Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Book of Mormon open question

I'm reading the first chapters of Ether in the Book of Mormon, because I decided for once to actually do my reading assignment for Sunday School, and I've got a question that I'm hoping maybe one of my readers can answer. The study guide was distinctly unhelpful because out of all the good stuff in those chapters, it was entirely focused on the lighting of the stones.

My question is, couldn't Jared pray for himself? Why was he always cajoling his brother into praying for him?

Monday, November 29, 2004

No Cohabitation Of Cats And Dogs

It is just now coming to everyone's attention that the city of Provo, UT has a law on the books allowing residents to have up to two cats or up to two dogs, but (strangely) not the combination of a cat and a dog.

I'm wondering if this is just a poorly-worded way of trying to limit the number of pets per household, or if someone actually thought there was a good reason to disallow the mixing of cats and dogs. It also sounds like, from the news stories, that it may be possible that the law was misinterpreted by a well-meaning shelter employee. Nevertheless, the city council will be considering changing the strange law, which is a good thing in any case. Utah is already famous for its byzantine liquor laws. We don't want to be famous for our restrictive pet ownership laws too.

Geez, It's Just A Parking Spot!!

When I was just a young undergraduate, I didn't have a car. Parking on campus was at a premium. Students with cars would circle the lot for 15 minutes or more waiting for a spot to open up. We called them "parking sharks", and for good reason.

A friend of mine offered me a ride in her car to the store one day. As she pulled out of her spot, three people lined up to try to take it (two from one direction and one from the other). As she pulled out, the person who got there second jumped forward and attempted to take the spot, hitting the parked car on one side of the spot. Then he backed up to straighten out in the spot, but the only way he could do it without actually pulling his nose out of the spot was to hit the car on the other side, which he did. This driver hit two parked cars to get my friend's parking spot. I simply cannot imagine wanting a parking spot badly enough to damage two other cars.

I thought that was bad, until I read this morning about a woman who wanted a parking spot badly enough to hit a person. Geez, people, it's just a parking spot! Park farther away and walk your lardy butt into the store! You could probably use the exercise, and if the parking lot is that busy it'll probably be faster to walk!


I'm still trying to figure out what's so offensive about a sign that a church put up to advertise a sermon entitled "Why I Am Not A Muslim". Evidently a bunch of Muslims are deeply offended by this sign and want it taken down. Which aspect of the sign is offensive to them: that there are people who are not Muslims? That some of them might have reasons to not be Muslims? Or that some of them might wish to tell others those reasons?

I often make the comparison between Muslims and Mormons when it comes to issues of anti-particular-religion sentiment, and I just as often come to the conclusion that the Muslims should stuff it. We Mormons have for years been on the receiving end of often-vicious anti-Mormon campaigns, but so long as these don't amount to violence against Mormons, we don't seek the assistance of government in stamping them out, because we also believe in freedom to worship. To combat untruths being put out about us, we simply work harder to get the real truth out there so that people can make up their own minds. If Islam is such a great religion, its own merits should recommend it. Perhaps those who find the sign objectionable should hold their own sermon entitled "Why I Am A Muslim."

Sunday, November 28, 2004

The Onset Of Winter

Yesterday marked the first major snowfall of the year, and thus the beginning of winter weather. With it come the traditional signs of winter: children's ruddy cheeks, steaming cups of hot cocoa, and the stupidest driving in the world. Yes, the lovely white snow that blankets our lawns and cars also seems to settle in on our minds. It is inevitable that on the very first day of snow, people will celebrate by driving like maniacs. So I offer my helpful Winter Driving Tips:

1. Unless you are driving a snowplow, try not to drive on an unplowed street. (If you are driving a snowplow in the center lane, please don't play "chicken" with people trying to make left-hand turns.)
2. If you have to drive on an unplowed street, don't be the first to do so, because it's better to drive in the tire tracks of someone who went before.
3. If you have to be the first to drive on an unplowed street, go really slow. This will infuriate your neighbors, who, upon seeing you dare to be the first, will immediately jump into their cars and follow you because they didn't want to be first, but still have places to go.
4. Be sure to allow plenty of extra time for turning, accelerating, and braking, for both yourself and the other drivers. This means you, station wagon who pulled out into the intersection as I was climbing a hill and made me swerve and slide into oncoming traffic. (fortunately I wasn't hit)
5. Do not attempt to go the speed limit. If you are in such a terrible hurry or your errand is so important that the laws of physics do not apply to you, please try to go much, much faster so that we can all be entertained by watching you spin out and hit a light pole.
6. Watch the cars and tire tracks ahead of you for clues to what's in your path. Tire tracks that lead into a nearby building usually indicate a patch of ice hidden under the snow.

Don't Pee On The Electric Fence

A bridge in Sumatra is in danger of collapse because too many people urinate on one of its piers. Yes, in the lovely far East, they actually have to put up signs telling people not to pee in the street.

If you are having this problem, here's a simple solution to keep people from peeing on the bridge piers, or whatever else you don't want them to pee on: surround the pier with an electric fence. The first person to try to pee on the pier will serve as an example for all the others.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Blogad Follies

I need to relax. I'm getting way too frustrated at my attempt to start a BlogAds campaign to promote my website.

