Friday, June 10, 2005

Quote of the Day - June 10, 2005

If I don't survive, tell my wife "hello".

- Neutral President in Futurama episode "Brannigan, Begin Again"

Greatest American

Discovery Channel is having its audience vote for the Greatest American. It looks like the top 25 is somewhat more reasonable than the top 100 (Dr. Phil? Tom Cruise? Come on!), though there are still a couple there that I don't think belong. It's a shame Nikola Tesla didn't make it into the top 25 (electrical engineering bias), though I'm not really sure that he or Einstein count as Americans anyway. It would be nice if they had had a "living Americans" list and a "historical Americans" list to prevent the overall list from being swamped by people from today whose names are at the front of our mind. All 100 nominees can still be found on the site even though the voting currently only allows you to choose from the top 25. So what are five people you would nominate who didn't get nominated? Mine:

Mr. Rogers - He was a positive influence in the lives of countless children. That's pretty important, right?
Buzz Aldrin - Neil Armstrong may have been the first man on the moon, but Buzz Aldrin has been a public face and important advocate in the cause for human exploration of space.
Edgar Allen Poe - An early pioneer in and great influence on horror, fantasy, science fiction, and detective stories. His works tend to be macabe, but he also had a sense of humor.
John Marshall - Established judicial review in the United States.
Thurgood Marshall - A key lawyer in Civil Rights movement and the first African-American Supreme Court justice.

Whew. That was hard. I kept thinking of non-Americans. Anybody else care to try?

Gettysburg PowerPoint Address

What if PowerPoint had been around during the Civil War? So is that lesson here that PowerPoint can make anything seem boring and unispiring?

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Serenity Screening

Draxi de dimite! Serenity is screening in D.C. on the 23rd. When I checked last night, I couldn't find the link to click on to buy tickets (went to fandango, but didn't see the screening listed). Today, of course, they're sold out. Dag nab it!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Vorlon High

The theme of this week's pixel challenge at TWoP is high school pictures of TV characters. Babylon 5 fans, check out this entry.

Tropical Depression 1

Here it is, the first tropical depression of the Atlantic hurricane season. And if she takes her Prozac and gets her act together, she'll change her name to Arlene and move out of her parents house to the Gulf fo Mexico.

Job Dedication...

... or lack of a sense of self-preservation? It's only a flesh wound! Maybe he was aware of pizza's power and was afraid his customers would hunt him down and do much worse to him if he didn't deliver.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Quote of the Day - June 7, 2005

I never sleep, I don't know why. I had a roomate and I drove her nuts, I mean really nuts, they had to take her away in an ambulance and everything. But she's okay now, but she had to transfer to an easier school, but I don't know if that had anything to do with being my fault. But listen, if you ever need to talk or you need help studying just let me know, 'cause I'm just a couple doors down from you guys and I never sleep, okay?

- Jordan in Real Genius

Monday, June 06, 2005

It's all in how you say it

Today, the Supreme Court ruled that patients who have been prescribed marijuana are subject to federal prosecution even if they live in a state with a law that says they can take the marijuana for medical purposes. This case demonstrates how it is very difficult to communicate anything, even a fact, without revealing some form of bias. Here are some headlines about the case:

1. Supreme Court Okays Medical Pot Prosecutions
2. Justices Deal Defeat to Medical Marijuana
3. Federal Laws Trump State Pot Laws, Supreme Court Rules
4. Court Rules Against Pot for Sick People
5. "No" on medical mirjuana use

And here are their sources, in scrambled order:
a. ABC News
b. CNN
c. FoxNews
d. Christian Science Monitor

Can you guess which had which? Granted, if you clicked on a link, you often got headlines that were worded slightly differently. And, because this is the internet, linked headlines change every ten seconds. But I tried to pick the headlines that were meant to pull in the reader by being given top billing. Answers below.

1. c
2. e
3. b
4. a
5. d

Insomnia Ramblings

Stupid insomnia. Brain won't shut down. It may spew weird stuff, but it won't shut down. Maybe if I write stream of consciousness stuff on my blog, my brain with get bored and pass out.

I need humour, dang it. Why don't I have more humourous things in my apartment? I've read Calvin and Hobbes 217 times already. And Dilbert, Our Dumb Century, and America: The Book are too cynical for 2 am. My book on the English language is fun and all, but I need more laughs per page and less thought.

I'd take the opposite tack and read something totally unentertaining like one of my electronics reference dictionaries, but if I get bored of a book and turn out the light, I go right back to thinking about the things that were distracting me from sleep before I started.

I did a sleep study once. They hook you up to all sorts of wires and monitor your breathing and brain activity during the night. They look mainly for things like sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. I got maybe an hour and a half of sleep that night. Their diagnosis - delayed onset of sleep. No $@* Sherlock!

