Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Best Blog Post Title Evah!

Writer’s Block Sucks The Red Sulfurous Hairy Balls Of Satan

(I had to add the red color, the bold, and the larger text--I wish I could add flames)

Here are some choice lines from Jennifer's Feral Genius blog:

From the above title:

Speaking of hairy balls, I did manage to produce a halfway-decent piece about “manscaping,” the growing (oops) trend of people pouring wax on their private parts so they can rip the hair off. I didn’t have much to say about the practice itself, so I amused myself (and hopefully my readers) by inventing euphemisms for it, including paring the pubic patch, pruning the curly branches, keeping the labial lawns mowed, transforming one’s shrubbery into topiaries, lumberjacking in the pelvic forest and downsizing the subwaist workforce.


And:

Conclusion: if God wants me to stop being an atheist and resume worshiping him as I did in childhood, he needs to quit being such an asshole.

Another good one from the front page:

Democrats are better than Republicans the same way being gang raped by five biker scumbags is better than being gang raped by ten. Either way, you’re badly screwed.

It Sounds Like a Good Book, But...

That mouse is really ugly.

From their web site:

This book is written for the early reader (4 year to 8 year olds, depending on reading development level).

Parents/guardians that wish to expose their children to the value of knowledge and the need to defend reason in the face of force will enjoy and appreciate the story of Nimble.



Sounds great, right? But isn't this picture a little scary? I think it's the beady-eyed stare combined with troubling bald patches, really dirty looking hair, and weird eyebrow placement. I really like the illustrations in my kids' books to be as attractive as the story. Given the story description above, this seems to fall far short. Perhaps the author also illustrated?

School Can't Fire Principal Convicted of Rape

Not an 'alleged' rapist--a convicted rapist. From Reason Hit and Run and Joanne Jacobs.

As when it becomes nigh-unto-impossible to quickly fire a principal after he’s convicted of a serious felony – because state law requires that he first be offered elaborate due process.

That’s the predicament the Tacoma School District finds itself in with Harold Wright Jr. He was principal of Baker Middle School before July 12, when he was found guilty of third-degree rape, a felony. He remains principal today, because he has refused to give up his position as expected.

In the meantime, Wright, 36, continues to collect his $8,245-a-month salary, something he’s been doing since February, when he was first charged. So far, the district appears to have paid him at least $45,000 for time he wasn’t working. There are not many other jobs where commission of a felony can earn the perpetrator a sweet paid vacation.

But in Washington’s public schools – all public schools, not just Tacoma’s – even convictions for grave crimes do not permit administrators to simply fire the convicts. State law explicitly gives all educators the right to a potentially lengthy process of responses, hearings and appeals.

This is not a quarrel with due process in general. The law protects educators and other public employees from arbitrary, groundless firings by vindictive or incompetent administrators. School districts should not be able to dump employees without good reason and without the employees being allowed to defend themselves.

But a rape conviction – by a jury, beyond a reasonable doubt – is plenty good reason. And Wright has already been allowed to defend himself quite vigorously in criminal justice proceedings far more protective of his rights than than civil due process.

For Blues Brothers and Lego Fanatics

From Neatorama--A Blues Brother's tribute!

Free SkyMap Software


Neatorama provides a link to a list of virtual sky programs. All of them are free. So head out in the evening with the kids and show them where the constellations are. Or, take a virtual tour of the solar system. The link is full of goodness!

Ugh!

I'm not a big fan of raw fish, or cooked horse. Raw horse, thought, is really too much! From Boing Boing.

Is that a horse in your sushi?

Sushi chefs are considering using raw deer and even horse meat because of an international shortage of tuna.

...

At the Fukuzushi restaurant in Tokyo, Shigekazu Ozoe said he might use substitutes such as horse and deer if tuna supplies ran out, as he did in 1973 when a mercury poisoning scare meant customers refused to eat the fish. "We tasted it, and horse sushi was pretty good. It was soft, easy to bite off, [and] had no smell," he told The New York Times.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

What happens when one dogma tries to replace another. Communism tried to supplant ancient Chinese mystical beliefs, only to have them resurge with the reforms being made. This market in corpses has led to a bizarre incentive for murder. This is not proof that the communists need to be more firm. Though it is proof that communism has done nothing to move China into the modern world with scientific beliefs. Perhaps this is mostly a problem in villages with low out-of-country communication. From Boing Boing.

Parts of rural China are seeing a burgeoning market for female corpses, the result of the reappearance of a strange custom called “ghost marriages”. Chinese tradition demands that husbands and wives always share a grave. Sometimes, when a man died unmarried, his parents would procure the body of a woman, hold a “wedding” and bury the couple together.

...

The communists discouraged burials and suppressed ghost marriages as “feudal superstition”. Yet ancient beliefs die hard. As Marxism wanes, burials are reappearing—and so are corpse brides.

...

This January he was arrested again and confessed to strangling six women and selling their bodies. Killing for corpses, he said, was an easier way to make money than digging them out of the ground.

Unconcious Versus Conscious Mind

The New York Times has an article discussing the impact of the subconcious mind on behavior. It points to the idea of small changes in the environment "priming" the subconscious to change your behavior. I don't know enough about epistemology to imagine what it means.

It is an interesting article. It points to effects on behavior from having a cleaning fluid scent in the air leading to subjects more likely to clean up after themselves and the effect of thinking of some misdeed in the subject's past making the subject twice as likely to ask for a cleaning wipe over another choice (very much an "out damn spot" moment).

All of the effects in the studies listed are minimally interesting, however. The behavior "triggered" seems pretty inconsequential. No indication is given that this type of "priming" could actually have an effect on important decisions or actions.

83rd Carnival of Homeschooling is Up!

Mom Is Teaching is this week's host!

Ayn Rand--Keeping Famous Company

For those of us who already admire Ayn Rand, we understand what a great thinker and truly great person she is. I am still gratified that others recognize her outstanding place in the culture as well. In an article talking about Tom Snyder, she is listed as one of his guests along with numerous others. Check out the list, though! They are a list of people that you would have to live under a rock not to know. I'm glad Rand is considered in that light.

It exuded impermanence -- it was as if Snyder and crew had commandeered a couple of cameras and a soundstage after everyone else went home for the day, dragged in some chairs and invited anyone they thought might be interesting to come sit in them. Guests included John Lennon (his last TV interview), Muhammad Ali, Alfred Hitchcock, John "Johnny Rotten" Lydon, the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia, Steven Spielberg and Ayn Rand.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Is Europe a Mess or a Role Model?

Slate's Daniel Gross claims that business schools and leaders are being hypocritical when they recommend America follow Europe's low-corporate tax lead and still complain about the statist governments that lead to slow growth. Of course, if you support the level of welfare in European countries (as the author evidently does), it does seem questionable to complain about higher taxes in one instance and praise lower taxes in another. Gross believes that there is an absolute level of taxation that must be maintained and if you can't get it from the corporations, then you get it from the people. Here, of course, we get massive taxes from corporations so that people can be taxed less.

He seems oblivious to the idea that you can have lower taxes all around if you're trying to fund less.

A Worrying Nexus of Hate Crime Law and Religion

Volokh Conspiracy blogs about a prosecution that may include hate crime special provisions because the defendent was using speech offensive to a religion. Eugene Volokh logically concludes that hate crime legislation could be used as a new blasphemy law. There is much more of interest here, where an actual law against speech that defames religion is discussed. I guess that will be the new United Nations human rights council stance.

