Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Now The House Is Upside Down And On Fire

When I was nine months pregnant with Sonshine, and Princess was 2 1/2, I was carrying so far out that it was a chore just to get out of my seat. I'd have to rock back and forth until I got up enough momentum to launch my beached-whale belly out in front of me, and that took a while, so I tried to remain seated as much as possible. Princess, being a smart girl, had this all figured out. She'd stand just out of arm's reach and do something naughty, like eat a candy she'd sneaked, or play with something she wasn't supposed to have. She'd just stand there and do it while I said "No, Princess, don't do that" and while I tried in vain to grab her. Then she'd run away as soon as she saw me start to rock back and forth to get up.

It was bad enough when it was just Princess doing it. This time it's the entire family, all three kids AND FH. It's a domestic mutiny the likes of which you will not believe. As soon as Mommy can't get up and make you be good, you default to bad behavior.

This, folks, is why I'm so afraid that if I'm not at my best for a couple of days, the whole house will be upside down and on fire. I'm the family rule enforcer. When I'm not available to check whether homework is done, to make sure everybody gets a nutritious balanced diet, to see to it that the socks are all folded, then the entire household goes to hell. FH feeds the kids doughnuts for meals and eats root beer floats for dinner in front of the kids. Princess doesn't do her homework after school, opting instead to watch TV and allow her friends to play over. Sonshine goes in his sister's room. Bagel knocks everything over with impunity. The kids just watch TV endlessly and hit each other.

Am I the family bitch? Am I a shrieking harridan who cows everyone into good behavior, so much so that when the cat's away the mice will play? Have I been entirely unsuccessful in showing my kids what sort of behavior is acceptable? And why is my husband suddenly acting like an 18-year-old bachelor? Am I that bad of a wife, that he'd be glad to be rid of my nagging presence so that he can finally do something he wants?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Our Latest Crop Of Organic Baby

Please welcome to the world Anthony Vincent, a.k.a. "Knuckles".

Born 23 February 2006 at 10:30 a.m. 6 lbs. 15 oz., 19 inches.

Will write more later; I've got a ton of e-mail to sift through, and the chair is hard.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Great Rye Bread Disaster Of 2006

With less than 24 hours to go before the induction of labor, and feeling better after a weekend of being confined to bed, I decided I would focus my efforts on cleaning up the kitchen, which (after a weekend of being confined to bed while the kids snuck their own snacks and FH cooked dinner) is a holy mess. My greatest fear is that when I return home the house will be upside down and on fire and the kids will look like extras from Les Miserables; but my second greatest fear is that my family will run out of good, nutritious homemade bread.

I've been on a breadmaking kick lately. It's a cheap, easy way to make gifts for your friends that will compel them to stand in awe of your mighty kitchen prowess. Most people have no idea how easy it is to make bread, so when you present them with a fresh hot loaf they think you are a domestic goddess, when in fact bread is just about the only thing you can make because as long as you have a nice mixer and a dough hook, it doesn't require standing up for more than five minutes at a time.

The kids, of course, already stand in awe of my cooking ability (mostly because we can't afford to go out to really nice restaurants, and also because I put extra cheese on my homemade pizza). They have been utterly delighted with the bread I've been producing, even when it's crap. They fight over who gets to lick the dough hook, and they line up eagerly for their first slice of whatever's just come out of the oven. They do all my "quality control" tests.

Anyway, today I decided I'd make some rye bread. It's been a long time since I've made any rye, and it took me about a week to decide which recipe I wanted to make first. It was down to Polish Rye and Russian Black, both of which I'd made before, so on a last-minute whim I decided to make a recipe I'd never tried. I dumped out my old, rancid rye flour and ground some fresh rye flour. Mmmmm.

As I was reading through the ingredient list, it seemed like there was way too much liquid for the amount of flour in the recipe. And sure enough, when I got it all mixed together, the stuff was batter instead of dough. "Well," I thought, "I'll just add a little more flour, and it'll come together."

Four and a half cups of flour later, I had exceeded the capacity of my mixer. There was sticky dough all the way up past the hook and about to get into the mechanism. I had to abandon the mixer, clear a spot on the table, and knead the last of the flour in by hand. This is no small feat while you are 9 months pregnant, because the size of your belly means it has to be done at arm's length and standing quite a distance from the table. And after that, I had to clean off the mixer before the stuff dried, because there were eggs in the dough. Eggs, when they dry, are pretty damn hard.

