Saturday, August 21, 2010

incompetent self analysis

From 'The Agnostic's Dilemma' (NYTimes):
When people are incompetent in the strategies they adopt to achieve success and satisfaction, they suffer a dual burden: Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the ability to realize it.

the article also cites:
Justin Kruger and David Dunning, “Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties of Recognizing One’s Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-assessments,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1999, vol. 77, no. 6, pp. 1121-1134
these authors have several related articles

Saturday, August 14, 2010

summum bonum

My book,” says Skinner, ”is an effort to demonstrate how things go bad when you make a fetish out of individual freedom and dignity. If you insist that individual rights are the summum bonum, then the whole structure of society falls down.”

- Time Magazine, 1971

Thursday, August 12, 2010

[pre-review] This Body of Death

I can't take it anymore.

This Body of Death, latest endeavour from Elizabeth George, is up to par with her fantastic writing. Normally, her books start with an opening chapter which leaves you wondering which one of the people are going to bite it before Chapter 2. This opens in a totally foreign style, quickly identifiable as a formal report. Being about a group of 3 twelve-year old boys and a toddler, who is implied to be the victim of some horrific events. Chapter 2 comes. We still don't have a body or any police. We have, however, gotten a chapter which seems much more as expected. But no body. Back to the little boys. No body. At this point, I'm ready to ask "so where's Death, dammit?" Finally a body appears. But it is clearly an adult victim with an equally adult perpetrator.

As the plot progresses, it keeps popping back to the criminal report of the three boys and toddler.

I am at the point where I simply cannot read that part any more. The implication seems to be that the older boys killed the younger one with premeditated horror. If I knew the little tyke lived, I'd be okay with it. The writing is so bland and emotionally detached that I simply can't take it. Sure, the style is appropriate for some sort of review-report. But the sheer lack of emotional contact is driving me nuts.

Yet my response "why isn't anyone dead yet?" was in expectation of an adult victim. What's wrong with me, if the expectation of an adult dying is okay (in a literary sense), but a very young child completely horrifies me?

The new character on the force at Scotland Yard is an alcoholic woman, who like any alcoholic expends a lot of energy to avoid being revealed as such. An interesting approach to character is that she is far more worried about the vodka than in whether or not she's getting respect from her male subordinates, although if asked would claim the sexism was the biggest problem.

An Adult screwing up her life, and screwing up other Adults' lives, is much more emotionally palatable to me than trying to read something piecemeal that I just know is going to be truly horrific (as the report-author keeps stating). I think it's just the victim's age which is bothering me; I wonder, however, what my response would be if it was an adult. George's book With No One As Witness had a psychotic killer luring teenaged boys to their death; for some reason that wasn't so bad. In that situation, though, the kidnapping and murder were only mentioned distantly with details coming out only with the police investigation. This just drags out and out in excruciating detail, leaving me in fear for the child's life. Obviously this is extremely well written to provide such a strong response. Nevertheless ...

Sorry, Ms. George, I just can't take it. I am certain the two plot lines will merge; if the toddler survives, I might go back and read the whole thing when I re-read the book eventually (which I'm sure I'll do).

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Who were the good guys?

God help me. I mindlessly told Jr.Gopher#1 that he couldn’t see some movie because it was a ‘war movie’. What, of course, did he say?

What’s a war, mom? uuuuhhhh...

me to self: ... pay attention to the road construction; being late to the dentist is better than needing orthodontic reconstruction surgery after a car crash ... oh, my god, what am I going to say?... pay attention to the road ...


I said something I hoped would avoid a more detailed answer, which included something along the lines of
‘when two countries get so angry with each other that they start fighting over it. Except in a war, the people also get killed. War is horrible.’

Thinking - stupid, stupid, stupid! - to put this in some sort of not-so-vague point, I said that Oma’s dad had been a soldier and had been in a really big war in Germany.

“Was he one of the good guys?” fuck

“Well, sweetie, sometimes it’s not so easy to tell who’s the good guys.” so much for wanting to avoid weasel-worded answers...

“Did he die?”

“No, he came home from the war. He died later.”

Yes, I avoided mentioning he came home in 1953 after enduring god knows what as a Soviet POW. I’m not totally stupid, thank you.

Jr.Gopher#1 was hung up on the good-guy vs. bad-guy idea. I tried to think of a way to explain to a 6 year old the difference between stupid governments and nice people who happen to get sucked into fighting as soldiers for them.

