Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thesaurus Thursday: "Prevaricate."

Today's word is "prevaricate," a noun meaning to lie, mislead, or evade.

When reading "health advice" on the internet, it is surprising how often doctors prevaricate when responding to serious questions dealing with illnesses with which they are not familiar, deciding instead to revert to talking about what they know best or to provide tenuous information.

I never prevaricate.  I know everything.

I am currently wondering whether it would be a good move to make Zoe a staple of Thesaurus Thursdays.  Who here thinks corgi pictures might help them build their vocabulary??

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Just a Little Something to Brighten Your Day.

I'll be back to Thesaurus Thursday + weekend/early week full-length post schedule starting tomorrow.  In the meantime, enjoy this meme I made of our corgi Zoe.  I consider her our honorary fuzzy nerd, if only because her sire was Captain Kirk!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

I Hope I Parent Like Susan Sto-Helit.

If you like fantasy, satire, and side of silliness with your helping of thoughts on human mortality, it's difficult to find better fare than Terry Pratchett's Death novels, a five-book subset of his Discworld novels.  If you like strong female characters, it's difficult not to like Death's granddaughter... Susan.  Susan does not have children (it is difficult to maintain relationships when you're partly immortal); she is, however, a governess and then a classroom teacher.  I've decided that when I have children, I can take a few tips from her.

After meeting Susan as a teenager in the first novel, we see her again in her role as governess to two young children.  Susan is not pleased with the way the former governess handled the children by telling them that monsters would come for bad children and the scissor man would come for children who sucked their thumbs.  The children's belief in the monsters turns them into realities.

Real Life Parenting Lesson #1: I will not use scare tactics as incentives for my children to behave.  A child often cannot understand the difference between reality and imagination.  There is a difference between telling children about real threats to their safety and giving them nightmares.

Susan beats up a monster in the basement with a poker.  She does not hesitate to tell the children about monsters and bogeymen and how to deal with them (with bogeymen you throw a blanket over their heads which makes them suffer an acute existential crisis and disappear).

With monsters in general, it's "Don't get scared. Get angry."

Real Life Parenting Lesson #2: This made me think about parents trying to shield their children from all the evils of the world.  I don't want my children to become cynical and scared of the world at a young age, of course, but I do want to teach them how to recognize, react to, and handle bad situations.

In her role as a classroom teacher, Susan tells the headmistress that of course she's teaching the children about the occult (which actually exists in Discworld, remember), because that way it won't come as a shock.

Real Life Parenting Lesson #3: I would like to talk to my children as early as possible (in accordance with their developmental capacity to understand) about issues like sex, drugs, etc., so that when confronted with those things, they don't come as a surprise.  I will use the proper terms for body parts and not avoid subjects just because they make me uncomfortable.

The school uses the Learning Through Play method, which Susan does not really use, instead using old-fashioned teaching methods like gold stars.

Real Life Parenting Lesson #4: First, I am all for more recess and P.E.  I think too many kids are labeled hyperactive or disruptive and medicated or punished when schools are basically imposing a six-to-eight-hour "quiet time" on children whose natural state of being is anything but sedentary and quiet.   I still wholeheartedly support Susan's decision to avoid her school's Learning Through Play method, because the method described in the book is used by the teachers to avoid any type of discipline.  It's a full-time recess, not just unstructured learning.  I also like that she doesn't shy away from rewards and a little competition.  I've never been a fan of the "everyone gets a trophy" way of teaching/coaching.  I'd like to teach my children that they are wonderful individuals and can have their own gifts, but they don't have to be the best at everything; other people will sometimes be better at something, and that's OK.

Susan does, however, use her inherited power as Death's granddaughter to manipulate time and space to transport her classroom to other countries to learn about geography and history.

Real Life Parenting Lesson #5: I will certainly help my children with school work, but I will also supplement their education with active learning experiences outside the classroom.  (They will not be called "active learning experiences."  I don't want to be that mother.)  Children don't necessarily learn the same way as adults.  Novelty and visual aids are great teaching tools.  Who says you don't learn anything when going to the zoo?  Or while playing a game?  These seem to be prime opportunities for teaching that can so easily go to waste.

I mean, there's no playtime without gravity. 

When Madam Frout, the headmistress, says that algebra is far too advanced for seven-year-olds, Susan replies, "Yes, but I didn't tell them that and so far they haven't found out."

Final Real Life Parenting Lesson: I will never tell my children that something is too difficult for them (of course there are practical limits on this; I'm not going to tell my six-year-old that he/she is capable of climbing Mt. Everest at that age).  If they show an aptitude for and love of math, or writing, or biology, I will not let artificial guidelines dictate what they can achieve.  If they are not academically minded (but try their best- that's the important part), I will make sure that they feel a sense of accomplishment for doing something challenging for them, but I will never start with the premise, "My child isn't capable of X" before X has been attempted.  

I have no doubt that many rules go straight out the window when one becomes a parent, and things you said you would never, ever do somehow end up being done.  I hope, though, that I can at least manage the above.  So thank you, Susan Sto-Helit, for making me take more time to think about the kind of parent I would like to be.

Friday, February 15, 2013

No Bones About It; This is a Sensitive Issue.

I love Bones.  Yes, I know sometimes the science is a little more like magic than actual science.  It's my nerdy guilty pleasure.

