Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Issues

I have a friend who is three years old (almost four).

On Wednesdays she visits to "babysit" Smiley. This is good for everyone. She gets to interact with a non-parent grownup. Her mom gets one-on-one time with the other child. I get someone to talk to. Smiley gets attention paid to him even when I briefly leave the room to do something.

Today my friend said two especially cute things.

The first was just an example of her three-year-old world, in which politeness and compliments are so much more present than in the adult world. She saw me sweeping the kitchen floor and said, "You clean so well."

"Thank you," I replied.

The second was an example of how it can be especially funny when a young child uses a adult's phrase inappropriately, especially if it is not a phrase either parent uses to add the mystique of wondering where it came from. Smiley was lying on his back and had a big sneeze. My friend looked up at me and said, "Your baby has issues."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Google Uniqueness

Hm. Since doctors regularly recommend letting infants spend some time outdoors unclothed to help prevent diaper rash, I had expected I did not invent the phrase Naked Wiggle Time, which I used as a caption of a photo yesterday.

However, according to Google, that phrase appears only on this blog. Let's hope this blog does not now attract people who are disappointed to find cute baby pictures.

One More Photograph

I thought I was done with pictures for now, but my wife asked to share one of her favorites which she uses as a desktop background since it has extra "empty space" on the left hand side.

As long as I was using the Picasa software to upload it I improved the lighting slightly for her. :-)


July 3rd, out back on the deck

Monday, July 28, 2008

You are Sixteen Weeks, Going on Seventeen Weeks

July 27th was our twelfth anniversary, and Smiley was sixteen weeks old. We celebrated by going blueberry picking.



At sixteen weeks Smiley has become very proficient at grabbing things and holding his head up.



He is also more aware of his surroundings. His crib is now a place to look out of, not just a small world of its own.



He still loves seeing his reflection. At bath time the "other baby" is very exciting!



Toys also are now recognized. Here are a turtle made by one of his aunts and a duck given to him by one of his mother's coworker's daughters who says she is too old for it now.





He loves to stand, and although he has no balance yet his legs are strong enough that he can brace himself when held by the arms or when leaning against the couch.



He also uses his Excersaucer to stand. He's much to little for it to be anything but a chair at this point.

Some Pictures from the Back Yard Deck

Here are more pictures!


Sad Face


Fifteen Weeks Old with Daddy


Fifteen Weeks Old with Mommy


Naked Wiggle Time

Boppy with Ergo Insert

At the beginning of the month I mentioned that we have an Ergo Insert. This is a piece of fabric shaped like an arch with a very thick outer hem. Here is a photograph.

If we knew its size in advance we could have sewn such a thing ourselves and saved money. Since Smiley can hold his head up we no longer need it when using the Ergo. What to do with it?

Smiley likes using the Boppy as a recliner or as a way to be kicking things.





But he rolls sideways and gets stuck on his side, or kicks his legs and his heels pull him out of it. The Ergo Insert, folded in half, works as an extra "edge" to keep Smiley in his Boppy.

If he is reclining it prevents him from rolling sideways and getting stuck.



When kicking it prevents him from rolling sideways and falling out.

Energy Powers of Ten

I few days ago I wrote something that tangentially mentioned the issue of alternative energy sources.

How much energy does the U.S. use? How much of it is used electrically?

Here is a fun chart that might allow people a sense of the size of these answers.

Finland's Fierceness

On the internet you not only can read silly things, but quickly search and find an explanation of the historical details.

(Note: The second link does not work well for me until I refresh it's page. Then it properly jumps to the correct forum post with the long history essay.)

More Nice Vests

A month ago I wrote about the Filson company that sells nice vests for everyday where during cool months, which do not look like they belong on a photographer or hunter.

Someone pointed out to me the Coronado Leather company. Unfortunately, outerwear that is not waterproof does not really have a place in Eugene's climate. The weather would either be too hot for a vest, or too wet for good leather. And I don't think I'm a dress in leather kind of guy. But the vests do look sharp, I agree.

Advertisements in My Comments

Blog comments are an odd mixture of public and private space. It's sort of like inviting strangers to visit your house and paint murals on the walls.

