Saturday, March 08, 2014

Frank Advice for a Male Relative on Finding a Mate

I was going through some old papers and found this list. I'm not sure how many years ago I wrote it. I'm including only some of it here.

  1. Never spend even a moment's time on anyone who treats you badly. As you are courteous, you should expect courtesy in return. A jerk, no matter how beautiful, no matter how intelligent, no matter how accomplished, is still a jerk and is as untrustworthy as she is insufferable.
  2. As you make good money, be wary of women whose lives seem to revolve around spending it.
  3. Qualities you will come to greatly appreciate in marriage: honesty, industry, curiosity, humility, and temperance. 
  4. Because you want children, do not marry someone who doesn't want children. She may not change her mind.
  5. Marry someone you love to spend time with.
  6. Marry someone who is devoted to you.
  7. Don't marry anyone who nags you. It will only get worse in time, and you will only grow to hate it more. Do not set yourself up to become one of those henpecked men with a long face and a silent nature.
  8. If you have any doubt, don't.
  9. Before marrying a beautiful woman, clearly imagine that she has been in a disfiguring accident. Do you still want to be married to her? What if she were fat? Never underestimate the excuses your mind will make on behalf of a beautiful woman. Do not be blinded.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Why Do We Need to Talk About Race?

From my email and appreciated. Now one might not agree with every word. One might find fault with certain statistics. One might, rightly in my opinion, point out that not mentioning God explicitly makes the idea of an "arc of justice" absurd. (In his defense, he is addressing a TED audience, probably not a crowd particularly receptive to God talk though I'd have appreciated it if he'd tried.) However, listening past any faults or disagreements, there's much that is important there.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

A Mom Blog Worth Reading

I generally have no interest in mom blogs. But I think this one is important. For starters, try "The Best of" links on the sidebar.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Who Does the Writer Write For?

A reader rarely reads closely. Usually he brings crates of foreign baggage with him, baggage that distorts the writer's work under its weight. He invents phantoms that are real to him. He relates the plainly separate. He infers what does not exist. How can one write for him?

Friday, May 17, 2013

"As much as we might like a sensational story implicating top-level officials..."

"...the most common form of government misconduct does not usually involve devious scheming by politicians. Instead, it is often both less insidious and more invidious—the cumulative effects of misconduct by less-accountable, low-level officials who enjoy immense power over small areas of our lives.
Read it all.

Monday, May 13, 2013

He had indeed a different way of dealing with different kinds of people. Those who thought they had good natural ability and despised learning he instructed that the most highly-gifted nature stands most in need of training and education; ...

... and he would point out how in the case of horses it is just the spirited and fiery thoroughbred which, if properly broken in as a colt, will develop into a serviceable and superb animal, but if left unbroken will turn out utterly intractable and good for nothing. Or take the case of dogs: a puppy exhibiting that zest for toil and eagerness to attack wild creatures which are the marks of high breeding, will, if well brought up, prove excellent for the chase or for any other useful purpose; but neglect his education and he will turn out a stupid, crazy brute, incapable of obeying the simplest command. It is just the same with human beings; here also the youth of best natural endowments — that is to say, possessing the most robust qualities of spirit and a fixed determination to carry out whatever he has laid his hand to — will, if trained and taught what it is right to do, prove a superlatively good and useful man. He achieves, in fact, what is best upon the grandest scale. But leave him in boorish ignorance untrained, and he will prove not only very bad but very mischievous, and for this reason, that lacking the knowledge to discern what is right to do, he will frequently lay his hand to villainous practices; whilst the very magnificence and vehemence of his character render it impossible either to rein him in or to turn him aside from his evil courses. Hence in his case also his achievements are on the grandest scale but of the worst. -- Xenophon writing of Socrates

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sunday, November 25, 2012

More Great Movies for Young Kids

This is one of my most popular blog posts.

Now it's three years later, and with an almost six year old and an almost four year old, we have a little more experience. We even have a family movie night.

