It's been a while since I last posted. Lots going on, of course. Bonnie and I just went public a few weeks ago with the fact that we're having twins imminently and that, of course, will be the biggest and best Christmas present anyone could ever have.
It's somewhat appropriate that all of this is happeneing around the end of a year. So much retrospective reflection and so much eager anticipation for what's next. For us this is amplified a million times right now.
Not only do we have two tiny new lives entering our world, we'll have an au pair joining the family and that will be another interesting aspect to add to our lives.
Around June we are also expecting a foal, which will be yet another amazing event to witness. It's fun enough seeing the new foals at the other barns, so I can hardly wait - well, if that's all that was happening maybe. I'm sure it will be here before we know it.
So in just over two years I've got married, bought a mini farm and am about to have two new babies and a foal. (Oh, and in case you didn't know, the twins are fraternal - one of each.)
I may keep blogging here on and off, but I've decided next year I'm going to add a new blog, themed more about life with twins and horses and farms. There may be tractor and chainsaw videos for the guys, cute animal photos for the ladies, and baby pictures for everyone. Oh, what the heck, the women can look at the tractor videos too. Why not?
In my spare time preparing for the twins I'll see what I can whip up in the way of a blog design for this TBD named blog.
Meanwhile, here's a video of one of my all time favorite Christmas songs:
The song is beautiful, but the edginess gives away the fact that Greg Lake wrote it as a protest against the commercialization of Christmas. Even so, the ending lyrics simply point out that we make Christmas what it is - I hope you choose to make it everything you could possibly want by choosing to cherish those around you.
I know this year I will.
I wish you a hopeful christmas
I wish you a brave new year All anguish pain and sadness
Leave your heart and let your road be clear
They said there'll be snow at christmas
They said there'll be peace on earth
Hallelujah noel be it heaven or hell
The christmas you get you deserve
I'd like to know is, if Richard Mourdock's, Todd Akin's or Paul Ryan's
wife or daughter were to be raped and become pregnant, would they be
happy to let these female relatives and loved ones go through 9 months
of gestation and raise the babies in their homes as if nothing happened?
And what of the father's, I mean rapist's, rights? Visitation, partial
custody? Can you imagine? Maybe they think that would make a great
sitcom (I'm sure Fox would jump on that.)
Do these guys even
have a half a brain to think this through? Oh, and of course there would
be no government benefits, although in this equation the financial
strain is a tiny fraction of the anguish.
And even more: Only
one third of fertilized eggs even implant in the womb, and there is
further attrition from there, so taking steps to ensure a theoretically
possibly fertilized egg doesn't implant is hardly "abortion".
Just say no to these clowns and their millennia old religious views
which should not be involved in any way in making laws in the 21st
The lack of women in science and engineering is a much researched and lamented problem.
The origins of the problem are easy to figure out - women were not allowed to participate for most of human history, and in the last century the situation has changed enough so that there are now few formal barriers, but millenia's worth of cultural ones.
I particularly enjoy reading Cambridge physicist Athene Donald's blog, wherein she devotes most of her writing to women in science issues. As one of the very accomplished examples of women in science, it's well worth checking out for anyone remotely interested in the topic.
In her latest column she writes about writing a piece for the Comment is Free (CIF) column in the UK Guardian newspaper. CIF is a bit of a mixed bag - comment may free, but in the comments section it's also often gratuitously vitriolic. In this case much of the vitriol was prompted by the headline (which, as almost any newspaper literate reader knows, is not actually written by the author of the article). Athene deftly dissects the responses to her article...
Well... That doesn't quite do the trick for me. Interesting idea, but apparently they decided to give it to the guy that directed all those Whitesnake music videos in the eighties.
So apparently a handful of ethnically diverse teenybopper supermodel wannabes are amused by being in the middle of scientificy looking things. I think he nearest any of them comes to doing something is the gal miming writing something on a perspex board. Couldn't quite tell, though.
Seriously, they couldn't do better than this? Rihanna giggles at bouncing balls? Sheesh.
This video is now pulled from the EU site, replaced by something way more pedestrian. Where's the creativity that could put something outrageously good together?
The presidential election this year is shaping up on several fronts. The economy is up and down, and where it lands in November will be a big factor in determining a lot of swing votes.
However, the issue of how religion factors into the election has been downplayed considerably so far.
This is partly due to journalists not wanting to be seen to be attacking "religion", and also perhaps not wanting to mix religion wih politics (as if!) or not feeling entirely comfortable attacking Romney more directly on his Mormon beliefs and the wacky excesses of the Mormon church in general.
