Sunday, August 31, 2008


Passive Activism

This was my moment of inspired genius this vacation. Instead of the leftover fluffy beach reading usually found in a summer rental, I thought I'd leave a little something of substance for the next person.

When I realized that the only reading material around was a bunch of golf magazines, I had an epiphany of sorts and snugged Atlas Shrugged in right next to the Bible in the bedside table. If the Gideons can do it, the least I can do is offer a rational alternative.

By the way, I am finding Rushdie's The Enchantress of Florence confusing and unenjoyable but I must finish it. This could mean that I will not read any other novel for many months. I get that way. The only novel in the recent past that I just had to give up on was Aristotle Detective by Margaret Doody and that was a few years ago. Someday I may go back to it (mysteriously, I seem to have temporarily misplaced it), but I had stalled trying to read it for months and refused to start anything new! I should probably try to get over that.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

There's No Place Like Home

Vacation was fun, but I like being home. I guess I'm just boring that way.

There was plenty of sun, sand, salt water kisses, family, food, and fun. Maybe it was the lack of tutus and tiaras.

Now we're all experiencing a slight vacation hangover and need to rest. It's a good thing we have a few days before work and school.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Nothing says "vacation"...

like big hair, and waterskiing with tiaras and tutus!

Actually, the first few notes and base line of this song scream it to me.


Friday, August 22, 2008

The Water is Wide

I just wanted to share this lovely old traditional Scottish song as performed by James Taylor with help from the Boston Pops.

Thanks to The Bonny Glen for the reminder.

Virtual Coffee Mug #2

Je ne parle pas Francaise, mais j'essaie. Hier soir, j'ai parle avec la femme qui guardes mon fils quand il etait a France. Si cette est difficile pour vous lire, imaginez-vous comment difficile il etait pour la femme pauvre me comprends! Ah, Francais de la college etait de plus nombreuses annees. (My sincerest apologies to those of you who can actually speak or read French.)

In honor of the feisty woman who played the role of my son's mother in France, and who, without speaking 10 words of English (really) has managed to travel to America for the first time in her life, alone, no less, and who loves Marilyn Monroe (said something nasty about President Kennedy, but my French, she is not so good) and who I met only yesterday, I offer my favorite picture of Marilyn.

[I bought this poster to hang in our basement gym to inspire me, but have yet to be inspired to find the right sized poster frame to hang it. That's a problem. ]

Today's Word of the Day is ambisinister. Even though the AWAD is on my sidebar, I mention this one because I was fascinated to find that sinister is from a Latin root for "on the left side". Poor damn lefties - they're so gauche.

The older I get, the closer I get to feeling like I'm from Jersey. Oddly, this does not frighten me.

Did you know that WD40 stands for the 40th formula for a water displacement formula made by the Rocket Chemical Company and has over 2000 uses? Well thanks to some interminably forwarded email message from my brother - I do, and I'm glad of it.

Kale: what's it all about, and where can I find some good recipes (i.e. ones in which I don't actually have to taste the kale)?

Did I mention that I recently got 122 3 Ring Binders - for free! Thanks to the alertness of a friend/reader who forwarded a post on a homeschool list (to which I no longer belong) all I had to do was pick them up! I did and they're spectacular, so thanks, Manoj. Moral: It pays to advertise.

Finally, on the same topic, I have not yet reconciled the phrase "marketing strategy" with philosophy. Do guiding principles really need to be advertised? Sure, I'm frequently amazed that the practical applications of holding a collectivist or religious philosophy are not more paralyzing to individuals than they are, or that those who adopt these destructive ideas have never tried to follow them through logically. I just cannot fathom why everyone doesn't understand the ethics of man as an end in himself. It seems self-evident; obviously it is not. Still, I bristle at the notion that Objectivism needs to be marketed. Perhaps this is because I'm in no way qualified to market it yet.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Columbus Day

As the weather gets cooler, I’m gearing up for my favorite time of year - the fall. Early in the season, after the chaos of September, we hit a much appreciated long weekend with the Monday holiday named after Christopher Columbus: the man who brought Western Civilization to the Americas.

