Does anything exist beyond what I can see with my own eyes? “The Overnighters” as an illustration.



(Lousy photos by James Ulvog of a man camp. This small facility is in a small city between Williston and Minot. There are a lot of these man camps around Western North Dakota that provide basic sleeping and dining facilities. They are all full. Sorry I don’t have pictures of the many that I’ve seen which are far larger than this one.)


Just one aspect of the brilliance of Jesse Moss’s movie “The Overnighters” is that the nuance and subtlety in it creates a springboard for so many discussions. It also serves as a Rorschach test to reveal the worldview of those watching the movie.

One core question forces its way into view after looking at reactions by viewers. A few ways to describe the issue:

  • Does anything exist beyond the limit of my vision?
  • Is there anything more to a story than what a camera can see? Beyond what people say when the camera is running?
  • Is there more to know about any issue than what a movie can cover in 102 minutes?

From reactions to the movie, many people believe the answer to those questions is a resounding “no.”

Continue reading “Does anything exist beyond what I can see with my own eyes? “The Overnighters” as an illustration.”

My favorite lines from movie “The Overnighters”. Some disclosures.

“I will not give in to despair because hopeless should never win and hopeless is a lie.”

Former pastor Jay Reinke, as the Overnighters program shuts down.

I agree. Hopeless is a lie. Despair is a lie.

“The problem is we’re working with sinners and some people are fearful.”

Andrea Reinke, as the family discusses complications of helping someone who is a registered sex offender.

Those are two of my favorite lines from the movie “The Overnighters”, which I watched for the second time last night.

Feet of clay

As Mrs. Reinke pointed out, everyone you will ever deal with is a sinner.

That concept has lots of implications. The movie does a superb job illustrating that concept. Consider:

Knowledge is the source of value and wealth

Gotta’ question for you – How much does the economy weigh? (Cross posted from Attestation Update.)

Can’t answer?

Okay. How ‘bout this – Does much does the economy weight today versus 1950?

Before you answer, consider that I just counted 220 books on the bookshelves in my office. I currently have 195 books on my Kindle.

Now, how much does the economy weight today compared to 60 years ago?

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At $15.62 an hour you are in the top 1% of earners

Admit It: You’re Rich is a discussion from Megan McArdle.

If you are making more than about $16 an hour, you are in the top 1% of income earners in the world. If your time horizon is the last few thousand years of history, sitting in the lower end of middle class or perhaps working poor, you would be in the very tip-top of the 1% for all of history.

She is on the story of why people living on either coast are complaining they can barely get by on $350,000 a year.

I’m on it. So is David Sirota. And if your personal income is higher than $32,500, so are you. The global elite to which you and I belong enjoys fantastic wealth compared to the rest of the world: We have more food, clothes, comfortable housing, electronic gadgets, health care, travel and leisure than almost every other living person, not to mention virtually every human being who has ever lived. We are also mostly privileged to live in societies that offer quite a lot in the way of public amenities, from well-policed streets and clean water, to museums and libraries, to public officials who do their jobs without requiring a hefty bribe. And I haven’t even mentioned the social safety nets our governments provide.

So how is it that everyone who is making more than $33K a year doesn’t feel like they are incredibly, wonderfully, amazingly blessed to live a live of such luxury and comfort and ease?

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Upside and downside of social media

Social media is a wonderful thing. You can create videos or blogs and spread your message far. The downside is your message can spread far.

Two recent examples of the upside and downside.

First, the upside…

11/14 – Wall Street Journal – This Rabbi Raps and Riffs – on Judaism – Ordained Hasidic rabbi Medny Pellin also does comedy and rap videos. You can check out his signature video, Talk Yiddish to Me.


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Great ways to make sure you are always unhappy

Jeff Haden surveys 7 Poisonous Beliefs That Make You Desperately Unhappy.

He suggests that if you are routinely unhappy, there might be some things inside you that are the cause. The good news is that you can change those drivers. If you recognize them and if you want to.

Here’s a few of his points I particularly enjoyed.

Continue reading “Great ways to make sure you are always unhappy”

In addition to gracious help from Indians, what moved the Pilgrims from starving to thriving?

The first winter for the Pilgrims was terrible. Between starvation, pneumonia, and tuberculosis, about half died.

The second winter was terrible, again with little food. Those who survived the first two winters only did so by the goodness of the Native Americans who graciously shared their food.

The third winter was far better, with plenty of food. In a few years, there was enough abundance that the Pilgrims had paid off their debt to those who financed their trip. They were alive, thriving, and free of debt.

Those are a few highlights of the Pilgrims’ story told by Karl Denninger in his article from 2006, which is reposted at Market-Ticker:  The Truth About Thanksgiving.

What caused the change from starving to thriving is the part of the story I never heard growing up.

