A Little Bit Nuts

Cockamamie

That word means exactly what it sounds like, and yet, is not an onomatopoeia*.

Though, now that I’m over-thinking, cockamamie (which I originally spelled cockamamy, also acceptable, thank you) it sounds really terrible and painful. That poor chicken.

Cockamamy, just as much ridiculousness as you’d think.


*Onomatopoeia, however, does not spell how one would think it would. By one, I mean me. And by how one would think, that one must be erudite.

Actually, erudite isn’t the right word for that sentence. Except for the fact that my intuition believes that erudite and onomatopoeia start with the letter a.

How cockamamie is that?

To Them

Happy 31st Anniversary to my parents!
I think they’ve both passed the Most Marker now.

What is the Most Marker you ask? You didn’t. Probably best you didn’t, since that would involve talking to your computer. You know it can’t hear you, right?

The Most Marker is the point in your life when you’ve spent more time being one way or doing something than not. Such as turning 32 and you’ll have spent more of your life knowing how to drive than not. Or turning 12 and you’ll have spent more of your life without training wheels than with.

My most important Most Marker already happened. About two months after my son turned 6. At that point I had been his dad longer than not. And I’m coming up on 5 years with my wife, so I’m on my way to that wonderful Most Marker, though quite a ways to go yet.

I love you, Mom and Dad. Happy Anniversary.

The Adventure

To the Adventure, my friend!

I immediately thought these words were a perfect toast. The Adventure can be a simple euphemism for living one’s life. Life is an adventure, enjoy exploring it. Daily living can be frightfully dull at times, often for great stretches. So, “To the Adventure” reminds us to look at the new-to-us parts of life that let us know we are on a personal journey.

It can also be an epitaph. The Adventure is life’s journey, and toasting to it is to celebrate it. Here’s to the Adventure you underwent, and that we could journey together will make me happy the rest of my days.

But, as any little boy can tell you, the Adventure is everywhere. Imagination fueled by Star Trek and Indiana Jones, whole worlds of danger and knowledge stretching out to be found. “To the Adventure” is the rallying cry of the epic. And with the Adventure, the journey is the purpose. Though there may be an end goal (even if nothing beyond wondering what’s there), the point is to get there by wit and will.

So, Gentlemen, raise your glasses, steins, flagons, canteens: To the Adventure!

The Sound of Humanity

From my dearest posting on Google+.

I read stories like this from both World Wars often enough. Never mind the propaganda and rhetoric: we were never at war with Germany, we were fighting Nazi Fascism.

It’s hard remember that being a soldier is not being a criminal. We and they know that we’re all actual people in this world. A piece of that understanding feels lost in our modern wars.

No longer are the soldiers drafted citizens fulfilling their duty to their homeland. Now it’s a juggernaut stepping on anthills. As much as both sides want to make the world better, the plight of the opposition is missing from consideration.

Continue reading

Bad at Math = Teh Suck

Chad Orzel and Neil DeGrasse Tyson nail something ridiculously important. (Watch the whole clip, and definitely read Orzel’s old post)?:

A great clip from his World Science Festival appearance the other night, especially the bit toward the end:

“One thing I think that as a nation we should be embarrassed by is that the scientists– you can do this experiment yourself, I’ve done the experiment– the scientists, by and large, know more liberal arts than the science that is known by liberal artists.”

Or you can read my longer, less funny version from a couple of years ago. Either way, it’s an important message: It should be exactly as embarrassing in educated company to say “I’m no good at math” as it would be to say “I’m no good at reading.” The fact that it isn’t– that it’s ok to laugh off innumeracy– is a major problem for us as a society.

Read the comments on this post…

This is actually a point I had never really thought about, and even I’m guilty of it. Of course in my family the line was closer to, “Oh, I could do any Algebra or Trig, but hit the wall at Calculus.” And of course, my family is an odd duck. I’m going to go ahead and claim I am not one of those liberal artsy folks who chuckle about being bad at math. But I’ve never called anyone out for laughing at being bad at math. Maybe it didn’t come up as much, because I grew up within music circles and music and math have a very strong relationship.

