My Zunivers

31 December 2007

Internet Anonymity and Big Mouths

I have more to tell about Christmas, but I want to change the subject for a post. Recently, I've been pondering staying anonymous on the internet, and I had a thought.

I know some people on some internet forums who don't want people to know their real names, or where they live, or that sort of thing. The depressing fact is that many of them give those things away anyway. It's really easy to leave two or three clues and leave someone else one step away from figuring out something about you. For example, I visit some internet forums where a number of people don't want anyone to know where they live. They are in fact quite harsh about this, stressing their own persona safety and how they dont' want to attract stalkers and such. Even so, I've been able to identify the towns that some of them live in. Why? Geography, general knowledge, and elimination.

You live in a town that smells like chocolate, has an amusement park with a zoo, and has a huge hospital and medical school nearby. And you're really familiar with the airport in Harrisburg. I have no idea where you live.

There's a town just west of you that re-enacts the running of the blob? You're at the end of the local commuter rail line? Your last name is Wayersnarzenfusle? No give aways there. Too bad you're not named Moyerwitzian to at least make the prank call a 50-50. How about a harder one?

You live on a mountain in a decently sized city, they make a big deal bout Christmas, there's a mid-sized university right by you and a better college right north over the river, you can see Blue Mountain-- the one with the ski area-- straight out your front door, and you can also see the closest airport, which you once said had its name changed from the names of the local cities to the name of the region you live in. Heh. I have no idea where you live. Must be in Michigan somewhere. Not. And since you operated rides at the local amusement park last summer, and you have a picture of yourself in your profile.... have you ever gotten the feeling that I could have found you if I wanted to? So much for whining about stalkers.

Of course, I'm not even looking to follow these people around. I'm just rememebring stuff. The stuff triggering me only does so because I'm a Pennsylvania local. People from, say, California aren't going to probably have enough of a clue to know what you're talking about and add it all up, but locals with a memory can get a good idea from one or two facts. Heck, once I only needed three clues once to determine that someone lived two houses away from the main intersection in Bechtelsville. Locals can do that sort of things. And there's the key-- if you do pick up some stalker, a local person is a more real threat than someone from, say, California. Sure, you have to be pretty sick to go from California to Pennsylvania just to stalk someone, and someone that sick is pretty darned scary. That's missing a bigger point, though. Someone who already lives near you only needs to be a hair across the threshold of insanity to make your life miserable.

I make no illusions in mind that random readers of this blog can't figure out who I am. I am glad that you humor me and don't post my name and address all over. But if you want to keep your own life a secret, you'd better be really, really careful about geography, weather, local economics, and all that sort of thing. Just a few words and your neighbor could have you figured out.

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28 December 2007

The Weekend Before Christmas II

Sunday was a good day. As much as I don't like my wife's parents' church, I kind of like my wife's parents' pastor. He's a really neat guy, and he always has interesting things to say in his sermons. We got to church so late that the sermon was about all we got.

That's about all that I remember from Sunday.


21 December 2007

In Which I Pull a Rooney

I need to knit something useful, like a sweater. I need it to be for me so I don't care if it sucks. Sweaters are the closest thing to a knit object that I might actually use. But do you know how much freaking yarn that takes? I do, and it is not pretty.

Never reveal to your wife that you have a backup supply of pacifiers. You'll be declared evil for not having disclosed sooner, like that time it took a whole fifteen seconds to find one lying around. Backup pacifiers are for when you really need them, not for keeping the pacifier density high enough that you can find one on nearly every surface. That would be slovenly.

Why don't we sing some of the good old hymns? It's not just my church, it's every church with the so-called "blended worship." Yeah, mature understanding of the concept of worship there. Worship means singing. Hopefully the music doesn't suck just as much. Oh, wait, it does. That's what I planned to complain about when I started this paragraph. Funny, that.

I can't figure out how to pass a user defined type to a function in C++ except by schlepping over a pointer. I know where to look, though.

"Schlepping" is in the Firefox spell checker as a real word. "Inbox" is not.