Here's an updated list with movies our kids love:
  • Hondo (1953) 
  • Shane (1953)
  • Stagecoach (1939)
  • Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
  • E.T: The Extra Terrestrial (1982) - The original version only. Helps to have a ClearPlay player for language. though I don't know that the ClearPlay filter would work on the original version disc. I assume they'll make a new filter with the new release which is going to be the original version.
  • The Princess Bride (1987) 
  • Red River (1948)
  • Mysterious Island (1961)
  • Superman (1978) - For children as young as ours, I'd recommend skipping Lois Lane getting killed in the car. Again, ClearPlay helps for language.
  • Fantastic Voyage (1966) 
  • Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
  • Toy Story 2 (1999)
  • Toy Story 3 (2010)
  • Cars (2006)
  • Up (2009)
  • Ratatouille (2007)
  • Finding Nemo (2003) 
  • Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984) - This is pretty intense in places. It represents the outer edge of the intensity we permit at these ages.
  • My Neighbor Totoro (1988)
  • Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)
  • Singin' in the Rain (1952)
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
  • The Red Balloon (1956) - Short.
  • The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  • Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
  • The Miracle Maker (2000)
  • The Ten Commandments (1956)
  • The Muppet Movie (1979)
  • The Great Muppet Caper (1981)
  • The Secret of NIMH (1982)
  • Donald in Mathmagic Land (1959) - Short.
  • Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)
  • The Tree of Life (2011) - Creation and growing up sequences. About forty-five minutes.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Strategically Buying Books for Angel Tree

I assume most people are familiar with Angel Tree and similar programs. For the few who aren't, it's a chance to buy Christmas gifts for a child or a family. You get a little piece of paper that tells you the child's name, age, sex, clothing sizes, and wish list, and you go shopping. 

In addition to the toys and clothes, many people also opt to get books for their Angel Tree kids. Having books at home is important.
For years, educators have thought the strongest predictor of attaining high levels of education was having parents who were highly educated. But, strikingly, this massive study showed that the difference between being raised in a bookless home compared to being raised in a home with a 500-book library has as great an effect on the level of education a child will attain as having parents who are barely literate (3 years of education) compared to having parents who have a university education (15 or 16 years of education). Both factors, having a 500-book library or having university-educated parents, propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average.
So then the question becomes, what books? One can always pick a few personal favorites. One might also try to pick strategically. So what are some ways to pick strategically?

One way might be to focus on imparting background knowledge. E. D. Hirsch Jr. has written on this extensively. Here is an excerpt from an article where he has explained the importance of background knowledge:

Consider the following sentence, which is one that most literate Americans can understand, but most literate British people cannot, even when they have a wide vocabulary and know the conventions of the standard language: 
Jones sacrificed and knocked in a run. 
Typically, a literate British person would know all the words in the sentence yet wouldn't comprehend it. (In fairness, most Americans would be equally baffled by a sentence about the sport of cricket.) To understand this sentence about Jones and his sacrifice, you need a wealth of relevant background knowledge that goes beyond vocabulary and syntax—relevant knowledge that is far broader than the words of the sentence. Let's consider what we as writers would have to convey to an English person to make this sentence comprehensible. 
First, we would have to explain that Jones was at bat. That would entail an explanation of the inning system and the three-outs system. It would entail an explanation of the size and shape of the baseball field (necessary to the concept of a sacrifice fly or bunt) and a digression on what a fly or a bunt is. The reader would also have to have some vague sense of the layout of the bases and what a run is. By the time our English reader had begun to assimilate all this relevant background knowledge, he or she may have lost track of the whole point of the explanation. What was the original sentence? It will have been submerged in a flurry of additional sentences branching out in different directions. 
The point of this example is that knowledge of content and of the vocabulary acquired through learning about content are fundamental to successful reading comprehension; without broad knowledge, children's reading comprehension will not improve and their scores on reading comprehension tests will not budge upwards either. 
So with that in mind, what books? These are some of the books I would pick, selecting an age-appropriate title for each point. (Note that I live in Arkansas, and so I am not part of the Amazon affiliate program.)

