Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Nov 18th, 2003

Fatherhood is much more of an emotional rollar coaster than I would have imagined. There is such joy as you cannot, unless you too are a father, imagine. There is also of frustration as well. She'll cry and cry and I find myself entirely unarmed to meet that. I am a two trick pony. I can change her, and I can bounce her. The rocking chair is basically a form of trick two. But that exhausts my repertoire. Once I've tried that, gone back and forth, or changing positions, left cradle, right cradle, chest lean, shoulder throw, or belly cat (You'd have to see the positions to fully appreciate those) I am done. Of course, there is no guarantee that Sophie is done. The feeling of helpless is conjoined with sadness that I can't help my little girl, annoyance at the piercing howl, and shame at feeling that feeling. It is grueling, but it is mercifully temporary, even when it seems like it has lasted forever, it eventually ends.

Then there are those quiet moments. She is alert and captivated by something som tiny, the shadow on a wall, or the little froggy in her basinet. It is so wonderous, so fantastic. To witness it is humbling and inspiring. I want to freeze the moment in time, I want to see it last forever, to see her discoveries one by one. I want it to never end.

Either way, she captures my heart. It is love, powerful love, my friends.

Retro-Blog 10/9/2003-10/13/2003

While still in the labor room, we asked to see a lactation consultant. She was breast feeding, but it hurt Carly. They told us they only scheduled appointments for 24 hours after the birth. Until then, they could not really know if there was a problem. The logic escaped us, but we were in no shape to argue. So we waited. Over the next few feedings it was clear a problem was present. It hurt, it took a long time for Sophie to get latched, and it never seemed last long enough. By the time we finally got our consultation, it was clear we hadn't been doing it right. Well with this history the consultant was able to confirm that fact. Huzzah! We were briefly instructed as to the proper technique and told that it should not hurt. Of course, the damage had been done. The bruises and cracks would make even proper feeding painful. But we were assured that with proper latching the wounds would heal, and then it would no longer hurt. Of course, that meant we could not complain until days had past and the consultation was a distant memory. We waited, it kept hurting, the nights were long and tedious. If watching and hearing my baby cry hungry was torture it was multiplied tenfold by the effect it was having on my wife. The impotence I felt, unable to do anything. Then general feeling of helplessness became my general state. The nights were exhausting. It seemed like it would never end. It was odd too because the days were quiet and pleasant. My parents arrived and treated us to dinners and attention. It was hard to admit our difficulties because there is this sense that breastfeeding is natural, and our difficulties were signs of our first failures as parents. When we did share this, my folks were very understanding by the way.

We decided to make another trip to REX to visit their much tauted Lacation Station. They tried to brush us off and required us to make an appointment, there were only five minutes from quitting time, and those consultants were not going to spend and extra minute there. They did escort us into a dark room where we wouldn't embarrass anyone. How thoughtful.

We read every book we could find, but there wasn't anything that seemed to help us. The pictures never really showed a comparison between the right style of feeding and the wrong way. Any it is really hard to see the position of the baby's gums and lips when they are pressed up against a breast. I don't know how people are supposed to know. We called a support group, we ordered a book. We tried a bunch of things but nothing seemed to work. So in desparation we called the 'Station' again and Carly expressed her frustration. To their credit they called her in and scheduled a sympathetic consultant with a enough time to witness a feeding. The results were immediate and helpful. I wouldn't say that every problem is solved, but we are a lot closer to that point. The last two nights have been great. If I weren't suffering from a cold, it would be beyond our expectations. She only awoke once last night, twice the previous night. So things are looking up.

Nov 17th, 2003

I am back in school full time now. I am not entirely sure I am ready for it. I am tired and making lots of mistakes. Oh well, people will have to be forgiving. We are now alone at our house, my parent's left Sunday, Carly's dad leaves in the morning (we won't see him before hand). I am ambivalent. On one hand they've been a big help, just having someone else here in case one of us wants to leave. But I can't help feel the need to entertain my guests when really I should be in bed. Or doing laundry, or grading papers (almost done with that yeah!)

Speaking of grading, I had an interesting encounter at the cafe yesterday while grading. There were a group of salespeople playing a computer presentation loudly next to me. So I couldn't help but overhear the presentation. The product, or service rather, was something called PrePaid Legal services. The idea is basically legal insurance. You pay a premium, and then certain legal services are free, others require a copay, and others are at lesser cost. If this looks at all like your HMO you get the idea. They were selling both the service and the investment opportunity (there was something odd about that). One of the investment points was detailing the fledgling HMO industry's rise to dominance given the number of health care instances (30 million/year was the number I believe), by contrast there are 100 million legal cases a year (they claim). 30 years ago fewer than 2% of Americans were covered by HMOs now it closer to 70%. Currently less than 1% of people have legal coverage.... you do the math. Now when I heard this my skin began to crawl. Were they really offering the HMOs as an example of the way the legal system should work? Yikes! That is scary. I ended up speaking with them briefly and may try to get a short paper out of that. The made an interesting point, our current legal system really seems to support the rich and leave the middle class and poor with little recourse. Of course, they are not identical since there are plenty of lawyers appealing to low income people with the promise of big settlements. Still, they have a point. But I kept imaging the sorts of billing and bureaucratic jumbles that would occur if 70% were using these services. Not to mention it would seem to intcrease the likelihood of resorting to legal measures for relatively simple disputes (they suggested calling a lawyer to get your neighbor to turn down her music). I will do some more investigation, but it looks really scary, and sadly, it looks like exactly the sort of thing that would succeed in our economy.

