Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Smiley at Preschool

Smiley goes to preschool three days a week, from 9 am until noon.

My wife and I were not planning on enrolling him in any preschool.  All of the local preschools we knew about were very expensive because they catered to families in which every parent works.  They provide breakfast and lunch, last more than three hours per day, and some even provide busing.

Then, a year ago, we heard about the preschool run by the city Parks and Recreation District at the Amazon Community Center.  It was a great fit for our family.  The cost is great ($5 per hour) and we admire Smiley's teacher for the wonderful job she does.

There M/W/F class is still accepting students for this school year.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Manosphere Theology

A couple months ago I started reading a few Manosphere blogs.  Four of them are intriguing.

As far as I know, none of these authors are religious.  But they readily ascribe to some basic scriptural theology.

First, we are more broken than we realize.  In our natural state we do things we do not want to do, often without realizing it.  We often think we want things we do not really want, or we not realize the deep desires at the root of our superficial wants.  Although we like to consider our behavior as rational our actions are often better explained by natural inclinations and desires.

(Scripture would add that this broken "old self" can be replaced by a fixed "new self" infused with God's own spirit.)

Second, we focus too much about what others think of us.  We put on acts to impress people.  We monitor ourselves in an attempt to see ourselves as others do.  We say things we do not mean to smooth things over with people.  We dwell on trying to figure out what others want, even though this is often doomed because (as mentioned above) people often do not really know what they want.

(Scripture would add that we should instead focus on what pleases God.  This is more important because God is eternal and in charge.  It is easier because God really does know what he wants, and for the important issues had told us.)

Third, we think about ourselves more that we like to admit.  We assume events near us are about us.  We attribute meaning to impersonal things.  We hear about acts far from us and assume they will effect us.  Even when we are generous and sacrificing we still often think about how our deeds cost us and change us.

(Scripture would add that we can escape thinking about ourselves by keeping our focus on God as we channel his goodness and generosity.  Then our actions are about what God is doing, other people's reactions say something about God instead of about us, and we have no worries about running out of resources, time, or energy.)

Therefore, despite my disagreement with many things these authors write, we have some deep foundational agreement.

Some of their posts prompt a response in me, "Thank goodness I have a 'new self' and need not worry about that any more."  A few posts even help me notice areas in my life where I am neglecting my new self and letting the old self emerge again.

Some of their posts prompt me to consider issues of fatherhood or marriage that are worth thinking about.  What will I teach my sons about masculinity and being a gentleman?  Can I do a little about my physical fitness and dress to be more pleasing to my wife?  Etc.

Some of the posts are just interesting psychology, even if irrelevant to my life.  A few might be relevant to my math teaching, but I am not sure about that.

And a lot of posts I just read and forget.  But even those posts were usually interesting due to seeing that largely scriptural understanding of people filtered through a very secular combination of world-view and application.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Samsara of Laundry

Although I am not a Buddhist, I can appreciate some of that faith's truths.

Laundry is a great example of "escaping the wheel of illusion".

In my family, I am the person who does nearly all of the laundry.  I used to feel happy or anxious because of this responsibility.  Being caught up with laundry gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling.  Having a lot of laundry to do caused discontent.

Neither feeling had any solid foundation.  We own enough clothes that an empty laundry basket offers no real benefit compared to a half-empty laundry basket.  Days when I really had to laundry were never miserable because of that chore.

The situation was also an overall negative.  The warm, fuzzy feeling from finishing laundry was never as intense as the anxiety from urgent laundry.

All this exemplifies "illusion".  It was all in my head, and an overall source of unhappiness (albeit a very minor one).

Moreover, the only choices were to stay within the illusion or completely depart.  I needed to let go of the warm, fuzzy feeling of completed laundry if I wanted to cast away feeling anxious on urgent laundry days.  Trying to hold onto the former would keep me from being able to cast away the latter.  Overall my life would be less happy if I tried to retain one particular happiness.

Having left behind that particular "illusion" it seems a very silly thing when I view it from outside.  There are many issues that a far worthier sources of contentment or stress in my role as househusband.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Berry Comparison

We buy a lot of bulk food at Azure Standard.  Back in 2010 I wrote about our normal purchases: gluten-free grains, flours, and pastas.  (The prices from that old blog post of 2010 are more-or-less unchanged.)

During our most recent order we also wanted to buy organic berries for our two boys to eat.  This prompted us to do some price comparisons among Azure Standard, Trader Joe's, and Market of Choice.

(This analysis ignores some bulk pricing for berries at Azure Standard.  We do not have room in our garage freezer for ten pounds of a single type of berry.)