It's Christmas, not the holidays? Cry me a river. Last time I checked there is a nice concentration of major holidays going on. Maybe people who say "Happy Holidays" are doing it because they are absolutely correct and because you get upset? Do you really want your Christmas to be merry but your Hanukkah, Boxing Day, the end of Dhu l-Hijja, Sinterklaas, Feast of the Immaculate Conception, and New Year's Day to just suck? I think not! Please.... Next thing I know you'll think Christianity is a relationship not a religion, as if it can't be both.

My kid is a morning kid, and that really annoys me. Next thing you know she's going to be an optimist. It just never gets better.

Yahoo Mail asked me for my password when I signed out. Apparently my time between password checks was up during the seven seconds between going back to the inbox and clicking to sign out.

I bought a pound of fruitcake yesterday and ate most of it. The thing was only 1600 calories. My wife wouldn't even try it-- "It smells nasty." People really need to get over fruitcake. There are many worse things in this world pretending to be foods, like asparagus, caviar, and jarred spaghetti sauce. If there was a moral high ground to be had, people who don't like fruitcake but have never eaten it are below those of us who have actually eaten everything we don't like to eat.

A streetsweeper sighting occurred earlier this week in a parking lot in the middle of the night. I drove by it slowly so I coudl watch the brushes spin. It was marvelous!

I can't get anything done. At all. I have no motivation because I have no challenge. Challenges of course involve consequences that threaten to cut off my food supply; challenges have nothing to do with how hard the work is. I work on what bad might come, not on what good might come. I'll only work for good if it will come. Contrary to common opinion, this isn't laziness. It's a finely tuned task selection filter.

I've got this bad habit of chewing on things. At the conference I turned a coffee stirrer into a two and a half foot rope using only my teeth. I really need to stop doing this sort of gross and disgusting stuff.

I am pretty sure that I'm not a fan of Christmas letters. What ever happened to "thinking of you this holiday season only because you're in my address book" cards from last decade's clearance rack, complete with a badly drawn Nativity or something else on the yellowing front that you would never let your mother know you gave away? I don't think my problem is that sender-life-focused Christmas letters do just as little as a cheap card to make me feel warm and fuzzy. I'm not in it looking for something more for me. I think my problem is that the snapshot of life portrayed on one page, even in a small font, just doesn't usually get far beyond superficial. I want to be deep with people. "Better to give then to receive" is about the only solid conclusion I can come to on this matter.

I'm fattening up my fish for his fast. Hopefully he'll be alive when I return.

I get to drive for three hours tomorrow. Actually, more. Oh what fun it is to drive a Dodge sedan all daaa-aaay! And what does the other song say? "You should never give a license to a man who drives a sleigh and plays with elves." Yeah, that about sums it up. Considering how much gas costs and how bad it is for nature, I have way too much fun driving. I can do it for hours. If the traffic is light, I love every minute of it. If the traffic is bad, I complain the whole time I'm in the car and miss my seat as soon as I get out.

I bought exactly one Christmas gift so far this year. Yeah, that's how motivated I am these days.

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20 December 2007

Bad Congress!

I wanted to tell everyone that congress passed an omnibus budget bill and increases in science funding increases were pretty much left out. This doesn't surprise me, though.

I was talking to an astronomer a few weeks back who demonstrated to me that politicians aren't really that far ahead of scientists in the race for how not to make sense of science policy. I pointed out to this astronomer that congress was screwing science funding in favor of a lot of more expensive government expenditures, and that science areas like astronomy, with no "useful" application, are often first to the chopping block even though they are cheap compared to a lot of government spending. The response was that astronomy is actually extremely expensive compared to other things the government does. Finding this curious, I asked how that was figured. The answer-- per scientist, astronomers get more NSF money than any other funded branch of science. I had to hold back from giggling and rolling my eyes that someone with a PhD was evaluating how expensive part of the national budget is based only on how much of one organization's budget individual spenders use!

