Has Tony Blair lost his mind?! Ah no, don't worry, those scribblings actually are the work of Bill Gates...buh?


This is incredibly geeky. You must listen to the American flag image... read the post to see what that means.
I seem to be reading a lot about Bright Eyes these days. Well, this is the second article I've seen this week, anyway...


So yesterday I just about got run down in a crosswalk. There's a stop sign, and I was about 1/3 of the way through the thing and this guy just came cruising right past the sign and line! He was looking the other way to see if he could turn, likely planning on a California rolling stop. Fortunately for me, he slowed down as he penetrated the crosswalk. I used some quick goat thinking and leaped out of the way, but he really made me mad. I pounded on his hood a bit and yelled at him. Really put me out, almost being killed despite the presence of stop sign and well marked crosswalk.
Yep, that's our fearless leader, "advancing history" and "firmly plant[ing] the flag of liberty." Thank heavens he's also found the time to "lay out the math" for Social Security reform and figure out how to combat those "twin deficits" we've got going...

I almost feel like this article was written specifically to piss me off.
Funny article in The Onion.
"Kirk generally keeps a tight rein on his interpersonal expenditures," Herman's longtime friend Ken Klein said. "Contributions of affection rarely exceed his own yearnings. Also, there was an exchange of liquid assets on the first date, which is suicide in this dating market. It's not the sort of thing that generally leads to a permanent merger."


I'm going to go ahead and say that people should check out the Flaming Lips. Sonically dense, as they say. Some of you might like.
Awesome story about a dude in the mailroom of a publishing company... getting a book deal. Via Ezra Klein (and then he found it via someone else ;))


The debate continues - Why do men score much higher than women (in most countries) on math and science exams? Personally, I'm inclined toward the "cultural differences and social conditioning" argument.
Yum. Mouse serum and stuff: stem cell lines approved for federal funding are delicious and nutritious tainted with animal products.


Check it out, my peeps. Bunch o' pictures - my gallery is on bottom. Susan's got a big one full o' cat pictures. More to come.


Maureen Dowd is crazy. I'm pretty sure that she watched the inauguration* and cracked. Maybe I should say that she saw it coming and cracked.

*Inauguration n.- the ceremonial insertion of a large corkscrew into an orifice of the democratic party.

u: iwannaread p:thisbook

This afternoon I went to the post office to join in on a wee lil' protest against the inauguration. It was pretty cool but at the this old guy came up to me and asked me if I wanted to be in a movie he was making because of my 'interesting look'. I asked him what kind of movie, because he was probably a pervert, and he said that it is about a female assasin. I thought that was pretty cool, but I doubt I will do it, due to my lack of acting skills, and the fact that I don't know him and he lives out in Williams.
Why Hail to the Chief? Because he's the chief. And he needs hailing. Duh.
Would you pay $150 (or more) to see yourself as you truly are? I guess it's cheaper than a video camera and monitor...

Check out the stuff about the "hair part theory"...pretty funny. (via Geekpress)
Stay in your pineapple under the sea! We don't want your filthy ideals of tolerance and understanding anywhere near our children!
I'm not so sure what this is supposed to mean. It's rather confusing.


NYT review of the book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (about "the science of split-second decisions"):
"If you want to trust my snap judgment, buy this book: you'll be delighted. If you want to trust my more reflective second judgment, buy it: you'll be delighted but frustrated, troubled and left wanting more.

Or just go to the bookstore, look at the cover and let your neurons make up their own damn mind.


Bush admits his intelligence needs work. At last ;)
Boy, howdy, they sure got them some winners down there in Memphis.


Yesterday afternoon, Tom & I went for a walk in old town and stopped by the Apple Store, hoping to gawk at and drool over the new Mac offerings. Sadly, they didn't seem to have either the new Mac mini or iPod shuffle. Ah well. Here's an interesting chart/graphic/thing showing how freaking smart the folks at Apple have been in building their little empire. (via Geekpress)
I know I've been bemoaning our lack of true winter weather lately, but this is just too much. Huaaaagh!


I'm sorry, Pootie-Poot? I mean...huh???


Wow... maybe women should act all helpless if they want to snare a man:
A second study, which was by researchers at four British universities and reported last week, suggested that smart men with demanding jobs would rather have old-fashioned wives, like their mums, than equals. The study found that a high I.Q. hampers a woman's chance to get married, while it is a plus for men. The prospect for marriage increased by 35 percent for guys for each 16-point increase in I.Q.; for women, there is a 40 percent drop for each 16-point rise.
u: iwannaread p: thisbook
Check out the secrets of the masters, mate.



Okay- the critics aren't impressed, but I think that the Mac mini and the iPod shuffle are dead sexy. Especially that Mac mini. The shuffle is a bit gimmicky, and the mini maybe a little underpowered, but I started salivating when I saw it, so take from that what you will.


Thank goodness we can always count on Slate to ask the important questions.
It's still raining! Wow. Something like 14" in the month of January. Pasadena apparently averages 20" in a year...



Band name gleaned from Jared Diamond's book, Collapse: Goat Scorn
Brief Respite from Serious Discussion

Here's a cool article about the aerial, "video game angle" cameras used at football games.