Retro-Blog 10/8/2003-10/9/2003

Ah hospitals... What can we say about them? Our first experiences at REX were (1) having to plead with them to let my laboring wife in despite (or perhaps because of) having preregistered months ago, (2) having a nurse try to force Carly to accept a belt on monitor after she clearly stated that she didn't want one. (Our OB intervened and turned the Nurse around, thankfully).

We had already been disappointed with them. They had agreed to allow us to do a water birth, then at the last minute after hearing about one that preceded ours by a week, they decided to ban them all until the practice could be fully studied with double blind randomized testing protocols. That turned out to be a political snub at our wonderful OB who had run ins with the top OB there. So we weren't thrilled with the place to begin with.

But things went fine. After the birth we were able to resist their various protocols (washing the baby, injecting it with various drugs, etc...) We were moved to a recovery room, then another one. We were happy to stay there and be visited by our friends and family. Throughout the day was long succession of nurses, specialists, and other personnel coming in about every half hour. During the day this was no problem. But when we were ready to sleep (I had a grate pullout lounge chair) they kept coming. Most of them were quite polite, but the endless series was getting old. We were more than ready to leave the place by Sunday morning and thankfully our doctors were willing to discharge us.

The issue of the bath was never dealt with. A nurse insisted that the CDC or infection control or whomever would not let the baby leave the hospital without a bath. There was the possibility of blood born pathogens! Please, people were walking into and out of that hospital all day, if our baby was infectious, she would have infected people already.

I understand the need for hospitals and the way they serve as a safety belt (the analogy our OB makes). If something did go wrong, we wanted the resources of the hospital. But our experience is definitely making us think about how we will do this next time. The whole medicalizing of a natural phenomenon seems misplaced. Carly and Sophie were both treated like sick people, and yet no medical procedures were indicated or performed. There was no anasthesia, no forceps, no C-Section. Carly gave birth naturally and the OB was mostly just a catcher. Sophie was and is a healthy girl with no indications of any problems or dangers. But both were treated as patients and the general attitude was that we should be grateful about that. When we asked why a certain procedure (PKU test, Vitamin K shot etc..) was being given, we were told it was policy, or standard, or necessary. And, we were treated as though we were ungrateful for merely asking the questions. That was patronizing and annoying.

That said, there were some great people there. Our delievery nurse Lori, our night time nurse whose name eludes me, and several others were great. So, I won't end that on a sour note.

We left as we came, except that our van had another seat filled. When we got home we made the mistake of leaving the phone on. Once that was remedied things got better. But I will detail that next time.

Nov 13th, 2003

Things are getting easier. Last night was still a long one, but it was less painful than the previous ones. It makes a huge difference to be just plain tired, dog tired, rather than tired and in pain. I will get into that another time. I actually taught some good classes today. Kudos to Ann from State. She has been knitted a beautiful soft blanket for Sophie. I don't know how long it took her, but it is wonderful. Thank you Ann! Now to a retro-blog from last week. Part of this is an attempt to remember and record those amazing days.

Retro-Blog 10/7/2003

I was up late that night. Carly went to bed around 9pm I was probably playing Jedi Knights Outcast (a mild addiction of mine). I finally rolled into bed around 1:30am. It was no surprise when Carly got up around 2:30am, to the bathroom I assumed. Such things are common during the last months of pregnancy. I went back to sleep. I remember my last thoughts that night. How would I know if she went into labor, how would she tell me, what would I do?

At 4:30 or so, the door opened again, she was standing there in the dim light with a look. I asked her how she felt. She said something like "well..." And I knew. Of course, I also knew that early labor could last many hours. She told me she was going to take a shower, I should finishing packing our bag. I sprang into action, pulled on my clothes, and started running about. My heart was racing about the same speed that my legs were taking me. I grabbed my keys, my phone, my wallet. I assembled the bag and tried to relax. Carly finished her shower and asked me to call our Doula. I called her and she advised us to take it easy and relax. She suggested I put my keys away as they might make Carly tense and prolong the labor. So I complied. I should call back in an hour if the contractions got close together. We drew a bath and Carly got in gingerly. The contractions were close together, but it was difficult to gauge just exactly how close they were. I was thinking back to the labor visoes we watched where the husband made sandwiches and rubbed his wife's back. It was five in the morning so I rubbed her back. Her contractions continued to get higher. We neared an hour, and I felt obliged to help Carly get past that mark without calling so we wouldn't look like wimps. Then Carly felt her fisrt urge to push. She seemed surprised. I can claim ignorance. I was not sure when that was supposed to happen. So I stood dumbly.

"Call her!" she cried a bit louder. I ran back to grab the phone. The contractions were 2 minutes apart, but I suddenly forgot what a normal timing was. When I explained the situation to the Duola, she seemed mildly concerned, I'll be right there she said. Then Carly exclaimed that her water had broken. The Duola got very urgent and said forcefully, "you need to take her to the hospital now!"

We called the OB's service and inadvertantly left the wrong cellphone number. We corrected the mistake enroute later.

I've never really tried to dress someone. Doing to a soaking wet very pregnant woman in the later stages of pregnancy when you are about to explode. Somehow we got to the car, I even remember the bag. It was dark and raining, I was in jeans and a t-shirt. We raced to the hospital. En route we drove past the Duola who turned around and followed us. We got on the freeway, hazard lights blinking and raced along. Of course, no one would get out of our way, but we pressed on. Carly's contractions continued to get stronger. Later our Doula claimed she could time her contractions by measuring our speed. 70mph between them, and then 90 during them. It was probably coinciding with Carly's voice.

