't know how I will put it back together, or what it will look like when I get it put back together...but put it back together, I will.

I have a long life ahead of me, still. And it's going to be a good life.

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Posted by Nathan at 08:05 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

April 15, 2008

Custody Lawsuit « Kidblogging »

We lost.
The kids leave Friday.
We do get summer vacation visitation.

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Posted by Nathan at 03:55 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
Iraq: 5 Years Later « GWOT »

I'm still pleased we deposed Saddam. I do not think it was a mistake by any possible definition of the word.

I think we did a fair job of preparing for the aftermath. If our President made a mistake in planning for the post-Saddam situation, it was in thinking that the Left/Liberals of the world and the Democrats in the US would help instead of actively resisting and doing everything they could to mess it up.

I know I never would have expected that the Liberals would prefer people to die in terrorist acts rather than admit Bush was correct.

And I think we are very close to establishing a lasting peace there.

It may have taken longer than the short-attention-spanned, instant-gratification, and/or power-hungry insisted, but this has been a realistic development arc. Just look at how long it took the British to successfully deal with the Irish insurgency on their own territory.

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Posted by Nathan at 07:31 AM | Comments (367) | TrackBack (0)
Fodder for Science Fiction Stories « Stuff Important to Me »

10 Inventions We're Still Waiting For.

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Posted by Nathan at 06:59 AM | Comments (12) | TrackBack (0)

April 14, 2008

Theft is a Social Disease...(UPDATED) « Stuff Important to Me »

...and I caught it from Mr Lady.

She took the meme without being asked, and I like it, so I am, too.

If you don't like it, you must blame her for corrupting me, naturally.

Anyway, enough nattering! Here we go:

1. List three books youve always meant to read, but havent got around to them

2. Share the two books that changed your life

3. Recommend the one book youve been talking about since the very first day youve read it

1a. Romance of the Three Kingdoms in Chinese.
I'm fluent, so it shouldn't be any problem. But the first page is obscure, flowery prose, and I can't get past it to get to the good stuff. Maybe next time I'll just skip the first page.

1b. Any scholarly work on China. I have a hard time reading non-fiction in general.

1c. Jane Austin. Or one of the Bronte sisters.

2a. The Depression Book. It literally changed my life, as it was the single resource that helped me end my depression for good. Nifty book. Worth 100 times the asking price, if not more. (This might be it.

2b. Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.
I never really read the whole Bible, so I can't really list that. But Lewis' novel really makes much sense to me. I recommend any and all read it, Christian and non-Christian alike. I go through times where I can see the hand of God clearly in my life, and other times when I think the times I saw clearly the hand of God were just self-hypnosis. This book is best for the latter times.

3. Tie: Silverlock by Jon Myers Myers and The Last Coin, by James P. Blaylock, and The Chronicles of Amber by Roger Zelazny.
That's really cheating, since not only did I not hold myself to 1, the third is a five-book series by itself. (But it was amazingly good in teaching me the power of perspective; and what a swashbuckling adventure novel could and should be)

These three books are must-reads, even for those who don't normally like fantasy/science fiction. Maybe especially for those who don't normally like fantasy/science fiction.

UPDATE: Forgot to add: David J., you are so tagged.

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Posted by Nathan at 09:30 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Bad Science (Getting It Backwards) « Spiritual/Theology »

Check this out.

In retrospect, I don't know for sure if it's bad science, or bad reporting. But the flaw should be clear enough for anyone to notice:

The article says that going to church regularly can help you remain faithful. But isn't it more likely that the people who can act consistently in line with an ideal (going to church consistently even when there are more fun things to do, like watch The Game or sleep in) are going to be more likely to not cheat on a spouse where there is a chance (which requires one to act consistently in line with an ideal)?

It may be a skill, or it may be a developed character trait, or it may be an inherent personality trait. But remaining faithful requires someone to reject an imminent, tangible pleasure in favor of a potential, intangible pleasure. That's what church is about, and that's what remaining faithful is about.

[insert appropriate latin phrase that indicates I know I'm right beyond argument]

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Posted by Nathan at 08:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 13, 2008

Clean Enough to Eat Off Of... « Blogging »

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
Created by OnePlusYou

Well below the 9% average of all web pages checked so far.

Stolen from David J.

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Posted by Nathan at 10:02 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 11, 2008

Funny Video (updated) « Politics As Usual »

Hot Air's got a funny cartoon up, but I can't watch it because I'm at work. So I'm posting it here so I won't forget to check it out when I get off work.

