General Archive

Monday, June 11, 2007

Jay Frazier Website

I try not to make this blog too personal, but I figured this was definitely worth a post. Jay Frazier, the brother of some friends of mine, recently died. The family has put together a website, jayism.net to help remember and celebrate his life.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Apology

Well, I don't think I have any regular readers, but I'm making this apology, anyway. Just a few weeks after I announced that I was going to try to post at least once per week, I didn't make any posts last week. So, to make up for it, I'm going to try to make at least two posts this week, not counting this one (but I'm not promising anthing). I'm going to be lazy on the first post, and just copy verbatim somebody else's e-mail. But I figure, heck, it was an e-mail forum. Putting it on a public web page, even if it's an unpopular one, at least gives it the potential to be seen by more people. Plus, he gave permission for people to publish it. I'll try to think up a more thoughtful post for later in the week.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Taking Stock, Again

Well, it's been a little while since I've done one of these meta posts, but here goes...

Let's see, my first blog post ever was back in December of 2005. Not too long after, towards the end of March 2006, I realized I wasn't keeping up with the blog as much as I'd have liked, but I still liked the idea of having a blog, so I resolved to make a good post at least once per month, and, for the most part, I was able to keep up with it.

Towards the end of this past January, I made a new resolution to make a post at least once per week. I never announced it before, just in case I wasn't able to keep up with it, but I have been doing pretty good at it. I actually got a boost in motivation when PZ Myers of Pharyngula announced a Blogroll Open Enrollment Day. I hesitated to submit my name at first, since I have such a mediocre blog compared to others, but after seeing how many other people were submitting their own personal blogs, I thought, what the hell, the worst that can happen is that I don't get added. He ended up adding everyone that submitted a blog, but with a few warnings, including that many would probably be deleted once he had a chance to review them, and that he would definitely remove blogs that hadn't been updated within the past 30 days. Well, luckily for me, he hasn't gone through and purged the blogs he doesn't read, yet, so I'm still on there (I'm guessing it's only a matter of time, though). And the warning about the 30 day post or purge deadline has kept me motivated to keep my post per week goal.

As long as I'm talking about Pharyngula, I guess I'll point out something else interesting. Way back in February of 2006, I posted a trackback to Pharyngula for an entry about What Is the Value of Algebra. That entry got me a trackback and two comments. On that Blogroll Open Enrollment Day post on Pharyngula, just by having a link to my blog in his comments (and there were over 150 comments in that thread), I got a noticeable increase in traffic, and a comment to one of my posts. Considering that I normally get zero feedback, I think it's interesting that just posting a comment on Pharyngula and feeding on his scraps gets me an infinity percent increase in comments/trackbacks.

Speaking of blogrolls, I recently got added to Matt's blogroll over on Pooflinger's Anonymous (which, by the way, is one of the three blogs I check on a daily basis, the other two being Pharyngula and Confessions of an Anonymous Coward; in other words, it's a good blog and you should check it out if you haven't, yet). It was a similar situation to Pharyngula, where Matt posted that he was getting ready to update his blogroll, and told people to leave a comment if they wanted to be considered. And once again, I shamelessly plugged my own blog, and was lucky enough to be added. And again, it's given me more motivation to try to make good weekly posts.

In both of the above cases, it felt very awkward asking to be added to their blogrolls. I really get kind of self conscious advertising for my blog. I feel that if I've got good content, people will just find me. I mean, I never advertised my French Polynesia Photos page on my main site, but if you Google "bora bora photos," I'm on the first page of results (currently eighth). And if you Google "autogyros" or "autogyro history," my Autogyro History and Theory page is the first or second result (damn you Wikipedia</Charlton Heston voice>). So posting comments on other people's blogs, asking them to add me to their blogrolls, seems a bit pathetic too me; it almost felt like begging. Oh well - I'm on the blogrolls, now, so I might as well just do my best to make good posts.

Something else I felt like talking about in this entry was what I plan on writing about on this blog in the future. I started this blog "pre-Dover," when Intelligent Design was making the "real" news on a regular basis. It was also around the time I first discovered that nearly half of Americans believe humans were specially created. I guess I'd been naive before, believing that it was only the loonies that still doubted evolution. The history of life on this planet has always been a topic I've been really interested in even before I knew there was this controversy, so getting such a wake up call made me start to look at the issue more. It also lead me to take more note of the religious fundamentalism in this society, that I guess I'd been kind of sheltered from before, and realize that it wasn't just a fringe element of society, either. So, when I started this blog, those were the main topics I wrote about. Well, it's been over a couple years now since I started following this controversy, and while creationists certainly haven't gone away, I can sense my interest in the topic waning. It's partly a conscious effort, as well - my wife told me I was becoming too obsessed, so I've been trying to think about other things. So, to get back to the point of this paragraph, I doubt I'll ever stop writing about the science/religion/creationism issue entirely (especially in the narrower field of evolution), and for the time being, the majority of my posts will probably still be about this issue, but I plan on writing more entries on other topics.

