Monday, September 27, 2010

Lifting a Pint for Sam

Patriot Samuel Adams was born this day in 1722. Adams was one of the men behind the Boston Tea Party, was a delegate to the Continental Congress 1774-1781, signed the Declaration of Independence, and served as Governor of Massachusetts (1794-1797). When he wasn't showing more political courage, backbone and conviction than every elected person currently in Washington, D. C., he brewed beer. From what I understand, he was a far better politician than a brewer. It's in this connection that most people know about him today (I don't even want to think about how many college freshman know what the Boston Tea Party is...), his name is now attached to a very fine beer (not a great one, mind you), but one worthy of the name.

Thomas Jefferson called him the "Patriarch of Liberty," his cousin John (you may have heard of him) said:

Without the character of Samuel Adams, the true history of the American Revolution can never be written. For fifty years his pen, his tongue, his activity, were constantly exerted for his country without fee or reward.

Here's a few gems of wisdom from his pen:
If Virtue & Knowledge are diffus'd among the People, they will never be enslav'd. This will be their great Security.

If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsel or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands of those who feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you. May posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.

It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds.

The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil Constitution, are worth defending at all hazards; and it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors: they purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood, and transmitted them to us with care and diligence. It will bring an everlasting mark of infamy on the present generation, enlightened as it is, if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of false and designing men.

Were the talents and virtues which heaven has bestowed on men given merely to make them more obedient drudges, to be sacrificed to the follies and ambition of a few? Or, were not the noble gifts so equally dispensed with a divine purpose and law, that they should as nearly as possible be equally exerted, and the blessings of Providence be equally enjoyed by all?

A general dissolution of the principles and manners will more surely overthrow the liberties of America than the whole force of the common enemy.... While the people are virtuous they cannot be subdued; but once they lose their virtue, they will be ready to surrender their liberties to the first external or internal invader.... If virtue and knowledge are diffused among the people, they will never be enslaved. This will be their great security.

How strangely will the Tools of a Tyrant pervert the plain Meaning of Words!

Among the natural rights of the colonists are these: first, a right to life; secondly, to liberty; thirdly to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can.

If men, through fear, fraud, or mistake, should in terms renounce or give up any natural right, the eternal law of reason and the grand end of society would absolutely vacate such renunciation. The right to freedom being the gift of Almighty God, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift and voluntarily become a slave.

It is a very great mistake to imagine that the object of loyalty is the authority and interest of one individual man, however dignified by the applause or enriched by the success of popular actions.

All might be free if they valued freedom, and defended it as they should.

He therefore is the truest friend to the liberty of this country who tries most to promote its virtue, and who, so far as his power and influence extend, will not suffer a man to be chosen into any office of power and trust who is not a wise and virtuous man.

If ever a time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in Government, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin.

Driven from every other corner of the earth, freedom of thought and the right of private judgment in matters of conscience, direct their course to this happy country as their last asylum.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Progress or Something

Children are learning to use profanity — swearing — at an earlier age, according to research presented at the Sociolinguistics Symposium this month. And the researchers found children are also swearing more often than children did just a few decades ago.
First of all, say "Sociolinguistics Symposium" five times fast. Doing it faster and doing more of it, it's the American way.

Just how early?
"By the time kids go to school now, they're saying all the words that we try to protect them from on television," says Jay [who presented the data]. "We find their swearing really takes off between (ages) three and four."
3 and 4. That's Sesame Street ages, right? Maybe Katy Perry wasn't that out of line... But note that he named the favorite bogey man of whatever's wrong with our kids, television. That's gotta be it, right? More and more of it on TV, so more and more of it in kids' mouths. Bzzzt.
Kids aren't learning swearing at an earlier age from the television they watch. The rise in cursing mirrors the rise in cursing among adults in the past thirty years that Jay has been studying the psychology of swearing.
Ooops. In fact, it's monkey-hear, monkey-do:
"As soon as kids can speak, they're using swear words," says Jay. "That doesn't mean they know what adults know, but they do repeat the words they hear."

Eh, what's it matter? Bunch of silly Victorian sensibilities becoming more obsolete is all.
Swearing is not a trivial matter about an occasional profanity slipping past a child's lips. Previous research into swearing has shown it has a significant impact with problems at home, in school, and at the workplace.
...not to mention it's lazy and largely uncreative.