English Government Panel Seeks Protection for Unwed Couples

The Law Commission believes that people who live together can have more protection. They're talking alimony and palimony in case someone wasn't working (it'll start off with that idea and move on, I'm sure). What is someone thinking to give up work without a marriage contract? They'd also count ways in which the individuals "contributed" to the couple. I have an idea--it's called a lawyer. Marriage would certainly help people to realize where they stand with one another. It's very well codified in the law and if this panel thinks the dissolution of a marriage is generally felt to be equitable--they have another think coming. They're considering some sort of legalality that would protect couples that have been together for a little as two years. If you have children, it could be for any amount of time.

And of course it wouldn't affect marriage rates! Certainly not. Why wouldn't people get married even though they can have a really tight protection under the law without it? Of course most people get married for reasons other than financial security, housing, asset allocation arrangement, custody arrangements, and benefits. Yeah--we all get married with no thought of any of that stuff.

If you're at all nervous about tying the knot--then, in England, you'd better not live together either.

Russia's History Make-Over

I didn't read this Daily Mail article because the title (Sex for the Motherland: Russian Youths Urged to Procreate) didn't seem appealing. But I did click on it after it showed up on Drudge, and the real news has a lot more to do with a resurgence of fascism. A scary thought coming from such a large country and mirroring in so many ways the fascism of Germany, as pointed out in the article. Definitely worth reading. Putin has made a lot of progress on that front.

Mom Faces Charges of Neglect

Whitlene Loussaint had just returned from attending church in the pouring rain and left her 2-month-old son in the back of her idling car while she went inside to fetch an umbrella. When she returned moments later, her car was gone from her driveway.

...

New regulations signed into law by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist last month make it a second-degree misdemeanor to leave a child under the age of 6 alone in a vehicle for more than 15 minutes, but it is illegal to leave a child in a running car for any amount of time. Loussaint may be the first person prosecuted under the measure and faces 60 days in jail and a $500 fine if convicted.


In her own driveway--trying to get an umbrella to protect the baby from the rain--way less than 15 minutes--and trying to keep the baby from catching a chill and this is neglect. I wonder if they'll also try to take the baby away from her. And they will probably never catch the real wrong-doers--the ones who stole the car and the baby.

We all make different parenting choices for different reasons. This morning, while I was dropping my oldest off at summer camp, a woman was running back to her car to minimize the time her youngest was in the car while waiting for her to drop off the oldest. I wouldn't do that, but if I need to go into a gas station convenience store, now that my children are older, I lock the door, take the keys with me, and go pay the attendent--if there is a window where I can see the kids. If someone were to steal my car or break a window, I'm supposed to be at fault, somehow.

These are all very tough decisions, but to take it to extremes of punishing parents for others wrongdoing is bizarre to me.

UPDATE: From an article at Fox News:

Currently, mothers who leave children alone in the car are treated much more harshly than fathers — with moms being 26 percent more likely to do time than dads and their average sentence being two years longer [emphasis mine], according to a study done by The Associated Press.

Paid baby sitters and day-care workers are more likely to be charged and convicted than parents for leaving kids in cars but are imprisoned less frequently and for less than half the time that moms and dads are, the AP found.

Domestic Drilling

Wall Street Journal has an op-ed that makes the case for domestic oil production--and other types of domestic energy sources.

Charging Obese More for Health Insurance

Slate talks about the number of CEOs who want to charge their fat employees more for health insurance. Only Reason Hit and Run already noted a study that says that fat people with health insurance are already paying for it.

Connecticut Failing

Judy Aron, at Consent of the Governed, looks at what bad techniques Connecticut educrats may try next now that the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) scores have shown some dismal results. She takes the article written in the Hartford Courant and adds more and more.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Learning Styles Panned

Edukey points to an article that lambastes "learning styles." Learning styles in public and home schools have been very popular. A lot of times it sounds like an excuse--"Oh, Timmy didn't get math this year because his teacher used a lot of visual aids and Timmy is a kinesthetic learner."

But now Baroness Greenfield, the director of the Royal Institute and a professor of pharmacology at Oxford University, has dismissed as “nonsense” the view that pupils prefer to receive information either by sight, sound or touch.

...

According to Susan Greenfield, however, the practice is “nonsense” from a neuroscientific point of view: “Humans have evolved to build a picture of the world through our senses working in unison, exploiting the immense interconnectivity that exists in the brain. It is when the senses are activated together - the sound of a voice is synchronisation with the movement of a person’s lips - that brain cells fire more strongly than when stimuli are received apart…



It is not popular, but I agree (not with the neuroscience part, since I'm not a neuroscientist, but with the premise in general). There are parts of learning that cannot be conveyed without the teacher telling it to the students or having the students read it. If a student has a harder time listening, then they had better learn, quick. There's no way that their employers are going to a) care whether they are a visual learner, or whatever, or b) going to change anything about the way they are being trained.

If you really want to make sure your child retains their learning, note taking, organizing, and copying. Of course, start with copying. Sound boring? It may be, but it will work.

Ripken Admires Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged

Cal Ripken has a profile in the New York Times where he talks about his fondness for the Ayn Rand classics Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

Since retiring as a player, Ripken, who turns 47 in August, has become a prime example of someone seeking self-improvement. He has an instinct for hard work and other charitable endeavors.

“My personal philosophy is to get a feeling of fulfillment through my work,” he said. “I have a desire to create something. I guess that’s why I’ve long been fascinated by two books, ‘The Fountainhead’ and ‘Atlas Shrugged.’ The leading figure in ‘The Fountainhead,’ an architect named Howard Roark, is someone I’ve thought about a good deal.”

Those books were the subject of considerable controversy when they were published more than a half-century ago. Their author, a Russian émigré named Ayn Rand, was an advocate of objectivism, which embraced a strong belief in competitiveness and self-expression.

“I’m a hands-on person in business,” Ripken said. “I try to choose the right people for the right job. Currently, about 100 people work for me. But once I set up an infrastructure I don’t micromanage things.”

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Newest Old Education Dust-Up

Is Junie B. Jones good, clean fun that kids can laugh at and learn lessons from, or a bad example that could lead your child to talk like a kindergartener for life, and develop habits that, at a minimum, could lead to reform school, or at a maximum endanger their immortal soul?

The New York Times expends their considerable journalistic powers (in multiple pages, no less) to figure out where parents are drawing the line in the sand.

I will say that Junie B. is not a role model in her every behavior. She is a role model in that she learns from her mistakes. She is not shielded from the consequences of her actions. It opens up many opportunities for discussion with your children ("Do you think that was a good choice, or a bad choice?"). And it's really funny. The kids laugh out loud--a lot of times because they get that she is not behaving well.

My first experience with Junie B. was her very first book, "The Stupid, Smelly Bus." It was recommended by the librarian. In it, Junie B. is going to kindergarten for the first time and does not like riding the bus. At the end of the day, she decides to hide so she won't have to go on the bus. But--she has to do potty, REALLY bad. It's a potty emergency. What was it you're supposed to do in an emergency? Oh yeah, call 911. Of course, we got to explain that there are 911 emergencies and not-911 emergencies, and hiding from the bus and not being able to go potty is one of them. My daughter laughed herself silly. Sometimes, I have to admit, I've laughed myself silly.

Would I be happier with more heroic, role-model types of heroes? Yes, and we have some of those too. But in a lot of ways, Junie B. is a role model. If she's ready to do something--then it's going to be done. She is also very much of an independent thinker and actor.

So Junie B. Jones is a thumbs up in our house complete with some back-talk, bad grammar, poor choices, name-calling, and other questionable behavior. Like Eloise, it's an example of what-could-happen-if that also can help us discuss appropriateness with our kids.

