To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Friday, January 30, 2009


"Obama said he was going to make the rich pay their fair share and he's going to do it, even if he has to nominate every one of them."


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I have long seen, and continue to see, articles about self-esteem.

Here's one: Self-esteem not a good teaching tool

Turns out children are feeling pretty good about themselves lately. Maybe a little too good.

A recent study by researchers at San Diego State University found that high school seniors are bursting with more self-esteem than a generation or two ago. For example, in 1975, 49 percent of them believed they would be successful at their jobs.

Today 65 percent do.

Instilling that "world, here I come!" attitude is a great thing. Instilling baseless self-congratulation? Less so. Yet I have to admit that I have a hard time figuring out when to say, "What a wonderful letter you wrote for grandma!" and when to go, "Do you think you could possibly put one ounce of effort into your thank-you note?"

There have been various proponents of self-esteem over the years, ranging from Nathaniel Branden, onetime close friend and "intellectual heir" of Ayn Rand, to James Dobson, who wrote Hide or Seek in the early 1970's. Somewhere along the way, the idea of self-esteem became subsumed into the kinds of you're-so-wonderful-just-because-you're-you statements we associate with Mr. Rogers, and then, in that simplistic form, worked into education theory for kids through high school age - that is, if you believe articles like the above mentioned.

Count me as one of those people who think that self-esteem is very important. I think you can figure out what a person's self-image is by inviting them to complete this statement: "I am the kind of person who...." And I think it's important that the person's self-image, while moderately realistic, is generally positive. "I'm the kind of person who gets the job done." "I'm the kind of person who is compulsive about getting all my schoolwork finished and turned in on time." "I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I'm the kind of person who worries at my math homework until I understand it, no matter how long it takes." Why only moderately realistic? I don't think it hurts for people to stretch themselves. If a person of average intelligence thinks "I'm pretty smart", she will probably challenge herself by taking the more difficult courses in school. She may not make grades better than C, but she'll definitely get to the limit of her natural ability; she'll learn a lot of stuff, possibly surprise her teachers, and if nothing else, be an interesting and engaged person.

I have read and absorbed some of the caveats about the kind of general praising you're not supposed to do. So I've tried to be both accurate and specific about the positive feedback I've given my daughter. "I'm proud of your hard work and the way you stuck with that tedious project until you got it finished," for instance. (There are those who say I shouldn't have said "I'm proud" because I wasn't letting her have ownership; shoot me.) This is the answer to Ms. Skenazy's dilemma about the letter to Grandma, by the way, and one might incorporate one of the things I learned in management training: say "and" instead of "but". "I see that you've written a thank-you note to Grandma. She'll be happy to get that. It looks very nice. And maybe you could add a sentence about how you love the color and you can't wait to wear it to school." Now you haven't griped or carped and you've expressed to the kid exactly what you'd like to see (which you can't depend upon the kid reading your mind to figure out; "put more effort" is basically meaningless).

I'll add that there is a time and a place for unconditional love. Your kid does something immature or even dishonest, he comes to you about it dreading the consequences, and the first words out of your mouth are, "We'll get through this." Dr. Dobson said somewhere, possibly in Hide or Seek, that in his practice he saw parents who put a lot of pressure on their kids to excel academically and sometimes the kids just simply didn't have the raw brain power to do it. He imagined parents at the sidelines of a footrace, screaming "You can do it! You're just not trying hard enough! I think you want to embarrass us!" to their kid struggling behind all of his peers with leg braces from having polio. Dobson said that if he had a little boy or girl who couldn't excel in school, he'd help them find a field where they could excel. The movie "Dead Poets Society" has a protagonist who commits suicide because his father can't accept him unless he is fulfilling his father's own self-image of having a son who is like this and like that. Unconditional love means that you want the kid to be who he or she is, to be the best he can be, and you love him for who he is, not what he does for you. If the parents of my hypothetical C-student in the previous paragraph love her unconditionally, they'll appreciate and enjoy her can-do spirit and encourage her to continue to value learning over her grade-point average.