I think I was able to salvage the dough, although now I will have four loaves instead of two. The challenge will be to eat all that bread before it goes bad. I could give it away, but because everyone knows I'm pregnant and giving birth tomorrow, that would mean allowing them to think I had gone far beyond Domestic Goddess status and was now on my way to enlightenment as well. If you want people to desire to be your friends, you can't very well do stuff that makes you look like you inhabit a higher plane, even if in reality you are just covering up for a kitchen disaster.

I'd offer it to all my blog readers, but most of you probably don't live near enough to eat it.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Sorry, No Legislative Posts

Last year I had a lot of fun blogging the legislative session, but this year's session is ticking away and almost gone, and I just haven't had the time to look over any but a few of the bills, let alone blog about them. So I apologize for the lack of legislative bloggage (if any of you were missing out on it...). I will try again next year, when I'm not trying to recover from estrogen poisoning.

Kettle Writes Editorial About Pot; Calls Pot "Black"

I was with the author of this editorial about avoiding mixing political extremism and religion... right up until he said "But if, as Samuel Johnson said, 'Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,' then surely, moralizing is the first." He then went on to moralize about soldiers, Terry Schiavo supporters, and "neocons" who "persist in raping God's green Earth instead of protecting it," and insisted that Jesus would have to agree with his political views.

I think the guy just called himself a "scoundrel." His words, not mine.

Link via Utah Policy Daily.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

One More Week

It's only one week now until the induction! Only seven more insulin shots! Only seven more days of thinking how much I'd like to do that housework but can't because whenever I get up I am in even more pain than I was sitting down! Only seven more days of walking like a gunslinger at high noon!

I need that induction date for my own sanity. Nothing short of induction, I think, will persuade this little one to be born. We've been singing "Happy Birthday" to him every day in hopes of convincing him that it's his birthday. I've even had Bagel jump on my tummy (not that anyone could stop him anyway, once he takes that flying leap), but it doesn't do anything but cause more pain.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Cover-up! Cover-up! I call a Cover-up!

My cousin had her baby this morning at 1:38 a.m. I was not notified until 6 p.m., 16 hours later! And she didn't even call me personally, nor did any of her immediate family members; it was my own father who called me to tell me the news! He has a phone at work. Why didn't he call me from work? Oh, you think he might not have gotten the message until he got home and checked the voicemail? Well, he gets off at FIVE!!! Why did he wait a whole hour to call me after he knew?? It just doesn't add up.

So today I'm going to play by White House Press Corp rules. It's a cover-up! They were trying to cover up the fact that my cousin had a baby! My cousin should resign immediately or face impeachment!


Note: this post is even more ironic if you know that the cousins on that branch of the family probably believe that Cheney and Bush were trying to cover up the shooting.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Sweet, Sweet Catharsis

I am not a big fan of the White House Press Corps and big media in general, who seem to think that they are the most important people in the world. If they don't know about something before it happens, it must be due to a cover-up. If they actually have to do (gasp) research to find something out, it must be because it is being covered up, even if all the documents needed for the research were freely given to them at their mere request. And if they are told about something immediately, half the time they accuse the Bush administration of a cover-up anyway. (Dr. Sanity must have a name for this, but it eludes me at the moment.)

While I don't advocate the deliberate shooting of people, this about sums up how I feel about it.

Do these reporters not live in the real world? Do they not realize that the world does not revolve around telling them every last bit of gossip? Do they call for the resignations of their family members when sometimes it takes a couple of days for them to hear that so-and-so was in the hospital or such-and-such had her baby?

Knuckles Is Getting Evicted

I now have a date scheduled for my induction: February 23. My little womb-mate Knuckles can consider that an eviction notice. I told him he has to move out and live on his own now, and that it'll be much better for everyone involved if he does it on his own terms sometime before then, rather than waiting to get kicked out by the Pitocin.

I'm not a big fan of Pitocin. It makes the contractions feel stronger and more painful. They're painful enough as it is, but on the Pit they get so strong that you almost have to have an epidural to endure them. I don't really want an epidural either, because I recover so much faster without one. An epidural is always a crapshoot-- Sonshine's epidural was fine, but the epidural with Princess was turned up so high that I spent three hours pushing. I couldn't feel a thing during the delivery.

At first I thought that was a merciful thing, but then I realized that it was a trade-off: you don't feel the delivery, but you feel it for weeks afterward. After Princess and Sonshine I sat on an inflatable doughnut for weeks. But when I had Bagel without an epidural, I discovered that the pain doesn't last all that long (only a few hours) and even though it's really bad while it's happening, you don't remember it afterward. I went to sell at the Gardeners' Market on a Saturday, had Bagel on Sunday, and was back at the Market again on Saturday, with no inflatable doughnut at all. Being back up on your feet inside of a few days is priceless, especially when you have three other kids to look after and a job that requires you to sit for long periods of time.


