Sunday, August 20, 2006

This Is My Life, Rated
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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

A bunch of random, interesting blog stuff from the past week

Paraphrases only, and no links, you can look ‘em up.

Oil is like a girlfriend—you should leave her before she leaves you. Kos
October—the season of hurricanes should be ended, the season of stock market crashes beginning. James Kunstler (don’t read his blog if you already have trouble sleeping at night)
You can’t govern if you don’t believe in government. GlobalNetNews
Gee, a lot of women who have abortions are prolife. NYTimes
Why don’t Fritos taste like corn if the only ingredients are corn, corn oil, and salt? Kevin Drum [I hate Fritos.]

If the poor had good money management and good decision making skills they wouldn't be poor. (I forget where, maybe Jane Galt.)

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


How you know you’re getting old—when you become older than favorite media characters, who seemed so mature when you first encountered and enjoyed them. Examples for me:

The Philadelphia Story. Cary Grant has always been, and will always be, a grown-up to me. But Jimmy Steward and Katherine Hepburn will never age in my mind from how I found them in this movie. There’s even one or two places where Jimmy Stewart’s voice cracks!

The World According to Garp
. You follow Garp through a lifetime of activities, till he’s murdered apparently in his 30s. I was probably 19 or 20 when I first read this, and even though I now understand that’s a young death, to a college student, he has a long lifetime of activities packed in.

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. I recently ordered from Amazon UK recordings of the original BBC radio play, written and performed before the books. When I first heard them, and read the books, I didn’t have a clear picture of the ages of Arthur, Ford, and Trillian, but surely they were understood as more adult than portrayed in this year’s movie version.

Then there are actors who refuse to let aging happen. This weekend I saw Jody Foster’s face on a movie poster. Without looking it up, I know she’s roughly my age, yet her enlarged promotional visage is as flawless as a 16 year old’s.

Friday, September 02, 2005

I hear dead people

Was it just a coincidence that the 70s station today played tunes by these individuals/groups, right in a row?

Harry Chapin
Jim Croce
The Carpenters
The Beatles
The Grateful Dead

Then I got out of the car.

I missed any possible preceding commentary, so I don’t know if they were doing a tribute to dead artists, or if it’s just inevitable that so many musicians of 30 years ago will now be dead.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

September 1 = First Day of School (sort of)

In Wisconsin, it’s THE LAW that public schools can’t start until September 1, passed by a Republican legislature and signed by a Republican governor after lobbying by a northwoods tourism industry that wanted workers and visitors to be available throughout all of August. So much for the vaunted “local control” that Republicans are supposed to support.

For the past couple years we have homeschooled The Girl, while The Boy has attended the local Catholic elementary school as one of the few non-Catholics there. The Girl had also gone there till we started homeschooling. Luckily the school’s teachings on religion are pretty generic at the youngest ages AND I have a good understanding of Lutheran beliefs and practices; I was pretty comfortable talking about differences in practices and beliefs when they came up, and yes I did pay close attention to the content of their religion books. For example, when it came to the issue of why I couldn’t take communion when I attended mass at the school, I just explained that different churches have different rules.

We started homeschooling The Girl because it just seemed like an efficient way for her to learn. I enforced math lessons, we had a world history text that she read fairly diligently, and other than that we largely “unschooled.” I.e., she read a lot, we talked about things, we had educational CDs she played around with (including some German language ones), and we watched the occasional science or history DVD together.

We have kicked around the idea of homeschooling The Boy, but delayed it because 1) he’s less self-directed and able to work independently; 2) he has always been more social and really has enjoyed his classmates, who are mostly boys.

This year we’re doing something different for both. They are enrolled in the Virtual School. Officially public school enrollment and directed, but done at home, with teacher contact via computer and phone. Even less well understood than homeschooling! Disliked by both “pure” homeschoolers” AND public school teachers! There’s a huge lawsuit going on by the teachers’ union to try to shut down the virtual school, now in its third year. Teachers (unions) see it as a threat to their jobs because one teacher can oversee 50-60 students. Ironically, the virtual school teachers belong to the union that‘s suing to try to eliminate their jobs . . .