So self-esteem is important. I think people are sometimes prevented from doing stupid, dishonest, or immoral things because their self-respect is more important than whatever they would have gained. And I don't see how it could be wrong to bolster that kind of thing in a person, by pointing out positive character traits when possible.

I also think that one of the unwanted outcomes of the War on Poverty is that some people got the self-image that they couldn't make it on their own like other people; they had to be supported by the government. Then you had multiple generations born on welfare and that same pernicious self-image passed down. This is one of the reasons why welfare reform, undoubtedly frightening and painful as it has been for some people, was sorely needed. What would the pioneers have said? "I am the kind of person who finds a way to provide for myself and my family, no matter what. I can stand on my own two feet in any situation. We may not be rich but we'll get along." Except for people who are disabled to the point that they can't survive without help, it's un-American for adults to be allowed or even encouraged to think that in the field of making a living, putting a roof over their heads and food on the table and paying their bills, they just can't cut it. They've lost an important part of their heritage, IMO.

I also have to wonder about that 51% of kids in 1975 who didn't think they'd be successful on their jobs. What in the world is that about?

Here is a better article:

The most awful, stupid parenting advice

Maybe a good parenting question is: When to help and when to leave them alone? A better formulation would be: How do you know when the child/person should know what to do so you should leave him/her alone and how do you know when that person is in over his or her head?

It's a good, thoughtful, useful article that doesn't rehash the same stuff we've seen over and over. It's true that kids aren't born knowing everything about getting along in the world and acting like a civilized person. Some pick up things like social cues very easily and others need explicit explanations about how to act. Individual kids need different levels of parental guidance at different ages, too. Parenting books and articles are useful for getting ideas about how to handle things, and what might be going on in your kid's head, but you have to know your own child and run all that stuff past your common sense. (I am the kind of person who pays attention to my kid and thinks about the long-term consequences of the way I help her grow as a person.) Some people, like John Rosemond, think parents over-think. It's my view that parenting done right requires some thought.

And that really is the answer to the self-esteem thing. Think about your kid. Think about what's going on with him and what direction you'd like him to develop in, and how you can help him go there. Getting more patience, or being more persistent, or slowing down and being more thoughtful, or being more forceful with his peers, whatever it is. Nurture a positive, healthy, moderately realistic self-image by verbally holding up a mirror to reflect back to the kid those traits you want to encourage.

Disclaimer regarding parenting advice from me: Once again, the definition of "expert" is "parent of one child". It's possible that if I'd had two I wouldn't have dared open my mouth on the subject.

Monday, January 26, 2009

F found a bag last weekend when she was shopping with her suitemate and she HAD to buy it because, she said, it looked like me! Here's the pic she sent before she popped it in the mail.

Isn't it cute? It came today (along with some tootsie rolls, Hello Kitty lip gloss, and peel-and-press tattoos) and it is the bees' knees. All of my bags to date have been boring things that got the job done. I'm going to enjoy carrying this one.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

I want to talk about abortion again.
: (

I posted here in a blurb about embryonic stem cell research, how I arrived at my pro-life views from a scientific perspective. But there's a societal perspective too. Here is another mostly direct quote from a comment I've left elsewhere.

I think the abortion issue goes back to a fundamental lack of respect for human life and a reluctance to provide protection for helpless humans whose existence is inconvenient, and who we don't have to look at so we can disconnect our emotions (hearts). I think there is a continuum from a complacency about abortion, to babies getting knocked in the head or shaken for crying (see the occasional article in any urban newspaper), to toddlers being beaten to death over toilet training (ditto), to people being killed during robberies or drive-bys or just because someone thinks he's been "disrespected" as if lack of respect weren't the fundamental problem in the first place. I think when we made it legal for women to delete their unborn just because they didn't want them, we encouraged this whole domino effect thing.