The bit of silver lining on this effen gray cloud? Edited a skosh to keep this sfw.
Children do not appear to be yet using worse swear words than in the past — just common swear words more often, according to the new research. Although there are over 70 different common taboo swear words in the English language (some of which also vary from English-speaking country to country), 10 frequently used words account for over 80 percent of common swearing — fbleepk, sbleept, hbleepl, dbleepn, gbleepn, Jbleeps Cbleept, ableeps, oh my gbleepd, bbleeph and sbleeps.
What, really, that last one counts? Gulp.

The original article is here, and then Jay's very interesting website is here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Moving Oratory

Samwise stood for election today as his 6th grade class president, along with three other candidates. We don't yet know the results, which is driving him crazy--and depending on how distracted he gets over the weekend, could end up driving us all crazy. Being new to the school, he is at a disadvantage compared to the competition (tho' it could pay off, I guess), but he had fun.

To keep the playing field level, there was no campaigning allowed (that's my assumption about the rationale at least), just name recognition and a single speech today. Here's the text:

My Campaign Speech

First of all, I'd like to thank you all for your time. I'd also like to say thanks to Mrs. ----- for putting this together.

7 score and 7 years ago, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech. A lot of other people have given speeches at many other dates and times. I will be like them today, speechwise.

Now, there have been some problems in class.
  1. Talking.
  2. Disruption of the class.
And I have solutions to those problems. For talking, I have 2.
  1. You would get additional punishments, along with the Tigger Bucks fine. So, like, if someone was talking they'd put $20 on their desk AND lose a recess or something .
  2. The people who aren't talking get rewarded.
Now, for disruption. I'd STRONGLY suggest a refocus form or something.

So, um, yeah, um,.............I'm going blank here...............OH! That's right! Adios, mis amigos!

Or “That's all folks!” or something. I don't know. Well, ok, I'm done.
He had no help composing that speech, and even did the math to figure out how many score (he even knew the date off the top of his head). Honestly, I know when I was in 6th grade, I probably couldn't have written that second paragraph, and would've killed (well, poked savagely at any rate) to be able to. Consider me proud.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Am sure this is of little concern to you all, but it's big enough to me that I have to mention it (besides, this has been one of those über draining days that render thought almost impossible, so be happy I came up with anything). A few months back, I said that I'd lost 20 pounds so far this year. I've kept at it, and am pleased to announce that I've lost a little bit more:

And it's a good thing I hit that yesterday. Have had one of those weeks where I was on the verge of throwing in the towel and piling it on--you know, having a large Chicago Fire Pizza every day for lunch, and getting caught up on my lounging around. I'm tired of all the work, fed up with feeling hungry all the time...yada yada yada. But when the scale flashed that magic number at me, that was all the reinforcement I needed. Back to the trench warfare that this weight-loss project has become...15 lbs to go!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Contemporary Epidemic: the Halfalogue

From Kung Fu Monkey: Here's a handy-dandy scientific explanation for why Cell Phone/Bluetooth Guy is so much more grating than Obnoxiously Loud Couple.

What a way to make a living, examining the whys and wherefores of pet peeves. You know, you just know, that the grant approval process has to be easier for this team.

"All right, we have just one more grant to award today, and let's see here...the applicants include: (sound of papers being shuffled) a new Rational Emotive Behavior treatment for bulimia...a more exact test for determining placement on the Autism Spectrum...relationship between watching semi-celebrities on Reality TV shows and Acts of Violence, that one has promise...and, what's this? 'Why People on Cell Phones are so Annoying'? I think it's clear we don't even have to vote on this one, right?" (sound of gavel banging, grant checks being written)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This Must Be that New Math I've Been Hearing About...

Frodo's Pre-Algebra teacher showed this to his class today.

Technology in the classroom, ladies and gentleman.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Good in Bed byJennifer Weiner

What's this? Chick Lit here?

Sure, why not?

I've actually read a piece or two lately about how useless the term is, and where people like Franzen or Tropper or Hornby can write about the same themes that appear in the better Chick Lit works and not be dismissed with a label quite as easily. Maybe that's true, probably is. At the same time, it's a label that works pretty well most of the time--and like all genres, the better works don't get the recognition they deserve, but those who are up on things will get rewarded.

