Saturday, June 30, 2007

Leave Gossip to the Gossip Rags

How great is this? A newscaster refuses to read Paris Hilton news! The news copy dealing with Hilton was ignored, shredded, and burned.

It may have been staged. I'm not familiar with the program or the newscaster in question, but it is a morning show. Having the the camera follow her to the shredder may or may not have been easy if it wasn't expected.

Strapless!

Flip-flops that are held on through adhesive have no strap. What a great idea. I can't wear flip-flops due to my hideously deformed feet (well, maybe not truly deformed, but too wide for flip-flops) but I could wear these! Forget about flip-flop tan lines. Never mind about that weird irritation between the toes while you get used to wearing flip-flops all the time. I wonder if it feels weird to have your toes glued in place instead of being able to move freely.

If your feet stick so well to them, what else will become an uninvited non-flipping, non-flopping resident? Sand from the beach? Bits of grass? Friendly little six-legged passengers?

They have them for men and women and here's a link to an on-line store followed by a video demo. Let's not forget the joy of large pieces of double-sided adhesive on those flip-flops whose straps are no longer performing to their previous level of service.

I see that the video doesn't work so here's the link to Google video.

Dangerous Driving

I remember reading that anything not fully secured in your car can behave like a missile in an accident. Apparently that goes for headrest-mounted portable DVD players too. I've never thought of them as unsafe before. Something to keep in mind when you're trying to trade the risk/benefit of entertaining the kids on that long car drive.

Another Incident in the UK

A flaming car was crashed in Glasgow airport!

Philosophy Jokes

My husband found a book of philosophy jokes in the airport on his way home from a conference in Tucson, AZ: Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar. My favorite of the three that he's told me so far:


Two cows are grazing in the field. The first cow turns to the other cow and asks "What do you think about the mind-body dichotomy?" The second cow looks up, then says "Moo."

I found a website of philosophy jokes. Ones I liked include:

Question: What is a recent philosophy Ph.D.'s usual question in his or her first job?
Answer: "Would you like french fries with that, sir?"

Why God Never Received Tenure at a University:

  • Because he had only one major publication.
  • And it was in Hebrew.
  • And it had no cited references.
  • And it wasn't published in a refereed journal or even submitted for peer review.
  • And some even doubt he wrote it himself.
  • It may be true that he created the world but what has he done since?
  • The scientific community has had a very rough time trying to replicate his results.
  • He rarely came to class, just told students to read the book.
  • He expelled his first two students for learning.
  • Although there were only ten requirements, most students failed his tests.
  • His office hours were infrequent and usually held on a mountain top.

And another website includes these:

Don't LOOK at anything in a physics lab.
Don't TASTE anything in a chemistry lab.
Don't SMELL anything in a biology lab.
Don't TOUCH anything in a medical lab.
And, most importantly,
Don't LISTEN to anything in a philosophy department.
The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as to seem not worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.
Bertrand Russell, Science and Religion

And the Jean-Paul Sartre cookbook is an old favorite!

From wikipedia on cow jokes:

Absolute Monarchy: You have two cows. The king takes both and hangs you. He then nurtures the cows until they're fat and eats them while the poor peasants
starve.
Anarchism: You have two cows. Your neighbor claims you stole them from him. You then agree without government interaction that you each keep one cow.
Aristocracy: You have two cows. The wealthy nobles take them from you and sell them on the market to a poor peasant.
Authoritarianism: You have two cows. The government kills them and eats the meat without your consent.
Democracy: You have two cows. Your neighbor steals them, and the town holds an election debating whether he should keep them or not.
Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes one and gives it to someone else.
Communism: You have two cows. The government takes both of them and evenly distributes the milk.
Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.
Autocracy: You have two cows. The dictator confiscates both and gives you a life sentence.
Utilitarianism: You have two cows. A neighbor has none. The government makes you give your neighbor a cow, but the neighbor has to share some of his chickens with you.

iPhone is Second Rate

No one got trampled so it can't be as good as the Wii. They should wait until Christmas next time so they can get some blood.

Friday, June 29, 2007

13 Cool Jobs

All done by men. I don't normally care about this kind of thing, but it just points out how few women work in technologically related fields. I had a really cool job before I quit. I was involved in high-precision robotic polishing of optics.

After having my children, I really began to understand why so many women would be happy with jobs like teaching and nursing. The flexibility and the hours are (generally--don't get so worked up) so much more accomodating to family life. I'm comparing it to my 40 hour-a-week job that often included overtime and on-call hours.

Everyone's heard of the Hubble telescope--I worked for the company that messed it up! Shortly after I got to the company, I was shown a large canvas that the company had comissioned that showed a man floating in space looking out toward the stars (get it? Hubble gave man the ability to see the stars directly--just like we were in space). Everyone loved to relay the story that one day, after the mirror's flaw had been discovered, the company was greeted to this huge canvas with a comic pair of glasses placed on the figure.
Art and Letters Daily points to a pro-protectionist article in Prospect Magazine.
According to Friedman, countries in the olive-tree world will not be able to join the Lexus world unless they fit themselves into a particular set of economic policies he calls "the golden straitjacket." In describing the golden straitjacket, Friedman pretty much sums up today's neoliberal orthodoxy: countries should privatise state-owned enterprises, maintain low inflation, reduce the size of government, balance the budget, liberalise trade, deregulate foreign investment and capital markets, make the currency convertible, reduce corruption and privatise pensions. The golden straitjacket, Friedman argues, is the only clothing suitable for the harsh but exhilarating game of globalisation.

However, had the Japanese government followed the free-trade economists back in the early 1960s, there would have been no Lexus. Toyota today would at best be a junior partner to a western car manufacturer and Japan would have remained the third-rate industrial power it was in the 1960s—on the same level as Chile, Argentina and South Africa.

The whole article is written this way. It also points to American and British protection of fledging industries and claims that we would never have industrialization without protectionist policies. Just because Toyota may not have made it into the car business doesn't mean that there wouldn't have been another company to fill the void.

Scientific Study Does Not Cause Atheism

Some poor Catholic mom is now breathing a sigh of relief because her son just decided to become a physicist.

Seriously, this article at LiveScience purports that household upbringing is mostly credited with the idea that scientists are less religious than the general population. It's a small study--about 1500 scientists. Now wait until you read this part:

Specifically, the survey contacted researchers specializing in physics, chemistry, biology, sociology, economics, political science, psychology and other fields.

I wonder if they stuck with the hard sciences (physics, chemistry, biology) what the percentages would be. There is a huge difference between people who have to use surveys and statistics, and people who are up to their necks in equations and scientific experiments.

Peanuts Will Talk to You

OK, not talk exactly--but they can communicate business information. A firm in Japan specializes in a CO2 laser that will engrave organic matter.

Also at the post from Boing Boing is a bunch of links showing more cool business cards.

Having a Sister Is a Lot of Fun

I just overheard this exchange by my two daughters in the other room:

Younger daughter (5): Screaming
Older daughter (8), frustrated: I'm not even going to touch you.
Younger daughter: Screaming
Older daughter, yelling: "Why do you have to be so sensitive all the time?"
Younger daughter, yelling back: "I don't even know what 'sensitive' means!"