Oh, and sharing it with all my non-Hot Air readers, for what it's worth.

Eh. It really wasn't that funny. This isn't the video you are looking for. Move along.

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Posted by Nathan at 08:38 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)
Request for Suggestions « Car Issues »

Please help. Link this post on your site, if you don't mind, and encourage your readers to comment.

If you had an $8000 limit, what [family] vehicle would you buy?


Aspects to consider:
-Fuel economy is important
-Reliability is very important
-Fun to drive is important
-Status is slightly important (Acura better than Honda, any Japanese better than Korean)
-Sports cars are not eliminated, but need a really strong argument in favor
-Being able to seat 6 or 7 would be a plus
-If vehicle can seat 7, tow 3k pounds, and still get 23 mpg city, the limit goes up to $16k

I have about 8 days to decide, and then another 48 hours to search the Dallas and/or Austin/San Antonio area to get a list of 10-20 possibilities. I want to hear what people know about cars that I might not have heard.

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Posted by Nathan at 07:29 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)

April 10, 2008

Custody Battle Musings « Stuff Important to Me »

After thinking things over, I'm now 99% certain we won.

This is because going into the trial portion, the Custody Evaluator had said both parents seemed equally good at parenting, and based on this, the judge said to lay off the recriminations and talk about the positive reasons for custody being awarded to you.

Despite that, my ex-wife's main arguments were:
1) I am a bad dad
2) Spokane has better schools, and she has a big house
3) I interfered with her contact and visitation

My main retorts were:
1) The Custody Evaluator says I'm a great dad, and my wife is a great stepmother. Plus the Evaluator said we have a 3-year track record of success, but it's anyone's guess whether my ex- can continue to give the kids a good family or not.
--strike one for the ex-
2) Parental involvement matters more than a difficult-to-define school "quality", and we have concrete plans to give the kids the tools to have a successful life, not just a nice house to live in for a few years.
--strike two for the ex-
3) I did not intend to interfere with contact or visitation. I gave evidence I had made good faith efforts to ensure both, but she constantly acted in bad faith regarding both contact and visitation.
--strike three for the ex-

I may not have hit 100% on all three points, and there were a few other, less-central points that I might have only fought to a draw. But these three big points were all refuted, and she absolutely failed to demonstrate at all that she was anything more than "just as good", and that shouldn't be enough to win custody.

Add on top of that the fact that she admitted under oath that she'd been married for 2 full years, but let the Evaluator believe she'd been married only 4 months because no one asked*, and I think it revealed the falseness of even her plausible-sounding distortions.

Read More "Custody Battle Musings" »

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Posted by Nathan at 01:31 PM | Comments (32) | TrackBack (0)
Car Purchase Principle « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

Somewhere along the line, I developed a standard for whether a car purchase is worth it.

I'd like to build the suspense to make it seem more profound, or insightful, but what's the point?

I'm willing to pay $100/month for a car.

That's it. Flat and simple.

So it is worth it to me to purchase a car if my cost of use (excluding routine maintenance, insurance and gas) is about $100/month.

With that standard, I purchased my 1998 Toyota Corolla for $6500 (overpaid, alas!) when it had about 50k miles on it. I had the expectation of driving it into the ground, which would make up for overpaying for it. To drive it to the point where it is worth only salvage --about, say, $500-- would mean 60 months, or 5 years. That is doable for a Toyota that was 8 years old when I purchased it. 5 years at 20k miles/year would be a total of 150k miles, also doable in a Toyota. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, in the end), someone hit the Toyota and the costs totalled it. I was given $4400. I drove it for about 23 months without having to do any repairs.

That means that I "lost" about $2100 over 23 months. That means I did okay, and got my money's worth. And even before I did the calculations, I felt good about the worry-free use I got out of it.

Now, I purchased my Chevy Prizm for $3000 last year, and it had about 85k miles on it, now 90k. The blue book value is $4600. There's almost no way I will not make money when we sell it. I think there's a chance I could get as much as $4k. That would fill me with pride, getting to use a car virtually for free for 18 months, and even increase my bank account by about $1k for purchasing/driving it.

The same deal with my '98 Mazda 626. I purchased it for $1k with 85k miles. If it lasts 10 months without needing any repairs, we get into bonus/free use time. And if I sell it (eventually) for at least $1000, then I had a free car for however long I used it.

