History in Stones

A new “Stonehedge” type place has been discovered in Brittany, France.

Read all about it in The Independent.

But what I found interesting was this:

The middle and late-neolithic (or Stone Age) and early Bronze Age in western Europe – roughly from 4000 BC to 1500 BC – was a period of rapid and revolutionary advance. European man made pottery and tamed animals for the first time. He turned from hunting to agriculture. He emerged from caves and built houses. He progressed from cave-painting to the building of elaborate stone and earth tombs and – many years before the Egyptian pyramids – to the construction of carefully plotted and painstakingly laboured alignments and circles of standing stones. There are 3,000 of them in Britain, Ireland and Brittany alone. They are also scattered from Denmark to Portugal and southern Italy. Much has been discovered about the period in the past 50 years. Much remains utterly mysterious.

It’s the time of my book, only far away from France, of course.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Farmers have preferred uniform ripening in tomatoes, for example, enabling mechanized harvesting. Also, they’ve bred them for a hearty consistency to ensure they’ll survive transcontinental transit. What’s sacrificed, however, is taste. “With the tomatoes you find in the grocery store,” says Mary Brittain, of the family-run Cottage Gardener, in Newtonville, Ont., “people say they’re just kind of ‘wet’ and that’s about all.” But heirloom varieties have distinct, discernible flavours. “Some have a smoky taste,” she says. “Others are very sweet. Others taste more acidic, but it hits you and it lights up your taste buds. It’s not just something wet to accompany a hamburger. It’s something you’re eating to enjoy on its own.” And whereas heirloom tomatoes are often lumpy and asymmetrical — and more likely to splat than roll, if dropped — there is an unnatural sameness to mass-produced veggies.

Of course, heirlooms’ thin-skinned nature makes them tricky to transport and store, driving up costs. They can be up to three times as expensive as conventional produce. “Our customers really like Brandywine tomatoes,” says Aron Bjornson of Capers Community Markets, a chain of Vancouver organic food shops, “which can be difficult for us because sometimes they’re a bit soft.”

from Macleans via Mirabilis

Heirloom Veggies: esp. carrots

Carrots, for instance, have not always been orange. In nature, they’re also red or purple or white — and they’re just as likely to be spicy as sweet. Over the past 50 years, thanks to modern farming techniques, North American consumers have lost touch with the white peaches, tart “lemon cucumbers,” and chocolate-tinted tomatoes that our grandparents enjoyed. But increasingly, as shoppers are willing to spend a bit extra for better, more authentic taste, they’re choosing to stock their kitchens with candy-coloured heirloom fruits and veggies.

from Macleans

via Mirabilis

Dielli knows about the carrots’ color, but I didn’t know they could be spicy. What is a chocolate tomato?

Reading More Left Wing Blogs

No. I haven’t changed the blogs I read. But I’m getting more and more weirdness coming out in the ones I do read.

Language Log gives “authoritarian conservative” Kilpatrick the arguments LL thinks he’ll respect. Is he an “authoritarian conservative”? I don’t know. I do know that appealing to the experts would be a good choice in grammar discussions even if he were an “anarchist liberal.”

And Community College Dean called President Bush a “smug s- o- b-” because he vetoed “research on treatments for the disease that makes it hard for Dad to breathe,” as opposed to what it was, which was federally subsidized stem cell research. (I’ll argue about whether such “research” has really come up with anything promising later.) And, even if stem cell research came up with anything promising, it will likely be too late for the grandfather of the Twoddler.

And Respectful Insolence, who I have been reading for ages, is really starting to annoy me with his regular bashing of creationists (I am one.) and his crowing over a 16 year old being mandated to have chemotherapy by a judge over his own and his parents’ wishes. (Why is the government a parent? It isn’t. It shouldn’t be.)

So, for my honey, who thinks I read too many right wing wackos, here are some of my daily reads from the other side.

Funeral Museum Field Trip

I enjoyed the Funeral Museum. Does that tell you something about me you didn’t already know? Probably not. I liked the hearses, some from the 1800s. I liked seeing the carved wood, knowing how they carried the caskets. The museum had lots of samples of old caskets, including iron ones from the Civil War. They also had lots of baskets. Taking a body from wherever the person died to the home or the funeral parlor, used to be done by putting it into a basket.