Yes, I know people have always committed murder, and sadly, even murder of babies and children. But I really do think there is a culture of death and things are worse now than they were. For instance, when my daughter graduated from high school and went off to college in 2005, after a couple of months she remarked to me with some surprise that she hadn't seen any fights yet. I saw exactly one fight during my entire high school career, and that one was sponsored by a couple of teachers who were trying to settle a feud between two boys (no, it didn't work). Do you remember school shootings when you were a kid? I sure don't. I carried a pocket knife to school on occasion; no one cared about such things back then because they had no need to.

Why are people so violent nowadays? Is it the crap we see on TV all the time, and in the movies, and the music? Maybe, but I still draw a line from dehumanizing the unborn to devaluing all human life. Feel free to disagree. But this is where I stand.

(BTW, if anyone thinks this is exclusively a religious point of view - I personally know two atheists who oppose abortion: one because he thinks it is immoral, and one because he thinks it is bad for society.)

One of the things that so profoundly disappoints me about Pres. Obama's adamantly pro-choice view is the fact that statistically, black babies are almost four times as likely as white babies to be killed in the womb. From the Guttmacher Institute:

The overall abortion rate is 21 per 1,000 U.S. women (i.e., each year 2.1% of all women of reproductive age have an abortion). Black and Hispanic women have higher abortion rates than non-Hispanic white women do. (The rates are 49 per 1,000 and 33 per 1,000 among black and Hispanic women, respectively, vs. 13 per 1,000 among non-Hispanic white women.)

Is this in line with these statistics?

Racial differences exist, with blacks disproportionately represented among homicide victims and offenders

In 2005, homicide victimization rates for blacks were 6 times higher than the rates for whites.

Looks that way to me.

We have a black president. He has the bully pulpit and the unblinking attention of all kinds of people, but in particular young black folks. How wonderful if he would appeal to them: Let's stop killing each other and start valuing each other, starting with the most helpless and vulnerable: our brothers and sisters in the womb.

Friday, January 23, 2009

I am confused.

Obama Reverses Key Bush Security Policies

WASHINGTON — President Obama reversed the most disputed counterterrorism policies of the Bush administration on Thursday, declaring that “our ideals give us the strength and moral high ground” in the fight against Al Qaeda. But Mr. Obama postponed for months decisions on complex questions the United States has been grappling with since the terrorist attacks of 2001.

Mr. Obama signed executive orders closing the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, within a year; ending the Central Intelligence Agency’s secret prisons; and requiring all interrogations to follow the noncoercive methods of the Army Field Manual.

Okay. Guantánamo is to be closed ... eventually. It's my understanding that there's no real plan yet for where some of the people will be put. They may just end up in a different prison elsewhere.


In offering a warning that was also sounded by other Republicans, Mr. Hoekstra noted that in briefings for Congress, administration officials “could not answer questions as to what they will do with any new jihadists or enemy combatants that we capture.”

Could not answer questions. Well, they can be (1) taken to Gitmo, (2) taken to another prison somewhere (whoopee), (3) turned loose immediately (really whoopee), or (4) shot immediately.

Then later in the article:

The immediate practical impact of the orders was limited, in part because the most aggressive Bush policies were scaled back long ago. Military interrogators have been required by law to abide by the Army Field Manual since 2005, and since 2003 the C.I.A. has not used waterboarding, the near-drowning technique described as torture by Mr. Obama’s choice as attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr. Only a handful of prisoners have passed through the C.I.A.’s secret overseas detention program since 2005.

So Gitmo won't be closed immediately, and there's no substantive plan for it to close; the army field manual must continue to be used for interrogations, as it has since 2005; the CIA has not waterboarded since 2003 (so why am I still reading about it as though it were a current practice?); and according to the NYT "only a handful" of prisoners have passed through the CIA's secret prisons ("passed through" not being equivalent to "left to rot").

Is that it?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A historic perspective on today's events. Jeff, if I were in DC I would definitely look for you.

Instead I am at work today. Oh well. I don't do crowds.