Lena Horne sings Gershwins' How Long Has This Been Going On

Ginger Rogers sings (and BONUS, dances with Fred Astaire to) Gershwins' They All Laughed

I thank my ten year-old for pointing out how much the Gershwins admired Christopher Columbus, but I fear for my sophomore who will learn in her American History class this year that Columbus was a murderer and should not be celebrated. I can hope she understands his importance while she listens to his detractors who take the form of her government school teachers.

Perhaps she is not too young to read and understand The Enemies of Christopher Columbus by Thomas Bowden. You, gentle reader, are just the right age.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Love and Hate

Sometimes, it's a fine line between love and hate. These red rainboots from Dr. Scholl's (!) walk that line.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Efficient Sleep

This weekend I read through an interesting 54 page ebook about sleep (40 Sleep Hacks: A Geek’s Guide to Optimizing Sleep). While I have trained myself to wake up at mostly the same time everyday (Bit of Advice #1) I live with someone who still likes to “sleep in” on the weekends (even though he is the one who introduced me to Sleep Hacks, he continues to ignore this bit of advice). Discussing the effects of circadian rhythm, diet, psychology, lucid dreaming and concentrating on different techniques and gadgets of sleep, the guide offers some pretty good food for thought (or sleep as the case may be). I think the phases of sleep and their effects on the waking state warrants more of my attention. Personally, Section III on napping appealed to me most and I recommend it highly (napping, not necessarily Section III).

What was very unsatisfying about the guide is that it absolutely cannot apply to mothers of young children – you know who you are: the woman who still needs to keep her ears tuned-in despite her exhaustion, the one who hears a Cindy Lou sized “hic” and wonders whether or not something horrid has happened to her child. Mothers of infants are obviously excluded. Hell, if you’ve ever been asleep and heard a sound emanating from one of your teenagers that could possibly indicate they are sick or in pain, you know there is no age limit at which your rest is guaranteed! My sleep hack addition: it’s best just to get the offspring out of the house as soon as possible.

Many of the real suggestions can’t be used if you have a regular work-a-day life. Finally, the book suggests using meditation, white noise, and new age music to help you fall asleep. Not only do I not need these things to fall asleep, but I also find them icky. Heck, it’s free.

Here is a scientific article about molecular level clocks which I thought was fascinating (from GeekPress). I don’t think I have Familial Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome as I can mostly stay awake in the evenings, but at some point all this sleep research is going to help make my sleeping hours more efficient. In the meantime, I think a clock that runs away from my husband while he attempts to hit the snooze button for the 9th time might just be a perfect addition to my family.


Self testing fun: 100 Common Words (from NoodleFood)

More fun with the periodic table.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Paper Towels: A Love Story

Any given Sunday morning: Lounging in bed with my coffee and computer – both brought to me by my manservant, I hear the dog whine softly. I hear dog yelp loudly. I know that dog has whizzed in her crate. Deciding it’s time to actually leave the cocoon (manservant doesn’t do the dog-thing unless under duress. It’s like the diaper-thing: “No! You won’t have to change the diapers” until you do) I head for the pee zone.

Getting the dog out of crate, not really later than usual, she just doesn’t like to hear happy voices that don’t include a copious amount of praise and petting for her (and, really, who can blame her), I bring eight to ten paper towels to wipe off her pee-paws and wipe up the pee puddle she left in the crate. I use another four to six to swipe Just Try To Get The Urine Smell Out pet cleaner in and around the crate and floor (pee jettisoned from the patented “Pug shake” and where the initial pee-paws had fallen as she left the crate). Then I take her out to encourage any remaining elimination needs to occur there.

Once back inside, I jump to refill the coffee mugs, spilling some from both in an effort to get back to the cocoon too quickly. With a paper towel to wipe up the floor, another to wipe up the counter, I suddenly decide to expand my beverage consumption and pour V-8 overenthusiastically into a glass filled with ice. Attempting to stir it up with freshly washed celery stalk, I need more paper towels to meet the floor, the counter, and around the sink.

