Saturday, February 28, 2009

My February

This dormant liquid amber caught my attention recently. It makes me think of an ornament-laden tree from some crazy Ted Burton Film (The Nightmare Before Christmas?)This tree also caught my attention. I have no idea what kind it is, but these weird pods are popping open.February is always kind of a schizophrenic mix of fall and spring out here.The above three pictures were taken at work, as was the pod tree as are the following 4 pictures. I get kind of excited working at a place that has so much history, and then I am reminded that the western US really only goes back so far! The following always catches my attention. The tree that you can see the base of was planted on our campus back when there was "THE" world war - hadn't been 2 of them yet.I LOVE ROOTS! We had family events - good, bad and regular.
My brother celebrated his 40th birthday party.I just noticed that the above is quite a male-dominated picture!
Anthony got hit by a truck - thankfully just grazed him arm - driver didn't even stop - argh!We faithfully, as always, took care of our mice. Here are Hugin and Munin, hanging out in their "holding facility" while we cleaned their home.Valentine's Day showed up on schedule, and my sweetie gave me these lovely roses.My children have grown up a lot. I can't believe Anthony can create and consume such a thing as you see below!Then there's Jacob who's taller than his older brother AND taller than I am! And, of course Caleb who turned 12 this week and was featured in these posts (here and here).I am able to put so much time into a post today because I TURNED IN MY FIRST FULL DRAFT OF MY THESIS!!!! Now it is in the hands of my advisor to revise, and I CAN'T work on it this weekend! It has been hanging over me for so long. Last week I even moved out of the house and moved in with my brother so as not to be disturbed while I worked. Here it is:I have been doing pretty much nothing else other than work on my thesis. As a result, notice the health of the weeds in my yard:I almost pulled this one, but it has been living and growing so long and is so lush - think of all the soil, water and sun that went into it - all the photosynthesis - that I didn't have the heart to pull it and took a picture instead!Yes, I do have some "legitimate" flowers in my yard too (but "who says purple is a weed and pink and white is posies?"). I do love my lilies!Here are some stones from a trip to the beach last fall that are in a flower pot in our yard. We haven't decided what to do with them yet, but I think they're pretty even here.I even had time to go for a walk today and enjoyed the cloudy sky and the season continuing to transition from fall to spring. Soon enough I'll get my thesis back and have my nose to the grindstone making revisions. Today I wanted to spend my time reflecting on life a bit, so here it is; this was my life this month.

Today I also got to cheer Anthony on in his Science Bowl competition and go to Fun Works with the fam for a little more celebrating with Caleb - good times!!

"Caleb" by Jacob

See original here.

Friday, February 27, 2009

GREED is to Capitalism as . . .

“The mess we’re in is due to greed.”

We hear that a lot these days.

It sounds correct.

Greed is a sin.

So greed must be the problem.

We hear of companies that gave end of the year bonuses first and went to the government for a bailout right afterwards, and we tax-payers are, rightly, disgusted. We hear of CEO’s with trash cans valued at $32,000 in their offices, and we nod our heads knowingly, irate that while the rest of us barely have 2 pennies to rub together a greedy CEO has a cute little trash can worth far more than the vehicle we drive, and we say, “Yes, greed is what caused this.”

Greed is certainly a necessary condition for the creation of an economic mess such as the US and the world are in right now, but it is not a sufficient condition. Just as oxygen is necessary in order to have a fire, oxygen by itself is not sufficient to cause a fire.*

We have become a "microwave society" of sound bites. Rather than thinking deeply in this fast paced world, if we hear something that makes sense on the surface, we tend to grab it and go - just like fast food from the drive-thru. Ponder for just a moment, slap a label on it, move on . . . and just what fast food does to your body over the long term, microwave thinking does to our society over the long term. The sound bite that seems to be catching on right now is: "We're in this mess due to greed, and we need more government regulation in order to fix it." On a first hearing it sounds right, but we need to go deeper.

The US and the world are in such a dire state economically that we can no longer afford to allow our knowledge and understanding to be a skimming of the surface and a hoping for the best as we blithely leave things in the hands of others - simply rejoicing that there is a new administration, thus good change will automatically occur.**

I recently received the following thoughts from a friend, which, coincidentally and presciently preceded the article I am also supplying a link to:
In recent discussions of the causes of the current economic crises I've noticed an interesting point of view seems to be shared between religious folks and liberals. Both groups preferred explanation tends to be greed. Yes greed; one of the . . . seven deadly sins.

