Thursday, July 21, 2005

Harry Potter was never alone

''For me, this book is all about trust," says Hilla Rogel, 15, of Brookline. ''Who can you trust? Are my parents sometimes wrong? Can you depend on anyone besides yourself?"
''After I finished, I lay awake and went over and over it in my head until morning," says Eli Dreyfus, 14, of Newton. ''My life is parallel to Harry Potter's. It made me feel really vulnerable. What would I do [in similar situations]? Am I ultimately alone, too?"

We are never truly alone.

Something that is missed is that Harry has never really been alone, the story is from his point of view and he doesn't always see it, but one of his great strengths is that he is not alone. Harry has many friends that are helping him all the time even if he can't see it.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is not about trust it is about friends vs henchmen. Voldemort has henchmen, a bunch of people that does what he says only out of fear or greed and if things look bad then they will leave him, again. On the other hand Harry has friends, sure they have rough patches but they stick together and trust each other to be there for them and they are.

Are parents wrong sometimes? Of course we are. We are mortal, we make mistakes, that is the whole point of being on this world, to try to do the right things and if we choose wrong, to learn from our mistakes and do it right next time.

Voldemort wants to be independent and rely only on himself, he is a fool. We are all dependent on each other, I doubt that Voldemort cooks the food he grew himself, or sewed his own clothes from thread he spun himself, or built his own house out of trees he feel himself. He doesn't see it as dependence but it is.

You cannot rely only on yourself. No one is that strong, that is Voldemorts greatest weakness, he is actually alone even while surrounded by his "faithful" Death Eaters. Like Saddam, who had a massive army which scattered to the wind when we invaded. Their fear of us was greater then their fear of him and he ended up alone, hiding in a small, dirty hole in the ground. Voldemort will also end up alone again, but Harry will have his friends with him, even if they are somewhere else, and that will make all the difference in the world.

We still have our families and they care for us more then anything in the world. Sure there are times when we get on each others nerves, and make bad choices because we feel it will hurt them, just like Ron and Hermione did, but love is stronger then pettiness and so we should never feel alone, even if our family is not around us right at this moment, we can go to them at anytime and we will find love.

The bonds of a family, particularly an eternal family, are far stronger then steel, diamond or ceramic.

We are never really alone.

A lot of math stories today

Congress has been looking into the fact that we are not producing a lot of female and minority students looking into Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) disciplines. Danica McKellar has some good things to say:

I believe the problems with under-representation of women in SET (Science, Engineering, and Technology) fields boils down to two fundamental issues, which actually effect the majority of students in all demographics, and which start in elementary and middle school.

Students are not prepared for SET careers, and Students are not even interested in SET careers.

These are big problems. If your children have little background in mathematics then they will not be able to understand what is being talked about, and if they don't understand then they are not going to be interested in that kind of career.

An example of how bad this is getting is shown by how many students get to college and have to take remedial math.
Figures show that 44 percent of the Aberdeen Central High School graduates in the class of 2003 who went to state-run universities in South Dakota had to take remedial math when they got to college.

"That's high, and it worries the heck out of me," said Aberdeen Central math teacher Evelyn McQuillen. "My mission at Central is to get that number down. I find it alarming."

McQuillen did say it's comparable to the nationwide average but higher than the statewide figure of around 29 percent.

The figures are for the 2002-2003 school year, the latest for which statistics are available.

It was even higher for the class of 2002 - almost 51 percent.

Finally, if you are thinking about the future your children will be living in, this is going to cause some rethinking.
In the next few years, your child will come home from school in tears. He'll say, once again, that he is unable to compete with the children who are brighter, better behaved and physically more capable than he is because their parents have bought them technological enhancements and you have not. What will you do?

I don't know how big of an issue this will be. Sure a brain enhancer may make a child more intelligent but the schools would have to change how things are taught to handle that. A lot of children are being drugged right now to make them better behaved. And since PE has pretty much been dropped to make more time for study added strength is not an advantage.

I am not going to worry about this until it actually becomes available. I have seen many technologies never leave the lab because some reason or another didn't allow for mass production.

Concentrate on bringing the best out in your children. Focus on their talents and interests and they will become successful.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Tom Lehrer Math Songs

One of the most potent tools you can have to help your child's learning is to set the lesson or parts of it to music. It will make it up to 300 times easier to remember then just listening to something.

