Friday, May 30, 2008

When sensitivity trumps sense.

And then there is this brought to my attention on a history homeschool list to which I belong (and recommend that any one who values the importance of learning history join).

Little quiz for my 2.1 readers: How easily are you offended?
(On a scale of 1-10: 1- never, 10 -what the hell do you mean by that?)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Sometimes a scarf is just a scarf.

How ridiculous!

That’s about the best thing I can say about
Dunkin’ Donuts' decision to pull print ads with Rachael Ray wearing a scarf which apparently resembles a kaffiyeh, a traditional Arab male headdress. While one may question Ms. Ray’s sartorial judgment in wearing a scarf around her neck in what is obviously beautiful weather, whether or not she is showing support for terrorism is ludicrous.

What disturbs me most is that conservative blogger Michelle Malkin is quoted at saying about the decision to pull the ad, "It's refreshing to see an American company show sensitivity to the concerns of Americans opposed to Islamic jihad and its apologists." She says this without batting an eyelash in the direction of the Muhammed cartoons. How can she not see it is this very same "sensitivity" which sacrificies our freedom of speech at the altar of political correctness?

Finally, in honor of full disclosure, I own what is, according to Ms. Malkin, a kaffiyeh. I bought it at a Jewish Community Center rummage sale over 20 years ago. No doubt about the fact that it looks like a piece of Arab clothing, but other than a brief stint as part of a Saudi Prince costume many, many Halloweens ago, it’s had a long history of keeping my neck warm and I love it.

What’s next? The ancient Middle Eastern art of belly dancing will be verboten? Oh wait, it already is – in Islamic states!

Thanks to Stephen for bringing this bit of controversy to my attention.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Take a Little Trip

Down the Panama Canal.

I thought this 75 second video was pretty darn cool.

Through Panama Canal In 75 Seconds

Thanks to Paul Hsieh of Geek Press for the pointer.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Taking the Subway

No, this is not about Free-Range Children; this is about the recent homeschool community furor over the Subway contest Every Sandwich Tells a Story.

Here’s how to anger a lot of people:

Contest is open only to legal US residents, over the age of 18 with children in either elementary, private or parochial schools that serve grades PreK-6. No home schools will be accepted.

My take on this is Who Cares? Why are some people who homeschool so angry about their children being purposefully excluded from a corporate promotion giving away some stuff in an attempt to gain some publicity? Why do some people who homeschool demand being in league with the institutionalized education? Why do some people who homeschool think that the homeschooling community as I so freely place all people who homeschool their children under that single umbrella would operate as a cohesive conglomerate any more than atheists would.

There is no central tenet to which homeschoolers attribute their practices. There is no core grouping of homeschoolers. There is no compelling reason any person or company must recognize individuals when their contest is for members of a certain group. Homeschooling children do not have the kind of government oversight that children who are eligible to participate do, and perhaps this is the matter: lack of state accountability and control.

The real question in my mind is why would Subway and Scholastic, the contest’s other sponsor, need to explicitly exclude homeschoolers? Whatever the reason, I take it as a sign of recognition that homeschooling is a viable alternative to institutionalized schooling – and that’s a good thing.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


I found Greg Perkins’ post on NoodleFood this morning very enlightening. It comes at a time when I am realizing just how incredibly important it is to stand for something, rather the absence of something. I’ve never felt the need to stand up and shout, “I’m an atheist”, but in the last few years, I haven’t been shy about sharing this information when religious views are being discussed. What this post, and life in general, keeps reminding me is that I need to stand for something, not against something.

While I attempt to better my “objective philosophical perspective” as referred to by Perkins, I must remember that reason, rationality, and adherence to the facts of reality are all positive and easily understandable ways to describe my approach to life.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Run out of Ipecac?

I'm sorry, but I think this is sweet. Suddenly I feel like decorating my room in rainbows and unicorns.

Did you see that catch?

I apologize to the non-Sox fans, but, man, this kid is awesome. The fact that he is totally adorable in no way detracts from his fabulousness. Like other good looking people, his beauty is best seen in motion.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Al Gore must hate us.

Yesterday, I went to post some tips on how NOT to train for a race. These tips included dancing in high heels the night before a practice run, and fueling up with Munchkins (TM) the morning of a practice run (neither of which are normal activities of mine). I did manage to get through the extended distance (3.75 miles), but I didn't increase, or even meet, my furthest running distance - at least not my continuous running distance of 2.5 miles.

But all this is nothing when compared with our internet service going down!

Saturday night, our newly repatriated son had a group of friends over to play something or other on the computer. There were 4 guys, with 4 laptops, using up all our wireless bandwidth and rebooting the modem periodically. No problem (I was out dancing in high heel shoes so I hardly noticed the drop in service). I tell you this because I really suspected that this had something to do with the crash.

