My Zunivers

30 December 2005

The Visitation

My sister is visiting :)

Happy bounces :)

So much better than Frank Peretti

29 December 2005

Place Your Bets!

When will there be a public call for President Bush be impeached for domestic spying? Obviously a "public call" is a fuzzy thing, so I will be the judge and jury. All your bets will be non-monetary; I'm not running a casino here.

28 December 2005

Heaven Help Us!

A married Christian sex website. I found it completely by accident.

Have you people known about this all along, or do I spare you the beat down for not telling me?

By the way, their resources are excellent.

Gnostics

I'm having a terribly mean anti-fundamentalist hissy fit in my mind right now. I think it was triggered this week to vehement opposition that I faced when I suggested that Mary and Jospeh didn't ride into town with Mary doing her deep breathing and Jospeh timing her contractions in units of donkey steps. Apparently when the Bible says "While they were there" it means "Right after they showed up on a donkey." Heaven forbid we consider it otherwise. Mary and Jospeh went to Bethlehem over Thanksgiving break and decided to stay for New Year's? What a heresy! That's not how the Christmas pageants do it! True, but of the Christmas pageants I say "That's not how the Bible tells it." Funny how the person I was talking with said the same of the donkey, dispite insisting that the labor pains started at sundown Decenber 24 on a hill in sight of the City of David....

I think, though, that you would get all bored, and some of you really hot and bothered, if I went on for topic after topic. So I'll limit myself to one topic-- the body.

I have a sleep disorder that goes by the name "Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome," cunningly called DSPS in the biz. There is little that can be done about this disorder, and even less that can be done by a graduate student whose health insurance does not cover expensive sleep disorder treatments. (It also covers hernias in some years but not others, under the guise that hernias are the result of people being stupid, which pisses off people like myself who at high risk for a hernia due to genetics. I was born with my first hernia.) I've heard of a few cases that were dismantled by removing refined sugars form the diet, and a few cases of melatonin pills doing the trick. Otherwise, nothing. Since I can't at this point do anything about the disorder, I live with it. One thing that means is that I don't get up in the mornings. Noon is a normal wake-up time.

Of course, having this sleep disorder means other things. I have people who constantly give me a hard time about it. Lazy, I am called, because I get out of bed late. It's amazing that people who don't even know what I do are so certain that I'm doing it wrong if I stay up late and wake up late. Oh, wait, I forgot. One is not lazy for not getting things done. That is completely unrelated to laziness. Laziness is sleeping late no matter when you go to bed or how hard you work. Sorry. My mistake.

This sort of thing takes on various subtle forms. For example, upon hearing that I was up uintil 4:30 programming and that I slept until 11, [censored to protect identity] snorted "Lucky." I said "Why? I got less sleep than I need." His response "Yeah, well. I never get to sleep that late." Idiot. It's not about how late, it's about how long. Stuff it back in your pants but remember this-- sometimes length really does matter.

Another example, my pastor (who I remind you is not the clegyman whose blog you can read from here; I go to a brethren church) harasses me constantly because I "won't" go to 9:30AM Sunday School at the church. He once told me "When I was young I did wild things like stay up late, but now I've become a responsible adult." My nights are wild alright. When I'm not working into the night I'm sitting around lonely because not a single one of my friends is awake at 3:00 in the morning. It's such a fun life, NOT. And then there was the whole "You're a bad husband if your wife wants to come and you don't bring her." How about this one, pastor-- "I get up at 10:00 to be here at 10:30, and without the skills of a few people like me showing up in your church your sound system would squeal like a greased pig contest. Be happy that I bust my butt to do what I can do, especially if it's something few can do."

And then there are the countlesss tips and tricks from everyone. Having trouble going to sleep? Have you tried listening to soft music. Sorry, doesn't work for me. I'm a classical music buff summa cum laude; music doesn't put us to sleep, it makes us hyper. We pay attnetion to it. Reading a book? Makes my eyes hurt, but no sleepiness comes. Some soothing herbal tea? Nope, no benefits from any herbs I've tried. Maybe you should just get up early and make yourself tired so that you fall asleep earlier the next night? Nope, doesn't work. I spend the day tired and as night approaches I feel more awake. Try going to bed earlier? I fall asleep later than if I had stayed up.

Most people don't realize that sleep is related to biochemical processes. And only if you accept this can you accept DSPS and why the folk wisdom on changing sleep cycles won't help. There are chamical processes involved in making a body fall asleep. It's not as simple as go into bed at any time and fall sleep. Actually, for some Americans it might be that simple, but I'm not talking about the average fat, sleep deprived American, I'm talking about healthy, well rested people. If you're well behind on sleep your body will have the sleepy chemcials continually running, which should be obvious because you feel tired all the time (duh). There are some people whose bodies easily respond to making a conscious change in sleep schedule. Others of us have done thigns like get up before 7:00AM for months with the only result being fatigue and failure at daily tasks because our bodies just won't fall asleep at 10:00PM so that we get enough sleep.