The results were surprising.  Market of Choice was never the least expensive choice.  Trader Joe's won for the two most commonly bought kinds of berries.

Trader Joe's had the least expensive organic berries.  Strawberries were $2.79 per pound and blueberries were $3.99 per pound.

Azure Standard had the other least expensive options: cherries at $4.94 per pound, Marion berries at $5.55 per pound, blackberries at $5.79 per pound, and raspberries at $5.79 per pound.

(Earlier in the year Trader Joe's was selling organic raspberries, but they had sold out by the time we did our pricing.  Perhaps they are the best buy for organic raspberries when still in stock?)

None of these sources sell organic cranberries or mango.  The least expensive conventional cranberries were at Azure Standard at $1.10 per pound.  The least expensive conventional frozen mango was at Trader Joe's for $1.79 per pound.

Trader Joe's also had the least expensive pesticide-free or organic spinach, at $1.49 or $1.99 per pound, respectively.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Round Beard at Sixteen Days

I mentioned that I was growing a beard for Movember.  This morning Smiley took a picture that shows sixteen days of beard growth.  I am growing a "round beard", also known as a Van Dyke.

The ultimate goatee with mustache might be the Batman goatee.  Yet I do not think that style really suits me.

I am curious how a round beard would look if really long.  Ever since I was old enough to read The Hobbit I have wanted a long beard.  But I do not want a full beard, and as far as long round beards go I do not anticipate having the eyebrow length to do this look.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pathfinder Play-by-Posts

I have started playing in two Pathfinder games online, using the Paizo forum for Play-by-Post games.

In Gravel to Granite I play Shayne Anigon the gnome bard illusionist.  This is an interesting campaign because we are asked to start at "zero level" which means my character is temporarily relying on theatrics and cantrips instead of more potent weapons and spells.

In GM Odea's Short Adventure Playtest I play the fourth-level variant of the Paizo pregenerated wizard Ezren (PDF file).  This adventure has stalled for two days; I am not sure why. 

Like many people I have an itch to check my inbox.  This is a nice way to feed that itch in a very limited way, without the danger of becoming sucked into reading online news or comics for too long.

Visiting Far Away Land

More than a year ago I wrote about how Smiley invented Far Away Land as the place where characters in stories live.

Back then "Eugene" was the real world and Far Away Land was inside Eugene, surrounded by a tall wooden wall so the wicked bad guys could not get out.

During the past year Smiley's internal sense of geography has developed.  He now understands that the real world contains many places other than Eugene, included places like South America that are bigger than Eugene.

Today Smiley finally comprehended that Far Away Land is not in the real world.  It is only pretend.  It is not "on the same map" and we cannot get there by walking or by car, train, or airplane.

For a few minutes he was terribly disappointed.   I could almost see his dreams of visiting Little Bear, Magalene, and Robin Hood crashing down.  Then he brightened up and said, "All my dreams are in Far Away Land.  When I dream I am there."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Arborist Comparisons

During that April snowstorm a tall wild-looking apple tree in our back yard fell on our house.  It fell slowly and caused no damage.  (My wife did not even wake up.)

But we needed it removed and its stump ground so it would not regrow.  We also needed to remove a big Ponderosa Pine on our uphill property line that was threatening to fall on our neighbor's house.  Finally, we had a tall, skinny, and sick White Oak near that might as well get removed while the other work was being done.

I contacted three arborists. How did the bids compare?

The first was Gene Burks of Second to None Tree Service (541-517-3736).  He is a one-man operation, and the arborist we use to prune dead branches from our back yard's wonderful White Oak tree.  He does not do stump grinding.

His bid for the Apple was $400, the Ponderosa Pine was $1,650, and the sick White Oak was $100.

(We eventually hired Gene to remove all three trees.  His method for removing the Ponderosa Pine was fascinating to watch.  He removed half of the branches and hauled them away, then removed the rest and built a "bird's nest" under the Pine.  Then he started at the top and dropped ten-inch to twelve-inch rounds down into that nest cushion.)

The second bid was from Bakke Tree Care, another one-man operation that was recommended by a friend.  Jonathan Bakke was friendly and prompt.  I cannot say more since we did not hire him.

His bid for the Apple was $280, the Ponderosa Pine was $3,900, and the sick White Oak was $100.

(I have no idea why his bid for the Ponderosa Pine was so high.  I also wonder if he would use the same "bird's nest" method or if he had some other technique?  His bid for the Apple was quite low: I'll never know if he had some trick to make that job simpler.)

Finally, we called Sperry Tree Care, which might be the biggest tree care business in Eugene.  Since they were the only arborist I called who was able to do stump grinding we hired the for that job ($80).