Education: “Basket case” comes from the Civil War era when soldiers who had lost their legs to battle or infections were carried around in baskets. You can see why they wouldn’t like that when you realize the dead were also carried in baskets.

The weirdest thing at the museum, from my perspective, was the mourning “jewelry” which included shadow boxes of flower arrangements made from the hair of the dearly departed. Somehow the idea of spinning Gram’s hair into leaves and roses is just a little twisted to me. (And it shouldn’t be since I have my great-grandmother’s hair on a doll I grew up with. Of course, my greatgma was alive when she gave her hair to the doll- and when I was growing up.)

E’s favorite thing at the museum was the carved coffins from Ghana by Kane Quaye. There were outboard motors, leapords, fish, fish eagles, and other wild “coffins” including maybe an onion one with a carving of a woman pulling onions.

They have a “casket shop” with articles from real casket carvers. They have a “typical Victorian parlor” display from a death in the family, including the casket, but without the dead body.

They have a Civil War embalming tent set up. Nothing scary. Just two mannequins, a table, a desk… but no pistol or Bible, despite what the sign says.

They also have a room showing what was used for an embalming. But there aren’t even any mannequins in that one.

I missed the famous people room, so I don’t know what was in it. Something about JFK, Lincoln, and Nixon at least. That’s what the husband and the boys noted.

Death Field Trip

Tomorrow we are going to the Funeral Museum and Glenwood Cemetery. (Go here to see the Flickr Photoset of the cemetery.) I used to enjoy going to cemeteries, but couldn’t interest hubby in that. Now he’s taking me and the boys.

I think it will be fun. I think the boys should probably go to sleep though. It is 11:35.


Bloodletting has a post about someone getting an IV in their foot during the Army’s combat lifesaver course. It is a good read.

It reminded me of the IV they did this time. … I was totally awake. They did not numb my arm. It hurt so much I thought I was going to puke. Two people worked on my hand and one came over and held my hand, squeezing it and trying to divert my attention.

It hurt when they took it out, too. I think they put it in the wrong place. Because seven and a half weeks after the surgery, I am wearing my watch on my right hand because my left hand still has bruises and pain from the IV.

In one surgery, for my TMJ, the person stuck my hand over ten times trying to get the IV in. She was crying by the time she finished. Thankfully they’d given me something for the pain before all that started. I remember the doctor walking down the hall and showing me the needle from his pocket. And I was glad to see it. (Not my normal reaction to a needle.)

I have prayed for the soldiers in the unit ordered back to Iraq today. I pray they stay far away from IEDs.

Bladders and bowels

It’s week 7.5 and the bowels have been working well for a week or so. The bladder not so much, although I am getting some sensation back. I also feel I may have been upset for no reasonable reason at my children when they had “to go now.” Maybe their bladders really didn’t tell them squat until it was an emergency. I’ve certainly been there recently.

Death in Seattle

A Pakistani has killed one and wounded five because he was “upset” about Israel. Those shot were at the Jewish Federation.

This is wrong. It is wrong to kill people because you are mad or upset. And it is wrong to hate people because they are from a different religion or country or background.

American Digest said: “A war that has, as war will, come home at last. Or perhaps, remembering the morning in September when I stood on the Promenade in Brooklyn Heights when the Towers fell, a war that is just coming around again.”

Unlike the one he shot and killed, this man will stand trial. He will have a defense attorney appointed for him if he cannot afford one. He will be in a prison where he is given food, lodging, clothing, and education. Yes, his movements will be curtailed. But not as much as the movements of the person he shot. Because he was in the United States when he murdered this person, he will get much more humane treatment than he gave. I am not opposed to that. I just want people to notice.

Math Sites

My eldest is looking at a math degree and a career in math. What sites can I send him to in order for him to learn more about the possibilities?

“Careers in Mathematics” is the short version of a paper given by the math chair from SWBU. It has relevant quotes, lists of careers in areas that not everyone thinks of as math, and book titles.

101 Careers in Mathematics looks like a good book. At $30+ it ought to be good. I wonder if I can get it through interlibrary loan?

Great Jobs for Math Majors also looks interesting. It is reviewed by the MAA here. They have good things to say about it, including a recommendation that it and the book above be owned by all undergrads in math.