Now, what on earth does this have to do with bashing fundamentalists? Well, it's simple. In my life's sleeping adventures, I can't help but notice one thing. There is a strong correlation between evangelical orthodoxy and giving me a hard time about my sleep patterns. My atheist, agnostic, polytheistic, and even Roman Catholic friends and relations accept it as a physical problem that has no good physical cures. They don't make fun of me for getting up late, although they do get some giggles out of it sometimes. They don't give me 101 tips and tricks that I must not have tried because at least a few are bound to work if I just really tried them. My conservative Christian friends, on the other hand, think that it's just a lack of willpower and the problem is all in my head and I'm too lazy or stupid or sinful to fix it.

The only thing I have to answer why this is true is that evangelical Christianity in America gives it adherents a good dose of gnostic thinking. Bodies are a part of the fallen world. The real you is a soul, not a body. Bodies are just shells. They get sick, but that's only beacuse sin entered the world. They decay, but that's only because sin entered the world. You can find Bible verses that support these things, which are far short of full blown gnosticism, and that's not my problem.

My problem is that, monist or dualist, we live with these bodies every day and we have experiences where the body's physical nature is brought to the forefront without this attitude of the body just being a shell and the soul being the real person. I've never heard a conservative Christian tell a cancer patient to just try harder to get over cancer, for example. I've never heard a Christian say to a diabetic that it's their own fault for not having circulation in the extermities and their soul should just try harder to get that blood flowing in the body.

I've never heard a Christian with bronchitis say that they were working really hard to get rid of the problem so that life could be normal. I've heard of them sleeping to get rid of it. What is their soul doing with that time whiel the body was alseep? Taking a walk? Reading a book? Playing jacks on the front porch? Illness like these are a perfectly acceptable reason to sleep late and miss church. But incurable sleep disorders? Well, those are just an excuse made up by people who don't want to be responsible and go to bed so that they can get up in the morning and show up at church like Good People are supposed to do. Cancer is the body. Sleep apparently isn't.

And so I see it again. Fundamentalists have this culture about them that they deny. They say it's all about just following the Bible the way it's written, but a huge amount of cultural baggage, secular and otherwise, comes along for the ride. Bodies are not given a consistent treatment. There is an arbirtrary line drawn between which bodily things are about control and which are not; it's not a line based on theology, but rather on tradition. It's this sort of twitwittery that makes Christians look bad.

Oh, and thanks to the, like, three of you fundies I know who don't give me a hard time. You make some sense. Light and salt to the world. Shine on. Rock on.

Christmas Booty

Being at my in laws house, my wife and I had none. But I did get gifts, lots o' gifts. So I'll just make a tally here to show off, although this year's take is smaller than last year's.

"March of the Penguins" on DVD (widescreen)

"The Wisdom of Crowds" by James Surowiecki, a sociological toure de force.

"The West's Last Chance" by Tony Blankley, a conversation starter

"A Charlie Brown Christmas: The making of a tradition," which chronicles the history of the animated show, including a full script.

"Linux in a Nutshell," so that I can learn some things

"US Army Survival Manual" so I can learn more

"Sing We Christmas," an album from Chanticleer

A CD with Debussy piano music, including the most beautiful piano piece ever written, the Arabesque no. 1

Chia Shrek

Bookends, Homer and Aristotle

A ten inch tall nose (my mom was involved)

$65 Mad Money

Please note that I still have not gotten a Canon Digital Rebel with oodles of lenses, a Chrysler Sebring sedan, or a computer game. And if I've missed your gift, don't worry. I'll be back to update the list.



22 December 2005

Traveling Stupidity

The new TSA screening rules begin today.

Here's the part I want to address:

In addition to passing through a metal detector, passengers should expect "explosive screening of shoes, hand-wanding of passengers, enhanced pat-down searches and inspections of carry-on bags," the TSA warned.

Six months (or so) ago when the news of the screening changes first broke there was an emphasis on how the new standards were being made so that they could do fewer shoes, less wanding, less patting, and fewer digs through bags. Six months (or so) back there was an emphasis on searches being more focused. Now we're doing "more screenings."

My warning on seeing this sort of double talk-- Our population has become so stupid that even the dumb-butt government knows. Beware.

Little White Box

My wife will not be opening it in front of her family.

21 December 2005

On Friends

We had a good time with our friends, who sadly had to leave today. Wasn't I saying I wasn't looking forward to them coming? I said that, but I always say that. I'm schizoid. (Stop laughing, because I really am, a bit. Geesh, you'll make me paranoid.) So now it's on to not looking forward to tomorrow's trip to the in-law's house, and then on to not looking forward to whatever the future holds. As I said last night "You're wrong. The glass isn't half empty. It's two thirds empty."

One of the things that I was happy about with the friends is that my wife and I have basically no married friends of similar cultural bent (same basic religious beliefs, same state of life, etc.) who are around our age and with whom we get to spend time. In the case of these friends there is an even deeper rooting, of course. Bethny was my wife's good friend growing up, so they have a long history. Bethny was my friend, too, when we were all in college together, and I remember lots of things I did with her like midnight walks, lunches and dinners at the cafeteria my senoir year (and other times, but I remember the later ones the best), the semester we were each other's TA, the occasional spontaneous pep talk, and other such things. Eric's the new addition, and my figuring is if he's good enough for Bethny then he's good enough for me, which in the past year or two has proven to be a true statement.

This matter though, of not having such people to spend time with is really a negative influence on my social psyche. I have friends who are around and I like them a lot, but what I think I'm thinking about more is the friends who have driffted away. My wife and I used to have a nice gang of like aged people who went to our church and socialized twice a month, at least. We still have the gang, mostly, but the socialization is gone. There are really two intertwined factors involved in that disappearence-- time and place in life.

