Thursday, January 31, 2008

On Reading and a way to find your closest pubic library

Reading is fundamental. It is also a major push behind a lot of schooling initiatives.

But is reading in decline. I doubt it.

Reading literary works can surely be in decline but I think it is obvious that the reading environment has changed. A lot of people spend most of their days reading, but it is things like email, memos and the Web. For all the video and audio on the Web the vast majority of it is still text based. After spending so much time reading in a day it is no great surprise that the average person just doesn't want to read when they get home.

Of course, it doesn't help that something like 300 books a day are published, that is far more then anyone can keep up with and most of them just aren't all that good anyway.

We have over 6000 books in our collection most of which at least one of us have read, except for things like the cookbooks and other reference style books. We try to keep our On-hand To Be Read queue somewhat low though our Amazon wishlist is quite large.

I am part of that 17% group that likes to learn from books. Books condense years, decades, even centuries of learning into something you can springboard off of in a matter of hours. That is the greatest time saver ever and probably the highest return on investment you could ever make.

I like the idea of an ebook reader but they miss some important to me capabilities: Notetaking is important for anything other then fiction, linking to other books and articles and creating blog posts would be fantastic. I use books to synthesis ideas by combining ideas and fitting them together like a Tetris game. Sometimes I hit a paradox and it takes some thought to resolve in my mind somehow being about to write that down would be great.

I am hoping that the iPhone/iPod touch will get a ebook reader and good blog posting software after the SDK is released next month. That could really be useful.

Link roundup

Freed From the Page, but a Book Nonetheless

The Passion of Steve Jobs

Books are dead (long live books!) and part 2.

A way to find a public library

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Emergency preparation: N C H S - Where to Write home page

N C H S - Where to Write home page: "The links above are provided for those users who want direct access to individual State and territory information."

A handy site to find out how to get all kinds of important legal documents proving who you are. Best to have a copy before you need it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Emergency Preparation: Food: Cheeseburger in a Can is Both the Best and Worst Thing I've Ever Seen

Food: Cheeseburger in a Can is Both the Best and Worst Thing I've Ever Seen: "This is a cheeseburger. In a can. It's a cheeseburger in a can."

I love those crazy German engineers. I thought cheese in a can was pretty impressive. But a whole cheeseburger in a can is totally amazing.

Actually, this would be great to have in a kids 72 hour kit. They never like a lot of the well preserved foods but this is something much more familiar.

But can be useful in a car kit too.

Monday, January 28, 2008

education comments continued

The Dilbert Blog: Your Job When You Grow Up: "Yeah. I also remember watching the Bill Moyer's PBS series with Joseph Cambell telling us to follow our bliss, and the rest will follow. If only we were not programed to do what others want for us and learn to follow our hearts, the world would be a happier place."

Education videos

College students live 26.5hr days to make it through school.

via Johnnie Moore

Then there is this TED lecture that reasons through the systemic destruction of children's creativity.

We have to realize that schooling our children will not allow us to give them the lives we want them to lead.

I realize that the education my child needs is far different from what they can get in school. She needs to be feel the freedom within herself that it is okay to experiment and to fail. I feel the need to find out how the Greeks calculated the circumference of the earth and build steam engines and all kinds of things so she can watch and do it too.

We need more LEGOs.

LEGO Brick Timeline: 50 Years of Building Frenzy and Curiosities

LEGO Brick Timeline: 50 Years of Building Frenzy and Curiosities: "The LEGO brick turns 50 at exactly 1:58 p.m. today, January 28, 2008."

Ahh, LEGO is wonderful. I had a significant portion of the Space sets when I was a kid. I even setup a huge moonbase in the basement, with satellites strung from the ceiling and moonbuses of my own design moving between the various stations. It wasn't enough to build just a set but to combine sets into communities. It was great.

The wondrous thing about LEGO bricks is that they still fit with ones made 30 years ago and for the most part fit nice and tight so the models don't fall apart too easily. Can't say the same for many of the competitors.