Mathematical Scientist at Work isn’t available as a new book, but can be ordered off Amazon.

The Occupational Outlook Handbook has some good information. Under “mathematicians” they say:

Bachelor’s degree holders with a strong background in computer science, electrical or mechanical engineering, or operations research should have good opportunities in related occupations.
A bachelor’s degree in mathematics is the minimum education needed for prospective mathematicians. In the Federal Government, entry-level job candidates usually must have a 4-year degree with a major in mathematics or a 4-year degree with the equivalent of a mathematics major—24 semester hours of mathematics courses.

In private industry, job candidates generally need a master’s or a Ph.D. degree to obtain jobs as mathematicians. Most of the positions designated for mathematicians are in research and development laboratories as part of technical teams.
Many colleges and universities urge or even require students majoring in mathematics to take several courses in a field that uses or is closely related to mathematics, such as computer science, engineering, operations research, a physical science, statistics, or economics. A double major in mathematics and another discipline such as computer science, economics, or one of the sciences is particularly desirable to many employers.
For work in applied mathematics, training in the field in which the mathematics will be used is very important. Fields in which applied mathematics is used extensively include physics, actuarial science, engineering, and operations research; of increasing importance are computer and information science, business and industrial management, economics, statistics, chemistry, geology life sciences, and the behavioral sciences.

Mathematicians should have substantial knowledge of computer programming because most complex mathematical computation and much mathematical modeling is done by computer.

Job Bank USA says: “Employment of mathematicians is expected to decline through 2012, reflecting the decline in the number of jobs with the title mathematician. However, master’s and Ph.D. degree holders with a strong background in mathematics and a related discipline, such as engineering or computer science, should have better opportunities.” That seems fairly straightforward, right? But then, later in the same article, they say this in another way: “The most successful jobseekers will be able to apply mathematical theory to real-world problems, and possess good communication, teamwork, and computer skills. …Private industry jobs require at least a master’s degree in mathematics or in one of the related fields.” So a master’s in math or a related field is necessary.

(I’m seeing plagiarism on someone’s part here. The above website and this one and this one too have word for word identical entries. Did the same person write and prepare them? Possibly.)

My alma mater, Purdue, has a website for math majors. “What can you do with a math degree?” offers lots of good websites. (And some not so good.)

What do they teach in English class?

High school English, unlike science or math or history, has more than one text book. “English” or “Language Arts” covers more than one topic. It means reading and, more specifically, reading literature. It means writing. It means grammar, not just in writing, but the actual rules of grammar itself. It means spelling, in the lower grades, or vocabulary, in the upper grades. One class, four subjects.

I am not agitating for four classes. Who in their right mind would want a grammar class every day of high school? (Okay, you classicists might. Not me, though.)

I actually have separate English classes for each of those subjects in homeschooling. We do literature and writing, but not necessarily together. We cover vocabulary and grammar, again not necessarily together.

So on their transcripts for last year they have “English” and “American Novels.” I didn’t give them a class labeled grammar or vocabulary though.

The Next Car

How about 0 to 60 in four seconds? Top speed 130 MPH? (Assuming you can find a space to do that safely.) Fuel costs of two pennies a mile? And a range of 250 miles? (Okay, I can go farther in my car, but not much. I can go 320 if I’ve been on the highway.)

It’s the Tesla Roadster made by Tesla Motors, created by Paypal, Google, and eBay people.

It runs on laptop batteries.

And the recharge time? 3.5 hours. Just long enough for me to have gotten to Dallas and hung out with Ang at a restaurant and mall. Then I could come home again.

How much will it cost? $80K. That’s a bit beyond my pocketbook, especially for a two-seater. But I know plenty of people who could afford it and enjoy it. Michael, what do you think?

Read the whole thing at Wired


Big Lizards has a great post that explains 1) why people keep saying Israel’s response to Hezbolah has been “disproportionate” and 2) why the “criminal justice” versus “war” argument hasn’t flown with the left.

It’s great. Go read the whole thing.

Here’s a tiny taste:

And just now, the answer I’d been seeking struck me like a load of hay: those critics squealing about Israel’s “disproportionate” response think war is how Israel “punishes” the Arabs.