In the span of seven minutes, I used ¼ roll of paper towels, almost lost the rest of the V-8 because I had a wad of paper towels stuck in the same hand I used to put the bottle back into the fridge; then somehow was able to go up two flights of stairs with nary another mishap. What could have turned into a series of unfortunate events was instead easily managed, thanks, in no small part due to the ubiquitous, disposable, unsung utility of paper towels.

On this quiet Sunday morning, paper towels seem like one of man’s greatest inventions.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Friday, August 15, 2008

Bollywood Breaks Bad?

I understand the connection between the driving beats and the pop and lock moves, but Snoop Dogg? Really? I’m afraid so, Snoop Dogg goes to Bollywood. I hate to see the colorful and celebratory song and dance fest become gangsta-rized. I hope this is a blip rather than a trend.

Backbends for Statism

Freedom to practice religion is a basic right of any person in this country and as such, is protected by law. Likewise, the demonstrable violation of property rights is punishable by law. It is through objective laws which protect our individual rights that our government was designed to function and to the idea of which (i.e. freedom) Americans pay great lip service. Sadly, instituting government force to wrest sovereignty from the individual using the tactics of guilt and fear is not new; however, it is the sum total of what the unholy marriage of our nominally opposing political parties currently offers us.

The metaphorical backbend of the statists that bridges the New Left and the Religious Right must expose the unsound altruistic foundations of both. As aptly demonstrated above by Aussie gymnastics’ adorable answer to Carol Merrill, total collapse is desirable.

In order to gain some insight into the false premise and destructive nature of the environmental movement, I recommend reading the non-fiction works of Ayn Rand in the book, Return of the Primitive and some excellent new essays by other authors found at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights.

100 Species

While I didn’t exactly go a-black-berrying, I did go outside and look at berries. I looked at flowers and the leaves, at the twigs, at the mushrooms, the stems, and the grasses, ferns and fruit. I looked at lots of stuff all within my front or backyard. I even took pictures of most of them. And, what’s more, I aim to identify them all as part of my new effort, the 100 Species Challenge.

When I first read about it on Rockhound Place, I got a little itchy just thinking about all that “outdoor time”. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought “what a great little homeschool project for me and the wee lass” (I tried to decipher Robert Burns Address to a Haggis this morning to no avail; the imagined accent still lingers however).

Here is our attempt at the 100 Species challenge. Drop by anytime and let me know if our identification is mistaken. Once upon a time, I was quite proficient at using a dichotomous key for plant identification, but I think it’s going to be a while before I remember or relearn all those botanical definitions. In the meantime, flipping through the pretty pictures in our wildflower field guide (arranged by flower color and from the library) has been quite helpful.

For starters - what the heck is this bush? The opposite leaves are too oblong to be Tartarian honeysuckle, but the berry shape matches the species perfectly while the leaves and habit match the American Fly-honeysuckle, but the berry shape does not. Perhaps it is the Swamp Fly-honeysuckle. Either way, it's pretty common and I'm sure someone knows what it is...just not me...yet! This is going to be interesting.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Gone A-Black-Berrying

As I mentioned elsewhere, I’m reading Katherine by Anya Seton. I am really enjoying this historic fiction about the real love affair between John of Gaunt and Lady Katherine Swynford in 14th century England. Despite its chivalric subject matter and foreword by Phillippa Gregory (good foreword by the way, I just couldn’t get past page 70 of Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl) it’s not a bodice ripper, but an interesting, informative, and most of all, engrossing story. The familial connections in the story are fantastic in themselves, not to the mention the historic background of the Hundred Years War, the plague, stirrings of the Reformation, and the Peasants’ Revolt.

At one point, in describing Geoffrey Chaucer’s distraction from the matter before him, Ms. Seton has him say “my mind went a-black-berrying”. The similarities between Chaucer’s expression (which he actually used in his writing) and the symptoms relating to constant use of the eponymous PDA over 700 years later cannot be ignored! I’m going to use that expression to relate to my too-oft habit of starting to research one thing, finding something else totally fascinating, then meandering on to several completely different ideas until I look at the time and find it is an hour later and my initial research has gone undone. When I get distracted without aid of electronic devices I shall refer to it as the simple, but equally well-imagined expression “gone a wool-gathering”.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Different Name, Same Game

C'mon kids, let's play Horizontal Market Power!