Whatever the reason, Romney has a religion gap, particularly in the South with evangelicals, most of whom will vote for Anyone But Obama, but feel queasy about voting for a Mormon. Romney's speech at Liberty University was a hint at his approach - talk about all those conservative social values we have in common while leaving out the part where he thinks their religion lives in apostasy.
And while we had Rick Santorum to kick around, there was the Mormon-Catholic gap - how would conservative Catholics feel about voting for a Mormon?
So here we are - three major "conservative" religious groups, sort of banding together to get Anyone But Obama into the White House - Mormons (overwhelmingly in favor of Romney), Evangelicals (overwhelmingly in favor of ABO), conservative Catholics (also favoring ABO).
But this is a coalition forged in the depths of wretched compromise, and if you delve into the beliefs of each group, you see how tenuous this is, and why it is that it's best for them not to ask too many questions.
First, Mormons. What do they (and by "they" I mean the public position of the church) think of oher religions, including Evangelical Christianity and Catholicism?
Joseph Smith decalred that Chrisitanity had been apostate since the death of the last Apostle in 70 AD, so that basicall says that they regard all branches of Christianity today as apostate. No ifs ands or buts. That probably goes double for the Catholics because they've presided over the last two millennia pretty badly. Smith did have a sort of kind word or two to say about Calvin and Luther, so maybe the Evangelicals get a tiny break, but not much.
Now publicly, the Mormon hierarchy tends to downplay this as much as possible - they try to pull off the "Aw shucks, we're just trying to get along...", but make no mistake, they official church position is that they despise everything that every other church and religion stands for.
What about Catholics?
Well, conservative Catholics are more likely beholden to the Pope for their beliefs, so their view of other religions and branches of Christianity is a poorly disguised contempt. Oh, there's a faint diplomatic veneer of tolerance, but make no doubt about it, if there was a sheep and goats moment, everyone not on the good ship Vatican is going goat-side.
And Evangelicals, what about them?
This may be a surprise, but Evangelicals are perhaps the most tolerant of the three groups. The surprise comes because the public pronouncements of Evangelical leaders are actually much more in line with their beliefs - they tend to say what they mean and believe, which is, in many ways, admirable. You may not like it, but you usually don't have to guess what they're getting at. In Eveangelical land, there is deep rooted suspicion of Mormons. They see Mormonism as a cult (which in many ways it is).
They are less suspicious of Catholics, because they've been around longer and are, in many senses, the root church of Evangelicals, whether they like it or not. However, huge differences exist in practice between the two groups. Meditation, icons, dress-up robes, incense, the Apocrypha are all items of which Evangelicals are very suspicious.
So to summarize:
Mormons -> Catholics = apostate
Mormons -> Evangelicals = slightly less apostate
Catholics -> Mormons = not a real religion
Catholics -> Evangelicals = not true Christianity, tolerated but just
Evangelics -> Mormons = cult
Evangelicals -> Catholics = lost the plot, out of touch, borderline apostate
So there you are - an alliance that would make Machiavelli proud. And the only candidate they can agree on is Anyone But Obama...
One of the things I have come to appreciate as I have been exposed to it over the years is accessible technology. What is accessible technology? Basically anything that allows people with disabilities or functional limitations to participate fully in society - limited by only their own desires rather than as lack of access to all that life has to offer.
The earliest accessible technologies were things like braille and guide dogs for the blind. These are still of immense importance in the world of accessibility, but the meteoric rise in the capability of personal computers and the internet has created both a fantastic opportunity to connect people and a great challenge to make it accessible to everyone.
How accessibility technology advances in the connected world is a complex interweaving of hardware companies, software companies, advocacy organizations, charitable foundations, government policy making and the sheer determination of individuals coming up with solutions to problems they deal with every day.
Dan and Gary have an itinerary that has them dropping in on many companies and agancies on their way down the west coast. Fortunately, the west coast is ripe with opportunities to find out more about accessible technologies.
My favorite though is when Dan and Gary visit Yahoo! which highlights how technology companies can collaborate to provide the best possible experience for the end user. Alan Brightman, Yahoo's Chief of Accessibility is a great interview. Biggest takeway -building in accessiblity from the start costs about 2% of the cost of a project. Adding it later the cost is 100% - i.e. you have to spend all that money all over again. The same general principle holds for all kinds of desing - airplanes included. It's best just to get the requirements right at the beginning...