A month ago someone put a comment in my post about my neti pot that seems to me a lot like an advertisement rather than a genuine personal anecdote. Expensive salt packets? Don't people use a container of salt and a quarter-teaspoon measuring spoon?

I certainly do not mind if someone has a relevant comment about something I write about that happens to promote a product. I don't even mind if a company's employee has a genuine personal anecdote about the niftiness of their company's product. But let's keep things both relevant and personal in these murals. Thanks.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Concept Study: Leprosy

Here is another blog post, to discuss the new essay on Leprosy.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Linux Soon?

In a month I may no longer be using Microsoft.

My computer's CPU is from 2002 (a Celeron 2 Ghz). Now that I have a Flip camcorder and am playing with video the processor is finally showing its age. Is it worth spending money for a better CPU? In about three weeks the local Linux store will start carrying little desktop CPUs, smaller than a shoebox, that fit an Intel business class motherboard. A zippy dual core Linux system will cost between $400 and $500. That seems reasonable to spend every six years for a home PC.

Earlier in July I wrote about the software I use. Only a couple of changes would result from leaving Windows XP for Ubuntu.

I am no longer regularly exchanging with other ministers .doc and .ppt files that that include both English and Hebrew text. I can thus switch from Microsoft Office XP to OpenOffice.

My wife and I may need to switch from the RTS games we know to a free Linux RTS game. We wouldn't mind this. The two we play we have played for many years, so something new will be a nice change.

No other software I use and care about has any trouble with Linux.

Oddly, I am enough of a math geek that I cannot muster the distaste for Microsoft that so many people have. Excel is (and always was) a great spreadsheet. I'll still have it at work.

From what I understand, the main problems with Microsoft Windows have always been nicely summarized by this picture of a Nazgul's Fell Beast chasing Captain Jack Sparrow. Windows has always tried to speak the language of every peripheral, which left it as vulnerable to corruption as a child who plays with the Bad Kids as well as the Nice Kids. Allowing too many things to mix is a recipe for disaster, but the business world rejected Apple's early business model (only our safely approved kids are in the playground) and demanded that every peripheral have a chance to work. I'll be pleased to be away from ActiveX and Norton, but not celebrating with a party.

Nice Hips

Today my wife and I received the results about Smiley's hips. It is good news! His hips are developing properly.

The troublesome trend evident in the first two ultrasounds has reversed itself. The angles measured in the third ultrasound are better, not worse, than those in the second.

His hips are still slightly loose, but no treatment is necessary.

Thank you for your prayers! God is good to us.

Concept Study: Jealousy

Here is another blog post, to discuss the new essay on jealousy.

Concept Study: Vows

My routines are settling enough that I have resumed adding new concept studies to the P'nei Adonai website.

One purpose of this blog is to provide a place for comments and discussion about the concept studies there.

Please use this blog post to discuss the new essay about vows.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Few Smiley Videos

Well, I have not heard of any better suggestions than Blip for hosting home videos. (I cannot mark videos as private, but the interface is easy, quick, and clean.)

So I uploaded a few for friends and family (and complete strangers, I suppose) to watch Smiley in action. Among other cuteness, you can see how he has learned to flip over during the past two weeks.
Blip even makes a simple link for all my videos, with an automatic RSS feed! Now you never need to miss a minute of Smiley's cuteness.

Enjoy!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dr. Horrible Says: Sing with Me!

Courtesy of Shamus, I learn about Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog!

It is only free to watch this week, so join the choir now!

UPDATE: Sigh. A few times the writers have Captain Hammer use needlessly crude language to demonstrate that he is dim, crude, and violent. They could have shown that just as easily while making the show family friendly. Why limit their audience?

UPDATE: Hm. The final episode is not at all what I expected. This isn't a show for people who like happy endings. Comments on Shamus's blog and Wikipedia.

UPDATE: The entire film, with commercials, is now viewable here.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

CJB Aloud

Jonathan Settel has a wonderful singing voice. Has anyone purchased his reading of the New Testament and is willing to provide a quick review?

Video Soon

Well, I finally got through editing our Flip videos of Smiley, and sorting through the past month's photographs.

Expect more photographs in the Picasa album soon. I'll continue to blog most of them.

I'm still waiting to hear people's suggestions about where to share videos online. I know y'all want to see Smiley in action!