Since the word Monopoly has lost its sexy socialist appeal (the irony of using the word "sexy" right next to "socialist" should not be lost here), and its fallacy well understood, bureaucrats seem to be trying to resurrect the idea. The phrase Horizontal Market Power is used and defined in the Green Communities Act as:

a situation in which 1 or a few market participants combined have undue concentration in the ownership of facilities at the same level in the chain of production resulting in the ability to influence price to his or their own benefit.

This is not to be confused with the promoted channeling of public utilities* funds and the nudging of the market for the advancement of public interests, protection of the environment, creation of employment opportunities, stimulation of increased public and private investments, stimulation of entrepeneurial activities through regulations (all of which are explicitly listed as functions of the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust Fund under the emergency Act).

That's a real danger: not the failure of supposedly free markets, but rather our failure to recognize the destruction of government intervention and its violation of individual rights.

*further exploration of this term saved for a later date.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Six Things

I was tagged by Shez of Homeschooled Twins by this meme to post six things people don’t know about me. This is not to be confused with six things no one knows about me, because there just aren’t that many things (though I am often happy there is no such thing as thought police). While I’ve hardly been less than forthcoming in this blog, here are a few things about myself which I find amusing and/or interesting and which don’t normally come out in everyday conversation (even with myself):

1. When I was about nine, I told my friends that I was homosexual because I had recently learned that “homo” meant man – as in Homo sapiens and, duh, – everyone knows what “sexual” means (like kissing 'n' stuff). Putting two and two together - ergo - I was a “homosexual”. I don’t remember who finally disabused of me this notion and told me that “homo” meant "the same" in this usage, but it was certainly not one of my friends who regarded all that I said on matters of “words and their meaning” as beyond reproach. Oops - my bad.

2. Inspired by other dexterous toes stories, I have to report that when I was nine, I seriously broke my elbow (apparently that was a big year for me), and while in the hospital in traction for two weeks, I learned how to play cards with my toes. My grandmother bought me round playing cards to avoid the whole “holding them up right” issue. Grammy, by the way, looked like Judy Garland, in my opinion, and dressed up to watch Tom Jones on TV. I'm sorry, but I think that is fantastic! But this is about me.

3. I was an ordained Catechetical minister at the age of 17. This means I was blessed by the priest to teach CCD! This is in spite the fact that around age 10 or 11, I stopped believing in the Catholic God. He just didn’t do anything for me. I think I just really liked the pictures in the catechism: they were simple, pastel and reminded me of the childhood I never had (I had one - it just wasn't simple or pastel). That gig didn’t last the year.

4. In college, I was a cocktail waitress in a cheerleading uniform at a “60s theme” bar and had to drop everything to dance on the nearest table during certain songs. The dancing was the best part of the job and my nickname was the “parochial school girl” as my cheerleading skirt was on the longish side. The overall experience was a good one in that it helped me forever eliminate any temptation to add “people person” to my list of marketable skills.

5. My thumbs are double-jointed (or whatever that thing is which means you can bend them back all the way back and touch your wrist) and I only wish I could add that to a list of marketable skills.

6. I met Stephen in first grade when he (or his twin brother – hardly matters now) read out loud from my Ned and Lad reader while looking over my shoulder. They were kindergarten age - damn little whippersnappers! I am only now learning to live with the fact that he is smarter than I am. This is not easy for someone whose overblown assessment of her own intelligence once helped her unwittingly convince a group of little girls that “homosexual” meant “liking boys”.

For this 6 Things Meme, I now tag Fiddler, Kim, and Manoj. I would also like to tag Stephen, C. August, and the Aesthetic Capitalist for this fun fest, but must first steel myself against the likelihood of their collective rejection of (manifested by individual lack of response to, and possible hiding of personal disdain for) any such prompting.

I will say, I found the exercise quite fun, so thank you, Shez. Even my beloved did not know one of the six items (though I'm quite sure I told him - maybe the baseball game was on at the time).

