Nature versus Nurture

Good news: “Some 80 percent of a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease is genetic.” (No one in any generation that I know of- and I know of four- had Alzheimer’s.)

Bad news:

The genetic influence to alcoholism has been studied since the 1970s, when twin studies first revealed this link. In April of this year, a team led by Susan Bergeson at the University of Texas at Austin found 20 gene candidates that could influence excessive drinking.

“There are now four genes that have been shown by multiple research groups to contribute to risk of alcoholism,” according to Henry Kranzler, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. And Kranzler expects they will find more. “This is a rapidly developing field, such that I would anticipate that up to another 10 such genes will be identified, with the findings replicated independently, in the next decade,” Kranzler told LiveScience.

I have a maternal great-grandfather who was an alcoholic. Two uncles who were alcoholics. A sister and possibly a brother who are alcoholics.

This is one of the reasons that I don’t drink, generally. (I did have sips of champagne at the wedding last weekend. Tiny sips. Champagne tastes nasty.)

I don’t want my children to drink either.

But despite years of educating them on the dangers of drinking, I may be undone. My husband has decided, in the last five years, that it is okay to drink. He does not drink a lot. But, really, I think it is too much. Even a drink a week.

It may be my paranoia. But his father and his brother are alcoholics.

If it’s not nature, it might still be nurture. Or it might be nurture as well as nature.

And even if it’s mostly nature, what does that example risk for our kids who likely inherited some of my genes and maybe those genes?

This news brought to you from Live Science.

Science and Pseudoscience

That is the topic of Wynn and Wiggins’ book Quantum Leaps in the Wrong Direction.

It is interesting on scientific reasoning. And I was surprised to find that Democritus believed in atoms in 420 BC. He thought that a big thing, like a beach, was made of smaller things, like grains of sand and that such a fact must be true of all things. All bigger things must be made of smaller things. That, and the people who came after him in the search for atoms, was quite interesting to read.

But the authors also ignore evidence for souls and say there is no evidence for souls, even though elsewere in the book they say you can’t prove something doesn’t exist.

They also say because there is no consistent proof that there is no such thing as ESP or demons or angels. Too bad the demons and angels didn’t show up for the experiments. But I have personally, consistently, been able to know what is happening in people’s lives I am not physically near and been right without exception. It doesn’t happen anymore. (Not much after I was accused of being possessed by demons.) But it used to happen on a regular and consistent basis. So I know that ESP, at least in some form, exists.

Many things exist, like Democritus’ atom, that other people pooh-poohed. One day there will be experiments that show it. Or maybe not. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Right now we can’t see quarks, but we know they exist.

Also the authors are VERY anti-creationism. They say creationism should not be taught as a theory in school because students will leave school believing in creationism. I think that’s kind of goofy.

They also argue against quick creationism (7 day, 5000+ years only) well, using what we now know. But then they ignore gradual creationism only by saying it’s new.

You know what, nothing in the Bible is new. How I understand it might change, but it doesn’t.

And ignoring a theory or an understanding only because it’s new seems to me a little reactionary for scientists, or even science writers, to do.

It was interesting but definitely biased and wrong. I learned things though, so I met my goal with this book.

Ask the Experts

I’ve just finished reading Scientific American’s Ask the Experts. It is purported to be “answers to the most puzzling and mind-blowing science questions.”

I didn’t find it THAT great. But it was good and I did learn some. (Always a goal in my life.)

According to my understanding of pages 216-17, a whip “cracking” goes faster than the speed of sound. Interesting. I didn’t hear a sonic boom. Is that what the crack is? A miniature sonic boom? I don’t know.

Someone asked if you would fall all the way through a “theoretical hole in the earth.” And I laughed when I read that the tunnel would have to be 12,756 kilometers long. (Remember the Massachusetts highway with the 3-ton concrete slabs for decoration that fell and killed someone?) I’m thinking even if it were possible, it’d be like highway construction. Always ongoing and never completed.

Supposedly, if you dropped into the hole you would be like a pendulum, going back and forth from end to end, every 42 minutes. That would be a fast trip to the other side!

For my book I thought the introduction of the “song of the sands” would be interesting. Sands can either whistle/sing/squeak/bark or boom. The boom lasts much longer. The sand is dry more often than wet and doesn’t have a lot of vegetation. Seems that would be, at least, an interesting tale for Dielli to record.

And I thought it was interesting that if you shake a can of mixed nuts, the Brazil nuts will “float” to the top. There are two reasons why that is true. If you want to know, you can read the book (or look it up on the internet).

