Sunday, May 21, 2006

About women

I feel about females the same as Hugh Laurie, who said about raising his daughter: "Girls are complicated. The instruction manual that comes with girls is 800 pages, with chapters 14, 19, 26 and 32 missing, and it's badly translated, hard to figure out."

Friday, May 19, 2006

We've found the midichlorians!

(or, Mrs. Swift, can Jonathan come out and play?) It may be that nematodes can only cause disease in humans if the worms are infected with the Wolbachia bacteria. And now we find that Wolbachia's behavior depends on its own level of infection with a bacteriophase. Just like the recession from molecules to atoms to protons to quarks to strings: "It may be possible that the viral parasite of the bacterial parasite of the nematode parasite affects the course of a human disease."

Thursday, May 18, 2006

A blue nation once again

Bush has a positive approval rating in only three states. The American people think Bill Clinton was a better president. And as stunning as visuals like these are, remember that the red here exaggerates Bush's support (these counties having lower-than-average populations). The Repos are done for.

Governments hate liberty

This article by Bruce Schneier is an excellent explanation of why privacy is important even when you're not doing anything wrong.

Can't get enough computer stuff

Macworld has a feature on fashion and accessories for geeks. And while I will never be caught in the same room with items such as the Hello Kitty flash drive, I do want two of their finds:
Mini Lava Lamp: Lava lamps are great for those moments at 2 a.m. when you find yourself staring at your Mac’s screen for what seems like hours. But then your eyes start to wander, and you turn to Lava World International’s $10 Mini Lava Lamp—the world’s most simple-yet-fascinating toy.
(I've linked to the one in lime green...)
Flash Wristband: Say this about a USB flash drive you wear on your body: it’s a lot more difficult to lose the Flash Wristband, which sells for anywhere from $16 to $65 depending on capacity.
(Much cooler than lugging the laptop home each night!)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Leaving children behind by putting them in

We found out this week, in an unpleasant manner, that next year in 6th grade there will be no "special day class" available for Sally Ann, anywhere in the district. Schools are now required to use a "collaboration model" where special-ed students mix with mainstream students for most of the day. Yes: sitting in 6th-grade math, english, science, and social science classes when she is currently achieving 1st-grade or, at best, 2nd-grade academic levels.

We know very little yet, but it sounds like a terrible idea. And it gives me an opportunity to cite a few quotes from this evaluation of what "No Child Left Behind" is doing to our schools:

  • A huge increase in federally mandated testing will not provide the services and strategies our schools and students need to improve.
  • Standardized testing does not lead to lasting increases in student achievement and may in fact reduce it.
  • The inclusion of special education and Limited English Proficient students in the testing calculations will make it harder for schools to reach the unreasonable "adequate yearly progress" targets, but will do nothing to improve educational services to these children.
  • If the federal government wanted to help special needs students it would fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), as called for repeatedly by education advocates.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

From the No New News Dept.

The federal government read your phone bill for months before and after the September 2001 hijack attacks. And then told the Justice Department it didn't have authority to investigate. And now is telling us that they were only focusing on Al Qaeda and its known associates... all 250 million of them.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Once again, Hullabaloo

There's never a bad time to read Digby's blog, but this is a particularly good week to read it. Begin with their post "The War on Fucking" and read backward a few days.

Pimp My Snack!

Extra bloggy goodness while I was checking out the Cleary story in the SF Chronicle site... Pimp My Snack!:
Sometimes a Manwich® is not a meal. Sometimes "biggie" is not big enough. Time to pimp your snack. [...] Here's the concept (if you haven't caught on already): Take your favorite snack food. Make it yourself, only max it out to ultra-mega-super-size.
You have to see the pictures of the ginormous Pop-Tart (abuse of trademark intentional), or the three-foot peanut-butter cup. For me, I'm picturing... a six-foot-long UNO bar. No, wait—a ten-pound nonpareil? Aarrrrgh, decisions decisions!

Beezus goes to the movies

Guess what? Beverly Cleary is still alive, writing, and in fact has her first movie deal.
The film is based on the fourth book in the Ramona series, "Ramona and Her Father," in which Ramona is in the second grade and her father loses his job. [...] "Ramona was originally an accidental character I added to the Henry Huggins books because I noticed that none of the characters had siblings," says Cleary, as she tucked a lock of silver hair behind her ear. "I added Ramona as Beazus' pestering little sister."
Needless to say, this will be a big event around the Gaughan household. P.J. says straight-up that he likes Henry Huggins even better than the Narnia books, and that's saying quite a lot.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Location, location, location

I don't believe that geography is the be-all and end-all of education, but it's the second-most important topic that folks complain about when bemoaning the state of our schools (reading being the first). I love maps, but I think their beauty comes from using them to learn about the places they depict: why a culture moved from one place to another; how plants differ because of climate and in turn how people adapt to those differences; even how language is affected by location. The positions of California's mountain ranges and faults produced Death Valley and all its rich natural and human history, for example.

When I found out about Sheppard Software's online geography games, I immediately jumped up to try the most challenging versionof their States game (Level 9, "Cartographer")—drag, rotate, and resize each state onto a blank U.S. map. I missed 7 out of 50 states; in most cases, I had sized the state slightly too small and positioned it a couple of degrees off, but I had all 50 rotated correctly and basically in the right place.

They also have games on the state capitals and physical features.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Mission possible: "Improv Everywhere"

Slashdot turns up a flashmob-like site called Improv Everywhere. Their chosen purpose apparently is to make craziness happen (the motto is "we cause scenes"):
Improv Everywhere causes scenes of chaos and joy in public places. Created in August of 2001 by Charlie Todd, Improv Everywhere has executed over 50 missions involving hundreds of undercover agents. The group is based in New York City.
Their recent event at Best Buy was, in the words of Eartha Kitt, "brilliant, brilliant, brilliant!" And not just in overall design, but right down to the individual performances; I love the agent who brought his daughters as though it were "take your daughter to work day," which at the time was less than a week away (be sure you read/scroll down far enough to see that agent's comments about the day). And there are some wonderful tongue-in-cheek captions for the IE page documenting the event. RaptorMagic says, More power to these people, and, Check it out!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Pray tell

Today is the official U.S. National Day of Prayer. And that reminds us yet again of how little respect George Bush has for America's foundations and his predecessors. Here's Steve Benen at The Huffington Post:

It's not a new phenomenon -- but it doesn't go back to the Founding Fathers. In the early 1950s, when lawmakers were adding "under God" to the Pledge and changing all American money to include the phrase "In God We Trust," Congress created an official annual Prayer Day for the nation. Congress, under pressure from the religious right, changed the law in 1988 to establish the National Day of Prayer as the first Thursday in May, which brings us to today. [...]

Bush has issued proclamations marking 25 days as official days of prayer in the United States. The president has been in office about 63 months, which means he's issuing an official prayer declaration from the White House about once every 10 weeks. No president in U.S. history has ever issued so many official prayer edicts in office.

In fact, in the "good old days," this didn't occur. Presidents such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison opposed official government prayer days.

Would some good and Constitutionally-minded politician please submit a bill in Congress to eliminate this? And while we're at it, let's officially get "under God" and "In God We Trust" repealed. Think of all the money we'll save on lawsuits the government won't have to defend!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


RaptorMagic endorses the Net Neutrality Act. As one blog so aptly put it, "This is that rare bird, a black and white issue, with large companies on one side and the vast majority of America on the other."

RaptorMagic opposes S.1955, an attempt to gut state health insurance requirements.