Monday, January 19, 2009

MLK Day 2009

I was thinking today about complaints that King "had" to be given his own holiday, or rather that "they" had to get "their" own holiday, and scrunch our precious founding fathers together into President's day, and somehow this little passage came to mind.

[T]he body does not consist of only one part, but of many. If the foot says, “Since I'm not a hand, I'm not part of the body,” that does not make it any less a part of the body, does it? And if the ear says, “Since I'm not an eye, I'm not part of the body,” that does not make it any less a part of the body, does it? If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has arranged the parts, every one of them, in the body according to his plan. Now if all of it were one part, there wouldn’t be a body, would there? So there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don't need you,” or the head to the feet, “I don't need you.” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are in fact indispensable, and the parts of the body that we think are less honorable are treated with special honor, and we make our less attractive parts more attractive. However, our attractive parts don't need this. But God has put the body together and has given special honor to the parts that lack it, so that there might be no disharmony in the body, but that its parts should have the same concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is praised, every part rejoices with it.

I Cor. 12 14-26

There isn't any "they". There can't be if we're to survive and flourish. There can only be "us" and we have to make sure that no one is excluded.
The house is very quiet without the running commentary. If anyone had told me I would miss that INCESSANT MEOWING I'd have thought they'd lost their minds.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Gold, Brother of Silver

1991 - 2009

Good night, sweet prince:
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!

Pet peeve time. Etymology is a wonderful thing, folks. It keeps you from making dumb spelling errors.

In a word of Hebrew origin, "el" sometimes (not always) means "God". "Bethel" means "House of God". "Joel" means "The Lord is God".

Genesis 32 tells an odd little story about Jacob, son of Isaac, and the night he spent wrestling with an angel. After he finishes wrestling, he is renamed "Israel", which may be translated "he struggles with God".

See the -el on there? "Isra-el". "Israel". Not "Isreal".

Moving on, Greek for God is "Theus", (Zeus), similar to Latin "Deus". "Theodore" is "Gift of God". "Theology" is the study of God. A theist or a deist is a person who believes in God. An atheist, a-theist, is a person who says there is no God. It amazes me when people DESCRIBE THEMSELVES as "athiests". Do you not know what you are?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

This is a very jazzy version of a song I heard at the mall we went to in Orlando. I recognized it immediately as being from a very funny comedy.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

RIP, Mr. Montalban. (sob)
Joanne Jacobs has a post about lawsuits, or the threat thereof, changing the way public schools do recess.

Lawyered to Death

She quotes George Will:

Someone hurt while running at recess might sue the school district for inadequate supervision of the runner, as Broward Country knows: It settled 189 playground lawsuits in five years. In Indiana, a boy did what boys do: He went down a slide head first — and broke his femur. The school district was sued for inadequate supervision. Because of fears of such liabilities, all over America playgrounds have been stripped of the equipment that made them fun.

Some interesting comments:

I thought the Constitution guaranteed every citizen due process rights and right of redress to the courts. Have we suspended or revoked the citizenship rights of children?


If Broward County settled 189 lawsuits in five years stemming from playground incidents, the problem is likely not with the parents or the lawyers, but with the way the school runs its playgrounds.


Anyone who claims that: “if you do everything the proper way, you will not be sued” is a fool. Lawyers can pick apart anything and can always find blame.

Many years ago I had a coworker who was badly injured on the job. She had made a 50% sulfuric acid solution in water, 1 Liter total. I had trained her on some things but not on that analysis. Had I trained her, I would have had her put an Erlenmeyer flask in a plastic bucket of ice water on a stir plate, pour her water in and add a stir bar, start it stirring, then slowly add her acid. By the time it was all added and mixed it would have been at room temp - I've done it that way many times. Instead, the person who trained her had her add the water to a volumetric flask and then add the acid, and set it down in the hood and allow it to cool before completely mixing it. That still would have been OK, because the hood had a toe board so that if the flask had broken it would have made a dreadful mess but not hurt her, except that ...