Finally we made it into the hospital and got Carly up the elevator. The hospital lost our pre-registration forms, so wanted us to stop and register. I was having none of that. After the threat of a baby being born in their lobby was made more clear, they relented and led us to a delivery room.

Dr. F met us shortly thereafter and did the first exam. Carly was 9.5cm dilated. Ask someone if you don't know what that means. Needless to say the waterbirth was now a fond memory. The tub sat idly in the van. Dr. F advised that there was barely a rim and he could feel the head past transition. So Carly had managed the pain of transition without any medication at our home. Then he said those magic words "If she felt the urge, she could push." It was a little shy of 7AM. He predicted the baby would be out in a half hour.

Well, it didn't turn out that way. little Sophie was positioned posterior, which means that she was pressing against the spine, a very difficult birth. Remember Carly is unmedicated and handling this like a champ. She was so brave and so strong, she is awe inspiring. We move to her hands and knees to help the baby roll over. Shortly after that her water really broke. What we had seen before turned out to be her mucus plug (pretty much what it sounds like). Our Doula applied a special massage and after ten contractions or so, Dr. F was able to nudge the baby's head enough to start her rolling over. We aren't sure what did it, but the baby got into the proper position.

Carly moved to a squatting position and started pushing through the contractions. The Doula and I were holding her knees and pushing with all our strength into her lower back spreading her hips. It was exhausting, but I don't think I was in a position to complain. In a short time the staff started remarking how they could see the head. Every time I looked though I couldn't see anything. We did this for an hour or so and then finally I could see the head. It didn't really look like a head from my angle, but rather it resembled a sort of hairy ridge. But in time that changed as well. Carly's efforts got more intense and soon the head and shoulders were pushed out. As she started to slide out it was clear that the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. I had a moment of panic, but in seconds Dr. F deftly unwrapped that sucker. It was impressive, it is why he is the best. It was a good thing to because with the next push lil Sophie was out. It was incredible! I was filled with wonder, joy and excitment. He cleaned her off a little, sucked out some of the gunk from her mouth and nose and brought her up to Carly's arms. We kissed, and caressed the baby. There were tears and laughs and deep breathes. And it was done.

I had decided that the whole thing was enough. I didn't need anything else for my experience to be complete. So decided to leave aside my initial plan to cut the cord. But before I knew it, there were a pair of surgical scissors in my hand and I was guided to the spot to cut. So snipped it. Well, it took me two tries to get through. I was assured that would not cause serious deformity in my little girl.

People started to show up. Sophie was given her first exam, weighed, measured, and we are moved to our first recovery room. I will discuss the jows of hospital stays another time.

Nov 12th?, 2003

I will be making retrograde installments of my weblog over the next few weeks, because the last week has packed in the more excitement, love, anxiety, happiness, fear, frustration, and unspeakable joy than I have felt before.

Sophia Elizabeth Scholz was born Saturday morning 9:26am, November 8th, 2003. (hopefully this will fix all the wrong info sent in the mail). She was born 6lbs, 12 oz (lost some of that baby fat already, but busy growing it back) and 19 inches (long/tall). I will try to describe the labor, the hospital, and our trials in breast feeding over the next couple of entries. For now I will let the pictures speak for themselves.


Oct 30th, 2003

I AM ATRIOS! (apologies to Stanley Kubrick)

Well, as far as you know anyway. You might wonder why I have two blogs, this one, and Eschaton? Maybe it is because dickwads like Donald Lushkin are threatening to sue people for, get this, allowing people to say bad things about him on his comment page. (A forum). Lushkin's lawyers also threatened to "out" the anonymous blogger by subpeoning blogspot for his/her real name.

Funny the Atrioses (Atria?) are coming out of the blogwork.


Do you remember that story about the Texan Legislator, who when discussing an English-only law infamously said "if English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it is good enough for me?" Well, I had a similar experience in class today. While discussing the problems of translation of biblical passages (I Corinthians 6:9). One of my students who was both not paying attention, and bothered by the implication the train of conversation, offered this little gem. "I have a copy of the bible in my car, and I can show you, it says homosexuality is a sin." So I said, but "the original text doesn't use the word 'homosexual'." She says "I will show you." So I reaffirm "But I assume you don't have a bible in the original language." The rest of the class starts to look at her. She starts to get a little nervous. I add "The original was in Greek, right?" She looks around for support from the class. They begin to giggle a bit. She ashens a bit. I may have let that linger longer than usual. Hey I am human! There followed a brief discussion about what a literal translation could be, and with some good examples from the multi-lingual in the class. It went quite a way to alleviate my previous frustration about that.


You know memory is the second thing to go...I don't remember the first.

Yesterday I showed up at the biweekly D&D game (postponed a few days because of the DM's trip.) The house was dark, and Brenda was surprised to see me. Apparantly the game is next week. Whoops. I am getting old. I could have sworn we agreed about it being this week. Sigh.


Carly assembled the co-sleeper today, the birthing tub arrived, and we picked up the crib. We are pretty much set. But for some reason I don't quite feel set, yet. Of course the count down is ticking off. It could be any day now. Our Doula is coming by Saturday for a pre-natal visit, I will try assembling the tub with her there (so two people know how to do it). I don't know if I am going to feel more ready then. I am not sure I will ever feel ready into it is over. It is funny because Carly claims to feel ready ready ready ("to stop sharing (her) body, not to bring home a new born baby" she adds after reading this).