I have found an informative comparison of video hosting sites on Wikipedia. One feature that might be nice would be the ability to mark a video as "private" and inaccessible to people without the URL. That article does not mentioned this: do any sites have it?

UPDATE: I've put a very short "test" video here on Blip.

Hello, Chizumatic

I'm adding Steven Den Beste to my blogroll.

I have been reading his blog ever since his U.S.S. Clueless days. Even after switching from "mostly politics" to "mostly anime" he continues to provide smiles and interesting reading.

Most anime is cartoons with no more merit than the Saturday morning cartoons I grew up with in the U.S. But a few series are gems I am happy to own. I would never have known about Haibane Renmei and Serial Experiments Lain were it not for Steven. (The local library introduced me to Last Exile and Gunslinger Girls.)

It is also a nice diversion from my Real Life Issues to read reviews of silly cartoons I will never see, so I get many smiles from his writing about "garbage cartoons". Moreover, now and then, as icing on the cake, he continues to write occasional thought-provoking political insights.

The only reason his blog has not been on my blog roll is that he puts a random image from an anime series on the top of it (changing every half hour) and a few of them are not appropriate for children and other innocents. I'll simply say that Japanese culture has different views about the comic value of underwear. A few of his images I can ignore but might upset some of my friends.

Be warned! Don't visit Chizumatic if you might be upset by what cartoons some else is watching. (And, apparently, do not attack the Earth in a gigantic robot.)

So Long, Futurist

I'm removing The Futurist from my blogroll. Fare thee well!

To days ago Steven Den Beste wrote this article about alternative energy sources, building off his old articles here and here and here.

I wrote to ask him what he thought about The Futurist's article here article about solar energy. He replied with a number of reasons why it was garbage. A few are in comment #4 to his recent post. Besides needing a solar panel farm the size of New Jersey, he also wrote about the storage problem.
The problem with reliance on solar at the level that talks about,
irrespective of any other questions about it, is that you need some way to
store energy captured during the day so it can be used at night.

Such a storage technology represents a substantial additional capital
expense which doesn't increase overall capacity. The two best answers
available to us now for doing it are to pump water uphill into artificial
lakes, to supply turbines later to produce electricity, and to disassociate
water into hydrogen and oxygen, which are later burned to produce
electricity.

Both of those are possible but they don't reasonably scale to the levels
necessary. If he wants to produce 69% of our electricity with solar, he's
got to figure out how to produce 14 hours of maybe 300 gigawatts from stored
energy at night in the winter -- and that isn't easy to do.
This is not the first time I have had a conversation with someone who had expertise in his or her field has debunked The Futurist.

Since my father is an actuary, I mentioned this article about life expectancy to him. He read it and laughed, explaining to me that the recent global increase in life expectancy all relates to infant and child mortality, and statistically means nothing whatsoever about how long the elderly are living. Improvements in medicine are helping to make longer life more common but that effect is still very minor compared to what the improvements to keeping children alive.

I enjoyed reading The Futurist for a few months. He picks interesting topics, writes well, and uses graphs to support his conclusions. But I have no interest in falsehoods presented smoothly, and no time to constantly consult with experts to check his conclusions.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sensible Gun Control

The recent Heller decision has prompted a lot of discussion among "gun bloggers".

I do not consider my self among that demographic even if I do have a category named Handguns. But when I read this article it raised the question of what laws would constitute sensible gun control. That seems a question worth trying to answer.

First, the article's author proposes that any crime committed with a gun should be punished more heavily than that sime crime committed without a gun. If such a law were to replace "gun" with "deadly weapon" it would make sense to me even at the Federal level. A criminal could mug me while I was on a walk with Smiley, or burglarize my house when I was not home, without using a deadly weapon. To me this seems a lesser crime against society than if that criminal was intending to threaten life as well as property.

(Yes, some crimes such as assault already have this distinction. Mr. Williams wants to generalize this. Also, I should not as a relevant contrast that hate crime laws make no sense to me: if someone attacks or robs me I might be curious why they did so but do not understand why the punishment depends on their motive.)

Second, Newsweek recently had an article explaining that local background checks often have information about criminal record and mental health that the Federal background checks miss. The article thus recommended all states require local as well as the Federal background checks when purchasing a handgun. Assuming this is true and that the local check is quick like the Federal check then requiring both checks seems reasonable to me.

