Amazon

A few recommended books, movies, games, and albums. If you want to look for more recommendations, feel free to look at the larger selection over at Amazon or my Amazon Store with more recommendations.

  • Man School: lessons on love, power, honor and purpose
    Man School: lessons on love, power, honor and purpose
    by Michael Bronco
  • Cryptonomicon
    Cryptonomicon
    by Neal Stephenson
  • Programming in Objective-C 2.0 (2nd Edition)
    Programming in Objective-C 2.0 (2nd Edition)
    by Stephen G. Kochan

    An outstanding introduction to the core of the Objective-C language.

  • DreamCypher
    DreamCypher
    Dancing Ferret
  • Tron: Legacy (Amazon MP3 Exclusive Version) [+Digital Booklet]
    Tron: Legacy (Amazon MP3 Exclusive Version) [+Digital Booklet]
    Walt Disney Records
  • Cocoa(R) Programming for Mac(R) OS X (3rd Edition)
    Cocoa(R) Programming for Mac(R) OS X (3rd Edition)
    by Aaron Pablo Hillegass
  • The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
    The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress
    by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Hot Fuzz (Widescreen Edition)
    Hot Fuzz (Widescreen Edition)
    starring Jim Broadbent, Kenneth Cranham, Timothy Dalton, Julia Deakin, Patricia Franklin
Sunday
May152005

Has Feminism Killed Femininity?

That is the question asked in an posting over at BLACKFIVE.

I can't say I agree 100% with the article, but I do for the most part. Several things stick out.
On TV the other day I even saw a disposable toilet brush: the ultimate in decadence for the spoiled homemaker. No need to get your hands anywhere near those icky bristles (how many of us ever touch the brush end, for God's sake?)...

Yeah, and swiffers, and all those other disposable cleaning widgets and gidgets and wipes. About the only disposable cleaning tools I use are paper towels and baby wipes.

Besides, many women like to joke about how hard it is for men to learn how change a diaper (we men can't put up with something icky I guess). It's become a stereotype. Proof in point - look at any movie where guys get stuck taking care of babies and/or small kids. Even Ice Age did it. Now we get women who think it's too icky to handle a toilet brush?

About the only reasonable excuse I can think of is convenience. As she point out later - working a full day has you coming home drained, tired, often tending toward cranky, and with low reserves of patience for anything. If wasting money on disposable floor wipes saves you time so you can kick up your feet and read (or more likely, watch TV for most households), hey....

Time is, after all a resource that cannot be expanded, that everyone has to spend in equal amounts. Twenty-four hours a day, no more, no less. If you want more time at home, you spend less on work, you become less useful to work, and your promotion opportunities go down. I've also seen this hold true for guys as well when they decide to spend more time with the family than advancing their career track.

Go read it, it's thought-provoking.
Friday
May132005

No, the Parents Should be the Coaches...

From Roger Eberts review of a movie called Kicking & Screaming:
The problem with team sports involving kids is that the coaches are parents. The parents become too competitive and demanding and put an unwholesome emphasis on winning. One simple reform would enormously improve childhood sports: The coaches should be kids, too. Parents could be around in supervisory roles, sort of like the major league commissioner, but kids should run their own teams. Sure, they'd make mistakes and the level of play would suffer and, in fact, the whole activity would look a lot more like a Game and less like a Sporting Event. Kids become so co-opted by the adult obsession with winning that they can't just mess around and have fun.

I'll admit, at the beginning, that everyone has seen the stereotypically overwrought parent who can't seem to accept anything but perfection from Little Johnny/Jennie and his or her coach on the field. It does seem worse these days, especially with the high-pressure drive for perfect lives with perfect little children and soccer games and football and art classes and the perfect dinner too. I suspect that this drive for perfection in all aspects of life just makes the incidences of parents-as-sports-monster worse.

That said, I think he's wrong.

First of all, kids do get to "be their own coaches." Even in this day and age of parental hyper-concern over predators, and nerf-society concern over bike helmets and not letting Johnny out of sight, kids get together to run around, play games, bike, play kickball, and so forth. They set their own rules, choose their sides if any apply, and get to make a mess of things or not as they see fit.

This is an invaluable experience and provides them a chance to make mistakes and just mess around.

That said, there is a darker side. We all know the stories of the playground bullies, the kids who don't get chosen (or otherwise ostracized), and such, that without parental involvement kids have to deal with.