The unmarried people stopped coming around because they perceived it as a married people heading into middle age group.
All of our married friends from the gang have houses, jobs, and children, and so I'm beginning to perceive the gang, sans my wife and I, in the same way. Nobody has time to coordinate any socializing together, and that takes less time than to actually do things that are coordinated so there's really no point in my wife or I coordinating. We exist on paper as a small group minisry in our church, but paper's about all there is anymore. The leadership has no time to lead and when we are together parents are too busy spending time with the kids to spend time with their peers so there's really no point anyway.

It makes me sad, really, how terribly this particular bunch of fundamentalists handles the Bible. Most of them would say that Genesis 1 (actually 1:1 to 2:3, but that never seems to bother anyone) literally says that God made the earth a few thousand years ago in six days. I also remember a seventh day in there, though. That's the one where God, the most powerful thing in the world who transcends what we can understand about power, rested. He took time off. Sure, it was a big job. But the point is that He rested and He didn't need to do it. It's sick to ignore that, especially in light of the New Testment's teachings on family and fellowship and my experience that those require rest and relaxation. I'm pretty sure that there's stuff in their that can argue that the Bible says to go to church and to spend time with other Christians, I just can't remember it off the top of my head. Point is, you cannot both take the Bible literally and work seven full days a week or not spend time with other Christians. I don't advocate making one day, such as Sunday, into a sacred cow-- in fact I work on any day of the week. But I know how to rest, and I do that on any day of the week too.

Of course, the main problem with saying this to the married with kids and jobs crowd is that they get all condescending. "You don't understand," they say. Not using those words, of course. It's more things like "Well, I have kids" or "Well, I have a job" or "When you're in my situation you'll understand" or such. It's a thin veil for "You don't understand, or at least I want to think that you can't, therefore I'm going to make an appeal to differences between where we are in life and then you can't argue." I won't even get into the whole thing where people think that since I'm still in school my life is some kind of 24-7 frat party that's gone on for an extra five years because I'm getting advanced degrees. And this is why it's frustrating to have a group that is in a differnet place in life, no matter how nice the peopel are or how well you would get along with them if you did interact with them.

I personally think that my friends should take a break. Selfish, I know, but I think it would benefit everyone involved.

Here's to friends.

20 December 2005

Penguin Caper

Somebody stole the penguin.

Words cannot describe what I would want to do to a penguin napper.

A win?

Judge Jones is done. Just thought you should know.

My recap on intelligent design and why I don't like it (here).

I hesitate to call it a win, though, because who's won? There are still people nutty enough to think ID is science, and there are still scientists who will ignore the second part of Ken Miller's statement that he believes in evolution and Jesus Christ. As always, the government decision doesn't put out the fire, it just throws a rug onto the kindling.

17 December 2005

A Gem of Wisdom

I found this little quote hanging out on my Akkadian professor's web page.

"God speaks to us through the Scriptures not in order to make us scholars, but to make us Christians. To be sure, to make us Christians in our science, too, but not in such a way as to make human science superfluous or to teach us in a supernatural way all sorts of things that could and would otherwise be learned by scientific training and research. What Scripture does intend is to place us as humans in a right position to God, even in our scientific studies and efforts"-- H. Ridderbos

So to those of you I know who refer to Wheaton as Bible Thumper University: could you please cut it out? I don't know any evangelical fundamentalist who would read that and not get pissed. And I can give you a list of their schools.

Fiscal Rant

This year's United States budget defecit? Let's put it this way-- $1500 per person. Yes, it's that big. For our government to pay this year's bills, every man, woman and child in the country would need to pay an extra $1500 to Uncle Sam. And even that might not cover it.

Congress is making a big show of trying to do somthing about this. There is a defecit reduction bill in the House right now. What does this bill do? It cuts $50 billion, about $15 billion of that is in social services to the poor (the Economist says that the Senate's $35 billion bill doesn't hurt such social services).

There's also another bill in the house, one they don't want you to know about, that will give something like $90 billion in tax cuts to Americans who make over $100,000 a year. This bill has been denounced as horrible for the economy by organizations who represetn rich people (I don't remember their names exactly). They don't understand why the House wants to increase the defecit, especially considering that the tax breaks they would get are drops in their buckets (averaging about $19,000 for those who make over $2,000,000 a year).

Many of these wealthy people are pledging to give any their tax cuts as charitable contributions. I like that idea in theory, but even if they do this the money will be moving away from where it's needed. While there are many charities who take care of people who have nothing, there are fewer that try to take care of people who have some but not enough. It's those people who have some who will be hurt by the spending cuts, not the ones who have nothing.

I think it sucks.

16 December 2005

Patriot Games

The senate has voted not to consider renewing the Patriot Act. What does the administration say?

"We've expressed our views how we believe the provisions should be permanent, and I think what's happening now is that some people are playing politics with this legislation."-- Scott McClellan

What a banal statement. When push comes to shove, appeal to the public's dislike for politicians by saying that your opponent is playing politics. Some of us aren't convinced.

What was the senate really saying? (Compiled form various news sources that has slightly different takes on some of them.)

