Saturday, May 31, 2008

Not for sale

I've had the best sausage ever for breakfast. The trouble is, it's not for sale. That is, the maker doesn't sell it as take-home--he sells prepared breakfasts at a stand in the farmers' market. He made this sausage last night on inspiration, and he's not sure he can repeat the recipe, it's different every week.

So, yeah, I've been to the farmers' market for breakfast (sausage patty, pancake, eggs, orange juice), 3 quarts of chocolate milk, 2 pints of strawberries, and some bread-and-butter pickles. I also talked to the master gardeners (4 of them! all women!) about my yard, which was fun. Yesterday I weeded a little. I need to do a lot more weeding today, plus point out 4 holes for the mister to dig (so I can plant my geum, heuchera, daphne, and wintergreen, all of which have been in pots for too long). And maybe pick up a net for the strawberries, I don't want to lose any to the birds.

Then there's plenty to be done clearing out the spare room for Twoson, and only a few weekends to do it. And I want to knit, I haven't knitted much in the last month.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Work, fitness, illness

Twoson will be moving in with us at the end of June. However, the guest bedroom which will be his for the summer has been used to store our overflow stuff, including two large bookcases full of books and board games, an unused computer desk (Twoson is bringing his own so this one had to go), off-season clothes (both hanging and in boxes), gift wrapping supplies, art supplies, sleeping bags, and even a few boxes of my mother's things that I haven't yet had the guts to go through.

Over the weekend my husband and I moved all the stuff off the bookcases. Then we had to clear the spots they were going to: the larger in our bedroom and the smaller in my den. As usual with projects in our house this one turned into a domino run: clearing the spots meant moving other stuff around first in both our bedroom and my den, and then dusting and vacuuming. We moved the bookcases into their new spots and made a start at reloading them, then finished that part today. We're more than half done clearing that room, but most of the rest is my responsibility; I can do some each weekend until we move him up.

I'm sore all over and tired. I'm getting over a virus, my shoulder is messed up (had an x-ray Thursday, haven't heard yet about a PT referral), I started a new (additional) prescription med this weekend, and I've been having an episode of (thankfully mild) vertigo for about 2 weeks. Add adjusting to the furniture in new places and I'm feeling pretty stressed. I must make an effort to have a relaxing and recharging week.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The middle east

A thought experiment: who benefits from keeping the Israelis and the Arabs (through their agent, the Palestinians) mostly tied up with each other, spending lots of money and manpower playing violent games? What's the gain here, and to whose account is it credited?

Another thought experiement? What would a world with a peaceful Israel and Palestine look like?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Words of my truth

From Livejournal, pick five random quotes from here that tell your truths. Here are mine.

To see what is right and not do it is want of courage. Confucious.

Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it. George Bernard Shaw

You can’t do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth. Evan Esar.

All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another. Anatole France

Happiness is different from pleasure. Happiness has something to do with struggling and enduring and accomplishing. George Sheehan

Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens. Epictetus

Leaving our boys behind, educationally

Girls' Gains Have Not Cost Boys trumpets the New York Times' headline. I can only say, hurray! Education is not a zero-sum game.

The report points out that a greater proportion of men and women than ever before are graduating from high school and earning college degrees. But, it says, “perhaps the most compelling evidence against the existence of a boys’ crisis is that men continue to outearn women in the workplace.”

Apparently race, ethnicity, and income levels play far more part in differences among groups than sex.

It's the attitude, stupid.

I have some minor medical stuff going on, more annoying than dangerous--slight impairments to my normal physical condition and abilities, but once I get up to 3 or 4 of these little things, I feel the effects exponentially. So today I'm using happy music, a positive attitude, and encouraging self-talk to heal, or at least feel better.

And it's working, at least, every time I look in the mirror and say something positive, I smile and relax and feel a bit better; every happy song helps me breathe easier and feel lighter.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Politics and Politicians

I have not lived my life and made my choices with a constant reflection on how electable I am. Nor am I an extrovert. I need my sleep, and I hate coffee. I don't tolerate fools, and I seem to be unable to hide it, or am not practiced enough (that is, I've tried).

I think it is a normal human behavior to elevate process over product, and to judge product by process rather than outcome. So what about our electoral process creates good product? We obviously like it, or we'd be trying harder to change it; it must work well enough that accepting the results is a more satisfying choice than change.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Goings-on

Yesterday I got out most of my summer clothes. I still need to wash or iron most of them (depending), and pack away most of the winter stuff. There will be cool stretches and rain from now until the middle of July, but I doubt I'll need every single sweater and my winter boots until October. Then I drove over to a friend's house where I killed many goblins (and some wargs, and a giant chameleon) with the rest of my DnD gaming group. We had a lot of fun, and leveled up in the middle of the session because the GM wanted to be able to throw worse monsters at us.