If you watch the show, you probably know that Temperance "Bones" Brennan has always been an atheist, considering it the only purely rational option.  I have never had an issue with this.  My beliefs haven't been and will not be affected by a TV show.  If she were a real person, I would say she could believe whatever she chooses if it feels true to her and doesn't hurt anyone else.  What I was frankly astonished by was the outcry among many atheists when, in the most recent episode, Bones had a near-death experience and was given a reason to question her staunch non-belief.  

My first reaction to the comments was confusion.  It was as if having a single episode that pertained to the possibility of a higher power immediately made viewers think the show was going to become a live action church.  Yes, there have been more episodes dealing with the supernatural, but it still seems like the show is far more about solving murders and the interactions between Brennan/ the squints/Booth and the FBI.  (Also, I can't exactly see the series ever becoming fit for Evangelism TV, especially when a psychic was a staple of a few episodes!)  My next reaction was sadness.  There was a depressing level of prejudice and hatred in some of the comments. "If she becomes a believer, I will never watch again!" "She is smart enough to realize that there's not a God." "The show is turning into more atheist-gets-religion crap."  

All right, I will admit, my very first reaction- and it was an un-Christian one- was anger.  "Wow, these people are so judgmental!   Believers can't be intelligent?  Leonhard Euler.  Done."

So he wasn't the best dressed believer in the world; no one can say he was unintelligent.

Then I acknowledged that usually people do not actually mean "intelligent" when they say it in this context; usually they mean "rational" (and for the ones that do mean "intelligent," what's the point of getting angry at them?).  And you know what... belief in God isn't actually rational.  My question is, why insist that everything in the world be rational?  Personally, I have never understood why complete rationality should be an aspiration.  Faith is an act of trusting blindly; if you don't want to trust blindly, no one's forcing you (and if they are, they really shouldn't; I've always considered force to be the antithesis of true belief.)  I'm not ashamed to admit that there is no scientific proof that my God exists.  I believe He does and will without any hesitation tell others that He does. I have had small miracles in my life that I believe prove His existence, but they are not what scientists call "proof," rather "anecdotes"... sort of like what Brennan went through in the last episode in a less dramatic, didn't-actually-die-for-two-minutes way.

If religion gives people, including Brennan's character, hope, comfort, and/or a purpose for whatever reason, and they want to believe that they were created by and/or are watched by a higher power, isn't it rather selfish to want to take that away from them for any reason?  I don't mind if she ends up not believing in God.  If the writers and actors want to say she's still "too rational" to believe in the end, I will still watch and enjoy the show.  I think some Bones viewers, though, are projecting too strongly their own disbelief onto her character.  Part of me understands, because I think all people like to "click" with characters in books, shows and movies.  It makes them easier to understand if they believe as we do.

Probably why this book is so often assigned reading.

Still, isn't the idea "I think believers don't make any sense, and therefore her scientist character should not either" just as misguided as a Christian's desire to force theism on others because he/she doesn't like what atheists believe?  I think my initial anger was also due to this: it has been my experience that those who are first to negatively judge others for believing in God are also those who spend the most time calling for a tolerant and equal society.  Keep in mind that I'm not talking about those who criticize believers who act hatefully; although I think too often people make the mistake of blaming God for the faults of His followers.  See this earlier post for more reflections on that topic.

I know that there are annoying believers.  I also know that there are annoying atheists.  And annoying agnostics.  I can be annoying (though I try not to be, I swear!).  What many don't seem to realize is that people's personalities are usually pretty set in stone, and moving between these three groups shouldn't change anyone so drastically that they lose what makes them... them.  Just because we hear most about the Tom Cruises of the world who start to believe in something and, er, create a huge stir, doesn't mean that is the most common occurrence.  I don't see Brennan's character changing much if she ends up believing in God; she strikes me as one who would believe quietly and keep right on going as usual.

It probably wasn't rational to cry during this scene, but I don't care.  I cried anyway.

I also know that I am generalizing, and a lot of atheists watching the show probably don't care one way or the other and are content to enjoy the show whether or not the main character "gets religion."   Perhaps many feel the same way I do when I hear people saying, "Christians are hypocrites and only promote hate," because they only judge by what they see in the media.  I just find it sad that the ones with extreme opinions are the ones who get so much air time, as it were.  I think it is time that people who want tolerance and are willing to extend it to all peaceful human beings, not just those who believe in that which they approve, made their voices heard.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Thesaurus Thursday: "Incommodious."

Today's word is "incommodious," an adjective meaning inconvenient, troubling or bothersome.

Wisdom tooth pain has been particularly incommodious this week, keeping me from doing much more than lolling on the couch watching Top Gear.  

(Image from
I've only managed to expend intellectual effort deciding that I want a Mazda MX-5.

Unfortunately, a gum infection above one of my wisdom teeth and a cavity in the tooth pressing on the nerve around my jawline mean that I've been useless for almost two weeks now.  Why two weeks?  I had a migraine that covered up the other more immediately recognizable pain and sent me to other doctors, including the ER, before figuring out that it was a dental problem.  My wisdom teeth will be coming out tomorrow, so I will be indisposed this weekend, which means that I have to put off a regular post yet again :-(.  So I thank everyone for being patient.