Fleeing Venezuela

Shockingly, with Chavez moving further and further into communism, many Venezuelans are seeking asylum in America.

History for Homeschoolers and Afterschoolers

Mr. Powell's History at Our House web site and blog are getting more and more information everyday. Pricing information and levels will be available in the first week of August. There are book recommendations for adults to brush up on history, and free seminars for homeschooling parents.

Check the left side of the web site for a sample history lecture for seven, eight, and almost nine year-olds and see how involved they are in discussing World War II.

There is also another free lecture, the first free semiar, for parents on The State of History. Those of you who understand the importance of a real history education, probably understand some of the reasons why Social Studies fail our children, but I'll bet you'll find even more insights.

I wrote a great deal about Mr. Powell's history at the Well Trained Mind Secular Yahoo group. It's probably something I should turn into a blog post.

Math in Connecticut

Kitchen Table Math summarizes the basis of the Connecticut Master Test here.

Of my local elementary schools, one had 50% of students performing at advanced levels (70% on the CMT according to Kitchen Table Math--which was a C when I was going to school), the rest were averaged at around 33%. The good news is that the number of students scoring advanced in 3rd grade increased by seven percent, excluding the one school at 50% this year, which gained by 15%. For Eighth graders there was a drop in scores of one percent, with 31% of kids in the advanced level at 30%.

CT has the 4th generation CMT test results available for this year and last year (they went to a new test). If interested in trying to compare, the 3rd generation test is also available but I don't know what changed. The summary of the CMT content is here.

Creative Solutions in Advertising


For the Torture Museum! From Neatorama.

No More Remedial Math at CUNY

Discovered through Parentalcation and Kitchen Table Math, an article discussing CUNY raising its admission requirements because students are so ill-prepared for college level math.


Dr. Goldstein said that the English requirements for the senior colleges would be raised as well, but that the math cutoff would be raised first because that was where the students were “so woefully unprepared.”

...

In the fall of 2005, for example, more than 40 percent of students in introductory math courses — pre-calculus, college algebra and calculus — either failed or dropped out of the classes, numbers typical of many universities nationwide.



This could be a combination of poor education and poor grading. There could be kids who were given the impression that finishing high school meant they were ready for college. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. High school students should be given good information about the types of courses required to move into college and then actually have those courses taught well and graded appropriately (non leniently).

Schools Spend More Time on Tested Subjects

This article in the Newark Star Ledger is supposed to be an indictment of the No Child Left Behind law (aren't they all).

There's solid evidence that time spent on social studies, science, art and physical education is being sacrificed to pump up instruction on reading and math, the only subjects that count under the federal No Child Left Behind initiative.

This is one of the most disturbing findings about the consequences of NCLB, which was supposed to hold public schools accountable by punishing those that fail to bring all students up to grade level in reading and math.


Count me unconvinced.

  1. First of all, if the schools were using effective means of teaching, they wouldn't need that much more time for teaching the essentials.

  2. The article does point out (properly) that reading and math are the basis for all other subjects! Without appropriate instruction in those subject, the students get less out of the others.

  3. Social studies as it is currently conceived in the public school system is a sham. It is not educational, like an actual history program would be.

  4. Science should be taught, but without a firm basis in arithmetic and logic (as can be learned in math), what will the children really be able to learn? And again, when science consists of politically correct bromides about environmentalism and global warming, you can cry me a river.

  5. Art and physical education are unnecessary curriculum courses. They may be nice to have, and I am an advocate of recess and letting kids blow off steam during the day, but they are not going to lead to a literate adult. Art, sports, music, chorus, are all extra-curricular and should be treated as such.

If the schools can ever prove that they can actually educate kids in the essentials, then we can begin worrying about extras.

50 Rules Kids Won't Learn in School

Weary Parent offers a quick take on 50 Rules Kids Won't Learn in School: Real-World Antidotes to Feel-Good Education.

Here are some of the rules they highlighted.

2. The real world won’t cares as much as your school does about your self-esteem. It’ll expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.

19. It’s not your parents’ fault. If you screw up, you are responsible.

22. You are not a victim. So stop whining.

47. You are not perfect, and you don’t have to be.


It looks like an interesting book appropriately summarizing why the bromides of communist-thinking educators are failures for helping children once they are outside of a government controlled environment.

Make Sure Your Children Understand They Are Not Worthy of Gifts

Althouse points out an article on the trend of parents disallowing birthday presents.

From the article:



In part to teach philanthropy and altruism, and in part as a defense against swarms of random plastic objects destined to clutter every square foot of their living space, a number of families are experimenting with gift-free birthday parties, suggesting that guests donate money or specified items to the charity of the child’s choice instead....

Althouse comments:

I was wondering if they were ever going to get around to mentioning Mommie Dearest. It seems to be only the grandparents who remember the time when we
delighted in loathing the mother who would give a birthday party and then whisk
away all the presents to be sent to less fortunate children.


Now to get all Emily Post on these people: Although it is good form to bring presents to a party, it is terribly inappropriate to assume that one is going to get presents at all. Defining the presents (unsolicited), shows a great disrespect for the people who need to do the shopping and the preferences for how the birthday guest (if given the option, which many parents do) wants to celebrate their friend's special occasion. Rude, rude, rude!

Birthday parties are a celebration for the child. You have a party so that the kid can share their special day with their friends and their friends give gifts in the spirit of friendship and recognition of the honor of the day. It is a time for kids to feel special--otherwise why have a party at all?

Friday, July 27, 2007

An Antitrust Case Denied

Overlawyered has a great summary of a recent ruling for a business with regard to price-fixing.

Below Average

Joanne Jacobs shares that teachers have below average GRE scores (the GRE is a test like the SAT to gauge knowledge prior to graduate school).


With the notable exception of secondary school teachers, the large majority of teachers score at the bottom. Out of the 50 intended graduate majors ETS collected data on, seven of the lowest scoring 10 majors on the list are education fields. Only one field--social work--scored lower.

...

the national average score of 1058 for all fields of study.

Teachers pursuing degrees in early childhood (915) came in second to last on the list, slightly losing to special education (933), student counseling (927) and elementary (968).


I had often heard that elementary teacher were, in general, not the sharpest tools in the shed. Now it's not just hearsay.

This Took a Study to Figure Out?

From This Week in Education, a study reported at MSNBC shows that students who take a lot of math in high school do better in all college science courses.

Well, of course. Science is math-heavy. It may not be proofs like you'll see with mathematics majors, but science uses equations. Equation after equation after equation. There's no way around it. Scientists develop equations based on observations and then need to use equations for predictions. Perhaps biology isn't quite as math-heavy (I only took biology in high school), but it still uses math.

Another way in which math prepares students for science is logic. Math is like a special case application for logic. This logic can help students understand and apply the scientific method appropriately. Even if students don't like math and feel that they wouldn't use advanced math, this skill teaches one how to think appropriately. Those who denigrate any advance math as useless completely miss this point.

This is why poor mathematics education in public (and possibly private and home) schools today leads to less math and less scientists.

A Study in Contrasts

Largest and smallest horses!

At a mere 17 inches, the miniature brown mare known as Thumbelina takes pride in the lofty title of the World's Smallest Living Horse.

...

Radar, at 6ft 71/2in from hoof to shoulder, is from Mount Pleasant, Texas.



Large dog and small dog!



Largest and smallest man!

I think the Daily Mail has a new, unofficial, category!

BBC--England is Paying for a New Service

Now you can get some of your favorite BBC programs free on the internet.

BBC launches free Internet TV service

As Though It Wasn't Enough That They Visit Door-to-Door in the Real World

Now you don't want to answer the virtual door either. Missionaries are trying to convert virtual souls!