It appears that both groups believe that over the past decade there has been an unexplained outburst of greed regarding the residential real estate market. It's as if the MBAs and bankers suddenly abandoned all of their standards when they discovered this untapped market of previously "redlined" minimum wage workers, illegal immigrants, and "people of color" that they could exploit.

The weakness of this argument is somewhat masked by the well-known fact that humans are indeed prone to greed. No one will argue that given the proper incentives, or absence of disincentives, nearly anyone can be induced to exhibit an excess of "greed".

There was a time when our institutions and rules successfully governed greed and the residential real estate market in the USA. The rules changed, not the human condition.

This is the most difficult challenge that Capitalism faces today; to explain that greed, pragmatically channeled and balanced is best understood not as a sin, but the essential engine behind our prosperity and a normal component of human nature.

Greed is to Capitalism as lust is to marriage.

"The rules changed, not the human condition."

In other words, it was government interference and regulation that INITIATED this mess in the first place - creating rules that SOUNDED GOOD - and now, from what I hear around me, we think MORE government regulation is going to fix the problem.

The DEFINITION of INSANITY is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results!!

The human condition didn't change; government regulation did - so where is the problem? Are we going to use what caused the problem to fix the problem? How much sense does that make?

Coincidentally my friend's email was followed days later by this parallel column, which I find to be very well-written and insightful: Upside-down Economics

Here is a quote from this article by Thomas Sowell:

What was lacking in the housing market, they say, was government regulation of the market's "greed." That makes great moral melodrama, but it turns the facts upside down.

It was precisely government intervention which turned a thriving industry into a basket case.

An economist specializing in financial markets gave a glimpse of the history of housing markets when he said: "Lending money to American homebuyers had been one of the least risky and most profitable businesses a bank could engage in for nearly a century."

That was what the market was like before the government intervened. Like many government interventions, it began small and later grew.

We can no longer afford this insanity.

We can no longer afford to rest in mere hopes for the best.

We can no longer afford to be placated by platitudes.

We cannot afford to think that "change" is good by definition.

We need to stop the microwave mentality.

We need to get real.

We need to learn and understand and to do so at a deep level - rather than just not wanting to be bothered to think too hard. Consider the following from Adam Smith's classic of economics, The Wealth of Nations:
It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our necessities but of their advantages.

The Wealth of Nations, Book I Chapter II

*I owe the oxygen analogy and Smith quote to my friend Bob.
**I do wish our president only well and pray that God will give him wisdom. I wouldn't want to be in his shoes.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

HBD Boo!

Today is a very special day. It marks the 12th anniversary of the arrival on this planet of a very special dude named Caleb. Life would sure be boring around here without him!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Distance Difficulty

We live in a world that is getting smaller all the time, but sometimes it's not small enough.

My sister is 3000 miles away, and I really want to be with her. She'll be having emergency surgery tomorrow and the next day and is pregnant, high risk pregnancy, has had 2 miscarriages . . .

Doctors had hoped to put off surgery until the second timester for the safety of the baby and had scheduled that surgery for the first week in April, but the situation is such that surgery needs to take place immediately and now will require two surgeries rather than one.

Everything in me wants to drop everything and fly out there, and I feel like a rotten sister for not being able to, and my heart is aching. Amy does have others who can come and who have come. Mom was there for a couple of weeks earlier this month, and Amy's mother-in-law is there now. Her best friend is flying out Tuesday, and her husband is going on leave and will be able to be there for her. So I know she is in good hands.

I'm her only sister, though, and I feel like I should be able to be there in person for her. It's where I want to be. My heart is there. I wish the rest of me could be also.

Sometimes the world just isn't small enough.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

When Most Away

I'm happiest when most away
I can bear my soul from its home of clay
On a windy night when the moon is bright
And the eye can wander thru worlds of light

When I am not and none beside
Nor earth nor sea nor cloudless sky
But only spirit wandering wide
Thru infinite immensity.
Emily Bronte (1818-1848)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Night Wind

In summer's mellow midnight,
A cloudless moon shone through
Our open parlour window,
And rose-trees wet with dew.

I sat in silent musing;
The soft wind waved my hair;
It told me heaven was glorious,
And sleeping earth was fair.

I needed not its breathing
To bring such thoughts to me;
But still it whispered lowly,
How dark the woods will be!

"The thick leaves in my murmur
Are rustling like a dream,
And all their myriad voices
Instinct with spirit seem."

I said, "Go, gentle singer,
Thy wooing voice is kind:
But do not think its music
Has power to reach my mind.

"Play with the scented flower,
The young tree's supple bough,
And leave my human feelings
In their own course to flow."