European disease didn’t wipe out Aztecs

According to “Megadeath” at it was a hemorraghic fever, native to Mexico and only found when severe drought is followed by a wet period. The Aztecs knew smallpox; they even had their own name for it. But the horrible death that wiped most of them out, they called something else.

It is fascinating reading. (If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, Comment 2 has relevant short quotes from the article.)

Thanks to Mirabilis for the pointer.

Scientific Conversations

is a book by Claudia Dreifus in which she interviews scientists for the NYT. Then she went back and followed up for the book.

It was interesting but not fascinating. The most interesting thing was that the “Math Wizzes” (her words) were all physicists.

What a Democrat would think about me

Wizbang has a post on instructions for Democratic canvassers that tells them to look for Jesus fish on the car, flags, bumper stickers, well-tended gardens, and expensive cars.

If they came to my house they would be misled.

Yes, there is an expensive car in the driveway. It’s a lease. And that RV? It belongs to my folks.

I have no bumper stickers because I don’t like them. My yellow soldiers’ ribbon fell off my car.

There is no flag because the ones I buy I can’t figure out how to hang correctly. (I have two in the closet waiting for me to figure them out. Or for someone else to.)

There is a reasonably well-tended garden because my dad came over this week.

The only obvious religious symbol is a menorah, in a prominent place in my china cabinet. But I’m not Jewish.

I have the Tanakh, several Bibles, and a Book of Mormon on the shelf. Which one of those doesn’t belong?

The only thing they would really know is that I like books. But that’s a give away to anyone who knows me. I ahve six bookshelves in the public rooms.

Cool down

before you heat up in exercise, is the advice du jour, according to Reuter’s.

Researchers found that when they outfitted male cyclists with special “precooling” garments before a workout in the heat and humidity, the athletes showed cooler body temperatures, lower heart rates and less sweating.

The cool down came courtesy of shirts and pants with tubing that allowed cold water to run through the clothes. Other studies have shown that a pre-workout dip in a cold bath or exposure to cold air can help exercisers lower their odds of heat strain in hot, humid weather.

Physical activity causes the body’s core temperature to rise, with hot, humid weather spurring a particularly rapid ascent; at a certain point, an exerciser must slow down or risk heat-related illness. The idea of precooling is to increase the body’s heat tolerance by starting exercise with as cool a body temperature as possible.

A plan for E’s driving

My eldest will turn 15 this next month. I have been thinking that we should institute a graduated driving plan, even more than Texas might have.

Reuter’s said that a study has found that there are less fatal crashes with such a plan. Permutations on the plans include:

* Minimum age of 15-1/2 for obtaining a learner permit.

* Minimum of 3 months waiting period after obtaining a learner permit before applying for an intermediate license.

* Minimum of 30 hours of supervised driving.

* Minimum age of 16 years for obtaining intermediate stage license.

* Minimum age of 17 years for full licensing.

* Restriction on driving at night.

* Restriction on carrying any passengers.

The authors of the studies went over the 36 states with such programs.

Compared with states without graduated driver programs, the data show a 16 percent to 21 percent reduction in the rate at which 16-year-old drivers’ are involved in fatal car crashes in states with graduated driver programs that include a three month minimum mandatory waiting period, nighttime driving restriction, and either a minimum of 30 hours of supervised driving or passenger restrictions.

Reductions of 18 percent to 21 percent in 16-year-old drivers’ involvement in fatal car crashes occurred in states with programs that included five of the seven components.

I had decided we should wait until E was 15 and a half to get his learning permit. (I lived in NY at his age and there you couldn’t get a permit till 17. When my family moved to Louisiana, my brother got his driver’s license at 15.)

Little annoyances

The place I wore my HRT patch twice in a row (bad plan) still itches three weeks later.

And my behind hurts. I can either stand for two hours or sit for it. With a hurting behind. Sometimes being a teacher bites.


If they have a 12-step program for this, I haven’t heard of it. So it must not yet be listed as a problem by the Am. Psych. Assoc. Good. While that is still true, I am going to glom onto the meme created by Imperfect Genius and answered by Atypical Homeschool.

1. What country/region/state do you live in?

2. How long have you been homeschooling? Just getting started, old pro or somewhere in between?
For preschool and Bible since 1994. I think I’m really at the old pro stage by now. That doesn’t mean I’m a pro at it (still no one pays me money for this!) but that I’ve been at it long enough that I ought to be great at it.

