Saturday, April 30, 2005

Bagel's Barometer

You can tell whether Bagel is happy or sad by what he says. If he's happy, he says "Dada, dada." If he's sad he says "Mama! Mama!"

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Sonshine's Insight Of The Day

"Brains help us think, even though they're bloody and yucky."

Song Lyric Of The Day

Before you crawl you have to learn to fall
You can't see heaven when you're standing tall
To get the whole sky
On the ground you have to lie

-- They Might Be Giants, "Thunderbird"

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Free! Parent Licenses!

Orson Scott Card offers all of us with kids licenses to parent-- absolutely free of charge. Well, except for your internet costs.

The Possessed Toilet II: The Exorcism

The demons have departed from the possessed toilet!!!

Evidently, the flapper talisman was no longer protecting my toilet from the forces of evil. On the advice of my blog readers (thank you, blog readers!) I obtained a new, more potent flapper talisman from the Wal-Mart cashier priest, and it is now warding off the evil spirits.

I just knew there had to be a scientific explanation for all this! ;)

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Recipe: Tia Sarah's Haroset

Haroset (a mixture of apples, honey, and spices) is one of the foods placed on the Seder plate at Passover. It symbolizes the mortar that the Israelites used when they were slaves. It sure doesn't taste like mortar, though! This year I gave a tweak to our usual haroset recipe, and it met with much approval. The inspiration was a recipe for a Middle Eastern haroset.

Tia Sarah's Haroset

3 apples, cored and peeled
1/2 c. dried apricots
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 c. honey
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. cardamom
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. lime juice powder or juice of a lime

Soak the apricots and raisins in water. Chop the apples and apricots fine. Mix all ingredients together.

Passover, followed by Passout

We had our Seder dinner last night at my sister L----'s. It went well. I forgot to bring my pitchers for the grape juice (which we drink instead of wine), but that turned out to be a blessing in disguise. L---- had seated me at the same table as my younger sister, who was really pissed at me because I'd been dragged into negotiations between her and a client over a book that the client wanted ready earlier than expected. So I volunteered to spend a good deal of time serving grape juice instead of sitting in my seat. I tell you, you could not pay me enough to go back to the immaturity of my early twenties. Every run-in with my younger sister reminds me of that painful era. I must have been a real bear to deal with. (Sorry, Mom! I'm getting easier to handle...)

The kids sucked down grape juice like black holes. Bagel discovered haroset (the spicy apple mixture that represents the mortar the Israelite slaves used to build with) and refused to eat anything else. I made the haroset different this year, and everyone loved it. In past years I've used just apples, honey, and spices-- a kind of minimalist haroset. (We've always left out the nuts for my brother Little D who's allergic to nuts.) But this year I threw in some dried apricots and raisins, powdered ginger and lime juice powder. Not enough to make it "ginger-lime dried-fruit haroset", just enough to give it a little flavor kick. I got the idea from a recipe for a Middle Eastern haroset that FH found. He waved it in my face and I said "whatever," but he left it out where I'd see it and it inspired me. That's what I love about that man-- his persistence. It's a quality one has to have in order to deal with someone as stubborn as me. ;)

And of course, what comes after we gorge ourselves at Passover? Pass-Out.

Feathers In The Wind

There's an old story about a man who gossiped about someone he knew. He only repeated things he had heard about the man, but he later discovered that the rumors were not true and felt bad about what he had said. So he went to his rabbi to ask the wise man what he should do.

"Take your best feather pillow up to the top of that hill," said the rabbi, "and rip it open. Scatter the feathers to the wind."

The man did as he was asked and returned to the rabbi. "It is done, Rabbi," he said.

The rabbi replied, "Now go and gather up all the feathers from the pillow and sew it back up again."

"But Rabbi," protested the man, "the wind has blown the feathers all over town! They will be in every yard and every field, and some of them may be lost forever!"

"So are your idle words," replied the rabbi. "You cannot get them back once you have scattered them to the wind. In the future you should avoid gossip, because you can never make right the damage that gossip does."


I dreamed last night that I went into a shop that was having a sale. While browsing the shop I found a brochure the owner had written. To my surprise I found my name in it. The owner was holding me up as an example of the most horrible wickedness. I had never met the owner and was surprised to read these allegations about me in a brochure that was being publically distributed. Most of them were outright lies and the rest were gross exaggerations. Obviously the owner did not recognize me, because we chatted as I shopped and she seemed to like me. At the end of our transaction I introduced myself and watched the surprised look on her face, right before I woke up.

I sincerely hope that I have written nothing on this blog that has personally insulted someone. I'm not talking about what passes as "insult" nowadays (getting all huffy because you disagree with my viewpoint), I'm talking about ad hominem stuff. I try my best to avoid that sort of "argument". A lot of bloggers, especially conservative bloggers, take a sense of personal satisfaction out of writing things like "Hillary Clinton is a power-hungry bitch," while some liberal bloggers like to write "Michelle Malkin is a c---." I don't write stuff like that. I don't personally know Mrs. Clinton or Michelle Malkin so I don't have an opinion on whether they are bitches or nice people who would give you the shirts off their backs-- or (like me) some of both. My experience has shown that when you actually meet people, they tend to surprise you. There are always more facets to a person than you can see.