Continue reading “In addition to gracious help from Indians, what moved the Pilgrims from starving to thriving?”

Creative destruction on the farm, with photos


(All photos by James Ulvog, shot in October 2014.)

Just like other areas of economic activity, farming deals with constructive assets deteriorating and being replaced.

Picture what these wonderful houses and barns looked like in their prime. Imagine how productive and helpful they were.



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California implements ban on plastic bags when shopping. Will take a few years to learn the human cost.

Legislation in California has been signed into law banning the single-use plastic bags at stores and restaurants.

In summer 2015 plastic bags won’t be allowed to carry your food from the grocery store to your car to home. In 2016, plastic bags will be banned from pharmacies and convenience stores.

Paper bags may be provided by stores for a price of a dime a piece.

One of many articles can be found in the Daily Bulletin: California becomes first state to ban single-use plastic bag.

We will become the first natural experiment to see how many hospitalizations and deaths of humans this causes.

Will probably take until 2016 for a good year of data to accumulate and another year or two for epidemiologists (people who study diseases and their transmission) to analyze the data. Probably another year to find some place that is bold enough to publish unpopular results.

So in 2018 or 2021 we will start learning of the unintended consequences.

How can there be human suffering from reusable bags?

Continue reading “California implements ban on plastic bags when shopping. Will take a few years to learn the human cost.”

“Life = Risk”

Some people were failures in their field before becoming hugely successful.

What famous actress  and comedienne got kicked out of drama school?

What basketball star got cut from his high school team?

What world-changing rock group was turned down by a recording company?

You will be surprised at the names.

Check out:



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“If you only write one book in your whole life … (it) will be someone’s absolutely favorite book of all time”

That is the encouragement from John C. Wright in his post “Your Book of Gold.”

The beautiful, full sentence:

If you only write one book in your whole life, and only sell 600 copies or less, nonetheless, I assure you, I solemnly assure you, that this book will be someone’s absolutely favorite book of all time, and it will come to him on some dark day and give him sunlight, and open his eyes and fill his heart and make him see things in life even you never suspected, and will be his most precious tale, and it will live in his heart like the Book of Gold.

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Don’t compare your messy backstage to someone’s presentable front stage

Things behind the scene are invisible to others. That’s the backstage. The ready-to-go portion shown to the world is the only part others see. That’s the front stage.

The ol’ sage advice is don’t compare your backstage to the front stage you see of others.

(This article is cross-posted from my other blog, Nonprofit Update, because it is helpful to sort out the appearances of what is happening around us.)

This applies in so many areas.

You know how your children behave at home or on a long vacation or how much effort it takes to get homework done. What you see in other families is the on-your-best-behavior public face and the brag-ready list of accomplishments that were oh so easy to achieve.

Compare the backstage of your family to someone else’s front stage as if that was actually a valid comparison and you will be distressed with either your children or your parenting skills. The most likely outcome is wondering why you are a failure as a parent.

Jeff Walker has a great video about that idea. He uses a messily hand-tailored shirt as a great contrast of the slick front stage and the messy, sloppy, slap-dash back stage.

Check this out:



Literally the difference between Continue reading “Don’t compare your messy backstage to someone’s presentable front stage”

Astounding progress everywhere in everything over last 50 years – No better time to be alive than today.

As a break from the dreary news headlines, consider the progress made over the last 50 years in a variety of areas.

Matt Ridley offers a lot of Reasons to be cheerful.

Here is an overview:

Compared with any time in the past half century, the world as a whole is today wealthier, healthier, happier, cleverer, cleaner, kinder, freer, safer, more peaceful and more equal.

Continue reading “Astounding progress everywhere in everything over last 50 years – No better time to be alive than today.”

“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

That comment is from Winston Churchill. I touched on it a year ago – On having enemies.

While looking for a somewhat related story, I looked again at a discussion by Philosiblog on the Churchill quote.

His article expands on the idea that if you take a principled stand for something, there is a chance you will cause severe offense and perhaps create an enemy.

Continue reading ““You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.””

Regulation of marijuana sales in Washington State – 3

Readers of this blog know I’m watching the impact of regulation on a brand new industry. The industry in recreational marijuana. The natural experiment of the impact of regulation is taking place in Washington and Colorado.

This is the third in a series of posts describing the regulatory structure for sales of recreational marijuana in Washington state. My hypothesis is the regulation will weigh heavily on the industry.

The Economist has more background on the issue:  The great pot experiment.

I’ll summarize some info on the regulatory regimen, then touch on couple of trend issues and overall background.

Both states allowed so-called medical use of marijuana before legalization. The reason Washington state has taken longer than Colorado is the medical use in Washington was very lightly regulated, if at all.

Continue reading “Regulation of marijuana sales in Washington State – 3”