Epsilon Exploits & Familial Foibles
February 2009

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28 February 2009

My children are better than me. I'd like to think it's our parenting which has made Alora and Brittan into such intelligent people. Successfulness, confidence - a parent might take credit for those, but intelligence is all them. So this week we've started studying for the SATs. Yes, I know having 5th graders take the SATs is a bit pretentious, but I believe that children should be learning calculus by the time they're 10. After working on a number of practice math problems they are now writing essays - the SATs are a different beast from when I was a kid. The topic I gave them was "Microcredit", and 10 minutes in they're both on the 2nd page, single spaced. At their age I was too busy trying to find exceptions to the rules and prove my teachers wrong to worry too much about learning and grades, which does give me pause. My mistrust for authority has always led me to seek out first principles and question everything, but then again it has also stymied my professional aspirations as I am unable to show respect to anyone undeserving of it.

Anyway, here are their final essays (and I typed how much in that time?):

NB: Earlier in the week I had them read Muhammad Yunus' Nobel acceptance lecture and a Stanford Business School article critical of microfinance. I also discovered afterward that 2nd page actually meant 2nd draft - for both.

26 February 2009

Today Maxwell discovered his first loose tooth!

24 February 2009

The past couple of nights I've been doing some rather intense dreaming. Not sure why, but I keep waking myself up with gesticulation. The other night it was your basic being attacked on my parents' driveway by rabid cats dream - naturally I was fending them off as they jumped at my face. Last night was an odd combination of my cousin's life, my children's recent acceptance to middle school, Obama's failed appointments and a book I'm reading. The John Adams series got me interested the pre-independence period, so I've been reading Murray Rothbard's extremely detailed early history of North American colonies on the eastern seaboard, Conceived in Liberty. Many of the disputes between rival factions were finally decided by a direct appeal to the king and some well placed bribes among the aristocracy. Flash forward to the modern day and Julie's work with the Catlin Arctic Survey recently led to her meeting the next in line for the English throne. So in my dream last night, Prince Charles is looking to appoint 3 teachers to a middle school and because of my relation to Julie sees me as a ringer for his "impartial" panel of 6 which will judge his appointments. Little does he suspect my antipathy toward monarchy... I am determined to politically outmanoeuvre him and see his appointments fail, regardless of their quality. I decide to focus on the names of the appointees, because one is a Chinese guy named Mr. Wrong and another has the last name Rats. Obviously these are not good teacher names to provide middle schoolers. I convince most of the panel to disapprove of the appointees, but then Charles and I get into a heated argument and I wake up gesticulating furiously and shouting something about what the students will do with the names. One can only imagine what tonight will bring...

21 February 2009 - Operators are standing by . . .

20 February 2009

This morning Ron Löwen climbed into a truck he packed full of our stuph Cara had to leave behind in Tennessee. As I sit here at my desk he is driving it out to us. Ich bin so fröhlich. Of course we're paying for gas/truck rental/plane ticket home, but Ron is doing all the work.

18 February 2009

Brittan broke her pinky toe Sunday. It was hurting her pretty bad, so Cara took her to the doctor yesterday. She had wanted to take Brittan Monday, but, being off work, I was there to point out that they don't do anything for a broken toe. A doctor's visit and a couple of x-rays later, they did nothing except write her a note to get out of PE. Seems to me like a waste of money, but Cara feels better "knowing" it's broken.

The other day dad sent out some email with blatantly false information, like a tally of the 48 states that voted in the last election and a graph showing the stock market recovering from the 1929 crash in less than a year. The latter particularly incensed me because it was written by an investment firm and dad sent it out to people of my generation, siblings and cousins mostly, who don't have large amounts of investment experience. So I sent out corrections, in particular this graph showing the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which didn't return to its 1929 peak until the mid-fifties:

15 February 2009

Maxwell made this for me yesterday (along with about 100 others for Cara):

14 February 2009 - Maxwell is a Special Boy...

Yesterday the warmth finally subsided a bit and we got a lovely blanket of snow. The kids got off school and I worked from home in the afternoon. Here are some Snow Pics for your viewing pleasure. We're spending Valentine's Day as we do most Saturdays: cleaning. However, if we all work efficiently there are plans to go do some sledding later...