... she didn't set it down right away, she carried it away in her gloved hand. The flask quickly became too hot to hold, of course, so she went to put it on the benchtop, but she didn't raise it high enough. The flask hit the edge of the bench and shattered, and boiling-hot acid spilled over her hand and wrist, and all down her leg.

Another coworker and I heard her screaming and ran to her aid. The person in the lab with her had kind of freaked. The first thing you have to do is get the clothes off, and then get to a shower. The person with her wet her with a hose from the sink, which washed the acid through her clothes onto her skin, and through the top of her canvas shoes, burning her even more thoroughly. Her laces were soaked, and I struggled to get them untied even as she screamed. (I have ALWAYS worn loafers in the lab, ever since.) Safety shower, paramedics, and ultimately, skin grafts and physical therapy for her foot. I don't know what they did about the scarring on her leg, which we saw when she came to see us some time after. She could never bring herself to enter the lab again, and quit to become a teacher.

The insurance adjuster had come to see us, and the boss had me talk to him even though I wasn't her supervisor. Did she have safety training? Oh, yes, I showed her the shower and eyewash station, and even warned her a few times to be careful with the sulfuric - that stuff will eat you up. Did she act like she was paying attention? Yes, she's a smart girl and a quick study. The adjuster nodded; apparently she struck him as pretty sharp too. Then what happened?

It's kind of like when you start driving a car. You think you're being careful. Then you have your first fender-bender, and it is brought home to you what "being careful" really means. We've all had a run-in with acid and had some fairly uncomfortable burns (kind of like picking up a hot skillet from the stove, for instance) and we learned to be respectful of it that way. (I won't lie, acid scares me even though I use it almost every day.) It's unfortunate, I told the adjuster, that this person's first experience was so extreme, but it's just one of those things. That told him what he needed to hear.

Subsequently one of my coworkers told me that that lab person should have sued our boss. What for? I asked. She wasn't hurt because of the boss's negligence. She didn't mix the acid the way she was trained - if she had, she'd have been all right. Because of her burns, the coworker said. They were so bad.

Well the thing is, she would have put in a claim for her medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and the insurance company would have paid it. What was to sue for? Would suing make it not have happened?

There's a time and a place for lawsuits, don't get me wrong. But every time something bad happens, it isn't someone's fault, and the courts can't and shouldn't try to make it right. Lashing out at anyone available because you're hurt is foolish and immature. Suing the "deep pockets" when there are any, just because you can, is actually kind of immoral.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?”

And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”

He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you cultivate the ground, it will no longer yield its strength to you; you will be a vagrant and a wanderer on the earth.”
Gen. 4:9-10

Obama's First Act as President

Monday, January 12, 2009

At some point a couple of years ago I listed some literature I remembered reading in high school. Apparently they are still torturing high schoolers with some of these things, because people stumble across my blog looking for information about these stories. The most frequently looked-for story is A.B. Guthrie's "Bargain". It's not available on the internet, probably because it's not in the public domain, but the book it was published in is out of print. Here it is: The Big It and other stories. I found it at the library.

A real quick synopsis - Mr. Baumer, a grocer on the American frontier, is fed up with having his whiskey stolen and being generally treated with disrespect by Slade, a freighter - that's the guy who drives a horsedrawn wagon to transport goods, including the supplies Baumer orders to stock in his store. The other freighters steal whiskey too but for some reason Slade - large, rough, violent, illiterate - is the focus of Baumer's anger. There are some confrontations, things escalate, and Slade assaults Baumer and breaks his hand. To the surprise of the narrator, a schoolboy employed by Baumer, Slade is subsequently engaged again to pick up supplies. He doesn't return, and is found dead on the roadway with the supplies still in the wagon. Upon unloading the supplies, the narrator finds that instead of whiskey, Baumer has ordered wood alcohol. Slade stole his drink as usual and it killed him. He couldn't read "Deadly Poison" on the barrel.