Another Reason to Homeschool

From Opinion Journal of the Wall Street Journal, an editorial discussing the infamous 'bong hits 4 jesus' case that was just dealt with in the supreme court by siding with the principal's ability to curb speech that could be disruptive to school off of school grounds (it was a school sponsored event).

The editorial quotes from Justice Thomas' concurrence:
Meanwhile, Justice Clarence Thomas, in a concurring opinion, took about half a line to say, "I agree," and proceeded to write one of the most compelling essays I've seen on the decline and fall of American public education. I would happily hand out Justice Thomas's opinion on street corners (though www.supremecourtus.gov relieves me of that burden).

What he's done is rummage back through school cases, mostly from 19th century state courts, to invoke the idea of a public school. His premise is that the schools' role was most certainly in loco parentis, in that they and parents broadly agreed on what made an adolescent grow into a good person; what schools need least is court interference in this hard job.

The 'in loco parentis' phrase is what can frighten parents so much.

Save Us From Bishops

At Reason Hit and Run, Roman Catholic Bishops in Britain want to afford animal-human genetically modified eggs the status of human beings.

Family and Medical Leave Act Results

The NY Sun has an editorial detailing the inability of employers to cover work when FMLA is cited as the reason for absence. It also states that there is a pitifully low threshold of evidence to support an FMLA claim.

New Movie for Harry Potter

Who else has their book on order? I decided to order one after all. I read the first four books, listened to the next two with audiobooks and then decided that I couldn't wait to find out how it all ends. Amazon only charged $17.

For the new movie, I must admit that I feel the actress cast to play Umbridge is far too attractive compared to how the character is described in the book. I've always liked Helena Bonham Carter and she should make a great Bellatrix Lestrange.
I did go check out the post by the guy who claimed to hack into the publisher's computer. It is not very detailed, and would explain what 'major character' is going to die, as J.K. Rowling stated. Believable? I'm not sure--I'll just have to wait and find out.

Multiple Car Bombs in London

They've been found before they could explode but people are concerned that where there are two there could be more. At the Daily Mail.

"Amateur" Astronomy in Pictures

Boston High School students took a picture of the International Space Station using a 25" telescope with adaptive optics (a bendable mirror to negate turbulence in the atmosphere). Of course I put "amateur" in quotes because a 25" telescope is nothing to sneeze at and would cost more than most cars.

Mitt Romney is Cruel and Unusual Punishment

For dogs! Professor Bainbridge links to an article in the Boston Globe that states:
The white Chevy station wagon with the wood paneling was overstuffed with suitcases, supplies, and sons when Mitt Romney climbed behind the wheel to begin the annual 12-hour family trek from Boston to Ontario.
....
Before beginning the drive, Mitt Romney put Seamus, the family's hulking Irish setter, in a dog carrier and attached it to the station wagon's roof rack. He'd built a windshield for the carrier, to make the ride more comfortable for the dog.
....
As the oldest son, Tagg Romney commandeered the way-back of the wagon, keeping his eyes fixed out the rear window, where he glimpsed the first sign of trouble. 'Dad!'' he yelled. ''Gross!'' A brown liquid was dripping down the back window, payback from an Irish setter who'd been riding on the roof in the wind for hours.

As the rest of the boys joined in the howls of disgust, Romney coolly pulled off the highway and into a service station. There, he borrowed a hose, washed down Seamus and the car, then hopped back onto the highway.

He put his dog ON TOP of the car! For 12 hours! When the dog was in obvious distress, got the dog soaking wet and CONTINUED DRIVING WITH THE DOG ON TOP OF THE CAR!! That is NOT NORMAL!! That is totally and utterly cruel. Get a freaking kennel!

Summer Science Activities for Kids

Make magazine is offering a free sampling of some of its kids projects! Great things to try out for the summer. If you like it, they'll give you $5 off a subscription.

Math Challenge

Here's a game to help your kids understand arithmatic better.

Optical Illusions for June's Second Full Moon

Space.com notes that this Saturday's full moon will be very low on the horizon. Should be a good time to try for some cool pictures.

Farming in NYC?

I think this would be pretty neat. I wonder why hydroponics never took off?

Aquarium Visit

This is my first summer home with the kids. I decided to have some 'field trips' to break up the monotony of home-time with mommy. Our first field trip was to the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, CT. We met another family on Wednesday and spent the entire afternoon at the aquarium.

We saw an IMAX movie about ancient Greece. I've become quite a history advocate after listening to Dr. Peikoff's lecture on the Philosophy of Education. Most of the movie dealt with with some new archaeological finds in Santorini and also really emphasized how influential ancient Greek culture has been in America. It portrayed the importance of thought quite well--for a movie at slightly under an hour.

We also walked through a Sponge Bob Square Pants exhibit. I am not a big fan of modern cartoons (preferring Johnny Quest and Scooby Doo), but the exhibit was quite interesting. Different types of sponges, mollusks, crabs, and lobsters were on display. I got to see an American lobster (the kind you're used to seeing if you order a whole lobster in a restaurant or on display in the grocery store) and a spiny lobster. I had actually done some reading about lobsters in my Joy of Cooking cookbook where they described the two types. I did not expect to see the spiny type ever. Apparently the spiny lobster has no claws--so no yummy claw meat. When you buy lobster tails only, it is the spiny lobster that you're generally getting.


The Maritime Aquarium concentrates on the types of animals found in the Long Island Sound and the open Atlantic ocean. They also have a 'touch' area where samples of creatures that can be touched are available.

We also saw part of a reptile exhibit. Only part because it was outdoors and began to rain!


The pictures are a Starfish--oops! Not any more. They have been renamed to 'Sea Stars' because they are not actually fish (as though we couldn't figure that out), feeding time for the harbor seals, an Atlantic sturgeon. Below: sea turtle, SHARK!!, a jelly fish (maybe they should be renamed too--sea jelly, anyone?), a baby American alligator which was part of an outdoor reptile exhibit, a display of the coral reef--with Nemo and Dory, and an otter.









Thursday, June 28, 2007

Cars in 1884

It's true. A steam-powered car built in France in 1884 still runs and will be sold.

Men Vs. Women

Some quotes from the battle of the sexes. I don't believe that there is one, but some of the quotes are amusing.
Women should be obscene and not heard.
Groucho Marx

Bigamy is having one husband too many. Monogamy is the same.
Anon (Fear of Flying, Erica Jong)

The fastest way to a man's heart is through his chest.
Roseanne Barr

Leaning Tower--Not so Much

The Leaning Tower of Pisa has been straightened to prevent future collapse. Don't worry. It still leans, just not as much.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Dust Storm on Mars

In reading about a dust storm on Mars, I was reminded of an amzing fact. The Mars rovers are still up there and still sending data back. I don't think that most people know that they were scheduled only for a 90 day mission. They've been there for over 1271 days (3 1/2 years).

Doctor's Hampered in Treatment

Reason has a great blog post discussing how doctors and chronic pain patients are getting the short end of the drug-war stick.

Clever

Want to exempt yourself from stupid laws that your government passes? Get yourself considered an embassy location that could be considered foreign soil and thus not under the home country's regulation. They're trying it in Britain.

Government Censorship--No

Parental control--Yes! Can I share how I decided to minimize the unsuitable content coming into our home (and help reduce my monthly budget at the same time)? I got rid of all television programming. I let my kids watch movies and we rent DVDs, but there is no news, no Disney channel, and no commercials.

