Wednesday, August 24, 2011

First Grade!

After school and still perky! 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Higher Education in the 21st Century

The ever-increasing rate at which technology develops and becomes part of day-to-day life is just blowing my mind. I'm completely astounded at how life today looks amazingly like life in science fiction novels of yesterday.

A few years back, I read the 1999 novel "The Gumshoe, The Witch & The Virtual Corpse" by Keith Hartman. The story takes place in 2024, and teenagers at school all carry around a "notebook" which can be a word-processor and self-managing searcher of the Internet, all interfaced by voice.  They also can make sub-rosa video phone calls during class. People have "agents", AI's with names, and personalities that range from manic-depressive (Sherwin) to horribly perky (Mindy). These agents conduct Internet research, make phone calls, and print invoices. Folks walk around with speakers in their ears, and, in the case of The Gumshoe, printers on their belts. Everyone makes use of available technology as a matter of course. Parents are even able to program the locks on the house to record what time the kids get home from school.

Now to current reality. It is (for those not paying attention) 2011, 13 years prior to the setting of Hartman's book. Teenagers are carrying around MacBooks, with which they can make video phone calls, hopefully, not during class. Internet searches still need to managed by the kid, though. People do walk about with speakers in their ears and we have wireless printers which are getting smaller and more portable all the time. There are electronic locks on the market now that will tell you when they have been opened and with whose key or password it was opened with. (Gotta get me me one of those....)

What set me down this reflective rabbit hole was listening to the Teenager talking to her already-at-college bestie via Skype t'other day. She was able to see her friend's dorm room, including the view out the window, and even meet her friend's roomies, fer crying out loud. And remember the communicators on Star Trek? 10 years ago we had flip-open cell phones that did a lot more than Kirk's device ever did. Folks, the Future is Now.

What will life with technology look like when the Wee Lassies get to college in 12 years?!?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

"Floopy Hoop-de-do"

So, I started a new drug for nerve pain a while back. Neurontin, it's called. Apparently, it works by suppressing the central nervous system. It's been pretty effective for me, but the side effects are, well, interesting.

For one thing, I'm clumsy as hell. I was in Ross with the girls a couple weeks ago and knocked over, and broke, this large urn. An $80 urn. The employees were very nice, "don't worry about it" and "happens all the time." I felt like an idiot. Later that same day, I very nearly dropped a stack of lamp shades on my head. Yeesh.

But the worst side effect is my inability to access long-term memory. I notice it most when I'm trying to describe or identify things. A recent example:

Me: "I'd like to line the driveway with that...stuff. You know ...the, decorative... You know!?"

Miles: "No."

Me: "You know! The....uh....floopy......uh.... hoop-de-do!"

Miles: "'floopy hoop-de-do' ?!?" He dissolves into giggles.

Me: "You know! The purple floopy grass!"

Miles, sniggering: "'Floopy!' "

Me: "Arrgh! Purple.....uh.... fountain grass. That one. What do you think?"

Miles: "About what?" He tries to stop laughing at me.

Me: "Planting purple fountain grass along the!!"

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I just ran across the fourth word I had to look up in this book. I'm only on page 137!

The word? Epistemology.

Per Wikipedia, it  is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope (limitations) of knowledge.[1] It addresses the questions:
  • What is knowledge?
  • How is knowledge acquired?
  • How do we know what we know?
Guess I shouldn't have ditched all those philosophy classes, huh?

Addendum: Damn! Page 142 - panatelas. A long slender cigar. Jeez....

The politics of lunch

Recently, the New York Times ran an article about a Colorado school district that has gone back to making lunches from scratch. They even hired a chef who trained at the CIA. And they are finding it is less expensive than feeding the kids the packaged, factory-produced crap they used to.

Other, better writers than I have written reams on this topic. The reasons for the abysmal school lunches in the past few decades are myriad and insidious. A lot of it can be laid at the door of our government; farm politics, subsidies, the actions of PACs, etc.

But we, the people, the parents, have to take our  share of the blame, too. We were totally asleep at the switch when school started feeding that swill to our kids. And it's not like parents didn't know; how may jokes have there been about "Mystery Meat"?

But somehow, it wasn't that important. No one seemed to mind. The kids didn't eat that slop anyway; most of it ended up in the trash. Right?