On Monday or so I ordered a BlogAd on treehugger.com and I wanted it to start Wednesday. I got the date wrong (I'd put Thursday's date instead) so I changed it to Wednesday. Then my ad was rejected by the site owner. He was trying to be polite, but he basically said it was because he didn't like the lighting and backgrounds in my pictures. I would dearly have loved to advise him that if he wants to be picky he has two nostrils, but I didn't. So no gratuitous link for him.

I immediately ordered another ad on afullbelly.com, and it was promptly approved within hours of its placement. Unfortunately, this is a site with not much traffic, and over half the clickthrus I've gotten on the ad have come from relatives and friends helping me test the ad. Yes, I know it's Thanksgiving and everyone's in a turkey coma and not on the internet. But I did a bit of quick math, and decided I needed more exposure. So I ordered an ad on The Spoons Experience, partly because they were cheap, partly because they have a link from Instapundit and partly because my friend likes their blog.

Unfortunately, Mr. Spoons threw his back out, and I guess that means he's not checking his e-mail or approving BlogAds or such things, seeing as how he is now laying flat on his back. I wish him a speedy recovery, partly because I wish the best for people in general and sick people especially, and partly because I'm so damned impatient and sick of waiting to see if my ad is rejected. I don't like rejection and if it's going to happen, I want to get it over with NOW.

UPDATE: It's about noon on Sunday and I just checked-- my ad is up on Spoons, and it's at the top of the adstrip! Yay!!

Friday, November 26, 2004

Carnival of the Recipes

... is up.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

A Timely Reminder

... about the sin of gluttony, from Evangelical Outpost. Includes really cool C.S. Lewis quote. I love C.S. Lewis!

UPDATE: This brought to mind one of my favorite works of art from my undergraduate alma mater, UC San Diego. One of the reasons I chose UCSD was because of the many thought-provoking artworks displayed prominently all over the campus.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

The Downside Of Hybrid Cars

This interesting article points out that while buying hybrid cars may make us feel eco-responsible, it may not actually do much, if anything, toward "saving" the environment. Link via Volokh Conspiracy.

Damn Ignorant Educators!

My kids are watching their favorite PBS program, Cyberchase. It's a math program, and it rather gets under my skin because it's so obviously keyed to the NCTM Standards, of which I am not a fan. After every transparent exercise in mathematics, they might as well have the characters say "... just like it says in the NCTM Standards, on page x." But I'm willing to overlook that because it appears to be of educational value to my kids.

However, today's program is really ticking me off for some reason (which, naturally, has nothing to do with the fact that I'm already in a pissed-off mood today). Today's program kicked off with a dialogue about the essentialness of zero. Zero's essentialness is undisputed by me. However, the program is portraying zero as absolutely essential to the ability to represent numbers, tell time, and measure things. Obviously whoever wrote that script is ignorant of the fact that people represented numbers, told time, and measured things before the invention of zero. Zero does play a critical role in the way we do these things, but it is not essential for these basic tasks. Slips like these betray a humungus ignorance of mathematics and math history on the part of our educators.

Children's Commercialism

Raise your hand if, like me, you are sick of all these children's movies that are nothing but transparent marketing ploys.

The latest is SpongeBob Squarepants, but he's just the newest addition to a long and venerable line of branded products marketed to children. This goes at least as far back as the advent of children's TV. The only difference nowadays is that the information age has ushered in a plethora of new marketing opportunities.

Most of us agree that we shouldn't have this sort of toxic advertising culture around our kids. So what are we doing about it?

After all, this kind of thing only has as much power over us as we give to it.

Governor Olene Walker

I love Governor Olene Walker. She and I don't see eye to eye on some hot-button issues, but I think she's a class act. I admire leaders that have the courage of their convictions and aren't afraid to face the political consequences of acting on them. Unfortunately, not a lot of Utahns agree with me. Governor Walker was shut out of the Republican gubernatorial primary.

It's too bad she's leaving office. Fortunately for us, instead of vindictively throwing up her hands and spending her last days in office twiddling her thumbs, she's kept on working at a tax plan that sounds like it will be a good thing for Utah. I hope she runs for governor again. I'd vote for her.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Can't Get A Word In Edgewise

I finally found someone with worse social skills than myself.

She's a really nice lady. I met her when she was considering sending her son to the charter school; she asked me about my experience with it, and she eventually decided to send him there. I feel for her; it must be hard being a Unitarian in this predominantly Mormon area. I think she's a really interesting person, and I'd like to get to know her better.

But whenever I talk to this woman, it's always feast or famine: either she just waves at me, or she goes on and on and on and on and on about something she assumes I'm interested in. Once she overheard me checking on my daughter's allergy medication with the office staff; she then buttonholed me and started telling me about this wonderful air filter that filters out all the pollen. It seemed like she talked about it for five minutes before I could get a word in edgewise to tell her that my daughter has a food allergy, and even the most wonderful air filter in the world won't help.