How Much Would Such a Prank Bother You?

A dental assistant was having a couple of implants installed in her workplace. The dentist, riffing on her love of pigs, installs what look like boar-tusks while she's under and take photos. Everything is normal when she wakes up. Later, she is given the photos as a birthday present. She quits and sues. The dentists insurance won't cover it because it was not part of his normal practice. He sues his insurer, and WINS! He gets $750,000 plus attorney's fees and he had already settled with the assistant for $250,000.

Would you sue? It's not like she accidentally fell out of her chair and her co-workers were laughing at her. She was under general anaesthetic. I think it's creepy to think that while you were out you were being totally messed with. She's lucky it was only tusks!! I certainly would find a new dentist.

And the Debate Rages On

Is a character appearance from the original Star Trek enough to make me want to see any of the schlocky Star Trek TNG movies? I say schlocky and I haven't even seen the movies. I'm making a broad-based assumption because the TV show was totally schlocky. But I do like Spock. Kirk is better, of course, but I've always had a warm place in my heart for Spock.

Someone Should be Looking for a New Job

A Seattle pharmacist is suing because state regulations require him to sell the "morning-after pill."

As you can guess, he claims his religious beliefs prevent him from selling the pill. I am shocked that this was raised to the level of a state regulation. His employer should have been allowed to fire him when he refused to do his work.

He claims the state is forcing him to chose between his beliefs and his livelihood. He, unfortunately, needs to either update his beliefs to align with his livelihood or update his livelihood to align with his beliefs. No sympathy here.

Defunding Speech Restrictions

Here is something sensible! Reported from the Corner at National Review:

Rep. Mike Pence sponsored an amendment prohibiting the Justice Department from spending any money to enforce the most controversial part of the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance law: the part regulating political advertising in the run-up to an election. . . . The amendment passed on a voice vote; then Chris Shays (R., Conn.), one of the two main House sponsors of McCain-Feingold, demanded a recorded vote. It passed again, 215-205.

It May Be Yellow and White, But It Ain't An Egg

Neatorama brings us this very disturbing picture. Aside from the wierd softdrink flavors (cucumber, anyone), the Japanese can't seem to leave anything alone (I'm only assuming it's Japanese). It is far from an improvement. It makes me want to be sure that any eggs I get from the salad bar I have to slice myself.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Question of Chromosomes


A mule is the mixed-breed offspring of a donkey and a horse. Sterile. Until this.


Hair samples sent to the University of Kentucky and blood work submitted to the University of California, Davis, verified yielded the same results: verifying that the samples came from a mule and her offspring.


...


Horses have 64 chromosomes, and donkeys have 62. Amos says the baby could be a mule (with 63 chromosomes), a donkey (with 62 chromosomes) or a chimera — an animal that has genetic material from different species.

Space Tourism Explosion

An explosion at Virgin Galactic, the space tourism venture, kills 2. My sympathies to the family and the company.

That Looks Dangerous

70 Foot Waves!

Money Denied for Ayn Rand Chair

At Philosophy Now, a news blurb:

Uni Rejects Ayn Rand Money

The cash-strapped philosophy department at McGill University in Montreal was recently offered a very large sum of money to create a new chair of philosophy. The only restriction by the donor was that it be the Ayn Rand Chair for the study of Ayn Rand's philosophy. McGill tried to persuade the donor to permit a more general area of study, but to no avail. Consequently the offer was eventually withdrawn; a Montreal newspaper commented that "integrity triumphs over big money at McGill."


I am always glad to see people sticking to their guns. I'm glad there was no compromise on the use of the grant money.

The View is Discriminatory

Althouse has a post up with an analysis of sexual discrimination in TV and film casting.

Can producers of "The Price Is Right" decide their audience wants a male host? Is it wrong to insist on a male to play the role of Edna in "Hairspray"? Lawprof Ian Ayres thinks it is:

Title VII prohibits sex discrimination in employment unless the employer can establish what's called a BFOQ or "Bona Fide Occupational Qualification." The EEOC Guidelines do allow intentional sex discrimination in hiring an actor or actress where the sex-specific roles are necessary for the "purpose of authenticity or genuineness," see 29 C.F.R. § 1604.2(a)(2). But there is no way that the producers could establish that sex was a BFOQ for being host of "The Price is Right."

The same conclusion probably holds true for hosting "The View." The thought that only women could host a talk show would be difficult to square with existing case law. Probably a dozen different hosts have been employed by The View. They have all been female. There is little doubt that the producers of that show discriminate on the basis of sex in hiring.

I know. The idea of lawsuits over such things seems ridiculous. But exactly why is it ridiculous?



It's ridiculous because there are certain times and places where having a woman only is appropriate.

There should be no federal law preventing sex discrimination. This could strike a lot of people as heretical (which it is to some sensibilities). Female patients who are more comfortable with female doctors should not be prosecuted. All female sports leagues, clubs, gyms, TV shows, staff at spas, good-looking female waitresses at sports bars, all-female strip joints (as well as all male strip joints), should all be allowed! Ladies' nights in New Jersey bars should not be illegal!

If there are situations where employers are turning away the best employees based on sex, then there are and should be consequences that do not need to rely on the law. There are boycotts, reduced productivity because they aren't getting good people, refuse to work for such an outfit, picketing--for the most active among us.

My Little Pony and Atlas Shrugged--Could be the Blog Version of Six Degrees of Atlas Shrugged

I can't say I agree with anything The Barefoot Bum says in this post, I have never (not even on this blog) seen Atlas Shrugged and My Little Pony placed so close together!

Religious scripture does not have any kind of authority, spiritual or factual; scripture has no more authority than any other work of fiction, be it Macbeth, Atlas Shrugged or My Little Pony.

(The above is excerpted from a very long post about religion and it non-validity, if you're interested.)

And how could I possibly even know about such a thing? Through a website that lists real-time blog posts about My Little Pony.

Which also reminds me of this bit of My Little Pony fundom: My Little Pony or Porn Star? Can you guess which is which in this quiz?

More in the "Not Good At All!" Section

Instapundit relates this article:

Democrats shift approach on abortion


As lawmakers and candidates appeal to religious voters, their language and policy goals on the issue have a ring of conservatism.

...

The new approach embraces some measures long sought by antiabortion activists. It's designed to appeal to the broad centrist bloc of voters who don't want to criminalize every abortion — yet are troubled by a culture that accepts 1.3 million terminations a year.

...

In one mailer, Ohio candidate Ted Strickland spoke of his desire to give all children "every opportunity to reach their God-given potential. This includes working together, across our differences, to reduce the need for and numbers of abortions."

Both Strickland and Michigan incumbent Jennifer Granholm won their campaigns. Exit polls showed they did better than national Democrats among weekly churchgoers — and much better among white evangelicals, who tend to be conservative on abortion."

It's not all bad news. The good news is they're not necessarily talking about legislation to actually reduce women's ability to receive an abortion, should that be her choice consistent with her morals.

They are talking about increased awareness of birth control, funding daycare centers and support for babies diagnosed with genetic abnormalities, and other public programs aimed at reducing the suspected reasons why women would choose abortion over delivery.

Trouble Makers in Public Schools in Philadelphia

Are outsourced, according to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer. If a student is disruptive and unruly multiple times, they are sent to either special classrooms or a special school. These environments have strict behavior guidelines, emotional counseling, and academic support. Funding for these programs has been cut to less than half of its current level in the state budget.