Organized sports with parent coaches doesn't just serve the purpose of parental supervision, it's an education. Sure, we can still have weak-spined coaches who don't shield the kids from their own parents, and jerks who are just as mean as the parents or play favorites. Even then they are more likely to be fair, or fairer, and push the kids to reach beyond themselves to new heights.

It's an education in sportsmanship, fairness, and teamwork that you will not get from other kids without a decent adult handy.
Friday
May132005

The Forgotten War

Captain's Quarters has a note on the History Channel's special on the war of 1812, and recaps some of it's highlights.

While needing review on the subject myself, I must say that I'd found Theodore Roosevelt's (Yes, that Teddy R.), volumes on the naval battles a worthwhile read on the naval aspects of the war.

On another note, being raised in the Marines, I grew up with the lore that the barracks weren't torched with the rest of Washington D.C. because the Marines were the only soldiers the Brits had respect for.
Tuesday
May032005

It's a Bird, It's a Plane.....

It's a Dyna-Soar.

Or something like it.

Via Instapundit.
Popular Mechanics has a sneak peek at a Lockheed Martin design.

I see a ghost of the old Dyna-Soar in the overall look.

For those who weren't aware of it (and I only have a few glimmerings myself), the Dynasoar was a reusable manned space vehicle that was developed in the 60's, intended for military use.

I personally first heard of it when, upon telling my grandfather how cool it was to watch the very first shuttle launch, he told me half-sadly, half-bitterly, that we could have had something smaller, and working years ago. He'd worked on the ground-based power generation and distribution systems, if I recall correctly.
Saturday
Apr162005

Why Internet Filters (Don't) Work...

Via Sound Politics, I learned of this , where a high school student in Spokane was suspended after he created a Web site bypassing the school's internet content filter.

There may be longer rants on this later, but the long and the short of it is that these filters are just another crutch to be used by uninvolved parents and officialdom, to give the appearance of being concerned and "safeguarding our children", while leaving them unsupervised with an electronic babysitter that doesn't truly work.

Let me rephrase that. They "work." Getting them to work the way you as a parent want them to is difficult at the very best.

Why is that?

The first set of problems involves what is blocked. There are several basic ways that these "nanny" programs decide what web sites to block. There is a "blacklist" of blocked websites provided by the makers of the software. The person setting up the software can decide to block specific sites, or allow specific sites. Last but not least, the software can look for specific key words, and block any page that has those.

The second problem is the question of whether or not the software really can successfully prevent access to sites that it has been told to block.

Many critics of the software like to concentrate on the canned blocklists. Supposedly, the company automatically combs through all of the available webpages, and marks the ones with questionable content. They then review them to see if these sites are truly inappropriate, and, if so, put the site on the blocklist.

Given the number of sites in these blocklists, it truly is questionable as to how thoroughly these sites are actually independently reviewed, because blocked sites include or have included organizations such as Amnesty International, congressional representatives, and Banned Books Online. Some in truly paranoid fringe sometimes wonder if there is a conspiracy to block certain political views. Given the odd choices it is a valid question as to what degree the mores of the creators and perceived desires of the clients/parents bias the terms used to generate these blocklists.

Key words have their own problem. While it may not be an issue when the user is a five year old, teens at least will legitimately need access to websites on biology, etc. that may contain blocked key words. Both the "key word" method and the canned blocklists tend toward a significant false positives, sometimes over 50 percent.

A privately generated block list created by the parent or administrator is the only method that blocks exactly what the person buying the software wants (you can go everywhere but here), or conversely, allows access only to the places allowed (these are the only places you can go). The only problem is that setting up and maintaining these block lists can be very time consuming.

Maintaining these programs can be time consuming in general. If a site you want to allow access to, either for yourself, or generally, is blocked. you have to take the time to add it to an "allowed" list, or bypass it that one time.

All this aside, it still leaves open the question of whether or not this vast overkill prevents access to pornography and unwanted information in general, as well as whether or not the software can be bypassed for specific sites.

As the article I referenced above shows, the answer is a resounding "no."

Face it. Just like books, TV, and anything else in life, the only way to make sure your kids stay safe online is to keep an eye on what they do, and teach them how to handle themselves.

I'll leave you with a quote from Lars Kongshem:
Equally important, many educators say, is..(teaching) students...to use the filter that lies between their ears...this analogy offered in the National Research Council report is...apt: "Swimming pools can be dangerous for children....one can install locks,..fences, and...pool alarms....but by far the most important thing....is to teach them to swim."