For example we got the Schoolhouse Rock! DVD and though my wife and I had not seen them in 15 years we could still sing along with almost all of them, it was actually kinda scary how much we remembered.

Or how about old camp songs you sung around the campfire as a kid that you can still sing with just a little prompting.

The first time I remember hearing a Tom Lehrer song was in Chemistry class were we heard a recording of him singing all the elements in the Periodic Table, but that really wasn't the first time, he did several songs for the old children's TV show The Electric Company.

The link above goes to a video at the Internet Archive of him singing his math songs. By singing along with him your children will remember the information 300 times better since it is using both sides of the brain and that is a great thing.

His complete works can be had at Amazon.

The Big list of Periodic Tables

I ran across this site which has a very impressive collection of Periodic Tables of the Elements and their uses.
Chemistry is a big user of arithmetic, a chemical reaction is simple and straightforward math. And can be fun to demonstrate. A lot of what Mister Wizard did was based on this simple stuff.

To the Moon

Google now has a map of the Moon up showing all the locations of the Apollo missions. This is neat stuff.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Where does the time go?

One of the things that is a real problem for us is how little time we seem to have to do things.
I do realize that a lot of time is wasted in activities that don't pan out as something useful but then there is all the time spent on chores.

I am so thankful for the labor saving inventions of the last couple of centuries. The dish washer is my second most favorite time saving invention: In college we didn't have a dishwasher and it often take up to 30 minutes to wash and dry the dishes after a meal. We cooked a little fancier then most of the other married students but we all spent a lot of time on that chore. Now just load an entire days worth of dishes in the dishwasher and its done in an hour and a half.

My most favorite is the clothes washer and dryer. After watching 1900 House where washing clothes was an activity that went from Friday night (start the clothes soaking), most of Saturday (get a big tub of water hot and agitate for a long time and then wring out and line dry), Sunday the clothes would dry and Monday morning would be ironing. Now we can wash and dry a load of clothes in about 2 hours, without the need to iron most of them.

One area we are spending a lot of time on is cooking. My wife and I love to cook it is a hobby to us, really. We are not all that wild about leftovers though. But instead we make freezer portions for some of our dishes. If we make our great Spicy Oven Fried Chicken we make a big batch of it and eat two of the portions and the rest go in the freezer for when we want more, we can also tear them apart for things like Pesto Chicken Salad and Chicken Caesar Salad. It isn't all that different from getting one of the frozen entrees from the supermarket.


1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons hot pepper sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 large onion, sliced

12 chicken pieces (breasts, thighs and drumsticks) with skin and bones

1 cup dry unseasoned breadcrumbs
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 tablespoons butter, melted (optional)

Whisk buttermilk, oil, hot pepper sauce, mustard, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in large bowl to blend well. Add onion, then chicken and turn to coat. Cover; chill at least 3 hours or up to 1 day, turning chicken occasionally.

Place racks on 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Whisk breadcrumbs, cheese, flour, thyme, paprika, cayenne and 1 teaspoon salt in large baking dish to blend. Remove chicken from marinade, allowing excess to drip off. Add chicken to breadcrumb mixture and turn to coat completely. Arrange chicken, skin side up, on racks on baking sheets. Let stand 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Drizzle butter over chicken. Bake until crisp, golden and cooked through, about 50 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 6 servings.

Variation: Spicy Grilled Chicken: Instead of coating the chicken cook it on the grill for a smoky flavor.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Is Harry Potter bad for Christianity?

That is a good question and one I've heard a lot about in the last little while, with the latest one out.

Harry Potter is set in a fantasy world that looks a lot like our own. Just defining it fantasy does not change the question, but it does tells us something. Fantasy is used to explore the human condition in a way that cannot be done in the real world. The setting to Harry Potter could reasonably be changed to Star Fleet Academy without degradation to the story.

Lord Voldemort is not evil because he uses magic or because he wants to conquer death, we have actual scientists doing that in the real world. He is evil because he kills people for fun and profit. He is just another terrorist. He was even incarcerated in spirit form for many years but that only hardened him.

Harry Potter is not good because he uses magic but because he uses every means he has to protect the people around him. The DA was setup to help others learn to protect themselves, it was setup in defiance to illegitimate rule.

It is not to say that their isn't real magic in the world, and by magic I am talking about the power of the devil used to deceive and lead people away from Christ. Just as miracles are the power of God to confirm one's faith. These are things that you need to explain to your children, just like drugs and sex. Are these hard subjects to talk about, sure they are but it is far better for your children to learn them from you then from their peers or from pop culture.

