Epsilon Exploits & Familial Foibles
April 2009

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Links are good as of their posting date. Comments may be directed to bradley@wogsland.org.

30 April 2009 - Mania Magic, by Alora

29 April 2009

Today was a good day. I finished reading a book about Long Term Capital Management. Spring leaves are appearing on the trees. I've finished up all my projects at work. I tasted my first Idaho wine which I found at the HyVee. Cara and the girls made dinner. Tonight the kids and I will finish watching Zorro. . .

26 April 2009


25 April 2009

Today we attended the Arbor Day Festival in Nebraska City, where the holiday started. I started off the day with a 5K, but the spring fatness seems to be slowing me down - 32:14 was the time it took me to move my 226 lbs those 3.1 miles. Then I tasted wines from the Arbor Day Farm. Okay, actually the place was a load of fun for the kids: making kites, learning about spoinky trees, climbing giant treehouses, dissecting owl pellets, getting baby trees, repelling and drinking hot cider.

After that we lunched at the Avenue Grill in the center of town, strategically located along the parade route. Our late lunch was interrupted midway through with the parade, but the kids didn't mind as they received a great deal of candy. After lunch we finished off the day with a trip to the Lewis and Clark museum.

As we often do, a more extensive set of photographs have been posted to shutterfly.

23 April 2009 - Twitter Sauce

22 April 2009

Looking around here in Lincoln, there are many trees. Wherever people have planted them they thrive quite well, even outside the city where they are planted around farmhouses as wind breaks. This begs the question: Why weren't there already trees here when we showed up a few centuries ago? Why did Louis & Clark call this the Great American Desert because they saw no trees and therefore assumed no crops could grow? Assuming the forest advances 100 ft per year (a very aggressive rate of forest growth) it would still take almost 24,000 years for it to reach Lincoln from the Rocky Mountains 450 miles away. Anyone who's driven I-80 or I-70 across the country knows the country across that distance is flat, seemingly endless plain right up until you hit the Rockies.

Less than 20,000 years ago mammoths and other large herbivores still roamed free in the center of the continent. Anyone familiar with Africa's elephants knows how destructive some species of this family can be to forests, and some mammoths were quite a bit bigger. In the African savannah rocky hills and outcroppings provide a redoubt for trees - safe from the large animals mowing down their brethren in the forest. The Great Plains of America provide no such redoubts. Once the trees were gone, much like Easter Island they were gone for good. Any direct advance of the forest from the mountains would be pushed back by the large herbivores once they had discovered it. Sure, seeds, branches and even whole trees might sneak downriver during a flood and establish a colony which might thrive even for centuries . . . but animals drink. Eventually this colony would be found and overforaged out of existence.

The men who crossed the Bering Strait to settle here many millennia ago did most of the work, killing off mammoth, sloth, horse and rhino, but the bison did not fall so easily. It survived until the second wave of human migration came from across the Atlantic. Then in a few centuries it too fell from prevalence and was hemmed in in just a few places - much like the cousin cows these once tree-dwellers brought with them. For, unlike the large herbivores, we like forests. Wide open spaces force us to squint and be overawed. In 1872 one of these once tree-dwellers named Morton (you may know him better for the salt in your cupboard) started a holiday to reforest his then treeless state of Nebraska. For this Arbor Day held every April he asked everyone to plant a tree. 24,000 years is too long for once tree-dwellers to wait after all.

19 April 2009

Okay, so this is actually from about four months ago, but I finally got around to posting it today and I thought people would probably still enjoy it:

Randolph Winter Concert

18 April 2009 - Shark Weekend

This weekend it's just me and the kiddoes here in Nebraska as Cara flew back to the ATL for her sister's "bridal shower". Colleen's is the third fake wedding we'll be attending, that is, the third wedding where the participants have already had their nuptials with a judge prior to the event. This seems to be a growing trend in American culture...

Anyway, being that it's just me and the four monkeys one would think that we'd planned something good for the weekend, but, alas, it seems we are socked in with rain for the duration. Fear not, for Auntie Dell has come to the rescue. She and Kristen were cleaning out their old DVDs this past week (I'm guessing because they're upgrading to Blu-ray now that HDDVD has died off), and offered to send us any they were getting rid of. Of course I jumped at the offer, as, yes, we still have VHS tapes the kids watch (some even labeled "ELIAS" - given to us after a previous culling I'd imagine). Among those available was a gem of gems: The Shark Week Collection. Well, if you think Maxwell gets excited when Auntie Dell sends him a new Air Buddies DVD in the mail, you should see him when Shark Week comes in the mail! So we have been dutifully watching the stories of bull shark attack survivors on Cape San Blas, great whites amassing to eat elephant seals at Año Nuevo and fake shark heads created to measure how much force it takes to rip off a fake human leg. Quoth Zara, "I just want to go swimming in a swimming pool. Not anywhere else, just in a swimming pool."

