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Vacation ahead

Tacking a 4-5-day visit to England onto our Sweden trip this year. Hoping in June to take a drive around the countryside and geocache in between bed & breakfasts. Now investigating potential 3-day loops from London that might also be fun for a 3-year-old. Suggestions welcome!

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By Julia, age 17

I was just leafing through some old (old!) schoolwork, and found some theses from composition class, circa 1993. I don't even remember writing this particular paper, and my fingers itch to improve deficiencies my 37-year-old eyes detect today, but I'm sure pleased to see that I was open-minded and progressive at the tender age of 17.

Props to Mr. McHale for assigning this topic twenty years ago!


Hot Debate

The acceptance of gay and lesbian positions in society, in general, has been debated in several areas. Some of these include gays in the military, the extension of health and insurance benefits to gay and lesbian relationships, and gays and religious ministry. It seems, however, that the most controversial aspect of these issues is the debate of gay and lesbian parenthood. The argument in this case is whether it is valid for gay and lesbian couples to raise children. Same-sex parenting is a legitimate form of family life.

Admittedly, the children involved in such a relationship would most certainly be subject to taunting and teasing by their peers at school and even by many adults. Children have always been known for being outrageously cruel to others who are different in some way from themselves. Many ignorant adults, too, ridicule children because of what their parents believe or do. Numerous individuals believe that this treatment will be emotionally scarring. However, children have always teased and always will tease other children. A child of gay parents would be just another object of ridicule in a never-ending line. Also, children exposed to conflict when young may be better equipped to deal with it when it is present as they become older. It could be considered a learning experience that makes the children more mature as adolescents and adults.

Another reason in support of the thesis is the increasing diversity in the world day by day. In order that young children grow up not prejudiced in any fashion, especially racially and sexually, they must not be shielded from true society. The world and its communities are continually changing. Many ideas of today, such as women in the workplace and racial equality, would have been quite shocking perhaps a couple of hundred years ago. Through the years, people have become less ignorant and more accepting of the changes time has brought. Now virtually no one gives a second thought to having a woman as a co-worker or boss, and racial equality has certainly improved immensely. It is just a matter of time before the homosexual controversy is a thing of the past and new, seemingly disturbing issues take its place, each, in turn, making society even more diversified. Preparing children for their lives, in which they will associate with people of all races and sexual orientations, will surely enable them to be successful.

Perhaps the strongest reason in support of the thesis is that two gay persons can love each other and their children enough to provide a healthy environment. The most important aspect of a family is the love the members have for one another, be it man-woman-child, a woman-woman-child or a man-man-child family. The children, in turn, of course, would reciprocate the love they receive. How could a child feel anything but love and admiration for those who raise him? If the family life is certain to be a stable one, there is no reason gays should be discouraged from raising a family.

In conclusion, gay and lesbian parenting can be a valid manner in which to raise a family.
The other day at work I had a bizarre experience. Our library barcodes contain 14 digits, the last two of which can be anything from 00 to 99, I was checking the last two digits for accuracy while processing some items when I encountered the following sequence:
  • XXXXXXXXXXXX22
  • XXXXXXXXXXXX22
  • XXXXXXXXXXXX52
  • XXXXXXXXXXXX52
  • XXXXXXXXXXXX42
  • XXXXXXXXXXXX42

At this point I thought, "Huh. That's weird!" Then (completely randomly!) grabbed two more items, and got:
  • XXXXXXXXXXXX70
  • XXXXXXXXXXXX70

I wouldn't even know where to begin calculating the odds of handling eight items and coming up with matching two-digit pairs four times in a row, but it seems pretty far out there.
This evening during the car ride home, Kajsa and I were talking about her upcoming birthday.

Kajsa: "I'm going to be three. Then four, then five, then six, seven, eight, nine, TEN! Then I'm a grown-up."

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Kittens!

About a month ago while looking at a piano we were interested in purchasing from a friend, we noticed how sweet and cute her cat was. It planted a little seed of an idea, which has since grown much bigger -- so big that as of next Tuesday we will be proud parents of two little kittens!