Oct 28th, 2003

Correction, in a past article, I suggested that "Operationalizing" was not in fact a word. Lexy-Lou was kind enough to correct my own arrogant assertion with the following definition.

operationalization takes a construct (basically a formal definition of
some phenomenon or related group of phenomena) and "puts it into
operation" as an actual instrument of measurement (such as a survey, bit
of gee whiz gizmosity, etc.). operationalization makes it possible to make
observational measures of some construct

A quick check to the OED Online revealed no match for "alumnuses" but for "progressivity" there was a match:

1882 tr. Godet's Jesus Christ 66 This [man's] progressivity, if I may use the word, has no limit but that of the absolute good to which he aspires. 1883 F. A. WALKER Pol. Econ. 451 In 1848..the idea of progressivity [of taxation] was revived.

I stand by my assertation that these words were not used with any strong content intended but rather a sort of sing-song quality like Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky.


In other news... I am finding it increasingly distressing the level of homophobia and gay bashing in my classes. The students seem absolutely immune to argument. They will quote the Bible to me, I will explain the problems with translation, with trying to impose one's particular religion on others. I will work with them trying to trace their ridiculous claims to some general moral truths and then show that those truths lead to the opposite conclusions. I will try to draw analogies to racism, to religious intolerance, to anything I can think of, but to no avail. The process falls on deaf years. I hadn't experienced this to the same degree at NCSU or UNM, but I wonder if that is more a function of the openness and willingness of the students here to speak than this groups greater homophobia. I can't decide whether I should keep banging my head against the wall, or just talk about subjects that we are likely in agreement about (Affirmative Action for example at this school as opposed to NCSU).


Switched to using Layers instead of Tables for this page. It seems to be working slightly better. I am hoping that this is not the only solution.


In good news. The Triangle Ethics Circle met tonight. I just discovered the humor about that name a day ago. We read C.D.C Reeve's paper called "Love's Confusions." The paper and discussion were both great. He brought up some of the contradictory notions we have about love and suggested that "Love" might be an essentially confused concept. Among the confusions were our belief that love must be voluntary (you can't force someone to love you) and yet we want it to be involuntary (in the sense that people can't help but love us); people should love us for who we are (our particular qualities) but we can't describe the features of of our beloved that make us love her (and we would not love someone sharing the same properties were it not her).

Reeve suggested that the source of our contradictory notions lie in our infantile pre-conceptual attitudes. I think the idea is that as infants we experience the world in terms of complete trust, vivid stimulation, and concentration of attention on our alimentary systems. These then get interpretted by our more 'adult' mind into concepts, but the concepts fail to conform to systematic analysis. The idea is interesting, puzzling but interesting. Reeve is really impressed with some of the ideas of psychoanalysis. I am not sure about that. But I am convinced that something is true about our current state of confusion, so I am open to possible explanations.

Oct 24th, 2003

My PBEM, Typhon-Station, got an injection of new players this week. Barbara spent another $100 to get a 1000 impressions at PvP-Online. We've done so once before and the results are impressive. If you don't read PvP, and you are at all like me, then you should. It is consistently one of the funniest comics out there. I was worried that I let the game go, but when I started looking at our numbers we are doing fine. It is interesting. What consititues 'doing fine' is a relative concept. Some people think that a post a week is great, others need five a day to feel like the game is alive. I am okay with one a day or so. Anyway the new players seem very intelligent and to be good writers, so I am optimistic about the game.

It doesn't quite fill the hole left by not DMing my own world any more, but it goes something in that direction. I really miss having something to do with my limited free time. I find myself watching more TV which is not my goal. But realistically once the baby is born, it is highly unlikely I will want more on my plate than I already have.


Dude, I got a Dell. Oh boy! I am so excited. Can you feel the excitement radiating off of your computer screen? In fact, I've only recieved a big fat monitor, by itself. So not much of a computer yet. Eventually there will be a computer as well. I hope only that it will be connected to some network in such a way that I can print documents, and that I can access my other mail accounts. I am dubious about both. The net effect will be that I don't have to lug my laptop to school in exchange for not getting to use my laptop. I think I lose out overall. I tried to get them to consider a Mac. They said roughly. "We don't support Macs." I retorted "Yeah but if you get me a Mac I won't need support." They were not amused. Then I tried to get them to spend the money on a nice printer instead. "Yeah right" was their response. I am not overly surprised that they do not call themselves Tech Support. It is something like Information Resources Technology. I love terms like that. They sound very impressive, on first glance. But, it isn't really clear what it refers to. What sort of information are we talking about? In what way is a resource? How does the resource differ from the information. Couldn't we save on memory and ink if we just called it Information Technology, or just IT? And with regard to that, is there a separate non-information technology group? I've seen the same people lugging UPS power stations around the campus and plugging them in for people (not exactly IT though related I am sure) No, then why not just call it Technology, or just T. I pity the fools. They still have yet to add me to the directory, or alter the web-pages, or any of the relatively easy stuff. So I am not expecting my fully operational (sic) Dell anytime soon.

To be fair, there was at least one guy who seemed intrigued by my Mac and in sincerely interested in solving our little connection issues. But he seems to have disappeared. I may hear from him again, one never knows.