Do I think Harry Potter is bad for my children? no I don't we are reading it out loud right now so we are all reading at the same time. It is a very slow (150wpm) way of doing it but at least I don't get "What's going on? No, don't tell me!" every time I laugh or groan. But an added benefit is that if things start getting out of hand I can stop. But I am impressed with a writer who can pull off a sight gag, that is hard.

Is Harry Potter good for you children? It's up to you, that is your responsibility as a parent, but God will inspire you if you ask. But anything that gets children to read a 700 page book deserves serious consideration, mainly because they are as rare as hen's teeth.

Less then 20% of the population will read one book cover to cover after graduating school for the rest of their lives. I realize that asking most people to actually read Scripture or Harry Potter is a losing proposition but it is still something that should be done. You have to learn for yourself, you can't outsource it.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Financially Set, Grandparents Help Keep Families Afloat, Too

That is the headline the NYTimes used for this article that tells how grandparents who have done well for themselves are helping their children and grandchildren out because of problems that they are facing.

It is interesting to see how grandparent contributions are overtaking most others when it comes to paying for college. But it is more worrying to see them helping with status purchases.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Kids killing kids over an iPod

My post on iPod Garage.

Friday, July 08, 2005

What would happen if...

This is a great little article if you are looking for someplace to start if your child is interested in electronics.
There are a whole bunch of free or cheap kits you can get to start exploring.

I think engineering is a great field, it works on hard problems and makes them manageable for ordinary people.

The education system that we have now is very big on problem solving. That is good as far as it goes but there is something missing from that: how to spot opportunities.

A story that has stuck with me for a long time was told to me by a teacher. An engineer walks into a room with a table full of money and thinks, "That's not secure, someone can easily steal that money." A businessman walks into the same room and thinks, "What is the worst thing that would happening if the money was stolen?"

It took me the longest time to figure out that the businessman was not thinking about stealing the money, but something quite different: consequences, as in consequences to the business if the money was stolen.

It is a very different mindset from problem solving, It is not that problem solving is a bad way of thinking but that there are other ways too and they need to be part of your and your children's toolbox.

It asks the question, "what would happen if...?" rather then the engineering rallying cry, "There has got to be a better way."

I remember reading Millionaire Next Door and he has a story of how a lady made quite a profit from noticing that the Forest Service was trying to get rid of pine needles, because they were a fire hazard, she also noticed some land that wasn't doing anything and some tricks that were driving back home empty. She setup a little business that took the pine needles, put them on the land to compost and used the empty trucks to haul it to town.

For the longest time I had a hard time figuring out how she did that. l am not sure I have figured it out but part of it is keeping an eye out for people who want something. Something that makes their lives easier or faster or cheaper or whatever they call better. In this case she found people who wanted pine needle mulch, then she found a cheap source of pine needles, the forest service giving them away and a cheap way to transport them, the deadheading trucks, and the land to let it compost a bit. It is finding a hungry crowd and finding a way to feed them.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Happy 4th of July

I have been trying to keep up with the news of homeschooling and schools and education but it is just too depressing and time consuming to post about all the stories I read and want to comment on. I am instead going to move to a weekly essay style to keep my sanity intact.

This 4th of July was special. Our church had a really good traditional patriotic celebration, the choir sang and there were some really good speakers, we even had our Congressman Bob Sheafor there who gave a rousing rendition of Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death" speech

There is a special place in my heart for the inspired documents of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution

When I read about these men and what they did it is absolutely amazing. Something very special happened at the founding of our country, God's hand can be seen in the words of the those documents.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

These words have been forgotten by too many citizens. All people everywhere have these rights, they exist within us by default. We might lend these rights to others in a hope for a better life but usually that does not happen, if the history of the world is any guide.

The next words in the Declaration are scary.

"That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed, -- That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

These are the most powerful words ever written in connection to government and strike fear into the hearts of all those who have the will to power.

Look at the Soviet Union, in 1989 the people decided that things weren't working and within months the government dissolved, the Berlin wall didn't just fall; it evaporated.

I was there just months before it went away and it looked as though it would stand another 50 years or more and then it was gone. The people, the People, said, "No, I won't!" and it all came tumbling down. No army in the world is powerful enough to stop that.

All that is needed for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.