People who voted against the bill:

"I don't want to hear again from the attorney general or anyone on this floor that this government has shown it can be trusted to use the power we give it with restraint and care"-- Russ Feingold

""Mr. President, it is time to have checks and balances in this country. We are a democracy!"-- Patrick Leahy

"There is no accountability. There is no oversight. . . . This is Big Brother run amok."-- Ted Kennedy

"Those that would give up essential liberties in pursuit in a little temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security."-- John Sununu

"In my view, and in the view of many of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, the conference report still does not contain enough checks on the expanded powers."-- Harry Reid

People who voted for the Bill:

"We have a clear choice before us today: Do we advance against terrorism to make America safer or do we retreat?"-- Bill Frist

"You either vote yes to reauthorize or no not to reauthorize [the bill the way it now is written] -- there is no middle ground."-- Jon Kyl

The opposition sounds more like the opposition is a bunch of people trying to preserve their country than like people merely playing politics, although it certainly looks like the accusation could be made the other way around. And I know it doesn't have any logical weight here, but none of these freedom loving people just got caught with their illegal search and seizure pants down.

This sort of rabble rousing is really exactly what the senate is for. Enjoy the show.

A Zunivers Note

I've been asked about the pronunciation of my word "Zunivers."

The u sounds like an oo, and the s sounds like a z. I think you can figure out the rest.

Why is it this way?

The name was intended to be a mess up of the word "junipers," not the word "universe."

Now you know.

15 December 2005

Idiot

To the Jersey idiot who was turning around on 5th street today:

Some of us go around the block, especially on a narrow street where your K-turn must inevitably be an asterisk turn. I'm sorry you don't have the precious time to spare to do that. It always takes me several hours to go around the block, and that's so much longer, and more difficult, than your two minutes moving back and forth six inches at a time.

If you knew how to drive you would have realized that you were never within three feet of anything, so you could have saved a lot of time. I guess they taught parallel parking on the same day they taught you how to pump gas. Actually, if you knew how to drive you would have just gone around the block.

And next time you do it, don't wave and smile at me when you're done. That's what you do for people who are nice to you on the road, not what you do to people who wait two minutes for you to take up the whole width of the street being a dick. If my car were worth less I would have just hit you, moron; I wasn't stopped for you.

On Singing and Skiing

The most beautiful thing I've found on God's great earth is a moonlit landscape covered in snow. I only get to enjoy this sight a few times a year, and tonight was one of those nights.

My most memorable experience in such a landscape was in January 2000, the day I started learning to cross country ski. I was taking cross country skiing class with the world's most entusiastic kineseology professor. I had never skiied before. It was a one credit class held over one weekend (with a paper and a few meetings before and after to go over things like wilderness safety).

Anyway, being big and clumsy, I wasn't doing the best at learning to cross country ski. But I was giving it my best shot. That might be an understatment, though. After the class a few of the other students commented to me that I had determiniation harder than diamond (probably black), as they would have given up if they had the same problems. I never knew I could have determiniation over 6 on the Moh scale, but that's what they said.

The first night of the weekend we had spent the entire day, minus about an hour, on skis. The encouraging instructors were saying nice things to me like "At least you fall correctly" to try to make me feel better. In fact I do fall correctly, and the day I hit a tree with something other than my legs will be the day that trees learned to move. That day of falling was actually very good for my future as a living being with an intact skull. It only happened because nobody had explained to me what to do with my body to slide downhill, which I figured out on my own the next day. But I digress.

The first evening was brick. We were in northern Wisconsin near Eagle River, the sky was clear, and the wind was howling. Our activity-- ski across the lake to meet the Norwegians who lived in the log cabin, then back through the snowy woods by torchlight. The Norwegians looked stragely English and German-- much like a few of our instructors who had not set out with us across the lake. While everyone had fun around the cmpfire I skiied in late. My skis were way too small for my weight. I was on my my second pair, standard length 205s, since the binding had come off of my 215s. 215s are huge, the biggest made by anyone, but they only work well up to about 200 pounds. Nobody makes nordics big enough for me. People my size just learn to deal, which was one of the reasons I had a slow start. And deal I did. My skis turned into snowshoes when we went over a patch of more shallow ice, and the slush had frozen solid to the waxless patten by the time I got across. So I spent the entire time I had on the island, a quarter as much as I should have had, hacking four inches of ice off of my skis with nothing but the rusty ferrules from my poles. No hot chocolate and cookies and singing for me.

At the end of island time the rest of the class went for a lovely jaunt through the woods by torchlight. Completely unnecessary, as the moon was out, but that's what they did. The instructor sent me with the camp director back across the way we had come, so that's the way we went. But now Doug and I were going straight into the wind. It was no small wind, about 30 miles per hour. The temperature was about zero (F). You can look up the wind chill.

I loved it. None of my pals in the class got to do it, either, because they went through the dense shelter of the North Woods. And believe it or not, I'm sad that they're not jealous. It was great. Doug skiied a hundred feet to my left, so I was basically all alone on a snow covered lake in the dead of a winter's night. It was wonderful. I didn't fall the whole way. Back in the cabin I gleefully told the guys all about it, and not a single one wished to have had the same experience. Oh, well.