Third, at the state level a requirement for the gun seller to administer a simple safety check as well as background checks makes sense to me. Anyone owning a gun should be able to recite the Four Rules, nod their head when told the key laws about gun ownership, and show they can clean the gun safely. These things could be done while the background checks were processed. Yes, this would get very repetitive for the salesperson, but we ask the same monotony of nurses who work with blood donors for the same reason of making sure the client is aware his or her act is not purely personal but could affect other people.

Fourth, at the county level, I would also not mind a law requiring gun owners to own a gun safe. I put this at the county level because in some locations it would not be initially affordable. (Although there are currently nationwide charities that freely distribute padlocks to gun owners at any gun shop, so I expect eventually gun safes would become similarly donated.) Owning a gun safe seems to me equivalent to drivers of cars needing car insurance, or motorcyclists needing helmets: it is a cost to the individual which has a greater savings to society. Since nearly all guns used by criminals are traded from other criminals or stolen from homes it makes sense to me to require gun owners to at least own a gun safe and thus have that encouragement to help keep guns from criminals. A gun owner who did not want to use it (perhaps someone who owned only one gun and carried it for self-defense) could always get a safe that would make a nice safe for jewelry or for a external hard drive used for backups.

Finally, again at the county level, I would love to see a law requiring mortgage lenders to offer with each new mortgage a non-transferable scrip for a certain discount off the purchase of a shotgun at one or more firearm stores in the county. I doubt many of those scrips would be used, but the P.R. generated might help protect that county from transient criminals.

Ah, the U.N.

I have not done any political blogging recently. I didn't mean to today. But a pair of headlines was just too silly to pass up.

During the past two months, the U.N. has refused to sanction Mugabe, but did request that Britain get rid of its monarchy.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Only Seven for Investment Diversity

Recently CNNMoney.com had a nice article entitled The Only 7 Investments You Need.

To summarize, it recommends the following categories (and representative funds with low fees and nice track records) as sufficient diversity for a family's investments.

(Blogger does not like HTML tables: my apologies, but for no valid reason you will probably need to scroll down a bit now.)

















































CategoryFund
Fee 5-Year Return
10-Year Return
Blue-Chip U.S. Growth Fund
FSMKX
0.1 %
11.2 %
3.7 %
Blue-Chip Foreign Stock Fund
VGTSX
0.27 %23 %7.4 %
Small Company Fund
PRNHX
0.8 %14.8 %6 %
Value Fund
VIVAX
0.2 %13.4 %4.6 %
Bond Fund
VBMFX
0.19 %4.4 %5.7 %
Inflation-Protected Bond Fund
VIPSX
0.2 %6.6 %n/a
Money Market Fund
FDRXX
0.4 %3.1 %3.6 %

The first follow-up question is what percentage of your total investments should each allocated to each category. To the amateur understanding of my wife and I, the conventional wisdom seems to undervalue foreign investments. (In the order above, 10%, 50%, 10%, 20%, 4%, 3%, and 3% make sense to us for a young family.)

The second follow-up question is how often should a family recheck which fund to use to represent each category. This is less significant: a new best choice would not be very different in fee or performance.

Any advice from those who are more financially savvy?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Adventure versus Success

Lenore Skenazy wrote about a story from her family in which a responsible child getting lost led to more adventure and self-reliance than tragedy and heartache. She asks other parents to do the same.

To me the tension between adventure and success is more a gender issue than a parenting issue. Allow me to illustrate with a story...

About a year ago I made plans on a nice summer day to meet with a congregant for lunch. He works downtown, and we would meet outside his office. I was going to bicycle, but on a whim decided to rollerblade. I had not used my rollerblades for over eight years. Could I even still rollerblade? Would I fall and scrape myself up? Would I go a few miles and then be unable to finish? It turns out I could still rollerblade, and made it to the lunch meeting without any problems. At lunch my friend and I talked about how guys like adventure.