In a typical move, the state legislators are going to cut the program as a half-assed way to figure out if it's working. It reminds me of when talking on cell phones in cars was outlawed and a study was implemented at the same time to determine if cell phones were responsible for higher accident rates. Wouldn't you know that information prior to making it illegal?

Legislators, who were concerned that the state tab was mounting without evidence of the schools' effectiveness, decided to take what one called a "time-out" to find if the schools work.

Philadelphia officials, though, fear reducing the spaces available for disruptive students could cause violence in schools to rise only months after the district promised to crack down in response to a surge in student assaults on teachers.

...

Under former CEO Paul Vallas, the number of students transferred to disciplinary schools jumped 56 percent between 2002-03 and the last academic year when nearly 7,000 students - most in fifth through 12th grades - were sent for repeat behavioral problems.


This is Philadelphia! The article talks about a teacher who had his neck broken by students. Having a place that is not a jail cell that can help students understand self-discipline (or at least keep them in line since the state insists they must be in school) when they are disruptive to the rest of the school seems like a good idea.

Ideally, of course, disruptive students should be kicked out of school.

Drop Out of School--Lose Your Ability To Do Anything Productive

This makes a lot of sense. Reason Hit and Run reports that Illinois will punish kids who drop out or miss school by taking away their driver's license.

I wonder how it works for homeschoolers.

"If they passed the test and everything to get the licenses, then they're probably not a terribly reckless driver," Ertel said. "I think a truant should have the same rights to drive as I do."

Indiana is the only other state that will revoke or withhold permits or licenses from students who don't show up for school or have been expelled....

...

Since 1991, 17 other states have enacted less drastic laws linking driving privileges with school attendance, he said.

...

The law allows exemptions for medical and economic reasons, and students can get a license if they are enrolled for or have received a GED certificate. Students who are legally living on their own are also exempt....

George Fornero, superintendent of Township High School District 113, welcomed the law as a way to ensure that students are mature enough to drive. His district includes Highland Park and Deerfield High Schools.

"You have responsibilities as a driver, but you also have responsibilities as a student, so it ties everything together," Fornero said.


There is something in the back of my mind about freedom, indoctrination, political control age of majority, independence...hmm, what could it be?

I Will Fight to the Death for My Right to Use Plastic

OK--not to the death, but I would really, really, really miss being able to carry in six to eight grocery bags as one time.

Reason Hit and Run has a post detailing the plastic bag hysteria. They don't go after the obvious moral points but do include some interesting tidbits.

How to Craft and Show Your Harry Potter Fandom at the Same Time

If you're a knitter (which I'm not) and a Harry Potter fan, then Craft Magazine has the post for you! Knitting needles topped with the golden snitch!






What should you knit with these awesome needles? How about a Gryffindor hat? Or scarf?

There's a whole blog devoted to Harry Potter knitting: Charmed Knits, based on a knitting pattern book, Charmed Knits: Projects for Fans of Harry Potter.

Building a Private Observatory

So some couple is building their own small-ish observatory in New Mexico (from Boing Boing). All I wanted to know was the diameter of the telescope mirror and can you believe that all-important information was not listed on the site?

More news for amateur astronomers is this planned development in Arizona. Retire to the desert for the climate and the stars! There are other locations too. Visit Boing Boing for the original post.

Don't Feel Like Playing My Little Pony Matching Game for the Eightieth Time? Then Don't.

Okay, that title is straight from my life with my five year-old. Somehow she got the My Little Pony, Dora, and Care Bears gene. My older one was much less into those commercial types of toys (uh--maybe I was much less into buying her those commercial types of toys).

From Daddy Types and Daddy Daze, I learned about this article:

Playing with your kids: Nice but not necessary

There's no real evidence that children benefit from playing with their parents, according to Utah State University anthropologist David Lancy.

...

"If you like it and enjoy it and it's fun for you, why not? That's great. For a parent who feels forced to play with their child, it's not a good thing. Not for them, and probably not for their kids, either," he said.

...

But it's terrible news for those like Douglas Goldsmith. It's "absolutely wrong," said the executive director of The Children's Center, a Salt Lake City treatment center for children with emotional problems.

...

Lancy doesn't define play in his study, published in the June issue of the journal American Anthropologist. But he does say it is a "cultural universal." Children everywhere do it, and so do adults. They just don't do it together in much of the world.

In America, parent-child play is a recent thing. The Puritans "condemned play in general," and it wasn't until the 1940s that play became a good thing, rather than "wicked." Today, it drops off outside the middle class, Lancy said. The cultures that value parent-child play are centered in the West -- North America and Europe -- and in Asia. It is most often found among educated parents, and the common theme is that children are "being groomed" for academic and economic success.

While Lancy downplays the benefits of parent-child play, he champions the idea of child's play. "In an ideal world, children need play, unstructured play. And they need to play with their peers," he said. That's the way they learn to socialize.



Here's his actual paper--if you're that scientifically minded (I'm not).

At first blush, this sounds incredible. Then I remembered some things from a great book I read with my first daughter,How to Raise a Brighter Child. This book is a great reference. But parent interaction is not necessarily the highlight. There was a lot of talk (if I remember properly) about allowing children to explore. Of course, language development is all about parents--but not in a dumbed-down way.

So it may be that this article is not "all wet." I don't know about the research methodology. As the study gets more exposure (and someone is willing to shell out the bucks and time to review it), I imagine that the details will come to light and we'll be able to judge it appropriately.

Thomas Jefferson Education Blog Carnival--4th Edition

If you're interested in the idea of a Thomas Jefferson Education, here's a carnival for you! From Why Homeschool. Why Homeschool also points to an introduction so you can learn more about the idea.

Rand in the News

From Primacy of Awesome, another newspaper article about Ayn Rand and Objectivism:

Rand's lesson endures

"Ayn Rand is dead," wrote conservative author William F. Buckley in an obituary in 1982 about the best-selling novelist-philosopher. "So, incidentally, is the philosophy she sought to launch dead; it was in fact stillborn."

Maybe so. But there it was last week, still going strong more than six deades after its publication, "The Fountainhead," Ayn Rand's first major literary success, on the "Our Staff Recommends" shelf at Barnes & Noble in South Hills Village.

Nothing warms the heart more than proving Buckley wrong.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Objectivist Round Up #2

Here for your consideration are some more posts from around the Objectivist blog-osphere. There are a lot of Objectivist bloggers, and we have a small sampling!

Craig Ceely of The Anger of Compassion leads with a bit of humor: How Does James Bond Shave? Craig is intense in his search for the perfect shave, and he tries to divine how some of our favorite characters may handle this most mundane, and yet meaningful, chore.

Monica of Spark A Synapse presents More on Moore. A Canadian commenting on Michael Moore's film Sicko?

From Divided We Stand, United We Fall, is Fixing Fairness - A modest technology solution. Certainly no one wants to see the Fairness Doctrine Revived, but DWSUWF asks if there's another approach that would satisfy this thirst for fairness.

Aaron Turner of Thought Laboratory gives us Engineering Bravery. A post discussing the challenges and tragedies of the early space program and how they were handled.

Cade Krueger of Write To Right presents How Disabilities Open Doors To More Abilities. "This is a look at the objectivity of people with disabilities."

Edith Yeung presents How to Find Your Greatness (Inspired by Barbara DeAngelis) posted at Edith Yeung.Com: Dream. Think. Act..

Ergo presents Blink: Objectivism and The Subconscious Mind posted at Leitmotif. "Malcolm Gladwell’s thesis in 'Blink' is not novel in any significant sense, at least not to someone well-versed with Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism."

I think Wretched Existence is an appropriate response to an article detailing a modern-day hunter/gatherer society that may be relocated.

