Coffee Pots, Cameras and Other Words That Start With “C” Like Capital and Capitol

10 01 2012

Washing up the coffee pot this morning, I mused about a good friend complimenting a couple of pots we shared over the holidays.

She returned to a grueling work schedule last week as most folks no doubt did, and had stopped in at a Starbucks for fortification during the latest cold snap. Expecting a little bit of holiday magic I suppose, she ordered up the same brand I’d served her — Cafe Verona. It disappointed her.

She later called to complain it had “tasted like ass!”

Why?

Same beans, same label, bigger and better equipment although I do have a built-in grinder that sounds like a jet engine revving for takeoff, plus Starbucks bean baristas are pros unlike moi, with training at making coffee that I’ve never sought or even thought about trying to match. I don’t take any particular pride of identity in my coffee — to me it’s a caffeine delivery medium, period. I take it hot and black and serve it that way too, unless lobbied by a special guest for special frills.

Aha! It hit me as I carefully washed out not just the pot but all the coffeemaker’s disassembled parts . . .

Could it be a question of “clean optics?”

Like camera lenses! Scrupulously clean optics are the secret to photography, or so I was taught by several fine photographers who tried to help me get the most from some fancy lenses I enthusiastically swapped out on my Nikkormat back in the 70s.

Good light and a good eye count, too. But even the best of both can’t compensate for the lack of squeaky-clean optics so that good light can pour through pure and true, where a good eye can make the most of it.

Coffeemaker cleaning is the same deal, I’ve learned (the hard way.) When oils from the coffee beans smear across even a little part of the mechanism and carry over into future production, the end product may indeed taste like ass.

Oh, it’s all very well to tout the beans and the roasting, the cost and the care with which the mechanism was created and is manipulated in the creative process. But clean optics are the key even though no one can see the difference. You can taste it.

I finished washing the pot and all the little parts, probably with even more care than usual.

Then I sat down with the last cup of coffee I’d saved from the pot before washing up, to watch the oiliest and most rancid governor in my personal half-century of Florida experience, giving his “state of the state” address to the oiliest and most rancid Legislative congregation of rich and selfish Capitol Capitalists assembled in my painfully experienced memory.

This is a fine state with good light and good mechanisms full of hardworking, vigorous and creative people.

That tastes more and more like ass.





Some “Very Good Advice” About Parenting Advice

24 10 2011

The Guilted Age:
Making Your Own Rules

This week’s guest post is from the fabulous JJ Ross, who has worn many hats including academic, secular humanist, and unschooler. She shares her thoughts about parenting beyond the advice of others.

This is the first in the series “Good Advice / Bad Advice,” with a new post every week from now until the end of November. –LN





Panning Jessica Alba’s Idea of Award-Worthy Parent Performance

31 07 2011

“Fear is not a good thing for relationships.”

Have you heard of celebrity Jessica Alba? Most young moms will have done, probably. Her fame hadn’t reached me though, until thanks to Nance and Deanne, I first caught her act this week.

It’s a cautionary tale.

She admits to locking her toddler in the bathroom with the lights off because “her previous methods weren’t scary enough to keep the tot from behaving badly.” But, she tries to justify the practice by saying:

I mean, we don’t believe in, like, spankings. Or like when I was a kid I used to get hot sauce in my mouth . . .

In her television-and-film stunted-story mind, that’s “creative discipline” rather than, like, creative abuse?

Like, no, let me see if I can talk your childish gibberish teevee language to help you pay attention so you can behave better than this. Here’s what it’s, like, really like: it’s like the oh-so-creepy choco-beast tv commercials where mom and dad in spooky darkness, purposely terrify their children all to warn them away from their dessert stash in the fridge.

Then they laugh and congratulate each other on their kids’ screams.

Alba is like, the perfect celebrity to star in those commercials, too bad she wasn’t cast! Did her agent not know, somehow never realized she’s been playing out that role at home in a self-produced sequel of her own poorly-parented childhood, for a captive (and I do mean captive) audience of one helpless and unlucky little girl?

I’m very strict with her. When it’s time for her to eat, whether she’s hollering or whatever, Read the rest of this entry »





What’s in a Word Like Debt, Deficit, Tax?

29 07 2011

”Time and time again,” Smoot shouted, ”the universe has turned out to be really simple.”

Perlmutter nodded eagerly. ”It’s like, why are we able to understand the universe at our level?”

”Right. Exactly. It’s a universe for beginners! ‘The Universe for Dummies’!”

But as Smoot and Perlmutter know, it is also inarguably a universe for Nobelists, and one that in the past decade has become exponentially more complicated.

So it turns out that JJ’s thinking is relatively Einsteinian! We can prove it with a simple equation in which words rather than numbers add up to be both right and wrong, which one supposes would make Shakespeare Einsteinian, too (did I say simple?) derived from this Business Week cover story:

E=squishy=JJ

We Thinking Parents study education words — words like accountability and discipline, heck, the word “school” itself! — and how such words are not merely too small and worn out to help us succeed, but too largely wrong about the realities they purport to address even to measure the enormity of our failure.

Here’s the meaning behind this week’s economic news: it’s not just education. Number words too small for the biggest and squishiest meanings threaten Read the rest of this entry »





Worst Homeschool Stereotypes Get Booster Shot From Bachmann

27 05 2011

Sigh.