“Some times countries go to war over stupid things. America got into a war like that when I was a little girl.” wow, I’m batting almost 1,000 on the stupidity scale in a mere 20 minutes

Again stupidly thinking of putting a more direct face on the matter, because he’s actually met my father, I added,

“Grandpa Bob was a soldier and fought in a war.”
“Did he die?” huh?

“No. Your grandfather? You met him. He came to my party and went to the zoo with us.”
“Did he kill anyone?” uhh...

In all the years since I discovered he had been in Viet Nam, I have never once considered whether or not he had killed anyone.

“Well, you can ask him. I’m sure he’ll tell you.”
I’m really curious about the answer.

My child not only doesn’t know what a war is (thank God), he has a terribly absolutist view of good and bad, like most children. How am I supposed to explain within such a polarized Weltanschaung that his great-grandfather was a soldier in the German army during World War 2, when the Germans were the Bad Guys, while I assume still being a nice man? Or that Uncle Joachim’s dad had fought in the same war, and the two men in question were apparently both devout Catholics who didn’t want to be in the war. Or that Opa’s father and Oma’s father had both fought in yet another big war in Germany, where Americans said they were the Bad Guys. Or that the German government being Bad didn’t make all of the soldiers Bad?

That’s right ... don’t explain it at all!!

Damn. I should have thought of that.

Damn. I should have just stopped while I was ahead.


I was also confronted with the realization that I’m not sure how I would have answered him, if the great-grandfather in question had been one of my grandfathers, i.e., American. Would I just off-the-cuff have said “yes, he was one of the Good Guys?”

Friday, August 6, 2010

101 Things To Do

101 Things (apparently) All Sports Fans Must Experience Before They Die:

Come visit us & you can do the following:
40. Town ball in Minnesota (summer, towns throughout Minnesota). Town ball (baseball played by amateurs for their local town teams) is the last pure sport in America. You know the diamond in "Field of Dreams"? There are at least a dozen such fields in Minnesota where the local teams play a couple of nights a week each summer. Many of them have a cornfield on one side and a cemetery on the other, which is a fitting arrangement: life and death with baseball in between.

66. U.S. Pond Hockey Championships (January, Minneapolis). How cool is this tournament, played the way hockey is meant to be played (on a frozen lake shoveled off by the players themselves)? Brian Bellows played in it after his 10-year NHL career.

82. Minnesota high school hockey tournament (March, Minnesota). As with Indiana basketball, this tournament isn't what it once was when all high schools competed together regardless of size (Roseau, with an enrollment of about 400, won the last single-class tournament). But it remains as much a part of state culture as Prince, tater tot hot dish and "Fargo."

Not here, but you could probably stop by and say hi to my in-laws while you're there:
101. Driving the Ring (daily, western Germany). There is no speed limit on Germany's autobahn (somewhat of an exaggeration, there are speed limits) and there is nothing quite like doing 100 mph only to have a family in a station wagon honking at you to pull over and let them pass. But if the autobahn isn't fast enough for you, try out the 14-mile, 170-turn Nurburgring. The former Grand Prix course was closed to Formula One racing for decades before returning this year (too dangerous) but it's open to the public to drive at speeds of up to 150 miles per hour. Just promise one thing: That you won't attempt this until you've accomplished the previous 100.

So far, I have accomplished the following on this list:
#66 - Pond Hockey Championships. Went this year with the Jr. Gophers. Only got to see about 20 minutes of play before the games were called off due to the ice melt being too deep for the puck to slide.

#88 - Monday Night Football. Well, in all honesty, I can't recall if the Steelers-Dolphins game was on a Monday Night or not. The WVU Marching Band was playing for them. Not nearly as impressive as the WVU-Pitt or Penn State games, though

#101 - above - driving on the autobahn - I tried it in Baden-Württemburg, near Stuttgart, and got passed by 2 Porches and 1 Ferrari which were all doing at least 120 mph.

What's on the list that I personally really want to see?

#56 - an All Blacks game. I wouldn't even care if it was in New Zealand, but I'm willing to suffer if I'm already there. In which case, it might co-incide with #64, camping out for tickets to anything, because in this Age of Electrons, I'm not camping out anywhere other than at my laptop.

#20 - Stanley Cup Playoffs. Preferably when it's Detroit on the ice or here in St. Paul.