Their bid for the Apple was $380, the Ponderosa Pine was $1,950, and the sick White Oak was $250.

(Talking to the fellow who removed the stump, I found out that Sperry Tree Care prides itself in "beautification" jobs.  They often have customers who say "make the yard as nice as you can for such-and-such amount of money".  A crew of four to six workers arrives, makes plans, checks the plans with the client, starts the clock, and then divides and conquers.)

Gas Pump Ineptitude

Oregon has a law prohibiting motorists from pumping their own gas at gas stations.  One of the multitude of original reasons was to help employ teenagers, although now most gas station attendants are adults.

Because of that law there is a stereotype that Oregonians are inept at pumping their own gas.  Saturday I fulfilled that stereotype in an humorously exemplary manner.

Last weekend my family visited relatives in Auburn, Washinton.  After the five hour drive from our home we thought it prudent to refill the tank.  I forgot how much I had been spoiled by Costco gas pumps and ran into trouble.  (The gas station at which I most often pump my own gas is at the Costco near my grandmother's home.)

First, I mistyped my zip code when using my credit card.  I am used a gas pump that makes a beep with each key press and has a decently readable display.  This pump was silent and nearly illegible from age and glare.  Pressing "Enter" after only typing four digits caused an error.  I am forced to go to the building and have an employee clear the pump so I can try again.

For my second attempt I slow down and double check my keypad use.  But when I remove the nozzle I discover the hose does not reach.  I am used to the super-long hoses at Costco gas stations, and parked with my car's gas cap facing away from the pump.  I turn the car around, but the gas pump has given up on waiting for me.  Again I go into the building and ask the employee to clear the pump.

On my third try the pump will not accept my credit card.  It apparently has a "two strikes, you're out" policy.  Again I go into the building.  I cannot use the credit card inside without specifying a dollar amount.  I pay with cash, and finally pump my gas.  Of course, getting my change means I have to enter the building a fourth time.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Two Fun Fairy Tale Picture Books

Smiley has two new "favorite" fairy tales in our current round of library books.

The Well at the End of the World is a delightful fusion and adaptation of a few much too traditional tales.  The author, Rober D. San Souci, is quite a wordsmith.  The illustrations are active and cute.

The Hinkey-Pink seems to be a more modern fairy tale.  It does not have as interesting a plot and is not as carefully written.  But has more physical humor, which Smiley enjoys.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Half Price Hult Tickets

Today only, until 5pm, you can buy half price tickets for two Hult Center holiday events: an evening Christmas music performance and an afternoon performance of Swan Lake.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Worn In

On Sunday I took the boys for a walk.  Smiley wanted to visit the playground on the way home.
Me: You just said you were worn out.  You asked if you could ride in the stroller and Gallant could walk.  How can you enjoy the playground if you are too tired to want to walk?

Smiley: I am not tired.  I am just worn out, and it takes a little while for a person to get worn in again.

After the Election

The election results are nearly complete.  As usual, Intrade was a most accurate election predictor.

President Obama has been re-elected.  Congress is probably divided with a liberal Senate and conservative House.  (Moreover, as xkcd illustrates, Congress is at its most ideologically extreme divide since 1820.)

Perhaps the presidential election is less significant than whether Congress is divided: any president's potential to effect legislation is small compared to whether Congress is churning out new laws or suffering stalemate.

But the presidential race is better blogging material, so here I go.

I've written before about how living in Oregon prevents me from caring too much about the presidential race.  My state's electoral college votes are very predictable.

Yet I can still talk about the big issues.  (It will be interested to re-read this blog post years from now, when time will tell whether these are the big issues.)

Normally the most important long-term implication of any presidential election is the potential Supreme Court nominations.  For this issue a Mitt Romney win would have been nice.  The next president will probably appoint two or three new justices.  President Obama has already appointed one or two justices who believe axiomatically that impartial laws do not exist.  If four years from now the majority of the court holds this view it will change our county incredibly.

The other huge issue for this election is the Affordable Care Act, and for this issue I am happy President Obama was re-elected.  The PPACA  It is an ungainly and horrendous bulk of legislation.  But it is the lesser of two evils.  Our country is hurt more by having health insurance tied to employment (as opposed to being part of the market like automobile insurance or home owner's insurance).  Because half of employed people are, by definition, getting a better than average deal on insurance through their employment, and many retired people still benefit after ending employment, Americans will never vote away the current system unless our country passes through a time of national health coverage.  (I just pray the Affordable Care Act allows removing the link between employment and insurance before the economy is really hit by the Entitlement Crisis and the Federal government runs out of money.)

Regarding the other, smaller issues President Obama's re-election provides many unknowns because so many of his first term accomplishments have delayed implementation.