When I woke up this morning, I was still pregnant. Dang! Oh well, at least I didn't wake up as a bug, although I did have much the same difficulty that Gregor Samsa did in getting out of bed.

It's a pity more people don't read Kafka.

Monday, February 13, 2006

An Unwinnable War

Noted editorialist Frank J. believes we should withdraw immediately from an unwinnable war.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Just In Case You've Ever Wondered...

... it is no easier or harder to swim in syrup than it is in water.

Why you would wonder about that, though, speaks volumes about you. You are either a physics geek, in which case you're in good company (Newton and Huygens), or... well... there's a fetish for everything, including lawnmowers...

Link via Marginal Revolution.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Adventures in ZenCart

I've been putting off dealing with the shipping module on my business website because I just haven't had the time. When I first got the new shop up and running, I just set it to flat-rate shipping because it was easier to configure and I didn't have to troubleshoot it. I figured I could set up weight-based shipping later, and that since I'd set the flat rate for more or less my average actual shipping charge, it would all work out.

For some reason, I also enabled COD as a payment option.

The problem is that I failed to anticipate that anyone would try to order with that combination. Needless to say, somebody did. And on a small order, too.

So now I have to take this dinky little order to the post office to ship it COD, and pay the COD charges myself, which makes this order unprofitable.

It took me all of ten minutes to figure out how to configure the COD shipping so that it charged an extra COD fee. That's what I get for being way too busy for my own good.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Adventures in Online Tutoring

Let's see, today for a change I was offered sexual favors (instead of asked for sexual favors) by a stupid immature kid who couldn't even spell the slang names of body parts correctly. Then I was asked to tutor in Croatian by a student who kept on launching the Google website through the online classroom's browser.

As sick as I am of teaching university students, some days I'd rather be grading tests than doing online tutoring.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Repent O Ye Sinners...

... for the city of Salt Lake is about to be destroyed!

And, go figure, it's all George W. Bush's fault.
Link via Dr. Sanity.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Dolores Umbridge cast!

Breaking Harry Potter news: Imelda Staunton has been cast as Dolores Umbridge for the upcoming movie "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix". I'm sure she'll do just fine, although I rather pictured Dolores Umbridge as looking quite a bit more like Mrs. Johanson, my elementary school teacher, only shorter, fatter, and with a truly hideous 1980's bow in her hair.

I can't wait to see how they design that green coat that's supposed to make her look like a toad...

In the meantime, to hold us over until we can see the movie, here's a picture of a set of sugarbowl, creamer, salt and pepper shakers that would match Umbridge's hideous kitten plates. They belonged to FH's godmother, so he will never, ever, ever, ever let me get rid of them.

The girl they cast as Luna Lovegood doesn't have eyes that pop out nearly as much as they ought to. I wonder if they're going to be able to remedy that with makeup. In this picture she looks more like somebody named Brittany who's about to snub you than a social reject with paranormal interests. And the lady they're casting as Bellatrix Lestrange doesn't look nearly enough like Angelina Jolie, but they're probably right to cast her instead of Angelina because by this time in her life she's supposed to have lost her dark, sexy good looks.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Le Poisson Est Mort. Vive Le Poisson!

A few months back we got two convict cichlids and a pleco (algae sucking fish) to put in our tank. Yesterday, FH reported that the pleco has died. It was eaten by the other fish, and only small parts of it still remain. There isn't even enough left to hold a toiletside funeral.

We knew it wasn't doing so well, because a few days ago one of its eyes turned up missing. Evidently the poor fish couldn't see the final attack coming.

When we thought about what we were to tell the kids, we realized that we had never gotten around to naming any of the fish in the tank. So I asked FH what we should posthumously name this poor victim.

He named it "Foo-Foo."

Rest in peace, Foo-Foo.

We're going to wait until we see if the bigger cichlid eats the smaller cichlid, before we decide to get another fish. If he eats her too, there's not much point in buying him another dinner on the fin.

UPDATE 2/7: So far the smaller fish, which is female, has not been eaten by the larger fish, which is male. FH thinks they are hooking up and will soon be making little fish; I still think that the male will have the female, who is half his size, for dinner (and note, that with aggressive fish, the two are not mutually exclusive). We had a conversation about it that went like this:
FH: I think he's gonna get himself some tail!
WH: Yeah, and some fin, and then some side...
FH wants to get them some feeder goldfish. I made sure he was informed as to just how grossed out the kids were at seeing half the pleco's head floating in the tank. I don't think any of them finished their breakfast that day.

The worth of a man's soul is great...

... looks like we may finally find out how great. At the time of posting it's up to $280 with a day and a half to go.