Come Sunday morning, our internet service no longer worked, giving us error messages like "IP address not working", "Unable to connect", etc. The thing is, we were able to connect - both our computers, with different operating systems, by the way, showed that our connections were very strong, but it seemed that the modem was unable to issue IP addresses to our computers. We contacted our ISP, Comcast, and they talked us through some stuff, but they couldn't understand it. They sent a technician over who told us that Comcast didn't lease enough IP addresses, or something like that, and that an update was done overnight on Saturday. There was nothing he could do, but that it might start again later. I thought the guy just wanted to go home - it was Sunday afternoon, but my son's internet connection, on our same wireless system, was working fine! AHA! What does this mean?

I called Comcast back to ask a few more questions about this IP address leasing problem, telling her that one system worked. She said that our modem may be broken and they scheduled coming by to replace it this afternoon. Since then, I've managed, or more likely, the Comcast service has managed to be able to issue IP addresses and now we're all able to get online.

It's frustrating, I tell you, to know so little about the technology that brings us so much. aargh.

Oh! I almost forgot: the worst part is that due to this interruption in service, we missed the first night of the OPAR seminar. In reading the requirements for the seminar, it seems that live participation requires an online connection, and frankly, all this frustration made us both incredibly tired by 9:30.

Friday, May 16, 2008

There is something I am aware of.

This sentence, from OPAR, pg. 7, begs to be diagrammed.

There – subject
is – linking verb
something – predicate nominative

And here is where I get a little confused. Is this part a subordinate clause?

I – subordinate clause subject?
am – subordinate clause linking verb?
aware – subordinate clause predicate adjective or nominative?
of – preposition

And here is where I get really confused.

(which) – understood relative pronoun, object of the preposition "of", whose antecedent is “something”?

Most importantly, as Dr. Peikoff explains, this little sentence expresses the three basic axioms of Objectivism.

There is (existence)
something (identity)
I am aware of (consciousness).

I don’t know about you, but I think its proper diagram would make one bitchin’ t-shirt. Any grammatical help in this effort would be greatly appreciated.

Update: added attribution to OPAR which at the time I wrote this seemed obvious to me. Of course, you weren't all reading the book at the same time as me - or were you? Nor could you possibly know that this is entirely too clever for me to come up with on my own - or could you? In any case, I hope the 2.1 possible readers of this post will be able to mentally integrate this new information and I apologize to Dr. Peikoff for my unattributed use of his ideas.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sabrina (1954)

As a little embedding video exercise, I'd like to share this video from YouTube from the 1954 movie, Sabrina. I really enjoy this movie for several reasons, not the least of which is the presence of Audrey Hepburn, but the scene presented in this snippet is not only really funny, but also incredibly pro-industrialist. It's a long clip (7+ minutes), but if you haven't watched the entire movie, you might just want to take a peek.

Update: Fixed date of premier - 1954.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Objectivist Seminar

I have had nothing to say lately, but this:

I am very excited to be attending the Objectivist Seminar on Objectivism: the Philosophy of Ayn Rand starting on Sunday. Not only am I excited about finally reading OPAR and having a good shot at understanding it, but the seminar is taking place at a generally convenient time for me so I can participate live. Yippee!

Sometimes, it's the little things in life.

That, and in preparation for a 5K run in June, I ran 1.5 miles tonight and frankly, I'm afraid I can't get up from my computer desk and I may have developed asthma. These two things are telling me - "it's about time - you are definitely not getting any younger". I know a 5K is nothing for runners, but it's something for us non-runners.

Friday, May 9, 2008

A Series of Unfortunate Events

No, I’m not talking about the end of the ’86 Red Sox season, I mean the book series by one Lemony Snicket. While, I admit upfront, I have never read a single of these books, I am well into the 8th of 13 total books as read alternatively by the author or the fabulous Tim Curry (his phlegmy cough as Mr. Poe, is unparalleled).

These books are ostensibly about the dire circumstances in which the three Beaudelaire orphans constantly find themselves. Parents new to the series may at first bristle at the sheer stupidity of the all the adults in the story (that is, but for those characters who are pure evil), but it is really all about the resourcefulness and stamina of the children, Violet, Klaus, and baby Sunny. Their individual talents and pluck allow them to solve mysteries and rise above the most horrid of situations while the author pokes fun at the hypocritical world of the adults around them.

For example, our most recently listened to book The Vile Village tackles the aphorism it takes a village to raise a child, the horror of mob mentality, and madness of animals rights. Pearls of wisdom, loads of new vocabulary, and gobs of sarcasm drip and drop from every chapter. Because one of the author’s devices is to say things which are in apparent opposition to what he means, these books are not for young children or for those who do not yet understand sarcasm or irony (at least the ideas of sarcasm and irony, not necessarily the meaning of the words, which the author would probably define throughout the book by this concrete method: “by ‘ironic’ here, I mean that after all of his preparation, Klaus did not get to eat his dinner”).