If, however, I have slipped up and personally attacked someone, I would ask that you bring it to my attention so that I can try to put as many feathers back in that pillow as I can.

Friday, April 22, 2005

The Push Mower

We are now the proud owners of an old-fashioned push mower.

I've wanted one for a long time, ever since I saw that my neighbor had one. It was quiet and didn't smell, and his kids could mow the lawn with it. Of course, we bought a gas mower. After a couple of years of paying a kid to mow the lawn while I tried desperately to get Vince to take up the responsibility, I started trying to mow it myself and found it impossible. Even if I could get enough time at the right time of the right day without having to carry babies around, I couldn't start the mower. My arms are just a couple inches too short to pull the starting cord. I could get it almost started, but if I wanted to start it I had to tie the lever on the handle and push it with my foot while I held the end of the cord. It was invariably a couple of weeks between happy accidents that allowed me to mow-- and by then the lawn was so thick that it would stall the mower, and I'd be right back to trying to start it again.

So last year when I saw a push mower on clearance for $25, I bought it. The box was open and the bolts were rattling around in it, so I figured it was missing a bit of hardware, but hardware is cheap. As it turned out, it was missing two bolts, neither of which was critical to the mower's operation and both of which were replaceable. And today we took it for a spin and mowed (most of) the lawn.

I've gotta tell you, this is not the mower you get if you want a golf course lawn. This is the mower you get if you don't like to go to the gym but want to lose weight anyway. You have to go over the lawn multiple times in different directions, because the grass will very cleverly lay down in the direction you happen to be cutting. It makes your lawn look like, well, Sonshine's head after one of my shearings haircuts. And it can be difficult to push if it's been more than two days after your last mowing, so you'll have to do it frequently. But it allows you to get in a two-mile walk while remaining within earshot of the sleeping baby's window-- and it won't wake the baby, either.

So if you aren't the type who measures every blade of grass to ensure uniform height, and if you are the type who has a little extra "something" to lose, cancel your gym membership and get a push mower. It's only a few months' membership fees, and you won't ever have to bring home a smelly can of gas again. Plus the kids will think it's really cool and you'll have all the neighborhood kids lining up to take turns mowing your lawn.

Happy Earth Day

Check out the Commons Blog's roundup of posts.

Besides Abortion

Via a commenter on Q and O, I came across a group called Democrats For Life. They have some interesting ideas for ways we could change the law to make abortion a much less attractive alternative. I don't agree with all their ideas, but I do like the idea of legislative changes to make pregnancy and adoption more viable options. It isn't enough to just ban something odious if that odious thing is attractive to people for whatever reason; it just goes underground. There has to be a corresponding change in the culture in order to wipe it out.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Why Women Make Less Than Men

The other day I was listening to our local public radio station. They have a call-in program where they discuss the issues of the day. One issue that day was some new report that women are still making some 76% of what men make. The two hosts discussed it for a minute, then began discussing a raise in the minimum wage.

A woman then called in to say she supported a raise in the minimum wage. She said she was making more than the minimum and would gladly take a dollar an hour pay cut so that others could make a living wage. The next caller was another woman who said she agreed 100% with the first woman.

And that, my friends, is why despite a total lack of discrimination, women still make less than men.

Women just don't care how much they make. They would rather take care of people than make money.

A Practical Perspective

IMGrant of the Commons Blog gives some perspective to issues of compensation for global warming.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Possessed Toilet

Regular visitors to the Organic Baby Farm know that my pettest pet peeve is anything that should be explainable, but for some equally-inexplicable reason isn't. The latest thing that's pissing me off (ha) is my toilet, which flushes itself at regular intervals.

OK, so it's not a complete flush. But I'll just be sitting there, alone in the house with the baby or trying to sleep, and the water flow will just turn on all by itself, run for a few seconds exactly like it does at the end of a flush, and shut itself off.

It bothers me to no end. When I was a kid, I had nightmares about a tape player that wouldn't stop playing no matter what button I pushed. I had a possessed microwave once that flashed 6666 (or maybe it was 8888) in the display and turned on all by itself. I'm also deathly afraid of water and plumbing leaks, and so a possessed toilet is like two of my worst nightmares put together.

A couple of nights ago I had a dream wherein an avuncular, white-haired man explained to me that the problem in the toilet was that the float was sticking on the way up, and the sudden flushes came from the float becoming unstuck. That made me feel better, but when I tried to explain the dream to my husband, I didn't see how it could be right.

We have one of those mechanisms with a cylindrical float that surrounds the pipe on the left which has a diaphragm valve at the top. So if any OBF readers have theories as to what demon is possessing my toilet, PLEASE leave them in the comments. This HAS to have a simple, scientific explanation.

More on Education Woes

I visited with my mom yesterday, and she was complaining about all the testing she is required to do. Her school has a federal grant, so they have to do tests for that. The district requires her to test the students with their tests. The state requires additional tests. Further, her school and district require that she not conduct the tests during regular class time so as to not interfere with lessons. My mom is a Kindergarten teacher, so she will have to test each child individually. There just isn't room in the schedule to do all this testing and all the education and also use the bathroom.