3. Write a little something about your family. Ages? Stages?
Me: I love school. I want to go back. My husband thinks that PhD should have been a terminal degree though. (Maybe I can talk him into dance classes?)
R: Has two bachelor’s. Was talking about getting an MFA recently.
E: Age 14. If he’d been in public school he would have been finishing up his freshman year. This summer he is starting at the college with dual credit. He’ll be taking math and English there this year.
M: Age 13. If he’d been in public school he would have been finishing up 7th grade. In everything except handwriting he is beyond grade level. He just finished 9th grade science. Has finished both 10th and 11th grade history.

4. Share some good homeschooling advice you’ve run across.
Start with half an hour a day for kindergarten. That was the best relief I was given. And it helped my boys too.

5. Tell us something you’re passionate about (besides your family and homeschooling; those are givens!).
Education in general. Reading. Writing.

6. If you could take the ultimate field trip, where would you go and why?
A walking tour of the British Isles.
Most of our family immigrated from there at one point or another. (Germany and Cherokee Nation comprise the rest.)
And most of my favorite literary heroes are from there.
And it’s the place where the Magna Carta was signed, which shaped US history.
And I like to hike and it’s cool enough there to do it.

7. What is a resource you can’t do without?
Well, I could do without anything except breath and food and water if I had to. But what resources make my life easier the most? That’s the internet.

8. How do you homeschool? Classical, Charlotte Mason, Waldorf, Unschooling, Eclectic?
I guess I would have to say eclectic since I don’t know what most of those others mean.

9. Share a website or two that you visit often – can be your favorite blogger or a curriculum supplier, just any sites you really like.
Oh sure. A website or two.
That’s a challenge. Okay. Here are two (not three, that other one ISN’T being shared) which are very different. I read many good homeschooling, military, family, and education blogs. These are in a different venue all together.
Mirabilis: “Archaeology, food, language – oh my! Lotsa stuff here.”
Language log, for the linguistics lover in those of us who have one.
I would have put Paternosters, but she hasn’t published anything since April.

10. Tell us about one of your favorite projects/activities/trips you’ve had in the past few months.
I’m not sure it would count as school exactly. But we went to a wedding last weekend. I told the boys I would be watching them to see what social skills needed work. We were at the rehearsal dinner, the wedding, and the wedding reception. I would have liked them to talk more to the other young people at the reception, but since they were helping their sick mother, I guess I’ll have to give them a pass on that. They did well.

11. What is a current/previous homeschooling challenge you’ve faced?
Keeping my sons learning when they have maxed out the traditional curriculum.

12. Share an accomplishment, something about you or your children. Come on, brag about it!
Well, I’m not sure I can do that in a sentence or two. A post or two, though, I can do. Read M’s statement of faith. Read about E and college.

13. What are you looking forward to over the coming year?
Trying and working out the new history ideas.

14. Name three things you like doing in the summer with your family.
Visiting grandparents.

15. Have a favorite homeschooling quote? Share it here.
“Education is not to reform students or amuse them or to make them expert technicians. It is to unsettle their minds, widen their horizons, inflame their intellects, teach them to think straight, if possible.”…. …Robert M. Hutchins.

I like this, too.
“Education is a private matter between the person and the world of knowledge and experience, and has little to do with school or college.”…. …Lillian Smith.

The Crescent is Back

Error Theory says the crescent design is back for the Flight 93 Memorial. Follow this link and give the National Park Service your comments.

Try not to be ugly. It’s not the fault (probably) of the guy reading it that they’ve gone back to this design.

I said they shouldn’t do it, ever. I mentioned that it was a religious symbol and if they’ve taken away the crosses and the 10 commandments, they might have to dismantle this memorial after they’ve created it. (I don’t like that argument, but I thought it might put dollar signs in their debit side.) I also said I didn’t think we should create a shrine to martyrdom at the site of murder.


And thanks to Stop the ACLU for the heads up.

New Glass

This weekend I went to an antique shop in Lubbock, Grand Central Station Antiques on Ave Q. I found a lot of cool things, but I bought three Depression Era glass pieces, all elegant glass. (Depression glass= the free stuff they gave away with purchases. Elegant glass= the stuff you had to buy.)

I got a Louie Glass Harpo pitcher, cobalt blue. The woman told me that the Groucho one is red. (It is.) And the Chico one is green. (It isn’t.) The Chico one is a different bubble look, but is cobalt blue. There IS a green one. It’s a different edition Harpo pitcher, according to the internet, and is beautiful.