All of a sudden, other paralogical incongruities fell into place: the Left believes war is not waged in order to gain national-security advantages for one’s country; they see it entirely as an extension of the criminal justice system… a tit-for-tat revenge taken against countries that have criminally assaulted one’s own. Thus, the Left cannot even understand the conservative argument that terrorism “cannot be defeated by a criminal-justice response but must be treated as an act of war.”

To them, all war is a criminal-justice program. Why should the war on jihadi terrorism be any different?

Wedding Vows

My husband and I wrote our own vows. Recently he said he wished he knew what he said. I told him that I had the vows. I don’t think he believed me. Here is what he said:

I love, honor and cherish you today and I will forever. I cannot promise you riches or health but I promise you love through the good times and the bad. I promise to base our relationship on service to God and a better understanding of his love. I promise this not with just my own strength, but with the strength and power of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whose love nothing can separate us.

“Death with Dignity”

Opinion Journal has an article on a woman whose dad was “dying” and the doctors kept asking her to let him go cheerfully.

“Dr. Death” was just one of several. A new resident appeared the next day, this one a bit more diplomatic but again urging us to allow my father to “die with dignity.” And the next day came yet another, who opened with the words, “We’re getting mixed messages from your family,” before I shut him up. I’ve written extensively about practice of bioethics–which, for the most part, I do not find especially ethical–but never did I dream that our moral compass had gone this far askew. My father, 85, was heading ineluctably toward death. Though unconscious, his brain, as far as anyone could tell, had not been touched by either the cancer or the blood clot. He was not in a “persistent vegetative state” (itself a phrase subject to broad interpretation), that magic point at which family members are required to pull the plug–or risk the accusation that they are right-wing Christians.

She gets in several zingers on Christians, but her post is a good and interesting one.

Literacy Gap

“Here’s a fascinating fact,” she said. “There is no literacy gap in home-schooled boys and girls.”

The above is almost a throw away line in a Fox News story about the gender gap in learning which favors girls over boys.

I read about it originally at The Common Room, but, aside from repeating it to my husband, I didn’t think much about it.

Then I read it again at Spunky Homeschool where she tells about her son’s experience and asks this question: “Why do you think homeschooled students don’t have the same literacy gap that public schooled students have?”

I know! I know! Call on me, Spunky.

My youngest son was like her oldest. He didn’t learn to read at age five, when we were doing kindergarten. He didn’t learn to read at age six, when we were doing first grade. He didn’t learn to read at age seven…

How was he doing school? I was reading all his assignments to him and writing his answers down. We were doing projects that related to his topics, just as we had when he was 3 and 4, which allowed him to learn without being able to read and write.

Finally, when he was nine (or maybe ten), he wanted to read. He wanted to read a novel I wasn’t interested in. And it was way above his ability, since he couldn’t read at all and this book was at least ninth grade level.

By that time I thought he COULD read if he wanted to (not enough for the book he wanted, but something), so I bribed him. For every page, then every easy to read book, then every chapter of a chapter book, I would read to him a chapter from this book I wasn’t interested in. (This was a honking long novel.)

And that’s how he began reading. It was a February; I remember that even if I don’t remember if it was 2001 or 2002.

Notice that it hasn’t been very long since then. How is his reading now? He reads voraciously. He has read five or six of the adult nonfiction books I have on shelves in the living room this summer. He has read twenty or so other nonfiction books which he purchased himself. He reads fiction for me, but not much for himself. He tests at “post high school” in reading.

BUT if my son, my smart son, my incredibly gifted son who reads and writes like a mother’s dream (although his handwriting would only be a doctor’s mother’s dream!), had been in public school, he would have been in special education classes. He would have been labeled something that was not true. I doubt he would be reading where he does now because he is one of those kids who believe what you tell them. If they had told him he wasn’t smart, he wouldn’t have been smart.

I was willing to wait when I needed to and push him when I thought he was ready. (Note: I pushed my eldest at age 6. That’s when he was ready to read.)

We bought the novel on tape that summer, lots of money- more than I would have thought I had normally, and the boys listened to it as we drove across the country. I was tired of the book, but not tired of the quiet and lack of boredom from my boys. I’m all for books on tape.