In other IT news St-Aug's is slowly entering the 21st century with online registration. It is in a pilot program right now, so only fifty students can use it. But in theory it should be fully online by next year. I hope that will prevent the problems I faced in 231 this semester (about half my students starting five weeks into the semester).

I don't want to give the wrong impression, I do really like it here. I think it is just really easy to focus on the negative in a journal like this. As I recall, this is why I stopped keeping a journal in college. I was rereading what I had written and it seemed overly negative. I thought to myself, was life really this bad? I should dig up some of those book entries and transcribe them. Trying to write somethign positive has always been a challenge for me. For some reason I've always thought the negative stuff to be more interesting. When I read Jeff's weblog, and his comments about mine, I got a little concerned.

I will try to be more positive. Or really, I will try to point out the good things, and the funny ones that are not just my frustrations. I may need to pause to refresh myself before that happens.

Oct 23rd, 2003

So, I left my last class, exhausted today. The students were not cooperating and it meant I needed to explain everything. Now this is not that unusual, but that is not really the point. So I am leaving the building, which on Tuesdays and Thursdays means chatting with James my older student who always wants to talk. Usually he has something related tangentially to the class to discuss, but this time he had the old 'how do I improve my grade speil.' But, really that is not the point. I get a couple steps out of the door and bump into Dr. Smith on her way in. 'Didja get the email about the All Faculty Meeting?' 'No.' 'Oh well there is one.' 'When?' 'Now.'

So... okay, I turn around and head to the auditorium. This all important meeting was to inform us about how great we are, how little money we have, and one of our projects. The project actually has some merit. We are making supplemental educational materials for Benin. But, the thing is. And maybe this is just St. Aug's or maybe just the provost and president's thing. But they feel the need to make speeches, to draw out introductions, to heap unnecessary praise over every speaker, and basically prolong everything. The whole meeting could have been fifteen minutes (or summarized nicely in an email). The thing is I actually looked forward to this sort of thing when I was a lowly adjunct, or sub-lowly grad student. I remember the feeling of unwelcome I got when I sat in a faculty meeting at NCSU. It wasn't like they were offended I was there. But they definitely seemed surprised and a little bothered when I had the gall to speak up. What was I thinking? I think now that what they were expressing was their utter amazement, shock and surprise that I would volunteer for such a thing.

For me the low-light (as opposed to high light) was the clawing speech of one of the speakers. She kept inventing words that sounded impressive 'operationalizing', 'progressivity', 'alumnuses' but were meaningless. You would think the senior officer of a college, even a not so impressive college would (a) have a better vocabulary or (b) realize that the hundred PhD's in front of her would see through that. Is that really asking too much?

Oct 21th, 2003

I am experiencing a strange problem with my web-design program. This happened, interestingly enough, in both Dreamweaver for OS9 and the new one. The phenomenon is that in the design mode, my text entry is getting delayed. That is the display of my text is delayed. I am not used to that on a fairly up to date computer. Reminds of the olden days trying to run a big database on the MacIIsi. I have a theory. Somehow the size of this document is getting in the way. So I think I may try to create multiple documents linked front to back. That might help. It is still a little disconcerting. None of the forums I checked seemed to have any indication of this. and this seems to be the only program with this problem. Although I haven't tried Illustrator or other big programs (apart from Word). So we shall see. Maybe when I upgrade to 10.3 that will clean out any bugs that have crept into the system (or further exacerbate the problem). I am currently typing in Code mode, which is reminding me of the good old days of writing in HTML. That was with a 14.4 connection and one phone line. It seems like an eon ago, but it was probably five or six years only.

In other news. I heard yet another ridiculous thing on the radio today. The claim was that the IRS was going to spend 50% of its budget on enforcing and investigating abuses of the earned income tax credit. That is a the paltry sum given to the poorest of the working poor with dependent children. Given Enron, Martha, Worldcom, Tyco, etc... is this really the best use of the budget. Assuming that they could catch these scoundrels (approximately 30% of the 4 million Americans who claim the credit, it is unclear how much this would net. All the claims on the Earned income Tax credit amounts to less than $20 Billion, so 30% of that assuming perfect success in catching all violators, that adds up to $6 Billion, minus all the costs associated with the enforcement. Compare this to the other $200 Billion the government says is defrauded by the rich and corporations. Bias Anyone? Sadly I can't find a transcript of the piece (Market Place 10/21/03 7mins into show). I will continue to research this. I expect the Dems to bring this up in their speechifying.

In other news: I think we found a Pediatrician we like. He seemed friendly, if huge, and knowledgeable. He didn't fall into any of my traps about vaccines, or circumcision. We originally planned to interview a hundred so qualified doctors or groups, but this seems to meet our needs. He is in solo practice and happily there. He seemed very open to late night phone calls and the like. So.. I think we might just go with him and let is be settled. By contrast we have interviewed three companies about painting our house. Maybe I am a yuppy.

Oct 20th, 2003

I installed Dreamweaver MX2004 today. I am hoping this makes my life easier. I would rather stay out of Classic Mode if I could avoid it. So we shall see how well this works.This is my first attempt. So far it seems to be working pretty well. Although I am still getting a delay on text as I enter it. More later.