The next day we went to a trail on the Eagle River system. I know there's a map online somewhere but I don't feel like finding it now. Look for a Wisconsin state park with a green circle called the Military Trail and a black diamond called Devil's Run. I learned some things about going downhill in set tracks that day, as well as proper double poling which was complimented by the class instructor. One fall early in the day, caught on video, was also applauded in front of the entire class. "You see, watch. Nate falls and then the next guy falls. Nate gets up, falls again, and gets up before the other guy has his arms and legs untangled. You should all be able to be that fast about it, but you aren't." When it comes to backcountry skiing, he's right.

Of course, we were supposed to learn downhill techniquies through the stem turn by the end of the weekend, but I had barely got my snowplow going by the time we had to get on the bus to go home.

There was, that weekend, one person who was patient with me. An accomplished mountaineer and seasoned Berkie veteran, I was glad that he decided to give me one-on-one. He usually went with the advanced skiiers, but that year he wanted the newbies, and that was me. He said at the end that he liked my style, which he summarized as "Never Give Up." But I remember going down one trail with him on the skating path beside me, and he said "This seems really hard for you. Why do you want to do it so badly?" I responded "I can walk twenty miles in the woods during the summer, and I hate the summer. I'll be cursed if I can't do the same thing in the winter."

That's really what skiing is for me. I'm a bit of a hippie when I'm on skis. I prefer to be alone or in a small group, not on some crowded mountainside. I don't like the downhill culture, where everyone laughs at people who fall. Nordies stop to help people up. Downhillers always talk about people falling and how fast they can go. Nordies talk about how to pick waxes and the pleasure of being in the woods. (Telemarkers are somewhere between; those from the east coast and midwest are closer to nordies while those from out west are more like downhillers). Downhillers wear fancy coats with cotton underwear. Nordies wear layers and know that cotton clothing is a stupid idea for going outside in the snow. Downhillers need to go to capitalist paradises to have their fun. Nordies need a patch of snow. Downhillers are usually on skis chasing after something they can't get on their own two feet. Nordies are usually on skis to get to something they can get on their own two feet, so long as there's no snow.

You might wonder what this has to do with singing. Basically nothing except one thing. Snowy, moonlit evenings always make me think of female choirs weaving back and forth between chords and tone clusters. It's too bad most choir sopranos can't sing in flageolet very long (or well, for that matter). I've got some sounds in my head that I can put on paper, but nobody would ever sing them so there's no purpose, really.

Cars and Glands

Yeah, kind of a weird combination, but that's my story.

As I noted earlier, there was a transmisison being rebuilt. It was rebuilt, with a word from the shop along the lines of "It's a good thing you got it in when you did. The differential was about this close [fingers squeezed together] from letting loose. That would have sucked for you." Yes, it would have. They also had forgotten a part when they gave the price estimate, but they were nice enough not to charge for it.

I don't know what else he said, since my wife was the one who picked up the car, but I wish I had been there beause he had a box with all the old parts in it. The list includes the differential, bands, torque converter, rear ring gear, sun gear, bearings, and brushings. So it was no little job.

I did spend about three hours harassing my wife about what the differential was, not because I didn't know but because I wanted to know if she knew. I've never met as much resistance before to a discusison of the mechanical. Toe lint would have been an acceptable diversion, if she were blessed with feet like mine that had such things. So she'll just have to die not knowing, I guess. At least her toes will be clean.

I did take the car for a drive tonight, for gas, groceries, and a book that needed to get back to the library. She shifted very well and I tried to go easy on her. The transmisison computer learns your driving style and, having a clean slate to start with, I'd like to keep her from deciding that 55 is a good place to shift from second to third (you know, second, the one Chrysler says kill your car and all your firstborn if you run over 45 miles per hour). The shop did say that she might be a bit hesitant when first starting out (a non-fatal age thing on this model) but otherwise she's in fine shape.

So much for the car. The rest is just me being a crotchety old man talking frankly about my health.

I didn't get in to school today, or over to pick up the car, because I felt like absolute trash this morning when I was awakened for the Awful Early Carpool. I felt like someone was punching me in the head, but not from the outside. It was on the left side of the back of my mouth, basically my tonsils. It sucked.

Did I say tonsils? Yes, I did. Some of you might know that I had my tonsils removed almost thirteen years ago. That is, in fact, true. But like any amputee, I have occasional isues with feeling things in my missing bits. This past week, having a cold, was no exception. I still have two tiny little bits of tonsil tissue that do sometimes swell up when I'm sick. When that heppens, my brain gets very sensitive about my tonsils and anything that stimulates the area where the tonsils used to be attached to the back of my mouth feels like things rubbing on swollen tonsils. The feeling like I'm being punched, though, that's not normal. It was so bad that I couldn's stand talking.

Now we'll enter another thing into the equation, guaifenesin. Guaifenesin is an expectorant that I take when I get sick. It's a drug commonly found in cough medicines, but I don't only take it for my lungs. In fact, I take it to keep things out of my lungs. Unlike pseudophedrine which dries out the mucous membranes, guaifenesin moistens them. It helps you clear out the mucous by keeping it thin, be it lung mucous or sinus mucous. If I don't keep my nose mucous fairly damp I get way too much of it and then it gets into my lungs where I get secondary infections from mucous loving bacteria. So when I've got a head cold, it's all about keep the mucous moist and keep the lungs open and get lots of sleep, otherwise the seondary lays me flat and I spend up to a month in bed (or wanting to be there) and on antibiotics. Guaifenesin has a secondary effect on me, though, which is that my mucous membranes easily get ulcers from. I know this because I never used to get outbreaks of ulcers in my mouth when I was sick until I started taking the guaifenesin regularly when I was sick. It's been a good trade, because I prefer a few days of mouth pain over a few weeks of lung problems.