#11 - Premier League soccer. I will make the assumption that the author is not a complete idiot despite some of the items on his list, and further assume that what he actually meant was Professional European Big League Soccer, and therefore this includes the Bundeslige. In which case, I'll head with Mr.Gopher for a game at his favorite team, Borussia-Mönchengladbach (how's that for a name?) or Schalke/Borussia-Dortmund/Köln (which are vaguely near the in-laws). Although Jr.Gopher#1 would no doubt bounce around insanely lobbying for Werder Bremen, where Mesut Özil plays (#8, his totally favoite player from the Weltmeisterschaft this year).

#2 - World Cup. The US is supposedly considering lobbying for hosting the games again in 2018. If so, and if the Gophers are still here ...? Sign me up along with the other million people who want to see it. At least if it's here, it'll be a sure thing that we're playing. And I really can't imagine Germany not at least qualifying.

What's not on the list that I personally really want to see?

A - Women's Ice Hockey NCAA Championships
Face it, there aren't going to be any women playing in the NHL. Ever. If I want to see top-notch women's hockey, it will only be at a university/college. And I'll need to do it before we leave Minnesota. Luckily we have several teams in-state, increasing the probability of access to the championship games. I've promised Jr.Gopher#1 to take him to a Gopher's game this season. Given the price difference, it will be the Women Gophers. I plan for this to be a gender-identity-expanding event: i.e., women a big sports players, too. This should precede next years Women's World Cup. Expect and brain-popping insane rant if the U has a female-version of Goldie the Gopher.

B - Women's World Cup. Although I will accept that the author just ... uh ... forgot? that there are two of them and thus forgot to mention this in passing with #2

C - stupifyingly, I don't recall college hockey being on the list. Maybe it's just not as cool as the Stanley Cup (true) or Pond Hockey Championships (maybe). The men's NCAA championship is on my list, too. Cheaper than seeing the Wild [I think...?] or any game in the Cup playoffs [for sure].

D - I'm sure I'll think of something else...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Old Cook Books

I learned how to cook using my mom's 1964 Fannie Farmer and Joy of Cooking. To this day, if I could only have 1 cookbook in my house, it would be Fannie Farmer. Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone would be the 2nd, if limited to 2. Of course, given the content here, you could also buy a modern re-print of the 1896 original Fannie Farmer since it's not on Proj.Gutenberg. Oh, so tempting...

While in the SCA, I had occasion to enjoy the fruits of others' labors in producing medieval (or close to it) foods. It opened my pallet even more. So, for my friends who are interested in cooking, there are quite a few interesting books at Project Gutenberg published prior to 1920. I also have several friends who are on a more limited diet or who are vegetarian - so I've included many of those.
The "historical" (i.e., pre-1700) recipes are listed 1st, being the fewest (3.5)
The vegetarian-only are listed 2nd
the others are included either because they're just old or the title amused me or the content looks good (19th century cookbook devoted to chocolate). Caveat emptor - don't even imagine I've read all of these, much less tried them

see bottom for other really old stuff not in English

The Closet Of Sir Kenelm Digby Opened, Receipts For Mead, Metheglin, And Other Drinks, Cookery Receipts, pub. 1910 as a re-print of 1669 original text. The introductory biography is truly historically fascinating.

The accomplisht cook or, The art & mystery of cookery, 1685

The Queen-like Closet or Rich Cabinet, Stored with all manner of rare receipts for preserving, candying and cookery. Very pleasant and beneficial to all ingenious persons of the female sex, 1672

Old Cookery Books and Ancient Cuisine, 1902, while published in '02, it is actually a treatise on ancient cuisine


veggie The Golden Age Cook Book, 1898

veggie Vaughan's Vegetable Cook Book, How to Cook and Use Rarer Vegetables and Herbs, 1919 for 4th ed., it was the 'rarer' that caught my eye, although that designation might not be applicable in today's global market; however, the "distinction about toxic & non-toxic ... may not conform to modern knowledge" is inspiring me to read it.

veggie Dr. Allinson's cookery book Comprising many valuable vegetarian recipes, 1915

veggie Cassell's Vegetarian Cookery, A Manual of Cheap and Wholesome Diet, 1891 - you'll have to page through quite a few advertisements for interesting products

veggie Food and Health, pre-1923, Canadian, pub. by Lydia E. Pinkham Medicine Company, recipes don't include their products, but there are copious testimonies about the efficacy thereof, leaving me wondering what exactly their "Vegetable Extract" was.