LEGO can be seriously fun.

Funnily enough LEGO is the largest tire manufacturer in the world. And they have a production system so tight that only 18 out of 1,000,000 bricks are defective.

Beloved Church President, Gordon B. Hinckley, Dies at 97

We were at a Ham Face2Face last night discussing how to use our radios in response to emergencies when one of our group got a text message from his wife stating Pres. Hinckley had died.

It was shocking but not surprising, at 97 his was very old. We were glad for him to be back with his wife.

So the mantle passes to the most senior apostle, Pres Monson who will be sustained and set apart by the Twelve Apostles and sustained at the next session of General Conference in April. They will also call a new Apostle to fill the vacancy and one of them to be a counselor in the new First Presidency. Everything done in the Lord's order.

One of the most exciting parts of what Pres. Hinckley has done for us has been all the new temples built all over. It is a wonderful blessing to have one in our city, a place of peace and refuge from the noise of the world.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Get the Flick: Air Traffic Safety vs. Capacity

Get the Flick: Air Traffic Safety vs. Capacity: "Let me use our theoretical runway capacity of 60 planes per hour once again. Imagine if we could schedule it perfectly. Imagine if we had 60 airplanes per hour scheduled for every hour of the day. Then imagine if there was just one tiny glitch -- weather, a flat tire or an airport vehicle mistakenly wanders onto the runway. An arrival has to go around and make another attempt to land. Where do you find the extra slot for that aircraft ? Every slot is taken for every minute of the day. But the airplane must land or it will run out of fuel just like Avianca 052. That makes the decision easy for air traffic controllers. An arrival takes priority over a departure. They will use a departure slot for the arrival. Now the departures will be delayed for the rest of the day -- or in this theoretical case -- for eternity."

Money vs Safety
And this is different from Space Shuttle Challenger how?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Featured Windows Download: Update Windows from a CD with Offline-Update

Featured Windows Download: Update Windows from a CD with Offline-Update: "Windows only: Ever since every sysadmin's favorite offline Windows patching program AutoPatcher had the plug pulled on it by Microsoft, those without constant Internet access or looking to keep multiple Windows boxes up to date have been looking for a valid replacement."

This would be so very useful. I can't tell you how often I needed to waste a whole day waiting on huge pile updates to come down the pipe to update a refreshed computer.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Jobs praises NBC, Zucker returns the favor. Good news? - MacUser

Jobs praises NBC, Zucker returns the favor. Good news? - MacUser: "Today, however, gracing the pages of the Financial Times, NBC CEO Jeff Zucker had some kind words for Apple as well, and Steve Jobs in particular (free registration required). “We’ve said all along that we admire Apple, that we want to be in business with Apple.” Really? I guess I must’ve missed it in that speech where Zucker flat-out declared that Apple had “destroyed the music business”. Zucker didn’t seem to have much of a problem with “the destroyer” today though because he actually went on to say that “we’re great fans of Steve Jobs”."

So that split must have hurt a little bit.

jwz - PSA: backups

jwz - PSA: backups: "The universe tends toward maximum irony. Don't push it."

Words to compute by. via 43folders

Educating Leaders - No Conveyor Belt Education Here!

Educating Leaders - No Conveyor Belt Education Here!: "After reading A Thomas Jefferson Education, I realized that I was one of those who received this type of education. What do I mean by 'conveyor-belt' education? Oliver Van DeMille states there are three types of education."

We got a copy of an audio seminar of deMille's so I am researching it a bit.

Educating Leaders - No Conveyor Belt Education Here!

Educating Leaders - No Conveyor Belt Education Here!: "After reading A Thomas Jefferson Education, I realized that I was one of those who received this type of education. What do I mean by 'conveyor-belt' education? Oliver Van DeMille states there are three types of education."

We got a copy of an audio seminar of deMille's so I am researching it a bit.

