My Zunivers

04 September 2009

I'm Confused....

I'm very, very confused. Very confused.

Barack Obama wants to talk to schoolkids, making a speech that he hopes will be broadcast to classrooms all throughout the land.

Also, parents are throwing fits.

And for me, this doesn't add up.

Many parents I know defend sending their kids to school-- viciously. Their ferocity make me wonder if they really actually agree with me about primary and secondary education and just get testy because they feel dirty inside. If you tell them schools are dens of sin and rebellion they tell you kids need to learn how to live around that sort of thing. If you tell them that works in the real world where there is heavy moral coaching but fails in an abnormal environment that, rather than mimicking real life, breeds social norms and standards of its own-- guided only by large hordes of same-age child or adolescent peers-- they shrug and say that's just the way life is supposed to be. And they tell you that really, at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what happens to their kids at school because they, as parents, know that they can just filter whatever their kids pick up from everyone else.

Look, people-- have you even considered that school might be hurting your children simply for the fact that school is rooms full of kids? No? But then you think you can just undo anything bad? And then you think you can't filter out a little Barack Obama speech? Is that the biggest problem you can see with your childrens' schools, that they might see a President on TV? You send your kids to school to make them more mature by having them learn to get along among people you disagree with, but you can't have them hearing a politician you not only haven't heard but you already know you disagree with just because he is who he is? Are you acting this way to try to prove that schools can teach your kids about maturity better than you can?

I've met five year old kids who make more sense. My mind boggles.

Go away and come back when you make some sense, please. For the love of everything good and purposeful, go away and come back when you make some sense. Please.

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03 September 2009

Surprises From Old Friends

This week I made a rather random discovery on Facebook. I found the now grown-up daughter of my favorite professor ever. Okay, I admit... it was sort of intentional. He had a weird last name.

Why did I look for her instead of for my favorite professor ever? For those of you who don't know me, my favorite professor ever died in 2002. He was only about 45 years old, and he left behind three wonderful children and a wife. At the time there was no way I could help them other than to pray. He had such a great family, and he lived for them and his friends and students (who he counted as friends). Even when he was ill in 1999 and 2000 he always used it as a way to make people feel better about his life and their own. He was always joking about the possibility of his own death-- how the time to find a replacement would be one more chance for the college administration to save a buck, how someone else would need to clean his office, and how it sucked to be us because we would have to live with it and he wouldn't. "It's only death," he said often. "Worse things could happen to me." My comfort with real-life morbid humor reached its peak when, after his surgery, he howled with glee as I told him that while he was jaundiced and gaunt I had, behind his back, referred to him Big Bird and talked about the chances of his being Snuffied out. (He was physically built like Big Bird and he knew it, so it was pretty funny.) That was one of the lessons I learned from him-- you can't take yourself seriously until you can laugh at yourself. The reason I want to teach at a small college is because if I'm a scientist I want to be one like him. I know I never will, but I can always try.

Anyway, Abby is just as perky as ever. She had a baby a couple months ago and seems to be in good spirits. I can't really imagine what it would be like to be a kid and lose a dad. But her life is going okay. She isn't homeless or addicted to crack or anything like that. Her mom is doing alright too, although her face has aged more than someone should in eight years. I still haven't asked her about her brothers, but I'm hoping they are doing well. I'm sure all of them have quite a story to tell.

Just knowing that Abby is alive and well encourages me greatly. It reminds me that life can end up okay even after it goes what seems to be terribly wrong. Even in death my old professor is encouraging me.

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02 August 2009

Baby Time

My wife extruded another infant from her loins today, this day after her due date. The little girl is perky and... hungry. She's not much bigger than the last one, but like the last one she appears to be intact and functioning.

Of course, I don't say much else about the kids on the blog anymore. So if you want to know more, you'll need to call. And if you know me, you'll know that I'm really bad about calling back. Sorry about that.

But please don't ask me for her size. I do know, but I also know how useful reporting hits and errors really is. Baby weight and length at birth is even less useful. Do something different for a change and just be happy.

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24 July 2009

Health Care Nonsense

So, I'm sure all of you have heard Barack Obama's statements about health care. I mean, he did spend almost an hour talking about it the other night. It's not his fault the news mostly ignored that and spent hours covering the three minutes at the end that he devoted to Professor Gates.

Anyway, one of the major hallmarks of what is happening to "reform" health care are that, according to the President himself and many, many others In Charge you will be able to keep your health insurance. They aren't making you change your insurance, they're just setting up a government insurance option.

Have you ever heard a lie that isn't a lie? This is one of them.

I know about lies that aren't lies because I've lived down south. To lie without lying you say what is the truth to the letter of the words, but you choose words that deceive about the larger picture.

So, what are the options that the Democrats have so far about health insurance? It really is as much about "insurance" as "care," if not more, but for some reason Americans can't tell those apart anymore. Well, true to the letter of their words, you can keep your insurance. But let's look at what they are not adding.

This is what you'll find in the bill being batted around in the House of Representatives: If you have health insurance you can keep it. Unlike now, you can keep it even if you change jobs or move, for as long as it is offered. Also unlike now, once you lose the insurance you have you will not be able to get insurance from a private company again. The only new policies allowed will be the government program.

See? Nobody's lying. You keep your insurance, and there is a government option. They're failing to point out that the only other option is to keep the policy you have and hope it exists for the rest of your life. Want to change plans? The government option is the only one. After all, they didn't say you would always have options, just that you could keep your insurance and that there would be a government option.

This is what you'll find in the bill being batted around by the Senate: If you have health insurance now, you can keep it, and it can move with you from job to job and place to place. Also, the government will setup standards for insurance policies that met certain guidelines, and include government run options along with whatever private plans cut the mustard. Everyone who does not have one of those approved policies will need to pay a good sized tax penalty (in other words, a fine).