Back to their point: Orzel and Tyson are precisely right. Math should be a function like literacy. And it’s not even complex math. Arithmetic and basic Algebra should be proudly ingrained in all American brains. We don’t all need to be calculators. My wife regularly comments about how quickly I can multiply through things, but I attribute that to being quickly able to tear down problems (23 x 5 is actually (20×5)+(3×5) in my head) and having being the loot roller for more Dungeons & Dragons games than anyone else I know.

These guys don’t expect that either. They expect that it doesn’t matter what speed you can figure out a problem, they care that you can figure out the problem at all. Tyson properly goes into this with science as well. Organic Chemistry? Nuts to that. Asking how exactly something works, where it comes from, what are its limitations? Reasonable. Even if you can’t understand the specifics, you should at least be able to cut through the bullshit and see if the claim someone is making could actually be valid.

Actually, that ties into what I try to explain to my son. He’s following what advertisements are and it’s easy to see him get tripped up. He’s a knowledge hound, a precise knowledge hound, and I love him endlessly for it. So when some commercial makes a claim that its product does some amazing feat, I have to methodically walk him back and explain that ads, while not fully lying (usually), are shiny exaggerations of what something is actually capable of.

My favorite example: a box of Kix cereal. Right on the front, it claims to be a good source of Calcium and Vitamin D. Know what milk is chock-full of? Calcium and Vitamin D. So what does the Kix give you? Briefly crunchy filler. And yes, it tastes good and is easy to snack on so we still give it to the kids anyway.

To wrap up, I again agree: if someone makes the claim of being ‘bad at math’ and proud of it, remind them that it’s not okay to be illiterate in the basics of our civilization. We depend on it. I know I’m not touching on the fact math is probably not taught in the ways to reach all learners, but that’s a separate fault. I am sick of people being proud of being ignorant.

My dad is a brilliant man, double mastered in science and engineering. Knows something about everything. He’s why I’m abnormally adept at so much. But he’s a bad speller. He got screwed by an experimental method of teaching phonetics when he was a kid. He’s not proud, it’s just something he has to cope with. Doesn’t mean he can’t string a clear paragraph together or talk to someone about music or literature. So even if you’re bad at math, that’s no excuse for not being able to calculate my change at a coffee shop.

Fighting For The Past

Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.

[From 1984 by George Orwell]

There is an easily understandable truth to the phrase, History is written by the victor. The victorious are the ones left after the battle to tell the tale, so it is their story. Even ‘his story’ seems like the etymology of the word, though it is not.

Logically, however, it seems as though it should not be the case. Fact is fact. What happened, happened. Right? The American Revolution went from this, to this, to this.

But we humans are limited, isolated souls. We cannot truly know anything beyond our own experience. So when we look upon the past, we see it through our own eyes and nothing more. Try as we might to keep the past even-handed, it remains clouded by what we believe actually happened.

And that belief as to what happens tempers our current state of mind. We justify our current decisions based on that foggy history, to either follow the path or run counter to it. The hardest to cope with of all is when evidence points to a different conclusion than what is believed to be true.

This is where a new battlefield has opened up, and it follows the words of George Orwell exactly.

In Texas, there is a board of education that controls the content of a huge amount of school textbooks. A single board, in one state, dictates the content they want in most schools.

How this is possible is through textbook manufacturing. Texas publishes a single list of approved textbooks for all of its schools. Texas is a huge state. So, if a publishing company wants guaranteed millions in sales, they cater to Texas. And since they’ve catered to Texas, those books become the books for much of the whole country.

As one would expect, Texas, as a whole, has stronger religious leanings than average. And this board has a solid voting bloc of religious conservatives. This fact would normally be balanced out by California’s liberal-secular leanings, but since that state won’t be purchasing textbooks for another half a decade (good planning, that’s what that is), Texas is now wielding far more influence over the market than it previously did.

Up now for their curriculum decisions is social studies. History. Our very past is going to be altered by the present. Alterations to make sure that there are well-mentioned gaps in Darwin’s and Galileo’s advances in our very world. Show Reagan as a hero, followed by the grandeur of Newt Gingrich. And be sure people see that our very founders were espousing Christianity and rule under Biblical law.