Thursday, August 7, 2008

No sleight of hand

Beyond the wonder of the strange bedfellows presented in their ads, I lingered on their logo. What a marvelously subtle use of typography in turning the "me" into a "we". That encapsulates things for me very nicely.

I am somebody!

I have been “recently chosen as a potential candidate to represent the professional and business community of” my town “in the Biltmore Who’s Who Among Executives and Professional Women and 2008 Honors Edition.”

Isn’t that exciting?

One problem – okay two: I’m neither an executive nor a professional. At least I am a woman, so that’s something.

After it extols my virtues, the letter ends with “on behalf of our Committee I salute your accomplishments.”

I love junk mail with a sense of humor.

I would have liked to include Steve Martin’s dance of jubilation when he discovers he’s listed in the phone book in The Jerk, but I couldn’t find it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Even Mendeleev Would Be Delighted!

This is a very cool site from the University of Nottingham. Click on an element and a video featuring a groovy chemistry professor talks about its properties, historic functions, and other cool uses.

If you or your kids appreciate the beauty of the periodic table, not to mention mad scientist hair, these are the videos you've been waiting for.

Thanks to Home Chemistry blog for sharing.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Fashion Advice

Reflections on Judy Garland's shoes from
"The Wizard of Oz" shown here at the Smithsonian

"'When in doubt, wear red.' I think that's good advice." So says my 10 year-old.

It was good enough for Dorothy and it's good enough for me.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Virtual Coffee Mug #1

These are a few of my favorite mugs.

I collect coffee mugs. I never intended to do this, but ceramic mugs are texturally appealing to me and completely functional. Combine these attributes with a low price and a display that strikes me as funny, clever, or appeals to my sense of life or feelings of nostalgia and BAM! It’s mug mayhem in the kitchen!

When it’s time to cull the stock (those that are chipped, stained, or just don’t otherwise meet my needs any longer), I try to repurpose my favorite ones first. As many others I’m sure have discovered, an unused coffee mug is a perfect place to collect pens, pencils, and other tall/skinny stationery items on one’s desk. However, I have begun to use my coffee mugs to collect all the little things, which belonging nowhere else in particular, I like to have at hand.

While I am certainly not commenting on relative importance of the following items, here are the contents of the virtual coffee mug on my mental desk of late:

Getting Things Done. Read it, watch it, live it. Thanks to Gus Van Horn and NoodleFood for the reminders (can a virtual coffee mug play a role in a viable organizational system – I think not).

Obama and the Oil Rebate. Some may see this as a shameless plug for Stephen’s blog and view his crack ability to analyze the situation part of my specific adoration for him. And…?

The Values of Harry Potter by Ari Armstrong. If you love Harry and haven't bothered to figure out exactly why that is, it may be due to the extraordinary values presented in the books. If you have thought about its values, then this book may help you appreciate all that is Harry Potter even more!

Central Purpose in Life. This post at Making Progress has been nagging me for months for all the right reasons. I have, as of yet, been unable to identify my CPL. I am actively searching (through lots of tough introspection) for mine and I think I may be zeroing in on it. For starters, I’ve taken the idea of developing one out of my mental coffee cup and placed it into an actual 3 ring binder. That’s at least a step in the right direction.

How do you handle your book collection? Our collection, while ever increasing, must be housed in a space which remains fixed. Does anyone use a cataloguing system they really like? How, if perchance you can stomach the thought let alone do the deed, do you get rid of books?

At some point I will be watching “Cultural Movements: Creating Change” at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights. Thanks to the Aesthetic Capitalist for that reminder.

This is basically how I feel about all religions and religious people. Thanks to Politics without God for the link. I really enjoy the visual encapsulation of important ideas: see xkcd and Indexed for some insightful and often hilarious ones.

If you want to guarantee at least five hits a day to your blog, name it after a common office and school stationery supply.

And from the "that's what she said" file, Sawubona is how to greet someone - in Zulu. It means good morning or hello.

I am currently reading Katherine by Anya Seton, Twelve Sharp by Janet Evanovich (beach brain candy which may account for my working blue above), OPAR by Leonard Peikoff, Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution by Ayn Rand, and am poised to embark on The Enchantress of Florence: A Novel by Salman Rushdie.