Clearly, this is unworkable. So what's to be done?

Well, suppose we want to keep funding at its current levels and from its current sources. Then there are three possible scenarios that I can see:
(1) eliminate all the testing by just eliminating required testing in general.
(2) eliminate much of the redundant testing by using a limited number of tests for multiple purposes.
(3) give up on actually educating children and just test the crap out of them.

#3 is not an option, and #1 is inappropriate because (as I noted in an earlier post) if you're taking the public's money, you damn well better be able to tell the public what it's getting for its money. That leaves #2.

So suppose that by some miracle we were able to get the state, the feds, and the districts all to coordinate with each other and accept that there will be, say, one reading test and one mathematics test and one miscellaneous test given three times a year (beginning, middle, and end) to the Kindergarteners. Who do you think would be at the front lines opposing this? The very teachers whose work loads are supposed to be lightened by this compromise would scream "Ooooh, it's so not fair to students to have so much riding on just one test!!! What if they fail?"

When you shoot yourself in the foot, don't complain about all the blood.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Opting Out Of NCLB

The Utah legislature has been threatening to opt out of NCLB-- and it looks like they just might do it.

The conventional wisdom on this is that the conservatives (which almost entirely comprise the Utah legislature) are fed up with Bush's policies. But there are also a lot of liberals who have been salivating for the demise of the accountability meme in education, and this would be grist for their mill as well. The rhetoric being used is that of "states' rights." This is some odd rhetoric to hear from Utah. I'd expect this sort of "it's a good idea that I'll do anyway, but don't make me do it" vibe from New Hampshire, which doesn't require you to have auto insurance unless you get in an accident in order to get around New Hampshirites' dislike of being required to do anything by law.

Still, though, I can't figure why the legislature seems to think this is a good idea. Legislators of every stripe are always bitching about education funding. Even NCLB's most venomous detractors in Utah are bitching about getting more education funding. Education funding is hard to come by here because such a high proportion of the population is composed of children. And they're wanting to pass up this education funding because they chafe at having to produce some results with the money? What do they think will happen if we lose this federal funding-- do they seriously think Utahns are going to be able to take up the slack and keep funding at its current level? It reminds me of a sulky young man complaining about how he doesn't have any rent money but refusing to get down to Taco Bell and apply for a job because he doesn't want to do that kind of menial work, figuring he'll just ask his parents for more money if he needs it. If they're not willing to do what is required to get the money, then they must give up spending the money. I don't have any problem with state officials lobbying the feds for needed changes to the law, but to opt out altogether out of petulance at being required to actually test students is just sheer gall.

It would be really nice if we could get our money for free without having to do anything in exchange for it, but it doesn't work that way for me and it shouldn't work that way for education either. People entrusted with the public's money should produce the public's desired results (as determined by laws passed by the legislature), and people who accept money to produce results should not be offended when the results must be reported. If the state doesn't want to produce measurements of educational outcomes in exchange for money, fine. Maybe they should quit trying to educate kids when they can't afford to do it. But they shouldn't be coming to us taxpayers with hat in hand asking for another "voluntary" contribution to fund their recalcitrance. If they opt out of NCLB, I will not support additional state funding for education.

Butt Paste Rules!

I first heard about Boudreaux's Butt Paste on the Q and O blog. I thought Bagel could use some help with his diaper rash. The poor kid has been suffering for weeks. After two weeks of constipation, followed by two weeks of diarrhea, he now had The Diaper Rash That Would Not Die for two or three weeks. I was hitting it with everything I could think of-- miconazole, hydrocortisone, you name it, I used it-- and it still wouldn't go away.

Butt Paste made it disappear completely in two days.

This is some seriously good stuff.

Yeah, it's expensive, and yeah it looks more like wood putty than diaper rash ointment. But it works. And what's even better, it washes off your hands. Desitin doesn't do that-- and Desitin stinks to boot. You don't smell this stuff much, which is nice because when you're cooking dinner you don't want to smell Desitin along with the ginger and garlic.

Summer Job

The summer is looking like it's going to be terribly busy.

First, I have to get through the next two weeks of bead and wire work. I still have nine more crown centerpieces to finish ASAP. My friend and Favorite Husband are helping when they can, but I'm still doing the vast majority of the work and my wrists are killing me. I'll have to go to the chiropractor and get them adjusted. After that's done, I have another special order to attend to. Thankfully it's not bead work and I should finish it up in a day or two.

When the special orders are all done, I will have one week to get everything ready for the opening of the Gardeners' Market. If I sell enough scarves before then, I'll have enough money to order dyeing supplies to replenish my stock.

The first few weeks of the Gardeners' Market will be critical to my success at Summerfest. I have only those few weeks to raise the money for the supplies for Summerfest merchandise, because the stuff has to be ordered AND finished before we leave on vacation on June 7. I can use the Memorial Day revenues (which were our highest last year) for Summerfest supplies, but I'll have to dye like crazy while trying to pack. Also, if I decide to do that show on 4th of July weekend in Provo, I'll have to use Memorial Day revenues for the booth fee for that. FH isn't too keen on doing that show, though, so we'll see. He's probably right-- it's too much too soon, maybe we'll do it next year.

