Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Young Patriots

Pork in the freezer or on the grill is a good thing, and pork in the federal budget is of questionable value. But one item being touted by some as pork raised my eyebrows.

The item being cited is $1 million to help the Young Patriots produce a video promoting our patriotic holidays.

I'd have to know more about this Young Patriots group and the video in question before deciding whether this particular appropriation is or is not pork, but I have to say that the idea of spending $1 million on a video explaining to our youth why our patriotic holidays are important is not, in general, a bad idea. Our youth are growing up in an affluent society where the main purpose of patriotic holidays seems to be putting carpets on sale. They are not being taught patriotic values in their schools. If I hadn't had parents who were patriotic and explained the holidays to me, and grandparents who served their country honorably in WWII, I'd be as ignorant about them today as most kids are. The majority of kids nowadays might have a great-grandfather who served, but they don't spend much time with him because he's in a nursing home, and anyway their parents are divorced and they don't see that side of the family much.

One video, well-crafted and well-distributed, would go a long way toward helping these kids learn exactly why it is that our country is special, particularly in an atmosphere of popular nihilism and America-bashing. So maybe it's not pork after all; maybe it does serve a compelling national interest. It's worth looking into. $1 million is a paltry sum to spend to perpetuate our country and our American culture, and money for such a purpose definitely belongs in the Defense budget. In just a few short years, these kids will be old enough to serve in the military. Since we have an all-volunteer force, it is in our national interest to prepare them to want to serve our country.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Frank Likes Me!!!

Frank J. of IMAO posted something I wrote to him! I'm so excited, I'll never wash my keyboard again!

It Came Back To Bite Me In The...

I came up with what I thought was a creative solution to the "but MOMMMMMMMMMM..." problem. Whenever the kids would say "but MOMMMMMMMMMM..." I would come back with, "I'm not your 'BUTT-Mom'!" And it worked too, until this morning when it came back to bite me.

Sonshine knows he's not supposed to get up at ungodly hours and come disturb my "Mommy Time" in the early morning when I read my news, but that doesn't stop him. So I was trying to explain to him why I need the "Mommy Time" to eat my breakfast and read my news without being constantly interrupted by demands for food and having to break up fights. "You fight all the time," I said. "In fact, you do nothing BUT fight."

"No, we don't! We don't BUTT-fight!!"

I gave him my toast.


People who don't like things that are "just sooooooooo cuuuuuuuuuuute!!!!!" can skip this post. I have days when I don't like things like that, but somehow none of them coincide with days when I can see my kids.

The following things rank among the Top Ten Of Cuteness:
Little four-year-old boys in boxer shorts
Brownie Girl Scouts with beanies and sash (the new vest and baseball cap just aren't cute)
Sonshine using his "puppy face" to beg for a second dessert
Tiny Princess looking at you imperiously over the rims of her glasses

Monday, March 29, 2004


No post today. Busy.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

On The Nightstand This Week

This week's nightstand book is The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide And America's Response by Peter Balakian. I'm finding out some very interesting things about the history of the Middle East. For one thing, this "jihad" by Muslim extremists against Christians predates World Wars I and II. So everyone who still believes that it is just us who have offended the Muslim extremists needs to get a reality smack from this book. Read it and find out what they really want from us. Hint: it's the same thing they wanted from the Armenians.

Also, if any war protestors out there would like a different, non-Hitler bad person to compare Bush to, they might try Sultan Abdul Hamid of Turkey. Unfortunately, I don't think most of them know enough history to understand that Hitler was neither the first nor the last nor the worst of the genocidal maniacs of world history, although he does rank pretty far up (down?) on the scale of badness.

A Gun In The Oven

I just couldn't resist posting the link to this story. I think it speaks for itself.

UPDATE: Last night (3/30) our local news station had this on as a story, but they reported it as having happened more recently. I guess somebody didn't finish their fact-checking job...

Watch Taiwan Carefully

One of the main reasons I was initially opposed to the war in Iraq is the threat posed to Taiwan from China. I mean, think about it. If you were China, and you wanted to take over the world, what would you do? You'd have to get the U.S. out of the way first. But if you directly engage the U.S. while they're not distracted, the U.S. and its allies will squish you, because the U.S. has a kick-butt military that despite its smaller numbers is the best in the world. So you have to be in a situation where (a) the U.S. is engaged militarily and (b) their allies are sort of disinclined to fight with them. And you can't make your first move on the U.S. homeland, because you know if you do something like that, the people will be against you. You may get a few fruit baskets from some of the fruit-baskets on the West Coast, but I'd be willing to bet the vast majority of Americans would not take kindly to a direct invasion. You might take California, but you'd never get past the Nevada border. No, if you want to invade the U.S. homeland, you have to seriously weaken the U.S. overseas first. And take the homeland you must, because the Americans have a history of using their copious natural resources to kick the war machine into gear and turn the tide.

In such a situation, imagine you (China) attack Taiwan. The U.S. is bound to defend Taiwan. With all the cuts in the military under Clinton (which we still haven't recovered from) and all the U.N. peacekeeping missions, the U.S. no longer has the ability to fight a two-front war without taking some serious actions (like drafting) that will leave a bad taste in people's mouths. So the U.S. war machine will kick into gear. China would then have to count on internal dissention to keep the war machine firmly in "park" so it doesn't go much of anywhere.

So the time is ripe for China to make its move. We are still engaged in Iraq; our allies are only somewhat with us and because of the precedent of being allowed to opt out, some would probably feel comfortable not participating in a defense of Taiwan; and we have a large enough chunk of our populace against our being anywhere fighting anything while there are still people at home without a chicken in every pot. So I think China is about to move on Taiwan. In fact I think our best chance to avoid this is to finish what we're doing in Iraq as fast as possible and get out. So I would like to assure everyone that in my opinion, there is zero chance the U.S. has imperialistic designs on Iraq-- not because, as others are arguing, the U.S. is just a really nice country despite being a superpower with global reach, but because we really don't have the ability to deal with everyone jumping us at once.