If you submitted a post that was not listed here, please let me know in e-mail (below) and I will update the post. The carnival submission form can be flaky.

Craig at The Anger of Compassion has volunteered to host the next carnival at his place! I understand he might have a special surprise for next week! Please use this handy carnival submission form or e-mail

Post Title
Post URL
Blog Name
Blog URL
and Your Name (or blogging name)

to kimberly_anne_mcneill -at- yahoo -dot- com so I can forward it to Craig Ceely.

Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page. E-mail to get in line to host!

Enjoy!

WMD--In Your Schools

Weapons of Math Destruction (if you haven't heard of it yet), is a weekly comic that pokes fun at the scrawny excuse for math, reporting, testing, and Board of Education cooperation in today's public schools. I signed up to have the weekly comic sent to my in-box so I don't miss any!

Carnival of Education 129

At Education In Texas!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Thomas the Tank Engine Can Help with Autism

According to this article in the Daily Mail, Thomas the Tank Engine may help autistic children understand facial expressions.

Thomas was named favourite toy in a survey of 750 parents of autistic youngsters, with Bob the Builder coming a distant second.


Not an official study, but an unofficial poll of parents.

Evil and Fighting It

From Education Wonk, through Watcher of Weasels, all the way to Bookworm, comes this article entitled: Harry Potter and ostrich syndrome.

Some excerpts:

In the last five years, through a series of rousing movies and books, our children have been introduced to some of the best conservative thinking ever put to paper or put on film.

...

More than that, the movie’s story acknowledges that evil exists and recognizes that the only thing to be done against evil is to attack it, root and branch. A war against evil is a total war, from which one cannot walk away.

Unsurprisingly, therefore, The Fellowship of the Ring has no talk about trying to understand Saruman’s unhappy childhood as a way of exonerating his evil acts.

...

I don’t pretend to know what J.K. Rowling was thinking when she wrote Order of the Phoenix, but I can’t help but see in this post—9/11 book a perfect analogy to the situation the West faces today, in the real world, in its War against Islamofascism. Some of us, like Harry, know that we have seen evil, acknowledge its existence, and are prepared to fight it.

...

What no one has yet addressed is that, as with the Ring movies and the Harry Potter series, this movie not only emphasizes those old—fashioned virtues of loyalty, bravery, steadfastness, it also does away with moral relativism, recognizes evil, and honors the fight against it.


The article is generally interesting, but I don't agree with it 100%. It is worth checking out, though.

The Joy of Living in Iran

Sarcasm, of course!

On patrol with Iran's fashion police

"My dear there is a problem with your manto. Please do not wear this kind of manto. Please wear a longer manto from now on."

...

A girl in a short white manto whose long hair was tumbling out the front of her headscarf is taken by the police to one of the minibuses on Vanak Square in central Tehran -- an unexpected and unhappy end to her shopping trip.

Another arrested woman is already inside the bus. She begins to cry. "I promise, I promise!"

...

First, women are given a verbal warning on the street. If the problem is not resolved there, they are taken to the police station for "guidance" and to sign a vow not to repeat the offence. Should this be unsuccessful, their case is handed to the judiciary.

One young passer-by rounds on the police for devoting such resources to moral crackdowns rather than other social problems as the minibus -- now filled with "badly veiled" women -- speeds away to the police station.

"Shame on you, look what you've done! The people's problem is not this, go fix your traffic situation, people are stuck in traffic for hours, go fix other real problems," she shrieks.

I am glad to read that there is still a spirit of disobedience. I'm sure that the leaders will do their best to try to stamp it out and I hope they fail.

First Bionic Hand

An Iraqi soldier has received the i-Limb to replace his lost left hand. He and his family are really impressed. I hope everything goes well for him!

82nd Carnival of Homeschooling

At Tami's.

Monday, July 23, 2007

10th Carnival of Principled Government

At Consent of the Governed.

Gallery of Homeschooling in Art

HistoryAtOurHouse.com has a collection of beautiful artwork relating to homeschooling. Great inspiration. I'm amazed at how many are of girls.

Wouldn't prints like these add great atmosphere to your homeschooling area or room?


Sweet Sweets

This is awesome. Evil Mad Scientist Labs built a 3D fabricating model maker that uses sugar as the building medium. Must read to appreciate! It will be profiled in Wired soon.

Hovercraft for Fun and Profit



Another John Lewis Article--Capitalism Magazine

Nicholas Provenzo pens an article for Capitalism Magazine about John Lewis's adventures with Tenure at Ashland University.

Prejudices in Politics

Althouse points to a poll asking how certain traits of a politician would affect how we would vote for them. Atheism fairs much better than I expected. I remember Volokh Conspiracy quoting something like 95% of respondents to another poll refusing to vote for an atheist.


Not Good! Not Good at All!

Democratic candidates trying to reach religious voters

If it emphasizes their own choices while recognizing that everyone should be free to decide moral issues on their own, better. But we know that really religious voters are not content to allow others to choose and want everyone to live according to their beliefs even if it means enforcing them in law. I hope Democrats only pay lip service to trying to court the religious vote.

This effort is apparent on the stump, where many of the Democratic candidates speak openly of religion and God and present moral justifications for their policies. It's also going on behind the scenes, with presidential campaigns hiring strategists to coordinate their outreach to religious communities and holding weekly conference calls with religious leaders.

...

In the past, "there was almost a joke that you couldn't be a Christian and be a Democrat," she said.

Back to School Shopping

I'm starting to think about next year's school plan. Aside from curriculum, the supplies are always important. One can use less supplies than I chose, but I like stuff and find I prefer to spend more money to may allow things to seem to go more smoothly. I say "seem" because I always hope for one outcome and can end up with another.

I did most of my shopping so far at Target. It was a complete pleasure to visit that store. It was clean, very well-stocked, had great prices, and everything was easy to find. I highly recommend it.

I've decided to take the advice of some other homeschoolers and try uniforms this year. Simple enough--polo shirts or other collared shirts, and khaki colored bottoms. I hope it will reinforce the idea of "school time" versus "play time." I picked up some $5.99 polo shirts (assorted colors), a pair of shorts or a skort, and a pair of pants for $6.99. The kids are kind-of excited about the uniforms. My youngest because it's school-like and the oldest because she's reminiscent for her old Montessori school.

I bought a billion one-subject notebooks (for textbooks that do no come with workbooks), pencils, colored pencils, scissors, rulers, erasors, and other sundries. A Montessori homeschooling Yahoo group recommended Target for educational items in their dollar section. Bingo!

  1. There were flash cards for the presidents (passed them up), the states (got them), insects (got them), numbers, phonics, subtraction, multiplication, and division (passed them all up because I already have them),
  2. pocket organizers (great for calendar work and putting a schedule on the wall),
  3. teacher record keeping and lesson planning,
  4. organizer boxes,
  5. foam teaching clock with movable hands,
  6. work books on science, math, and animals,
  7. mini-globes (people suggested painting them to match the continent colors in Montessori),
  8. mini-journals good for kindergarten/first grade,
  9. write-on/wipe-off cursive practice and continent naming.

I bought loads!

The Basis for Islamic Targeting of the USA?

An article in the Washington Post by Mohsin Hamid, author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist attempts to answer "Why do They Hate Us?" Certain arguments I already knew. I am not versed in foreign policy, but understand that it has been inconsistent and guided by bad philosophy for a very long time. Mohsin Hamid gives specific examples and their affect on him and Pakistan.

These people make up the "We deserve to be hated because we're bad" school of thought, which is simplistic and unhelpful.

...