The Lazy Organizer: Reading List

The Lazy Organizer: Reading List

Nice list of classics.

Weekend quick links

The Problem With Boys even more things wrong with the public schools.

Music Lessons Will they learn fast enough.

Digital Coaching Looks needed could be a career path.

The Sesame Street Presentation Rule after all the research that went into SS I would not be surprised if it was full of good ideas.

7 ways to research your freelancing market maybe useful for many kinds of markets.

Thinking Inside the “Little White Receipt Box" a neat way to keep communications lines open.

How to title stuff harder then it looks.

How the Electoral College keeps us safe I am sure the finer points of the math are lost on people but the important thing to remember is, it isn't the number of runs scored that wins the World Series, it is the number of games won; the hard ones and the easy ones.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Happy Birthday Benjamin Franklin!

Benjamin Franklin - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "Benjamin Franklin (January 17 [O.S. January 6] 1706 – April 17, 1790) was one of the most important and influental Founding Fathers of the United States of America."

He is one of my heros and is worth emulating in many ways.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Jobs, economists and stupidity

What to Expect When You’re Free Trading - New York Times: "All economists know that when American jobs are outsourced, Americans as a group are net winners. What we lose through lower wages is more than offset by what we gain through lower prices."

This is what the economist thinks of all the jobs that are being outsourced, he is also the guy who thinks more sex is safer too.

He is also a major poster child to the saying, "you manage what your measure." When you measure the wrong thing, what you manage will get you results you don't necessarily want.

He is probably looking at the GDP and employment numbers and inflation rate and the consumer price index. Those are really big and pretty abstract numbers. He plugs them into his models, all these things are mathematical models not reality, and sees what comes out.

He never stops to check to see if his numbers are matching up with what is really happening out there.
One consequence is an upending of the traditional pattern, in which middle-aged children take in an elderly parent. As $15-an-hour factory jobs are replaced by $7- or $8-an-hour retail jobs, more men in their 30s and 40s are moving in with their parents or grandparents

If your pay is cut by half to one-third of what it used to be, you have a serious problem. You might not be unemployed but you had to throw away your self-respect to take that fast food job. Your wife has taken a job or another job on. You not a well off DINK but a family with mom and dad working dual jobs and maybe even an older child adding to the family pot.

I don't know what he buys, but I know that gas and milk and bread and vegetables and cheese and even flour have gone up in price. The only thing that I see that consistently goes down in price are computers and electronics, but quite frankly I don't buy that kind of thing more then once in five years or so.

And it isn't limited to blue-collar work either.
The big problem is that the American workplace doesn't make technical jobs attractive enough. The pay is okay, but less than that of other professionals, like lawyers. And the working conditions for engineers and scientists are generally quite poor -- too much Dilbert, not enough Skunk Works. They act as if there's a positive conspiracy to take all the fun out of it, according several of my friends who work in the area.

I never saw anything beyond a keeping-up-with-inflation raise when I was in the engineering field. I used to design computers and now the only jobs out there for me seem to be computer support positions of the type I thought I had left behind in college. And when your backup skillset is being outsourced too, what then?

But it is even worse then that.
The tendency to denigrate the positions of those who actually make things work is endemic in the American business culture, which even after decades of supposed “streamlining” is top-heavy with a relatively useless management culture.

But you never here about the economic toll that is incurred because of this attitude, people who not just hate their jobs but are physically repulsed by them. So they turn to therapy, anti-depressants, alcohol, drugs, extreme sports or worse things.

“I’ve actually experienced the same kind of talk from my supervisor. And I don’t really blame her in the end, because she was just doing her job.”

Rico, you are absolutely right. She was a nice lady, and just trying to get me to fall in line, which, of course, is never too much to ask of an employee. It was my own fault that I wasn’t very good a job I couldn’t stand.