veggie Chocolate and Cocoa Recipes and Home Made Candy Recipes, pre-1923, but I'd guess closer to 1900, published by Baker's Cocoa company

veggie Food for the Traveler, What to Eat and Why, 1916, the content looks really intriguing, from directions on how to become a vegetarian to "foods not to mix" (not all of which are self-evident to me) and other things which should appeal to the modern connect with some nature-based philosophy life-styles. For Alison especially. Have absolutely no clue why "traveler" is in the title.

veggie No Animal Food and Nutrition and Diet with Vegetable Recipes, pre-1923, advocating everything from vegetarianism to eugenics, is more of a treatise, but does have recipes.

veggie Let There Be Cheese, 1955 on frontispiece, but it must be out of copyright.

veggie .New Vegetarian Dishes, 1892

Everything Else

The Suffrage Cook Book, 1915,

Science in the Kitchen, 1893, the Kellogg author is from the Kellogg company -- includes a section for Evils of Bad Cookery -- key words include vegetarianism

A Little Book for a Little Cook, 1905, published by Pillsbury

Foods That Will Win The War And How To Cook Them, 1918

Good Things to Eat as Suggested by Rufus, A Collection of Practical Recipes for Preparing Meats,
Game, Fowl, Fish, Puddings, Pastries, Etc.
, 1911 -- for Renaud

The Cook and Housekeeper's Complete and Universal Dictionary; Including a System of Modern Cookery, in all Its Various Branches, Adapted to the Use of Private Families, don't see a publication date, but the author died in 1828. Yes, 1828

The Cooking Manual of Practical Directions for Economical Every-Day Cookery, 1877

Twenty-Five Cent Dinners for Families of Six, 1878
sure, I have no idea what inflation has done to an 1878 dollar

Twenty-four Little French Dinners and How to Cook and Serve Them, 1919

A Poetical Cook-Book, 1864, each recipe is prefaced by a poem or verse about the food in question

Ontario Teachers' Manuals: Household Science in Rural Schools, 1918

other really old & intriguing stuff that's not in English
Le viandier de Taillevent, author died in 1395, in French
Apicii librorum X qui dicuntur De re coquinaria quae extant, 1922, in Latin - don't ask, I've no clue why a German publishing house would publish a Latin text on cooking in '22 - since I don't read Latin, I don't know if this is a re-print of something much older. The introduction has standard modern-ish citation forms for a couple of articles, which I just don't want to bother looking up, although they are in German journals. I simply can't imagine a cookbook being published in Latin unless it was so old that Latin was still the vernacular. -- although it does look like it's citing mss. from 15th-16th C. Hell, I'm taking it on faith that it even is a cookbook, although there are words I recognize which are food (vino, pices, oleum).

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

[def.] Success

My mission statement about parenting:

I want my children to grow up to be men who are capable of loving themselves and loving others. Anything else is just icing on the cake.

Really, what else is truly necessary in life?

Being self-sufficient? Self-sufficiency is an American Myth. Why brainwash my children to seek something that doesn't exist?

Being educated? That's nice, but if they have a 6th grade education, what bearing will that have on Life? Sure, they won't be a nuclear physicist, but so what? It will be harder to get a high-paying job ... but is that critical to having a Good Life?

I want them to have relationships with people which are fulfilling;
I want them to have a good education;
I want them to have hobbies which they enjoy;
I want them to be able to put a roof over their head and food on the table;
I want them to be able to travel the world and appreciate it in all of its glory;
I want many things.
But you know what ... I cannot control any of that.

I can't make any of that happen. So why should my relationship with my children revolve around whether or not those things occur? Will any of those things mean I'm a good mother? No. Will any one say, "Your child failed out of college, therefore you suck as a parent!" I suppose. Not more than once in my presence, though. "Your child just isn't capable of having a meaningful, healthy relationship with other people." Now that I will consider to be the death knell of my maternal efforts.

Reminding myself of this mantra is a key function to reducing parenting-ability stress. So he's not reading up to grade level? Well, yes, let's fix that. But there is only so much I can do about it. Why give myself unending stress about being a Bad Parent only to discover he has an inherent reading disability?

Can you Do Anything About It? if not, get over it. Get help, if necessary, but get over it. Get over it and get on with making sure they grow up to be loving people.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Is there a smoker in the house?

Futilely trying to light a baptismal candle yesterday, Fr. Joe finally sought assistance: "Is there someone who will admit to being a smoker?" No one answered.