And here's where the guaifenesin meets the tonsils.

After going back to bed to see if sleep would help the pain of being punched in the head form the inside, or at least give me a chance to live without feeling it. So I went back to bed. When I got up a few hours later I no longer felt like I was being punched in the back of my mouth, I felt like somebody was sticking me with a screwdriver in the back of my mouth. I was relieved, because I know that feeling well. That's the feeling I get from an ulcer back there. But it could be anywhere back there, from the side of my tongue to behind the nasal passages. So I took a look in the mirror. Sure enough, there's an ulcer there. But it's at a place I usually don't get them. It's on what used to be the root of my tonsils. Seeing that, I understood everything. It's making me feel like my whole tonsil has a giant ulcer. I've only had this happen once before, ten years ago, on the other side, right after my second myringotomy (no, I won't explain; look it up, learn a word, let the love spread, you groovy dudes).

The good thing is that I kill off the ulcers fast when I'm sick. So unlike last time, when I had it for a few days and then the doctor cauterized it for me, I rinsed it with a baking soda solution (it and the other three or four ulcers, including the one under my tongue that is not notable except that today whiel examining it I disocvered how to squirt saliva out of the ducts under my tongue) and it's already getting better.


13 December 2005

It's Brick!

And I like it.

12 December 2005

Socialization Cents

When I talk to people who are skeptical of or don't like homeschooling, the discussion usually goes to socialization and homeschooled kids. And quite frankly, I'm baffled by it.

Problem 1: Invariably nobody I meet who says homeschooled students are poorly socialized points to studies on the subject so that I can look up the information. They give the infamous "There are studies that show..." without a clue as to which studies, by who, done when, or they give the results of their own study, which contains the obviously non-representative sample of one or two people they know. This sort of trickery raises my eyebrows just a little. It makes for good debating, as exacmples add authoritative weight onto a statement, but debating is about rhetoric, not truth. I'm looking for the truth, not just to win or lose a debate, so I'd like really prefer numbers and such. And the fact that I sometimes am the anecdote is flattering, although I'm just plain abnormal. Walk around in any physics or math department and you'll find plenty of people like me who were not homeschooled. It wasn't my education that did it.

Problem 2: Nobody I meet who questions the socialization of homeschoooled students can answer one quesiton that I pose. Childhood is a short period of life that prepares little people to be what they are for most of their normal lifespan, adults. As adults, we spend our time interacting with people of all ages. What benefits in learning to interact with people of all ages does a child get from spending a lot of time in a classroom with many children of almost the same age but would not get from spending a lot of time interacting with people of all ages? I'd like to know.

Problem 3: Few people who I meet seems to knwo about the the studies that show that homeschooled children are better socialized. An HSLDA survey of a few thousand adults who were homeschooled found some interesting things about homeschooled adults compared to the general public: they are more involved in community work than the general population, they are more civicly involved, they are more willing to let people speak against religion, they are employed and educated, and they are happier. There's hardly a socialization problem in sight there, although these are sruvey results so people who dogmatically disagree will ignore them without guilt.

So what of third party studies? I can't give you a full list of the studies that have found homeschooled students to be well socialized, but I can point to a few. There's Larry Edward Shires' doctoral thesis "Comparison of Social Adjustment Between Home and Traditionally Schooled Students"
(University of Florida, 1992) which found homeschooled students to be better behaved and completely social. Thomas Smedley did research that found homeschooled students blew away traditionally schooled students on the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, a staple for developmental studies people. And here are a few more-- Ray's "Review of Home Education Research" (The Teaching Home, 1989.); Schemmer's "Case Studies of Four Families Engaged in Home Education," (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Ball State University, 1985); Rakestraw's "An Analysis of Home Schooling for Elementary School-Age Children in Alabama" (doctoral dissertation, University of Alabama 1987); Reynolds' "How Home School Families Operate on a Day-to-Day Basis: Three Case Studies" (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Brigham Young University 1985). You can find things by J Gary Knowles, too.

(Scientists, remember that although scientists use peer-reviewed journals to disseminate information, educators are not so strict. In other words, just because it wasn't published in a journal doesn't mean that it wasn't any good. In education, as in much of the social science world, books and theses are not inferior to journal work.)

Problem 4: There are some researchers who go beyond the problem of what happens to students when they are homeschooled or in traditional schooling and into what the problems are for society when the conscientious remove their student from traditional schooling. A major result-- i
f the group leaving the schools were bad, the schools would get better, but the group leaving is good, the schools are getting worse. This discussion in itself isn't a problem; it's a good thing. But I hate it when people who are talking about the former bring up the latter, simply because this research clearly depends on having already determined which group is academically and socially better. Even though it's an important thing to consider, brining it up destroys your case that homeschoolers are in some inferior because the validity of the research depends on your being wrong. Yet this doesn't seem to stop people from heading down that path.

Just my two cents.