The economist says they are good things, money changing hands being paid to the psychologists and pharmacists, doctors and the like. But that is just the broken window fallacy. They are looking at the wrong numbers and so we may appear to be looking good on paper but in real life there are real problems. The only time we see past the numbers is when something tragic happens, like people going postal in the local school.

If you are measuring the wrong thing what you are managing will be mismanaged. I went to a self-employment workshop last week and it was pretty good, we discussed one of the major reasons that businesses go under, one is not getting the numbers to work. The example story was a couple of guys buy a truck to haul vegetables to the market, they would buy watermelons for a dollar and sell them for a dollar and came to the conclusion they needed a bigger truck. He had been on a bank advisory board to help new companies get thing in line when they ran into trouble and he has seen that same scenario happen many times. Often because the numbers they were looking at were the wrong ones.

I still believe that most people want to and can be much for then what they are. We just don't know how.
I had to love this post if only because one of my last day jobs was training green horses for riding and jumping so they could become steady, dependable school horses. Some made it, doing the job perfectly. Some had quirks or small issues that would stick forever unless the owners invested a lot of time and money into resolving the horse’s psychological problems.

One would never make it. Scared shitless because of a bad past, terrified to trust people, and absolutely craving that love and attention he needed to shine, he needed a lot of help to get to the point where he could achieve his fullest potential.

He wanted to, but he couldn’t - not without a lot of retraining and help.

I always think about this horse like the person that really wanted to succeed but just didn’t know how. And he didn’t have someone who cared enough to bother helping. Sounds like that cage of a job you’re referring to.

Can we overcome the pain? Not when most people seem to be of the opinion you are lazy or stupid and you deserve what you got. There seems to be this weird twist to the Protestant Work Ethic that it is not only more virtuous to suffer for your work but it is actually sinful to enjoy what you do. After enough of this propaganda you begin to believe that you never enjoyed doing anything and now you are in real trouble.

But Hope is still alive (she's on life support), there are things you enjoy doing and you keep reading motivational books and you want to get started but you keep trying.

Dr. Helen: Appliance Woes

Dr. Helen: Appliance Woes: "Do you ever have one of those periods where every appliance in your house starts to break down?"

You might not think about this but your average appliance has built-in obsolescence and we tend to buy them all at once like when we move into a new house. They are designed to last about 5 years, then they start falling apart. Oddly enough they tend to do that all at the same time because they were all bought at the same time. Odd that.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Adventures in Mormonism Blog Archive � Mitt Romney’s new ward? [UPDATED]

Adventures in Mormonism Blog Archive Mitt Romney’s new ward? [UPDATED]: "So….if Mitt Romney became President of the US (from this point forward referred to as POTUS), won’t we have something we’ve never had before - a president who goes to a specific church? All other presidents belonged to religions that didn’t have tight congregational boundaries. Now, think about that: What Ward would POTUS be in? [See above.] If you are his new Bishop, here are your top 10 questions:"

Now, this is funny. I would be pretty sure that the Secret Service has someone at least thinking about the possibility. The security issues would be a mind numbing. The home teaching issue alone is just hilarious.

Conceptual Trends and Current Topics

Conceptual Trends and Current Topics: "That part of film magic is evident in any 'making-of' movie. What's new is that the new camera/apps are steadily coming becoming like a word processor -- both pros and amateurs use the same one. The great script is not due to a better word processor; it's how the great write uses it. Likewise, a great film is not due to better gear. The same gear needed to make a good film is today generally available to amateurs -- which was not so even a decade ago. Film making gear is approaching a convergence between professional and amateur, so that what counts in artistry and inventiveness."

With Print on Demand services like lulu getting a book in print is not a problem. What used to cost tens of thousands now costs a hundred bucks.

It has been a few years now that a band could get a buy a computer some microphones and some software to create a recording studio in their basement or garage. Apple gives away an audio editing program, Garageband, away with each computer and plenty of bands use it very well.

The same thing is happening with video editing. There are plenty of ways to make a movie with a cast of thousands but you can do something similar with a cast of just a few.