This is an option that is open to every parent!

It is certainly more valid than censorship and regulation. Even with censorship and regulation someone will complain and some politician will feel the need to 'do something.'

Same Driver, Same Habits?

NJ Governer Corzine is back to his routine. He's even using the same driver that was travelling at 91 MPH on the Garden State Parkway. I hope that while Corzine is showing loyalty to the same driver that he's showing that he can learn from experience and choose to use his seat belt.

Corzine has released a public service announcement urging people to wear seat belts and said Tuesday he would continue to concentrate on traffic safety. He vowed to sign a recently passed bill that would both allow police to freely ticket drivers for talking on a hand-held cell phone and ban sending text messages while driving.


He doesn't say he himself is going to wear a seat belt.

Picked on the Wrong Guy

Not only was he 72, he was an ex-marine, a competitive boxer, a retired iron worker, and still working! He grabbed the hand of a pick-pocket before he could get his $300 cash, and started wailing on him. His manager helped hold the pick-pocket outside while the cops came. I hope the manager doesn't get fired.

The Girl for Geeks

How can any male refuse a girl who dresses like a robot?

Zebra-Horse Cross

I didn't even know they could mate. They can and they did and the result looks like it has the head and hind-end of a zebra and the neck and chest of a white horse.

22 Miles!


Costing 11.8 billion yuan (£0.77 billion), the structure will open to traffic next year following completion of the six-lane roadway that will permit vehicles to travel at speeds of up to 62 miles per hour.

The bridge, a mix of viaducts and cable-stayed spans to allow shipping to pass beneath.

Concepts and Abstractions

Good post at NoodleFood.

More and More Ink

I think the guy who can't get a job because he has too many tattoos needs to move Sweden where they will declare having tattoos a disability and he can get a job where they will allow him to get tattoos while he works and pay for half his salary.

This is actually a serious issue. This guy does not want to face the consequences of his own actions and is now trying to get someone to force companies to hire him. Everyone knows that the weirder you look, the more uncomfortable other people are going to be in dealing with you. They're thinking about what other abnormalities in personality you might have; violence, for instance. You may think that it is their problem--but you'd be wrong. Especially if you're trying to convince people that they should pay you.

How many summer interns have I seen that should have had great opportunities ahead of them--except that they decided to have their body modified in a really bizarre way. I recommend record stores and beauty supply stores once you've gone that route. A friend of mine had a hair stylist with an infinity sign tattooed ON HIS FOREHEAD!! He would complain, "I don't understand why people look at me like I'm a freak." Because, pal, you invited it.

It certainly isn't as though one can love tattoos and have them in a way that won't interfere with getting a job. Check out this site on Irezumi. Note how the tattoos end below the neck and above the wrists. One long-sleeve button up shirt and you can be hired and doing well before anyone even knows!

There is the whole other issue of companies being able to hire the people that they want. They have an obligation to their customers to present a professional place of work where the customers are comfortable and where the employees reflect the ethic of the company. The company shouldn't be forced to violate the trust of their customers or go against their own interests.

Ayn Rand in NY Sun

Here is the link to an editorial in the NY Sun about the history of liberty in New York City. Alas, there was no large picture of Ayn Rand, as in the print version. This is the article referenced by Harry Binswanger of the Harry Binswanger E-mail discussion list.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fun Flying Stuff

GeekDad has links to making your own water rockets using soda bottles and some other items you might be able to find around the house.

Small Things

I love little things. I like dollhouses. I love all the stuff you can buy for dollhouses. I think things that look like normal size things, only tiny, are just cool. So how great that you could actually power a tiny little engine!

Moore Is Sicko

From Reason Hit and Run, disturbing pictures of what health care is like in Cuba if you're not a visiting American celebrity.

Idiot Feeds Foxes and Coyotes in Neighborhood

Here is a perfect example of some moron who can't figure out that wild animals are not 'nice' and cannot be trusted to behave well with humans.
Wild animals are a common sight in the neighborhood. One man, identified only as
Robert, said that he does feed the foxes. He said he feeds about nine to 10
animals a night, including foxes, coyotes and stray cats.

Coyotes? This guy is a lunatic and his neighbors should find out who it is and perform their own nightly patrol on their property around his house until he and the animals get the picture.

From Best of the Web.

What My Eight Year-Old Learned from History

As I reported below, my eldest daughter took the Remote History Program through the Van Damme Academy. This year's program covered European history. Mr. Powell started with the Roman Empire and went all the way through to the modern age and the European Union.

I wasn't sure that my daughter would gain a lot from the study of modern Europe. The following story illustrates how well she understood it!

We have recently adopted a stray cat from the area. We already had two cats and they are quite indignant at this intruder. It has gotten to the level of a three-way cat fight with fur, literally, flying. Elisa loves to protect the cats from each other. She started escorting the cats past one another. At some point, exasperated with this behavior, I asked her what she thought she was doing. She looks at me, then says "Mom, I'm making sure the cats stay in a cold war. A cold war is where they just stare at each other. A hot war is where they actually fight."

The history program has changed and is now offered exclusively through Scott Powell at HistoryatOurHouse.com.

Horse Feathers

This reminds me of when a woman was fined for collecting eagle feathers from the ground. People wanted to strengthen the level of protection for eagles. Because some eagles are killed in order to use their feathers, a law was passed to prevent people from selling eagle feathers. Nevermind how you actually got them. Nevermind that the feathers may have been acquired long before the law was passed. A great case is documented here.

Carnival of Homschooling

Here.

What Kind of Ex Are You?

Here is an unfortunately all too common story of an ex-wife who takes her vengeance through her children. The daughter's side of the story is so common--even without such extreme measures.

More parents need to recognize that divorce is painful and mothers especially need to help their children understand that they are loved but not required to support their mothers. It is unfortunate that children feel they are their mothers only source of strength. Divorced mothers need to work hard to make sure their children understand that they are still a whole human being who doesn't need to saddle their children with feeling responsible for the mother.

Real Life Chubbs

Happy Gilmore fans won't miss this reference:

Golfer Attacked By One-Eyed, 11-Foot Alligator

Thankfully the man was rescued without severe damage.

Right to Life Includes Choice to End It

A heartbreaking story in the Daily Mail. A mother accompanies her daughter to Zurich so the daughter can end her life legally. The daughter had advanced multiple sclerosis.
...opponents argue that euthanasia is open to abuse and is an affront to the concept of the sanctity of life

Only someone who believes that one's life is not one's own could be against people being able to choose how to end it. Most religions believe that a person's life belongs to a god or gods. Many countries believe a person's life belongs to the State (how else to justify conscription).

During the Terry Schiavo debate so many peope who were against her being taken off food and water stated "you wouldn't do that to an animal. You wouldn't let an animal suffer that way." And they are right. We recognize how inhumane it is to have an animal suffer through the ravages of disease. It's time we realize that human deserve at least as much respect.

He Earned It!

I think this article does animal behaviorist Kevin Richardson a disservice.

So instinctively [emphasis mine] in tune is he with
these beasts, whose teeth are sharp enough to bite through thick steel, that
mother hyenas even allow him to hold their newborn cubs without pouncing to the
rescue.