The wanderer would not heed me;
Its kiss grew warmer still.
"O come!" it sighed so sweetly;
"I'll win thee 'gainst thy will.

"Were we not friends from childhood?
Have I not loved thee long?
As long as thou, the solemn night,
Whose silence wakes my song.

"And when thy heart is resting
Beneath the church-aisle stone,
I shall have time for mourning,
And THOU for being alone."

Emily Jane Bronte (1818-1848)

Photo by Peter Barnes

Monday, February 16, 2009

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day! - Want a Purse?

I just realized yesterday that this is the 25th Valentine's Day David and I are celebrating together (including dating) - quarter century - wow! I hope you are having a happy Valentine's Day! Oh, and if you've forgotten a gift, you may want to consider a designer purse for that special someone. I just got 32 messages that I had 32 new comments on my blog. I thought I had just hit it big time when I realized they were all spam for designer purses - so, unfortunately, I have to put word verfication on my comment section now. Thanks dude, whoever you are.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rootless Words List

We speak of people as "ruthless," but we don't speak of them as "ruthful" or as having "ruth." (Well, no one I know does this other than my brother Tony!) We also call people "inept," but do we call anyone "ept?"

It seems root words like "ruth" and "ept" must have been around first and that then suffixes and prefixes were attached, and we've kept the lengthened words but not the original roots.

Maybe I'm wrong. Feel free to correct me if I am, but if you can't or until someone does, will you help us add to our of "rootless words" by leaving others you know of in the comments section. (David gets credit for this idea.)

1) RUTHless
2) inEPT

We would have included "unwieldy" but looked it up and "wieldy" is a word. I guess it's just not used as much as the other. Perhaps "wieldy" is on its way to being a lost root.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


For extra credit my students are considering million, billion and trillion.

This seems timely as our national debt is now over $9 trillion, and today congress is voting on a stimulus package in relationship to which I've heard the phrases "$83 billion" and "an additional $19 billion" on the news today.

We use these words somewhat interchangably:

million -- billion -- trillion

millionaire, billionaire, trillionaire (?)
-they've all got a lot more money than I do -

So what's the difference really?

Try this: Pretend you have ONE-MILLION DOLLARS and that you love your money so much that you have it all given to you in one-dollar bills so that you can count it one bill at a time. Let's say you count one bill per second and take no breaks - no eating, no sleeping, no potty breaks. HOW LONG will it take you to count your money? (And don't tell me it's a million seconds - duh - how long is a million seconds in terms we can wrap our mind around easily - hours? days? weeks? years?)

Now do this also for ONE-BILLION DOLLARS and for ONE-TRILLION DOLLARS. How close are your answers? How much difference is there really?

Come on - give it a try. You can use a calculator. :-)

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Thursday, February 05, 2009

"I Told You So"

Time will say nothing but I told you so . . .
(W. H. Auden 1907-1973)

In the midst of a crazy-busy time I got crazy and didn't back-up the work on my thesis - approximately 24 hours worth of writing from the weekend. On Monday my 15-month old computer (JUST past warranty) died. I wish I could travel back in time and back up, but since time travel is not yet possible, as far as I've been told (unless the government is holding out on me :-), all that is happening is that, as in Auden's poem, time is saying, "I told you so!"

In my forced "down-time" yesterday during which I could not work on my thesis (not knowing what could and could not be retrieved from my hard drive) I went to see the movie The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. If you like movies that cause you to reflect, I highly recommend it. If you haven't heard of it, it is about a baby born old who grows younger as years pass. There is a lot here to think about in terms of time and life and death and love and loss and acceptance (both of others and of our own lot) - and at a lighter level, it tickles my brain to think about what it would mean to start out old and grow younger - sounds good, right? Or . . . ???

We call Time a dimension, so why can't we move in more than one direction in it?
Do you have any favorite time travel stories? I'll start the list with some of mine. I'll add whatever comments I get.


The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Timeline by Michael Crichton


Time Travel in Einstein's Universe: The Physical Possibilities of Travel Through Time by J. Richard Gott


Back to the Future (Michael J. Fox)
Somewhere in Time (Jane Seymour, Christopher Reeve)


(I know of a limerick, but it's too raunchy to put here.)

Monday, February 02, 2009

Ground Hog Day Bonus

Well, today we find out if spring comes early. Forty years ago on this date something did come early - my brother Tim - 3 months early. Back in the late 1960's there wasn't much chance for a boy baby born that prematurely to make it - something like 5 to 10 percent - but Tim beat the odds. I can't imagine life without him.
You rock Tim! Enjoy your day!