And it is not only in the creative fields but others as well. In the field of biology it is getting easier and easier to modify and even create your own lifeforms. Some people are even thinking we are in a race, that we need to get people on other planets before we are capable of having a single person create a virus that can kill us all.

If it is hooked up to a computer it just gets less and less expensive over time. One of the few things that does.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Telstar Logistics: "Flight thru Instruments" and the Fine Art of Instructional Illustration

Telstar Logistics: "Flight thru Instruments" and the Fine Art of Instructional Illustration: "Published as a pilot-training manual by the US Navy in 1945, 'Flight thru Instruments' teaches proper aeronautical navigation techniques through the use of elaborate illustrations -- the kind of stuff that today might be called 'info-graphics.'

But oh, what info-graphics these are! Produced entirely by hand, the illustrations in 'Flight thru Instruments' possess a richness and accuracy of detail that -- if we may say so -- puts the majority of today's graphic artists to shame."

These are totally awesome graphics. We need more like this today.

MAKE: Blog: Make your own vaccum tubes?

MAKE: Blog: Make your own vaccum tubes?: "Check out this absolutely mesmerizing (17 minute!) video of a French amateur radio operator who rolls his own vacuum tube triodes! I love the ease with which he performs these rather high-end skills (like glass forming), the gestural flourishes (like it's hand magic), and the Zelig-esque soundtrack"

And O thought the guy in our Ham group was hardcore making his own radio from a kit. This is real hardcore. But it reminds me of a hot dog pushcart vendor from NYC who used to make it look like he was conducting symphony while putting a hotdog together.

from slashdot.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Is it time to move on? | Slow Leadership

Is it time to move on? | Slow Leadership: "Do I have a voice at work—does anyone who matters listen to what I say? There’s nothing more depressing and demotivating than feeling that you don’t matter as a person."

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. You don't matter as a person.

You are a number.
You are a problem.
You are a cog.
You are a statistic.
You are a consumer.

I am not a number to be filed or a problem to be solved. I am a person and I want something different. I want some compassion.

"it's not personal. It's business." - The Godfather
That is the worst excuse for betrayal out there. It's _ALL_ personal. They forget you before you've left the room, but you still have to explain to your wife and your little girl why things are no longer the same.

"Loser: When your very best still isn't good enough." -

When the work you do doesn't even matter to the company your do it for, doing your very best is really hard. Do your best and you will be rewarded. Yeah, right.
"You're a great worker, in the top 1%, in the top 12 really. We're not firing you, but you better get back to work." That was pretty much what they told me when I worked at a call center for a 4 months. That $0.25 raise they talked about never came nor any other perk. No surprise really, but when I turned yellow they said you look fine. After I got out of the hospital I never went back. That cost more then I earned there.
I saw my last boss a few days ago. I saw him and he saw me but he didn't even acknowledge I was there.

I was looking though some of the bonus material on a Pixar DVD and I see them have this wonderful team environment. My soul aches for something like that but actually I've never seen that in real life. I've read stories about great teams and team work was talked a lot about in school, but I've never met someone in real life who was on a great team.

When you pour your soul into doing something to the very best of your ability it hurts a lot when they ignore it or throw it away. You can't not care about it because you did it, not some machine. Of course when you act like a machine to protect yourself, nobody cares about you because they don't want to be around someone like that.

Better to aim for the stars and it the moon, then aim for the mud and find it.
Things need to change.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Why Movie Theater Prices Are So High (and keep rising)

Why Movie Theater Prices Are So High (and keep rising): "The only area that consistently brings any profit at all is concessions. And here's the kicker... this is what will really blow your mind: Less than 10% of movie customers even bother buying concessions."

This is one of those thing where it certainly seems like the whole system is broken. It looks like capitalism isn't working in this case and that may be true though it may be from a lack of compromise.