Today, I got a chance to talk to her again. I always look forward to talking with other adults, mostly because it's nice to talk to people who don't have to be constantly reminded not to insert the handle of my yarn ball winder in the nearest available orifice. I thought I might have an interesting conversation with such a fascinating person, but it was not to be. It started off well-- I showed her the recycled yarn poncho I was working on, she told me about a hydrogen car school project-- but then she went off on some leftist rant about invading other countries for their oil and how Bush Sr. was entirely responsible for the installment of Saddam Hussein, etc. etc. All I could do was nod politely until it became necessary to run away after Sonshine (mercifully, that opportunity came along quickly).

Do us all a favor, everyone. Don't assume that because someone agrees with you on a few issues, they agree with you on everything and want to hear all your political opinions.

Movie Baby!

Last night we took the whole family to the theater to see "The Incredibles". We haven't been to the theater as a family for a long, long time-- I think the last movie we all saw together was "Shrek", the first one, and I spent half of that outside the theater bouncing baby Sonshine and trying to get him to quiet down. "The Incredibles" was a great movie, funny for both adults and children, but the best part about it was the fact that I got to see the entire thing from my seat. I was afraid Bagel would get scared with all the loud noises, like baby Sonshine did. But Bagel spent the first third of the movie nursing himself off to sleep under my jacket, and actually sat on my lap and watched the rest of the movie.

It's nice to know that Bagel is a good movie baby. Maybe Favorite Husband and I can go out to more movies now!

Monday, November 22, 2004

Let The Craziness Begin!

Well, I've got my work cut out for me. I'm making three large yarn buys this week with the revenue from my show this weekend, and I'm starting my BlogAds campaign on Wednesday. I thought that with all I still have to do with the rest of this year, I'd just run one ad on one blog for a week and see how it goes. If all goes really well, I'll get enough orders off this one ad to keep me busy for the rest of the season. If all goes somewhat so-so, I'll get no orders off it and I'll advertise somewhere else, and if all goes really crappy, it'll be because I get totally swamped with orders.

The Big Craft Show

(Cross-posted to two Yahoo groups)
Saturday's show went well. My sister and I made $541 in gross sales
with a $25 booth fee. The show was put on by the Gardeners' Market
(where we've been selling) for their regular craft vendors, and was
indoors (which was good because we got a dusting of snow). $175 of
the sales were of my sister's items, and $12 of them were my
7-year-old daughter's sachets which she made herself. She is selling
them to get money for Christmas presents and to save for college.

The things that sold were not what I expected. My sister's scarves
all sold, but none of her handmade books. I sold all three of the
ponchos I'd made. These I did not expect to sell because they were
priced considerably higher than our average purchase, and one was made
of wool that turned out to still be really scratchy even after it had
been dyed. But they were all snapped up in the first couple of hours.
Organic cotton mitts sold like hotcakes as expected, but not the soap
holders or organic turtle scrubbers (which had sold well before). The
only turtle scrubbers that sold were the sage green (non-organic)
ones. And I didn't sell much in the non-organic gift sets (mitt,
dishcloth, and scrubber), or the children's oven mitts, which were an
often-requested item at the Gardeners' Market. The only color of gift
set that sold well was the rainbow-colored items, which completely
sold out. The most surprising to me was that I didn't sell a single
one of those Christmas ornament-shaped scrubbers. Maybe it's just not
close enough to Christmas.

I'm going to put some things up on eBay, and I'm going to start my
BlogAds campaign this week for my website. I'm making a couple of nice
fat yarn buys, one for more yarn for ponchos and one of the organic
cotton yarn. I have another show in a couple of weeks so I've got to
get more of those ponchos and organic mitts made.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Recipe: Homemade PIzza

This is the pizza we served at Tiny Princess' birthday party yesterday. Happy 7th birthday, Tiny Princess!

Makes 2-3 pizzas depending on size.

1 recipe crust (see below)
1 recipe sauce (see below below)
small amount of corn meal
pizza toppings (pepperoni, olives, mushrooms, ham, pineapple, cheese, etc.)

4 c. flour
1 Tbsp. yeast
1 3/4 c. water
2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil

Mix all these together into a dough, adding flour or water as needed. Cover and let rise. Punch down, let rest for 5 minutes while you prepare the sauce.

1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
1 clove garlic, minced fine
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Mix all ingredients together.

Sprinkle corn meal onto a cookie sheet. Roll out balls of dough into circles. Toss the dough to shape into a thin circle. Spread dough over corn meal. Spread sauce on dough, top with your choice of toppings and cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and crust is lightly browned.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Federal Labor Law Violations

I just realized my blog readers won't know what I'm talking about when I refer to federal labor law violations at my husband's soon-to-be-former job. I didn't post about it because I didn't want to get anyone in trouble, but now that he's quitting I'll get them all in trouble without caring.

Favorite Husband works (for the time being) at a company that we'll call X. X used to be a good company to work for, with loads of benefits. Then the owner died in a plane crash, and after that the company came under new management and promptly went downhill. The new management started tightening the thumbscrews on the departments. They assigned FH's division to do many more things without getting them new equipment. Their computer equipment was already aging past the point of practicality and the company refused to replace it and refused to allow them to fix it properly. That was miserable enough, but then they started violating laws.