I disagree most emphatically. If this man is great with animals, it's because he works to be so. To claim it is some sort of inherent ability (like my step-daughter's teacher claimed with mathematical learning) is to devalue the work and the man.

And They Complain About Unfair Treatment Here

No one in the States would expect a magazine cover like this!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Singapore Math--Too Good for Us

Great summary at Parentalcation of the New Milford, CT school district's report on its results with Singapore math in place of the horrendous Everyday Mathematics (which is keeping Sylvan and Kumon in the black all over the nation).

New Atheists--A Critique

Not offered by me, but at TCS Daily. If Hitchens proposes that atheists can claim their morality from the literature of theists, he is not necessarily endorsing the bible. He is endorsing a morality that draws its tenets from the same ethics as the bible, but you can have one without the other. Altruism is the same ethical code of Christ and the communists. Who you end up sacrificing yourself to (God or the State) and how the sacrifice is accomplished (through self-discipline or through force at the hand of the government) varies, but in the end you are the sacrifice.

That atheists claim some portion of a well-accepted ethical code is not refutation of the argument against a belief in god(s). What moral code to follow if you're not following the one laid out in some religious document is a legitimate question. I've found mine and it's not atlruism.

Inka Dinka Doo

This guy thought he could hide? He's got more ink than a Bic pen factory.

(Title from Jimmy Durante)

Predictable

Only John McCain and other control freaks would cheer a supreme court ruling allowing for more freedom of political speech. This guy is a dickwad.

Goldie Sleeps with the Fishes

A law passed in England makes is illegal to mistreat a goldfish. What kind of nonsense is this? It's the kind where people care about so-called 'animal rights' more than humans.

Goldfish are notoriously easy to mistreat. Especially since they are a low-emotional attachment first pet to introduce children to the idea of responsibility. The natural consequences are blatant. What a loss for the learning process of every human when goldfish are expensive to buy (heated water?) and cost a ton of money (up to 20,000 pound fine) when they are killed. Guess you won't be going away for the weekend without taking Goldie to the goldfish kennel.

Road Games

Want a new game to keep the kids busy on the road? My husband came up with one. He didn't do it for any other reason than to torture his daughter!

We've all heard of punch buggies (yeah--of course you have! It's the game where, whenever you spot a Volkswagon Beetle, you punch the person next to you and say "punch buggy [insert color here]" and, optionally, "no punch backs" just in case the person you punched knows some reason why they can punch you back. I never did understand that part). Well, even with the advent of the newest buggies, they're still quite scarce.

The impish part of my husband was not satisfied with being able to hit his kids once or twice a weak. He wanted more violence! So he expanded the game.

Pinch buggies--original army Jeeps. Pinch the person next to you and say "Pinch Buggy [insert color here]" and, again, for who knows what reason, "No Pinch Backs". I wonder if any of the kids could get this one right?

Wedgie buggies--Hummers. Any version of Hummer will do, basically because you can't tell them apart. You say "Wedgie buggy [insert color here]." "No wedgie backs" sounds awfully odd, so maybe not needed? Perhaps after some clever kid figures out that you can punch back and pinch back they'll discover they can wedgie back if you're not cautious. IMPORTANT NOTE: Wegies are NOT, I repeat NOT, applied while driving (unless the driver isn't playing) and are a delayed punishment reserved for the trip finale. I think the suspense is part of the fun.

My youngest daughter is not the violent type, so we forgo the physical punishment and stick with trying to find the types of vehicles first. We still say the words, just dispose of the bruises.

Peaceful Massacres

A film about Martin Luther King to be filmed in China (from Boing Boing). The film's creator has been allowed by the Chinese government to discuss Martin Luther King's non-violent protests to Chinese campuses (assuming colleges).

I think that the Chinese government is bored. They just want to make sure all of the uprisings by citizens are as easy to solve as the famous Tiananmen Square protest.

John Fund is Out in Left Field

Opinion Journal (by the Wall Street Journal) has an Op-Ed by John Fund: Does it matter that Mitt Romney is a Mormon? To some extent--but it shouldn't.


In a day and age when Congress and the Executive branch have seized more and more power for themselves, we all need to worry about the type of person who is elected.

Being an atheist, one of the most reviled types of political candidates, one might think I would defend religious tolerance hoping to have tolerance for politicians of my belief system. Wrong! If people are afraid an atheist wouldn't be moral enough for them--it would be up to the atheist to prove them wrong.

That people were concerned that the Catholic church could influence the governance of America with the election of a Catholic in good standing like John Kennedy was completely valid. This was only underscored when John Kerry was threatened with having communion withheld because he would not allow his personal religious beliefs to affect the freedoms of other people who may wish to have an abortion.

Just because someone believes in something called a religion does not automatically make that belief above analysis. If a pagan (self-identified witch, for instance), or satanist (hedonist?), or scientologist wanted to be elected, we have every right to wonder if their religion would compel them to pass laws based strictly upon their beliefs and impose their beliefs on the rest of the public. Plus, let's face it, if they were one of those fringe groups with weird beliefs that no one else liked--couldn't we ask whether a person who might believe in those things SHOULD be elected?

As far as the attacks on Mitt Romney by televangelists--I can tell you who I wouldn't be voting for and whose religious beliefs mean that they are trying to impose their religious beliefs on the rest of America (the televangelists, in case it wasn't obvious). Why shouldn't Mitt Romney, or anyone else, be held accountable for what they believe? Aside from the experience they've already shown in office, it is one of the other tangible proofs we have of what they believe, how they think, and what matters most to them.

Shocking--Law Firm Advises Clients to Follow the Letter of the Law

Overlawyered.com talks about an immigration law firm that is helping it's clients get their H1B visa employees green cards. A video of a conference given by this firm is up on You Tube. The problem for the company is this--it has hired, invested time and money in training and possibly relocation, and fully vetted (i.e. the employee worked for the firm long enough that the boss knows they have a good worker) a foreign worker. They LIKE the worker. They want to KEEP the worker. The US Government has mandated several steps to PREVENT the company from keeping a known good performer (or at least good-enough, since they don't want to fire him or her).

The company recognizes they have two very conflicting interests--they need to follow the law or suffer a loss and they need to keep the worker they know or suffer a loss (loss of human resources time, possibility that the next hire will be too expensive, a poor performer, poor team worker, cost of hiring a new worker, cost of tying up a number of higher level managers in interviewing). What is a company to do? The Cohen & Grigsby immigration firm will help the company to comply to the law and keep the worker they actually want.

This is the natural consequence of government interference. There will be an investigation, possibly new laws passed to try to prevent companies from being able to actually serve their best interests, and then a new technique will be discovered. This reminds me when congress complains about people not following the 'spirit of the law.' The only law anyone has to follow is the one that's passed--not some vague intention.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Another Website for Kids and Parents

Aside from the websites mentioned previously and the Toy Maker, the Jan Brett site has some great things for kids, parents, and teachers. Great resources for kids' activities, and classroom materials. And one of the best parts is that everything is illustrated with Jan Brett's art, which you'll remember from Trouble with Trolls, Town Mouse, Country Mouse, The Mitten, and The Umbrella.

Things homeschoolers might find most interesting are math flash cards, word-family cards for phonics, and a sight-word list.