I remember the debate we had in our class as to whether Mr. Baumer committed murder. I contended that he did, because the action he took had the sole motive of bringing about Slade's death. He knew Slade would drink the "whiskey" and he knew it would kill him. Others said that Slade wasn't murdered because he knew the whiskey wasn't his and he'd been told not to steal it. No court could touch him, my classmates said. I'm not too sure about that, actually, but even if true, there's a difference between whether a person is guilty of a thing and whether that thing is demonstrably against the law. So this is one of those things where there's no one right answer (although your teacher may have strong feelings and may try to insist that there is) and it's a useful exercise in working out your moral compass.

Some elements of the story that I notice upon rereading:

The first thing we see Baumer saying to the narrator is this. "Better study, Al. Is good to know to read and write and figure." This possibly explains some of the contempt he has for Slade, a grown man who can't read, and foreshadows what happens to him. The very end of the story:

"Hurry now," Mr. Baumer said. "Is late." For a flash and no longer I saw through the mist in his eyes, saw, you might say, that hilly chin repeated there. "Then ve go home, Al. Is good to know how to read."

The description of Baumer contrasts mightily with that of Slade.

Here's Baumer:

I stood and studied him for a minute, seeing a small, stooped man with a little paunch bulging through his unbuttoned vest.... There was nothing in his looks to set itself in your mind unless maybe it was his chin, which was a small, pink hill in the gentle plain of his face. [Chin = stubbornness? Defiance?]


Then I recognized the lean, raw shape of him and the muscles flowing down into the sloped shoulders, and in the settling darkness I filled the picture in - the dark skin and the flat cheeks and the peevish eyes and the mustache growing rank.


I had heard it said that Slade could make a horse scream with that whip.

Baumer thinks Slade hates him for being an immigrant, and indeed, Slade calls him "Dutchie" (a nickname for Germans). He despises Slade for betraying his trust in stealing from him, but as our narrator points out, the other freighters steal too. "A man makes mistakes," Baumer says twice about his poor judgment in trusting Slade. Maybe he's angry at Slade because he feels stupid about having trusted him? Baumer doesn't see his continuing provocation of Slade's wrath as a mistake, not at all, even though he points out a time or two that Slade is bigger than he is, and that physically he couldn't hope to best him.

After the confrontation:

He spent most of his time at the high desk, sending me or Ed out on the errands he used to run, like posting and getting the mail. Sometimes I wondered if that was because he was afraid of meeting Slade. He could just as well have gone himself. He wasted a lot of hours just looking at nothing, though I will have to say he worked hard at learning to write left-handed.

It's not clear what's happening here. Is Baumer afraid of Slade, as Al thinks? I'm not really feeling that. Is he nursing his grievance until he's angry enough to do something about it? Is he trying to think what to do? Does he already know what he's going to do, and is only waiting for the cold weather so that hypothermia will make Slade's death from methanol poisoning more certain? Is he wrestling with his conscience? I don't see any indication from Al's observation and reporting that Baumer's conscience bothers him at all about what he's doing.

So was he justified in taking Slade out that way? His right hand is permanently damaged, remember, and the law won't do anything about that. Should he have chalked up the whiskey loss to the cost of doing business, as he did with the other freighters, and stayed out of Slade's path? Could he have kept his self-respect if he had? Would he have done what he did if there was any real chance the law would have come down on him?

Readers, feel free to leave comments or questions, or just lurk if you want to.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

We took F to the airport today, to travel back to her school and begin her last semester. We'll miss her. The cats will definitely miss her. We were still in Orlando when she arrived in Mississippi, because we decided to check out the Mall At Millennia there. I had a couple of gift cards burning a hole in my pocket.

They say they are upscale. And they're right. Valet parking tipped us off to begin with. And then the stores. I suppose I've never actually been to a Bloomingdale's before. Well, Bloomie's is one thing, but we went into one store and were kind of drawn to a little two-button jacket - not a jacket for cold weather, but the kind of thing you might want to take into a movie theater, for instance, in case it's over-airconditioned. Very cute. Sucker was over $1,000. The very nice saleswoman said it was 40% off. Okay, it's over $600. Well, at least R and I thought it looked very cute before we realized how expensive it was. It's always kind of unsettling to discover something is very expensive after you've concluded it's one of the ugliest things you've ever seen.