To both of us it seemed quite reasonable that I jeopardized our lunch meeting by attempting a fun and foolish adventure. Since I had a cell phone, if I had fallen and scraped myself or had worn myself out I could have called him to let him know what had happened. Such a disaster would be minor and humorous, something to laugh about then and later, and thus just as successful as a lunch hour and as a contribution to our friendship as our lunch meeting.

On the other hand, we both agreed our wives would have been aghast at my decision. In their minds an adventure that led to problems would definitely have been not at all successful, and definitely not a fitting replacement for sharing lunch together.

My son is still much too young to get lost (he only started rolling over this week). As a father I cannot reasonably expect that he will never get lost. But I can try to teach him the skills and attitudes he would use to turn problem situations into adventures and puzzles he must solve rather than disasters and situations he already failed.

Flip Camcorder First Impressions

As I mentioned, my wife and I were recent given a Flip Mino as a present. It deserves a review.

Part One: The Camcorder

We love it. It does everything it claims to and is easy to use. The microphone is of higher quality than the only current competitor in the ultra-small camcorder market; the video resolution is smaller but adequate for our needs. The size and shape are convenient for holding it or carrying it in pocket. The lens seems to be of respectable quality for the

This is a wonderful camcorder for parents or an elementary classroom. It is certainly nowhere near professional quality in visual or audio recording and a more expensive camcorder would be desirable for recording a concert or other performance.

Part Two: The Desktop Software

We cannot believe how absurd it is. Yes, it barely manages to do everything it claims. But the problems are almost too numerous to list.
  • Videos cannot be sorted by name or date (only by date)
  • Videos lack a system property tag for the creation date (if you edit it then the edit date becomes the file creation date; if you edit and rename if you have lost track of the creation date!)
  • Videos can only be renamed with a very short name (a date uses most of the allowed characters)
  • Videos must be renamed before saving (there is no "Save as...")
  • When editing a video, renaming it causes other changes made so far to be reset
  • There is no obvious way to go back from the editor to the thumbnail list of videos (there is a very easy way, but it is not obvious)
  • There is no way to refresh the list of videos in a folder if you manually renamed or added any, aside for quitting and restarting
  • There is no obvious way to restart the program after you quit (the is an easy way, but it is not obvious)
  • The desktop software does not have its own way to do a system "Safely remove hardware..." or "Eject..."
  • There is no Preferences to set which folders are used
  • There is no Preferences to set how much processor priority is used
  • The software uses 20% of my CPU just to be open!
  • The video quality conversion process cannot be paused
  • The video quality conversion process has a progress bar but does not estimate time remaining
  • There are two video quality conversion options: "save for email" and "export for upload to video sharing site", but the user is not told these convert to identical formats
  • There are so many pop-up windows asking me to click "okay" that the software seems created for a gaming console rather than a PC
Is the Flip company is a bunch of capable hardware manufacturers who contracted with amateur programmers to create the desktop software?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Call for Help: How to Share Videos Online?

My wife and I were recently given a Flip Mino as a present.

Picasa is clearly not the best way to share videos, even if the Flip software does allow me to change them to an appropriate size for putting online.

The Flip software has built-in knowledge of how to connect to YouTube, AOL Video, and MySpaceTV, none of which appear to have the ambiance of place to look at a family album.

Which of these three is the best? Is there a still better alternative? Do any such sites allow you to mark a video or "album" of videos as private (hidden to viewers without a password and/or url)?

New to Blogroll: Good Math, Bad Math

My father introduced me to a fun new blog which I've added to my blogroll.

If All the World Were Paper

As I care for little Smiley I sing to him almost constantly. I make up impromptu rhymes to traditional melodies but never bother to write them down.

Back in my undergraduate days when I participated in the SCA I learned an old rhyme (that had an accompanying dance) named If All the World Were Paper.

The two verses I learned went:
If all the world were paper
And all the sea were ink,
If all the trees were bread and cheese
What would we do for drink?

If all the bottles leak'ed
And none but had a crack,
If Spanish apes ate all the grapes
How should we do for sack?


Of course, the internet has more verses. The first three verses were a traditional nursery rhyme, according to Walter Crane's The Baby's Bouquet. (UPDATE: The HTML version on Project Gutenberg not only has the book's illustrations but even has music! The dance and other music is here.)