It is the last point that is most confounding to my knowledge. I have read our founders, not just read about them. Most of them were Christians, yes, but that was merely the default. The far more reaching fact about them was that they divorced their personal faiths (which were from numerous sects) and knew that their inspirations came from Enlightenment philosophy of reliance on themselves to get through existence.

These people honestly believe they are setting history right. That is what is so tough to fight. And it is a subtle fight over words. What is most impressive is that they are thinking in terms of generations. If they rewrite history now to deceptively emphasize the religions of our Founders over their actual beliefs, then it will be thirty years before the ramifications are fully felt.

As Mr Coates mentioned when I first read about this on his blog (also followed up by Mr Sullivan), it is hard not to leave this subject on a sour, depressing note. The effects of such an intellectual coup are difficult to see as too harmful in a world becoming coated with ubiquitous information. It also requires a vast amount of effort to maintain a campaign such as this over decades.

Still, it is always worth fighting against such willful acts of ignorance and deception.

Strengthening the Soul

An interesting concept from a great article about how reading helps children grieve.

Ultimately, reading takes them to a place that every child should know intimately. As Roger said, “The whole intention is to encourage children to see reading and books as parts of their own imagination.” Reading becomes a part of who they are, not merely something that they do.

An Article Of Faith…

I don’t know if my wife loves me. There is no way I could know. She has no idea if I really love her. How could she? I am the only person inside my head.
How can I live with someone who I am not entirely certain loves me? Through her actions, I can be somewhat certain. Through her words, I can be mostly assured. And yet doubt is there.

And how about the fluctuations of it all? Despite those artful mediums trying to portray love and romance, life is always, always, more complex. On any given day, I can love my wife more or less. Sometimes she is a divine light on a dark day. Sometimes she is a nuisance obstructing my path. And yet other times, plenty of them while engaged in work, I forget her existence entirely.

All these phases are brief and intertwined. There appears to be an overlying constant of loving her. No denying it, really. But one cannot help but entertain some doubt in those in-between spots within the flux.

So steps in faith. Faith is a tough concept for an atheistic humanist such as myself. The word is thrown in with belief and prayer so, to those like me, it becomes polluted. Still, I have always held fast to my faith in humanity because it made sense to me.

This faith is more related to trust. It is not a blind faith that something is there when it very well might not be. I see evidence surrounding it; there is past precedent supporting it. It is a trust that where there was once a hand to pick me up that it would be there again.

I have faith in my wife, and I am faithful to her. I have faith that though I may get under her skin, she does in fact love me. I still hold faith that having given her my heart that she will only cherish and sustain it.

And I maintain my faithfulness to her so my heart may be protected. It sounds almost selfish, to think I am paying her my faith to maintain my emotional stability. But it is how the world works, and I am nearly positive it is reciprocated.

I put my trust in my friend because she has always proven herself to be there in times of both poor and plenty. I put my faith in my wife because she is the one who has kept my heart well. And I will always put my faith in love for it has never shown itself to be false.

Another Alteration…

Back by popular demand is my fountain pen header.  I agree with you guys, it is a nice little something that signals it is my blog.
Overall, it is still a different theme.  The text style is nice, but the size is a tad small, so you can Ctrl – + (or Cmd – + on a Mac) to up the font size in your browser.

The only thing is that I’m not a big fan of the clutter at the top of posts with the tags and categories.  I ususally feel those are better served at the bottom of a post so you can click related categories after reading the full text.  Still, not too bad for the time being.  I’ll be fiddling with this stuff much more this summer when I think I may invest in my own web hosting service, rather than WordPress’s free service.

As a small update on me personally, last night I did a five minute presentation project for my psychology class.  I analyzed George Costanza’s personality through the lens of Albert Bandura’s loci of control.  It was also my first attempt at using PowerPoint to assist my speaking.  Normally I would just speak with notes, but in this case, I had video evidence of his behavior, so I succumbed to the beast.  (And yes, you all know I’m a very pro-Apple man, but the classroom computer was a Windows machine, so I sacrificed a chunk of my integrity for my education.)  As a personal reassurance, I still found the program cumbersome, and I only made five slides.

Oh, I got 50/50.