Today I've made a gallon of banana ice cream (bananas, sugar, lemon juice, and cream), half of which I'm sending to a coworker who recently had twins. She has 5 total, and 3 under 4 years old now. I knitted hats for the new babies but I like to send something for the mother, too, and she loves banana ice cream. I bought twice as much cream as I needed so I might make some other kind later today, after I get more rock salt and ice. I'm also cooking up a batch of black-eyed peas, which seems to be the only main-dish thing I really want to eat these days.

I am skipping a meeting I was scheduled to attend, because it's across the street from a huge political rally downtown and I don't want to fight traffic (pedestrian as well as car) and struggle to find parking, and because I have nothing to add to the meeting this time.

What kind of ice cream should I make?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Autodidact

I'm attempting to study the Discourses of Epictetus, and it's hard going. I knew not to try to read these like a novel, but I'm finding it useful to stop at the end of each sentence and paraphrase, then again at the end of each paragraph and retell what I've read. I picked up these techniques from a homeschooling blog I enjoy.

But I am going to need more here. I need to discuss the material and my reactions with other people to benefit from this; I can already sense my inclination toward confirmation bias kicking in, interpreting everything according to my preconceived notions and rejecting what doesn't fit my current understanding of how the world works. Any pointers to an online or local-to-me meatspace community?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A chorus of agreement

I read a lot of blogs, and I have a long "friends list" on Livejournal. Sometimes I click through to read comments, and it's always apparent when people are accustomed to a chorus of agreement. I don't especially enjoy entering a lions' den to challenge the accepted truths, so I keep my comments inside my head, or come here to write about my thoughts.

Some people have made it quite clear that unless I had supportive comments, I was not welcome on their blog or Livejournal. Okay, it's their space, I will respect that request. Sometimes I can't handle the stress and work of disagreement either.

Still, I value disagreement. I think it is an important tool in getting to know other people as individuals, and in remembering to respect them. Sometimes I learn from my disagreement with another. Sometimes I even change my mind about things because I went to the effort of exploring a disagreement.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Rocketeer!



My grandson on the gift I gave him for his first birthday--a Radio Flyer Retro Rocket.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

I had a good day--my kids all came for a "surprise" visit, courtesy of their father who was coming to town to have brunch with his mother. Scare quotes because Twoson spilled the beans Thursday night, remembering that I'd asked him for more notice when he's coming to visit than "I'm on the train, can you pick me up at the station when I get in?"

My grandson is gorgeous, of course, toddling around the house and playing with his balance, stomping and dancing. And it was heartwarming to see my sons and daughter-in-law today. We ate a quick lunch at home and then headed off for the zoo, where we walked and looked at animals. Eventually their dad showed up to convey them back south and I came home.

I wish I'd had good mothering. To all of you who had a mother who loved you, who took care of you in most of the ways you needed, be grateful.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A windy day

I've had a lovely day at the coast. During the part when I was actually on the beach, I was almost alone--because it was very windy and raining (well, spitting I call it, very small drops but lots of them driven by the wind). The sand was cold on my feet but I knew the water would be warm, and it was! The stress, despair, and exhaustion of the past few days dropped off me like a snake's shed skin (although it did not, sad to say, lay on the beach and attract gulls, unlike all the broken seashells left by the tide). When I had enough (sooner than usual because of the wind), I danced back up the sand to the foot-washing station and cleaned mine, then gave thanks for good wool socks (bought, someday I'll knit socks but not yet) because I got warm right away once the socks were on, even though my jeans were soaked to the waist and my feet were wet inside my socks. The amazing power of wool!

On the drive home I was gobsmacked by the variety of greens in our forests. There's the brown-green of the almost-dead moss on bare trees, and the just-barely-greenish yellow where some trunks have lost a branch, and the various darker greens shaped by the different needles and branch patterns on the evergreens, and finally the palest pure green confetti shaken on the branch tips reaching out from the deciduous trees.