Scott Bailey, president of the Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators, said while Bachmann’s experience with home-schooling her own children gives voters “an initial interest and makes them want to know more,” the connection won’t automatically translate into caucus support.





If You Heart Boobies, Can School Punish You?

12 04 2011

You look at it in context. It isn’t written on a bathroom wall. It’s a breast cancer awareness bracelet.”





Is Grayling’s “Good Book” What Crazed Churchfolk Will Want to Burn Next?

11 04 2011

AC Grayling: ‘How can you be a militant atheist? It’s like sleeping furiously’
by Decca Aitkenhead, April 3

In his new book, The Good Book: A Secular Bible, the philosopher sets out his manifesto for rational thought. He talks about why religion angers him, the power of philosophy – and his mane of hair

In the unholy trinity of professional atheists, AC Grayling has always tended to be regarded as the good cop. . .
So he insists that his new book does not belong in the same canon as Dawkins’s The God Delusion and Hitchens’s God Is Not Great.

“No, because it’s not against religion. There’s not one occurrence of the word God, or afterlife, or anything like that. It doesn’t attack religion, it’s a positive book, there’s nothing negative in it. People may think it’s against religion – but it isn’t.”

But . . .Grayling is almost certainly going to upset a lot of Christians, for what he has written is a secular bible. . .
a “great treasury of insight and consolation and inspiration and uplift and understanding in the great non-religious traditions of the world”.

He has been working on his opus for several decades, and the result is an extravagantly erudite manifesto for rational thought . . .





Woe is me, Wobegon is gone . . .

10 03 2011

In a dramatic reversal of the Lake “Woe-Begone” Effect, in which all the kids are above average, we now labor under the Lake Woe-Is-Me Effect, in which all the kids are failing . . .


Sec of Ed Arne Duncan: 82 Percent of Schools Could Be ‘Failing’ This Year

Yes, JJ knows the correct spelling and is playing with words to make a point:

[Garrison] Keillor says the town’s name comes from a fictional old Indian word meaning “the place where we waited all day in the rain [for you].” Keillor explains, “Wobegon” sounded Indian to me and Minnesota is full of Indian names. They mask the ethnic heritage of the town, which I wanted to do, since it was half Norwegian, half German.”

The English word “woebegone” is defined as “affected with woe” and can also mean “shabby, derelict or run down.”

A point that reminds her of Minnesota’s many-minnie quaint confusions again . . .





Bagpipes Supporting Civil Rights in America!

18 02 2011

Talk about Learning Without Schooling, one of my ubiquitous tags here. Those who complain there’s no learning happening in Wisconsin this week clearly have lost touch with what real learning is, if they ever knew in the first place!

Wisconsin firefighters march into the Capitol, bagpipes filling the rotunda.

Intelligent cock of the snook to Rachel Maddow’s blog, where you can watch a really moving music video in the best sense of the word, peaceful and committed young people out to make a difference, for the first time in a generation (okay, to be honest, more like two generations) and near the end, the same firefighter bagpipers show up, playing On Wisconsin:

(On Wisconsin! On America!The kids are all right.)





JJ Is No Fan of Teacher Unions But . . .

16 02 2011

. . . she’s on their side in this war.

Wisconsin teachers in peaceful protest take over state capitol building -- will the governor carry out his threat to call up the National Guard?

Workers’ rights — and with them, the fate of the American middle and working classes — took over the capitol in Wisconsin yesterday and again today. Governor Scott Walker has been demanding wage concession from the state employees. He also wants to take away their unions’ right to collective bargaining. Last week, Mr. Walker said he’s ready to bring out the National Guard if need be to carry out his plan.

What he seems to have brought out instead is tens of thousands of peaceful protesters, two days running, and Madison schools closed while their teachers demonstrate.

Former Senator Russ Feingold joins us tonight to talk about the situation in his home state . . .





Noticing the Contrast . . .

14 02 2011

. . .between FL Gov. Rick Scott unveiling his anti-human government budget at a Baptist megachurch in tiny Eustis, for cheering TEA partisans, and President Obama doing his the-ability-of-a-human-mind-to-think-is-a-terrible-thing-to-waste budget right now, in a public middle school classroom near Baltimore, televised for all the people who still are able to believe in promoting, protecting and providing for one nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all. And then to go learn how, and help do it.

See also Can Thinking Parents Save Generation Joshua?





If I Had A Robot, Would I Hammer in the Morning?

10 02 2011

You can tell the robot is happy from its glowing eyes and smile of satisfaction.

Giving this its own post: a tool is itself morally neutral until used by a human, be it for good or ill. That goes for hammers and guns, oil rigs and printing presses, yes, and technology — so far including robots. Ethical import is of, by and for us as people, not our tools.

The difference with robots is that we’re not confident we haven’t outsmarted ourselves and created a tool that perhaps one day will out-human us.

In the race to build computers that can think like humans, the proving ground is the Turing Test—an annual battle between the world’s most advanced artificial-intelligence programs and ordinary people. The objective? To find out whether a computer can act “more human” than a person.

In his own quest to beat the machines, the author discovers that the march of technology isn’t just changing how we live, it’s raising new questions about what it means to be human.

It’s a good story, full of quotes like “Just be yourself . . .seems to me like a somewhat naive overconfidence in human instincts” and “It’s an odd twist: Read the rest of this entry »