We only saw a couple of movie last year Harry Potter and Ratatouille. We are only looking forward to two movies this year as well, Harry Potter and Wall-E.

We usually get popcorn and soda because it does help the theaters, we've known that for a while.

We also have pretty much given up on television too, We moved and didn't bother setting up the TV we are just watching DVD's on a computer with a good sized monitor. It just doesn't make much sense to watch very much anymore. There is just too much garbage and we just don't have the time to deal with it any more.

The big problem is that getting to the movie at the time for a good audience is a problem. It is weird to laugh at a joke and no one else does. Eventually having a good home theater with seating for our friends so we can all enjoy at the same time would be great. The audience can really improve the experience. Just like laugh tracks in sit-coms it is more fun if everyone is laughing at the same time.

Jan. 7, 1904: A Distress Call for Ships in Danger Upon the Sea

Jan. 7, 1904: A Distress Call for Ships in Danger Upon the Sea: "The most famous maritime distress call of all time was sent by the RMS Titanic following its fatal collision with an iceberg in April 1912. In that instance, Marconi radio operator Jack Phillips began by sending the CQD signal, then still commonly used aboard British ships. On the suggestion of his junior, Harold Bride, Phillips began alternating between CQD and SOS."

Radio is a powerful tool.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Invisible Ingredient in Every Kitchen - New York Times

The Invisible Ingredient in Every Kitchen - New York Times: "Among the major culprits here are inefficient appliances. According to the United States Department of Energy, a gas burner delivers only 35 to 40 percent of its heat energy to the pan; a standard electrical element conveys about 70 percent. Anyone thinking about kitchen renovation should know that induction cooktops, which generate heat directly within the pan itself, are around 90 percent efficient. They can out-cook big-B.T.U. gas burners, work faster, don’t heat up the whole kitchen, and are becoming more common in restaurant kitchens."

Having used both gas and electric there are good and bad sides to each.

Electric may be more efficient but if you can't turn it down to a simmer it is useless. We use the crockpot a lot more now because there is no real low on our electric stove. Once something is boiling it stays boiling which makes doing stove top pot roast really hard.

Gas has one really great thing going for it. It usually still works even if the power is out. That means a whole lot when you are stuck at home in a blizzard and the lights and furnace are out. It means hot food and drink and a warm kitchen.

Multistep cooking sounds fun. Actually steaming is one thing that the microwave does best and that takes way less energy then an electric stove would. Combined with a torching afterwards to caramelize the outside it could be a lot of fun and quite tasty.

One thing that drives me crazy in our too small kitchen is keeping food warm. Something I'll have to try is spraying dishes with water and microwaving them for a minute or two to warm them up. Might work.

Motorhead Messiah - Fuel Efficient Cars - Biodiesel - Hybrids

Motorhead Messiah - Fuel Efficient Cars - Biodiesel - Hybrids: "For his part, Goodwin argues he's merely 'a problem solver. Most people try to make things more complicated than they are.' He speaks of the major carmakers with a sort of mild disdain: If he can piece together cleaner vehicles out of existing GM parts and a bit of hot-rod elbow grease, why can't they bake that kind of ingenuity into their production lines? Prod him enough on the subject and his mellowness peels away, revealing a guy fired by an almost manic frustration. 'Everybody should be driving a plug-in vehicle right now,' he complains, in one of his laconic engineering lectures, as we wander through the blistering Kansas heat to a nearby Mexican restaurant. 'I can go next door to Ace Hardware and buy a DC electric motor, go out to my four-wheel-drive truck, remove the transmission and engine, bolt the electric motor onto the back of the transfer case, put a series of lead-acid batteries up to 240 volts in the back of the bed, and we're good to go. I guarantee you I could drive all around town and do whatever I need, go home at night, and hook up a couple of battery chargers, plug one into an outlet, and be good to go the next day."

Cool. Thinking inside, outside and around the box.