  • The Bible. I am a Christian, but even if I weren't, I would consider this a necessity. If a person is unfamiliar with the Bible, he is culturally ignorant in the Western world and poorly equipped to read Western literature. There is no getting around that. The same goes for the next two suggestions. However, I would probably not get a standard Bible. Most people have at least one of those already; they just don't read it, or they find it too difficult to understand. I'd go for something that imparts the basic stories, like this. Knowing the basic stories makes it much easier to read the real thing.
  • Grimm's fairy tales. 
  • Greek myths. ADDED: This, for example.
  • Survey of art, including major artists and most well-known works.
  • A concise history of the world. That sounds like a tall order, but there are plenty of options.
  • Survey of science, probably an engaging science encyclopedia.
  • Math beyond computation. Schools often distill math down to computation, but that's not what math really is, and it's important to know that. Plus, a student is going to feel more confident about mathematics if he knows some interesting things about it, maybe even cool things he can share in his math class. I particularly like this book.
If I had to pick only three, I'd go for the Bible, the Greek myths, and the survey of science. 

What would you pick with the goal of background knowledge in mind?

ADDED: A collection of Aesop's fables.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

"I felt a peculiar chill, an enveloping sensation of fear and awe: this pendulum knows algebra!"

In that moment I suddenly understood what people meant by “laws of nature.” It was a moment from which I’ve never really recovered. It felt like I was being let in on a secret. There were beautiful, hidden patterns in the world, patterns you couldn’t see unless you knew math.
Steven Strogatz in Wired.

Friday, November 02, 2012

"These days, the scientific community accepts me."

"But getting to that point was tremendously hard, and I think it required a big perception shift. When people have dedicated their lives to something—and spent eight years in college—they just expect that a kid wouldn’t be up to doing it. But kids have a certain predisposition to do things differently and see the world differently—and that’s helpful. I don’t mean to offend anybody, but I think that we get a lot of scientists now who are bent into a system, and we lose some of their boldness by that," writes Taylor Wilson, one of The Atlantic's 2012 Brave Thinkers.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Two Videos

Who is supposed to be won over by these videos?

This first one is a real campaign ad. I could see this coming from a misguided PAC, but the actual campaign? Yow! Somebody go get the adults.

This other one is not a campaign ad. This falls into the misguided supporter category. Too strange.

So who are the theoretical people who are supposed to be swayed by each of these? What are these theoretical people interested in? What are their demographics? Obviously the people who made these videos, in the first case a candidate's actual campaign, think that more people will be won over by their videos than put off by them. I would like to see those calculations written out. What might they look like?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Live-Blogging the Debate

UPDATE: When the White House writes "transcript," the White House means, "Not a transcript." It does appear in the speech. See John's update at 10:15.

Twitter friends are saying I should have tweeted this thing. I think they're right! Maybe I'll have to break out the Twitter next time.

Now it's over. Don't know why Romney would bring up the 47% thing right before Obama's closing so he'll get no chance to respond to what Obama says about it. Looks like in retrospect, Romney may have won the Libya exchange. This is the transcript from the speech they were talking about. The moderator backed up Obama when he said that he called the attack an act of terror. The transcript shows, however, that he did not. That will be in the news tomorrow.

Romney dominated the first half of the debate. Obama came back in the second. Democrats have got to be happy with Obama's better showing this time and the fact that he had the momentum at the end. Republicans must be disappointed that Romney didn't deliver another outright victory.

The disturbing thing about the debates is that candidates can take on the strategy of assuming that viewers do not know anything about what is being discussed. So it goes.

We'll see what happens next time...

9:27 - Romney is explaining how China cheats.

9:24 - Ha. Moderator assist to Obama on assault weapons. Oh my.

9:21 - Will Romney bring up Fast and Furious? Oh, he did. Good.

9:18 - "Weapons designed for soldiers... don't belong on our streets." I guess people forget the actual purpose of the Second Amendment.