I've capped the well of sadness for another stretch, long may it be.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Affirmative action and class boundaries

Affirmative action college admission policies lead to stratification of student income class. Admissions officers focus on rich minorities, which results in fewer kids from families with annual income under $40,000. Richard D. Kahlenberg discusses a report on college student diversity in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

One fascinating finding from the Chronicle's research is that public universities in states where affirmative action has been banned tend to have substantial amounts of economic diversity. In California and Washington, voters eliminated race-based affirmative action programs at public universities by ballot initiative in the 1990s. In Texas, the legislature adopted a plan to provide automatic admissions to students in the top 10% of their high school class after a Circuit court struck down race-based affirmative action. And in Florida, race-based preferences were banned by executive order. (Michigan also eliminated affirmative action in November 2006, but the move came too late to be reflected in the data examined by the Chronicle.) In the ranking of 39 public institutions, half (six of the top 12) of the most economically diverse universities are located in California, Florida, Texas and Washington. State demographic factors surely play into the relative economic diversity at leading public universities, but it seems likely that officials are also more likely to pay attention to economic diversity when they cannot easily make university classes racially diverse by admitting upper middle class students of color.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Recent knitting

Recent finished objects:




All my scarves are fuzzy, warm, and huge. This spring they've all seemed like too much, so I knitted this kerchief out of a cotton/silk blend. It wraps around my neck just once, but fills the neckline of my lightweight coat and keeps the cool breezes out in the morning. The baby hat (yes, it's a baby hat) is one of a pair I am knitting for a co-worker who had twins today. It's out of the same cotton/silk blend yarn. One of my bosses gave me 7 or 8 partial balls of this in various colors, leftovers from some project she knitted. The other hat will have a blue brim: the twins are non-identical, one boy and one girl.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Advice to graduates

It's that time of year. My favorite so far: P.J. O'Rourke.

1. Go out and make a bunch of money!

Here we are living in the world's most prosperous country, surrounded by all the comforts, conveniences and security that money can provide. Yet no American political, intellectual or cultural leader ever says to young people, "Go out and make a bunch of money." Instead, they tell you that money can't buy happiness. Maybe, but money can rent it.

There's nothing the matter with honest moneymaking. Wealth is not a pizza, where if I have too many slices you have to eat the Domino's box. In a free society, with the rule of law and property rights, no one loses when someone else gets rich.

2. Don't be an idealist!

Don't chain yourself to a redwood tree. Instead, be a corporate lawyer and make $500,000 a year. No matter how much you cheat the IRS, you'll still end up paying $100,000 in property, sales and excise taxes. That's $100,000 to schools, sewers, roads, firefighters and police. You'll be doing good for society. Does chaining yourself to a redwood tree do society $100,000 worth of good?

Idealists are also bullies. The idealist says, "I care more about the redwood trees than you do. I care so much I can't eat. I can't sleep. It broke up my marriage. And because I care more than you do, I'm a better person. And because I'm the better person, I have the right to boss you around."

Get a pair of bolt cutters and liberate that tree.

Who does more for the redwoods and society anyway -- the guy chained to a tree or the guy who founds the "Green Travel Redwood Tree-Hug Tour Company" and makes a million by turning redwoods into a tourist destination, a valuable resource that people will pay just to go look at?

So make your contribution by getting rich. Don't be an idealist.


Worth reading, and I'll pass it on to my graduate.

Hat tip Mark Atwood.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

I voted.

I received my ballot in Saturday's mail, and I've since filled it out and mailed it back. I managed to re-register as a Democrat in time to vote in the primary (previously I was not a member of any party), because I care about the (extremely minor, really) differences between the two leading Democratic candidates for president. And while Twoson was here I reminded him that he can register to vote, now that he's 18.

It's the numbers.

Commenting on a FOX television series about a bounty hunter tracking down fathers for non-payment of child support, Kathleen Parker takes the patriarchy's part and blames it all on women.

In fact, noncustodial mothers are 20 percent more likely to default on child support than noncustodial fathers, according to U.S. Census data. But we don’t see a reality show aimed at humiliating moms.

Is this because women, who have had fewer opportunities historically, are viewed as more deserving of the benefit of the doubt?

Or is it because civilized people would strenuously object to the public ridicule of moms whose children may be watching?

It’s preferable to imagine the latter. The question is why we feel no such decency toward men and the children who love them.


Just to begin to count the fallacies in this short excerpt, we have lying with statistics, false dichotomy, and strawman. One at a time, starting with lying with statistics:

noncustodial mothers are 20 percent more likely to default on child support .... But we don’t see a reality show aimed at humiliating moms.

How could this be? Surely if mothers are more likely to default, we'd be focusing on them--there'd simply be more of them to populate the television show! But there's a hidden assumption there: that there are equal numbers of noncustodial mothers and noncustodial fathers who must pay child support. What if there are more fathers? What if there are more fathers by a lot? According to Children's Justice, there are.