Link via Chequer-Board.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

70,000 Math Teachers???

President Bush said in his SOTU address last night that he wants to fund the training of 70,000 math and science teachers:
We need to encourage children to take more math and science, and make sure those courses are rigorous enough to compete with other nations. We have made a good start in the early grades with the No Child Left Behind Act, which is raising standards and lifting test scores across our country. Tonight I propose to train 70,000 high school teachers, to lead advanced-placement courses in math and science ... bring 30,000 math and science professionals to teach in classrooms ... and give early help to students who struggle with math, so they have a better chance at good, high-wage jobs. If we ensure that America's children succeed in life, they will ensure that America succeeds in the world.
OK, I'm on board with the idea that we need better math and science education, and I agree that money is part of the problem. But I just don't think the President's proposal is going to work.

First, there's the problem of where these 70,000 math teachers are going to come from. Math teachers who are qualified to teach at the secondary level generally need a bachelor's degree in math, although at the moment something on the order of 50% of math teachers are teaching "out of subject" (i.e. they have no major, minor, or endorsement in math). For some reason I can't seem to find the AMS's article that I read a few years back that had all the stats for the number of math majors graduating each year with bachelor's degrees, but I do remember that that number was going up, but mostly because a greater proportion of degrees nowadays are granted to foreign students (currently it's about half). These students take their degrees back to their home countries to improve their own lands. That's a great thing, but it doesn't help President Bush find tens of thousands of math teachers.

I did a back-of-the-envelope estimate of how many bachelors' degree holders graduate every year, based in part on this data and this data. If about 10% of science and engineering bachelor's degree recipients are math majors, and there are 758,000 science and engineering bachelor's degree recipients in two years, and half of those are foreign, then that leaves approximately 20,000 math bachelor's degree recipients each year.

29% of those graduates get employment in academia and 7% are students (presumably going back for advanced degrees), so that leaves about 12,800 math graduates that are susceptible to being lured into teaching positions. Those that are not employed in academia are typically employed as computer people or (less commonly) mathematicians. If we recruited every single one of those, it would take us three years to draft 35,000 math teachers (and that's assuming we could retain them for longer than a year or two). But of course we won't be able to get all of them; the jobs they already get aren't exactly unimportant to our economy either. We just don't produce enough math graduates to fill the need. There are, I presume, people out there who graduated years ago and are not employed teaching high school who could also be enticed; but we should consider that they probably already have jobs if they're looking for them, and have moved their way up in their industry to a point where an entry-level teaching job would be highly unappealing.

The second factor in getting more math teachers is pay. Since those graduates who aren't already teaching are in highly paid fields, they will not be likely to want to switch careers to lower-paying ones. It is the height of naivete to assume that they will altruistically accept lower-paid teaching positions for the good of their country; if they felt that way, they would already have gone into teaching. This will mean having to raise teacher pay for these math teachers; that's where the money comes in. However, in practice, money for more teacher salaries frequently gets diverted into other needs or wants, and/or teacher's unions oppose differential pay scales for various types of teachers.

The third factor is working conditions. I was originally planning to be a high school math teacher, but I switched to college mostly because of all the crap that high school teachers have to put up with. High school teachers have to deal with high school administrations. And if you think college bureaucracies are maddeningly ossified, you should see public school administrations. Principals and district officials can be the worst kind of oligarchs; they implement infuriatingly unprofessional policies and treat their teachers as if they were as young as their charges, and there's no recourse. Even if you get a good district and a good principal, that could change at the drop of a hat as new people are elected to the school board or personnel are shuffled.

And then, of course, there are the students. The day I walked into the classroom and found the students literally throwing the desks around the room was the day I decided never to teach high school, because I knew there was nothing I could do to discipline the students. If I gave them the worst allowable punishment, sending them to the office, they would be back inside of an hour. And that was 10 years ago. At the moment I'm employed tutoring online a few hours a week, and about once or twice a month I get requests for sexual favors that I would only give to my husband (and then only if he's been good). This is what high school students nowadays think of people who are trying to help them learn. You'd have to pay me somewhere in the six figures to get me to put up full-time with the sort of crap I'd have to deal with in a public high school.

The fourth problem with Bush's plan is that he wants these teachers to teach AP courses. Jaime Escalante notwithstanding, you can only teach AP courses to students with an adequate background to meet the rigorous requirements. How are we going to find the students to fill these classes, when all the out-of-subject teachers are creating students who don't know any more about math than they do? And how long do you think districts are going to retain those 70,000 teachers when there aren't enough AP classes for them to teach?

So good luck with that, President Bush. If you can create 70,000 qualified math and science teachers out of whole cloth, I'll vote for a third term for you.