Oct 18th, 2003

Went to the Dennett lecture instead of the homecoming game. I guess I just got to be me. I am coming the the opinion that those in the philosophy of mind are all hucksters of one brand or another. I got the same feeling when I attended the lectures of John Searle. It was an entertaining lecture and reasonably coherent, just a little vague when it came to the final conclusions. He seems to be a behaviorist at heart (someone who believes that mental phenomena are best described in terms of behaviors: the desire to drink, is just the disposition to get a drink). Dennett puts a sort of biological spin on it, there clearly are all sorts of the brain processes involved in those dispositions, but as he put the the difference between conscious and unconscious experience is whether you can talk about it (or more generally do something about it). I am agnostic about the philosophy of mind. I am thoroughly materialist. I am not a dualist, I don't believe in homunculi or ghosts in the machine. However I would like to keep the cartesian vocabulary. That is, I think a sensible theory of consciousness or mind needs to have minds, beliefs, subjects and selfs. Dennett seems to believe those are useful fictions that stands for processes which are fundamentally mechanical and ultimately behavioristic.

He did make an interesting analogy to the world of magic. His paper was actually entitled the Magic of Consciousness. Quoting another author he started with a puzzling claim. Real magic isn't really magic. In other words, the magic magicians (like David Blaine) do, is not supernatural. Real magic is really some kind of trick. Sometimes the trick isn't just sleight of hand, but rather building the expectation that something is happening when it isn't. By analogy, talk of consciousness builds certain expectations that 'do the magic' themselves. There is this sense in his theory that being self-conscious is really about tricking ourselves into believing we have beliefs, and that we have selves to be fooled.

In other news.. Dennett responded to a question about his advocacy of the Bright Movement. After hearing him, and viewing their website I have decided to out myself and admit.

I am a Bright
A Bright is a person who has a naturalistic worldview. A bright's worldview is free of supernatural and mystical elements. The ethics and actions of a bright are based on a naturalistic worldview.
Like many other Brights, I am ambivalent about the name. It does seem potentially antagonistic and arrogant. It suggests that if you are not a Bright, then you must be dim and stupid. At least that is the way many dim and stupid people have interpreted it. However, I agree that there are some real problems with the term Atheist. It too is antagonistic and too quickly dismissed. It has also become demonized by the political right who are promoting their religious agenda and trying to erase the divisions between church and state. I am also intrigued by the idea of making a meme of the term. The archetype for this idea is the term 'gay.' Many homophobes were at one point insulted and annoyed that the homosexual community hijacked a term meaning happy and carefree, to use for something they found repulsive. Were gays claiming heterosexuals were 'sad' or 'glum?' No. The opposite of gay is straight. Straight too is a word co opted from its original meaning. So what is the opposite of a 'Bright?" Anyone who believes in the supernatural. They are free to choose the term they wish to be called. I am a little apprehensive of using the term, especially at my place of work, an Episcopalian College. But I think it might be worth the effort. I will keep you informed on the progress.

Oct 17th, 2003

Rational Discourse....That is what democracy depends on. When I was first studying the political philosophy of Plato and Aristotle I could not really understand their distaste of democracy. In their tiny world a city of a hundred thousand people with people like Plato and Thrasymachus, Aristotle and Sophocles. Surely such people could only be the product of an enlightened society where there truly was a public discourse, where people (the citizens at least) were well educated, they could resolve things through discourse. And yet they were frustrated by the popularism, the rhetoric, the showbiz nature of democracy. The people were swayed by showmanship and tricks rather than convinced by good arguments and critical reasoning.

I hoped, that our democracy, such as it is, with public education, with instant access to news and information, with the ability to fact check in second, with the liberty of all citizens to present their ideas. Surely, even with the greater diversity, even with the capitalism, we would need something like democracy in order to protect the diversity, to protect the rights of the individual. So what stands for discourse in 21st century America? Hannity and Colmes on Impeachment That is what.

It should come as no surprise that I cannot manage more than few seconds of Fox News at a time. But I read this transcript with my mouth agape. How can Fox proudly display these transcripts? Maybe they know that most of their viewers can't read. But even still, you'd think that like Nixon (or John Ashcroft) they would be trying to destroy all evidence of this stuff. I once had a student complain about my Fox New jokes. She made the following argument. "If no one can be unbiased in their presentation of the news, why not pick the bias that is most like your own. I agree with their bias, so I watch them. If I wanted to get angry at the news I would watch something else." ?????? I was nonplussed. It was as though she summarized the entire message of Fox. It was brilliant, in a Hitlerian sort of way. I suggested, in a humble offhand way, that maybe there were some facts, that could be presented with little bias. I suppose she has a certain point, it probably is true that all new, all statements come with some bias. Of course, even biased newscasts can be closer or further from the truth. But Fox is not about that.

Here is an interesting contrast. I used to watch this crazy Christian Apocalyptic news show called "This Week in Bible Prophecy." I think it was Canadian. They would report on various news events, mostly technology and Middle Eastern stuff (not surprisingly). The news seemed quite accurate. They would make references, give proper attributions, and all in all were quite reasonable in their presentation. Then in the last third of the show they demonstrate in their own psychotic way how the price of tea in China or the latest ATMs in Australia were prophesied in the book of so-in-so as one of the signs of the coming end of days.

Now one might assume that the Prophecy nuts would be so biased in their news that they were beyond unreliable. But it seemed quite the opposite. They felt it very important that the facts that they used as evidence were incontrovertible. That makes sense. If your inferences are completely non cogent, you need something to make the argument seem at all strong. I think Fox takes a different route. Rather than try to draw surprising conclusions from the actual facts, they just make stuff up and repeat it over and over again. If they can get a kook like Ann Coulter to shoot Red Herrings like there is no tomorrow, all the better. The hosts like Hannity and O'Reilly can keep their hands clean by referring to the "experts"?