One last thing - I had been considering using this post to announce that I was going to disable trackbacks. You wouldn't believe the number of spam trackbacks my filter catches (well, maybe you would if you have your own blog). But, I decided against it. I figure that if something I write inspires somebody else to write something, I'd like to know about it.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

No More Easter Bunny

Sad BunnyI wanted to write this up on Monday, but at least I'm getting to it before the end of the week...

My daughter had a revelation over the weekend. She realized the Easter Bunny isn't real. It happened on Saturday night. She asked my wife and I if we thought the Easter Bunny was going to come and hide our eggs. My wife's reply was to ask her if she still believed in the Easter Bunny (which maybe wasn't the best response, but oh well). My daughter said yes, but I guess it got her to thinking, and a few minutes later, she asked me if I believed in him. I hate lying to her, so whenever Easter Bunny and Santa Claus questions have come up in the past, I've always evaded the question, or told her she could still believe if she wanted to. She wasn't taking that this time, though, so I just flat out told her that I wasn't going to tell her if I believed or not. And when she pressed about if I hid the eggs, I told her that I didn't know. Well, she's too smart to not realize that I must know whether or not I'm the one hiding the eggs, so she had it pretty much figured out. I guess I was smiling a bit, too, which was the giveaway to her, and she went off crying to my wife who'd left the room by then. And the thing my daughter was most upset about, wasn't that there was no Easter Bunny, but that it meant my wife and I had been lying to her her whole life. We did our best to explain it to her, though, and by Easter morning she was happy looking for eggs that she knew I'd hidden.

So, this whole episode got me to thinking - why do we as a society continue to perpetuate the myths about the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and all those other make-believe holiday characters. When I told my parents about it, they told me that I wasn't "lying," I was "pretending." I don't buy that. Pretending is when both parties involved know what's going on. My daughter and I pretend together all the time. One party pretending something so the other party can believe it doesn't seem very honest to me.

My parents also told me, as have many others, that pretending in these things for the kids makes the holidays more fun for them. I don't know about that one. My daughter had plenty of fun looking for eggs knowing that I'm the one that hid them, and I don't think she'll turn her nose up at Christmas presents this year, either. Plus, kids have plenty of fun pretending in things that they know are fake, just for the sake of playing. So, do kids really have that much more fun around the holidays believing in false ideas than they would without them, and is it worth lying to kids to give them that fun?

I also find it interesting the reactions we've gotten from people when we've told them that our daughter figured out about the Easter Bunny. Most people feel bad for her, that she doesn't have the Easter Bunny to believe in any more. One of our friends was even upset with us for letting her figure it out. I don't understand why so many people have those reactions; I'm actually relieved that she figured it out - no more deception, no more tip-toeing around the issue trying to figure out ways to not directly lie to her, plus I always enjoy watching her grow and learn more about the real world.

I never really had a good reason to carry on the myth with my daughter in the first place. I did it just because I went along with everybody else. My parents did it with me; she gets it from school and daycare; our friends with kids do it with their children. I guess I didn't want to seem like a kill-joy. Looking at it now, though, I wish I could go back and tell myself to just be straight with her. She would have had fun around the holidays with or without actually believing in the fairy tales, so why lie to her in the first place.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Happy Fastnacht Day

Depending on where you are in the world, you may call today something else, like Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day. But from where I'm from in Pennsylvania, today's called Fastnacht Day. Traditionally, you make potato based donuts, called fastnachts, supposedly as a way to empty your larder of all the fatty, sugary foods in preparation for the Lenten fast. My elementary school even used to give out donuts with the lunches on this day. So, in celebration of today, here's a recipe on my main site on how to make fastnachts, and a link to the (not so thorough) Wikipedia article. (I know it's a little late, since you should have made them either last night or early this morning, so that you could eat them throughout the day, but better late than never. And yeah, I just cut and pasted this entry from last year's Fastnacht Day entry, but really - what's the point to writing something original for an entry like this? Maybe next year I'll remember to make this post the day before Fastnacht Day.)

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