9:16 - Unless Romney turns it around, he's flubbed a question that should have been a home run for him. (Libya.)

9:12 - Althouse: "9:09: Crowley calls on someone named "Carrie" and Obama does a "Hi, Carrie" that sounds gentle and it's obvious he thinks it's a female. But it's a big old guy. "Cary," presumably. And he's got the Libya question. Uh-oh." Which was too bad because I think he felt like he was getting on a roll.

9:09 - "Don't turn national security into a political issue." Hrm.

9:03 - Obama went on again about how he's trying. That argument is horrible. "Yeah, everything's awful. But I'm doing my best." That's nice, but your best isn't good enough.

9:01 - Obama: "The flow of undocumented workers is the lowest it's been in forty years." Heh heh heh. True, but it's because the economy is awful. Maybe he shouldn't have brought that up.

8:57 - Once again, you can tell who got used to speaking in high pressure boardrooms and who got used to speaking in college classrooms or bureaucratic meetings. That was a pretty devastating two minutes by Romney.

8:56 - Deficit.

8:53 - President says lack of improvement is not for lack of trying. Is he making an argument for or against himself?

8:52 - Debt.

8:50 - Jobs.

8:43 - Ha ha ha. MKH on Twitter retweets from IMAO: "Romney put women in binders!"

8:43 - Contraception is money out of a family's pocket. So I thought it should be money out of every family's pocket.

8:41 - Romney was ready for this Woman Question. He's Mr. Prepared. Like last time.

8:39 - Ugh. This is the Who Can Pander to Ladies the Most segment. Boring. Too bad you can't fast forward live.

8:37 - Oh, gag. Silly question. "Women make less than men... what are you going to do about it... blah blah blah." Ignores the myriad factors that contribute to that. I'll take these moments to get a feel for how the candidates are comporting themselves.

8:35 - I think going Math on Romney is a big mistake. The Romney-Ryan ticket is nothing if not a Math ticket.

8:34 - Math?! "Blows up the deficit." The strategy must be to speak to people who know absolutely nothing about spending during Obama's term.

8:31 - There are a lot of little, rhetorical shortcuts the candidates take. For example, Romney just said something about "when China is cheating." People who are into politics, especially economics and politics, know what he's talking about. Does a regular person, someone who is not a political hobbyist, know what that means?

8:29 - Obama has clearly has no experience with small business. The question is, however, do the people listening to him have any such experience?

8:26 - Obama doing the popular thing of conflating capital gains taxes with income taxes. Pet peeve.

8:20 - Enough energy already.

8:18 - Ouch. Romney taking Obama to task. Obama says he's saying things that aren't true. Looks like no slap fight though; Obama sat down.

8:17 - Heh. The Obama campaign strategy is to call Romney a liar repeatedly. Romney is making a mad eagle face.

8:16 - Can't tell yet if Obama is better this time. Romney is excellent. He's fully prepared. It shows.

8:14 - Romney responds by pointing out that oil production increases were apart from federal land. On federal land, production has gone down significantly. Both candidates look annoyed with each other. Obama is in danger was falling into a petulant face.

8:13 - Obama says working on efficient energy is going to make gas cheaper. Because clean energy is cheaper... wait...

8:10 - Oh my! Obama: "Romney has a one point plan. And that's to let people at the top play by different rules." Pretty outrageous. And the moderator refuses to allow Romney to follow up.

8:09 - As a friend points out on Facebook, not everyone needs to go to college. In fact, probably fewer people need to go to college.

8:08 - I thought this format wasn't going to have moderator follow up questions.

8:04 - Obama paraphrased: "We need good paying jobs. Like manufacturing jobs." Oh, union ones, I guess.
I bet that wasn't what that guy was thinking about when he asked if he'd have a job when he got out of college.

8:03 - Everyone is from the New York area? Okay.

8:03 - Obama has been told to flash that great smile a lot. Wise.