Dude, where's my cohort?

I'm glad that my post below started some discussion, but I'm not done railing against the man. This time, I'm taking issue with the practice of advancing kids through school by age, rather than ability or accomplishment. Now, I must grant that advancement by age is a well established practice- in the sense that it's done nearly everywhere, and has been done for a long time. There seems to be very little else to recommend age-advancement, however. What arguments can be advanced in support of it?

Probably the first argument most will give relates to socialization. The idea is that kids of a given age will be better able to interact with each other. What supports this idea? It seems that children are certainly not of an age with their parents, and yet during childhood, they interact very well. Frequently they relate with their older or younger siblings, or even other family members of similar age. Children are so malleable that they can fit into nearly any situation- that's what they're made to do. What's more, when, outside of school as currently implemented, are people formed into groups solely on the basis of their ages? The idea that kids should be socialized in groups of homogeneous age seems like poor instruction for the future!

Another argument sometimes advanced regards the teachers: it is easier for teachers to deal with groups composed by age. Children of a particular age tend to be at a given developmental stage. There is certainly truth to that. However, a group of students of any age will have many individuals of differing development- teachers must still cope with the outliers! Also, remember that children are develping intellectually, emotionally, and physically- all at once. Should physical development- the most directly tied to age- be the factor setting the clock? Unless school really is to be glorified daycare, then the teachers ought to primarily be intellectual resources for their students. Hence, students' intellectual development should be paramount in advancing them.

This is not to say that school plays no role in instructing children in acceptable behavior. It's just that for the system of education to be at all effective in its mission- producing citizens capable of contributing to society and participating in our democracy- they must already have the rudiments of acceptable behavior upon entering. If they do not, and parents instead rely on the schools to instill their children with this essential knowledge, we end up with todays mess- teacher as babysitter/disciplinarian/instructor.

Digression: In the previous paragraph, I wrote that the mission of our education system is to produce productive citizens. The more cynical (read: realistic) among you will object that this was not the intent behind establishing said system. Rather, you'll say that the intent was to keep kids busy learning to accept authority until they reach their physical peak, at which point they'd be put to work. Or, you'll say that the point was to produce young adults with just enough education to participate in the manufacturing economy. That's all well and good (and probably true; I can also be cynical), but for the good of our world, those things can't be the mission of the education system (any more). Instead, it must be that we endeavor to give each citizen the tools to be productive and able to discharge their civic duty. It is not possible to stay a democracy if the people cannot understand the actions of their government (and the consequences of said).End Digression

It does not follow that education cannot be fun. While the acquisition of some of the skills can be dreary (reading, basic math), the exercise of those skills can be wonderful fun. The exercise of those skills- developing an appreciation of literature, music, art, science, film -whatever!- can even teach people about who they are, enabling them to express and create.


Q: What is wrong with education as practiced in the United States?

A: A large fraction of students complete their education having not gained the skills and/or knowledge necessary to contribute meaningfully to society, it costs a huge amount of money, and it wastes an incredible amount of time (which, as we all know, is money ;) ).

Unfortunately, all these problems are linked. The costs of educating the populace are made higher by inefficiency, which also wastes the time of all parties involved. The students are also under-prepared because of the inefficient use of their time spent in educuo (see how well educated I am? I can even make up Latin phrases).

What is the main source of inefficiency? The students. Or, more precisely, when we try to teach them.

Consider this- according to Stephen Pinker's book, The Language Instinct, toddlers acquire, on average, something like a half-dozen words per hour. So answer me why the kids aren't being pushed? I mean, good grief! Children are nothing so much as learning machines. Why is it that there's any delay at all in getting the bastards stuffed full of useful information?

Further, their tiny little brains are incredibly more well-suited to learning than the hormone-addled brains of teens! We should to be able to graduate, from middle school, students who are literate, numerate, aware of the basic history of their society and the world, and familiar with the basics of how objects interact. All this, before they're completely consumed by their burgeoning desire to mate!

We should, as the saying goes, strike while the iron is hot, when it has some hope of retaining the useful information that we'll strive to imprint upon it. So, rather than making grammar school and middle school mere exercises in unpleasant babysitting, force these places to live up to the potential of the students.

And while it is fine and dandy to produce well rounded citizens, what we really need is for them to be able to read and write, add and subtract, think and experiment. There is little need to instruct them to: play instruments, sing, play games, talk about how they feel about themselves (this is important- recent studies indicate that concentrating too highly on the self-esteem of students has detrimental effects on their performance!), paint, or draw. Rather than wasting time on "rounding" the kids out, let them acquire a core set skills and then discover their own edges and corners and shapes.

Texas snow! Going once. Going twice...erm...

Texas puddle! Going once...
In theory, I think the idea of small, themed high schools is a good one. However, the effective implementation of that idea is of course the tricky part. I can definitely see how problems can arise quickly when students are placed in one of these schools not out of some particular interest in its theme, but because they have nowhere else to go.


NPR has been really irritating, of late. They can't stop replaying their interviews with Artie Shaw. I mean- I don't really care about Artie Shaw. The guy hasn't been relevant in a (large) number of years, or even a (medium) number of decades! Just let him die in peace, and play some cooler interviews.