Now, the problem comes in with older cars about the repairs you need. The Mazda will hit 100k miles before long, and will need repairs. The electric mirrors don't work. The windshield is cracked, there's some rust on the body, and a taillight cover is cracked. I think I could take care of it all for $700. That means I need to drive it an additional 7 months to get my money's worth. And the paint is bad. So after I drive it for 17 months (moving into the bonus/free time), I can start setting aside $100/month for restoration and/or upgrades. So 10 months after I move into bonus time, I can get the car repainted to look new again. Then maybe a few months after that, I can put some performance parts on the engine, raising fuel efficiency and/or power.

The lesson is, you can do a great deal of work on a car to restore it to new condition at $1200/year.

Thus, when a car gets older, as long as there isn't a string of things ready to go wrong with the car, it probably is more cost effective to keep and continue repairing an older car instead of buying a new one.

Let's compare that to new cars. New cars lose half their value in the first 5 years, if I recall correctly (except for Hondas and a few other cars...Audis?) So that's 60 months. If a car depreciates no more than $6000, you have gotten your money's worth. That means you can purchase a $12k car, drive it for 5 years, sell it for $6k, and at least have your money's worth. Unless you can guarantee your new car depreciates slower than that, you shouldn't buy a new car.

A $14k Honda is probably worth $10k after 5 years, if you take care of it. Hondas are worthwhile to buy used. But even as good as Audis are at holding their value, their starting price is so expensive that you probably use up your $6k in depreciation within the first year. Then again, you get a much better car and much more enjoyable experience than in a 1998 Mazda 626, so you may be able to calculate on the basis of $200/month, or $300 month.

The lesson? Stop and think about how much you feel it is worth to you to drive a car. For me, I can get good used Japanese sedans that are in nice condition, (relatively) low miles, and fun to drive for very reasonable prices if I spend a little time looking. If I really look hard, I've proven I can find cars I can drive almost for free. The advantage is I waste less money while driving decent cars, and my investment is lower if something untoward happens (like someone hitting my car on a motorcycle).


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Posted by Nathan at 09:53 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

April 09, 2008

Law Suit Side Effect « Stuff Important to Me »

I had to face up to my mistakes. I had to face someone who used to claim she loved me distort me, my words, and my actions in an effort to get something she wanted. I had to watch total strangers examine the truth about my worst times over the last 3 years, and endure lies about the same.

I think I grew up a lot.

Right now, I feel like I'll face up to my mistakes much more, and not be such a wuss about situations that make me feel uncomfortable.

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Posted by Nathan at 07:35 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
Coming Soon to a Cafe Press Item Near You (Since Everywhere is Nearby on the Web) « Snark »
Beer: Affirmative Action for Fat Chicks

I did a google search, and no one else had that anywhere that I could see.

More soon.

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Posted by Nathan at 07:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

April 07, 2008

Lawsuit Update « Stuff Important to Me »

Well, the trial seemed to go fine. I think we got our point across, and she got caught in several lies, and didn't follow the judge's instructions. We had some other advantages, too.

We'll see if the pro-female bias in courts overcomes our advantages.

But we don't find out until next Tuesday! :(

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Posted by Nathan at 09:25 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

April 06, 2008

Remember Me In Your Thoughts « Stuff Important to Me »

Monday, 7 April, I go to trial for custody of my kids. No posting, probably.

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Posted by Nathan at 10:16 PM | Comments (331) | TrackBack (0)

April 04, 2008

April 02, 2008

April 01, 2008

It's April Fool's Day « The Brain Fertilizer Way »

It's almost not worth surfing the internet today, because you can't believe anything you read. It might be true, but you have almost no way of knowing for sure.

Personally, I don't really like playing jokes on people.

Well, let me clarify: the bulk of surprise parties and April Fool's pranks seem to consist of working really, really hard to make someone feel bad, horrible, ignored, hated, etc, just so you can say, "Surprise! We actually did remember your birthday!" or "I actually wasn't raped!"

Which means you can't get around that you happily, deliberately made someone feel like crap for a while.

Maybe someone can talk me out of it, but I think doing something like that makes one a shitheel. Low quality character. Unforgiveable, in my opinion. And somewhat of a revelation that many, many Americans have a desire for ostensibly-sanctioned cruelty.

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Posted by Nathan at 05:57 AM | Comments (24) | TrackBack (0)