7:58 - I don't have comments turned on. That means no one can drop in to say that his favorite show is different than all of those other shows.

7:56 - Turned on the television five minutes ago. How does this make any money? Who watches this? It's so gaudy and horrible. I'm not talking about a particular show. I'm talking about all of the shows.

7:41 - Normally you wonder if the guy who lost last time will go too far the other way and be weird. (Gore.) I don't think that's likely here. Obama is too socially adept to be outright bizarre. Surely Biden's performance has him wary of veering off into the ditch of aggression.

7:37 - My prediction: Obama will be much better. He'll refrain from looking down and put out. Romney will be the same. He's a prepared sort of person, so he'll be prepared again.

7:29 - The baby is going to contribute by ringing a bell in my ear. He's practicing now.

7:14 PM - Heck, why not?

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Today is the 60th Anniversary...

... of the publication of Mere Christianity, arguably the greatest popular, Christian, nonfiction book of this century.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Transit of Venus 2012

That picture was taken using a Fuji Finepix F200EXR on a tripod with a pair of disposable "Eclipse Shades" held over the lens. I've taken lots of astronomy pictures lately with this cheap point and shoot camera. They're not great, but I love them, and I especially loved taking them. I write that to point out that you shouldn't feel like you need a lot of expensive equipment to jump into a hobby. Just try things with whatever you have. It's fun.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Charlotte Mason on the importance of parenting:
It is well for those who have the bringing up of golden lads and girls, to bear in mind always that the leopard does not change his spots. Our facile faith in a regeneration to be brought about somehow, at school; at college, by a profession, by family ties, by public work, is really born of our laziness. That which will be done somehow for young people, we do not take the trouble to do ourselves; we shift our responsibility, and the young bear our sins and their own till the end of the chapter.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

An Observation of Current American Politics

The ship is sinking, and we are arguing about whether or not the passengers in second class should get complimentary hors d'oeuvres in the captain's lounge.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Why C.S. Lewis Has Endured

Another thought emailed to me from David Hunt:
He had the ability to flip the lights on in previously unused regions of your brain. Once lit, the landscape of these unfamiliar regions prove somehow familiar, like they've been laying there the whole time, waiting for you. And you're so grateful to him for showing you what you feel you somehow already knew.

I think that's the secret to all great teachers. They turn on the lights, helping you reclaim parts of yourself, parts that you know rightfully belong to your person, making you feel more whole than before. Certainly, when you read the Gospels, Jesus does that over and over again.
Well put.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Classical learning assumes that children are curious and will learn best when they are interested in the subject. But it also assumes that children’s interest may need awakening, through gentle exposure to unfamiliar subjects.
I don't know that that's true of "classical learning" in its classical sense, but the sentiment is, I think, true and part of a very short essay I enjoyed today.

A classical teacher knows that writing and mathematics are skills which must be mastered before they can be thoroughly enjoyed. Most of us remember the frustrating early days of learning a new skill — sewing, for example, or woodwork, or knitting, or learning a new musical instrument. Exercising a new skill can yield more frustration than delight — until practice has made the skill second nature. Once you have learned the basic skills of sewing or woodwork, your focus is able to shift away from the mechanics of the skill itself (sewing a straight seam, creating a perfect joint) and towards the production of a beautiful object (a dress or bookshelf).

Monday, February 13, 2012

In Defense of Valentine's Day

During an email discussion of Valentine's Day today, someone quipped that those who celebrate Valentine's Day are "slaves to the Hallmark holiday." David Hunt had an enjoyable response to that, and I got his permission to share it here:
A few years ago [my wife] and I watched "The Karate Kid Part II", a film I haven't seen since childhood. Though a pale shadow of the original, it's still a decent film; certainly not the fairly dismal flick that was number 3, nor the abomination that was number 4. One wouldn't think a middling eighties film sequel would be the source for an important social insight, but it was through watching this movie that I first really began to understand the importance of ritual.