Science isn't cheap. NSF wanted a boost by $600M to about $7.8B, for example. NIH currently uses up about $28B a year. DOE wants $25B, and NASA uses around $17B. That $75B or so, which covers a lot of non-defense research in this country that leads to a lot of good things for everyone, sounds massive until you consider that the total federal budget exceeds $2,500B. Yeah, that's trillions, which are thousands of billions, which are millions of millions. A few billions here and there don't sound too bad, do they? You can find lots of things on the level of "only" millions or billions of dollars that could be canned so that the money given over to basic research. Get half the current troop level out of Iraq, for example. Cut out the tens of billions of dollars in pork (that has made the new budget larger than the one Bush rejected as too excessive earlier in the year). A hundred million for next year's abstinence-only sex education-- a sex education method that does not work-- can fund a pretty good looking space probe, a very nice supercomputing center, or pay a year's stipend for all of this year's graduating physics PhD students.

I guess what you make of it comes down to your preferences. If you don't see the value of science, you won't think the government should be spending 3% of your tax money on it. But even if you do see the value of science, if you don't see where the other 97% of the government's money is going then I don't know how you will be any better off.

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19 December 2007

Kindergarten Got You Down?


Bring on the twerps!

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18 December 2007

Conference Round-Up

I went to a conference this weekend, and it was a bit of fun. I've griped when surrounded by boring people at a lot of conferences, but this conference generally has a good number of people who are willing to chit-chat about something other than science.

The lowlight of the weekend was my school colleagues. Oh boy, do I have a pile to say about them. I'll give the short version without the cursing.

These people went to the conference because the adviser told them to go. They hate conferences more than just about anything else. They complain at conferences. A lot. My fun gets damped a good bit when I'm surrounded by people who won't do anything but complain, especially when they won't leave me alone to go talk to other people. I mean, I've often thought that 80% of the talks and 100% of the people at some conferences were boring, but I never took it upon myself to constantly be asking whoever is in charge of our merry band (which is apparently me these days, cursed implicit leadership abilities) why we can't leave. I go do something else. If I don't want to go do something else because it's cold outside, I suffer. Seriously. When someone who does catch me alone wonders why I've been spending so much time with those people who have been loudly complaining about how bored they are all day (who I emphasize have been following me around, not vice versa), I know there's a serious problem. Luckily I can invoke my adviser's name-- everyone over thirty-five at this conference either knows him or has heard of him-- and redeem our school's reputation.

On a positive note, I got to hear lectures by some really smart people. And I got to learn a whole bunch of crap. And I got to have some fun during the times when my complaining colleagues were not with me. I met some cool people. I took N copies of my resume with me, in case there was someone who would want one, and came back with N copies of my resume. I did talk to a couple of people who already have them, though. That was good times. Actually, it was nerve crushing, but still. I've got no good prospects, but I've got prospects that might open up. Oh, goody-- possibilities for possibilities. Welcome to my life.

Actually, I figured out why I've been having difficulty getting a postdoctoral job, and a strategy to go after it. Identifying the problem was in part due to talking to people who have postdoctoral positions. What my problem comes down to is that I need to change research focus pretty dramatically at point along the normal science career track where that is an unlikely thing to have happen. My field of research has basically dried up. My own work is something of a "proof of absurdity" on the whole matter. We're at the point where we can't get papers into journals because the work arguably is of no interest. That means that I can't find a job doing what I've been doing.

At the same time, at my career point it's very hard to get a job doing something you really haven't been doing. There are more people applying for jobs than there are jobs. It's a buyer's market, so to speak. You can find someone who does anything rather quickly. Lots of hiring people have specific work, or at least work in a rather narrow range, and they need to hire people to get it done to keep their own jobs. That makes many employers hesitant to take someone based only on their potential to do work. Why hire potential and hope it grows when you can hire experience? (I've been working on a whole rant on what "experience" is and why it's so sad we need to take it seriously. Sometime soon, maybe.)

So, I need to find not only something to do, but I need to find someone willing to take a risk on my potential rather than my expertise. I've probably talked about this before, so it's not supposed to be new, but when I talked about it before it was all an idea. I've talked to enough other people to know now that it's true.

So, yeah, that was my weekend.

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Christmas Music

As promised, I have some things to say about Christmas music. I need to be frank about it from the beginning. Most of the Christmas music from the Proverbial American Christmas Songbook just sucks. It sets the festive tone for Christmas the way John Tesh sets the romantic tone at dinner-- the mood comes for people who don't know better.