So we get people like Shrub and the Governator. I can see Plato and Aristotle shrugging their shoulders and saying. "What did you expect?"

Oct 16th, 2003

Hey school rocked today. I actually got to do my favorite thing, talk with my students. I always get a chance to talk to my students, or talk at my students, or talk in the area of my students. But today I got to talk with my students. Two stayed after school to tackle to the subject matter. They brought out interesting points and made insightful comments. They seemed genuinely interested in what I thought about it all, and wanted me to really explain the subject. That is what I love most about teaching. Sure it can be fun when there is a student in my office that demonstrates the aha phenomenon, but this beats that. When they don't have a problem, when they don't just want a better grade. I could be totally smoking crack, they may be just trying to butter me up. But if they are, they're doing a really good job. Anyway, it was all good. I had nice conversation with a colleague at St-A too. Good stuff manard.

Oh... I finally got around to starting my new Web-site, the A Priori Critic.

Oct 15th, 2003

We are coming round the bend and I feel like we are ill prepared for the birth. We have a lot of stuff done, we read the books, we took the classes, but we haven't gotten our bassinet, I need to figure out how to do the insurance business, and we have yet to nab a pediatrician. All these things need to happen soon. Last night Carly thought that maybe the baby underwent lightening. This is the process where the baby enters the birth canal, or aligns itself therein. Roughly. The noticeable effect is that the mass of the belly seems to get lower and the pressure is off the mother's chest. Today we are not so sure. This is one of the last stages before labor. It is a good thing, it means no breach birth, it means easier labor etc.. but it also means the birth is imminent. I know our due date isn't until the 11th of November. But those things are pretty iffy. She could go into labor today. Or as I lay awake last night, at any minute. We aren't packed, we are not ready... arghh..

Breath, okay, much better.

In other news. Ken, my father-in-law came by last night for dinner en route to Atlanta for some event (he photographs various rallies). It was, as usual, short and sweet. Carly made her famous Cincinnati chili. He stayed for maybe four hours and was gone. I think I saw him the longest when I first met him, he stayed for two days around christmas that year. In some ways this is good. There is little time for antagonism to grow, but in other ways it always seems a little quick. I guess part of that is seeing my own parents so rarely that we always try to make for a few days or a week. I am not sure what is normal for Carly.

Oct 13th, 2003

Jeff updated his webblog! Maybe I shamed him into it. Silly Jeff, now he has admitted being a Gamer on the internet. Everyone in the world will know. Sucker.

Oct 12th, 2003

Kitty Fun Page is Up. This may become the prototype for the Baby Fun Page. I might need to figure out a way to scale down the photos memory. Some people are still on dial up. This turned out to be harder to do than I expected. Apply makes it pretty easy to make a web-page out of your photos if you use .mac. Sadly I do not. So you can find the photos with Dreamweaver, but it requires finding the iphotos which are hidden in the user folders, there they are organized by date, so any albums you make disappear. I figure out a away around it. But I am not entirely satisfied with the method.

Correction. Okay. I played around with it a bit more. And figured it out. I think. Apple does make it possible. Just a matter of Exporting. Still, they could make a button on the brushed steel display. Oh well. This isn't too bad. Go Apple!

I spent most of today gaming. Quite fun. Although my character got hosed. I failed two important saves and lost a foot in height, and 2 strength, bugger. Luckily strength is not his main attribute. We did defeat the guardians that were imprisoning the oracle. So that was good. We also reaped some serious cash. More importantly the group finished its huge tally of quests. That freed us up so the spell casters could make some magic items, and the rest of us could spend some time recuperating. My character made out well, mostly since he was so ill equipped at the beginning. He also made 12th level! Hoody Hoo!

I wonder what the gaming situation is going to be in a few weeks. Carly and I have talked about the 'day off' idea. We'd each get a day off from baby duties (feeding not included). Not it might be that I don't want any time off, I am going to be teaching more than I want anyway, so it would be nice to be around the little one. I've seen this end the gaming careers of many people. I would hate for that happen. But, it is no longer simply a matter of choice any more.

Oct 11th, 2003

Mostly through with grading. Only five more papers to grade. Overall the results were... well about what I expected. Overall the students were ill prepared for the tests. Some of them, mercifully only a few, barely beat random selection. Several people didn't even answer any of the fill in the blanks. The essays were predictably, better. So I curved the grades for the in-class exam. To get an 'A a students needed around 60% correct. It reminded me of one my first exam experiences in college. I was taking "Natural Science" a sort of "Physics for Poets" class at Reed. On one of the first tests I got 3 out of 20 pts, a 'B' when the test was curved. I remember the frustration of Stavros, the professor. But he sort of shrugged his shoulders and move on. I guess that is what must be done. I am of two minds on curving. I have no desire to have everyone (or most) fail. But I don't like dumbing down my classes. I really don't think curving is the answer, in the long run. But I don't see another. I think part of the problem is the level of preparedness in my students. It seems to me that they lack, in general, the basic ability to cull the wheat from the chaff of their readings, those that do all the readings. In this case I can't really see that. See the earlier entry for the make up of the test. Probably five students actually went to the web-pages and took the practice quizzes. I don't know how to encourage them to do those sorts of things. I may try more quizzes with greater frequency in the next semester. I wonder when I will stop experimenting and feel like I can just run on automatic. I've heard tell, that there are such people. Until then, the research aspect of my career seems secondary. Ah the catch.