12 February 2009 - Crossfeeding

Sometimes it amazes me the social taboos that still exist about certain topics. Glad Salma Hayek has put this one to rest...

7 February 2009

Today the thermometer headed up into the 60s here in Nebraska, so we decided it was finally time to clean the winter grime off the cars. The water which came out of the hose was still very cold though, and the kids each took turns with the hose "accidentally" spraying eachother. At first Maxwell did not understand the necessity of deception where cold water is concerned. I handed him the hose and the first words out of his mouth were "Boodle, come stand by the hose." Fortunately Zara has three older siblings and does not quickly fall into so blatant a trap.

5 February 2009

So for today's craziness: The girls are working on their science fair projects and have each come up with topics. Alora is studying fireworks and Brittan DNA. Brittan has been reading up on the subject in my old college textbook and Alora's been reading Feynman on atoms to help her understand the spectroscopy. While Brittan has yet to narrow down exactly what she it doing, we found a nice kit online for Alora to see the colors made by various metals. However, since this kit is considered "hazardous", online sites will only send it educational or research institutions. One can only imagine the great dangers of children learning on their own! Ergo our house is now, in addition to being a domicile, the home of the Frank Marshall Institute. I figured a name similar to mine might arouse suspicion. Hopefully he would have appreciated this bit of legerdemain...

3 February 2009

I have a doubly redundant backup system for my files: gmail/docs and burned DVDs. Today I decided to backup the text of all my gmail correspondence to save it to disk and got locked out of my account for "unusually large use". This has led me to do a radical rethink of my doubly redundant system. Google's motto used to be "don't be evil", but then they got big enough that they started to scare Microsoft. So Microsoft used its legal arm and Washington lobby to hit Google with the government stick. The Bush administration was hours from filing an antitrust suit against Google when they dropped their deal with Yahoo! Google donated heavily to the Obama campaign and helped him run Change.gov - the transition website.

Now that the economy is contracting, Google is realizing they've overreached. So they're backpedaling. They're firing employees. They're starting to charge companies to use Google Docs and are planning to do the same for gmail. And, as I discovered today, they're aggressively trying to push out 3rd party programs that interface with their products like GDrive. One sees shades of Microsoft trying to exclude Netscape . . . which is not to say that I believe that antitrust crap. Microsoft and Google should be able to build products however they want, but Google was built on a culture of openness and transparency. They built tools for people to use and trusted ad revenue to pay for them. They weren't open source, but they were firmly in the free software movement - that is, free cost AND free to use how you pleased.

They funded the open source Firefox movement to compete with Internet Explorer in support of free software. However, Firefox users really like wiping cookies, history, passwords, etc out of a browser's memory. Google finds cookies very useful to track users and better serve ads. So last year Google released their own browser, Chrome. You can't delete all that information out of Chrome.

Google bought YouTube in 2006 and the next year allowed users to monetize their content. A community was created almost overnight on YouTube as video entertainment became democratic. YouTube and Google fought Viacom on behalf of their users. But then came Hulu. Fox and NBC put the site together to monetize their content on the web since so many people were uploading it to YouTube. In late 2008 this professional content soon started to outcompete YouTube. So Google rewrote the algorithms YouTube uses to choose videos in searches. Professional, sponsored content like Oprah was pushed to the top while user-generated was pushed to the bottom. Top vloggers jumped ship and started their own site, Vloggerheads.

A corner is being turned. Over the past decade Google created a great reserve of goodwill by being an open company and a force for good. They are now burning through that reserve.

2 February 2009 - Groundhog Day

Yesterday we had a superbowl party for Cara, as she was rather sad at having not been invited to one.

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Last ∆ on 1 March 2009 by Bradley James Wogsland.
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