Monthly Archives: August 2012

Vacation Hallucination

We are vacationing in Phoenix. Nutjob politics, crazy heat and humidity, reminiscences of years past, and hidden object games are all giving me these weird waking dreams without even having to take drugs.

Junglemonkey remembered a feature on a kids radio show where the youthful host tried to explain the lyrics of pop songs. This morning I found myself wondering what the songwriter needed from Biggles last Saturday. A ride, maybe, or the key to his bike lock.

Also, there are grackles all over the place. These are the rattiest looking birds I’ve seen.

Trust Your Kid

Earlier today I tweeted this gem: “I don’t worry about my girls’ future boyfriends. I trust my daughters to be smart and capable.” I’d like to expand on that a little.

This was inspired by a quote I read on the Freakonomics blog:

“I want my girls’ potential boyfriends to think I’m a crazy lunatic,”Haley said.

I’ve heard this kind of thing before from my male friends who have daughters. They talk about getting all weird and scary with their daughters’ hypothetical boyfriends when those daughters are finally old enough to start dating. Just what are all these guys afraid of? Do they consider that their daughters are utterly helpless and are such bad decision-makers that they’ll be dating boys who won’t treat them well? I suppose I could be super uncharitable and guess that they extrapolate from their self-knowledge and think these hypothetical swains will be rapists who will nonetheless be deterred by the idea of a vengeful father. I bet, though, that it’s just that they don’t trust their daughters, and that makes me kind of sad.

Your kids are going to grow older whatever you do. I figure the best thing I can do for my kids is to teach them to be thoughtful and to value themselves. If they think of themselves as precious, they won’t put themselves in situations where they’ll get really hurt. All that remains, then, is to teach them enough to be able to recognize a bad situation, a bad idea, or a dangerous person. That’s hard, but not in the way that calculus is hard. It just requires a lot of time and engagement and trust. You can’t just wake up one morning and think, “Holy cow! My daughter, with whom I last interacted when she was five, is now old enough to be dating boys! I’d better teach her some stuff!” That won’t work. You have to be engaged all along; then when your daughter starts considering dating, she can bring up questions and you can offer insights and it won’t be all weird and fake.

And yeah, no matter what, if Mom or Dad says it, it’s probably wrong. So your daughter won’t believe you and will go make mistakes *anyway*. If she’s got a good sense of self-worth, though, she’ll come out okay. Just like you, right?

Doomed by History

I’ve probably mentioned this before somewhere, but from about five years after I got out of college I’ve felt acutely my lack of education. I got four years of Catholic school (an important four years, too) but otherwise I went to public schools in California. As a result of my time in private school, I can diagram a sentence, conjugate verbs, and use commas, semicolons, and apostrophes correctly. To that school I also owe my ability to perform well on SAT-type tests. To my public school education, I owe my knowledge of the geography of North America and western Europe. So far as my history and geography teachers were concerned, it was of passing interest that there existed some cultures somewhere east of Germany, but I swear, I learned more world geography from playing Risk. I suspect that the cold war had something to do with that, but I don’t see how, “We do not like communists,” translates into, “Our schoolchildren should not be shown maps of any communist country.” How can you be expected to drop a bomb on a country you can’t even find?

Since then, I’ve been eager to fill the void. I’ve read histories of China, of Persia, and of various African regions. I’m a sucker for maps and love trying to wrap my head around the geography of whatever story I’m reading. When I read histories of Alexander, I followed along on Google Earth and on the maps on Wikipedia. Of course, whenever I do this, with whatever region, I wind up with a temporary wish to go there and walk around in the area. It’s not just books, either: in 2009 Junglemonkey and I saw the Afghan gold exhibit when it was in New York. After that, I had to spend hours looking at maps of Afghanistan and its neighbors.

I just finished listening to Edward Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Volume 1” but, instead of going for the maps, I’ve been digesting it in terms of economics and politics. (Okay, I confess, there was my short investigation of when we stopped calling it the “Euxine Sea” as Herodotus and Gibbon did.) For instance, there’s “Why Nations Fail“, as well as “23 Things They Don’t Tell You about Capitalism“. The parallels between the politics of the Roman Empire around the time of Diocletian and the politics of the United States today are pretty obvious. Even more chilling is the thought that prosperity in the U.S. is not predicated on making stuff but on taking stuff from others. No wonder poker is so popular: this culture seems to be in love with zero-sum games.


Oh, hey, you know that phrase, “blood and treasure,” our military leaders use when they talk about what we’re spending on these conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan? Yeah, that’s what Gibbon used to describe the expenses of Roman military expeditions on the borders of the empire (I bet he got it from the Romans). Since they’re likely going to be in charge of the country in a few decades, I’m glad that at least our military commanders have read some history. I just hope they have also read some economics.

Sometimes Continuity Sucks

Facetime stopped working on my laptop sometime this year. I don’t know anyone far away with whom I actually want to chat, so I only use it when Junglemonkey goes out of town. She’s out for a few days and today the Badb came back from camp and of course we all want to see one another. Junglemonkey called my cell phone and complained that we weren’t answering Facetime and we were pigs. It turns out that my iPod’s application was working okay (but we didn’t hear it beeping, in the other room, in my purse, etc.) but my laptop’s app wasn’t. It never rang. I should know, I was sitting at my computer while it was failing to connect.

Eventually, I got it sorted out. It turns out that this is a thing – some unspecified change gets made to an obscure security file and suddenly Facetime and other messaging clients Just Don’t Work. Thanks, Apple.

My computer is new. The operating system is new. However, I’ve had a Mac laptop since 2003 and whenever I upgrade I migrate my user. Some of the files on my hard drive still date back to those early days. In this case, the problem file dated from 2006. Holy cow, 2006! That was two computers ago!