I do think it's important to do it right in Iraq, though, because setting up democracy in Iraq is key to the war on terror. And if there's one of the three conditions that are making it ripe for China to attack Taiwan that I do have any control over, it's the attitudes of the people back home. So I will do whatever I can to promote patriotism and love for our country, because let's face it: China has the numbers to be able to carry out an invasion of our homeland (with the help of a few turncoat former allies). If you don't want that to happen, then you damn well better rally 'round the flag and salute, because exercising your right to a bad attitude about your country can have unexpected consequences.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Girl Scouts and Other Female Organizations

Tiny Princess went to a Girl Scout event today. It was entitled "Engineering Day", but after looking through the packet of papers she brought home, it looks like it probably should have been entitled "Environment Day". It was all about pollution and recycling and stuff. My fault for not getting more info beforehand. We had missed the previous meeting where they had explained what was going on because Tiny Princess was sick that day, so I just signed her permission slip.

The environmental content didn't bother me so much-- after all, I am a little on the "green" side-- although I am wary of any program that blindly encourages tons of recycling, just because recycling is one of the most conspicuous ways "green" types can make themselves look holier-than-thou, and recycling is not always economically viable or even environmentally sound. No, what bothered me the most is that I discovered the event had been put on by the Society of Women Engineers.

Now I have absolutely nothing against engineers, even women engineers. I just think there's something incredibly tacky about pointing out publicly that one is a "woman engineer". If you want to be an engineer, more power to you; and you will succeed or fail as an engineer on your merits alone. But I find the idea of a society for women engineers (or women mathematicians, or women pilots, etc.) to be as offensive as a society just for men engineers. I cannot begin to fathom what possible difference there would be between women engineers and men engineers, that the women engineers would feel the need to organize separately from the men. If they are all engineers, they should join engineering societies together. And I have no objection to women joining social clubs (or organizations like Girl Scouts) that address their special needs as women. I just can't understand what they might possibly need as "women engineers" that they couldn't get as "engineers" out of an engineering society, or as "women" out of a women's society.

I've never been the slightest bit interested in the fact that I'm a woman in mathematics. I like being a woman, and I like being in mathematics, but I've never felt like the combination of the two was any more or less than the sum of its parts. Once I went for a job interview, and the lady interviewing me started off the interview by praising me for being a woman in the male-dominated field of mathematics. I think I just blinked at her. I think she wanted to start off with a feeling of female camaraderie, but I didn't choose mathematics because I was a woman and I wanted to do something for womankind. I'm a member of the Mathematical Association of America because I like what I do. I would never join a Women's Mathematical Association of America.

Or maybe I'm just very heavily influenced by some serious female betrayal issues from Junior High, and I just don't like the company of women.

Headache From Hell, Day Four

News Flash for OB-GYN staff: Extra-strength Tylenol doesn't work on headaches that regular strength Tylenol doesn't make a dent in.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Light Bloggage Today

Bloggage will be light today. I have had a headache for the last three days now, and it looks like it has begun unpacking a very large suitcase. My OB-GYN's wonderful staff has advised me that since Tylenol hasn't made a dent in this headache, I should take... extra strength Tylenol. Yeah. That's why I wanted a new OB-GYN. And I would have had one too, had the guy not up and moved to Oklahoma shortly after the ultrasound, forcing me to go back to my old OB-GYN.

You know, that natural midwife is starting to look like a really good option...

You Have To Die Of Something...

It's a little behind the headlines, but...

My hubby brought me home a copy of USA Today last week, because it had an article in it on the trend of having three kids. But the top headline on it was "Obesity on track as No. 1 killer". The article was all about how terrible it is that there's this epidemic of obesity, and what horrible public health problems it causes, etc. etc. ad nauseatum. I don't see this trend as a problem. People have to die of something. If obesity is left as the major cause of death, what it really means is that a very large number of people are completely and utterly failing to die of cancer, influenza, industrial accidents, car crashes, ninja attacks, terrorist attacks, flesh-eating bacteria, food poisoning, tetanus, measles, drug overdoses, drug underdoses, malnutrition, duels, scurvy, blood loss, tuberculosis, murder, etc. And all of that is GOOD news.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

It's A Rebellion!

I think I've started somewhat of a rebellion. Tiny Princess has been at the new charter school this year, and evidently we've been great advertising for it, because now at least four families I know, comprising nine children, are enrolling for the fall. I told each of the parents about the school and what I liked about it, and they all made the same decision.

The only downside to this is that the principal of our local elementary school, which is now down nine pupils' worth of funding for the fall because of me, goes to our church. It's been awkward enough with her making snide remarks about how the charter school is taking away her students while Tiny Princess was the only one. With eight more gone now, including one of her cash cows Special Ed students, she's going to be just livid-- and she's going to know who's responsible for starting a little school choice rebellion.

Hell Is Freezing Over!

We've lived in this manufactured home in a park for manufactured homes for six years now. When we moved in, all the lots were full. But the owners of the park have fallen afoul of the city by completely and utterly failing to meet the requirements placed on them when they developed the land into a park (not to mention a blatant disregard of city building codes), so a building permit freeze was put on the park. This meant that no new homes could be brought into the park. Because of the non-compliance with city codes, the homes were difficult to sell, so a lot of people ended up moving their homes out, or letting the bank foreclose on them and move them out. Our park is now half full of empty lots, and it looks like crap, making the homes here even harder to sell.

One of the city's requirements was that a perimeter fence be put up, because the park is right next to a railroad track. How hard could it be to put up a stinking fence??? But the owners never did it. We thought for sure they intended to just let this place go to hell in a handbasket on account of their stubbornness, because that's exactly what they were doing.

So after six years, lo and behold one day they come and put up fence posts, all around the perimeter.

Hell is freezing over, folks.