Anyone else care to share his current reading list? Or virtual coffee mug contents?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Three R’s (3, 6, 10)

As a homeschooling parent, I could be referring to reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic, but I’m not – only one of those actually begins with an “R”. I am instead referring to the three types of cardiovascular activity I prefer: running, rolling, and riding. Sure, interesting aerobic classes like cardio kick-boxing and boot camp style can really be quite fun but require me to be in a room with other sweaty people and pay a membership fee for the privilege OR to squirrel myself away in the bowels of my house and growl if anyone approaches my lair as I need extreme concentration to follow the dyslexic chicky-do moves on the video. (Have you ever wondered why all The FIRM video aerobic instructors have southern accents? I’m convinced it’s to add to my confusion about the moves – “What did she say?”)

So, while the weather holds out, I will continue to keep up some level of outdoor aerobic activity. Typically when I run, like today, I run 3 miles. When I rollerblade, as I did on Wednesday, I go for 6 miles. When I ride my bike, like I did yesterday, I pedal for 10 miles. So I can move myself 3, 6, and 10 miles in about the same amount of time – not all at the same time! Sometimes, not even in the same week! But still, I’m writing about it because it is a major accomplishment for an Avid Indoorsman such as me. Interestingly, despite my grand efforts toward being able to run for 3 miles continuously (by far the most difficult of the three activities for me), I have not yet reached elementary conditioning, defined as the ability to run a mile in under 10 minutes. Really – not even close. But I persist.

When the weather becomes too inhospitable for outdoor exercise, I’ll be looking for some good indoor activities. If anyone has any favorite exercise tapes, or indoor work-outs, let me know. Meanwhile, I’ll be checking out the paleo-exercise and other wellness links on Spark A Synapse and Noodlefood.

If you’re looking for in-home equipment, this is a good website that reviews the various specific pieces and systems.

Happy Work Out!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

"The Soul of a Collectivist"

"It stands to reason that where there's sacrifice, there's someone collecting sacrificial offerings. Where there's service, there's someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice speaks of slaves and masters. And intends to be the master."

Ayn Rand, from the titled essay in For the New Intellectual, as excerpted from The Fountainhead.


Beginning around 10:00 last night, my computer suddenly ceased to be able to open my blog and several others which use the Blogger service. I can get comments, even write posts, I think, but I can't actually make comments (as that would require me to visit the site) or visit some of the other random Blogger sites I've tried. Internet Explorer keeps blurting out an ugly horn sound (I'm sure you're all familiar with it) then posting a red "x" and telling me "operation aborted". I am lucky enough to have access to another machine, but I am frustrated!!!!

Is anyone else having this problem, does it at all sound like a familiar problem, or, she asks hopefully, an easy fix? Suggestions other than "get a new machine" are welcomed.

Update (one hour later, to be read with Roseanne Roseannadanna accent): Nevermind.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Art & Arbitrary

I'm often struck by sudden and random connections between things I see and things I've seen somewhere before (even without wonky eyes). This is especially true when I look at photographs then images from art and other visual media come screaming out at me.

I tried to find some actual examples of pictures that suddenly reminded me of something else I’ve seen. Here are a few, all of which are also connected to the ocean by mere coincidence.

The Gorton's Fisherman

The Oyster Gatherers

Boats at bay

Though sometimes amusing (or disturbing), these correlations of visual perceptions require little more than involuntary mental integration and are basically arbitrary.

Art, however, is not a mere connection to reality, but rather a stylized representation of reality exhibiting the artist's values: an aesthetic abstraction.

For your viewing pleasure, here is a painting by Andre Derain, exhibiting his representation of "Fishing Boats, Collioure", 1905. (By the way, the bottom photograph above is a more recent view of the same place. )

I really like this particular example of Fauvism, with its thick paint application, bold outlines and deep colors reminiscent of van Gogh. I do not like the examples which approach Pointillism, a technique, when applied to an entire image, I find too disintegrated to be attractive.

Art is good.