I've always considered myself a dog person -- there was always a dog in my life as I was growing up, and I would never have considered getting a cat. After purchasing a house I assumed we'd get a dog one day, but it took a number of years to realize that our lifestyle is not dog-friendly. What dog wants to sit at home alone from 8:00am to 6:00pm during the week? I always thought it would be "dog or nothing," and then it hit me that at this rate it would be "nothing." It was after this realization and meeting my friend's cat that I began to think, "I could love a cat!...?"

We began browsing rescue animals on Petfinder, and I visited one of the adoption days at a local pet store, keeping an eye out for the right fit for us. One thing I learned early on is that although cats are more solitary by nature, even they would prefer companionship during the day while we were gone. And suddenly, we were looking at acquiring TWO cats (how much extra work could an additional cat be?)! Jonas found a couple kittens at Secondhand Hounds that he was interested in, so we filled out an application and arranged for a Meet & Greet with the person who was fostering them.

We fell in love with the little guys right away upon meeting them, and Kajsa was beside herself with excitement. (She did not know at this point why we were visiting the kittens.) We showed her how to gently pet them, play with them, and speak calmly so that they wouldn't get startled. They were quite friendly -- born in captivity, but their mother was a stray. We left the meeting feeling like they were perfect for us -- but alas! Now the waiting game was to begin, for we weren't the only interested party and the decision about who would get to adopt would be up to the foster after conducting separate Meet & Greets with all of us.

Jonas was confident that we'd be chosen. I was hopeful but didn't want to get my hopes up. The next day we received the good news: we were selected to adopt the kittens! Elation! Now the fun part: Although we didn't initially intend for it to coincide, Kajsa's 3rd birthday is next Wednesday, and we have the choice to pick up the kittens as early as Sunday. The plan now is to pick up the kittens Tuesday evening after she has gone to bed, and then surprise her with them Wednesday morning -- not so much as a gift for her, but to make the day that much more magical. That you never know what kinds of special things might happen on your birthday -- like kittens coming to live in your house!

I of course now have kittens on the brain, and probably won't be able to sit still for the next five days.

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10 days...

...until Beaver Camp!

My annual scrapbooking retreat. 4 days away from home. No responsibilities!

I close my eyes and sigh in anticipation.

Fool Me Twice

Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America

Highlighted passages (I took notes):


Deny the science, or pretend the problems don’t exist.

In an age when most major public policy challenges revolve around science, less than 2 percent of congresspersons have professional backgrounds in it.

It’s little wonder we have more rhetoric than fact in our national policy making. Lawyers are trained to create a compelling narrative to win an argument, but as any trial lawyer will tell you, that argument uses facts selectively and only for the purpose of winning the argument, not for establishing the truth.

Science has been responsible for roughly half of all US economic growth since WWII, and it lies at the core of most major unresolved policy challenges.

Journalism: “There are always two sides to every story. Bob says 2 + 2 = 4. Mary says it is 6. The controversy rages.”
Science: “Most times, one side is simply wrong. I can demonstrate using these apples that Bob is right.”
Politics: “How about a compromise? New law: 2 + 2 = 5.”

Thomas Jefferson’s fundamental notion that, when well informed, people can be trusted with their own government lies at the center of democracy.

“We have many people even here who hasten to condemn evolution without having the remotest conception of what it is that they are condemning, nor the slightest interest in an objective study of the evidence in the case which is all that ‘the teaching of evolution’ means,” wrote an exasperated Republican, the Nobel physicist and CalTech head Robert A. Millikan in the leading journal Science in 1923, “men whose decisions have been formed, as are all decisions in the jungle, by instinct, by impulse, by inherited loves and hates, instead of by reason. Such people may be amiable and lovable, just as is any house dog, but they are a menace to democracy and to civilization because ignorance and the designing men who fatten upon it control their votes and their influence.”

“This world is a strange madhouse,” [Einstein] wrote a friend three weeks after the rally. “Currently every coachman and every waiter is debating whether relativity is correct. Belief in this matter depends on political party affiliation.”

