Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What? Me vote?

Current opinion: Voting should NOT be made easier

Voter apathy occurs for many reasons:
  • "My vote doesn't count"
  • "All politicians are crooks"
  • "There are WAY too many propositions on the ballot"
  • "I can't get to the poll in time to vote"
  • "They make the voting process too hard"
  • "I'm sick and tired of all of the negative campaigning"
To help fix the current voting system, many states have proposed various ways of changing the process:
As for 'corrupt politicians' and 'negative campaigning' no one has suggested a way to fix these. Bad as they are, they go with the territory. But are negative campaigns always bad? I'm of the opinion that if a person can't take the time to register to vote 45 days in advance (or whatever it is in your state), then they won't take the time to investigate the issues and candidates. While the registration process should not be many hoops to jump thru, registering x-days in advance is certainly not an inconvenience. I might even be fine with a 'test' that each potential voter needs to take that might ask things like 'who is your House Representative?' and 'who was the second president of the United States?'.

New opinion (unchanged): Voting should NOT be made easier

Friday, June 25, 2010

Sure, let's talk. But only if you agree with me!

Do you find yourself ONLY reading news items that you agree with?  Do you only watch news shows that 'slant' the news your way? 

Read this fascinating article on Confirmation Bias. It bogs down a little near the beginning, but stay with it.

Confirmation Bias (

Thinking back, I now realize I am more likely to finish reading articles that I agree with. I'll be making a conscious effort to read ALL of the articles I start, regardless of the content. I already make an effort to read articles I know I won't agree with. I want to see ideas from different sides.

Do you find you read only articles/books that you agree with? Do you read (and finish!) articles/books you disagree with?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mom is okay with daughter dropping out of high school

Everyone wants their child to attend school and succeed. If they can't or won't go to a College is one thing. But would you allow your child to drop out of High School?

Mother in favor of her daughter dropping out of high school (

Not everyone is suited for everything, obviously. You may try to work at a business and find it doesn't work out. You try another business in the same industry and it does work out. Maybe it was the people. Maybe the way things are done there.

The same applies with school. The extreme examples are the students who get expelled for not attending classes. Is it the student? The materials? The teacher? Their homelife? Could be these or many other factors. The public school systems gear their instruction to the masses. They really can't afford to try to teach to all levels of students in each grade at all schools. There just isn't enough time or money to go around to do this. So what happens to the 'higher' and 'lower' kids? Some of them may not connect to the materials because they aren't engaged enough or it is too difficult or they just don't care.

While talking about this, we're presupposing that there are no 'learning disabilities'. Dyslexia or hearing problems are another matter to be dealt with.

Coming to the conclusion that your child should drop out of High School isn't, and shouldn't, be an easy decision. The child doesn't come home one day and say "I'm not going to school any longer" and you agree. Some due diligence needs to be done to understand the reasons behind this. And as children age, it becomes more and more difficult to 'make them attend school'. A 17-year-old can take the car or bus and leave. A 14-year-old has fewer options. And taking away allowances and privileges is easier.

While I don't whole-heartedly agree with 'I agree my child can drop out of High School' I can understand there are circumstances that would necessitate this agreement.

If your teen wants to drop out, make sure to have a conversation with them immediately. Keep your cool and talk to them about these issues: Teen Advice About Dropping Out Of School (
There are even articles to help young-adults understand the 'steps' and implications of dropping out of High School.

Most students who drop out, do not have their parents agreement. High School Dropouts (CNN)

The rate of dropouts has been declining over the years, but is still too large. What are the dropout rates of high school students? (U.S. Dept of Education)

The top 10 reasons students drop out: Why Teens Drop Out of High School (Womens Forum)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Should 16 year-old be allowed to sail oceans alone?

Abby Sunderland was sailing alone in the Indian Ocean with her parents blessing. Should they have allowed this?

Parents criticized for teen's solo voyage (

Abby is a 'life-long sailor'. She can handle her boat with the best of them. And while I haven't had a sit-down chat with her, hearing her talk on news shows it is obvious she is more mature than the typical 16 year-old. Go Abby!

UPDATE: Another sailor, younger (14 years old), is heading out to sea. Laura Dekker heads out to sea again (Christian Science Monitor)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Should we get a dog?

Current (old) opinion: No, we shouldn't get a dog, because we are too busy and would have to find someone to take care of him while we are on vacation

Years ago, my wife and son said they wanted to get a dog. But my wife and I agreed that we were too busy. We usually had something going on most week days and every weekend. So a dog would 'cramp our style', preventing us from doing things we like to do. And it wouldn't be fair to the dog. We wouldn't be able to spend as much time with the dog and would have to leave it at a kennel while we were on vacation.

So, surpringly, I decided to get a dog for my wife on her birthday. I would go to the pound, select a dog, and bring it home on or about her birthday. What I didn't know, is that you don't just 'get a dog' and take it home. They ask lots of questions and insist that everyone who lives in tthe house must meet the dog! They want to make sure everyone gets along. And that we would be able to take good care of the dog. They didn't want the dog coming back. There were plenty of dogs to find homes for.

My wife and son were quite surprised when we went to the pound and picked up Maddie. She was a scrawny little girl and had some kind of skin condition or had thinned out the hair near her tail by scratching and biting. She needed some serious love and care.

So did our predictions of 'cramp our style' and 'can't give the dog enough attention' come true? Not even close.

Maddie is a treat. I walk her once or twice a day around the neighborhood. I've never seen the neighborhood like this before. I used to drive thru, not really noticing anything around. Now, I get to see what my neighbors have done to their houses and yards. I also meet many of them. Some of them have dogs and we meet once in a while during our walks and talk a bit about our dogs and other things. Some of them don't have dogs and we talk about lots of different things (including the weather!).

And while I have been active and exercise regularly over the past few years, I am taking many more walks and it just feels wonderful to be outside walking our little girl.

We also take her on most of our trips and vacations. Whether we are going to see our relatives (near or far) or going to a National Park or even to a Hotel/Casino (yes, there are dog-friendly Hotel/Casinos!), we really enjoy having her along. We can't do EVERYthing while on vacation with her, of course. For example, while at the Hotel/Casino, we weren't allowed to take her into any of the restaurants (of course). But we also couldn't leave her in the room. So we took her with us, picked up some food, and had lunch at the park. Then had dinner in our room with food we had picked up on the way back from sightseeing.

Having her for over 2 years now, we can't imagine life without her. As my wife puts it, "She's my best birthday present, ever!"

New opinion: (changed) Dogs are great! We deal easily with all 'doggie issues'

Nice article on the advantages of having a dog:  Why Owning a Dog Makes Me a Better Blogger (BloggingPro)

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Talk

(image from

When my son was 12, we had The Talk.  I explained, in terms he could understand, the differences between women and men.  I told him how babies are made, again at his level of understanding, but explaining what goes where and what happens.  When I briefly explained menopause, his face scrunched up and he said "I'm glad I'm not a girl."

His curiosity has never been enough to make me squirm.  He has asked the occasional question and I have answered him.  Truthfully, but, again, in terms he can understand.

So when I read this article about a father who gave his son a Playboy and a blow-up doll, I had a whole different appreciation of The Talk.  I wish I had thought of this when my son was younger.

Thanks Dad, for the Blow-Up Doll (

What kind of Talk have you had with your child?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Dunning-Kruger effect. Or, I know more than I do.

I came across this brief article on Boing Boing: Confident Dumb People (

I'm suddenly feeling better about my lack of opinions. :)

More information from ABC radio in Australia. Listen to the broadcast or read the transcript. The Dunning-Kruger effect (The Science Show)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ban the burqa?

Belgium is well on it's way to banning the burqa and niqab that many Muslim women wear. And other European countries may follow suit. Short Burqa Article(NPR)

Some issues I have heard in recent years are in France, in 2009, the French President said 'burqas are not welcome in France' because 'we cannot accept that women are prisoners behind a screen'. In 2005, in Florida, a woman's claim that she wants her drivers license photo taken while wearing her burqa was denied by a Florida court.

Women of Muslim faith are required to wear a burqa for religious reasons. Does this mean that her faith trumps law? We DO have a separation of church and state, but we also have laws that prevent people from doing harm, even if religion is involved. Terrorism is cited as the main reason for preventing women from having their faces covered in their photos. Should this be considered on a case by case basis?

What do you think? Should a woman be allowed to wear her burqa for her driver's license? Should she be denied her license if she refuses? Driving IS a privilege, after all, not a right.

An excellent article can be found here: Europe's Burqa Wars

Friday, June 4, 2010

Woman gets hit while following Google Maps 'walking directions'

Here we go again. Another "it's not my fault" suit.

A woman is suing Google because she got his on a busy highway while following 'walking directions' on Google Maps. It wasn't her fault that Google Maps make her walk onto the busy highway. They told her to do it!

This woman needs to read Ayn Rand's book "Fountainhead" and get a full understanding of accountability. "It's not my fault" should not be an excuse to file these worthless lawsuits.

Woman Follows Google Maps 'walking directions', Gets Hit, Sues (

I know I do NOT have all of the pertinent information regarding the incident. Did the road look deserted and this one car came from behind her, not watching the road properly and hit her? Were there other people walking along the roadway so she assumed it would be safe to walk there also?

If anything I can see her suing the driver. The jury might find negligence or not. But to sue Google for their negligence is irresponsible. Common sense, people. Common sense.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Books or eReaders?

Current opinion: None.

Before I learned to read, my Mother was reading to me. She read so much, that whenever she stumbled over a word she had read to me before, I would correct her. As I grew up, I only stopped reading for a few years. So books are something I can't imagine doing without. I usually have 2 books going at once (one at home and one at work) and also listen to a recorded book while commuting or travelling on vacation.

Late in 2009, my wife gave me an early xmas gift: a Barnes & Noble Nook. Not long before this, I had decided not to get an electronic reader because of the price. I can also be a traditionalist is many areas and thought I would miss having a paper book in my hands. Since I received the Nook, I have read four books on it and will continue to do so. I read the Nook at home. I have a paper book at work. And I still listen to recorded books.

I know that the long-term future of reading will be electronic. EVERYthing is going electronic. I used to use a paper calendar. And a paper contact booklet. Now I have a Personal Digital Assistant that contains both. Paper books will be around for a long time. But the writing is on the wall; the electronic wall. Books (and magazines and newspapers) will be predominantly electronic in the (near) future.

But if someone asked me which one I prefer, I wouldn't have had an answer. There are pro's and con's for both.

Books are almost always more expensive than electronic books. A paperback book of "The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest" on Amazon is $13.97 while the ebook version is $9.99. This is while the book is New. Once the book has been out for a while, I can find a used copy for much less. And some used book stores will do 'trades' where you can trade five or six books for one book. I don't HAVE to have a new book. Reading a used one is just fine. The edge goes to Paper Books for price.

With my Nook, I can download a ebook anywhere. If I am on vacation and finish my current book, I can purchase a new one without ever leaving my chair. Paper books are available in any city or town, but it still can't be any easier than downloading over the air. Having said that, it's not as much Fun to look for a new book while searching on the Nook. If I don't have a new book in mind, I prefer to browse books while in a bookstore. But I usually know what I want to read next (from friends, the internet, magazines, etc), so ease of getting a new book goes to
Electronic Books.

Books are easy to skip around in. I can move from one part of the book to another instantly, checking one passage with another. Ereaders are not there yet. Ereaders do allow me to search, as long as I know what I'm looking for. If I know a word or phrase to find, it's very easy electronically. It not, it's easier to find in a paper book, quickly scanning the pages a page or section at a time. But if I want to know a word that I just read, I can look it up instantly on the same eReader instead of trying to find a dictionary somewhere on my book shelves. This one is a wash and neither gets this category.

Barnes & Noble allows me to 'loan' a book to someone. But since I can only load it to them for 2 weeks, this may not be enough time for them to read it. Paper books can easily be loaned, given, or traded with anyone. And I like having a physical book on my bookshelf. This one goes to Paper Books.

How long does the Nook battery last? Long enough if I leave it at home or I am on vacation and remember to take the charging cable. But if I forget it? Or I leave it in standby and don't read it for a few days? The battery needs to be recharged before I can read it. Potentially a big probably. Books? Battery? No brainer. Paper Books nail this one.

But while I'm on vacation, I finish my current book and want a new one. I only packed one other paper book, a mystery, and I'm not in the mood for a mystery. I may be out of luck. With the Ereader, I have several books with me. So I can choose a science fiction or biography or Jane Austin; whatever mood strikes me. Another one for Ebooks.

What happens when I spill my iced tea on either one? On my paper book, it is probably not salvageable and I go to the store to get another copy. My Nook? If I get to it quick enough perhaps I can save it from frying. I haven't done this yet, so I'm not sure how quick I'd have to be to prevent a problem. But if I destroy a paper book, I'm out a few dollars. If I destroy my Nook, I'm out almost $300. So Paper Books win this one.

While reading a paper book, I need to usually have two hands on it, one on each side, holding the pages open. I CAN read a paper book one-handed, but it gets tiring pretty quickly. With my electronic book, I can use one hand or even just put it in my lap or on the table. Since reading a book is the largest slice of the pie, easy peasy goes to Electronic Books. And to top off the reading experience, I can change the font size as I get older to make reading easier. Can't do that with a book.

Lastly, what about the envionmental impact? Surely, with all of the books in the world, the trees required, water for processing, transportation to and from bookstores, paper books are much worse. But no! Remember it takes electricity to run the Ereaders and that usually comes from coal. And when it's time to 'bury' the Ereader, the chemicals leech into the soil. Here is an article from 2009 that may surprise you. Are Ereaders greener than books (NY Times)

Now that I have thought about the pro's and con's of each, I can see that paper books are the way to go. It's easy to download and read an electronic book; but given the plusses of the other categories I've listed above, paper books still rule. I can loan it to a friend, keep it visible to everyone on my bookshelf, and not worry about destroying a book with my iced tea. For now, I plan on reading books on both mediums. If I ever destroy my Nook somehow, I probably wouldn't rush right out to replace it.

But mark my word, electronic books are the wave of the future. Just keep the liquids away from them for now.

New opinion: (changed) Paper Books are (currently) better than Electronic Books.

And here is another NY Times opion page that talks about Ebooks and how our brains assimilate them and what the current and future looks like. Does the brain like ebooks? (NY Times)

UPDATE: Amazon Says E-Book Sales Outpace Hardcovers (Wall Street Journal)

E-Book Myths: Top 10 Myths About Our E-Books Future