I was making up new verses to this song this morning when I realized that here was a song worth changing well and writing down the result. It has a catchy tune. It already has a nonsense theme, with mention of drinking and bottles. Could I make it a longer song about feeding babies?

Since "drink" is so easy to rhyme, I'll also challenged myself to not let the -ink syllable conclude more than every other verse.

The first two verses could almost stand as I learned them. However, I was not sure if "Spanish apes" was a British insult against Spaniards or whether literal apes were believed to come from Spain. I thought I might as well avoid any problems by changing those words to "baby apes", which fit the baby theme better anyways.

I saw no need to change "sack". It becomes one of many words among nursery rhymes that has a vague meaning to a child but to adults means more: London's bridges, tuffets, and so forth.

Here is my first draft of a new version. The first two new verses I made up while feeding Smiley. The other two I made up while typing this blog post during his first nap.

If all the world were paper
And all the sea were ink,
If all the trees were bread and cheese
What would we do for drink?

If all the bottles leak'ed
And none but had a crack,
If Spanish apes ate all the grapes
How should we do for sack?

If all the babies burp'ed
And none had but a drink,
If bottles high did zoom and fly,
What would their parents think?

If all the legs did wiggle,
And hands get in the way,
At tot cannot drink a lot
If all it wants is play.

If all day long you hiccup
And never had a drink,
No diaper then in your playpen,
You'd never make a stink.

If all the binkies hideth
And hands did not have thumbs,
To try to suck you'd have no luck
Nothing to soothe your gums.


It is tempting to make more, but at least for now when I try to make up others they stray from the Feeding Baby theme:
If toes were rainbow colored
And fingers glowed like stars,
Doctors would frown and scratch their crown
And guess you were from Mars.


UPDATE: Hm. I should find old and obscure nursery rhyme songs to adapt for colors, for days of the week, for parts of the body, etc.

UPDATE: Lunch time for Smiley. I fixed the outer space verse and made up two more.

If bottles were gigantic
And we drove them like cars,
Would they fly up in the sky
To take us to Mars?

If burping did blow bubbles
Of ev'ry size and hue,
The nursery walls would have circles
Painted when you blew.

If your bib was backwards.
And on your back did flap,
Up up, away, go save the day,
But be home for your nap.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Science Stuff for Babies

Little Smiley was recently given a present by family members--a shirt with a bug and magnifying glass--because it was "scientific" like his parents.

It was a sweet gesture. But a magnifying glass is not really very scientific.

Courtesy of Geek Parenting, here is a website by Tiffany Ard with really scientific artsy stuff for kids.

Card Games

A few evenings ago I was at a friend's home and was re-taught the card game Rich Man, Poor Man.

How could I have forgotten such a great game since my college days? Odd.

It is also easy to see which of its common rule variants would work well with the Decktet.

Two Spy Stories

The two audiobooks (both library books) I have listened to most recently were both spy stories.

I don't normally read spy stories, but I am enjoying having them read to me. Perhaps the pace is appropriate to audiobooks?

The first was You Only Live Twice, a James Bond novel which is nothing like the film version.

It was delightful because of its context: it is very much a product of its time. Ian Fleming provides a description of Bond's visit to Japan that is more of a stereotypical tourist agenda than an espionage operation.

I also appreciated how the two characters of Tanaka and Bond were quietly put forth as contrasts. Tanaka, who had desired to be a Kamikaze pilot, now runs Japan's spy network. He realizes that he has given to his country much more through this work than he would have with the honorable hero's death he once wanted; he sees in retrospect the desire for that honorable and heroic death was actually a selfish desire and not a patriotic one. Now he struggles to define what is honorable in post-WWII Japan. In contrast, Bond begins his mission with purely patriotic motives but completely abandons those to selfishly pursue achieving a personal, heroic revenge, progressing backwards through the moral development Tanaka is in the middle of achieving.

The second story was The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. This is a gritty spy story quite unlike the romanticized world of James Bond. I really enjoyed it, especially its commentary about what it means to be human or good.

Even more fascinating was how Le Carré deliberately emphasizes the similar evils in the British and German espionage circles and then asks which evil is at the root. The different characters pose different answers to what makes spy work "The Cold". Leamas claims it is human depravity: selfish ambitions distilled through the competition of war. Fiedler claims it is personal greed. Mundt claims it is personal desires, which cause the effects of the "game" of espionage to spill over from the official "players" onto innocent lives. Gold claims it is manipulating people as tools.