UPDATE: Today (Tuesday 3/30) a truck arrived with rolls of chainlink-- and workers.

What Will We Tell The Kids?

Tiny Princess asked if there was such a day as "Kite Day". I told her there probably was, seeing as how they had a whole month set aside just for the history of people with dark skin. "I have dark skin!" piped up my lovely little half-Filipino porcelain doll, whose skin is the color of gingerbread. Unfortunately, I had to explain to her that the month was only for the history of people whose skin was darker than hers, and then only for some of them.

"That's not fair!" she said.

No kidding.

The Importance Of Agriculture

I don't think "city folks" quite understand the importance of agriculture. I know for sure I didn't, until I moved out here to this college town in the middle of a rural area, and started giving it a bit of study. I started feeling bad that when my kids would interrogate me about where foods came from, I didn't know all the answers. These were not questions like "When is the best point in the life cycle of the corn worm to spray insecticides?", these were questions like "When will the peaches be ready on the trees?" I was dumbfounded to discover that I hadn't a clue as to when most fruits and vegetables were in season. I had lived all my life in a culture where fruit goes on sale, not comes into season.

As I live and learn, I am discovering just how important agriculture is to everyone, not just the farmers. It goes without saying that agriculture grows the food we eat, and without agriculture we would all die of starvation. But more than that, I'm learning about the role of agriculture in the environment.

Now I consider myself to be a bit on the "green" side, even in an environmental state like Utah. (Yes, Utah is a very environmentally-oriented state, despite being a heavily Republican state. The two are not mutually exclusive.) I use cloth diapers and try really hard not to use pesticides and chemical fertilizers on my flowers and vegetables unless it's absolutely necessary. I recycle and I dry clothes outside in the summer. I own Energy Star appliances. But I'm not one of those environmentalists who holds the simultaneous and contradictory beliefs that people are animals too, but that every animal but us is permitted to impact the environment. And I don't romanticize "native" ways, although I do believe that the people indigenous to an area have more than likely learned a few things about the area while living there and ought to have their knowledge respected.

So it was with interest that I read this article about a man whose contributions to end world hunger through high-yield agriculture have gone unnoticed (and have even been spurned!) by environmentalists. (Thanks Instapundit for the link.) It surprised me how hard it's been for this guy to get funding to bring his miraculous agricultural techniques to the farmers of Africa. It didn't surprise me much, though, to learn that the people standing in his way were "environmentalists" romanticizing the "native" methods of agriculture. I've known way too many "environmentalists" who were more interested in having people see them recycle their soda can than in actually doing stuff that might really preserve the environment.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

The Righteousness of Pre-Emption

Those who know me well (are there really any strangers who read this blog??) know that I struggled mightily with the question of whether I thought we should go to war with Iraq. It would be easy to assume, given my strong position now, that I was always thus; but I was not. War is not a pretty thing, and it damages the hearts of those who engage in it. Nevertheless, it is sometimes necessary to inflict such damage to save the larger part of something more important. The question at hand, then as now, was: is it worth the price?

My first thoughts, as I turned to the scriptures for the answers life fails to give us, were of the noble pacifism of the people of Ammon. But as I read more, it occurred to me that what made their pacifism noble, even while their nation was being destroyed, was their previous covenant with the Lord. I had made no such covenant, nor had my nation, so we were not in the same position as the people of Ammon. And, I noted, the sons of the people of Ammon were under no such covenant; therefore the covenant applied only to those who had individually made it. They did not claim the right of extending their pacifism to others. The Lord, honoring His end of the deal, protected them through the military efforts of others. And the people of Ammon were grateful to those who fought and died defending their pacifism, a key element missing from today's anti-war crowd.

For a few years I have had a picture of Captain Moroni up in my kitchen (there was nowhere else to put it), but on September 12, 2001 I took it down and I wrote, in illuminated letters on the mat, the immortal words of the Title of Liberty: "In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children" (Alma 46:12). And when our soldiers left for Afghanistan, I put a yellow ribbon bow on top of it, because I felt strongly that whether we agree with our leaders or not, we should support their decisions as our duly elected leaders, so long as they are not being completely derelict in their duties.

Now, Moroni was one of the greatest military men in existence, and certainly the greatest in the Book of Mormon. If there were any person whose advice I would take on matters of war, this would be the guy, because he was not only a great tactician, but also a righteous man who took his faith seriously and refused to make any life-or-death decision without first consulting the Lord. When he fought, he dealt death to his enemies, but stopped at the point after which dealing them death would have been gratuitous. And he never went into battle and risked the lives of his men without really good cause. So I thought it would be worthwhile to analyze what causes Moroni thought were good.

One of my biggest issues was whether it was right to wage pre-emptive war on a country like Iraq. Machiavelli might have approved, but I was more concerned with whether the Lord would approve. But I found that Captain Moroni had led his forces in a pre-emptive attack, against Amalickiah, the traitor who would be king. The salient features here are: (a) Amalickiah is a sworn enemy of their state; (b) Amalickiah has made it abundantly clear that he will not be compromised with, nor accept the will of the people when it turns against him; (c) Amalickiah is on his way to join forces with their state's main enemy, the Lamanites, although he has not yet actually done so.

Alma 46:29-32
29 And it came to pass that when Amalickiah saw that the people of Moroni were more numerous than the Amalickiahites—and he also saw that his people were doubtful concerning the justice of the cause in which they had undertaken—therefore, fearing that he should not gain the point, he took those of his people who would and departed into the land of Nephi.
30 Now Moroni thought it was not expedient that the Lamanites should have any more strength; therefore he thought to cut off the people of Amalickiah, or to take them and bring them back, and put Amalickiah to death; yea, for he knew that he would stir up the Lamanites to anger against them, and cause them to come to battle against them; and this he knew that Amalickiah would do that he might obtain his purposes.
31 Therefore Moroni thought it was expedient that he should take his armies, who had gathered themselves together, and armed themselves, and entered into a covenant to keep the peace—and it came to pass that he took his army and marched out with his tents into the wilderness, to cut off the course of Amalickiah in the wilderness.
32 And it came to pass that he did according to his desires, and marched forth into the wilderness, and headed the armies of Amalickiah.