Personally, I will enjoy a break from reading Instapundit, a blog that has succumbed to frustration.  Today Glenn Reynolds wrote, "If Romney loses this thing, it’ll only be because of fraud," and later he wrote "They [the mainstream media] must be neutralized in coming years."  I normally enjoy Glenn's hobby of pointing out media bias, but I do not enjoy reading someone who feels bitter and combative.

The most interest response to the election I have read so far was from Sarah Hoyt, who wrote, "We’re not a country of land or blood.  We’re a country of beliefs.  If we’ve lost that, who are we?  Who am I?  And where do I go?"  My reply was that we are a country of stories, not a country of beliefs.  Contrary to what pundits proclaim, I do not believe that today's election could save or doom the country or its economy.  The next four years will provide plenty of stories, and from these we will draw our identities, values, hopes, fears, and dreams.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Newspaper Political Endoresements

Today I learned about two interesting "predictors" for the presidential election.  Both are just entertainment for mathematicians: neither has any experimental evidence supporting its predictive power.

The first is the types of books being sold in each state: the Election Heat Map as tracked by Amazon.

The other only applies when there is an incumbent running for re-election.  How many newspapers endorsed the incumbent during his first campaign but have now switched to the opponent?  Mitt Romney is doing well by this measure.

I already knew about Intrade and a few of the many sports related coincidences.

Which other "predictors" do you know about?

Saturday, November 03, 2012

To the Pain

As the election approaches I am each day reading from both Google News and Instapundit.  Together these provide a pretty good balance of bias.

At Instapundit a few guest bloggers were invited to participate until the election.  I was amused a few days ago when one of them, Sarah Hoyt, offered a public challenge of a duel to the pain.

Friday, November 02, 2012

A Househusband Muses about Modern Motherhood

Allow me to paraphrase a pair of humorous conversations I had one day earlier this year.
Me: We both have two kids of the same ages, who we spend all day parenting.
Mom at a park: Go away.  We have nothing in common.
Me: I got a vacuum as my father's day present.
Mom at the grocery store: You are my soul mate.
For a couple months the difference puzzled me but I eventually figured it out thanks to some magazines in the pediatrician's waiting room.

Moms in urban American are exposed to an interesting phenomenon I'll now nickname Modern Motherhood.  (I'm sure that phrase has been coined a gazillion times already.  But I'm stealing it for just one blog post.  With italics.  Then you can have it back.)

There are lots of magazines offering to teach the basics of Modern Motherhood, which seems to primarily involve which books about child psychology to read, where to go to talk about those books, how to decorate your home and bake cute treats for each holiday, and new ways to relax.

Keeping the house clean is also a part of Modern Motherhood although these magazines would never, ever use the word "housewife".  Even the word "housework" is avoided.  Instead it is "chores" or "cleaning" and these always are assumed to be as enjoyable and mood-friendly as an equivalent time spent doing long division.

Actual parenting is secretly optional.  The magazines avoid saying this explicitly but grandparents can also fully participate in Modern Motherhood with those books, those places to talk about those books, all the cute decorating of home and baked goods, and deliberate destressing.

I do not care about Modern Motherhood and clearly give off a vibe that proclaims I am much more interested in boffer swords than Fourth of July cupcakes.

Those moms who do participate in Modern Motherhood correctly surmise that despite any similarities of offspring ages or genders our parenting interests are divergent and so they do their best to ignore me.  Mentioning a dedication to housework offers a bit of commonality, but only briefly because another couple sentences of conversation will still reveal that I barbarically have never spent a moment (let alone the proper number of days) worrying about whether to purchase or sew a Halloween costume.

Smiley has many friends he sees fairly often at play dates at parks or homes.  Would it surprise you to hear that none of his close friends' moms subscribe to Modern Motherhood?  They look for toy/clothing deals on Craigslist instead of reading parenting books, discuss kid-friendly U-pick farms and library/museum events instead of new fads in child psychology, collect beauty by memorizing the funny things their kids say instead of making carefully iced cookies, and unwind not intensely at spas or on a solo hike in the mountains but just a bit during play dates because there is someone older than five to talk to.

(Postscript: I should mention that the small and local Mom Magazine is much more sensible.  It is also at all the pediatrician waiting rooms but is not part of the parenting subculture this blog post pokes fun at.)

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Starting Movember

Two years ago Nathen introduced me to Movember.

I keep my hair the way my wife likes it best: long hair and clean-shaven.  This year my wife granted permission to grow facial hair for Movember.  (No plans yet to ask for sponsors and raise money for a men's health cause as Nathen did.)

This morning I shaved my face as usual.  Tomorrow I start shaving more carefully.