FanFiction.Net - Things Not To Do At The SGC, a Stargate: SG-1 fanfic

FanFiction.Net - Things Not To Do At The SGC, a Stargate: SG-1 fanfic: "4) Plan A never works, plan B rarely works, plan C is almost always the best."

Nothing like some humor to relax with.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

What are goals worth?

We are a goal oriented society. We see it all over the place: New Year's Resolutions, company goals, even ToDo lists are really just a daily goal list.

We can easily overwhelm ourselves with dozens of goals or you can focus on just one or create a theme for the year.

We also don't have just our own goals but we are also often given goals from the organizations we belong to. I've seen departmental goals, and regional goals and company-wide goals and initiatives come and go.

One thing I know for sure any goal or project needs attention if it is to get done and it also needs a minimum amount of attention right at first just to get off of the ground. It is different for each goal but it is something we need to know and care about.

A goal is really an attempt to set a new habit and it take 14-30 days to set one. It also helps if you use the new one to substitute for an old bad or obsolete habit. Then its easy to realize that you have fallen into an old habit and have someplace new to go.

Writing a goal down is worth a lot, USA Today followed some New Year's resolution setters for a year and found those that wrote down their goals had a 1150% better chance of reaching those resolutions then those who didn't. Reviewing and sharing them help too, but often not as much.

But there are other tools as well. One that I just found is the Concrete Goals Tracker which looks very helpful.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Learning from Other Peoples' Resolutions

One of the fun things about Web is that you get to see other people experimenting. Wisdom is learning from others' mistakes or successes.

So, Steve is going to eat raw food for the next 30 days and so far it seems to be going well. I say good for him.

Some of the things seem obvious to me. Feeling like you are on an emotional high all the time makes sense because you are eating huge quantities of sugar from the fruit.

The thing I was surprised about was the time commitment, lots of time for prep and lots for eating as well.

We like to cook and make fun meals so watching someone go all raw in interesting. We have learned quite a bit about nutrition and who the body handles food and what cooking does to food.

But humans are not herbivores. Cows with 4 stomachs and some exotic gut bacteria and the ability to chew the cud can do it. We don't have the gut systems to break down the nutrients locked behind the walls of cellulose. But we have a tool (fire) to break down cellulose for us so we can get to the good stuff.

Some cooking techniques are better then others. That is no great surprise. Boiling vegetables until they are dead again is obviously not going to deliver maximum nutrition to you. We really like broccoli steamed in the microwave with a couple of teaspoons of water or chicken broth and some crushed garlic topped with sea salt.

In any case, I like to combine ingredients and heat to make food.

I've also come to realize just how amazing globalization has become. Virtually all the food that Steve is eating had to come from outside the country, because none of it is in season on this side of the globe. It is wintertime and there just aren't a lot of fresh foods available naturally.

This makes for an interesting dilemma: On the one hand many vegetarians I know are very big on the environment, but the only way to support their lifestyle is to fly in large quantities of food from around the world to allow them to eat. And all that transportation is a heavy burden on the environment, as we saw with that global warming summit in Bali.

Out diets are far more diverse now then ever before. If you went back 100 years there were plenty of canned and boxed foods and most of us would even recognize many of the brand names, though the selection would be much smaller.

Go back 200 years from today and there was no canned food. It wasn't until 1809 that the process of canning food was invented. Before that you had drying, smoking, pickling, curing and salting. Go enough to get you through the winter but tiresome all the same.

I am pretty sure that just 50 years ago doing a raw vegan diet would have been impossible for most regions of the planet. But then the Eskimos have survived on whale blubber for a long time. Humans can survive and thrive on an amazing variety of foods. From hunter/gatherers to herder/farmers it didn't change all that much, each region of the planet got good at different local foods. Now we can ship them pretty much anywhere. Amzing.