I was having a hard time committing to a decision about schooling for this year. D put it in perspective when he said, “Enroll them in the virtual school. If it doesn’t work, we’ll do something different.” We're fortunate to have multiple good educational choices.

I told the reality school. I called the bus company. Yet I still had to inform the bus driver as he pulled up to the house today that I’d have no kids riding the bus this year.

We couldn’t officially start learning before September 1, but both kids were on the computer doing lessons before 6:30 this morning. Hope the enthusiasm lasts.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Many homeschoolers do so for strongly religious reasons, and/or because they hate public schools. We incorporated no religious study, and I’m a supporter of public schools.

So “normal” families don’t understand us because we homeschool, and homeschoolers don’t understand us because we’re secular.

The arguments people give against homeschooling I pretty much don’t have the inclination to argue against. “Socialization” is one I hear a lot, that I just don’t care about. D and I are both introverts, and the kids are pretty well adjusted, pretty well able to get along with a wide range of people. The less they act like kids their ages, the better.

Homeschooling has also, I’m sure, made our kids be better friends. The Girl plays well with The Boy because she has to (he’s the only one around) and because she’s not surrounded by peers who vent about how they hate their little siblings. The bonding between our kids is one of the things others remark on—how well they get along. I can only hope it continues.

So while we aren’t officially homeschoolers this year, I still feel like a homeschooling family. I have the mindset that my kids should have a great deal of flexibility and the ability to learn at their own pace. That they shouldn’t be oppressed by teachers. (D and I have plenty of stories of teachers doing just that to us.) Although the curriculum we’re using this year is prescribed, I know we will still study other topics as they interest us.

Many people ask how long we’ll do this. I answer, as long as it works for us. Many families homeschool for early grades, then “give up.” Helping the kids get through high school doesn’t intimidate me too much. Math is my best subject, and between us D and I can cover higher level science pretty well (elementary science is complete fluff and a waste of time). Colleges have gotten pretty good about evaluating applicants who have been homeschooled, and test scores seem to be the most important determinant. Besides, I can see both kids taking community college classes early on, both to get a jump start on credits/save money and to demonstrate their suitability for college.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Well, that wasn’t so bad. Maybe.

From today’s New York Times: “Dire predictions of 20-foot-deep toxic rivers running in the streets and huge buildings coming apart did not materialize.” Some of last weekend’s forecasts sounded extremely dire, but if they were more than likely to occur, got people’s attention, and made more families evacuate than otherwise would have, then they were necessary.

The major news ports want to predict and project the final property damage and death toll, but it looks like it won’t be known for weeks. And although New Orleans missed the worst of the wind and storm surge, today’s levee breach means that it isn’t over yet.

Daniel Drezner
calls it Hurricane Porn, and refers to the titillation one receives from reading about a catastrophe happening elsewhere. It’s like the rubberneckers who slow down traffic at an accident, looking for blood. I don’t think animals do this, but for some reason it’s human to want to see someone else’s troubles, as long as we ourselves are ok. Although I’ve been an online-news junkie about the storm and its results, at least I haven’t been watching the TV images of it!

Did the meteorologists cry wolf? I don’t think so. Will people in potentially affected areas not listen, not evacuate next time, because the damage wasn’t as horrific as warned on Sunday? I hope not, and maybe we’ll get more accurate forecasting and tracking models as a result of this storm. What’s the line between sounding a strong, necessary warning, and over-hyping your special area of interest, which only gets a good workout a few times a year?

People prayed for the storm to miss New Orleans with its full brunt, and Katrina (or God) did indeed oblige by turning slightly eastward—were those prayers answered, only to have deeper destruction wrought on Mississippi and Alabama? That sounds like a harsh result. I have a lot of problem with prayer.