Total Custodial Mothers: 11,268,000. Total Custodial Fathers 2,907,000 (Source: Current Population Reports, U.S. Bureau of the Census, Series P-20, No. 458, 1991).

Technical Analysis Paper No. 42, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Income Security Policy, Oct. 1991, Authors: Meyer and Garansky.

* Custodial mothers who receive a support award: 79.6%
* Custodial fathers who receive a support award: 29.9%
* Non-custodial mothers who totally default on support: 46.9%
* Non-custodial fathers who totally default on support: 26.9%


Okay, so taking those two sets of numbers into account, it appears that there are at most 407,651 non-custodial mothers defaulting on support.* However, using the same assumption, there are 2,412,749 non-custodial fathers defaulting on support,** more than five times as many. For every non-custodial mother who fails to pay her child support, there are more than 5 non-custodial fathers failing to pay.

Using percentages instead of raw numbers, she implies that there are more women out there to be found by the bounty hunter when the reverse is true.

Second, she presents a false dichotomy: the choice to exploit non-paying fathers must be either because women, who have had fewer opportunities historically, are viewed as more deserving of the benefit of the doubt? Or is it because civilized people would strenuously object to the public ridicule of moms whose children may be watching.

How about because there are more of them? There are many more non-paying fathers than non-paying mothers, so more chances to find them for the television show.

And third, the strawman: it must be that Fox chose non-paying fathers because we feel no such decency toward men and the children who love them. (The decency being the aforementioned objection to ridiculing mothers in front of their children.) Obviously we're not civilized, if we don't equally object to ridiculing fathers. Strangely, I agree with that--I just don't expect Fox (or other media) to value civilized behavior over making money off showing dramatic entertainment.

* Assume that all parental couples are heterosexual. There are 2,907,000 custodial fathers, of which 29.9% receive a support award, therefore there are 2,907,000 * 29.9% = 869,193 non-custodial mothers who owe support. Of those mothers, 46.9% default, so 869,193 * 46.9% = 407,651 mothers default on their support obligation.

** Assume that all parental couples are heterosexual. There re 11,268,000 custodial mothers, of which 79.6% receive a support award, therefore there are 11,268,000 * 79.6% = 8,969,328 non-custodial fathers who owe support. Of those fathers, 26.9% default, so 8,969,328 * 26.9% = 2,412,749 fathers default on their support obligation.

What you bring to it

I've been interested in why people turn out differently for a long time. Mind Hacks reviews the CIA's "Psychology of Intelligence Analysis" and points out that the same analysis applies to individual life decisions:

[I]t's also a great general guide on how to understand complex situations and avoid our natural cognitive biases in reasoning.

I've not read it all, but it aims not only to give the reader an understanding of the limitations of our reasoning, but also how to overcome them when trying to think about tricky problems.

A central focus of this book is to illuminate the role of the observer in determining what is observed and how it is interpreted. People construct their own version of "reality" on the basis of information provided by the senses, but this sensory input is mediated by complex mental processes that determine which information is attended to, how it is organized, and the meaning attributed to it. What people perceive, how readily they perceive it, and how they process this information after receiving it are all strongly influenced by past experience, education, cultural values, role requirements, and organizational norms, as well as by the specifics of the information received.


There is the key to understanding why people make different decisions based on the same data, in fact why they may not perceive the data as the same in the first place. It's not news to me that my reality differs considerably from that of many of the people I associate with, including friends and family; I literally perceive the world differently from the way they do, using different tools to gather data as well as analyze it. If you follow the links you can download a pdf of this text, which will be worth my time at least.

Monday, May 05, 2008

There's a fourth?!?

According to Steve Barnes' blog, he and Larry Niven are working on a fourth Dream Park book.

By coincidence I just re-read the first three between April 18 and April 25.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Not a *real* grandmother

Susan Sarandon is dissatisfied with the direction she is receiving to play a grandmother in the film of the novel The Lovely Bones:

"I play the comic relief, an alcoholic grandmother - my first grandma - but she doesn't really seem like a real grandmother because she has a lot of hair and jewellery and nails and liquor. I don't think I ever talk without a cigarette and a drink in my hand."

Maybe she doesn't seem like *your* grandmother, Ms. Sarandon, but that sounds like a description of mine. My maternal grandmother was the most chic person right up until her late 70s. She dressed to the nines even at home, she wore French perfume, her hair was always done even when she was making breakfast in a velvet robe and slippers. She had a marvelous collection of costume jewelry (some of which I have, now).