Anyway, I do read Chick Lit--at least a couple of titles a year. I'd read more, but I try to be picky. So this weekend, I finally got around to taking my wife's advice and tried Jennifer Weiner's Good in Bed (probably helped by seeing it set forth as an example of the better Chick Lit being ignored in the articles I mentioned). I'm glad I did, and will likely read more of her. Not anytime soon, nothing against her, it'd just take time away from the mysteries I'm binging on lately.

Wow, I'm rambling today, eh?

So on with the book...our protagonist is Candace (but call her Cannie), an entertainment reporter for a Philadelphia newspaper. She's funny, smart, has good taste, a neat dog and is...well, fat. On the whole, she's okay with that--she's healthy and active, and though she's tried a few diets/diet programs, none of them has stuck. Still, overall, she has a nice life. Until her ex gets a new column in a Cosmo-like mag and starts off with an article called "Loving a Larger Woman" (or something like that). It's actually a pretty decent piece, fairly considerate--and everyone who isn't Cannie or her best friend really likes it.

This launches Cannie on a quest for self-improvement--emotionally, professionally, and physically. And honestly, I'm not sure how to go on from here without a lot of spoilers.

There's a big fairy tale ending here, but it's quickly derailed into something still unrealistic, but far more satisfying. Funny, insightful, touching (without being obviously sentimental), and charming. It's a satisfying read (and would probably hold up to a repeated read or two), no matter what label gets attached to it.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Why the Son of God Loved Me and Gave Himself for Me

I'm just having another one of those days where I'm not sure I have anything to say. But when I read this quotation over at Patrick’s Pensees, I was glad I didn't have something planned so I could steal it outright.

Moreover, I really needed this. Thanks, Patrick.

If you ask, Why he made so much ado about a worthless creature, raised out of the dust of the ground at first, and had now disordered himself, and could be of no use to him? We have an answer at hand, Because he loved us. If you continue to ask, But why did he love us? We have no other answer but because he loved us; for beyond the first rise of things we cannot go.
Thomas Manton

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Hello Kitty Must Die

I've often felt conflicted about my appreciation for protagonists/leading characters who are murderers--professional hitmen (Peter Brown, Jimmy the Tulip, Martin Blank, Hawk, Jules Winnfield) or serial killers (Dexter Morgan, early Hannibal Lecter), but I can usually get over it because of what their creators do with them. But Angela S. Choi's Fiona Fi Yu, from Hello Kitty Must Die, doesn't get to join their ranks in my book. There's little to commend her, or the book, if you ask me (which is sort of implied if you've read this far).

Fi is a successful, thirtysomething Chinese-American lawyer, living with her parents, who stumbles into serial killing (I'll leave the details to those who read it). An unpleasant childhood, filled with overbearing parents, a strict Catholic school, and one sociopathic friend primes this perpetually single (and proud!) woman for an adulthood that's even more unpleasant. Until the aforementioned stumbling, anyway. She's a whiny, selfish, me-first person all the way, with a personality only a parakeet could love. Essentially, she's a very unpleasant person--beyond the murdering. Sure, she can mix pop culture references into her narrative like Dennis Miller in his prime, but in a post-Tarantino/Whedon/Apatow/Abed Nadir age, is that really so noteworthy? Besides, if Humbert Humbert taught us nothing at all, he taught us that "You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style."

What about the story itself? It starts off semi-promising, and then goes straight downhill from there. Well, let me amend that. It starts off offensively, but it's a staged, calculated offensiveness. Choi trades in an actual narrative hook for a hook constructed of shock value. But a few pages later, it gets semi-promising. There's no redemption of the character--not even growth. Nothing commendable about the events, characters, or cultural commentary.

On the other hand, it was a quick read.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Grampa went to a Wildfire and All I Got was this Lousy Tshirt?

Since before he retired, my dad's been cooking up ways to make some money in retirement (my thought...why retire?). One of the ways has been as a driver for those fighting wildfires that crop up in Idaho every summer--from various sites to other sites from the fire to the airport (and vice versa), etc. He's been called to duty twice in the last couple of years--he's had at least one down year in between those, which put us in the odd position of hoping the fires don't get too bad, but sorta hoping they do.