I thought to myself then, Saddam Hussein has a lot in common with Amalickiah. Once an ally, his desire for power had led him to declare solidarity with the enemies of our state. He had a stated intention of using what force is at his disposal against us and our allies. And he was about to join forces with some of our most hideous enemies. If he had not stated this intention clearly and unequivocally, pre-emption would not have been justified.

Moroni engaged in pre-emption to keep the evil of war from spreading to involve larger quantities of people. I believe that President Bush did too. He's no Captain Moroni, of course; if Captain Moroni really had even half the muscles Arnold Friberg painted him with, he'd make Bush look like a girly-man. ;) But the fact that Bush prays daily and at least tries to do the will of the Lord is better than the alternative of not praying or not trying to do the will of the Lord.

Requiem For The Dead

I just love Doggerel Pundit. Check out all the poems there, but especially this one.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Death By Taxes

I went today to a tax preparation service and had them do my taxes. Fortunately for me it was free; I had gotten a coupon for a free tax return in my box at the charter school.

I usually do my own taxes; they are surprisingly easy. The 1040A is no harder than the FAFSA (financial aid form for college) and if you are just an average family with no special circumstances and don't itemize deductions, everything is really a piece of cake. But last year, I sold the only investment I've ever had-- a few shares of stock my grandfather gave me when I was 10 years old. They weren't worth much-- about $500-- but we needed the money at the time. The company in which I had stock was being bought out by a larger company and I had to transfer the shares anyway, so since I had the opportunity to sell it at that time without any broker fees, I took the opportunity and sold the stock. Now I don't know anything whatsoever about stock, except the basic idea of how the stock market works. When I went to do my taxes, though, the manual said I'd have to file a 1040 and a Schedule D because I had capital gains or something.

Now, I've got an advanced degree in mathematics, but I have to admit this Schedule D had me stymied. I'd have had more success trying to prove Goldbach's Conjecture. I read the manual over and over and over, and basically it said "The stuff on this form you were sent by the company goes here, here, and here. Unless, of course, you have some obscure thing going on, which of course you would have no way of knowing whether you had it until you get audited. If you have this obscure thing going on, you should do X, Y, and Z. But be careful, because there are exceptions to this-- sometimes things that are this obscure thing are not really this obscure thing and belong on THAT line instead... but again, you have no way of knowing yourself..."

All this for some $30 of "capital gains"...

If taxes are so damn complicated that people who figure out complicated things for a living can't figure out how to do their own damn taxes because they do something so simple as sell some old stock, something is seriously wrong.

Monday, March 22, 2004

White People Have Culture, Too

Ideas are still gelling in my head today, except it looks like none are going to "set" because of a lack of pectin, I mean sleep. So I thought I'd leave you all with the thought that white people have culture, too.

Some people think that so-called "white" people have no culture. This is like saying that chicken broth has no flavor. Of course chicken broth has flavor. That's why they concentrate and sell chicken broth flavor in those little foil-wrapped cubes.

This is fundamentally flawed from a sociological standpoint. All people have culture. Even snotty "multi-cultural" types have a culture-- a culture of snottiness of how they're so much holier than thou because they "properly" appreciate other people's cultures. Everyone puts together their own little culture, usually based on cultural ideas around them and cultural ideas passed on to them from their progenitors. Everyone by necessity views the world from inside their own culture. There's no way in hell to distance your thought processes from your culture-- your culture gives birth to your thought processes.

Discuss amongst yourselves now. I'm going to take a little nap.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Iraqi Blogger Tells Anti-Wars Where They Can Stuff It

I was going to post this very opinion on this very subject, but Ays of Iraq At A Glance beat me to it, and it has more weight coming from him since he's Iraqi.

To his comments, which are generally centered around all the good that has been done in Iraq, I would add that people who think dancing in pink tutus will change people's minds about war have to be comfortable idiots. They live in a world where the worst possible thing that could happen to them is that after their car breaks down on the way to the store, they have to buy the non-organic carrots because the store is out of the organic carrots. They have never experienced war. Neither have I, of course, being in their generation, but at least I've met people who actually have experienced war and genocide. My family sponsored a Hmong family that, once they learned English, told us stories that curled our hair about what life was like for them. I had a friend in high school who was from Kashmir (and was incredibly good-looking too) and he told us all about the conflict there. I spent my adolescence meeting people who had fled here from other countries to get away from war and genocide to a place where people can feel free to protest their government's actions with interpretive dance.

Those wacky ladies evidently don't understand what war is or why it has been in existence for millenia or why it is worth 500 or so lives to free a country before its crazy leader gets nuclear weapons or why no one has ever been able to talk, wish, or dance it away. They are like five year olds. They know war is "bad" and therefore it should always be avoided. They should kiss the hands of my soldier friends, because if it weren't for them and all the others like them and the Founding Fathers and all, they would at this very moment live in a country where they could be shot for wearing those damn tutus.

Pledge Week

Darn, it's Pledge Week on our local public radio station! The programs I love are now 50% replaced by demands for money!

I gave once, a few years ago, when they were offering opera tickets and the pledge amount was less than the retail cost of the tickets. We had a great time and took our friends to the opera. But I never had given before, and unless they offer us more opera tickets, won't give again. My tax dollars go to support public radio, so I guess you could say I "gave at the office".

I, for one, don't believe all the crap about how they need donations because they don't have commercials. They do too have commercials; haven't you heard their little spiels for ADM and Lou C. Kerr and all the other major donors? That's a paid advertisement. They can pretend all they want that they are just saying corporate slogans in gratitude for donations, but last time I looked, the definition of "paid radio advertising" was "money given in exchange for airtime for a message", even if it's an outrageous amount of money given in exchange for a tiny amount of airtime. And several times a year, they spend an entire week broadcasting hardly anything but requests for donations and publicly thanking those who donate. If they choose to distribute their paid advertising time into little 10-second soundbites and entire-week periods, that is their business-- but it's still paid advertising, even if they don't do it every ten minutes.

Like I said, they can pretend all they want that the money is given without strings and that these daily mentions are just an expression of their gratitude, but I for one don't "buy" it. The money I get paid up at the university is technically an "honorarium" which basically means a gift given to me because I gave my services to the university, but let's not pretend here; there's no way in hell I'd be teaching a class there if they weren't going to pay me. They can call it an honorarium, they can call it a "toothbrush" for all I care; but both parties are aware that it's a flat fee for the semester's worth of teaching, and neither would hold up their part of the deal if the other were not forthcoming. Likewise with public radio advertising. They wouldn't even mention my name on the radio for less than $365, and I for one wouldn't give them hundreds of thousands of dollars if I weren't going to get some sort of broadcast exposure in exchange.

So don't be a sucker and give away your hard-earned money to an organization that (a) already has some of your money and (b) will give you only a cheap T-shirt or coffee mug that you wouldn't dream of buying at that price.

The Real Tactic In The War On Terror

Steven Den Beste points out the long-range strategy in the war on terror. His posts are always lengthy, but insightful. Worth reading.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Happy Birthday, Sonshine!

Sonshine's 4th birthday party is today. His actual birthday isn't till Monday, but we're having the party today for all his little friends and for the family. We got him a bigger bike that isn't pink; up until now he's been using Tiny Princess' old pink girl's bike.

Sonshine has really blossomed since he started going to preschool. Part of it could be because we have been actively trying to prepare him for the coming of Bagel Boy, telling him he's going to be the big brother now and showing him how he will need to act as such. But I think "going to school" was what sealed the deal for him. We spent half a year struggling mightily to just get Sonshine to use the potty; within the last three months, he has decided to "go" standing up, button and unbutton his shirts, and dress himself, all by himself and with great and immediate success. He has also started saying the word "red" instead of "the color of the blood". It was really annoying to be walking through a parking lot drilling him on his colors by asking him to identify the colors of the cars: "That's a yellow car. That's a blue car. That's a car that's the color of the blood. That's a green car." He knew what "red" was, and he could say the word "red" if pressed, but he never would identify an object as "red". But those days are evidently long over. He is a big boy now. Big boys pee standing up, help clean up their toys, dress themselves, and use the word "red". So we got him a big red boy's bike.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Airport Security

Kim du Toit has posted a wonderful story about his experience with airline security people. A must-read for anyone interested in airport security.

I must say his observations are backed up by the experiences of those in my family. My husband travels by air all the time, and has had hundreds of dollars' worth of stuff confiscated from him without so much as a receipt. One time I tried to find out what happens to all the confiscated stuff. No one seemed to know and no one knew of anyone who might be held responsible for knowing, which means that probably TSA employees take it home and/or sell it on eBay for their own profit. My octogenarian grandpa was strip-searched because of a forgotten pair of scissors in the bottom of his carry-on bag, and during this search some cash money for his great-grandkids mysteriously disappeared from his bag.

An Idea For Preventing Al-Qaeda Election Attacks

I just had a brilliant idea for preventing al-Qaeda from bombing countries prior to elections to try to duplicate their success in Spain: Rig the pre-election polls!

This is simple: if you are called as part of a poll and asked who you are going to vote for, simply say you will vote for [whoever the cowardly, appeasement-oriented candidate is]. If enough of us do this, the pre-election polls will skew toward the candidate al-Qaeda wants. Al-Qaeda will then be fooled into thinking that we are firmly in their pocket and need no terrorist attacks to influence our vote. After that, we go to the real polls and vote for whoever we really want.

I don't know how long it would work before they figure out what's happening. But they'd have no way to tell the difference between actual polling results and those that are skewed by deliberate mass deception. And it would have the added bonus of poking the liberal media with a stick, at least here in the U.S.A.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Live Free Or Die

When I moved to New Hampshire I was surprised to discover that the state's motto was "Live Free Or Die." It seemed a much more severe way to put Patrick Henry's eloquent words, "Give me liberty or give me death." "Live Free Or Die" sounded like a threat some libertarian extremist might make with a gun to your head. But I was in total agreement with the sentiment. What good is living, if you can't live free? Because if you're not free, then those in charge of you can just up and decide someday that they're going to kill you, like they did with the ancestors on my dad's side of the family. That's why they up and left their countries and came here.

My mom's ancestors felt much the same way. "Antes Morrer Livres Que Em Paz Sujeitos" ("Rather die free than peacefully subjected") was what they said every time they were faced with a demand to surrender to even the mightiest of world powers. And die free they did.

How can I be any less brave than my ancestors?

Attack on Balad

I just heard on the news that there had been a mortar attack on a base in Balad, two killed and six wounded. Four of the wounded were returned to duty already. My friends are all stationed in Balad, so I'll be keeping my ears wide open for news. And as soon as we get to a decent hour I'll be calling their families.

Update: one of them responds, "Which attack?" Maybe I remembered wrong which base they were at?

Update Update: I guess there have been a couple of attacks lately, but they are all alright. Whew!

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

St. Patrick's Day

I'm not a big fan of St. Patrick's day. Not being Irish or Catholic, I don't feel any particular kinship with the good Saint. I've always thought the only reason the entire country celebrates St. Patrick's day is because otherwise we don't have any really good holidays in March, unless Easter or Passover happens to fall there. That, and we're all out of red construction paper after Valentine's Day follows on the heels of Christmas, and we have to use up the rest of that green before we can get a new package for Easter.

But I understand that a lot of people are either Irish or Catholic, and as far as I know the holiday is mostly concerned with beer, so in honor of St. Patrick's Day I present to you the scientific research of Arnd Leike of the University of Munich.