M VEM J SUN P

Jupiter is very visible where we are now. A friend mentioned that we might be able to see the moons of Jupiter in our telescope. I immediately petitioned my husband to give it a try. We have a 4" reflector (close to this: Meade 4.5" Equatorial Reflector) and took a look last night. I was really amazed! We could see the moons and I could even make out some structure in the planet itself. Aaron doesn't have a camera hooked up to the telescope (apparently the motors do not track well enough), but I did find a picture that is pretty much what we saw.
What I found especially rewarding, and may actually help me understand why my husband stands outside in 20 degree winter evenings, was that after about two hours we really saw a change in the positions of the moons!
We also saw two globular star clusters and I was shown the constellations Hercules, Corona Borealis, Lyra, and Scorpius.
(The title refers to an old mnemonic to help remember the order of the planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto. Outdated now that Pluto is no longer an official planet, of course.)

How Much is That Doggie in the Window?

Forcing pet owners to spay and neuter in CA.

The mandatory spay and neuter law feeds right into the hands of 'animals rights' activists. It is effectively pricing pet ownership out of the hands of a lot of people. You will need to pay for a pure-bred dog at $600 to $1200, depending on the breed and then immediately fork over another $250 for an operation. Animal rights activists would welcome this situation because they don't believe in pet ownership in anyway and the fewer people that can own animals, the better as far as they're concerned.

Ever since our Rocky died this year of kidney failure, we've considered getting a new dog. We believe that it is important for children to be raised with pets. We've checked every place that has animals for adoption and the minimum cost to receive an animal is $175. These are mutts that have no breed to at least indicate temperment or final size (if they're puppies). The cost may be realistic to cover neutering and shots, but not all dogs they get need neutering and some people who are looking for dogs at animal rescues could get a price break on the surgery. These dogs are also shipped all over the country if they stay at one shelter for too long.

UPDATE: The American Kennel Club (AKC) is against this bill. It is recognized as socialism and also points out that they don't know what the criteria are for which breeds or breeders will be allowed to get licenses or how much they might cost.

If People Do Things You Don't Like--Just Pass a Law

Two great examples to this: reinstating the so-called Fairness Doctrine and forcing pet owners to spay and neuter in CA.

What it comes down to is this: you don't do what members of the government believe you should do. They can't abide the idea that you don't believe in the importance of the same things they do and you must be made to behave! They gain control and you lose freedom.

Students Underprepared for College

Another article from EduKey says that high schooler's skills are questioned. That only makes sense since most parents have been questioning children's skills in elementary, middle, and now high school. Business professionals, and technically geared college professors (which means college professors who have to deal with students inability to think critically, apply mathematical concepts correctly, and bring a scientific sense of how to aquire knowledge to the classroom--in other words engineering, math, and science professors), have long recognized that many students are ill-prepared by the time they enter college. Remedial education in college is on the rise.

Kindergarten--The New First Grade!

There is a post at EduKey pointing to an article describing how public schools are changing their ideas about kindergarten. More schools are turning kindergarten into more work.

Kindergarten used to be a time for children to adjust to being away from their mothers. I think that's why kindergarten was only half a day and usually was more games than work. Kids were given a chance to get used to being out of the home.

Now that schools realize that they no longer performing as well as they were, they are looking for any kind of solution that might offer some hope of remedying the problem. One could point out that they're barking up the wrong tree--but that's been done.

The very curious aspect of this idea of making kindergarten more work, is that many schools are also trying to keep younger kids out of kindergarten. So now, instead of doing kindergarten work in kindergarten with kindergarten aged children, the public school wants to do first-grade work with first-grade aged children and call it kindergarten.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Six Flags Investigates Cause

From this update from the Lexington Herald-Leader at Kentucky.com, there was no update to the girl's condition and engineers are trying to determine why the cable snapped.

What Do You Know? I Actually Knew Something!

I ran across this article at CNN. It describes a few techniques to try with kids that could help you and may help them. I learned one rule differently.
You get what you get, and you don't throw a fit.
At our school it was "You get what you get, and you don't get upset." It's less accurate--you really shouldn't tell your kids how to feel, only what type of behavior is expected, but it rhymes.

What I found interesting is that there were a few of these rules that I was already using. I'm going to try one of the other ones soon!

Pregnancy at 17 Weeks


As of two Thursdays ago, I'm fully into the second trimester. According to Baby Center:
How your baby's growing: Your baby weighs about 5 ounces now, and he's around 5 inches long — about the size of a large onion. He can move his joints, and his skeleton — until now rubbery cartilage — is starting to harden to bone. His sense of hearing is also developing.
Not that the second trimester is that big of a deal. It's nice to know that my chances of a miscarriage have dropped. I've never had morning sickness to speak of and I won't start showing (because of excess weight) until I'm five months.
It's been a long time since I've been pregnant. My youngest will be 6 years-old when this baby is born. It's actually odd, but this pregnancy seems more like a first than a fourth! I've gotten ligament pains (which I didn't have with the last two) and I didn't feel the baby move as early as I did with Victoria.
For those who are keeping score, I have two children but three prior pregnancies. Between my oldest and youngest was a still-birth due to chromosomal abnormalities. I was already home on maternity leave when I realized the baby had stopped moving. Both Victoria and now this baby had been tested using chorionic villus sampling (CVS). I am so much more relaxed and I can really enjoy my pregnancy now that I know the baby is chromosomally healthy, instead of being a complete wreck at 38 weeks just wondering. The great side benefit is knowing that this new baby will be a boy so I can start (finally) buying some blue clothes!


Mahna!

Not quite food of the heavens, but close! GeekDad has a link up to a You Tube video me and my kids saw long ago. Cake has a really nice remix of the song for kids! You can find that and another good song, La La Lemon by the Barenaked Ladies, on the CD For The Kids.

Dungeons and Dragons--Another 80s Revisit

The GeekDad blog at Wired has in interesting post up about Dungeons and Dragons. Now I am an 80's child. I graduated high school in 1989. My father started playing D&D with a friend of his and my brother and I learned at his knee. I think I was in middle school when we would play our own games and introduced our geekiest friends to it and made even geekier friends through it.

Bucking the Trend

According to this report (from Arts and Letters Daily), naming your baby is stressful, expensive, and means constantly asking everyone else their opinions.

Since I am four months pregnant, my husband and I are also trying to pick baby names. I'm a) old-fashioned and b) keeping things simple. After running through the enormous list of names that were a possibility (Richard, Matthew, Johnation, Michael, etc), I turned to my husband and said "OK, my father is James, my great-grandfather was Charles, you're Aaron, you're father is Neil--let's just pick a family name and make it simple." My father was named for his father and my brother was named for his father. I think it is nice to name a boy for his father. I think this finally convinced Aaron and so far we're looking at Aaron James. I think Aaron has decided that he likes it alot because he's even picked out a nickname: AJ.

Picking Robots

Robots designed to pick fruit are being developed, according to Wired Magazine (discovered at Instapundit), in order to assure a continuous supply of fruit off the tree. With the on-again, off-again enforcement of immigration rules and the low level of unemployment here, farmers who depend on human hands to pick fruit are working to find an alternative. Here is an article detailing the fruit left to rot in California.

