WordCamp Equipment

I’m going to WordCamp in New York City this August.

It’s not really camp. It’s at a hotel. If WordCamp required actual camping I wouldn’t go.

WordCamp is a conference for WordPress developers.

It’s the first time I’ve done something like this in a long time.

So, yesterday, I bought a new laptop. I’ve been putting off getting one for a long time. But I figure I’ll need one to get the most out of this conference.

And besides, I can code on the back porch now.

Paleo Diet

I’ve been hearing a lot about paleo diets over the last few months.

I don’t buy it.

Yeah, people ate nuts and berries for most of human history. Maybe a little meat. Whatever they could catch or run down.

But for most of human history life expectancy was pretty low.

There’s a correlation between the invention of agriculture and the beginning of living beyond your 20s.

(Yeah, I know correlation isn’t the same as causation. But I’m still not buying it.)

4th Grade Engineering

Today the 4th grade class is going to float boats.

They’ve engineered and built big cardboard boats. Four in all. Three student teams and one teacher team.

Each boat is big enough to seat the school mascot. A large wooden beaver.

Today they’re going to take turns loading Bucky the beaver and towing the boat across the pond behind the school.

Boats that make it across without sinking Bucky pass.

If a student team boat makes it across, the class gets pizza made by the teachers. If the teacher boat makes it across, teachers get pizza made by the students.

I’m laying odds on Bucky having to swim for it at least once. I’m also guessing that everyone is going to get pizza (and get to make pizza).

Whether the teacher-made or student-made pizza will be any good is a story for another day. Pizza-making is, after all, yet another engineering project.

Update: All ships made it safely across. Pizza for all next week.

A Steel What-cha-ma-call-it

“Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long it had rusted shut.”
— From a list of “Actual Quotes from English Exam Essays” (which may, of course, be apocryphal, possibly from Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Garrison Keillor, or a Washington Post humor contest.)

Last week I was getting myself some lunch.

I turned on the stove and opened a can of tomato soup. (Lame. I know.)

I stood there for 15 minutes stirring it.

I could feel heat coming from the stove, but after all that time, the soup didn’t seem to be getting any warmer.

I tasted it.

Stone cold.

I had turned on the wrong burner.

The next day I was making popcorn. (On the stove.)

I put some butter in the microwave. The popcorn finished popping.

I opened the microwave to get the melted butter. Only the butter was still in a big chunk in the bowl.

I’d forgotten to push “Start.”

Father’s Day

Unlike Mother’s Day, which has a meaning of its own, Father’s Day is a copycat holiday. Sorry, dads.

It was first introduced in Congress in 1913 after a few isolated attempts to replicate the success of Mother’s Day in the opening years of the 20th century, notably in Spokane, WA and Fairmont, WV. It didn’t pass.

By the 1930’s the New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers began heavy promotion of it. It was finally recognized with a Presidential proclamation in 1966, and passed into the US national holiday calendar in 1972. But it’s always carried the taint of being merely a commercial promotion.

I can understand the impetus toward “fairness” that would suggest that if mothers have their special day, fathers ought to have a special day, too.

The reality in far too many cases is that fathers haven’t done nearly as much in the direct formation of their children to deserve a special day that carries the emotional weight that Mother’s Day carries.

Sure, historically fathers have been the “breadwinners.” And winning bread is important to a family. But winning bread simply doesn’t carry as much emotional freight as serving bread. All too often, mothers have been left on their own to make and serve the bread. To be fair some fathers have to do this, but it’s relatively rare.

And, while some dads are more involved in their children’s lives than their fathers were in theirs, that generational shift is still relatively small and will take a while to make it’s way into the mainstream of American attitudes. It’s at best a minority report on dads.

My own experience as a dad is that, even when we send both our email addresses as contacts for school news (in a progressive district), they will always send messages to Brooke. At playgrounds (when Silas was small and we lived near playgrounds), I was a third wheel among the parents, 99.44% moms, present with other children. I can’t count the times I’ve been out with Silas on a Saturday and had people say something that implied they were thinking I was living up to my end of the (divorce) agreement to be with my kid every other weekend.

This isn’t to say most people don’t have strong feelings about their fathers. They do. It’s just that the feelings are far more mixed, and aren’t of the kind that as often compel people to set aside a special day and forgo other plans around it.

For Father’s Day this year, Brooke is presiding over a church meeting (that nobody objected to on grounds that “people want to go home to celebrate Father’s Day”). I’ll be taking Silas to his piano lesson. Maybe we’ll grill hamburgers when we all get back home. I’ll mow the lawn.

Happy Father’s Day.

Pinterest Experiment

Without ever having done anything to indicate my interests other than visit one board, my feed has been almost all stuff about weddings, how to braid my hair, tattoo suggestions, recipes, cleaning and stain removal tips, and which workouts will get me the ass I’ve always wanted.

I assumed the preponderance of wedding and craft items was from having visited that one board when I opened the account, and that that board had already established a certain demographic.

I started to wonder what would happen if I started a completely new Pinterest account without visiting any boards or giving them any indication of anything at all other than my name and email address.

So I did. And…

The Pinterest algorithm gives me essentially the same feed.

Either these items are simply what’s trending on the Pinterest network at any given time, or Pinterest filters assume that anonymous new accounts are most likely to be hipster brides, wanna-be brides, and twenty-something moms.

Or, the two possibilities above amount to essentially the same thing.

Could I Get Into Bard College?

At lunch with Brooke yesterday the topic of standardized tests came up again.

Silas does fine in school. He just doesn’t do so well on the state tests that are now required as part of the Common Core.

My position has been that the tests are a total waste of time, and that the results don’t matter for anyone except the Principal and the School Board whose job and state funding are dependent on the aggregate results.

Brooke is a little more worried, though. She raised the issue with Silas’s doctor at the annual visit last week, and the Doctor offered to write a prescription requiring that the school allow him more time for exams. It was a nice offer. Maybe we’ll take him up on it. Or maybe not.

It’s nothing short of preposterous that a fourth grade exam score would decide someone’s college admission fate. Let alone the rest of their life. I don’t think it really does. But if it does, it’s a prima face example of stupid.

Later Brooke called my attention to an article on Slate about Bard College’s admissions exam.

For the second year, you can write four 2500 word essays, choosing from a list of 21. The faculty grades it. If you get a B+ or better on all four, you’re in. You don’t submit your high school grades, you don’t sit through the SAT, you don’t fill out the Common App.

What a relief. If all else fails, if this standardized test insanity prevails eight years from now, Silas can go to Bard.

But my second thought was, “Hey, I wonder if I could get in?”

I’d considered applying to Bard back when I was applying for colleges. My Grandfather was a big fan of the school. He even ordered me a Bard Catalog to encourage me in that direction. I didn’t apply to Bard. But I did consider it.

I don’t really want to go back to college. At least not as an undergraduate.

But the essay choices are fascinating.

So fascinating that I think I’ll pick a few and write them up.

Maybe you can, too. You can see the full set of rules and the questions here.

Down to 5

Another member of the local Rotary Club gave his resignation as of the end of the month.

“After 43 years,” he said, “I’m tired. I don’t want to go to any more meetings.”

Can’t say I blame him.

We’ll be down to five members.

Next meeting I think discussing whether and when to fold.