The richest, most powerful country in the world attracts the jealousy of others in much the same way that the richest, most powerful man in a small town attracts the jealousy of others.

...

But there is another major reason for anti-Americanism: the accreted residue of many years of U.S. foreign policies.

...

Simply because America has -- often for what seemed good reasons at the time -- intervened to shape the destinies of other countries and then, as a nation, walked away.


As I said, I am not knowledgeable about our foreign policy, so check it out for yourself and see what you can make of it.

A Real Defense for the US and Israel

John Lewis's article, No Substitute for Victory: The Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism, has been translated into Hebrew and printed in Nativ: A Journal of Politics and the Arts. It was originally published at The Objective Standard.

I hope Israel and the US will beging to understand how important it is to take victory seriously and that protecting US rights is more fundamental than the pussyfooting around they've been doing since World War II.

The Conflict of Oil Refineries

Caught this article yesterday in the New York Times.

Gas Prices Rise on Refineries’ Record Failures
It talks about how the limitations of refineries has been causing the gas price to go up. There have been safety issues and equipment failures. One raging error that was left out was the high cost regulations on refineries and their disincentive for building new or modifying the current ones. I believe the last clean air act changed to make an update to existing refineries enough of a change that the whole refinery had to be brought up to current clean air standards.

The article has input from the oil company representatives. The last line (included in the excerpt) is particularly insightful. I hope a number of people read this and begin to understand that it is not as easy as congress sometimes hopes they think.

Many factors have led to the rise in gas prices, including disruptions in oil supplies from places like Nigeria and Norway. But analysts say the refining bottleneck in North America has been one of the main drivers of higher energy prices this year.

...

Meanwhile, refiners have been scrambling to meet a raft of environmental regulations, phase out toxic additives, add ethanol to the fuel mix and introduce new ultralow sulfur standards for gasoline and diesel. Industry insiders attribute much of the fragility of refining operations to the difficulty of making these cleaner fuels.

Refiners spent $9 billion from 2002 to 2006 to make low sulfur diesel. But producing these cleaner fuels means processing crude oil more intensely through the refining process, at higher pressures and temperatures. This, in turn, leads to more chances for glitches or breakdowns, refiners say.

“It’s a marvel we can continue to run refineries the way we do these days given the many requirements and specification changes we have,” said Charles T. Drevna, executive vice president of the refining industry’s main trade group, the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association. “There comes a time when the piper has got to be paid.”

...

No refineries have been built in the United States in over three decades, because refiners say they are too costly. Instead, they have been expanding their existing refineries.

...

But with a third summer of high gasoline prices, lawmakers are debating legislation they claim would punish oil companies for exploiting the tight supply situation and engaging in “price gouging.” At the same time, they are pressing refiners to produce more fuel.

“Refiners want to keep running in today’s economic environment,” said Mr. Drevna of the refiners association. “But when they shut down they are accused of gouging the system. When they don’t, they are criticized for overrunning their facilities.”

Finished It!--Slight Spoilers

All done with Deathly Hallows. I was glad to see that the spoilers that were posted very early on by the supposed hackers were wrong.

I was also impressed by the accuracy of some of the hypotheses I read prior to the books release. Or perhaps they are self-fulfilling. Maybe Rowling read some too and thought "now that a way out of that I hadn't considered." That would be kind of cool and disappointing at the same time. I don't think that happened.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Thinking Vs. Knowing

From the Thinking Mother, and Why Homeschool, a link to the test that supposedly shows that kids know more than adults. The test is even more bizarre than the few questions hinted at in the article.

Some of the questions are general knowledge. Some are esoteric. All are pointless without a good education. How can we expect children to know these types of facts without expecting them to understand how to use them? Some people seem to get up in arms about facts in public schools--I'd like to see thinking skills in public schools.

Of course, you cannot have one without the other. You need knowledge to understand how to think. That is where public schools go all wrong. They believe it is an either-or dilemma. You either know "how to do" something or "you memorize" something. They miss that in learning facts and where they came from, you give children an example of how thinking is done. They see how it was done previously and can learn to apply it to different situations.

And in studying how we know what we know, children will finally feel certain of the knowledge they possess. How often had you sat in class (or, if homeschooled, read a book) and a specific detail is passed on--without any back up data? How many times did you think to yourself, "But how do they really know that? It was probably just a lucky guess."

When teachers say there are eight planets in the solar system they expect the children to accept that idea. Period. Because they are the teachers and the students are the students. The students learn to turn off their brains, squelch any doubt in front of the teacher (but they know there's doubt), and become recepticles of information. It is a very dogmatic approach that exists in most public schools and home schools (depending on the curriculums and books selected), especially in science.

How can the children be given facts and knowledge and thinking skills at the same time? Show how knowledge is attained! Show how facts come to be facts!

Don't just talk about how many planets there are in the solar system. Talk about the early astronomers who would observe the night sky night after night and saw that some stars changed position slowly but that other 'stars' moved much faster. Explain that after a number of years and different theories, only one theory was consistent with the location of the fast-moving 'stars.' That they were planets that orbited the sun, the same as Earth.

This teaches children how the planets were discovered, the observations required, the ideas that it generated, the continuing checking that went into it. It leads to certainty! They are simultaneously given knowledge, examples of thinking skills, and certainty.

It is this 'bottom to the top' approach that should be used in writing as well. Teach the children about the parts of speech. Teach them how sentences are constructed with each part of speech. Teach then about paragraphs.

D-ed Reckoning takes on the knowledge vs. thinking problem in a different way. This is the last part of his expert series, but it has a link to the first part.

UPDATE: Added some wording for clarity and to expand the point.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

C is for Cookie, That's Good Enough For Me

Via Daddy Daze, Life & Times of a New Dad says that Cookie monster will have to give up his cookie fetish.

I was watching a YouTube clip featuring Elmo on an Australian talk show. In this clip, the host of the show asked Elmo about he rumors that Cookie Monster wasn’t going to eat cookies anymore. Elmo responded with something to the effect that “cookies are a sometimes food.” Elmo explained that Cookie Monster has always loved and enjoyed other foods like vegetables, but he’s just most famous for his voracious cookie passion.

And a Teeny-Tiny Living Space

From Neatorama, then from BackWoodsHome, comes shed plans! Only--they're not sheds. They're houses for you to live in that are the size of sheds. Some are as small as 60 square feet (it even finds room for a bed, a kitchen, and a bathroom). They can be built for as little as $15,000--DIY. That's taking frugality to a place I hope I don't have to go!

Wretched Existence

Face to face with Stone Age man

The title caught my eye. There is a tribe in Africa, the Hadza, that is still a hunter-gatherer society. They die when brought to modern conviences and are dying trying to live the way they have been. The purpose of the article is to talk about some Arab princes who want to pay the government a huge sum of money to take the lands the tribe has been using for their own hunting--although the tribe has no recognition of property rights. The women must submit to the men sexually any time it is demanded--there is no such thing as refusal. So terrible.

This tribe isn't a little primitive--it is frozen in time thousands of years ago. I find it sad to think of them so far away from the advances that we know today and that even when they find out about them, they can't seem to recognize what an improvement it is over their own harsh lifestyle.

Nevertheless, the Tanzanian government has repeatedly tried to 'tame' the Hadza, building houses and trying to teach them to grow crops. One attempt to resettle them ended when a dozen perished when they were forced into modern homes.

"They just rotted inside and died," said Charles Ngereza, a tribal expert.