I also purchased an L.E.Smith Cobalt Vase No. 1900. It is short, like most vases of the time, but very pretty and very blue. (Short = 8 inches, plus ou moins)

My final purchase was a Rite Blue Pitcher from the 1930s. I’ve never seen it in a Depression Glass catalog, so it must be elegant glass. It is heavy and pretty with a swirl pattern in the glass and then a diamond pattern. So if you look at it from the side, it seems to be lines going at a diagonal with a bit of a curve, but straight on you can see the diamonds.

Posted in Art

Word of the Day: Cromulent

Not being a The Simpsons fan, I did not know this was a not-word when I read it in one of my favorite blogs today. So I clicked on the link the author gave which sent me to Wikipedia and neologisms. That was NOT was I was looking for, so I entered “cromulent definition” into Google. The first entry is the one above. The second says this:

I have found this definition online for it in several places:


[nonsense word] used in an ironical sense to mean legitimate, and therefore, in reality, spurious and not at all legitimate (assumes common knowledge of the Simpsons reference)

However, I don’t like this definition. It doesn’t properly fit the context [which is given earlier in this post for non-Simpsonites]. Shauna and I determined a much more fitting and useful definition: when applied to a word, it means that the word may not appear in the dictionary, but the meaning is perfectly clear from the construction. “Embiggens” is not in any (respectable) dictionary, yet it’s clear what it means, especially in context. The irony here is that cromulent is not a cromulent word. (Does this sound like any other roots you know? “Virulent”, maybe, at best? Or make you think of Oliver Cromwell?)

Besides being fitting (it makes sense in the context it was used) and useful (plenty of words fall under this definition, and I think it should be more acceptable to make up words so long as it’s clear what they mean), this definition appeals to me because it’s meta. It’s a word about the definition and nature of other words.

So, thank you very much to Amy of Amy’s Random Thoughts for the the word, its context, and two competing definitions. Which one will win? We’ll have to wait till Merriam-Webster shows up with it. I prefer the second, actually.

Of course, I don’t know what “embiggens” means either. But that’s not a word that sounds cool to me, so I don’t care.

Boy Writing

My 13 year old whipped this out in less than an hour in response to a requirement by the homeschool tutoring/teaching ministry that has been newly instituted. I was amazed. And thrilled.

I have to say that, given only a few sentences, I would describe my relationship with Jesus as follows: Life, like a rushing stream, sweeps by, eager, oh so eager, to push me to the falls, and rocks and poles thrash along the stream. I see fools clinging for life on those rocks and polls and fallen branches, where I know they will only latch to sand and hold to another thing falling, I am not too unnerved, because I see my rock and I hope and pray to grasp it, because on it I see the safe, and the held, the weary and the worn, indeed my rock seems not a rock, but an isle, and not an isle but a nation. My rock is my eldest brother and mentor Yesuah, for he has made for us a rock out of himself, even though he knows how to swim against even so great a tide.

My Abba, who is and who was and who, I pray, always will be the one who guides me in my dark places, gives me knowledge of things beyond human understanding with merely a glimpse in this plain form. I may well weep at the end when I see others judged guilty and sent to their due punishment. (I will make no guarantee of any such thing as I am neither a prophet nor a man gifted with wisdom nor a man so arrogant as to make plan for the coming days.)

A relationship with Jesus is a companionship, in a sense, because it is not meant to be used alone; you cannot do it alone. Companionship means a relationship between individuals that is characterized by assistance, approval, and support. I have already stated how Jesus helps me and as for approval, I approve of him. I am not sure the feeling is always mutual. I talk about what I like and I like Jesus, so I talk about Jesus to show my approval of him. Jesus supports me on a base emotional level; there is not any one time I can point to, but he always supports me. I cannot support Jesus because I am human and therefore cannot support a being that is both infinitely powerful and infinitely wise, though to the extent that support means encouraging I suppose that would mean worship and worship’s purpose is to show God that we are still there and we still care and we are still listening, and I do worship him.

I really consider writing primitive actually, inadequate to describe any relationship, let alone a relationship with Abba and Yesuah (God and Jesus. Abba means Father in Hebrew and Yesuah is the Hebrew original of the Greek word for Jesus’ name. The term “God” seems too impersonal for my taste and I feel bad for botching someone else’s name, especially my eldest brother and mentor).

(Yes, I know that it is usually spelled Yeshua, but it’s his work, so….)