It takes me 1-2 hours to get to sleep typically. I actually fall asleep later if I go to bed before I'm sleepy. Also, there is a difference between sleepy, tired, and exhausted. Tired means I'd like to sleep but my brain won't necessarily shut down. Exhausted means both my body and brain don't want to function, but I still can't lose consciousness. Sleepy means I'm having trouble thinking and focusing, but my body may refuse to relax enough for sleep. Looking at "exhausted", I have to wonder what else has to shut down for me to sleep. It's like my body or brain or something is afraid that if I go to sleep, I'll never wake up again. Stupid body, that's only the case when I'm driving! When I'm in bed, it's okay to be unconscious.

I have tried:

cutting out caffeine - I am merely irritable and sleepy during the day and have no more luck getting to sleep at night

exercising - temporarily made my sleep problems worse; once I got use to the activity, I went back to old sleep problems

getting up the same time every day, even on weekends - got to sleep no earlier in the evening, even after two weeks, and was falling asleep on my feet at work. Incredibly not good.

white noise generator - that 1-2 hours is with a white noise generator; it would be 3-4 without it

rotating my sleep schedule - going to bed 1 or more hours later each night until the desired sleep time is reached; tried it four times, never worked

moving to Hawaii - oh, no, wait, I wish

camimille (sp?) tea and sleepy time tea - I hate tea, and it didn't help me sleep

Tylenol - works occasionally, not good to take when you're not actually in pain or for extended periods of time

antihistamines - irritability and restlessness; if I do sleep, it's a drugged sleep, not nearly as restful as it should be

not eating within several hours of bedtime - nope

eating a bedtime snack - nada

reading - see above

writing down the things that are bugging me - you see how well this is working now; I started this at 1:30 am, it's now 2:15 am

purposefully getting a song stuck in your head - now, not only can't you sleep, you have a song stuck in your head

counting - my brain can think about numbers, whether I remembered to do everything I was suppose to do today, whether I should do something I was planning to do, whether I should have done something I didn't do, and whether I should not have done something that I did do all at the same time; multitasking brains are not always a good thing

reciting lists - reduces the number of other things I can think about, but same problem as with counting

and so on...

I've had insomnia since the day I was born, with no exaggeration. Sometimes, it's worse than others. Tonight is worse than usual. Though I think I may finally be getting sleepy. (Watch, as soon as I post, turn off the monitor, and go to bed, my mind will start racing again). Goodnight. Or morning. Or whatever.

After the Hurricane

Strangely, this random little tale (not quite a story, not quite a poem) was inspired by this article, a conversation with Diana, and my latest bought of insomnia.

After the Hurricane

A gray squirrel stood at the edge of the road, staring helplessly at the fallen trees strewn across the valley. His home, demolished, in one horrific night.

Across the road, a man surveyed the remnants of his trailer, shredded by a merciless storm unhindered by human morality.

Each was tempted to take a few steps back and let oncoming traffic clear their minds and free them of this unfathomable loss. But instead, each ventured forward, digging through the debris for treasures buried by disaster.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Quentin Tarantino is a sick, sick man

That is all.

Compulsory Education

I’ve found a couple of education blogs. I found one debate going on over a post at OverEducation titled “What Are Schools For?” (original post here, follow up here). My post was getting too long, so I decided to open the flood gates over here.

Compulsory education is, obviously, a touchy subject. Parents who are willing to take responsibility for their child's education should certainly be allowed to do so, whether it's through homeschooling, private schooling, or encouraging the public schools to improve. Society's concern is for the child whose parents don't see the value of education. Yes, you should care if the children of the ignorant and impoverished get a decent education. If someone can't read or write or do basic math, it's incredibly difficult to find a job. They are left with few options, the most promising of which is crime.

Having an educated labor force and a citizenry capable of critical and creative thought are not mutually exclusive. Look at our economy. We are no longer a manufacturing based economy. We need engineers, lawyers, scientists, doctors, accountants, etc. and they need to be able to think to do their job. Yes, we need janitors and cashiers, too. They need to be able to read and do basic math (which today's education system does not always seem capable of, either) not only to do their jobs, but to function in society. Preparing citizens for the workforce gives them a shot at economic freedom.

My belief is that, for every child to reach their potential (not just avoid being left behind), you have to customize it to the needs and aptitudes of that child. Home-schooling, when done right, definitely does this. Private schools, with fewer students per teacher, come closer. Public schools, for lack of funding and/or imagination, try to fit every student into a single mold, particularly in the early grades. So what do we do? Have public education be like welfare – available only for those with the lowest incomes – and leave the rest to fend for themselves? Make the cost of private school tax deductible?

I think the computer revolution will reduce the cost of custom curricula by making it easier for students to go through a course on their own. The teacher would still be there to make sure everyone behaves and to help the children who have questions. You would never completely eliminate guided instruction. Early grades in particular would probably spend only an hour a day on self-guided instruction (and not necessarily all at once). In later grades, you would have to make a point of bringing students together for discussion. I am the type of person who learns better in a classroom environment (by getting other people’s perspectives), so I can’t advocate eliminating group learning entirely. However, the initial cost of implementing such a system, plus the feeling by teachers that they could lose their job to a computer, may delay if not prevent it from happening.

And we haven’t even touched on the social aspect of schools. Maybe another post.