After we return from vacation, I have to hit the ground running. I was offered a summer class and it starts the 13th, which is the week of Summerfest. So that week I'll be catching up after vacation while I teach calculus and get ready for Summerfest. This is not going to be a fun week.

After that it should settle down somewhat. I'll get the kids in swim lessons and we'll get a nice routine going. My class will run for eight weeks so that'll be a constant pain and will probably interfere with swim lessons.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Oh Right... It Must Be Bush's Fault

My mom is a Kindergarten teacher in another district. She told me all about the problems they're having with the implementation of No Child Left Behind.

For those just tuning in, a little background: I did not support NCLB when it first was proposed, not because I didn't think education needed improvement (ha!) but because I didn't think it would accomplish that as written. Nevertheless it is now the law of the land, so we deal with it.

Unfortunately, some district officials (including those at my mom's district) have decided to deal with it by passing the entire buck on to the teachers. Instead of respecting the teachers as professionals that would love nothing better than to have all their students learn, and seeking the teachers' input, these officials dream up crazy programs which they dump on the teachers without thinking for one minute how the teachers are going to implement these on top of all the other pre-NCLB crazy programs they already had dumped on them. Instead of seeing their job as giving the teachers the support they need to do a better job, administrators content themselves with yelling at teachers to "do a better job, and while you're at it do it this way."

It's no wonder teachers are frustrated and find themselves unable to comply with all the requirements. I don't blame them for being frustrated-- it would take much less than that to get me to the point where I'd throw in the towel. In fact, it took much less than that, because I decided not to be a teacher after I subbed for a while and saw the way "the system" was set up for teachers to fail at their job. The teachers who maintain professionalism in the face of all this crap are true saints. But it really bothers me when they blame their woes on NCLB, as if without NCLB they would be allowed to do their jobs without interference from the state or district at all. The biggest problem teachers have right now is the same problem that they had ten years ago when I decided not to be one: nosy, dictatorial administrators. NCLB is just their latest excuse.

You can't blame NCLB for people like the guy who's driving the teachers at my mom's school nuts, a guy who, when he had a problem with a teacher bringing a file into the meeting, took the file away and chastised the teacher publicly for bringing it. You can't blame NCLB for a principal who refuses to make decisions in her own school without input from her supervisor at the district, a woman who was so noncommittal that she made an entire conversation out of the law of the excluded middle. You can't blame NCLB for administrators who, when faced with a challenge, do the same thing they've always done when faced with a challenge: make up a program and foist all the paperwork for it on the teachers.

School districts and teachers' unions need to take a long, hard look at why the administration is so devoid of the most basic leadership skills that are Business 101. Part of the problem is hiring and firing policies that are union-endorsed. In some districts, being an administrator is the only way teachers can get a raise, so the job attracts people with few leadership skills instead of lots of leadership skills. In some localities it's practically impossible to fire bad teachers or administrators. Part of the problem is teachers being denied merit pay and "hazardous duty" pay-- if they could get more money by being good teachers, there wouldn't be so much incentive to get into an administrative job for which a candidate is unsuited. And then there's the financial incentive problem at the district level-- unlike businesses, school districts do not have any incentive to put their best leaders at the top of the organization. If you've been the most incompetent leader for twenty years, you're ahead of a better leader who's only been in for ten.

As long as teachers keep supporting this sort of stuff (my mom still defends her union even though she disagrees with practically everything they stand for), they are going to have the system that's the natural consequence of it. And somehow, this is supposed to be the fault of NCLB and, by extension, President Bush??

Friday, April 15, 2005

A Prayer For The Married Woman

Dear Lord,
I pray for Wisdom to understand my man; Love to forgive him; And Patience for his moods. Because, Lord, if I pray for Strength, I'll beat him to death.

(shamelessly lifted from the Dyehard Yahoo group)

Fashion in Iran

An interesting article about a fashion designer in Iran, designing stylish yet modest clothing. Personally, I think she leaves some of our Utah designers in the dust, but then again I've got a "thing" for Asian clothing. One of these days I'm going to get a salwar kameez for myself. You know, when my annual clothing budget exceeds $100...

Link via Beautiful Atrocities.

Let Us Welcome Our New Overlord

In the epic battle for overlordship, FrankJ of IMAO wants to be overlord of the blogosphere. But since the blogosphere is too incomprehensibly multifaceted, he proposes reducing it to a blogododecahedron. Personally I'd favor making it a blogosmall-dodecicosahedron because it's non-orientable and thus has only one side (not an inside AND an outside), but nobody listens to me because I'm a math teacher and they're too used to tuning me out.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Did That Sound Random To You?

A computer-generated computer science paper has been accepted for publication in a journal.

Turing test, anyone?

Link via Michael Williams.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Summerfest Is On!

I just heard from Summerfest-- I've been accepted as a vendor!