In 1951, the Holy Father, Pope Pius XII, gave a momentous speech in which he addressed Hubble’s work and the big bang theory, stating that the big bang proved the existence of God by showing there was a moment of creation, so there must be a creator.

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light,” [Max] Planck said, “but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.”

The culture wars the United States is currently experiencing are really one three-front antiscience war – a fundamentalist backlash against science, a propaganda war being waged by vested business interests, and an assault from postmodern identity politics that are based not on religious denomination, but on gender, sexual orientation, race, etc., and are as sacrosanct as religions, with their authority undebatable and any questioning akin to blasphemy.

Today, serious candidates for Congress and the presidency can openly state views that run counter to all known science and history, and many journalists don’t feel it is their role to point out that the emperor has no clothes.

In science, US students fell from seventh in a 1972 ranking known as the First International Science Study to twenty-ninth out of forty-five countries measured in the 2006 PISA report, below countries like Hungary and Poland and just above the Slovak Republic.

A scientific theory is not a hypothesis or guess, as the word commonly means when used in casual conversation. A scientific theory is the one explanation that is confirmed by all the known and validated experiments performed to date. Experiments involving evolution have numbered in the hundreds of thousands over the past 150 years. A theory is thus among the most certain forms of scientific knowledge, and evolution is among the most certain of theories. But because science is inductive, scientists recognize that there is still a chance that it could be wrong.

The adoption by schools of abstinence-only sex ed despite proof of its dismal results highlights a central question about American values: Which is more important in education – adherence to our ideological perspectives as parents or the outcomes it achieves for our children?

Vote No!

Unlike several states who are having votes to legalize it, on the ballot here in Minnesota this November is a measure to add a permanent government ban on marriage for same-sex couples. You see, it's already not legal -- they just want to make it MORE not legal.

Polls show that the divide between those who are going to "vote yes" (support the ban) and those who are going to "vote no" is pretty slim. However, the "vote no" yard signs are more prevalent by a disproportionately wide ratio, which makes me suspect that the people who will "vote yes" are too cowardly and ashamed to reveal how bigoted they really are to their neighbors.

I live in a conservative, partially rural county. I'd long suspected that we might be one of few liberal-minded families in our neighborhood, so I was pleasantly surprised to see three "vote no" signs on lawns nearby. Guess how many "vote yes"es? Zip. They must be out there, but they're not willing to admit it.

Adventures in body image

We’ve all read stories about women of a “normal” weight endangering their health because the image they see when they look in the mirror is not that of a thin person. To observers who aren’t anorexic or don’t otherwise have an eating or body image disorder, this seems totally crazy. We think, “How can they not see that they are not fat at all???”

I have never been underweight or anorexic, but I have experienced a similar phenomenon during my own weight loss during the past half year. I’ve lost 20 pounds, and I haven’t been this light since high school.

I must look different because I now have a whole new useless collection of saggy, baggy pants. I must look different because my family, friends and colleagues have commented positively and asked if I've lost weight. I must look different because my wedding rings keep falling off. But in all honesty, I struggle to see anything different when I look in the mirror. Why is that? Is there a mental “mirage” in place over my eyes containing a snapshot of what I looked like more or less for the past 15+ years, and now I can’t see around it to see what I really look like?

I don't expect that I'll ever have an eating disorder, and I appreciate food too much to ever be underweight, but this experience has demonstrated to me how easy it could be to succumb when the scale tells me one thing but my eyes see another.

Body image is a curious thing. We often think of it as referring to how a person feels about herself when looking in the mirror. However, I’m learning that it is the “image” part of the phrase that is more complex than (literally!) meets the eye.

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Fear vs. Hope

It came to me one day that many issues that conservatives feel most passionate about seem to be motivated by fear. I did some Googling, and it turns out I'm not the only one to whom that thought has occurred. It's some interesting research and, external influences notwithstanding, could suggest that one some level we may be biologically predisposed to lean to one side or the other.

Does that mean that the opposite is true? Are liberals politically motivated by hope?

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