Anyway, I've got a few sections here. I'm giving you a few reasons why Christmas music at church can suck, the best Christmas songs that decent radio is likely to play, and the seven worst Christmas songs. I'll also include a few notes on some other songs.

4 Reasons Why Churches With Bad Music Should Skip Christmas
Did I say earlier soemthing about reasons why church Christmas music sucks? I meant to say "examples." The reason is sucky musicians, be it composition or performance.

We Three Kings
Parodied too much by kids (e.g. "We three kings of oil and tar, smoking on a rubber cigar, it was loaded and exploded, scattering bodies faaa-aaaar! Check inside the humidor. Is there just one stogie more? Can we get some like that last one as our present for the poor?"), this song promotes the idea that the magi were from the orient. Before we know it we'll be hearing sermons from English major pastors full of facts picked up at the Christian bookstore about how pseudoscience tells us what the star was... oh spare me!

THAT song
You know, that one from the 1970's about how they saw the star and rejoiced with great joy? This song is worse than all 83 verses of Sing Hallelujah sung by people in polyester clothes and thick rimmed glasses sitting around the campfire. Along with basically every church Christmas "cantata" (the song I'm thinking of came in one of those) this song as I know it is a shining example of what Robert Hines meant when he wrote that basically no serious choral music is written for recorded accompaniment. I'm ashamed to admit that, before defecting from the church youth choir when I was in high school, I sang this crap.

Once in David's Royal City
You just won't sing it if the music is bad. Unless you're Anglo-Catholic maybe. Is that one even in their hymnals? Anyway, considering the mutilation done to music in many churches, skipping this one is for the better. The song deserves the dignity of being ignored over the indignity it would otherwise get. The same should be said of O Holy Night, O Little Town of Bethlehem, and O Come All Ye Faithful, but can't. Those have been mutilated beyond repair already.

Angels We Have Heard on High
My church has bad music. Every year someone at my church makes a crack or two about how hard it is to sing through the Glorias in this carol. Every year I want to make a crack or two in the heads of the musicians who take this song at half speed and make it impossible to sing through the Glorias. At the real tempo I can sing the whole fracking refrain on two lazy breaths. The way my church sings it, I'd swear it was Good Friday and the music director died. You, know, that gets me thinking....

7 Best Christmas Songs You'll Ever Hear on Decent Radio
Decent here means, of course, those stations that are willing to put substance about style. Few are, which is why we end up with the Proverbial American Christmas Songbook in the first place.

Christmas At Ground Zero
1989 classic from Weird Al, a parody of Party at Ground zero. You'll go nuclear over this one.

I Saw Daddy Kissing Santa Claus
Trust me, this one isn't really about what you might first think from the title. Well, not the version I'm thinking of. There are more.

Here's Your Sign Christmas
Highlighting stupidity at Christmas. Entertaining every time you hear it.

Grandma got Run Over By a Reindeer
This one is great because, for me, it was one of those stories that for years I hoped would come true. It's also kind of sad that my prayers still have not been answered.

I Farted on Santa's Lap (Now Christmas is Gonna Stink for Me)
My wife hates this song for the reason I love it. Bathroom humor makes any holiday more realistic. And frankly it's nice to know that Santa's got a few tricks up his own colon.

The Chimney Song
Santa meets the fate we wish upon Bert when we watch Mary Poppins. Well, like when I watch Mary Poppins, anyway.

Dang It I'm Vixen
Vixen laments Rudolph's good plays in North Pole stable politics, and how she has no song of her own. Vixen gets angry. Fun ensues.

7 Worst Christmas Songs Ever
There are many more bad ones, but these top all. Or should we say bottom?

Carol of the Bells
Too many people use this one to try to sell me stuff. It's catchy at first, but then it drags your ear into a pit and never lets it go.

White Christmas
Frankly, I've had very few white Christmases. I'd like to have more, and I do dream of them. They involve a much better soundtrack, though-- one that keeps me awake. I'm dreaming of this song sung as a trio with Sean Paul, Celine Dion, and Charlie Daniels. That might improve it.

Wonderful Christmas Time
There isn't anything particularly bad about this song except that it screams '80s pop. You do realize that I can't say something worse about a piece of music unless I use the words "rap" or "hip-hop," right?

Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey
Pathetic enough that my sister and I sing it to make sure that when one of us is dealing with it we both need to deal with it. That should tell you something.

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
No, no it's not. Bethlehem has had the Christmas trees tied to the lightposts since early November. Back in September Wal-Mart was trying to sell me overpriced Christmas tat made by slave labor in Godless commie countries, so it's been looking a lot like Christmas since three months ago. If I hear this song again soon it'll begin to look a lot like my fist in someone's head.

The Christmas Shoes
Some selfish twit learns the true meaning of Christmas from seeing a poor kid not have enough money to buy something for his dying mommy. I'm sure the same twit drove like an idiot and nearly killed people on the way home from the mall, too. You see, the only people who listen to sentimental garbage like this are people who don't need to hear it. In fact, I wish they'd hear less of it, because people with enough taste to skip the cat sweatshirts don't listen to garbage like this either.

Jingle Bell Rock
What in Sam Hill is a jingle horse, and why should I care if it kicks up its feet? The opening guitar riff in this banal, crappy, overplayed piece of **** is enough to launch me into a stereo shredding rage.


Three Wise Men and a Baby
Episode 51 of the Christian kids radio show Jungle Jam, this thing is a real hoot. One of the wise men is named Binky! You've got to love it. This episdode has been re-released as part of the collection "Even Wilder Times In God's Creation." Also available as a bootlegged performance split track CD. THe script is online for free, if you look around for it.

Bethlehem, PA
Logan Daniels tells a heart-warming story about a trucker who gets a miracle on Christmas eve so that he can get to St. Luke's to see his new kid. Having been to St. Luke's for the same reason, I can say that such a miracle is worthwhile. The ony reason this song doesn't make my seven best list is because we're never told what exactly happened to the truck.

Silent Night
This should always be sung in German. Period.

Mary Did You Know...
...that your baby's birth would one day be song fodder? I doubt it. You should get a pass to come back and beat people for this one. Only off the bad list because... well... competition is incredibly fierce for that list.

Do They Know It's Christmas
All the annoyance of '80s pop, but with more meaningful words. We can't have all the '80s pop on the bad list because we need room for stuff that sucks from other genres.

Silver Bells
Would be on the list of losers except that it was recorded by Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop. I sing it out of key on purpose every time I hear it.

Rudolph Drank the Moonshine
Bluegrass classic about what happened when ol' Rudy got tipsy. Only off the top list because of how tight the competition is.

The Christmas Song
You know, the one about the chesnuts roasting on an open fire? This one would make the bad list except that Twisted Sister put it on their Christmas album. White Christmas gets no such pass. So there.

The Dream Isaiah Saw
Glenn Rudolph and Thomas Troeger come together in a way that makes most people say "Ummm... who are they?" The answer, of course, is to get yourself a strong choir and a brass ensemble so you can find out for yourself. I found this song by accident about a year ago, and I'm glad I did. It's one of my favorite choral works of all time, because I find it more moving than most music I've ever heard. That it is also a Christmas song makes me smile.

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14 December 2007

Things I WIsh People Would Realize

To go skiing, I need pure snow. Skis do not work because snow is made of ice and ice is slippery. Sheet ice or other ice like sleet are just slippery, but skis are controlled by the way they stick to or dig into the snow. Skis work because snow is structured and has properties that make it slippery or sticky in different conditions (including under different loads). As for how much snow I need, I say that need three to eight inches of snow because different types of snow have different properties and so are needed in different depths. I need less than a small fraction of an inch of ice lurking under the snow. Heavy ice over light snow could break, leading to skis sinking into the snow, catching the ice, and breaking. This is more a concern for fat people like me who can't get skis suitably large to float our weight in powder.

I am not a teacher. Please stop asking me why I haven't gotten a job teaching high school-- they will not let me because I am not a Teacher. Frankly, I don't want to be one. I can and will teach college students, and that is what I have done in the past. And many teachers I know point out that I can't be a teacher even if I do jump through the hoops. I don't have patience for the younger demographic in a classroom. A classroom is much different from situations like church or camp, where I get along with kids just fine. If you want to know about classrooms, I'll give you references. If you can work in one, I know where you can learn science.