Circa 1977, in Downriver Detroit, at Seitz Junior High, I remember eating a plate of French fries for lunch every day. A large plate of freshly made, yummy fries. The lunch ladies would give me the stink eye, because French fries alone do not a healthy lunch make. But it was uncool to eat the school lunch. I seem to remember the lunches were cooked on site. We certainly could smell food in the hallways before hand. It wasn't until I moved to Phoenix that I discovered the joys of hot, dreadful, pre-made, frozen, then reheated food; the Pizza Snack! This was a thick paste made of TVP, heavily salted and sugared tomato sauce, and some faux cheese; all wrapped in a thin flour tortilla-like thing, soggy from being microwaved in it's plastic wrapping. I loved them! But on days I felt like a change, I'd get a bean burrito; extra-crispy  around the edges from being deep-fat fried. I don't recall ever drinking milk at lunch after elementary school. (It's a miracle my bone density is as good as it is.) My friends and I would line up at the Snack Bar, get our Pizza Snacks and Cokes and then find a spot to sit somewhere on campus. I never ate my fake food in the cafeteria, unless it was raining. Two reasons; only people without friends sat there, and also, on most days, there was a food fight. Also, the cafeteria was the site of study hall and detention. And who wants to go there? But I digress.

So, lunches at school have been horrible for decades. We are just now getting around to trying to fix it. I, for one, would be happy to pay more taxes for the schools if they would use those funds to feed the kids decently. Hell, if every family chipped in $100 a semester to a food fund, maybe we could at least get some proper meals for the students. And I don't even care if it's not my kids they are feeding; I pack lunches for my kids, and reportedly, they (mostly) eat them. There are some kids for whom school meals are their biggest meal, or their only meals. No kid should be hungry. Children have no control over their families' economic situation; should they be punished for being poor? We need to feed those children. A well-nourished child performs better in school. Better school performance leads to opportunities to better their lives. I am willing to pay for that.

 OK, I'm off my soapbox now. "Nuff said.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Pollan's doing it to me again

During GodMother Camp, I used my freedom to visit several bookstores. I browsed at a leisurely pace, sipping hot coffee and reveled in the absence of rampaging offspring. I stocked up on some used kids books and also found a few books I've been wanting to read, including "Second Nature; a gardener's education" by Michael Pollan.

I'm only on page 81, and the man has sent me scurrying to the dictionary twice already. And you gotta love a chapter entitled "Compost and Its Moral Imperatives".

Wait. Who's being grounded?

I'm not really sure what it is about kids. They seem all cute and sweet and harmless, until you put a couple of 'em together in a room for several hours, several days running. Then, they morph into pint-sized demons of disorder and tumult who whine for snacks every 2 hours. 

Claire and Aeron have been grounded for the past week. They've been making forts out of pillows, blankets and even their mattresses, throwing their books all over and literally ripping things off the walls.They amuse themselves for hours, playing make-believe with their stuffies, dressing up in different clothes and  jumping and thumping around. Their room looks like a giant has picked up the house and given it a really good shake.

Now, there is a upside to having your small children confined to one room. You can put away all the stuff in all the other rooms without interference or complaint. Not that dealing with clutter is my idea of a picnic, but making order out of chaos gives me some job satisfaction. For many years, I had a quote from the lifestyle maven Alexandra Stoddard on my desk. "Order is a gift we give ourselves, " she said. (This was when I did not have children) She also believed in sorting through jelly beans and only putting the flavors you like in the candy dish. Go figure. 

Friday night, I went down with a cold, so Miles manned the home front alone all weekend. I honestly think he's better at managing the Wee Lassies than I am. He takes them to the park and runs them around with a soccer ball. He has the girls run small errands about the house. He even gets them (sometimes) to pick up their room in exchange for a popsicle. This afternoon he took for a hike on the Harmony Trail. They always* want him to read the bedtime story; they only ask me as a last resort. He's really good, but as always, he's outnumbered.

By Sunday night, he was getting flustered and I'm sure looking forward to work tomorrow, so he can rest up. "Hurry up and get well" he said, shaking a finger at me. "I'm tired of being a single parent!"

*unless someone cooler is around, like Cal, Super Gra-Maw or Uncle Brett

A rotten week

OK, so, it's been a lousy week.

There has been unnecessary drama with the teenager. I've had drunk neighbors shout and spit obscenities in my face. My twin darlings were caught doing awful things I'm too ashamed to describe. I had to tell the neighbor kid they were playing with that he was not longer welcome at my house or could play with my daughters.

And now  I have a cold.

Last night, as the virus hit, I decided a hot shower would help make me feel better. My mistake was not looking down at the tub as I stepped in. Ever step on a plastic dinosaur? They are poky and hard plastic and I cursed and slipped and flailed about trying to regain my balance.

After my shower, I just gave up and went to bed.