I haven't blogged in a while and I will be in and out through the end of April. I'm trying to finish up the beaded crown centerpieces, and they all have to be out by then. I'll have to work desperately fast to get them all done. In fact, I should be working on them now instead of blogging, because the baby is asleep. I usually blog during breaks between cleaning or whatever I'm doing while the baby sleeps, but I have to spend all that time working now.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Marketing Ideas

The Summerfest jury is mailing out its decisions today. I'm hoping they send them by e-mail, because I don't think I can stand the suspense. It'll be really tight financially if I get in, but I think it will be a really good thing.

If I get in, I've got one month to raise as much cash as possible to buy materials to make enough merchandise for Summerfest. And after that I've got a very narrow time window in which to get ready-- I have to have all my Summerfest merchandise ready by the end of May because we are going on vacation at the beginning of June and coming back a few days before Summerfest; and the Gardeners' Market opens on the 7th of May. I'll have to place my order to Dharma right after opening day, and dye my fingers to the bone as soon as the box arrives.

I decided the best way to raise the cash (besides selling off some of my odd yarn cones) would be to market the hell out of scarves. To that end, I worked on my website yesterday. After accidentally deleting and recovering some important files, and restoring the header and nav-bar which had first started appearing 2 and 3 times on a page and then vanished altogether, I discovered to my horror that over half of my "buy now" shopping cart buttons were not working. All but one of the poncho buttons resulted in the addition of a scratchy wool poncho to the cart (the forms were missing an HTML tag) and none of the new buttons I'd added to the scarf page worked at all. I did get those fixed, but the Javascript that's supposed to rotate the picture is not working. It will rotate once through the first two of four pictures, and after that it just quits. I don't know what's wrong with it, because it's exactly identical to the Javascript that does work on a different page. It doesn't really need to rotate, but I thought it would be nice if people could see more than one of the scarves on the mannequin.

As for promotions, I decided to run a pre-Mother's Day sale. I'm offering the scarves for 20% off their regular price until the end of the month on the website. I made some GIF's to animate for an ad I plan to buy on a website. But I need to come up with ideas for spreading the word about my kids' promotion. I decided to offer scarves for half price to kids under 12 at the Gardeners' Market (one per family). That puts the silk ones at $5, in a kid's price range. I'll still be making a profit (although a mighty small one), but the most important thing this will do is get the scarves out there and get people asking about them. I also printed up gift certificates, so that the moms can choose their own scarf. I'm hoping that will attract buyers that are hesitant to get Mom something she might not wear, and also get me the cash earlier rather than later. I'm not sure what would be the best way to advertise this kids' promotion, though. If you have ideas please leave them in the comments.

I've been going over display ideas for the scarves. I originally wanted to build an A-frame ladder rack for them, but I will have to put that off. It will take too much time and cost too much money. I might be able to build it in May if everything goes really well at the Gardeners' Market, but I need a display for the GM opening day. So I hit upon the idea of hanging chains from the side and/or center of my canopy and suspending pairs of dowels between them. The bottom end of the chain can be staked to the ground. The scarf can be threaded between the two dowels to hang over the bottom one; the top dowel is to keep the 11-gram scarves from blowing entirely away in the wind. If the wind does lift the scarf, it will just wrap back around the top dowel. I found some suitable lightweight chain with long links, and it is quite cheap. I can also use my drying rack; I have to get a new one anyway. Besides the fact that two of the slats in the one I've got are now broken, the one I have is bare wood with a waxy sort of finish, and it's getting some sort of stain onto the scarves where they hang over the slats.

As always, if you can think of any ideas I can use, please put them in the comments. And if you want to go to my business website, just click.

The Pope's Funeral

It was incredibly windy last night (gusts up to 45 mph) and I couldn't sleep from all the racket the wind was making, so I just got up and worked. While I frantically strung beads on wires and tended to Bagel (whose meds had worn off), I watched the funeral of Pope John Paul II. It was an amazing funeral.

The first thing that struck me was the casket. It was, essentially, a pine box. Cypress, actually, but I'm assured that cypress out there is what pine is out here-- a common, cheap wood-- and is additionally associated with cemeteries. My father-in-law's casket, by contrast, was the most expensive one the funeral directors could sell to my mother-in-law. If I remember correctly, it was adorned with metal relief pictures of the Last Supper (if not, that Last Supper casket was one they tried to sell to Mom). Dad's casket cost as much as my wedding. My father-in-law was neither famous nor particularly materialistic. So to see the Pope, head of a worldwide church, buried in a cypress box was quite moving.

I've been to funeral masses before, but this one was much more interesting. The part I liked best was at the end when the patriarchs from the Eastern Rite did their bit. Besides the fact that Eastern musical ideas are fascinating, it was really awesome (in the non-90's sense of the word) to think that the same rite was being said for the Pope as was said for Constantine. I know the Roman Catholic rites are very very old too, but they just don't seem quite so old when they're in a language I understand.

Long Time No Post

A few days ago Blogger was having some server issues and it was such a pain to post that I just didn't. I'm hoping the issues have been resolved now.

It's just been busy, busy, busy around here. Bagel is not feeling well. After his bout with constipation, and a subsequent week of loose bowels, he came down with a yeast diaper rash and then a non-yeast diaper rash. Now that his rash is getting better, he's got a fever and a runny nose. Bagel requires constant holding, so I haven't gotten much of anything done. The house is now such a heap, though, that I've been giving him an extra quarter teaspoon of Dimetapp so that he will get some sleep. When he's ill, he doesn't sleep for more than 15 minutes at a time.