This also bring up the bigger question of how many boring, repetitive jobs are still done manually. After watching Unwrapped on the Food Network, a show about how your favorite commercials foods are made, I was amazed at how much of the manufacturing process is not automatized. Are the jobs too complicated? Would the machines be too expensive?

Free Books Are Fun

I've been a big fan of out-of-copyright free books. My favorite is Munsey's (previously Black Mask) because it offers a variety of formats and the one I prefer--formatted for Microsoft Reader. The Baen Free Library is a great place to discover a new science fiction author (or rediscover one of your favorites) because this publisher of science fiction also offers standard reader formats. Two other very famous sites (though I do not use them as often because the formats are variable with plain text and HTML being the most common) are Project Gutenberg and the University of Virginia Digital Library.

Most people think I'm insane to read books digitally. I agree that I couldn't sit in front of the computer for hours reading books--I save that for web sites. My ability to take advantage of these great resources is due to my continuing PDA addiction. My current PDA is a Dell Axim X51v PDA. I can view the text in Microsoft Reader very easily. I read sitting in a chair, lying in bed, I can take it everywhere I take a regular book--though I won't be reading electronically while floating in the pool!

For those who hate to read electronically or are smarter than laying out $200 to $400 for a reader, there's Espresso Books On Demand (from a post at Make Magazine).

The Espresso Book Machine will be available to the public at SIBL through August, and will operate Monday- Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The New York Public Library's Science, Industry and Business Library is located at 188 Madison Avenue (at 34th Street).

Library users will have the opportunity to print free copies of such public domain classics as “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain, “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville, “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens and “Songs of Innocence” by William Blake, as well as appropriately themed in-copyright titles as Chris Anderson’s “The Long Tail” and Jason Epstein’s own “Book Business.” The public domain titles were provided by the Open Content Alliance (“OCA”), a non-profit organization with a database of over 200,000 titles.
....
The EBM, now available for sale to libraries and retailers, can potentially allow readers anywhere to obtain within minutes, almost any book title in any language, whether or not the book is in print. The EBM’s proprietary software transmits a digital file to the book machine, which automatically prints, binds, and trims the reader’s selection within minutes as a single, library-quality, paperback book, indistinguishable from the factory-made title.


Lovers of classics and especially free classics, rejoice, and head into the city for a free book.

Antimatter Matters!

Between my physics-degreed husband and his strongly scientific friends, we discuss physics at group meetings to a degree that makes me tired enough to head off to bed. I was most interested to discover that antimatter--the stuff of science fiction and a whole slew of "if antimatter and matter meet, it could mean the end of the universe" comic plots--actually exists.
This summer, physicists at the CERN's Antiproton Decelerator facility are engaged in their own
real-life thriller: Two teams of researchers are racing each other to be the
first to trap atoms of antihydrogen in a magnetic cage.
...
The first scenes in "Angels and Demons" - the book Brown wrote before "The Da
Vinci Code" - focus on crimes of catastrophic proportions at CERN.


Unfortunately for the question of the evening, "what is antimatter?" there were no answers in that article.

A Study in Contrasts

Ex-Marine kills bear with log, gets ticketed
The bear had snatched the family's cooler from their campsite in a national forest in northern Georgia.... Everhart says the bear started charging [his six year-old son after the son threw a shovel at the bear], so he grabbed the first thing he could find, which happened to be a log from the family's firewood.... The close call earned Everhart bragging rights — and a ticket. Park authorities say he didn't properly secure his campsite.

Florida man gets upper hand against bobcat
Authorities praised Rippy for clear thinking under pressure. “We give this guy a lot of credit for what he did,” said Pasco County Animal Control Manager Denise Hilton.

And an oldie but a goodie (so revolting that I remember three years later and insisted I find the original story to post):

Upset residents mourn cougar shot by officer

The police agency has been flooded with outraged calls and e-mails from people enflamed by TV news videotape of the lion lolling peacefully in a tree just before an officer shot it with a high-powered rifle about 1 p.m. Monday. But police officials stressed that they reluctantly made the call to kill the 3-year-old male cougar after state, county and local wildlife specialists cautioned that a tranquilizer dart might take 30 minutes to subdue the cat -- and could just rile it.

....

"We couldn't take the chance of shooting the animal with a tranquilizer gun and then having it run for another 30 minutes. ... While we were concerned about the animal, the human safety did take precedence.''
....

Under the camphor tree where the lion was shot, a small shrine of cards and flowers appeared Tuesday. One tribute bore color photographs of a mother lion snuggling its cub and the words, "Majestic Creature, Rest In Peace.'' Another read: "A mountain lion lost and killed among a species which feared him."

Animal rights advocates said police could have given the lion "a chance'' by attempting to drug it in the tree and then shooting it if the cougar turned aggressive.

....

But state Department of Fish and Game officials, who authorized the lion's killing, said since the puma was loose in a residential neighborhood, "the evidence showed that there was an imminent threat of injury'' if the animal wasn't killed.

....

Morgan Hill police Lt. Joe Sampson said his agency learned how tricky tranquilizing a mountain lion can be in March, when 3- year-old cougar cubs turned up in a homeowner's yard. An animal control officer fired six darts at one cub, but only two hit. .... After tracking a second cub yard-to-yard for hours, police had to shoot and kill it when the lion tried to tear through a family's screen door. The third cub was successfully tranquilized and released in the wild.

John Furrier, whose black Labrador, Kelsey, chased the lion up into the tree and away from his home -- where his toddler son and daughter had been playing -- said he thinks critics are ignoring the fact that human lives were at risk.


We've had an increase in bear sightings in my neck of the woods. Nothing makes you hunt down the kids and the cats faster than a phone call from the neighbor warning you they just saw a bear in their backyard. How hard is it to be on the side of people instead of animals? That is the fundamental choice. Animals are non-reasoning. You can't talk a bear out of killing you. You can't convince a mountain lion that you're not food. Since animals cannot change their behavior, these people insist humans change theirs to accommodate the animals. Insisting on life for animals means devaluing the life of humans. People who think we should just be able to 'live in peace' with dangerous wildlife roaming around are all for peace and freedom for the animals and cages for humans because that's the only defense those types of people would allow us.

Wireless Brain

Control electronics using brain waves!

It is still a cumbersome process that involves activating your brain in a way that has very little to do with what you really want. The device monitors activity in the frontal cortex (like calculations) to activate. So it really seems like an on-off switch and to turn it on you have to do something moderately brain-intensive and boring. So you can run the train, but you won't have fun doing it!

It won't be long before people can train a 'brain reading' device like people train voice-to-text speech interpreters.

Will We Have a Blue Moon This June?

After checking the star chart for June at SkyMaps.com, I saw that we're expecting a second full moon this month on the 29th! How exciting; a blue moon. With the moon cycle being 28 days and a month being 30 and 31 days (usually--no need to be so picky!), a second full moon can't be that uncommon and would belie the well-worn phrase 'once in a blue moon.' So wouldn't you know that all it required was a search (isn't the internet a great way to find out almost useless info) and the people at Sky and Telescope have the answer!
Instead of the calendar year running from January 1st through December 31st, the almanac relies on the tropical year, defined as extending from one winter solstice ("Yule") to the next. Most tropical years contain 12 full Moons — three each in winter, spring, summer, and fall — and each is named for an activity appropriate to the time of year (such as the Harvest Moon in autumn). But occasionally a tropical year contains 13 full Moons, such that one season has four rather than the usual three.