It started with an ATM machine. It costs them $300 to get someone out there to move an ATM machine, so they asked FH to do it for them. Well, there's a reason why it costs $300: those things are heavy, too heavy for a pair of people to lift. FH hurt his back and still has to go to the chiropractor for the injury.

Then they started installing WiFi. The transmitters were to be placed on top of signs, on top of buildings, on the sides of poles, etc. But instead of getting a lift to do the job properly, they made FH and his fellow techs shimmy 30 feet or more up the poles. They had no helmets and no safety straps, and they had to bring their computers up there to help point the dishes, sometimes in windy conditions. It's a miracle none of them fell and broke his neck. FH had to do all sorts of crazy stunts, like balance a ladder on top of his rental car or work while hanging off of cables, because Company X wouldn't spend the money to rent a lift.

As the techs' duties expanded to include all the pet projects of management, the quality of service began to go down. The techs were expected to continue to maintain all their sites (the ones with the deteriorating antique computers) as well as install scads of new equipment. Phone calls for service for the broken-down equipment came pouring in. The techs were expected to field those too, in addition to what they were already straining to do. Finally, after a while, management allowed new techs to be hired, but their training took time and had to be done on top of all those other duties.

Still, though, those on top were convinced that there were more corners to cut. They started treating their employees with a high degree of mistrust. They implemented biometric scans to ensure they were clocking in and out at the correct times. FH worked a lot of overtime hours out at his sites and away from the scanning equipment, and was constantly being asked to justify every second on his timecard, as if no one could believe that doing all the work he was assigned would actually require more than 40 hours a week to do. They stopped paying employees for their drive time to the airport. They required the techs to find a motel within an unrealistically tight budget, but told them they would be off the clock while driving around trying to find one. In some areas they ended up driving for two hours just to find a motel they could afford. Sometimes they ended up sleeping in their cars. Now they are issuing GPS tracking phones to all the techs, so they can know exactly where the techs are when they clock in and out when they're not in the office to have their hands scanned.

Then they started doing stupid things like drastically raising the premiums on the health insurance while drastically cutting benefits. A memo came, saying that they were doing it because the costs to the company were too high for the $250 and $500 deductible plans, but the $1500 deductible plan was actually saving them money. Their solution to this was to cut out those lower-deductible plans entirely and raise the premium for the $1500 deductible plan from about $300 to $750.

Finally, they started circulating a memo saying that they were no longer going to pay their employees for certain travel hours. Hours that were outside of the 8-to-5 day or were spent traveling as a passenger or in layovers were no longer going to be paid. This prompted me to look up the relevant laws on the Department of Labor's website, because I was sure that was illegal, and it was. So I wrote a four-page report citing chapter and verse in the law, and sent it to FH. FH e-mailed it to his boss, who sent it up the chain of command, and now Legal is looking at it. Evidently someone got a little too zealous at cutting corners, and hopefully some of the empty heads up in management will roll. What was most astonishing about it, though, was that this was what finally prompted FH to quit bending over and taking it. I don't know why this was the straw that broke the camel's back, but FH finally decided he had enough of a spine to stand up to this.

We are so grateful to be able to get out from under the thumb of this poorly-managed company.

* Doing The Happy Dance *

Favorite Husband is the proud owner of a brand, spanking, new JOB.

A new job here in town, with loads of benefits. No more travel, no more overtime hours, no more hour commute each way, and no more federal labor law violations! And once you factor in the smaller amount of gas and car repairs we'll have, this actually amounts to a higher income for us.

Thank you to all for your prayers on our behalf!

Coffee Beer!

(fake infomercial mode ON)

Are you a Mormon? Do you want to do something wrong, but you can't decide whether to drink coffee or drink beer? Well, now your worries are over! Introducing new Coffee Beer-- the fully alcoholized beer that's made with real caffeinated coffee! Yes, Coffee Beer will give you two sins for the price of one! Double the fun, with half the repentance! Be sure to ask for Coffee Beer whenever you go out to have premarital sex.

(OK, removing tongue from cheek now)

Seriously, coffee beer!

Wow... people will think of anything!

Thursday, November 18, 2004


Today was Tiny Princess' seventh birthday, and tomorrow is her party. She wanted to have a pizza party, so we are making homemade pizzas. Each child will have their own personal pizza to top, and the grownups will eat slices of some larger pizzas. The cake will be a "pizza cake"-- instead of stacking the layers, I'm going to keep them separate, frost them only on the top with red frosting, and top them with bits of fruit leather, candies, and shredded coconut. Maybe it'll be way too odd, but I thought it sounded creative.

Favorite Husband had a job interview today at a local company that treats their employees well, and he's been asked back for a second interview tomorrow. He's had to blow off work and lie to his boss to go to these interviews. I hope he gets the job. Please appeal to whatever supernatural power you can to help ensure he gets the job, because at this point we are desperate for him to get a better job.