Although the first of these books came out in 1999, I avoided them, wrongfully, thinking that they were along the lines of an older Goosebumps. They are not. They are written (and read) wonderfully, using complex sentence structure and rich vocabulary. They are a delightful and compelling challenge for my 9 year-old daughter who read some of them first and who can’t get enough of listening to them. Her enthusiasm has coaxed the rest of the family to go along for this wonderful ride.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Math would be better...

if there were a little romance in it.

This is why it takes my 9 year old over two hours to do 45 minutes worth of math. To mere mortals, this problem looks like it asks, "Draw two circles. Shade 1/2 of one and 2/4 of the other. What percent of a circle is 2/4 of a circle?" To my daughter, it seems to say "When you're stuck doing math and would rather be reading about great adventures, make it work for you".

The "ew.", as a reflection of the standard response to kissing from those between the ages of 9 and 19 in our house, belies my true feelings about her little illustration, which if known, would only cause the math portion of the day to lengthen...and nobody wants that.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Interesting Comparison.

I thought this piece from Sam Harris at The Huffington Post was interesting, particularly his comparison of the press' treatment of FLDS and Islam.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


NPR just had a decent report on the BB&T donations to universities. It's brief, sometimes amusing, sometimes frustrating, but overall pretty positive.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Asymptotically Approaching Perfection

This is how I like to think of myself in general. Specifically, I like to think that I continue to learn new and interesting things about myself and about the world everyday. I like to think that I can integrate these tiny bits of new knowledge into the small, but growing pool of intellectual tools at my disposal. I like to think that I can and often do learn from my mistakes, and not repeat them.

Recently in my frequented bit of the O’blogosphere, there has been a rash of parenting posts. Okay, there were three or four of them that I read:
here, here, and two here. In addition to these fun and thought provoking posts, I found a very amusing blog called indexed (thanks to Paul Hsieh who pointed to a post containing an indexed post), that takes some complicated ideas and boils them down to mathematical reasoning and spatial relationships. If you think this way, or can even appreciate thinking this way, you may find Jessica Hagy's blog quite entertaining.

In honor of the crapshoot that parenting most often resembles to me, and the ability to look ahead to better times when the children are grown and we can all relax and revel in the results of our perfect parenting, I offer you an age by age graph regarding struggles with and for that sometimes seemingly elusive independence: Asymptotically Approaching Parenting Perfection.

If you are a very good parent, not to mention lucky, Resistance and Need cross somewhere around the age of consent. Please note Need spikes concurrent with getting cell phone, getting driver’s license, and reaching drinking age. If you have very special children (and who doesn't?) results may vary.

Use your new knowledge wisely, my friends.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

God says, "Play Ball!"

I just thought this little baseball story had an interesting twist. I can't locate the original Sun Sentinel article as posted by them, but it seems to be here in its entirety.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Community Urinalysis

In the March 2008 issue of Popular Science, Eric Hagerman wrote Your Sewer on Drugs about how local sewage is being tested for evidence of illegal drug use within certain towns. From this practice, alternatively known as community urinalysis and sewer epidemiology, the proponents hope to be able to pinpoint which anti-drug campaigns are working or the best placement of these programs.

[FYI: Sewer, sewage, sewerage: sewer is any conduit used to transport wastewater or rainwater, sewage refers to the liquid and solid waste material carried in the sewer conduits; sewerage is the system of conduits.]

This is another blatant case of government sponsored market analysis to support nanny-state programs. I suppose it is a step up from the earlier, less successful bid to study the transport, fate, and effects of personal care products on the environment through sewer epidemiology. That would just rub too many people the wrong way, causing chafing and thus, more personal care product usage.

From a strictly epidemiological standpoint, I think that sewage testing can yield important results regarding the presence of germs and possibly viruses (I don’t know the current levels of testability for these tiny trouble-makers). I’ve yet to be convinced that drug use is a disease, and moreover, that even monitoring the spread of incontrovertible diseases in order to stop mass illness or deaths is a proper function of the government.

I’m left wondering: in the case of an epidemic, other than quarantining individuals known to have the disease, is there any action which should be taken by the government?

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Built Environment

As a late comer to the wonder that is The Palms in Dubai. I am still completely fascinated, not only in the process, but the fact that they are creating habitat for man where none existed. I am somewhat dismayed that this is happening in a Islamic nation, but mostly happy to see that the exploitation of the earth (followed by some serious problem solving efforts, I’m sure) is still being pursued somewhere. In addition to The Palms and The World, and the many other cool construction activities happening in Dubai, here are some other cool building projects in various stages of planning and development:

The Spire


Residence Antilia

The first two are being built in Chicago, while the third is the planned residence of Mukesh Ambani, in Mumbai. Cool, huh?