Please stop thinking that because I have no permanent job I sit around all the time. I do no more of nothing now than I did before. Doing science, I don't just say "Last paycheck, research over for now, give me more money if you want more work." Scientists get non-paycheck rewards for what they do, like published papers and more expertise. For example, I know C++ ten times better now than two weeks ago because I was looking for a way to make writing this one kind of research simulation easier. I could have found the method by asking around, but I'm better off for having looked into it on my own because of all the other stuff I learned and will be able to use now and later. If all you do for your paycheck is count beans, by all means watch TV instead of counting beans when you don't get paid. If you do what I do and work on developing new methods to count beans, you need to keep working whenever possible lest you drift from bean counting methods to bean counting. If this sounds absurd, you are or should be a bean counter. I won't hold it against you unless you keep asking me why I'm not a teacher.

My baby is better than yours.

I don't need to have weeks at church when I am there but I am not running the audio rig. If you're fond of saying that we don't need more advanced sermons or better Sunday School teachers because Christians, once more advanced in spiritualized years, should be self-learning, and if you're the one who makes the schedule and wants people to have the time in church on Sundays instead of ministering, and you don't even realize that there are some ministries where that is a false dichotomy because one can fully participate in worship while doing some ministries, you need help.

If you think rainbows and butterflies are beautiful parts of God's creation, you should think twice about complaining about clouds and snow. God made those too, you know. I'm hard pressed to see how the world was "very good" instead of "perfect" because God realized there would be winter in the temperate zones. And fellow Christians, do us all a favor by not saying the weather is miserable when you're the one who is miserable about the weather. You get months of the year when you're content with the weather and some of us are miserable, or would be if we let such trivialities get to us. Rather than ruining winter for those of us who like it you could even shut your corn hole and keep your misery to yourself. Take it up with the Guy Upstairs who made that weather, not with me. Of course, if you aren't wanting to vent and you really are just down and want a pick up-- I know this does happen-- please feel free to share that you're blue. I've got a sack of dirty jokes bigger than... um... let's not go there until you need it.

I am applying for jobs, but I'm no longer telling anyone where. I'm tired of people who I never talked to about any potential jobs coming up to me and saying they're sorry to hear that I did not get some particular job, naming it by name even though I never told them a thing about it. How the freak? This is especially annoying coming from people who don't understand the nature of finding jobs like what I'm looking for, because I know most of the people who are talking to me think I stopped by the kiosk at customer service or something. All told, I'm not willing fodder for you people's gossip machines. If you don't respect that, I might just have to turn your machine against you. I'm really good at social engineering. Ask any of the people who I've convinced to have conversations with my stuffed lion. Incidentally, social engineering for one's own gains is often referred to as "manipulation." Please let me keep my dignity and not have to resort to doing that to you. I'd like to keep my skills working in positive ways.

I'm about this close to removing Mike Huckabee's picture from my blog. You didn't see the space, did you? That's how small it is. For those of you who have been harassing me about Huckabee being a creationist, your pitch has been heard but I can't take the man's belief on origins my single issue any more than I could take anything else as a single issue. It's a tick on the "cons" box, which is all it should be. (And thank you to those who have been nice enough to simply point out that Huckabee is a creationist to make sure that I know instead of harassing me about it like some people.)

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Customer Honesty

I was thinking about this because I have a friend who works in LP for a company, and I'm overdue to give him a phone call.

Anyone out there ever work in retail and still have delusions that people are inherently good? Are all those people who try to cheat just poor examples of a shining humanity, or are all the people who don't cheat the shining examples of poor humanity?

My bet is on the latter, but I'll still take your thoughts.

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13 December 2007

Snow Maps

Look at this cool toy!

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12 December 2007

Fortran Is Pretty

But maps of vectors of structs of vectors make C++ hott.

Of course, Fortran 95 is hot, too. I guess it comes down to whether you like fronts or backs, or which one you need for your intentions... or your computer's.


05 December 2007

One More On The Kid

The Kid gave me a nice hearty laugh today, brought on by the combination of being turned upside down, smacked in the face with her own feet, and tickled on the belly.