Favorite Husband rearranged the furniture in the kids' room so that they would be unable to jump from bed to bed. (They've now taken up jumping from bed to table to ladder to bed.) We have laid down some strict ground rules for the new arrangement: no toys in the storage cupboard, no toys in the doorway, no toys blocking the cupboard door where the vacuum is kept; all toys found in the forbidden areas are subject to immediate disposal in a trash receptacle of our choice. I ruffled a lot of feathers the other night when I chucked Sonshine's Duel Master cards and plastic fire truck (which he had just retrieved from the living room and painstakingly laid in the center of his doorway, not five feet from the toy storage area). I really liked that plastic fire truck. Oh well.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Dyeing Experiments

I hadn't yet gotten around to blogging about my dye experiments, but I discovered my sister Mim is sending people over to my blog to look for them, so I figured I'd better not disappoint them.

I spent my Saturday doing dye experiments. I dyed two different kinds of materials. One was 8mm silk habotai scarves. The other was silk/rayon burnout velvet scarves. The habotai scarves were done with a low-water immersion technique. I had more ambitious plans for the burnout ones-- I was hoping to succeed at dyeing them two colors. I planned to do that by using fiber-reactive Procion MX dyes on the silk and rayon, and then overdyeing the material with an acid dye that would only take on the silk. The goal was to dye the silk crimson and the rayon gold, because these are our local high school colors.

On the habotai scarves I did some variations on the low-water technique using one and two colors. I tried the "Value Parfait" technique as pictured in Ann Johnston's "Color By Accident". It
didn't work. Instead of three shades of the same color, I got three scarves dyed to varying degrees with the same shade. The bottom one was almost solid, the middle one had some lighter spots, and the top one had some white and some color. No matter how hard you look at it, a dark blue and white scarf is not a light blue scarf. The effect of the top scarf was interesting, though, and I was able to replicate it without having to dye the bottom two scarves, by putting the dye in first and then throwing the scarf on top of it.

I did a couple of scarves successfully in two colors, thus vindicating my theory that the reason I ended up with a chartreuse scarf was that I did not add the sodium carbonate soon enough after dye application. Also I noticed that I like the resulting pattern better if I fold the scarf in half, then crumple it. I call this one "Fire".

I also attempted to dye a couple of scarves in three shades of red by using a red dye and small quantities of yellow and blue. I found that for this I got the best results by putting the yellow and blue on first, then the sodium carbonate solution, then the red. I did not get exactly the results I wanted, though, since this red (Dharma Trading's Chinese Red #10A) did not yield a fire-engine red. Instead it yielded a dark hot pink on the silk. I tried increasing the concentration of the dye, and I ended up with a really dark hot pink. It was a very nice shade of pink, but it was only red when wet.

I also tried some dip-dyeing with plastic clothespins for resist. Three of the scarves I folded in a triangle pattern that yielded flower-like medallions down the length of the scarf. A fourth I
folded in a rectangle pattern. My dad, who was in college in the Sixties, proclaimed all the scarves (including the low-water immersion ones) to be "tie-dyed" and refused to see that there were different techniques producing different effects. To him they were all "tie-dye".

I tried to mix gray, but succeeded only in making some "interesting" shades of brown. I did not try to mix any colors because it was getting late and my baby has decided that the day that I dye is the appropriate day for fits of crying that can only be cured by being held close by Mommy. I saved my dye concentrates for more experiments later this week. At that time I will attempt to mix a fire engine red out of magenta and yellow.

The rayon/silk velvet scarves are proving to be more problematic. My first dye run with the golden yellow dye (Dharma #4) was WAY too strong. The sample turned out a lovely bright citrus orange instead of the golden yellow. Another try with a more diluted dyebath turned
out a golden shade. After these were allowed to dry, I put them in an acid dye bath of Hot Fuchsia (the one that produced Mim's eye-popping heliotrope yarn), reasoning that the magenta color of the Fuchsia would overdye the yellow of the fiber-reactive dye to make red on the silk portions. I also put a plain white sample into the acid dyebath, because I wanted to see if the overdyeing worked better if the acid dyebath went first, then the fiber-reactive dyebath.

I ran into a few problems, though, with this overdyeing idea. The first is that thanks to my mistake in mixing the yellow dye, the yellow was so strong that it made the silk part turn a nice strong orange instead of a red. The other is that the silk background color shows through the rayon velvet pile, mixing the colors for the rayon as well as the silk. I will have to try ironing the scarf to see if making it have a panne velvet effect will intensify the apparent color of the velvet design. It's hard to see in the scan below, since except at the edge of the fabric you are viewing the pile straight on, but the pile is actually yellow.