Our big craft show is on Saturday so in addition to attempting to clean the house for the party (and failing miserably), I've been desperately trying to get all the goods ready for sale. I almost made as many as I need, but I'm still short on organic scrubbers and some oven mitts. A friend (bless her) is helping me with the last-minute mitts, but it looks like I'm not going to get the scrubbers done if I want to have this party at my house tomorrow night. I've been spending as little time as possible on the computer. I got so scatterbrained that I punched a hole in my to-do list, put it on a string, and tied it around my neck so I wouldn't lose it. I feel like a Kindergartener going everywhere with my list tied around my neck, but at least I'm remembering better.

Straw Men

I didn't have too many thoughts today that weren't equivalent to "Aaaaaaaaa!!!!" but this was one:

I'm really saddened by the straw men I'm seeing put up by both political sides. Liberals don't care about the country's security and want to kiss Kofi Annan's rear, conservatives hate gays and think voting down gay marriage will make people not gay, etc. But this is exactly what we get when people don't interact with others who aren't like them. If we get to know other people, really get to know them and understand why they believe what they believe, we might have some rational political discourse free from name-calling and straw men.

UPDATE: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach says much the same thing, but (as usual) better than I do.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Your Favorite Funny Names

I've long been a fan of funny, fake names, like these:

Chanda Lear
Xavier Onassis
Mustafa bin Amistek
Sacha Payne-Diaz

et cetera. What are yours? Add them in the "Fertilizer" (comments) section.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Now we know...

...why they call him "Dick" Cheney...
Work-safe but not Mom-safe. Mom, don't click the link!! You won't approve and you don't want to know.

Link via a comment on IMAO.

UPDATE: Karl Rove says he doesn't measure up.

From the Psycho Ward...

My browser says I should enable cookies, but my therapist says enabling is what's been getting me in trouble all my life. What should I do??

The Real Karl Rove

A public figure is easy to demonize, especially when you don't know him personally. I'd be willing to bet that most public figures don't live up to their hyperinflated reputations. I may never meet Karl Rove, one of the most vilified people in American politics, but this man has known him personally since they were young, and says he's not what he's made out to be. I'd pay more attention to what he says about Rove's character than I'd pay to a hundred columnists that barely know Rove.

Sonshine's Popcorn Tree

The other day I made some popcorn for Tiny Princess and Sonshine. Sonshine took the unpopped kernels from the bottom of the bowl and decided he would plant them out in the garden. He wants to grow a popcorn tree.

Sonshine is quite insistent about the existence of popcorn trees. He says there is a popcorn tree at his preschool. There is also a song that he sings at church about "popcorn popping on the apricot tree"; evidently he takes it way too literally, since the song is about clusters of white blossoms that only seem like popcorn. The fact that popcorn is a type of corn which grows on cornstalks hasn't dissuaded him from believing that popcorn grows on trees.

He's incredibly devoted to cultivating this popcorn tree. He went out in the cold this morning with a bucket to water his beloved tree. He is constantly pointing out the benefits of having a popcorn tree-- "Now we won't have to buy popcorn any more! Whenever we want popcorn we'll just pick some!"-- and describing what popcorn trees look like, how the popcorn grows in balls, etc. etc.

I don't have the heart to tell him that even if popcorn grew on trees, the seeds he planted had been in the microwave and probably would not germinate, and even if they did, November is not the time to plant them for best results.

UPDATE: Sonshine wants to give the popcorn tree some lunch to eat, because we all know that popcorn trees can't subsist on water alone.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Veteran's Day

Happy Veterans' Day!

I've seen bumper stickers that say, "If you can read this, thank a teacher." I've also seen some that say "If you are reading this in English, thank a veteran."

My sister gave her thanks to Favorite Husband for serving (FH served 8 years in the Air Force). It was really nice to see someone thanking him for his service. When he was gone on his many temporary and not-so-temporary assignments, everyone said "if there's anything we can do, just let us know" which, translated, means either "I don't really know what to do so I'm hoping you can give me orders" or "I don't really care enough to actually get to know you and know what you need, but I don't want to appear insensitive in public". If one person had ever just simply said "Thank you" instead, it would have made a big impact.

FH left the Air Force about 8 years ago, shortly before we got pregnant with Tiny Princess. Back then, military service was viewed in some circles as a sort of necessary embarrassment, if you had a family member in the service it was like having a used car salesman or a sleazy trial lawyer in the family. Even my own parents didn't want anyone in their family being in the military. There was this vague feeling of anti-military-ism hanging in the air. I'm extremely heartened to see that nowadays the armed services are getting more of the respect they deserve.

Please take the time to thank all the veterans you know. Call them on your cell phone while waiting in line at the Veterans' Day sale at Shopko.

Of Course... More Funding!

(sigh) Guess what math education needs-- more money!
SALT LAKE CITY -- It's time for educators to pay as much attention to math as they are already to reading, state Superintendent Patti Harrington told legislators Wednesday.

To back up her belief, Harrington said, she will ask the legislators this year for an additional $16 million to address math concerns.

"That's where our next problem is," she said.

Many elementary teachers don't feel comfortable with the higher levels of math that fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders are supposed to learn, Harrington said, and there aren't enough interventions and assessments to ensure students are learning. [emphasis added]
Higher levels of math??? Excuse me??? Math education has not changed so much over the years that a teacher would be having to teach stuff to fourth graders that she didn't already learn herself. I've looked over the Utah math core, and it's really basic. What, exactly, is it that our teachers don't know?
Reading programs are already in place for K-3 students at all public and charter schools in the state, Harrington said.