It is actually a bit more complicated than this, but it does indicate an appropriately rare occurrence.

Shuttle Lands Safely!

The shuttle landed safely in California. I was worried after finding out there was tile damage again. Sunita Williams spent six months on the space station. Imagine being effectively weightless, eating food out of tubes, and eliminating into tubes for that amount of time. I hope that someday we'll all have a chance to find out about the practical aspects of long-term space occupation as well as the benefits (pictured is the view of a solar eclipse on the earth as seen by the international space station).

Ayn Rand Reference to Big Brother/Big Sister Organization

Not the most apt use of the comparison. The Daily Pundit posits that the dearth of Big Brother volunteers may be fear of false child molestation accusations. This also ties into why men were barred from working in my preschool's toddler area--it included diaper changes. The son of a friend wanted to become a camp counselor, but the rules were so harsh (no hugging of any kind--so your kid could be bleeding and crying and the most he could do would be to give him a band-aid) that he decided it wouldn't be right.

Good Sense Prevails--Is Video-Taping Police a Crime?

A man was video taping a police officer and the officer arrested him for illegal wiretapping. This has been a story that really made the rounds. The good news is that the charges were dropped.

Friday, June 22, 2007

How to Create a New Face from a Photo

I ran across this link years ago. Whenever I read about photo retouching (a link describing what type of processing needs to be done to someone like Kate Moss), I think of it. It is highly effective at countering some of the modern magazine images. Even an ad photo selling skin cream has probably been touched up.

Food Advertisment Regulations Make No Sense!

I can't think of a more ridiculous ruling than the banning of Tony Hancock's iconic Go To Work on An Egg advert by the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre.

What, you may ask, has this innocuous 50-year-old advert done to aggrieve the watchdogs?

Apparently, it fails to promote a 'varied' diet and so therefore cannot be allowed to be broadcast.



Extra points for using the word 'barmy.'

Great Website for Kids and Tinkerers

Marilyn Scott Waters has a great web site called "The Toymaker." At the web site she offers some free graphics for making paper toys. She also has an intricate world you can learn about through a story, a blog, a newsletter that will send you links to even more toys to print out. Some of her printouts are for games and even to help with math!

The fun with paper toys is that you print them out, cut them out, and assemble them into great objects for play and decoration. Her artwork is beautifully colored and has wonderful ornamentation. I had a lot of fun putting the toys together and my daughters had a lot of fun using them. I used her folded heart-shaped card for birthday invitations to my youngest daughter's princess party. They were beautiful.

White Americans Underestimate the Cost of Being Black

Linked without comment.

Business Perspective on Public Schools

The Wall Street Journal editorial page had an interesting article detailing the experience of an MBA grad in an inner city public school district. It illustrates the well-known pitfalls of unions and points out road blocks I couldn't have imagined.

Thursday's Objectivist Meeting

Every week for about seven-and-a-half years we've attended an Objectivist discussion group. We've met really great people who we try to keep in touch with even after they've moved!

Last night's meeting had two additional people to my husband and myself. We discussed our (lack of?) understanding of Leonard Peikoff's DIM hypothesis and the most recent updates at his website.

We also talked about the false premises behind the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Aaron got to tell some jokes based on philosophy, and we reviewed an article about the status of fundamental religion in the world. We also discussed the tyranny of majority--or democracy--and how people use the word democracy to refer to our government, although it is actually a republic, and as a desired form of government. We also touched on the Pledge of Allegiance. I mentioned that a homeschooler has her children recite the preamble to Constitution in lieu of the Pledge.

Visitation Experiment

We're reversing our visitation with my husband's daughter from a previous marriage. During the summer, she's old enough to stay home while her mom works. Since this is my first summer as a stay-at-home mom, we're going to try something new. She'll stay with us during the week and go to her mom's house on the weekends.

This is going to be very different for all of us! I imagine that what is OK for two days of the week for her could get really annoying when it's five days of the week. I'm also hoping that this article is true as well. It states that adolescents may actually not mind spending time with the family!

Yet Another Reason I Don't Like Amusement Parks

Girl's feet severed on ride.

I have an irrational fear of amusements that are disassembled and reassembled in parking lots and I'm afraid of heights, too.

UPDATE: The girl is having surgery.

The girl's feet were completely amputated just below the ankle Thursday afternoon while riding the Superman Tower of Power at Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom in Louisville.

Her feet were recovered by Six Flags staff and were sent to the hospital with her, McLean said.

I hope they have a medical staff at that park. I would hate to think that some poor ride operator had to find the feet and pick them up. Since her feet went to the hospital with her, I wonder if reattachment is possible.

UPDATE 2: There are no updates on the girl's condition as of Saturday, June 23rd.

UPDATE 3: The investigation into the ride is complete, but no news of the girls outcome. Kentucky.com is still reporting on the incident.

UPDATE 4: The girl is in stable condition. The family will not disclose if her feet had been reattached. If they were able to reattach, I wonder what the likelihood of the reattachment's succes is. If not very high, they may not want to say in case it fails.

UPDATE 5: The right foot was reattached, but not the left. Everything is looking good for now.

Collection of the Odd and Unusual

WHERE can you find a torture chair, Napoleon’s toothbrush and Florence Nightingale’s slippers?

Answer: In a free exhibition opening in London today.

Some of the pictures are horrendous!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Another Progressive Group Calling for More Regulation

Think Progress has a report under the "Radical Right Wing Agenda" proposing solutions to the domination of talk radio by conservatives. According to this site, it's not as simple as reintroducing the fairness doctrine (which would ignore any opinions other than 'democrat' and 'republican' and probably throw libertarians in with republicans). They think that getting a more diversified ownership, in terms of gender and race, will lead to more liberal-leaning opinions. Of course they assume this because most blacks and single women are a core democratic voting block. This is a typical belief of liberals--forgetting that people are not just their skin-color or their gender and are not controlled by those factors. And though it is stated as a myth, most business people, including talk radio, are in business to make money for themselves and their shareholders, if any. Very few people who go into business do it to promote their own political agendas. If they do, and it is successful enough for them to stay employed, then great. Mostly, though, I think they want to stay employed and make money.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Vocabulary

A scary article in the Globe and Mail describes people who believe that we should minimize our vocabulary!


It reminds me of a post at D-Ed Reckoning tying lower performance with lower vocabulary attainment.
Primarily, the problem remains language acquisition. Language skills are especially difficult to acquire for low performers who (a) lack the cognitive ability to learn language quickly and (b) typically, do not grow up in language rich households. Most of the advanced vocabulary students will need to succeed in college will only come from reading lots of difficult books-- the kind of books that don't get assigned much anymore.


While I was reading Jane Eyre for book club, I noticed there were a slew of words that I had never seen before. It reminded me of all of the advice people get today for communication--never use a big word when a simpler one will due. I began to wonder if Jane Eyre was written badly because she didn't follow that rule. Perhaps a reasonably educated person of her time could understand it and modern writing and education is so bad that we do need to dumb down our communication.

Makeover

Decided to change the look. Blogger made it a lot easier than I thought. They have a great 'add page element' tool that takes the guess work out of where to insert new HTML code for functions. Looks like I got to keep everything and add one or two new things.