Eject! Eject! Eject!: FORTY SECOND BOYD AND THE BIG PICTURE (Part 1): "This is a story about success and failure. It is a story about Iraq, and of something much bigger than Iraq. It is, perhaps, a small look into what makes victory, and defeat. It is a tale of infantrymen, of brave soldiers in dusty alleys a world away. It is a story of generals and strategies, too.

But to understand our newfound success there, to know a little of how we achieved it and most importantly, how to keep it, we need to move away from that Mesopotamian desert and those boots on the ground, and back to a different desert on the other side of the world a half century ago. For there, a vision was vouchsafed to a most unlikely warrior priest… the kind of insight that comes once or twice in all of human history.

There are some diverse threads to connect here. But if you have the patience to take a walk with me, you may perhaps see things in a way you have not seen them before."


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Grinding kids

But one day as we sat in her classroom, Andersen told me, “Every year I have two or three young ones in that August-to-October range, and they just struggle a little.” She used to encourage parents to send their children to kindergarten as soon as they were eligible, but she is now a strong proponent of older kindergartners, after teaching one child with a birthday just a few days before the cutoff. “She was always a step behind. It wasn’t effort and it wasn’t ability. She worked hard, her mom worked with her and she still was behind.” Andersen followed the girl’s progress through second grade (after that, she moved to a different school) and noticed that she didn’t catch up. Other teachers at Glen Arden Elementary and elsewhere have noticed a similar phenomenon: not always, but too often, the little ones stay behind.

Since youth sports are organized by age bracket, teams inevitably have a cutoff birth date. In the European youth soccer leagues, the cutoff date is Dec. 31. So when a coach is assessing two players in the same age bracket, one who happened to have been born in January and the other in December, the player born in January is likely to be bigger, stronger, more mature. Guess which player the coach is more likely to pick? He may be mistaking maturity for ability, but he is making his selection nonetheless. And once chosen, those January-born players are the ones who, year after year, receive the training, the deliberate practice and the feedback — to say nothing of the accompanying self-esteem — that will turn them into elites.

It is amazing how the power of something so innocuous seeming as your child's birthdate can have such strong implications over their whole lives.

I was born in July and that was pretty close to the cut off. I did generally well in school, but there were some strong turn off points. I was bumped up a grade a few weeks in at 5th grade and I was so totally lost it wasn't funny. It took a while to get caught up but it almost turned me off learning. Your self-confidence takes quite a beating when you a moved to a new class and you don't understand what the teacher is saying. The teacher was talking about squaring numbers so I drew little squares around the numbers until I finally got a textbook, yeah having to wait a week just to get the textbook really makes it hard to catchup in a class. Eventually I caught up and I was okay.

We are home schooling our daughter this year as much to redshirt her as to give her the basics she needs. Boiling it all away there are only two major skills she needs to learn right now and that is literacy and numeracy. So we have something to focus on.

Right now it has been so cold that she is having a hard time. She really likes going outside and playing and it has been too cold for that lately. We need to hit the indoor play space at the mall or even McDonalds to play off some of her energy. She did get a pink box of Legos for Christmas that she just loves though but it isn't the same as running around and climbing.

Would she get anything better in school. I don't think so. She would likely get the gift of time, or more accurately, the curse of being ignored. The teacher has to focus on the borderline kids to make sure they pass. She'll have to ignore those who can't be helped. Why? Because there is only so much time and love in the day. It is simple triage logic, save those you can and comfort those you can't. If you are gifted you are passing and will get little attention, If you are close to passing you get lots of attention to help you pass, if you are not close then you languish. Since so much of school is about that now if you are at the bottom you stay at the bottom.

This indicates to me that the Matthew Principle (those who have get) is not really an intrinsic thing but more and extrinsic thing. A gifted 5 year old doesn't look gifted when surrounded by average 7 year olds. She is not in an environment that shows off her capabilities. But amazingly it seems like that happens all the time, it all comes down to when your birthday was. I am pretty sure parents saw this but couldn't quite put their finger on it. Now we have a framework to talk about it with. And that is good.