I didn't even go in the Jimmy Choo store.

My Talbot's gift cards were definitely spent, though, and a little bit more. They were having a nice sale too, and 40% or 50% off at Talbot's doesn't move "out-of-reach" to "out-of-reach" (more like "ouch" to "ok").

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Joanne Jacobs: Can Obama help black boys?".

Black male students are lagging behind every other group, including their black sisters, writes Richard Whitmire in his farewell USA Today column. President Barack Obama will be a symbol of success, but will that be enough to help black boys succeed?

One of the commenters, a teacher in a gritty school, has this to say:

I have heard *#gger spoken between my black students for years and no amount of telling them to stop has stoppped it. Then Obama won.

The next day after the election I walked down the hall on the way to class and a group of black students were talking with each other. One kid says, “Did you see that *#gger the other night when…” when another black student in the group says, “Yo man, we can’t call each other that anymore!” i nearly jumped in thee air.

The rate of *#gger between students has dropped off at my school to the point that I haven’t heard it in the hallway for a long time now. I hope that this transfers to academics as well.

Obama could be the best thing to happen to these kids in a long time. Keeping my fingers crossed.

And there it is. All of that crap about how it's wrong for white people to use the n-word but not black people, or how among black people it's really a term of endearment, is demonstrably garbage. Regardless of who uses it, the word is a disrespectful put-down, implying that the person on the receiving end is a hopeless second-class loser. The fact that it is in such widespread use among certain portions of the black population is telling, I think, as is the fact that black folks who have it together dislike the word, don't use it, and don't want to hear it. Who worries about being disrespected, except for people who so profoundly lack self-respect that they have to make up the deficit with respect they get from others? See here and here for instance. And why would they lack self-respect? Because they belong to a group for which they lack respect. How toxic that is, and how ironic that black people who live "respectable" lives are accused of not keeping it real, i.e., not being authentically black. Maybe now things will turn around.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Everywhere I look there are articles about weight loss, how to lose weight, how other people have lost weight. I saw this the other day, about the Atkins diet:

1. The restrictive induction phase

You eat only a minimal amount of carbohydrates during this phase - around 20g of 'net carbs' a day [total carbs - fiber] - and will experience fairly rapid weight loss as your body switches from burning carbohydrates to fat. You should do this phase for two weeks, but you can do it for up to a maximum of six months, depending on how much weight you would like to lose.

2. The Ongoing Weight Loss Phase (OWL)

You slowly add a greater variety of carbohydrate food by 5g a week and will discover exactly how much carbohydrate you can eat while still losing weight. You stay in OWL until you have only five to ten pounds left to lose before reaching your ideal weight.

3. Pre-maintenance

You increase your carbohydrate intake by 10g a week, as long as you still keep losing pounds or inches. Your weight loss will slow to a crawl, but this is exactly what you want if your goal is permanent weight control.

During this phase, you will reach your goal weight. Once you have maintained it for a month, you are ready to move on to Lifetime Maintenance - not so much a phase as a permanent way of eating.

Wondering how this matches my current eating, I examined my default breakfast: a chocolate no-sugar-added Instant Breakfast that I make with about a half-cup of Rice Dream (to get it to dissolve) and a cup of Silk soymilk with Omega-3 DHA; and two Metamucil wafers, b/c aging is such a wonderful thing, really.

Instant Breakfast: Carb, 12g Fiber, 4g Net carb, 8g
1/2 cup Rice Dream: Carb, 13g Fiber, 0g Net carb, 13g
1 cup Silk: Carb, 8g Fiber, 1g Net carb, 7g
Metamucil wafer: Carb, 17g Fiber, 9g Net carb, 8g
Total 36g net carb

Dang, yo.