Le Carré himself gives a different answer, using the character Leamas. When the book begins, Leamas understands his job as gathering information that protects his country. He can live with the fact that occasionally someone must be ruined or killed because many more people are made secure through the information he manages. However, Leamas is wrong. The root of espionage and the truth about his entire career are not really gathering information but misdirecting suspicion. The Cold is about managing suspicion, not information. At its core it is cold-hearted simply to protect and perpetuate itself, not for the sake of the common citizen. This evil root of ruthlessly managing suspicion is secretly behind the more apparent evils of selfish ambitions, greed, desires, and manipulations.

When Leamas discovers that he is actually neither a "protector" nor "information gatherer" but merely a pawn in other people's misdirecting of suspicion he quits in a dramatic way. He "comes in from The Cold" because he can no longer bear that innocents get hurt by espionage work. Leamas was willing to hurt enemy combatants for the sake of his country; he is unwilling to see innocents hurt for the sake of The Cold.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Lockhart's Lament

At the bottom of this page is this article by Paul Lockhart about how the issues about math education in this country are actually far deeper than educators normally talk about.

I'll probably start asking all of my LCC students to read at least the first few pages from it.

Some Math, and an Illusion

Now and than my LCC collegues share nifty websites.

This one about math might be nifty. I have not yet looked at it closely.

This one about a moving optical illusion of a dancer is fun.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

First Laugh

Smiley laughed this evening as he was getting ready for his bath.

It was his first laugh, so my wife wanted it mentioned in the blog as a record of a developmental milestone.

Maybe I am overly practical, but I am just as excited that a few days ago he finally progressed to holding his head up well enough to sit in the Ergo with one leg out to each side, instead of lying diagonally while folded into the Ergo Infant Insert.

He also grabs items regularly now, and enjoys doing so. We put the overhead arches on the Boppy and have some toys hanging from those. Since he still cannot sit upright, the Ergo Infant Insert now lives in the Boppy to keep him more upright while reclining there.

Spaceships and Air Conditioning

Back in 2004 Steven Den Beste wrote an article about the physics of space ship combat. One of his interesting observations was that radiating heat would be a constant issue for any spacecraft and any radiator device would be both obvious and a major vulnerability.

Today, after four years, I finally happen to read something along the same lines by David Morgan-Mar.

From what I know of those two men, I would not at all surprised if David Morgan-Mar had read that same article by Steven Den Beste four years ago. I wonder?

Both are certainly capable physicists who might be thinking in parallel without any interaction, but both are likely to know of and enjoy the other's work.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Stroller Vibrations?

It seems common knowledge that an infant under one year of age should not be jostled by travel in a jogging stroller or bicycle trailer, because at too young an age the vibrations can hurt the brain.

On Sunday my wife and I took little Smiley to the local Arboretum. How safe is pushing a normal stroller at walking speed along unpaved paths? Does that amount of shaking count as Brain Jostle?

Anyone know?

Level 1 Househusband

Today my wife's maternity leave ended and she went back to work (part-time for now). I guess that means I'm officially a Househusband.

My math teaching at LCC will henceforth drop to one class per term. Most of my ministry work is done from the house anyway.

Here is today's schedule until 2pm, when my wife gets home on Mon-Wed-Fri. I am not sure how typical this will be. Little Smiley just started sleeping through the night (an eight or nine hour stretch starting between 10pm and 11pm) and we are not sure if that change will last.

Today happened to be a laundry day, so I had three loads of laundry to do besides Smiley's daily load. I also had a small backlog of phone and e-mail chores I was saving for today. Typically I will be doing more gardening and ministry work and fewer chores during the day.

7:00 - I wake up before Smiley does to shower and have breakfast

8:00 - My wife wakes Smiley and nurses him before she departs to work, while I empty and re-load dishwasher and wash what dirty dishes we wash by hand

8:30 - Smiley starts a long play time, during which I am able to do some chores while still talking and singing fairly nonstop (phone calls, laundry, etc.)