Beforehand, I had been more of your mind. I looked on the ritualistic, from weddings to certain holidays, with a kind of "why bother?" disdain, feeling myself above the grooved-in modes of culture that others seemed to trek through, unthinkingly, as if on some kind of auto-pilot. They were just going along as they were directed, but I was standing on the higher plane above, surveyor of the meaningless random slash marks in our cultural landscape that these poor lemmings were trodding through without a thought. What did they gain from acquiescing to these routines? Nothing? I would skip over them happily. That I felt superior for doing so was only a dimly acknowledged side benefit of my ruggedly individual choice.

But I was wrong. The lemmings were right.

During Karate Kid II, there is a scene where Daniel is undergoing some kind of courtship ritual with his new Japanese girlfriend. I have no idea whether this scene is founded on true Okinawan culture or merely some fertile screenwriter's mind, but that's irrelevant. She is treating the ritual very solemnly, carefully undergoing each step, when all of a sudden Daniel makes light of a certain bit, trying to generate a laugh. But he doesn't get the connection he was looking for. Instead of chuckling along with him, she gives him a look of stern rebuke, chastening him back into the solemnity of the ritual's steps and processes.

For some reason, this little bit, a quite honest moment with the self-aware American trying to make light of an old-world tradition and coming out on the wrong end of the transaction, opened my eyes to what ritual really is. Ritual is a sign of respect, a communication that one is removing oneself from his normal life for a bit in order to demonstrate his seriousness and commitment to something he finds special. The arbitrariness of ritual is its point. In doing a series of steps that are patently unnecessary, and something out of orbit from how one would normally behave, one is putting a stake in the ground, saying "I do this as a symbol of respect, in order to show that this other thing matters deeply to me."

It sounds simple, but I'd never quite seen it that way before. Now, thanks to Karate Kid II, I do.

And so, I will celebrate Valentine's Day tomorrow with my wife. I'll skate the cultural groove along with everybody else, and do so happily. Even though I am aware of the holiday's origins, origins don't always inform meaning, and to our culture, Valentine's Day has become a ritualized day to show the one you love that they are special enough to you that you'll engage in the same societal ritual that the rest of our culture is engaging in on that day; that you'll put aside your own things in order to honor the other on that day. I may be a greeting card slave, but I'm a happy slave, and I'm looking forward to the ritual.
Happy Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wyatt Randall Hunt...

... was born last Sunday, January 15th, at 3:15 a.m. Hooray!

All went well, all are well, so all is well.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Much Like the Hippopotamus

The hippopotamus is a ridiculous looking animal with its absurd size, bizarre proportions, and odd features.

So it is at the end with pregnant women, and I can write that because I am one.

At the very end of pregnancy, the woman usually assumes a shape something like the grotesque female imaginings of R. Crumb. (No, I'm not a fan of his, but I have seen Crumb.) Or, as I said to my husband this morning, something like a series of orbs in a sock.

It is a good trade though. This transformation is usually temporary, and you get a kid in the end.

Unlike the hippopotamus.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

"Weinergate tells a cautionary tale." or Why I Am a Libertarian Conservative

To speak of what “the founders believed,” you have to speak broadly, ideologically, not monolithically. But one thing they knew, to a man, was that they were sinful men. And even those who trusted in their own rectitude, attributed depravity to others. So with each codicil of the Constitution they labored to answer the question: What would weasels do? And then they built a barrier against that tendency. ...

Men are weak, wily, wicked. Don’t give them any more power over you than absolutely necessary...

By restraining the federal government to a few, specific functions, and setting it up with checks and balances, and yes, negative liberties, we mitigate the harmful effects of human nature. Smaller government is also easier to monitor, and error and evil harder to hide.

The Utopian dreams of the Left perpetually die on the altar of human frailty.
For more, and you should read the rest of it, go here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Still a Birther? What Do You Need?

Here it is.

For a few people, hard core birthers, that's not enough. I guess they'll have to wait for the 35mm film of Obama's birth with the "Welcome to Hawaii" sign in the background and the bald eagle cutting the cord at the end.