How Rich is the US?

Here is a map of the United States and in place of the state names are the names of countries with comparable GDPs of the state replaced. That is a great way of looking at America's place in the world.

Critter Patrol

I mentioned below that Aaron bought himself a BB gun, but didn't mention why. Well, a few weeks ago I woke up at 2 AM and noticed a really loud crunching sound outside of the open upstairs window. It was too creepy to go back to sleep--it sounded like footsteps in gravel. We don't have gravel in the back yard, and no reason to expect anyone to walk around at 2 AM. I decided to investigate.

I went downstairs and immediately noticed something moving outside of the sliding glass door leading to the back porch. I turned on the back yard light to see two huge raccoons pawing through a trash bag Aaron had left on the back porch. That certainly cured Aaron of leaving trash on the back porch (for now), but now the raccoons have been try to actually knock over the large trash bins. Don't ask me how he knows this, but that's what Aaron claims!

Ever since our friend Bill mentioned that he used his air gun to dissuade squirrels from eating his house, Aaron has been fascinated with the idea. So now he's on nightly patrols! Every night, after putting the kids to bed, he'll take his BB gun over his shoulder and walk around outside of the house with a flashlight just waiting for some animal to just dare to take on the trash. Here's to the great hunter and protector!

Talk about tangling with wildlife, here's a man who strangled a bobcat with his bare hands while it attacked him. The bobcat was rabid!

Great Function for Partial-Finger Amputation

Make blog has a great video of the Xfinger. It's a prosthetic device that allows partial finger amputees to regain grip. My first thought was whether or not you could flip someone off--not particularly insightful. After watching the mechanism in action, they show it after a silicon, finger-shaped, sheath is covering it. I was disappointed that the action was hidden.

It reminded me of an encounter I had with my daughter. My oldest was about six. We were at a craft store when a man with a prosthetic leg walked into the store. My first thought was whether I could maneuver us out of the way so she couldn't see it. Not because I didn't think she could handle the idea of the sight, but because, as parents know, kids can say the darnedest things--and I didn't want to contribute anything that might make the guy uncomfortable. But, no, there was no place to go. She saw him walk by and said, 'Mom, that guy had a robot leg. Cool!'

UPDATE 7/2/07: The XFinger has been profiled in Wired Magazine.

Poking Fun at Communism?

Reason Hit and Run has a post describing a new Soviet-occupied-East-German themed recreation area. This seems to have an air of nostalgia by the way it is described in the AP article. Another is definitely making fun--though not everyone thinks that the horrors of communism should be the butt of a joke.

So the Answer to One Bad Idea Is...

Another! From Arts and Letters Daily, a pointer to an article entitiled: A New Deal for Globalization.
Summary: Globalization has brought huge overall benefits, but earnings for
most U.S. workers -- even those with college degrees -- have been falling recently; inequality is greater now than at any other time in the last 70 years. Whatever the cause, the result has been a surge in protectionism. To save globalization, policymakers must spread its gains more widely. The best way to do that is by redistributing income.
Protectionism is an abysmal practice brought about fear of competition and desire to mollycoddle workers and voting blocks. I once read (and I wish I had a link to it) that given the additional money all Americans shelled out to pay the protectionist taxes on foreign cars to assuage the autoworkers union, the government could have given each autoworker $20,000--and that was a number of years ago. Here is a link that states the costs of protectionism for job-types and each job saved as well as a pointing out the true and final cost of protectionism--freedom.

Computer scientists were one of the first groups in America hit by the effect of outsourcing (a side-effect of globalization). It seems to me that higher wage earners will take an initial hit because of the greater supply of workers available. At the same time, as people flock toward the lower wage workers, they will recognize the demand is increasing and begin raising their own prices until some level of equilibrium is met. In that case, once some level of equity is acheived, all things being equal, work will move back because it's easier to deal with someone nearby. Of course, not all things might be equal and the foreign government may impose less over-head business cost (less regulations means less overhead) and the foreign company will still come out ahead. Though that is really a problem of the massive government regulations that this country has to deal with.

I won't even talk about the obvious problems with income redistribution!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Vacation for the Girls and Mommy

I got to stay home, hubby went to Arizona for business, and the girls went to my folk's house for the week. I had a great time being by myself for the first time in eight years (with out kids or husband) and they had a great time with their Memom and Pepop.

Here they are with my dad's mother:

This is my dad's aunt on his father's side (just moved in with my mommom above):

This mommom is my mom's mother:

And a great benefit of visiting the folks is the proximity to the beach!

Another Book for the New Atheists

The Atheist's Bible is a new, smaller, companion for the Atheist on the go. It seems to be a compendium of atheists past--far past too in that it includes Aristotle.


The Atheist's Bible: An Illustrious Collection of Irreverent Thoughts by Joan Konner

I Guess Lucifer is Seeing Snow

New York Times is reporting that merit pay for teachers is actually being welcomed by some teachers! There is a long way to go before anything so radical (and anti-education-union) is fully embraced by the teachers and their union. The good news is that some teachers are accepting it now. I find it gratifying that some small token of capitalism is working its way into the public education system, even with the inherent contradictions of the schools being state-run.

Rock On, Dude

Heavy metal fanaticism was declared a disability in Sweden. One who suffers from such a mental state can now get their boss to allow them to listen to loud music at work and have the Swedish government supplement their wages. This guy proves that persistence pays off, and that the Swedish psychologists aren't as gullible as they sound--just not particularly patient, because he's tried to have this come about for TEN years. Now that is an example of long-range planning.

The Newest Carnival of Homeschooling

The 77th Carnival of Homeschooling is up at Consent of the Governed.

Taliban Kills--US Gets the Blame

From Reason Hit and Run, a link to an AP article that explains the Taliban is ready to move and that the Afghan people will blame Americans for any civilians who are killed by them. Talk about the 'you're damned if you do and damned if you don't' situation.

Particles with No Mass

Geek Press points out that pysicists are searching for unparticles. What? Of course, I know very little of modern physics. Some would say that I'm better off. What did surprise me, that I missed in my two years of basic college physics and that never came up in discussions with my physics-major husband, was that photons are considered particles with no mass.

This is the way it is with particles: their mass corresponds to a particular energy, as Einstein famously formulated in E=mc2. At the energy levels that prevail in our everyday world, matter consists largely of the familiar particles that make up atoms: protons, neutrons and electrons. If energies were a thousand times greater, a new suite of particles would predominate, as is thought to have been the case in the early instants of the Big Bang. The Universe would then look very different.

Georgi's unparticle stuff doesn't behave like that, he argues in Physical Review Letters1. You can boost energy levels as much as you like, and the unparticles would look just the same. This property is called 'scale invariance'.

Light fantastic

There is already known stuff like this, Georgi points out: light, made of particles called photons. Their scale invariance is possible because photons have no mass and so can have any level of energy. Particles with non-zero mass can't show scale invariance. But that prohibition doesn't extend to 'stuff' that is not made of particles, says Georgi (he is careful not to call it 'matter', which implies particles). He says that theories of scale-invariant stuff have been understood mathematically for a long time. "But it's hard to describe this stuff because it is so different from what we are used to," he says. In particular, he notes, it can't be particulate.

So these unparticles have mass but are not matter. I'm very confused and my head is starting to hurt!