Dr. Leike made the important discovery that beer foam decays exponentially. He was given a 2002 IgNobel Prize for his efforts.

This discovery has advanced the cause of math teachers everywhere, who have sought high and low for a non-radioactive example of exponential decay to make their exams more interesting to students. Most students of advanced algebra have had little if any exposure to radioactive decay, so it proves to be a challenge to motivate them to make calculations using it. Carbon-dating only goes so far; most students are primarily interested in dating other people. And so few of them nowadays have had enough exposure to science to understand that the 226 in Radium-226 is the number of neutrons in the nucleus. But beer is a universal. All college students, even the Mormon ones, understand beer. So we thank Dr. Leike from the bottom of our glasses, I mean hearts, for helping to make math more relevant to the common man.

Rise 'n' Sonshine

Sonshine got up early this morning again. I always get up early to read news and blogs without the benefit of being interrupted every twenty seconds by a demand or a kidfight. But when I got myself something to eat, I left the light on in the kitchen, and Sonshine (whose bedroom is at the other end of the house) got right up. I swear that kid can smell it when the light is on.

I wish I could give that kid sleeping pills. He doesn't sleep. He insists on having at least two lights on at night, and even though he says he won't go to sleep without the lights, the light keeps him awake. But if you turn the lights off, his own screaming keeps him awake anyway. When he doesn't sleep, he is cranky all day. This is in addition to the wild and crazy things he already does because of his boy nature.

Example of wild and crazy things: yesterday we went to Wal-Mart. One of his favorite things to do is to ride laying down in the bottom part of the shopping cart. One of the employees asked me to take him out of the bottom of the cart, and I refused. I told her that if I put him in the top part of the cart, he just has farther to fall when he jumps out. She countered that he could be hurt down there. I told her he would most likely get hurt anywhere he goes, at which point he obligingly proved my point by running headlong into the corner of something that wasn't moving. After we were done with the employee, we cruised along down the aisle. When we got to the produce section, I discovered that the entire way there he had been hanging his head out over the front of the cart so that his hair (which, by the way has recently been cut very short) was brushing along the floor. His hair, which had been washed the night before, was white with all the dust he'd collected in it.

This is Sonshine on a good day.

It Only Took One

In the news: CNN is reporting that a December document from al-Qaeda's message boards claims that "the Spanish government will not stand more than two blows, or three at the most, before it will be forced to withdraw" from Iraq.

I think al-Qaeda overestimated the Spanish. It only took one.

Just having one of those days when I'm glad I'm Portuguese. (walks away whistling innocently)

More on the Spanish appeasement: "The liberal Los Angeles Times refused to condemn Spain, instead urging the Bush administration to 'read the results as demonstrating anew that most of the world does not see the Iraq campaign as part of the global war on terror'". Somebody else yesterday said it better than I can (unfortunately I forgot where I read it!) but the point was that if Iraq is not part of the war on terror, then why would al-Qaeda be interested in punishing Spain for participating? You could make the argument that it is simply because Iraq is a Muslim land that has been "unfairly" invaded, and al-Qaeda has taken it upon itself to defend it. By that logic then, al-Qaeda should be interested in attacking Spain because it has invaded Spain (Andalusia). Which in fact it is, in light of some documents (again I can't remember where I came across them yesterday) that have recently come to light. And if al-Qaeda is interested in driving the "crusaders" out of Spain, then Spain has an interest in fighting al-Qaeda.

Since we're now reasoning under the hypothesis that the Iraq invasion is not part of the war on terror, we have to assume that Spain had a different reason (other than the war on terror) to go into Iraq in the first place. That reason wasn't al-Qaeda. It can't have been international mandates or pressure, since France and Germany would also have been subject to them and got a free pass (except for all the nasty jokes that got told about them in America). I'm at a loss to explain why Spain would have gone into Iraq in the first place then, if the Los Angeles Times is right. If anybody knows why it was, if it wasn't the Iraq/al-Qaeda connection, I'd sure like to hear it. Maybe WMD's?

But at any rate, they did go in. Aznar evidently saw something in Iraq that made him want to go in over the objections of what's currently being estimated as 90% of his countrymen. Even after the WMD news (or lack thereof) broke, he stayed there. Something is there that he knew that the Spanish people evidently didn't. I just hope he passes it on to Zapatero.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Disappointed Suicide Bombers

The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler links to this story about the plight of poor, disappointed jihadis from Lebanon and Syria, who didn't get to blow themselves up in Iraq. Poor babies.

One guy got sold out by the very Iraqis he came to help blow up, for a $100 reward. Another guy was fed and housed in a prison camp; he was then deported instead of killed. But the one that just takes the cake, in my opinion, is the guy who plans to sue the U.S. for compensation because his legs were blown off by a leftover cluster bomb. I don't think this yahoo deserves any compensation. He already got to have his cake and eat it too-- he came to Iraq to be blown up, and not only did he get to be blown up by a more professional bomb than he could have made, but he received excellent free medical care and lived to tell about it too!

Geez, and I thought I'd heard all the whining there is to hear from my students! But suicide bombers whining about how they didn't get to die and were treated with respect??

Midterm Madness

I finally finished grading the second midterm for the calculus class. The students actually did very well compared to other second midterms-- the median was 74 (70 is passing) and the pass rate 59% among students who took the test. (There are always a few who don't-- our university has a financial aid loophole that encourages students to show up to class for the first week, and then never again.) Usually the second midterm stinks like last week's garbage and has a median ten points lower than that, with a pass rate slightly under 50% (even with a curve on it dropping the passing score down 5 points or so). The F's were primarily low F's, and they belonged by and large to a predictable group of students: those who don't show up for class, and those who were failing all their quizzes prior to the exam. These groups often overlap.