What I find interesting enough to focus on today is, like just about every aspect of our culture, fire fighting has been commercialized. There is apparently a decent amount of swag to be picked up at the fires. A couple years ago, my dad brought back tshirts and caps for the grandkids (and himself) with the logos of the companies (is that what you call groups of firefighters?) he was near/driving, or of a waterbomber group, etc. But this year, he brought back tshirts for that very fire. In this case, the Hurd wildfire. Yeah, it had it's own logo (as you can see on Arnold's front and the Princess' back below). My mind boggles that while people are being evacuated, people are being brought in from all corners, federal funds are being allocated (granted, that can take milliseconds), and this thing is being contained; someone has the time to design and print these suckers. The stuff he brought back a couple years ago could be generated in the off season (and, I should note, was of higher quality). But in the midst of all this to create these just strikes me as odd. Not nefarious, don't get me wrong, just odd.

Friday, September 03, 2010

A Point of Personal Privilege, and a Word of Thanks

...come to think of it, isn't pretty much everything here Personal Privilege? hmmm...

Happy Blogg-iversary to Me
Happy Blogg-iversary to Me
Happy Blogg-iversary dear Pax, Amor, et Lepos in Iocando (né White Noise)
Happy Blogg-iversary to Me

Thanks to everyone who reads, comments (not enough), visits, or has done so over the last 8 years. Wouldn't be the same without ya.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Derek and the Falling Dominoes

As someone who bleeds blue pinstripes, what happens to Derek Jeter at the end of this season has been lurking at the back of my mind, threatening to hurl my soul into an abyss of despair (that may be laying it on a little bit thick, but sports does that to a guy). But beyond The Captain's contact expiring, there's the fact the he's aging. The man's 36, playing shortstop. He's not having a great season, but we can ignore that for now. But on the whole, I (like a lot of fans) have pushed the whole thing to the back of my mind, because we really don't want to deal with it--mentally living in a van down by a river in Egypt with Chris Farley. Joe Posnanski wrote a great column today, about a conversation he had with a Red Sox fan talking about the diminishing future of Jeter. Clearly, this member of Red Sox Nation has thought about it more than most of the Yankee Universe has--and who can blame him?

If you're of a mind, give it a read--this is what baseball writing should be about--historical context and precedent, good use of stats to describe past/present/future, and rational thinking about what lies ahead--sprinkled with a little humor and respect.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

First Day of School 2010-11 (part deux)

So, my first day as a "Learning Coach" for the younger Offspring at a virtual academy has come and gone. And I'm on the verge of starting the countdown to my last one. Seriously, seriously had a lousy time. I'm pretty sure tomorrow--and several more tomorrows to come--will be better (and not just because they really couldn't get worse), which helps some.

No matter how much I prepped, the day was still full of--

"I'm supposed to have you do what now?"
"I'm supposed to print X? Where is X?"
"Why did I print 2 copies of that?" (fairly certain the parent company is owned by an ink cartridge manufacturer)
"Seriously...I spent 15 minutes preparing all these things to get you going on an activity that...teaches you to do something you've been doing for 4 years???"
...and so on

Now I've gone through a lot of that when I homeschooled in the past, but then it was my fault for not preparing correctly, reading the instructions, etc. and I could either shrug it off or laugh at myself. But I'm not the responsible party, it's all their fault and if those dunderheads would just get things straight, everything would be fine and dandy.

Yes, A. I realize the double standard at work here and B. Shut up.

And don't get me started on the mandatory orientation session that interrupted my day, threatened to derail everything, and went on for 2.5 hours covering things that anyone who was conscious and semi-aware during registration/recruitment would know (which didn't stop several Learning Coaches from asking and reasking questions about them, and being so, so, so grateful for the answers). If you get my Facebook feed, you heard me whine about it already. And if you don't get that feed--well, now's a time to be thankful you didn't have to put up with that.

Still, the Princess and Arnold were über-excited about starting, and most of their enthusiasm didn't diminish throughout the day. Actually, they were very positive about the whole thing and are rarin' to go tomorrow. As long as that holds up, I can fake it on my end. Probably.

Naturally, the only time Arnold wasn't smiling/happy/excited today was when I broke out the camera (odd, as he's usually the world's biggest piece of cured meat cut from the thigh of a hog). Still, holding to tradition: here's the first day of school pic: