Monthly Archives: February 2011

Standing With Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, people are standing outside in 17 degree weather.  Here in Los Angeles, we were afraid that no one would show up if yesterday’s rain persisted.  But by 10 in the morning, the sky was a gorgeous blue, a perfect day to stand in solidarity with public union members outside the LA City Hall.

I was there representing the Internet, which shall be present at every rally of the 21st century.  This sign is awesome because its heavy-duty lamination will last forever and because in the future I can just cover up the “Scott Walker” and put in any person or thing I want.  Yes, you may borrow it.

From a couple blocks away, it was easy to find.  You just had to follow all the other people wearing red and white (badger colors) and carrying signs.  The turnout was great: I estimate a couple thousand, or using Fox News calculations, five or six million.

The cheeseheads were out in force, too, managing to look amazingly dignified.

And surprise, the Koch brothers showed up and gave a speech!  (These Koch brothers, naturally.)

Partway through the rally, we saw a distant force approaching.  Are they friend or foe?

It’s the March for Choice, arriving about 400 strong to lend their support!

After the rally, we actually did locate the opposition, who were LaRouche crazies, of all people.  It was smaller than the number of people who took pictures of my sign, and to nobody’s particular surprise, had the only especially uncivil signs at the entire event.

Also after the rally, I found another representative of the Internet!  Bad picture, I know, but I was primarily there to rally, not to photograph.  (She’s laughing at my sign.)

Good use of a Saturday?  Without a doubt.

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The nationwide Rallies to Save the American Dream took place at every state capital in the nation, plus many other cities.  Estimates place the crowd in Madison today at a jaw-dropping 70-100,000.  It was all organized by MoveOn.org, of course.  You can follow the Twitter hashtag #WeAreWI; the LAist has some more reports on the LA protest here.

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Synthesizers

Jordan recently brought home the late-80s/early-90s show Quantum Leap, which has caused a great and glaring question to arise in my mind.

Namely: What is it with the synthesizer soundtracks from that era?  They do not make the show sound exciting or interesting or intended for an adult audience.  They make everything sound like educational programming.

Exhibit A: Quantum Leap, Macgyver, Knight Rider, Airwolf.

Exhibit B: 3-2-1 Contact, Square One, Reading Rainbow, Schoolhouse Rock.  (The only notable outliers were Bill Nye and the crowning achievement of educational programming theme songs, Carmen Sandiego.  As if you even need to follow that link.)

Sans video and lyrics, would you be able to tell which show was about a helicopter pilot and which show was about reading?

Maybe it’s just selection bias.  All I watched in the early 90s was educational programming, so I associate that sound with it.  And yet I don’t think so.  Synthesizer music is tame and bland and it just doesn’t belong in TV shows for grown-ups.  The 80s: Who knows what people were thinking?

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Image from Wikimedia Commons.

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Oddity of the Week

In 1972, a writer named Geoffrey Hoyle wrote a children’s book about what he thought life would be like in the future: specifically, in the year 2010.  Years later, someone happened to pick up a copy of said book at a library discard sale and posted it on the internet.

And the internet made a collective decision: We liked Hoyle’s vision of the future which is now the present.  Parts of it are uncannily predictive, parts are hilariously inaccurate, and parts are adorably optimistic.  Also, he predicted the iPad.  And so launched the Facebook campaign to find Geoffrey Hoyle.

So far they’ve found his Facebook page but haven’t succeeded in talking to him yet.  He did make some comments in this BBC article, though.

Are we living in the future?  Perhaps.  But I don’t see jumpsuits catching on any time soon.

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A Statistical Analysis of Women’s Pastoral Roles

Scot McKnight of Jesus Creed posed this question a few days ago:

How many of you, in your church today  had a woman preach, a woman teach, or a woman lead worship? Second, how many of you have a woman who has the title of “pastor”?

He has received nearly 200 responses, which I have compiled into some interesting, if statistically meaningless, data, which I present here hopefully free of my usual veneer of sarcastic commentary.

Question 1: How many of you, in your church today,  had a woman preach, a woman teach, or a woman lead worship?

Yes: 104 total

  • 38 had a woman preach
  • 17 had a woman teach
  • 42 had a woman lead worship
  • 30 did not specify

No: 70 total

  • 28 have had women participate in these capacities in the past
  • 8 haven’t in the past (or didn’t specify), but would allow it
  • 12 would not allow it
  • 22 did not specify

Overall:

  • 120 would allow women to serve in at least one of the mentioned capacities
  • 34 would not allow it or did not specify

Question 2: How many of you have a woman who has the title of “pastor”?

Yes: 87 total

No: 83 total

  • 5 have had female pastors in the past
  • 15 haven’t in the past (or didn’t specify), but would allow it
  • 20 would not allow it
  • 5 have no “pastor” or equivalent title
  • 37 did not specify

Overall:

  • 107 would allow women to serve as pastors
  • 62 would not allow it, did not specify, or have no “pastor” role

I reiterate here that these statistics are not actually indicative of anything because of the large selection bias inherent in Scot McKnight’s readership: as a politely but vocally egalitarian blog, Jesus Creed tends to attract egalitarians, or at least people who are open to the viewpoint.

Here are a few other interesting trends that I noticed but didn’t enumerate:

  • Many “yes” responses were husband-wife pastoral teams.
  • UMC churches were the most widely represented among “yes” responses.
  • “No” responses were the most likely to quote a Bible verse (only 1 Tim. 2:12).

More statistics, methods, and caveats after the cut.

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Valentine’s Day Candies

These chocolate-covered creams are easy to make, require no cooking or candy thermometer, and are sure to wow everyone.

Ingredients:

  • Butter or margarine, softened
  • Cream cheese
  • Powdered sugar
  • Various extracts
  • Food coloring
  • Chocolate chips
  • White chocolate chips

In a small bowl, cream together about 1 T. butter to 2 T. cream cheese.  You can use any quantity you like, but remember that a small quantity will make a lot of candies.  Add about 1 C. sifted powdered sugar for every 1 T. butter, adding additional powdered sugar as needed until the mixture is no longer sticky.

Separate the mixture to form different flavors.  I made five flavors: Vanilla, raspberry, orange, lemon, and mint.  To each of the separated parts of the mixture, add a tiny amount of extract (one drop is easily sufficient; be particularly careful with mint) and one drop of food coloring (except for the vanilla).  Be particularly careful when coloring the orange.

Melt the chocolate in a chocolate melter or double boiler.  Shape the mixture into 1/4″ balls.  Dip the balls into the chocolate, coating thoroughly, and place on a sheet of waxed paper to dry, making sure to keep the flavors separate.

Clean out the chocolate melter or double boiler and melt a very small amount of white chocolate.  Separate it into portions.  With a toothpick or the tine of a fork, take a tiny bit of food coloring and mix it with one portion of the white chocolate.  Use the toothpick to place a dab of the colored chocolate on top of each candy of that flavor.  If the colored chocolate has cooled and is not sticky, you can instead roll a tiny ball of it and place it on top.  Repeat with each flavor.  This may be easier while the candies are still wet.

Allow candies to dry completely and enjoy.  Note: If you intend to share these with friends, relatives, or coworkers, do not leave them where your husband can find them.

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Oddity of the Week

Behold: a rare sighting of the elusive Control Cat.

As you can see, Control Cat controls everything (on our street, anyway) from his supervillain-like chair.  He, or she, has a plan.  Jordan and I believe it is benevolent.

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Does Fun Require Skill?

Assuming you live on planet Earth, you’ve probably already seen Amy Chua’s article about Chinese parenting, read the resulting can-only-be-described-as-a-shitstorm, and formed an opinion about it.  I’m not, per se, interested in reopening that discussion here, except to mention that Chua reports that her book has been somewhat misrepresented, but I and many others zeroed in on an interesting sentence:

What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you’re good at it.

Most of the people I’ve discussed this with agree.  I do not.  Although many mitigating factors exist that make activities less fun if you’re less skilled, skill and fun are not, in essence, connected.

Let’s run though the mitigating factors.  First, there is the pleasure of accomplishment.  This is clearly distinct from the fun of the activity.  For instance, if you score 1600 on the SATs, you should feel a sense of accomplishment, but that doesn’t make taking the SATs fun.  And fun exists without accomplishment; the existence of competitive recreational games played among friends and with children hinges on the ability of even the people who lose to enjoy themselves.

Then there’s the factor of your ability relative to other participants.  If you’re the absolute worst person there, then yes, it’s difficult to have fun, no matter how encouraging and considerate everyone else tries to be.  Some activities are geared towards a certain skill level and are drastically less fun if you aren’t at that level: A game where winning is exceedingly difficult would not be much fun for someone who was never able to win.  But this can almost be regarded as a design flaw, since it’s perfectly possible to design a game that is fun for experts and beginners alike.  But regardless, it isn’t your lack of skill that makes the game less fun: It’s the difference between your skill level and that of the other participants (or assumed participants).  Messing around with other beginners is usually perfectly fun.

Finally, I must mention that an activity isn’t fun if someone else is trying to keep you from enjoying it.  Of course you won’t have fun doing something poorly–or well–if your mother is constantly berating you.

So then, assuming that none of the mitigating factors apply, are unskilled activities fun?  Sure they are.  In fact, a key weakness of Chua’s statement is its underlying assumption that a meaningful standard of skill can be applied to any activity.  In fact there are plenty of activities, such as the finger painting shown above, that one can’t really be “good” at: they exist solely for the sake of the process and the result is just a side effect.  There are other activities, including the arts in general, where an emphasis on enumerating skill is detrimental; little is gained by ranking whose painting is the best, whereas it’s very fruitful to discuss each painting in light of its own merits and the differences between them.

Improving can be fun.  But the fact that it can be fun to see that this picture looks much better than the one you drew a year ago is itself evidence that one doesn’t have to already be good before the activity can start being fun.  Indeed, if one is already good and there isn’t any real improvement to be made, what’s the fun in that?

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Image from Wikimedia Commons.

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