I have no idea what goes through the heads of students who pay good money for a class, and then show up only on quiz days and leave as soon as they've finished flunking the quiz. Then when I give them an F, they send me angry e-mails: "How could you give me an F??" I always reply that it couldn't have come as a surprise to them that they were failing, since they got an F on every test and quiz for fifteen weeks.

Terrorist Hornets

Blackfive has a post that compares terrorists to hornets:

"Europeans think that terrorists are like hornets. Don't antagonize them and they will leave you alone."

Hornets once stung me, even though I wasn't doing anything to them and wasn't anywhere near their nest or their food. They just stung me for the hell of it.

I guess the Europeans are right. Terrorists are like hornets, aren't they?

Monday, March 15, 2004

Cute Quote

I came across this quote by Orson Scott Card in an article in Meridian Magazine:

"If you declare that there is no longer any legal difference between low tide and high tide, it might stop people from publishing tide charts, but it won't change the fact that sometimes the water is lower and sometimes it's higher."

It expresses the same sort of idea as the story attributed to Abraham Lincoln about calling a sheep's tail a leg, but more succinctly.

(For those unfamiliar with the Abraham Lincoln quote, it goes something like this: Lincoln asked a crowd, "If you call a sheep's tail a leg, how many legs does a sheep have?" After some murmured responses of "Five", he said something to the effect of, "A sheep has four legs. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it one.")

Sunday, March 14, 2004

A Thank-You Card

Blackfive links to this article about First Lady Laura Bush personally thanking military spouses for their sacrifices.

This means a lot to me because I was a military spouse for several years, during which time my husband spent time in South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and various stateside locations. Whenever he would leave, people would very kindly offer their assistance ("Call me if you need anything"), but because we didn't own a house or have the World's Cutest Kids at that time, I didn't really need a lot of help. More recently I sat on the couch in the lobby at church with a friend whose husband just left for Iraq. It was like a receiving line at a wedding-- everyone who walked past asked when he had left, how she was doing, and concluded with those same words, "Call me if you need anything." After a while she wished she had a big sign that said "He left last week, yes I'm fine, I'll call you if I need anything." It's nice to know there's so much sympathy. I'm inclined to believe it's sincere if not very deep, but she was more skeptical. And besides, what can they do for a strong woman like her? A husband does much, much more for his wife than yardwork. Are they going to lay next to her at night and snuggle her in their arms? Sympathy doesn't fill that void.

After sitting with her I got to thinking about what it was that I needed that I didn't get when my husband was gone, and I came to the conclusion that there was one thing that no one gave me that really would have meant a lot to me. That thing was gratitude. Everyone was full of sympathy for my hubby's sacrifice for his country, but no one really seemed to consider my sacrifice. I didn't need their help to keep up the yard, watch kids, earn money, or even open jam jars. But what would have really meant something is if someone, anyone, had acknowledged that when my husband served overseas I was giving up something too; he wasn't the only one making the sacrifice. Oddly enough, even though the other military wives understood this (and stood by each other for support), not a single one of us ever thanked the others for our sacrifice.

So I made a point of writing a thank-you note to each of the wives of the church members who left for Iraq, including the one that had no children. I made yellow ribbon pins for each of them and for their children as a little gift.

My Hero's Words

I finally found a piece of writing that expresses exactly what I wanted to say about the terrorist attack in Spain. Of course, someone else wrote it first.

It's from the Book of Mormon. The story so far: my hero, Captain Moroni, has been out fighting for the freedom of his people, but no supplies have been forthcoming, so he writes this really nasty letter to the governor Pahoran in which he accuses him of treason. This particular passage, I think, expresses exactly what I would say to those in Spain who are still anti-war and want to "just understand" the terrorists:

Alma 60:12-14
12 Do ye suppose that, because so many of your brethren have been killed it is because of their wickedness? I say unto you, if ye have supposed this ye have supposed in vain; for I say unto you, there are many who have fallen by the sword; and behold it is to your condemnation;
13 For the Lord suffereth the righteous to be slain that his justice and judgment may come upon the wicked; therefore ye need not suppose that the righteous are lost because they are slain; but behold, they do enter into the rest of the Lord their God.
14 And now behold, I say unto you, I fear exceedingly that the judgments of God will come upon this people, because of their exceeding slothfulness, yea, even the slothfulness of our government, and their exceedingly great neglect towards their brethren, yea, towards those who have been slain.

It could just as easily speak to our homegrown anti-war activists as well, since they all seem to believe that we Westerners have been "killed because of our wickedness".

Like everyone else, of course, I express my deepest sympathies for the people of Spain. At times like this, though, I feel my words are inadequate and my symbolic actions impotent to express how I feel. Since I cannot afford to offer material assistance to the people of Spain, I really have nothing to offer but my solidarity.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

The Ultimate Cotton Yarn

In the never-ending quest for the world's finest fibers to make textiles for the World's Cutest Kids, I have come across a unique fiber that I'm really enjoying working with. It's an organic Fox Fiber cotton from Thantex. What's cool about it (besides that it's organic, like my blog) is that it is naturally colored-- it is grown that way, not dyed. The colors deepen and mature with washing. It's so cool! The kids agree; they each got a sample of the yarn and went immediately to wash it and watch it change color.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Why 4th of July?

I've been in a particularly patriotic mood lately, even to the point of buying a "God Bless America" cross-stitch kit (and starting it while I box up my other unfinished projects into half a dozen boxes). Part of that may have something to do with the fact that the next installment in the World's Cutest Kid Collector Series is due on July 4th this year. Part of it may be that four men from my church have just recently departed for Iraq; two of them are good friends of ours. I can't pin the patriotism on the fact that my hubby was in the military; that's been true for many years and I haven't been this patriotic the whole time. It's a few years late to pin it on September 11th. But I don't think it makes much of a difference why it is; the important part is that I'm finally coming to realize that yes, I really do love my country, warts and all.