The hamster of human thought is clearly warming up inside her. Once it gets the wheel going, when she's 19 perhaps, she'll realize the indignity of being overturned, kicking herself in the face, and being tickled. Then she will stop laughing about it. By the end of adolescence she will be even more developed, possibly to the point where she will understand what is yellow and similar to choice.

But would that really be better?

Help! My baby is turning into a human! Ahhhhhhhhhh!

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04 December 2007

On The Kid

The kid is learning how to use her hands. Last week she spent a good bit of time trying to grab my hand, which was holding her upright on my lap, and shove it into her mouth. Daddy's hands always tase Interesting because daddy is always sticking his hands into interesting things, like crackers, cookies, candies, and other foods. The kid loves spicy stuff like hot peppers, as well as a lot of salty and mildly sweet things. Her tastes lean toward savory and spicy, which is fine with me.

Because leaning on something besides daddy's hands when sitting on daddy's lap is torture of the worst kind, because sitting on daddy's lap is a good time to chew things, and because daddy's hands cannot be chewed when supporting an infant torso, I picked up a set of teething rings. At first she did not know what to do with the teething rings, so upon finding them in her hands she would throw them on the floor. After showing her a few times that they can go into her mouth and make it taste like a well oiled injection molding machine, she knows exactly what to do with teething rings, even to the point of taking them out of my hand. The proper use, of course, leads her not-so-precise arms to smash the things into her eyes. In disgust after each failure, she throws the teething ring on the floor and refuses to hold it until she has forgotten about the incident. Quit after the first try-- that's my kind of kid. She got that from me. Neither of her parents knows when to quit anything, you see. I quit everything too early, but her mother quits everything far too late.

Yesterday, the kid pulled on her camel's toes. See, she has a camel toy hanging from her swing. The camel can be pulled out on its string, and then it vibrates as it sucks the string back in. The baby's goal is to get the camel's toes into her mouth. Of course, the child's accomplishment with the camel is being totally outweighed by how dirty this sounds, so I'll just talk about something else. The kid has a few other toys that she is learning. Tonight she was most of the way to figuring out how to get the elephant into her mouth. There is a matching lion, too. The ears of both are full of crinkly stuff and she will be delighted to chew on them. And even if they can't get into her mouth, the two toys both jingle happily. The main goal of any infant, however, is to get things into their mouths.

The ceiling fan has found some competition in the Christmas tree. The kid can't figure out whether to stare at the twirly whirly thing or the colorful flashy thing. I like the colors, myself, even if I can't tell you exactly what they are. The kid likes whichever one I point her toward.

The kid has become interested in visually investigating sources of sound. Various noises catch her attention, including the front door if mommy is not in the room. The kid is also learning good taste in music as we try to undo the influences of mommy's bad music like U2 and Paul Simon. A good listening session forgoes Graceland and All that You Can't Leave Behind in favor of a more sophisticated playlist. It's really all about some Poulenc, a little Holst, some Beethoven, and then Hometown singing "Dang It, I'm Vixen" before my sister and I perpetually cover the chorus of "Dominic the Italian Christmas Donkey." That, friends, is taste of the highest refining. After all, when you process petroleum it's the natural gas that floats.

Last night I went to bed early, like when my wife took the kid to bed to read. The kid spent a good bit of time looking at me with varying degrees of confusion and disgust. See, normally the kid goes to bed with mommy and magically wakes up to find daddy there sleeping. Her brain has no processing power to figure that I am only there in the morning because I went there sometime while she was asleep. Having me there at bedtime was thus a cross between something interesting and something vexing. Babies are, to borrow Jeff Vogel's word, dopey.

That's all I have to say about the kid right now, except that I hope she doesn't catch my cold.

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Monday Rant

I was going to write a nice post about the reasons why the United States deserves to be a third world country, but I've changed my mind. It's just too hard to explain why a country full of anti-intellectual, money grubbing, backbiting people really doesn't deserve prosperity. So I think I'll go read a book. Or take a nap. Or go to bed. Or write a post about the kid.

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02 December 2007


No, it's not Mel Gibson running around screaming in a skirt. It's this article.

Just go read it. It's funny.

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