10:00 - Smiley's second breakfast

10:15 - Smiley's first nap, and I have a chance to do some e-mail chores

11:00 - Smiley wakes up happy and not hungry. He rests in his swing on the back deck while I make myself and the lovebirds lunch. I join them to eat and read. When Smiley finally gets fussy I can't blame him: he has become hungry, by then needs as new diaper, and has drool-soaked the top of his onesie

11:45 - Smiley's lunch

12:00 - We go down to the laundry room to change loads and stuff diapers

12:20 - Smiley's second nap, and I do more e-mail chores

1:15 - Smiley wakes up. After a bit we go for a long walk with him in the Ergo.

Of Neurons and Numbers

In May I mentioned a neat Introduction to Psychology class available online here through MIT's OpenCourseware.

A colleague in the LCC Math Department sent around a link to a New Yorker article that expands on that course's overview of our brains' natural number sense. It is a very interesting read, with some consequences for elementary math education.

Karly's Art

In a previous post I linked to Karly's design website.

She designed the wedding invitation for two other swing dancing friends of ours, Kevin and Holle. It is so cool it deserves its own post.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Software I Use

Occasionally I have written blog posts about software programs I use, but I have never made a list of what is on my computer. For those who are curious...

Purchased Software

Word processor, spreadsheet, slides: Microsoft Office XP
Hebrew word processor: DavkaWriter
PDA word processor: WordSmith
PDA game: Spaceward Ho!
Desktop games: Battle for Middle Earth, Star Wars: Galactic Battleground Saga, Thief series
Anti-Virus: currently Norton, but after this subscription I'll switch to Zone Alarm

Free Software

Web browser: Firefox, with extensions AdBlock Plus, NoScript, and Dowload Statusbar
E-mail: Gmail (in web browser), Gmail Notifier, and Thunderbird for backups to the hard drive
Internet safety: Zone Alarm firewall, Ad-Aware, SpyBlock, Tor
Bible software: e-Sword
Text editing: PSPad and the Firefox extension LinkChecker
File transfer: the Firefox extension FireFTP
PDA: Palm Desktop, BibleReader, UniBible, Chagim, Kaluach, MobiPocket
Photos: Picasa2 and Gimp
Music: iTunes, VideoLan

At LCC, Used When Teaching Math

Recording the voice: Audacity
Recording the overhead: Starboard
Editing the overhead: Acrobat

Note that this is not a complete list. My home computer has the usual assortment of Acrobat Reader, Flash, Quicktime, and a host of other software accessories and drivers.

I could now switch to OpenOffice and stop using Microsoft Office XP. However, for a few years I was often exchanging with other ministers .doc or .ppt files that included a mix of Hebrew and English, and at least back then OpenOffice could not handle Hebrew vowels. So I purchased Microsoft Office XP then, and still use it.

A Call for Help: Smiley's Hip Development

Please pray for Smiley's hip development.

As a baby who was footling breech he is at a high risk for hip dysplasia.

The oversimplified issue is that spending so much time in the womb with his left foot up by his head means his left hip joint is a bit too roomy. That summary is not quite accurate because an infant's hips joints are mostly cartilage, not bone. The issue is not really that the joint is too roomy now, but that it might develop correctly as the joint transitions to bone.

Every few weeks we take Smiley to the doctor for an ultrasound of his hips. So far his hip joints are acceptably shaped, but with each measurement they are less safely within what is considered normal development.

In two weeks we have another ultrasound appointment. If, at that time, the trend is still negative he will need to be in a straps-and-velcro Pavlik harness for four to eight weeks.

The harness itself is not too bad. Being restrained makes most babies fussier, which would be a bother but not nearly as severe as if he had a condition that required surgery. This would be minor compared to many other medical interventions for infant health problems.

The bigger bother would be caring for Smiley if he had to wear such a harness. Nursing is still possible but quite tricky. To switch from a daily bath to only sponge baths would almost be inviting a diaper rash. He might not fit into his car seat and thus be unable to visit friends. It is still true that these problems are minor compared to most infant health problems, but they are frustrating enough there is a support group website about them.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Beyond Denver

When I did my elementary school teacher training the Denver II was still the standard screening measure of a child's cognitive development.

Apparently that has changed.

Well, Hello There

Possibly the best Peanuts cartoon ever?

It makes me happy.