I think one of the seminal events contributing to my increased patriotism was putting my Tiny Princess into a charter school. Our local charter school is in its second year. It doesn't have the largest computer lab or the latest curriculum. Some days it seems they barely have it together enough to actually teach school there. But what makes this school so much better than all the other more established public schools out there is that this school has a system that works. If there's something wrong with the charter school, there's a well-defined and easy mechanism for fixing it. Contrast that with the other public schools: if there's something wrong, and you want to fix it, you are not allowed to fix it, you are only allowed to live with it or perhaps persuade someone else to fix it, if you can find anyone willing to so much as wipe their nose without permission from On High. The charter school is like a car with readily available parts; the other public schools are like esoteric foreign cars whose parts have to be special-ordered from overseas at great expense and shipped on the world's slowest boat from Timbuktu. [Yes, I'm aware Timbuktu is not on the coast. That's why it takes so long.]

What all this has to do with America is this: No, we don't have a perfect country. There are many things wrong with our country. But we have the mechanisms in place to fix these things. We have a system that works. If there's something that Joe Citizen doesn't like about this country, he can actually do something about it. So all those who think our country should sit down and shut up because we aren't perfect either, can go take a long walk off a short pier, because our country works for everyone , not just our powerful elites. You can argue that it works better for powerful elites, but you can't argue that the average citizen has no power, because it's just not true. And anyone who thinks it is true that the average citizen has no power can go to Iran, North Korea, or any of those other places in the world and discover just what it really means for an average citizen to have no power. The only powerless citizens of this nation are the ones who throw up their hands and let government have their power.

So yes, it is "my country right or wrong". Because even when it's wrong, there's still a way to make it right.

I'm going to see if I can talk my church leaders into having a sunrise service on 4th of July like we used to when I was a kid. We may even be able to get the same guy to bring his cannon and fire it off, just like he did every 4th of July when I was younger. 4th of July is one of our most important holidays, in my opinion.

What makes 4th of July so important? It's our chance every year to remember exactly what it is that makes our country so special. It's our chance to honor not just those who served to make our country free (we already have two holidays for that), but those who live to make our country free. People like our brave reservists' wives, who are giving up their dream of a whole and intact family unit so that people like me can sleep safely at night. People who are advocates for all sorts of worthy causes. People who provide meals for the elderly or toys for abused children. In short, people who do their little bit so that all the meager voices added together make a triumphant chorus of greatness. 4th of July is the day that Boy Scouts make pancakes for everyone to raise funds for their important work, which is guiding the young men of America to leadership. 4th of July is the day that parents teach their children their heritage and the values of their immigrant forefathers. 4th of July is the day that we invoke the blessing of our God, whomever that may be and however we may worship Him, on our country and its endeavors.

That's why 4th of July.

My Remediation Program

I suppose I should tell a bit about my remediation program. I graduated from a very good public high school, probably with more of an education than most. Still, there were some pretty huge gaps in my knowledge. So I made a quick list of all the topics I knew absolutely nothing about even after graduating from college (twice), and determined to fill in the gaps through self-study. I come from a family of educational self-starters with a strong tradition of reading for knowledge well into old age, a tradition I intend to pass on to the World's Cutest Kids.

Here's the short version of the list:
History: twentieth century, particularly World Wars I and II; history of Asia, particularly China; history of the Roman empire.
Economics: macro and micro. Not knowing this is a particular point of shame for me, since my Master's paper was written on fair division, an economic application of mathematics.
Literature: anything from the famous Greek and Roman authors (Tacitus, etc.) and any of the classics of literature that I might have overlooked in my earlier push to read literature. Also more Islamic poetry; that stuff is like cheesecake, only without the calories.
Rhetoric: I REALLY need to learn more about rhetoric and verbal argument. I know enough about formal logic to make cogent arguments, but my rhetoric sucks.
English: I would like to learn how to diagram sentences, and learn the names of the various tenses. I know more tense names in French than I do in English.
Foreign Language: any foreign language would be nice, but I have particular interest in Portuguese, Spanish, and Arabic. Russian would be cool too; it might help me in my genealogical research. One of these days I'm going to run out of Portuguese ancestors to research, and I'll have to roll up my sleeves and tackle the Eastern European lines.
Science: I'd like to learn more about plants. Botany, agriculture, etc.
Mathematics: I have always sucked at differential equations. I should probably re-study them. I also have an ongoing interest in the history of mathematics so I read a lot of that. Most of it is research for the 6th grade supplemental curriculum I'm developing in my nonexistent spare time.

One of my favorite authors

Thomas Sowell is one of my favorite authors. Here's a link to an interview with him.
I highly recommend his book Basic Economics for anyone embarking on a program of remediation like mine (see post below).

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Reading List

I'm a voracious reader. I typically devour at least one book a week during all but the very busiest times, three or more a week in the summer. I read primarily non-fiction, although I have been known to read the occasional fiction classic.

This week on the nightstand is The First World War by John Keegan. This is part of my ongoing effort to remediate myself after attending a public high school, where history classes inevitably ran out of time at about the turn of the century and were never very in-depth anyway. I love Keegan's writing, but it takes me forever to read his books because for some odd reason I keep falling asleep, even though it's fascinating and well-written stuff. I read his Intelligence In War a few weeks back and absolutely loved it. Anyone who wishes to take Bush et al. to task for faulty intelligence ought to read it for a reality smack.

I'm Not Worthy!

I read a few blogs every day, and I'm just blown away by how interesting other people's viewpoints are. I of course have my own viewpoints, and like everybody else I read mostly viewpoints that are like mine, but other bloggers just tend to say it better than I ever could!

I guess being a college math teacher I'm just so used to having people tune me out, that I've stopped being interested in getting people to hear what I have to say. But for some odd reason I still want a blog of my own.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Welcome to the Organic Baby Farm, where we grow the World's Cutest Kids. These are free-range, milk-fed kids, a little smaller than most kids around, but quite a bit "tastier"!