More From The Chorus Boy

The Chorus Boy has sung the second round for the year. We had Christmas Vespers services/concerts today. My dad, along with my kid brother (who was very well behaved, sister and mom will be glad to know), was up to be my transportation. Mom was going to come, but she's sick. So am I, a nice cold, but not terribly bad except at night and in the morning.

Highlights of the evening--

The nice part about being in the choral union is that I got to spend a lot of time sitting back and listening to the crazy undergrad kids sing all their stuff. The choir guys sang Biebl's "Ave Maria" which I had heard was beautiful but that I had never actually heard before. It was, for me, ear sex. (Chanticleer, I was told today, has an excellent recording) Also sung by the crazy kids was Poulenc's "O Magnum Mysterium" followed directly by Sametz's "Gaudete." That Sametz guy... for some reason his stuff appears everywhere in the choral music sung at my school. At least it's decent. Heck, Beethoven and Handel didn't write anything that's making my highlight list. Also of note was Ladysmith Black Mambazo's "King of Kings," which I found most interesting. Not as pretty as the Biebl, but nice harmonies. Sitting behind the basses, the bass lines came to my ears strongly in all of those songs, and it sounded good that way. It's nice to get such a close seat to hear such good music.

I got to eat at Denny's with dad, wife and brother between the two concerts. That was fun. My brother and I got to chat for a few minutes, and on a day that I was really busy it was nice to sit down and give him some attention to let him know that I'm not ignoring him and making him feel included. I got to wear a tuxedo to Denny's, which was fun. And I had the new buffalo chicken sandwhich. That's top notch stuff, people. Having a cold, I was thuroughly decongested for a while by the spice. This decongesting helped me sing the full rounds of the male voice. A lot of the stuff we sang was written for one bass part, but some had two, and I sang the low part at one concert and the high part at the second. By the final piece in the final concert my voice was well neigh shot but my sinuses were clear, so I made a run at the tenor part. I didn't have their exact music, but it worked out okay. It was a double canon and the bass part had the tenor music in the first half when there is no bass to be sung. Canons are logically structured, so putting it together wasn't hard.

Fire. They let me play with fire in a historic church building. We had lit candles for the processional and recessional. I had to let go of my pyromaniacal tendancies and not volunteer to have matches or a lighter, although we could have used someone about where I was standing. And I was quite happy to pinch my candle's wick. Don't read anything into that. Whenever I want to display snuffing out candles with my fingers, I usually get stopped by everyone around me. I'll admit I blew out the candles tonight, but we don't want to make a big cloud of choking fumes (like the one over southern England today, only a bit smaller) so the wick needed a good pinching to get it completely out.

The Chorus Boy is now going to sleep. Anyone who wants to sing Beethoven's Missa Solemnis in April has until January 16 to decide whether to join. Also, on January 13, our crazy undergrad kids are heading to Gotham to sing at Lincoln Center with the University Glee Club of New York City.

09 December 2005

Poor Car :(

For those of you who are friends with our car, I have sad news. Sylvia, that's the car, seems to have a nearly dead transmission. I say nearly dead because she works fine for a few miles (two to three) and then over the next few miles her condition slowly degrades from not shifting from first to second without coaxing to only shifting into first from neutral to then simply not working. The torque converter gets all whiney and does not lock. So I'll be able to limp her to a repair facility, but no more.

Replacing the whole car is not an option, as this car is the cornerstone of a two-car system in planning. And she's a nice car with an engine has been running well and is in very good health (not excellent anymore, but still very good) so her only real risk in the next year is an accident, which is a risk to any car anyway. (Some of you might remember that I threw fits about a valve gasket replacement a few months back. No, I'm not forgetting that. My wife did some calculations that made me change my mind then, and its still changed.)

Now I just need to figure out whether it would be better to take her to the people who will gut and rebuild her transmission or to the people who will simply replace it. And soon, since it's the only car we have and thus needs to be fixed.

Local friends who wish to exchange rides for food should know that they will not be violating trade sanctions.

08 December 2005

Goodbye, Bus

I'm currently listening to Midweek from Radio 4 (yes, it's a very English sort of evening), and the show is covering a piece of music called "Requiem for the Routemaster," written to mark this week's end of service for the famous and much loved mode of public transit. There are many people up in arms (what arms Brits have, anyway) about the new busses, which are the same dreadful things we americans suffer with-- the big boxes and the bendy busses.


The Secret Santa

The Secret Santa present is now ordered from Amazon UK and should, within a few days, be heading to a place near the sea in Hampshire. I went over the price limit by £2, but I'm saving a good bit over buying the same thing here and shipping it across the pond, so what the hey. There's enough money left over to send a Christmas card, which I might do.

I was quite lucky to get a santee who I know, so I knew exactly what sort of things to look for.
Finding said sort of things was difficult, though. The Perfect Gift (think signed Pennsbury Pottery in a rare form; the real deal, not some copy), which I couldn't get both because it was well over double the maximum price and because I don't actually have that kind of money to spend, would have been about $25 to buy here and $20 air mail parcel post, plus customs forms. (The USPS people, I have heard, get all freaky if you send things to the UK without knowing the recipient's telephone number. It might just be that the Royal Mail gets all freaky on them, but in any case it's a hassle.) In the end, I found something satisfactory.