After another bid to clear them off the land, ten Hadza died in police custody.
While I am empathetic to the Hadza's plight, I also do not feel a deep need to rescue them from their own actions. The deliberate denial of the world around them has been their own downfall. I wish the improbable--that they would try to adapt. Stubbornly clinging to a way of life that is dying with or without interference from the outside, they have made their choice. One way is just faster than the other.

It shows us where we could be now if not for our civilization and ideas. The whole human race could be dying out, hunting most of their waking time, no rights for women, children supporting the household immediately.

Dummy Delivery

This will probably be flashing through my mind if I am lucky enough to avoid a C-section. And I will not be happy. It looks like a shot from Hustler (too explicit for Play Boy).

I certainly could have lived without this bit of info.

"When the baby is delivered, sometimes the placenta fails to completely detach and deliver, leaving some or all of it still attached to the uterine wall," she said. "If so, one needs to do a very special examination called 'exploring the uterus' where we insert our gloved hand to assess what was left behind or use surgical instruments to extract the fragments.
Now don't get me wrong--I know that hemorrhaging from placenta left behind is life-threatening and I'm glad there's a way to check, but I'm still grossed out.

Help!

Wired blog has a post including a video of President Bush answering a question from the record industry. It's quite amusing.

Friday, July 20, 2007

OxyContin Maker Fined over $600 Million

The OxyContin maker will have to cough up over $600 million dollars because people figured out that if you ingest the pills in a way completely different from the way the pills are supposed to be used, you can get high. That is the whole point--Purdue Pharma, the maker, coated the pills in a special slow-release coating so that they would be less addictive. I am shocked that they are considered liable when people decided to use the pills in a way outside of their approved method. This is like holding glue manufacturers liable when stupid people sniff their products to get high.

There is a risk of addiction to a number of pain killers. To insist that all pain killers that may lead to addiction are taken off the market is still insane. For some chronic pain, possible addiction (note the person is under medical care--which you have to be in order to get a prescription) should be a patient's choice.

Another disturbing aspect is that the executives of the company have actually been convicted of criminal offenses.

Michael Friedman, who retired in June as Purdue's president, general counsel
Howard Udell and former chief medical officer Paul Goldenheim each pleaded
guilty to a misdemeanor count of misbranding the drug. Of the total fine, $34.5
million was levied on those three.

Jones placed the company on probation for five years and each of the
executives on probation for three years. He also ordered the three to perform
400 hours of community service related to prevention of prescription drug
abuse.

This should put a nice damper on trying to bring other successful pain relieving drugs to people who could use them.

OCON News

A review of OCON from a reporter. From Primacy of Awesome.

The Whole Country Is Prospering

Reason Hit and Run talks about an article in the Wall Street Journal by Arthur C. Brooks.

Everyone is getting richer, with the lowest earners increasing at less of a rate than the higher earners. He also takes on whether or not people are happy about it.

How to Teach Your Children to Fear Science, Progress, and Their Humanity

The New York Times reviews the newly-renovated Liberty Science Center in New Jersey.


The new museum, he said, would not deal with abstract fundamentals in physics or biology, but with the impact various issues have on local communities and the world environment. The focus would not be on the kinds of experiments that made the Exploratorium in San Francisco so influential after it opened in 1969, but on “social and environmental responsibility.”

The science museum, Mr. Koster said, should provide “resources for living, learning, working in and caring for its surrounding area.” It should aim for “relevancy” and have the ultimate goal of leading its visitor to a form of activism.

But this shift of emphasis is not subtle. It means that each exhibition must have a clear idea of what kind of action is desired. It also means that a guiding impulse will be to proselytize, not merely to explain. This kind of pointed relevance is relatively easy to pull off right now, simply by invoking environmental issues. It is perhaps too easy: The environment and the sins of humankind provide ready-made ways for a science center to seem provocative and important.

It would be more profound if environmental phenomena were more fully explained and examined, with more qualifications applied and fewer homilies delivered, if there were less of the new science center and more of the old.

One of the strangest consequences of the new center’s political impulse may be “Islamic Science Rediscovered,” a temporary show last seen in a shopping center in Dubai. ... You see these objects and read their descriptions (even when they are overstated) and come out with concrete knowledge. ... Still, this display is included not because it was deemed scientifically important, but because it was deemed politically important. Mr. Koster has said that the exhibition could “provide a broader context to current global happenings, especially in the United States,” by which he seems to suggest that it should provide a cautionary lesson against tarring Islam with the terrorist-Islamist brush.

Far too many people want to see kids indoctrinated in their anti-man, anti-technology views. This new science center encapsulates that perfectly. Instead of talking about how human progress has made us the most prosperous, healthiest, most free country on Earth, these environmental activists want children to be continually fearful of advancement.

They are also pointing to a horrendous conflict. The exhibits also want to emphasize a sense of weakness. In discussing our inability to fight off germs, deal with natural disasters, or even a supposed impotence of using technology to save ourselves from previously unanticipated problems, they intend to frighten children into feeling helpless. This fits the orginal purpose--humans are too weak to deal with any consequences of 'technology gone bad.'

So they are presenting children (who have no basis for understanding how wrong it all is) with the view that we could destroy the world and be destroyed by it.

New Book Supporting Free Markets

A new book out by John Lott, Jr., Freedomnomics is a response to Freakonomics as well as a wide-ranging support of free markets, according to this article at American.com (from Arts and Letters Daily).

John Lott, Jr. is the author of the editorial discussing the rise in illegitimate births after the passage of Roe v. Wade and attributing it to people's willingness to have sex because abortion was a new option in case of pregnancy and then not actually getting the abortion. I was not convinced by the reasoning shown in the article. The American.com link has more information.

Parents Are No Smarter Than Their Kids

When it comes to general knowledge, according to this article at the Daily Mail.


Questions that stumped parents included 'Why is the sky blue?' and 'What is thunder?'
...
The survey group were set ten general knowledge questions based on National Curriculum subjects taught at primary schools.

Surprisingly, parent's scored an average eight out of 10, only narrowly beating their children's score of seven out of 10. More young pupils knew how many planets there were in the Solar system and how long a year on Mars was compared to their parents.

However the parents had a better grasp on history, with 90 per cent able to name Shakespeare's birthplace compared to half of the children. And only half of the pupils could name Horatio Nelson compared to 80 per cent of the adults.


1,500 adults were surveyed. I find it interesting to see that the children answered science questions correctly more often. The adults answered history details correctly more often. But really, the length of a year on Mars?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Man Gets Away Without Paying Taxes for 10 Years

According to Consumerist, an article in the Shreveport Times documents a lawyer winning a case that he didn't have to pay income taxes.

A federal jury unanimously found Tommy Cryer not guilty this week on two misdemeanor counts of failure to file.

And according to Cryer, the prosecution dismissed two felony charges of tax evasion prior to trial.


I wonder how long until it is reversed! Or how many other cases will be coming along.

Bad, American, Bad!

Study: Americans Don't Understand Others

Because our society is not collectivist, we don't emphasize other people's point of view as much.

Rugged American individualism could hinder our ability to understand other peoples' point of view, a new study suggests.
...
The study, though oversimplified compared to real life, was instructive. Keysar and his colleagues arranged two blocks on a table so participants could see both. However, a piece of cardboard obstructed the view of one block so a "director," sitting across from the participant, could only see one block.

When the director asked 20 American participants (none of Asian descent) to move a block, most were confused as to which block to move and did not take into account the director's perspective. Even though they could have deduced that, from the director's seat, only one block was on the table.


My take on this would have been that the Americans figured that the person across from them telling them what to do KNEW that the Americans had a block on their side. It's not specified in the article how much information either party had. Just another spin that depicts individuality negatively and collectivism as superior.