And we have reading specialists in most of the schools. How about a math specialist? Every school could hire a math specialist to conduct inservice and advise the teachers on really cool math stuff that kids can do-- oh, wait, thanks to constructivist math curricula being in vogue for the last 20 years, there are not enough non-foreign math majors left to fill the demand.
Harrington appeared before the Education Interim Committee Wednesday afternoon to talk about progress made on Senate Bill 154, which required higher academic achievement standards focused on competency.

She said funding math would follow the spirit of the law by improving competency. She also wants to get $10.1 million for more assessment and interventions relating to the Utah Basic Skills Competency Test, now required for high school graduation.

"We need to give them knowledge and skills to prepare students for post-high- school experience and jobs," she said. "Students can feel overwhelmed with all the new standards. It's daunting to think of the day-to-day struggle of students." [emphasis added]

Right. So what we need to do is not actually teach them when they're younger, but get them some help and test them some more when they get into high school. After all, we all know that testing makes people know stuff. Hey, here's a bright idea. If testing makes students know math better, why don't we test their teachers? You know, the teachers that can't do fourth grade "advanced" math? Maybe that'd learn 'em.

I think we should spend the $16 million on tutors for our teachers. Once they are brought up to speed on the material, they can teach our students and avoid the creation of yet another generation of teachers who can't do sixth grade math. So, since nobody ever listens to me, the money will probably be wasted on "updated" textbooks (like math changes from year to year!), more flashy manipulatives, and larger calculators with more buttons. Yeah, that's it. Our problem is a lack of buttons on the calculator. Anything to avoid addressing the real problem.

Big D Kickin' It In Sebastopol

My little brother Big D is on a mission for our church in the Ukraine. He recently sent a letter to my mom telling her how he is doing in Sebastopol.

My dad's side of the family is of Eastern European/Russian origin, and some of our ancestors are from what is now Ukraine, with others from just the other side of the border with Moldova. Big D says he fits right in-- he looks like he belongs there. He sent home a black-and-white picture of him wearing Ukrainian traditional costume, and it was like he had stepped out of the pages of a history book. He had already studied Russian in high school, so he had a leg up on many of his fellow missionaries when it came to learning the language. Just recently, people thought he was a native translator accompanying his (obviously American) companion, until they noticed that his accent was a bit off.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Mormon FAQ

Some of my readers may not be familiar with the LDS religion, also known as "Mormonism." It never ceases to amaze me that when people want to find out what Mormons believe, some of them want to find it out from any source but the Mormons themselves. It's always better to get information from primary sources. I highly recommend that people visit mormon.org, which is an official church website focusing on the basics, rather than visiting anti-Mormon websites.

If you would like to hear it "from the horse's mouth" but have an aversion to anything that even remotely smacks of official propaganda, I recommend the FAIR Apologetics website. It's a bit on the intellectual side but addresses a wide range of very specific doctrinal points, and is excellent for those who want to read counterarguments to specific anti-Mormon claims, clarity on some of the more esoteric bits of Mormon doctrine, or want to tease out the difference between Mormon doctrine and the culture of Utah. This is also a great site for members. I've learned a lot from the scholars who contribute content to the site. I even found one article that included the history of the pentagram/five pointed star symbol and its connections to Christ and the planet Venus. That's the kind of stuff you find on the FAIR website-- well-researched articles with lots of historical background, footnotes, and details. If you don't have time for that sort of article but want that sort of information, check out Stephen R. Gibson's One Minute Answers page. It reads like a Mormon FAQ.

If you're already convinced that you know what Mormons believe and that it's wrong, I would urge you to visit this page which shows some of the signs that people put up in protest at our latest General Conference. If you find a sign you agree with, please click the link underneath it and read the article and decide for yourself whether the criticism is accurate. I'm not asking you to believe what Mormons believe; I'm just asking you to fact-check your sources by asking actual Mormons whether that's what Mormons believe.

And finally, Favorite Husband's answer to a frequently-asked question about Mormonism that doesn't appear on any of those websites. He has been asked before (and not in jest!) if Mormons grow horns. To the people who ask him that, he tells them "Oh yes! In fact mine are just growing in." He places their hand on his head and says "Feel that? Can you feel it? Can you feel kinda... stupid?"

Soy Is Taking Over The World!

This post over at The Sneeze is a must-read. Check out the comments-- lots of good ones, funny ones, informative ones...

I Don't Have Anything To Say

I'm sorry I haven't posted in a while. I just haven't had anything to say. After the election there's not much room for political commentary, and I'm sick of it all anyway and glad it's over. I've got some things going on in my personal life but I believe they are of marginal interest to my blog readers, and I question the wisdom of airing my family's dirty laundry on the internet.