The best news, though, is that after spending the last two hours thinking in pounds and pence, I can now get back to good old dollars and cents. At least pounds and pence aren't as troublesome as the old system of pounds, shillings, and pence, which was one place where the Brits were years behind us in converting to a metric (powers of ten) system.

07 December 2005

The Research Front

Good News: I finally got the simulation to do what it should do...

Bad News: but I did it using a function that is nothing like the one I actually need to check.

I'll spare you the technical details.

Grump.

06 December 2005

Christmas Lights

I know people who feel various ways about Christmas lights. Likewise, I know people who feel various ways about deer.

Those that think both are an abomination should enjoy this stunning display of the joy of hunting for Christmas light displays.

Thanks to A.R. at Ship-of-Fools, who directed us to this marvel.

04 December 2005

Christmastime Sux: part alpha

This is the part of the show where I would tell you all about all of

How much my research sucks right now
How much I hate shopping at this time of year
How kind the vermin-on-the-street (a.k.a. other drivers) were today
How tired I am of our car losing oil
How I'm ticked off that my research has kept me from going on a walk
How much I hate my underactive bladder (if you don't know, don't ask)
How much I loathe "Jingle Bell Rock"

except that I don't have time. So let me stick to Jingle Bell Rock.

This song is overplayed and inane. I hate it. It's one of the only things I hate about this time of year. I hear that little bit of the melody twanging away on teh guitar at the beginning of the song, and I just cover my ears and want to cry.

Do jingle bells really snow and blow up bushels of fun? Nope, they make tinkly sounds makes me need to leave the vacinity and, sometimes, urinate. What the frick is a jingle hop? Jingle bells dance and prace? Screw that! What in the Sam Hill is a jingle horse? Oh, I know-- it's a singing horse, the one singing this song as I defficate into my undergarments.

Bah, humbug!

And so on.

Peter, if you'd like to volunteer some poetry services on no comission (I can't offer money, but maybe a cheesecake and a bottle of something when you next visit), I could use an alternate set of the "Jingle Bell Rock" lyrics and assorted negative poetry on the subject so that I can set them all to a horrible minor key improvement to the music (what could be worse, really?) and make a whole nasty "Don Juan Triumphant" meets "The Sorochintsy Fair" style suite called something like, say, "Night on Jingle Bell's Rocks." I will turn into a nutty composer and make it my life work. We won't be able to publish it for a few decades, copyrights and all, but I would be so satisfied just knowing it exists.

02 December 2005

Firefox 1.5

I'm adding a Firefox button to the sidebar. Now all of you with old versions of the browser have no excuses.

Big Oil

A few weeks ago I watched a very interesting episode of "NOW" on PBS. For the unfamiliar, this program has nothing to do with the National Organization for Women. It's a weekly news show that started airing as a one hour show with Bill Moyers in early 2003 (I think) and is now a half hour show with David Brancaccio (in 2004 they both were on the air).

Anywa, the episode was, in part, about oil companies and whether they are responsible for the oil price surges after hurricane Katrina. The Transcript of the program is here, and if you poke around the website you can get streaming video or MP3 versions of the show.

I won't make any comments on it, I'll just let you read/listen/watch it for yourselves.

I Was Pissing By Your Coffee....

Have you ever had any fun playing with inserting words from one language into another? For example, I once got a native French speaker nearly rolling around on the floor with glee after the following conversation:

Me: "Je veut pisser sur son bureau."

He: "Pisser? En anglais...?"

Me: "It means 'to piss.'"

Anyone have any other good ideas?

But please not the whole "What Christmas song is that?" "It's Stille Nacht" "No, it's still a song-- but what song is it?" gag. Almost as overused as the broccoli-napkin bit....

Kudos to whoever recognizes the source of the post title.

01 December 2005

Fat Butts and Other Tails

After getting up at the crack of dawn's butt and then holding vigil over my e-mai linbox awaiting The Advisor, the abstracts have been successfully sent. Very good thing. If accepted, and we can't see why they wouldn't be, I'll have one oral presentation and one poster. I will wear no tie. Worst of all, though, I will have to get work done by March. But The Advisor told me today that my progress in grad school was coming along "exteremly well" and I always trust the wise over myself.

While Listening to Francis Cabrel's song "Samedi soir sur la terre" tonight, I realized that I had a long unlistened to (pardon my grammer) CD of Beethoven's "Ghost" and "Archduke" piano trios. I'm currently listening to that CD. I don't see teh connection that my mind made between the two, although on that Cabrel album there is a rather morbid song. I first heard the Ghost Trio in the soundtrack of the movie "Immortal Beloved" during a morbid part.

Today I spent a few hours catching up on "News of the Weird." There as an interesting mention of a scientific analysis of the forces involved in cow tipping. I'd link to it but I'm lazy.

I think that my health is taking a turn for the worse. I'm gaining weight. This is probably related to my stopping exercise. During the Very Wet Month (October, for non-locals) I lost my habit of wallking. During the Fricking Hot Month (November) I didn't feel like dealing with sweating all over myself in 50 degree, humid air every evening. Not walking, I'm also not doing any dumbell exercises either. So I've got to get that back together lest I die of diabetes and high blood pressure. Heck, my blood sugar and pressure are bad enough when I exercise. It's no wonder I've been feeling like crap for the past month.