By contrast the Rawls papers have been very good, mostly B's and A's. I think that has part to do with my very high expectations from the students. That really does seem to have an effect, sometimes. I always have high expectations, but sometimes those don't pay off.

Today a guy came by to give us an estimate for thing called 'spray on siding' a sort of super thick paint, that never needs to be repainted. He walked around our 1200sq ft house, and came to the princely sum of $30,000 (about a quarter of what we paid for the house). I was nonplussed. After some refiguring and giving us the special 'show-room' discount, the sum came down to $19,685. I guess some people really don't like to paint. So, we both wasted an hour or so. He suggested refinancing our house to afford the procedure. yeah. I will look into that.

It is funny. In May I couldn't think of anything missing in my life. Now money seems to fit that bill. With insurance, baby related costs, house painting (or siding), I am beginning to feel the stereotypical anxiety common to expectant fathers. So far I have managed to avoid most of the cliches of this thing. But I guess there is a reason why this is so common. We'll do fine. It is just a thing I can fret about.

So here is a question. Is anyone other than me reading this thing? Since I don't really update my web page very often I wonder if anyone even knows about this? Not that I expect a whole lot of readers. I must say things are not that interesting so far. But I'd like to know. Drop me a line.

Oct 7th, 2003

I am dreading my grading situation. It looks like my big plan of getting the students to take the easy to grade tests has failed. Most of them are opting for the paper option. I guess that is gad in some respects, but bad for me. I will likely have 100+ essays to grade in two days, and then another 35 to grade over the weekend. Sigh... I don't get paid enough for this.

All of my candidates and propositions won this year. First time ever. Granted I only voted for three people, and three propositions (Yeah School Bonds!!). Still, not too shabby. I made a pretty funny Arnold Swarzeneggar joke at the poll place. The Volunteers chuckled. My job was done, I left with a feeling of achievement. Small victories are all I need to be happy.

Returned "the Gamers" to Matt, leant him "City of Lost Children" as a reward. That movie is something of a litmus test for me. I like it alit, a dark postmodern fairie-tale. But it doesn't appeal to everyone. I don't know why. It is a good test for compatibility. Although C doesn't care for it. Hmm maybe it isn't such a good test. The Gamers probably has less general appeal. It is very low budget, and cheesy to the extremely. We are talking neon cheetos cheesy here. But there are some classic gamer moments there. The missing player standing idly by was the best. Inside joke I guess.

Three non-sequitors in a row! Wow, this weblogging thing is a snap.

Okay. I just heard Davis is out, and Arnold is in. OMG. Isn't that one of the signs of the coming Apocalypse?

Oct 5th, 2003

Finally finished prepping my Mid-Terms. Grading should go fairly quickly, I made them multiple choice and fill in the blank. I always face a sort of moral dilemma when I make these sorts of tests. On one hand, there is something wrong about a multiple guess philosophy test. I mean, I really judging the ability to memorize over the ability to appreciate the nuances of the arguments. There is also the difficulty of designing such questions. This time I made ample use online resources, itself a bit of a moral issue. On the other hand, I have 100 students taking these tests and two days to grade them. That limits what I can expect of them, and what I can expect of myself. I also wanted to make it possible for the students to prepare for a cumulative mid-term exam. So I chose this method. We shall see how it works out. I did offer every student the chance to write a paper instead of taking the midterm. But the paper assignments were quite challenging, so we shall see.

I wonder what the appropriate style for grading such large classes is. I think the answer is always going to be one of compromise. Ideally the classes would be smaller, there would be more time for individual attention, and students would be able to return to their works and improve them. There is the question of whether I can achieve that or not at St. Aug's. I'd like to try.

Oct 4th, 2003

This is my very first blog entry. The lifetime of a typical weblog is somewhere between that of a new restaurant and that of luna moth. My past attempts at journals, i.e. high school and college were dismal failures. So I have little more hope for this. However, as an expectant father, new professor of philosophy in a historical black college, and semi-retired game master, I might have something to say on occasion. This blog is inspired by the blogs of Wil Wheaton, Dan Perkins (a.k.a. Tom Tomorrow), and my buddy Alexis Dinno. You should check them all out. My blog will probably resemble Wil Wheaton's more than anyone else's; a mixture of personal life, political musings, and random links to things I find amusing.

So today I bought a frame for my doctoral diploma. It is VERY large. It measures 13 inches by 17 inches. That is not only large, but an unusual size. They don't make standard frames of that size. 14 by 18 sure, 11 by 17 okay. But 13 by 17? Who would do that? My bachelor's and master's degrees are in simple 8.5 by 11 inch frames. They look normal. I understand the need to make the Doctoral Degree look bigger and more impressive. But this doesn't do that. It goes too far. I keep thinking that maybe when I was going through the ridiculous bureaucratic process needed to get the piece of paper (after researching, writing, defending, and revising the damn thing), maybe someone asked me if I wanted to SUPER SIZE it for another 25ยข. Now like a butter covered movie patron I am stuck with a gigantic unwieldy thing I don't really want. The reason I bought a frame for the darn thing is because I finally got my office at St. Aug's. It isn't really my office, I am sharing with a person who is on leave. I have this idea that if I start personalizing the space with things like diplomas and knick knacks I will begin to feel like a permanent faculty member and not a guest star.

I got my doctorate three years ago...


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