Favorite Husband has applied for a couple of jobs at a local company here in town, and it looks like he might have a good chance at getting at least one of them, because one of our friends works for that company and has recommended him highly. Unfortunately the one with the best chance would pay less than the job he's got now. We can afford for him to make a little less, because we wouldn't be spending so much money on gas, restaurant food, and chiropractor bills. But we can only go so far down before I'd have to go back to teaching at the university again. Fortunately, if he works here in town and gets off at 5, teaching at the university wouldn't be too bad. He could come home before I have to leave for work, and we could all have dinner together at an hour that the kids can tolerate. The kids would get to bed at a decent hour, instead of having to wait until I get home from my night class.

I really love teaching, but I just don't think I can do it any more until my kids are older. I routinely get four hours of sleep a night, and at that level of tiredness I can't teach effectively. And I absolutely hate grading papers.

I picked up a new tutoring job. I have a group of four high school girls. Their current math teacher is not explaining things well to them. They seem pretty well versed in all the prerequisite skills, which is nice because I hate having to do remediation. It's not that I hate teaching remedial material, it's that I can't stand watching the frustration it causes in students to have to re-learn stuff they should have known, and at the same time learn new stuff. The students who meet this challenge with determination tend to make progress, but sometimes even massive amounts of progress don't result in improved grades. It is really and truly painful to watch a student study harder than any other in their class, and still fail the course at the end. They had farther to go than anyone else and met the challenge with all their might, and still came up just a bit too short. If I don't keep students like that motivated, it could negate all the progress they've made, and make them feel like all their learning was in vain.

I will make a separate post about my latest projects.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Bagel Sleeps Through The Night!

Bagel is sleeping through the night now-- and even better, he's sleeping in his crib!

I'm so glad he likes the crib. Tiny Princess never liked the crib, not for one moment. When you put her in it, she would cry for as long as she was in it. If you left her in it for an hour, she'd cry for an hour; if you left her overnight she'd cry all night. She'd stay up crying until I picked her up, at which point she would promptly fall asleep of exhaustion. But if you then put her back down in the crib she'd wake up and cry again. Sonshine would sleep in the crib, but he nursed so often that it was kind of a moot point.

Bagel, though, loves his crib as a quiet place where he can get some rest. Now that he's discovered the crib, he will no longer sleep in his swing. At naptimes (which are now occurring regularly in the morning and afternoon), he will fuss quietly until I put him in his crib. We had to put a pillow from our bed in the crib before he felt comfortable there and understood that it was a place to sleep. But he loves it so, you can see the relief in his face when he's laid in the crib to sleep.

Bagel has also decided that his favorite textile is fleece. He won't wear anything but one-piece fleece suits. He'll put up with non-fleece one-piece suits, but he hates being made to wear pants, even fleece pants; I don't think he likes the waistband.

Bagel adores being extra super warm. He sleeps in his crib under several layers of a folded-up winter blanket. He'll cry when I leave him in the crib unless I put the layers of blanket on him. He doesn't approve of the change of weather; having been born in the summer, he thinks it's supposed to be ninety degrees all the time. But if you make him snuggly warm and then put an additional blanket on top of that, he'll be quite content, whether sleeping or awake.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Compelling Reason For Light Bloggage

Bloggage has been light the last few days because I've been working my butt off getting ready for the Christmas portraits. (Yes, I know it isn't the Christmas season yet. Read on.) In the last two days I've sewed a dress and jacket, vest, pants, and a tie.

It is our family tradition that every year we take Christmas portraits of the kids. We usually do this the end of October or early November, so that we will get the portraits back in time to send out with the Christmas mailing. The Christmas portraits are a big deal; we have been doing them since Tiny Princess was a baby. Every year it seems to get bigger. I make the kids matching clothes according to a pre-selected color scheme. I often start designing the clothes a year in advance, keeping an eye out for fabrics that might be suitable. Then we take the Official Portraits and the clothes go back into the closet until Christmas Day. This way, I can let the kids enjoy themselves in their new clothes on Christmas and not have them worry about keeping them nice for pictures.

The last two years I've put an exhausting effort into the Christmas portraits. The year before last I had to make Sonshine's suit entirely from scratch, because I could find neither a suit nor a suit pattern in his size. I had to draft my own pattern, and I wasn't terribly thrilled with the way the collar turned out, but it was OK. He ended up with a lovely double-breasted black wool suit. (After that I started buying him machine washable pre-made used suits on eBay.) Tiny Princess wore the Poinsettia Dress that year. Last year, Sonshine wore a double-breasted gray pinstripe suit, and Tiny Princess got the Snowflake Dress, which took hours and hours of laborious piecing (every bit of that snowflake design in the skirt is a separate piece of sheer material).

After last year's sewing turned out to be an ordeal, I decided that this year I'd keep the styles simple, since I knew I'd have three kids this time. We decided this year that we would include us parents in the portraits as well. The colors are navy and burgundy. Sonshine has a navy blue pinstripe suit. I bought a navy pinstripe suit for Favorite Husband, and I made one for Bagel as well. (Yes, I'm aware of how weird it is that a four-month-old would have a navy blue pinstripe suit, but it's just soooo cuuuuuuute!! and the boys all match!!!) I bought a burgundy dress at a thrift store, and I gave similar styling to Tiny Princess' dress, which is always the showpiece of the portraits. Hers is a two-piece dress and jacket set, made of burgundy crepe-back satin. The dress is a plain sheath dress with short sleeves, with the satin side out. The long jacket has the crepe side out, is styled with a collar and flat-felled seams, and buttons above the waist with two gold buttons, open at the bottom, with satin cuffs. It's elegant and understated.