See? Nobody's lying there either. You can keep your insurance, and there is a government option. They're failing to point out that if your current insurance does not meet the government's standards, you'll need to get additional insurance or pay a fine. You'll have no say in the standards; economics and politics will define those. There is no means to prevent a single government plan from being the only one that cuts the mustard, and then pricing it so that private plans go belly up. After all, they didn't say you would always have options, just that you could keep your insurance and that there would be a government option.

If anyone thinks I'm lying about this, I'm sorry I don't have the links. I read about the Senate bill in a Bloomberg news column a couple weeks ago. The House bill was in Investor's Business Daily this week.

There are some good things in those bills, by the way. You can find versions of those good things in other proposed bills.

I'm not here to discuss whether socialized medicine is right or wrong. I have something else to say, and party politics ranting is just covering it up. If the Democrats running Congress and Barack Obama want to bring change to the way politics is done, they could start by being honest and straightforward about their intents and the consequences of what they are doing. If they want European-style government run health care, they should come out and say it. If they want something else, they should come out and say it. They should not continue the past half century's use of blatant deception by holding back the whole truth from the American public.

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30 June 2009


A year ago today, I drove to Rhoide Island for the conference that kicked off my first real job.

A year from now I will be unemployed and have to make tough decisions about which child to eat first.

Life's like that....

15 June 2009

A Post

in which I whine, make excuses, offer a Flintstones reference, and then try to sell you on pop culture.

I'd like to write up some things about spiritual gifts, a little politics, some rants about how Americans shut down instead of engaging, and a few other random topics. But these days, spending eight hours a day staring at a computer to do work, I simply can't stand staring at a computer screen to write in a blog. Trust me, though, I compose some really good blog content in my head. When I sit down to write it, I can't make it come out again. What I really should do is carry around some stone tablets and a dictabird.

If you aren't with me on Facebook, you should come on over there. It's the newest wave.

24 May 2009

How Long the Return?

Where have I been? I've been doing some maintenance on the blog, so what little time I've taken for the blog has gone into that. I figured there is enough to say today that I might as well actually post something.

I've been sick for almost a month. The illness was playing with me-- two days bad, one day better, two days bad, and so on-- so it took me a while to be motivated to go to the doctor. Actually, my ear got messed up, so I had to go. I'll cough and sneeze all day but if my ear gets stuffy I haul myself straight to the professionals. The day I went to the doctor I intentionally skipped my asthma medication and decongestant, so that the doctor could get a good idea of what was happening. The doctor I saw was squeaky voiced and full of sympathy. I think she was actually happy to have a sick person on her hands. She apologized profusely for looking up my nose with a tiny bit of wax on the attachment on the looking into orifices thingy.* She also reported that my lungs sounded absolutely awful and my ear was infected. The x-ray machine was down so she decided to just call it pneumonia and send me home with two antibiotics and a steroid. The steroid has its good and bad points. The good point is that it has opened my lungs. The bad point is that it will make me fat. Of course, that is countered by the antibiotic, which has wiped out much of my gut colony. So life isn't terrible except that I still can't hear from my right ear and some things normally solid are not quite so solid.

Last weekend I got to have lots of fun in New Hampshire. The people up there were great, both the locals and the family members of those wed. We stayed at the lovely Camp Spofford near Spofford Lake in the lovely environs of Keene. The wedding took place at a farm-turned-facility, and The Kid had lots of fun looking at the animals. ("What are those?" "Shee!" "What do sheep say?" "Baaa!" "What are the sheep doing?" "Eat supper!" "What are they eating for supper?" "Gree grass!") The food was quite good, too. Lots of Turkish stuff, I think it was. And of course the late nights with the bride's extended family were lots of fun, because she has a great extended family. Her grandfather, who raised five daughters, gave me a bit of advice on taking care of a flock of girls-- "Watch your ladder." The story is too long to explain here.

I managed not to get any Moxie while I was up there, but I did get two more states on my sister. I only needed one to prevent her from pulling the New England Road Trip tie. (She has AL, MS, LA, NM, and AZ and before the trip I had CA, CO, WY, KS, MO, MN, WI, MA, CT, and RI. Now that I've added NH and VT she'll still be one back even if she takes back all of my New England states and adds ME for herself.)

This week my family, minus my sister, came up to visit for a couple days. That was fun. The Kid loves chasing her uncle all over the place. Mom and dad brought foodstuffs, so we got to eat a bunch.

On Friday I took my wife to Maryland so she could go along with her family for a week in the mountains in eastern Tennessee. I will enjoy the week at home. In fact, I already am enjoying the week at home. Today is the biggest single day of the year in auto racing, with the Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500, and Coca-Cola 600. I missed Monaco because there is no reason to get up that early just to watch prissy European racing**, but the Indy 500 is on TV now. There was just a car on fire in the pits. (That's not as bad as it sounds, because they use pure ethanol for fuel. Ethanol, unlike petroleum fuels, is water soluble, so you put out the fire by dumping water onto it to dilute the ethanol.) I have a fridge full of protein laden foodstuffs, so I'm set.

Tomorrow I will probably go to work. Yes, it's a holiday. But I have data coming off the computer cluster like crazy, after having the jobs queued for about ten days. So I need to get started analyzing that.

* Or whatever it's called...

** Actually, F1 is pretty hard core. Some teams, which must build their own cars, spend upwards of $400,000,000 a year. But you need to do that to run a car with almost three times its own weight in down force and running on a naturally aspirated 2.4L V8. No, they aren't prissy. But FIA did remove all the North American races form this year's schedule, so I'm just a bit bitter.

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