14 April 2009 - Sunrise at 7AM

Okay, so you've been drinking mostly out of your cellar for the past few months but all you've got left is a few bottles you were saving for a really special occasion - like your daughter's engagement. What hasn't changed in the past few months is your need to budget. So where to turn for value wines that don't break your budget? Well, you need look no further. At TheWineRater.com we've created a values page of wines $10 or under that got our highest rating (5 stars). Therein you'll find gems like the 2001 Belvedere Healdsburg Ranches Zinfandel Sonoma County ($8), the 2005 Yalumba South Australia Shiraz Viognier ($10) and the 2005 Mazzocco Merlot Sonoma County ($9).

12 April 2009

This year we decided to revive an old family tradition . . .

. . . and continue another one.

11 April 2009

Today I built my first wine storage unit - an X box. It was remarkably easy and I even got all the measurements right the first time! I used 3/4" pine so it's quite sturdy and should hold up well over time. One 4X8 panel is enough to make two boxes, but I don't really have room and one will hold 32-40 bottles anyway depending on thickness. Cara really wanted to paint it, but I kinda like it in the rough.

9 April 2009

If you've been reading this blog for a while you know that at the core of my parenting theory is the goal of rendering myself superfluous to my children. A recent encounter with my boss made me realize I've been applying the same theory toward my work as well. During my time at Experian I've devoted time to automating a number of things which human modelers had previously done - incorporating heuristic rules, Monte Carlo and the like to achieve results with as little work as possible by me. Encountering difficulties programming a particular heuristic the other day, my boss commented something like Besides, if you could program everything then you wouldn't have a job. All I could think was exactly. And then it hit me. I realized that I was trying to render myself superfluous here, too. I don't believe her that the whole statistical modeling process can't be automated, and I see it as my imperative to do so. I am on the side of the machines. I am Gaius Baltar.

I know, delusions of grandeur, right? Curiosity coupled to a strive for efficiency are a dangerous combination, yet those are some of my driving principles. Doing what I think is right may lead to bad ends, because my knowledge is limited. Do the means justify the ends any more than ends justify the means? That line of reasoning leads back the the question of existence. If in doing good there is a probability it will lead to bad ends, why do anything at all? Why risk creating evil? Some Jains take this logic to its ultimate end and sit in a corner starving themselves to death. It's not that we're born with original sin, but instead that there is an overwhelming probability that some act, however good intentioned, will lead to evil. Existence is a choice. It will lead to bad ends. Choosing to live means hoping that with enough knowledge and striving for goodness one can work more good ends than bad to fruition.

8 April 2009 - Shoes

When Alora and Brittan were babies, it was cute that they always got undressed upon arriving home. If we planned to go back out soon we'd have to tell them and then watch them like a hawk or else they'd soon be running around in just diapers. It's not so bad today, but they still take off their shoes and socks and leave them wherever - usually in a high traffic area. A few months back I stealthily instituted a policy of hiding shoes which I tripped over. For a while they just thought they were loosing shoes in odd places, but finding shoes atop the refrigerator or bookshelf was a little too odd; they grew wise and confronted me. So now it is an open policy. Yet nearly daily I still trip over shoes and hide them.

Yesterday I got soft and revealed the location of Alora's shoes because she had Girls on the Run. (Seriously, they were only under the china cabinet. How can these kids ever expect to find all the easter eggs next weekend?) This was a bad idea. I broke one of the first principles of parenting: consistency. Once there is an exception to a rule, children will naturally probe to see how the rule can be bent or broken.

Last night I was coming downstairs and tripped over one of Brittan's shoes at the bottom, so I threw it behind the washing machine. This morning, instead of looking for her shoes as they usually do, Brittan berated me with questions about its location and special pleadings about how she had PE today. I suppose I have only myself to blame. Deviating from first principles ever sows discord in the parent-child relationship.

7 April 2009

This week I've been partaking in Video Blogging Week 2009; here's today's entry where the kids help:

Also check out day 1 and day 2 . . . and John Caruthers reprimanding himself.

5 April 2009 - Here in Nebraska we finally got our spring blizzard . . .

. . . and this was it.

In the cold weather Maxwell and Zara enjoyed their newly clean playroom.

4 April 2009

Today I set up Alora & Brittan's old computer for Zara & Maxwell to play starfall whenever they want . . . and we discovered Zara has no idea how to use an "old-fashioned" mouse. This little girl was raised on laptop mouses and finds the antiquated variety rather unwieldy. Fortunately she's got her big brother to help her, so she picked up this new skill in no time:

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Last ∆ on 3 May 2009 by Bradley James Wogsland.