We all went last night to get haircuts. Bagel got his first haircut. Tiny Princess and Sonshine got trims, and I got a different style than I've had before, about chin length, rather longer in the front than in the back. This morning I starched the shirts (yes, my tiny baby will be wearing a starched white shirt with his navy blue pinstripe suit...). I hope all goes well with the portraits today. I'll post pics when I have them.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Scripture of the Day

1 Peter 2:13-16

13 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;

14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.

15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:

16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

John Kerry Shows His Quality

I just heard on the radio (and confirmed on the internet) that Kerry plans to call off his 3200 lawyers and concede Ohio to Bush, which means he will lose the election. While I'm glad that Bush won, I also applaud Kerry for his decision to not take this election down the same undignified road that Gore took in the 2000 election. In this, Kerry shows his quality; although he's no Faramir, he's a better man than Gore was, and that's comforting. When I heard last night that he planned to fight for every last scrap of a vote in Ohio, I was worried that the 2000 precedent was going to be the new pattern for every subsequent election. By not going there, I think Kerry has made his greatest accomplishment in public service-- he has helped preserve the integrity of our electoral system.

So with the champagne we pop to celebrate Bush's victory, let's all drink a toast to John Kerry: Worthy Opponent.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Now I'm The Bread Making Expert

I've been asked by my church's women's auxiliary leaders (Relief Society for all you Mormons out there) to teach a little class on bread-making tonight. The ladies announcing the class have been passing me off as an expert bread-maker. I had no idea I was a bread-making expert.

Lots of people out here make bread, and they do it a particular way that's really involved and takes a lot of time. My breadmaking method was picked up from watching my bread machine do its job. I make mine in my Kitchen Aid mixer and let the mixer do most of the work. I throw all the ingredients in and let it go to town. I don't do it "right" because I am too lazy to do all that kneading. In fact I think the only reason I was asked was because one time I brought dinner to a lady who is now in the Relief Society presidency, and the humble dinner menu included a loaf of that bread. Considering that was a couple of years ago, it must have made a distinct impression on her.

All the older ladies make either white bread, wheat bread, or cinnamon rolls with their dough, so to them, my herbed bread is some sort of gourmet loaf, when really it's the same old bread with some herbs in it. The gourmet image, I admit, is enhanced by the round, free-form shape and stalk-of-wheat marking I give my loaves. I grind the wheat myself in one of my collection of ultra-cheap wheat grinders (I have three... yes I'm a nut... and I'm terribly proud of the fact that the purchase prices of all three total about $100).

So it's the herbed loaf (whose recipe appears below) that I'll be teaching tonight. I haven't made it in a while. I'm making my demo loaf this morning, hoping desperately that it's like riding a bicycle and I'll remember how to do it. So far, so good.

Recipe: Herbed White/Wheat Bread

I like to make my bread with half wheat flour and half white flour. This is partly because my crappy secondhand $20 wheat grinder can't grind flour fine enough to make an all-wheat loaf, and partly because people who like white bread and people who like wheat bread can find a middle ground on a half-and-half loaf. You could easily substitute all white or all wheat flour if you prefer. I like to make this bread with freshly ground wheat, and olive oil. I mark the tops of my bread with a razor blade; the marking for this loaf is a single stalk of wheat motif (I use two crossed stalks for whole wheat).

Herbed Wheat And White Bread
Makes 2 large or 3 small loaves
2 Tbsp. yeast
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 c. warm water
3 c. white flour
3 c. wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp. dried rosemary
2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 c. oil

Dissolve yeast and 2 Tbsp. sugar in warm water. Add to other ingredients; mix to make dough. Knead until smooth. Let rise in oiled bowl until double. Punch down, knead briefly, and shape into loaves. Let rise again. Mark with razor blade if desired. Bake at 350º for approx. 35 minutes or until done.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Dead Voters

With the recent trend toward early voting and absentee voting, there's a loophole in some states' election laws. What happens if you vote early, then die before election day? In some states, they will pull your ballot out and not count it. But new electronic voting systems don't allow that to happen if you voted early. So there are states where a person who died while fighting in Iraq could have his vote not count, while a person who voted early and then died would have her vote counted. Add to that the difficulty of determining after the fact which voters were alive on election day, and you have one royal mess. What do you do with someone who dies on the morning of November 2 before the polls open?

To me, the more important thing is to prevent people who are dead at the time of voting from casting a ballot. If someone was alive and lucid enough to vote when their ballot was marked, whether they cast it early, by absentee, or the day of the election, I have no problem with accepting their vote. I don't know why we have to go to the trouble of requiring that people stay alive through the day of the election in order for their votes to count. It made sense if everyone had to show up on election day to vote, but that's not the way it is anymore. If we're going to encourage all this early voting, we'd better change the archaic rules.