I may yet have success if I dye the piece that is currently magenta (which has only been through the acid dye bath so far) with a lighter shade of yellow, or if I re-dye the samples in an attempt to get a darker magenta overdye. I may also consider using a different color for the acid dye bath. But even if I can't get crimson and gold, I can still get some neat effects. I can get scarves with the velvet a lighter shade than the background and shining white when viewed from an angle, and a white fringe to boot. If I do these in a navy blue I'll get the university colors, and if I do them in sky blue, I can get the colors of another neighboring high school with only one dye run. (I don't think I'll be able to get the same effect with the colors of the other neighboring high school, which are blue and orange, without handpainting.) I can also get the scarves to dye in complementary colors. The sample that was originally golden yellow came out with a red-orange background and yellow pile, and it looks really great in its own right.

That's all I got done so far.

Incestuous Blogspawning!

My only blogdaughter (who is also my sister) now has a blogson, who is also her husband. So my brother-in-law is now my blog-grandson, I think. Despite the incestuous circumstances of his blog's birth, we welcome it to the blogroll. ;)

These things are never simple, are they?

The Aluminum Foil Office

A tin foil hat can keep the government's mind ray satellites out of your brain, but if you want to keep them away from your computer data and other important stuff like your stapler and chair, you need one of these.

Link via IMAO.

UPDATE: You know, my aunt and uncle have a bathroom that they wallpapered with aluminum foil. Now I'm starting to wonder...

Monday, April 04, 2005

This Is Why We Need The Media

Loads of blog posts (and even entire blogs) have been devoted to pointing out the "warts" of our media. As bad as they are, though, we need them. Even if they are dominated by a particular variety of politics that doesn't agree with ours, we need their voice to be independent of the government. Recent events in Canada point that out. Canadians are being kept in the dark about testimony in a huge scandal, because it involves a lot of current elected officials paying millions of dollars to ad agencies for little or no work, and part of the money was kicked back to the officials' political party. Canadian broadcast media are government-owned, so the government can impose a ban on broadcasting the damning information in the testimony. (Read more here.)

I'll take a leftie reporter over a gagged reporter any day.


San Francisco is attempting to make bloggers register themselves so their political speech can be regulated. At best this is a crazy unenforceable law that could easily be gotten around. At worst it could create a registry of bloggers that has a chilling effect on free speech. And as one commenter pointed out, the "evidence" required to crack down on a blog could be easily generated by the city government out of thin air. If you live in San Francisco, please contact the legislators and executives whose contact information is at the post linked to above, and speak your mind.

Link via INDC Journal.

Sonshine's Position On Gay Marriage

OK, so I made the post title a little bit sensational. Sonshine doesn't really have a position on gay marriage. He's too young to understand the issue. But he's not too young to realize that he gets a rise out of people whenever he says "What if two men could marry each other?"

Sonshine came by this question in the natural way kids do when asking questions about the world. It first came up in the context of a general discussion on who can marry whom. Right before it was brought up, we were discussing that you can't marry anyone in your family. So this is not an issue of sexuality for Sonshine, it's just one of several possible permutations of two people. He noticed, however, that it was a question that made people react oddly, so he thought he'd ask it over and over to observe their reactions.

Sonshine enjoys saying things that are provocative, just to see how people react. He has a history of this, dating back to the "naked dancing" incident at church. After he danced around saying "naked dancing! naked dancing!" at church and we had to assure everyone that we really didn't expose him to naked dancing, we forbade him to say the word "naked" for a while-- not because it was a bad word, but because that was just the apex of a series of events in which he used the word "naked" in public to elicit a reaction from his audience. After that it was "nipples" and he was forbidden to say that word too, unless he had a medical reason. The gay marriage question is just the latest in a string of provocative words that he uses in his experiments on us. Since he's already established that there are provocative words, he's moved on to provocative phrases.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Wait Patiently

I'm trying to "school my feelings" about my Favorite Husband. We are missing dinner at my parents' house because back when we were only 15 minutes late for dinner, he decided that NOW is the appropriate time to thoroughly clean the van and shampoo the seats and carpets. He said it would only take "a minute" but he never thinks these things through. It probably never entered his mind that to do what he wanted to do would take at least 45 minutes, not counting drying time for the wet upholstery, and dinner had probably already started.

So I'm trying to convince myself that I should not be stressed out about this, that it's not an important engagement. I'm also telling myself that if I let FH have this experience, maybe then he'll realize that what I've been telling him for the last 12 years about time management is actually true: that things don't take one actual minute just because they are not complex tasks, that fifteen actual one-minute tasks done together take fifteen minutes instead of one, etc. etc.

Women in Mormonism

An intriguing article on the role of women in Mormonism-- discusses gender issues without harping on the supposed oppression of Mormon women.

Quoth the author:
Mormon women collectively desire that the world may see them for the complexity of their spirits, desires, aspirations, and personalities. We are not a stereotype! We are not symbols of fundamentalist gender oppression. We are teachers, professors, nurses, doctors, athletes, artisans, journalists, singers, gardeners, poets, authors, and businesswomen. But first we are daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers, and most importantly, we are "women of God…[who] not only speak because we have the right, but justice and humanity demand that we should."

This Is A Hoot!

What would happen if Steve from The Sneeze opened up a Star Wars-themed coffee shop? Me, I'd order an Obi-Wan Canoli with my Hoth Chocolate...

You must read this post and its comments-- you'll laugh your brains out!

Friday, April 01, 2005

Where Does Your Food Come From?

A very interesting article on how far your food travels to get to you. For a long time now I've thought, although I haven't always expressed it, that if you really wanted to do something for the environment, you should store food in your house and buy local food instead of running to the grocery store all the time in your brand-new Prius.


If two people dye together, is it a sewicide pact?


And no, I never get tired of dyeing jokes.

Fisking Mulan II

We rented Mulan II for our kids, and we will not be buying it.

The entire movie can be summarized by this theme song, whose lyrics I will proceed to fisk. It is about being allowed to be a spoiled brat who gets everything she wants, rather than a woman who gets the satisfaction of working for everything she wants.

I wanna be like other girls,
I wanna see what other girls see.
Just to be free like other girls get to be.
First of all, it took me 30 years to finally get it through my thick skull that I am a girl and I was under no obligation to be just like everybody else. I'm not going to waste those years of experience by letting my daughter believe the same thing I once believed.

I once confided my longing to be like everybody else in a very wise friend, who pointed out to me that I was comparing my inside to everybody else's outside. If you think all the other girls are more free than you, you might want to get to know them better.

To wear my old jeans
To eat a whole cake
You won't be wearing those old jeans for very long if you eat the whole damn cake.

Feel the sun on my feet
Be quiet, be crazy
Be anything I want to be
Dance around in my underwear
This much I'll grant them.

To walk by myself
Do nothing all day
Yeah, that's freedom-- being completely and utterly useless. I know that "downtime" is important, but it can be taken too far.

To eat a whole cake
Be cranky with frosting
Too much frosting does indeed make one cranky, but I don't see how overindulging yourself in sugar expands your freedoms. Am I the only one noticing a theme here? Freedom is characterized by the ability to shove an entire cake in your mouth? If you define freedom as gluttony, you've got problems.

No cameras
No pressures
No phonies
No hair gel
Nobody's making you stand in front of cameras, honey. Nobody's making you do your hair with gel. Nobody's stopping you from getting out of the spotlight.
No people who think that they know me but don't
That would be, say, all those girls who, thanks to your little song, think I'm free and they're not?

Seriously, I get up in front of an entire classroom full of people who think they know me, but don't. I go to church with hundreds of people who think they know me but don't. I get blog comments from people who think they know me but don't. The list of people who think they know me but don't is miles long. Take a number.
No platform shoes
One of Princess' friends twisted her ankle because her mother bought her platform clogs to wear to school, so I have to agree with this one. No platform shoes.

To stay in one place
To sleep until 3
See "Do Nothing All Day."

To meet a nice guy who likes me for me
With all that hair gel, phonies, and platform shoes, you're more likely to meet a guy who likes you for you and "the twins."

This self-indulgent "freedom" is not what I want for my children. The whole "my only duty is to my heart" theme is not something I want my children to believe. It's a cop-out. When you have a conflict between duty and heart, defining your heart as your duty is a deus ex machina that enables you to indulge yourself while getting you off the hook from your prior commitments.

Getting Along With Tomboys

One of the most important skills I think I can equip my kids with is the ability to relate to many different kinds of people. This has been easy to teach to Princess because she has a natural empathy with her fellow human beings. And it's been good so far. Princess has an impressive variety of friends and gets along with most of the students in her class. There are a few that I permit her to refuse to be friends with, because she has tried being friends with them and found them to be lacking in character. But I don't want her to reject anyone out of hand, or be actively mean to anyone.

So I am searching for ways to help Princess relate to K------, a tomboy. K------ is always doing things like shoving Princess or marking on Princess' paper. I've watched how they interact, and I interpret that as K------ trying to get Princess' attention. K------ has a lot of older brothers, and I believe she is trying to get Princess' attention in the same way she gets her brothers' attention. Also, K------'s behavior and Sonshine's behavior are very similar, so if Princess can learn to relate to K------, perhaps she'll get along better with her brother.

I talked with Princess about it, and it transpired that K------ is good at basketball, and Princess believes she is no good at basketball (but is good at skipping). Part of that is my fault-- I think she must have overheard me telling people "She'll never play professional basketball" because of her height. But people of any height can learn basic skills like dribbling. So I advised her to try asking K------ to teach her some basketball skills, and maybe teach K------ some skipping skills. I'm hoping that if K------ gets her attention in a positive way, she will back off the acting-out and recognize Princess' request as an overture of friendship. I know that the one thing Princess shouldn't do is ignore K------, because that will only escalate K------'s behavior. It would also be unproductive to continually report K------ to the teacher, because not only will that turn Princess into a whiny tattletale, it will probably heighten any sense of not-fitting-in that K------ may already have.

When I was a girl, I was something like K------. I didn't fit in with the other girls. While I was never a tomboy (i.e. never behaved totally like a boy), I had a very different set of interests from the other girls. I did like wearing dresses, but I eschewed tea parties in favor of exploring and computers. I wanted to be an astronaut; they wanted to be debutantes. So I can relate to K------ and I believe that if she doesn't already feel a sense of isolation now, she will very soon as other girls reject her.

We have always taught Princess to befriend the downtrodden and the isolated. Now our challenge is to teach her that not everybody who's isolated is off in a corner crying.