Today's Lunch Menu

Feeding the kids (and then getting them to eat it) can be challenging.

Today, we had vegetable soup (made with fresh vegetables and homemade chicken stock – we ate the chicken earlier this week) with tortilla chips and salsa.

After the initial round of “Ewww! I don’t like soup!” they settled down and began to eat. To encourage them, I suggested a race to see who would finish first. My daughter finished first and my son became dejected that he lost (not to worry, he won the race at dinner).

To encourage my son to finish his soup, I told him the story of Achilles (they already know something about the Trojan War – having watched the Crayola Kids version of it: The Trojan Horse). Of course, my version was a little … adapted.

A long time ago there was a great warrior named Achilles. You remember him from the Trojan War. When he was born, his mother took to the Delphic Oracle (someone who was very wise and could tell the future) to ask what she could do to make sure Achilles was very strong. The Oracle replied that Achilles always had to eat all his food – including the vegetables, thus he would be invulnerable. And for many years Achilles ate all his food. Many years later he was the most feared soldier in the Trojan War because no sword could cut him or arrow could pierce him. But, one day, Achilles didn’t eat all vegetables, when he went out to battle part of him was no longer protected. A poison arrow from the enemy pierced his heel and he died. This would not have happened had he eaten all his vegetables.

This story was also accompanied with an anatomical lesson of the food, describing the various parts of the foot, including the heel.




Noticed worms today.

It has been raining here for the past week, week-and-a-half - some days quite a lot.

Since I take my daughter to the bus every morning and pick for lunch and after school, I'd been looking for signs of worms since last week. I guess the ground only got sufficiently saturated yesterday evening to persuade the worms to come out.

Of course, they were mostly dead. Squashed and mashed carcasses lying everywhere. There were still a few writhing in their final death throes. Had to persuade my son that stomping on worms is not appropriate, since they are beneficial for breaking down organic matter as well as aerating the lawns.



The best thing about having kids




There be pirates!

My son has a frugal use of language. He prefers to say things in the fewest words possible. He also tends to mix English and Spanish freely, choosing the simpler word from either language.

A few days ago, we were out driving and it was past lunchtime, so I asked, "Jason, are you hungry?"

"Yes", he relied.

"What would you like to eat?"

"French fries, hamburger, juice, and a toy", was his verbless answer.

As we continued along he blurted, "Look! McDonald's. There be french fries."

I wanted to correct him, because I find "there be ..." rather jarring on the ears, besides, it makes him sound like a pirate. To be honest, I couldn't think of a better way to express it. Maybe I should have paid more attention in grammar class ...

He has recently started saying "I don't care" instead of "I don't know".

This leads to amusing conversations like:

"Who Broke this?"
"I don't care."

"Where is your mother?"
"I don't care."

He had a wonderful exchange with my sister once:

"Wow! Look how big you are Jason."

"I grow. By myself. At home."



Children's Stories

What kind of stories do my kids like?

Tania (now 6) has always preferred stories with a happy ending. So, some of the more classic stories she has favoured over the years are: Rapunzel, Rumplestiltskin, Thumbelina, Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Princess Mouse, and Babba Yaga. I remember the first tiem I read her The Princess Mouse, you could she how delighted she was with the twist at the end.

Jason (now 3-1/2) favours stories where some bad guy gets his comeuppance. So some of the more classical stories he has favoured are: The Three Little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Puss in Boots. Jason often makes me change the lead character in stories to be him.

Of course, we read many other stories to them, but those are the so called classical fairy tales. Rhyming stories are popular - they like The Cat in the Hat.

[Updated on 28-December-2006 to fix spelling errors.]



Children's movies

So what are good movies for children?

My daughter's favourite movie (she is 6) is "Spy Kids 2: Island of Lost Dreams".

My son's favourite movie (he is 3-1/2) is "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang".

Other movies they both like are (in no particular order):

"Puss in Boots" (the animation is subpar, but the kids love it for some reason, it was produced by Phil Nibbelink) http://movies2.nytimes.com/gst/movies/movie.html?v_id=182465

All the Spy Kids movies

"James and the Giant Peach"

"Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"

"Snow White" (classic Disney version)

Have I forgotten any? Probably, the kids have too many videos (and of course, there are television programs as well).

Movies they don't like are those in which babies or toddlers or young children are helpless and in danger - if there is a crying baby in it, they probably won't want to watch it (examples would be Willow, Labyrinth and The Ten Commandments, which all have crying children in jeopardy).

Basically, it seems to boil down to movies that have some element of the fantastic (Willy Wonka) and in which children are prominant (Spy Kids) and children are empowered (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang).



It is written

I have a problem believing things. Regardless of what I hear or read, I always question it.

What is the source, what are possible motivations, are there any biases affecting the conclusions or observations?

The next step is to determine if the information accords with my own view of the universe. If it does, and the source is reasonably credible, then I am likely to regard it as factual. If the source is not credible, or of unknown credibility (say someone’s webpage), then I look more critically at it. If it does not accord with my view of the universe, then I need to determine if my view of the universe is wrong, or the information is wrong.

It really irritates me how uncritical most people are of information. Which leads into today’s title which is that once the information somehow makes it into print (which is quite easy in these days of the Internet), it seems to gain additional credibility. I suppose it has to do with the perceived permanence of the written (or otherwise recorded word – audio, photographic, or video). The most salient examples of writings which tend to be elevated beyond criticism are: holy scriptures, constitutions, laws, and anything written before you were born.

I am used to people telling me, “Why can’t you ever accept anything I tell you? Why do you always have to question it?” You should be too.

So, today’s moral is: Question everything. Accept no information as inerrant.

Of course, you have to believe in something, but your belief should always be arrived through critical judgment rather than complacent acceptance. Taking the high skeptical ground and declaring you believe nothing, or that nothing can be know leads to the silliness Lucretius warns against in his treatise ‘On The Nature of the Universe’: “If anyone thinks that nothing is ever known, he does not know whether even this can be known, since he admits that he knows nothing.“

Personally, I believe that everything can be known. That there is no question we cannot or should not ask. I also believe that people tend to be less than honest when presenting information – half-truths, spun truths and outright fabrications.

[Note: this section added 24-April-2005. This is a historical falsification free blog (except for typos and egregious grammatical errors).]

Of course, the statement "I believe everything can be known", is a good example of me knowing what I meant, but expressing it poorly.

There are whole sets of things I believe cannot be known - the future, for example. I don't believe the future is knowable because I believe that, at the very least, humans are endowed with free will - we are not automatons acting and reacting according to very specific physical processes. Consequently, our actions cannot be predicted and the outcomes and consequences cannot be predicted either (reasonable assumptions can be made though).

This leads me to reject the notion of an omniscient God who knows all things past, present, and future. I accept that God knows all things past and present - but the future is the sticking point. Someone would have to give me a better argument than St Thomas Aquinas' "God's knowing the future does not cause it to happen" - essentially, we are free willed beings, but God already knows what we are going to do, but don't worry, we are still free willed beings because "nowing"is not the same as "ausing".

Another thing that can't be known is whether what we believe is true or not. A set of beliefs can be entirely consistant, unfortunately, we cannot, using that set of beliefs, prove that is is true. For example, routine mathematics,1 + 1 = 2. We believe this to be true, but using mathematics, we cannot prove this is true. We would need some other machinery to prove the truth of that statement. Even if we had this machinery, we then would not be able to prove it is true. So we would have to create some other machinery to prove it ... ad infinitum. (The sme thing applies to people who believe whole heartedly in the Bible, or other spiritual writings, or a constitution. The document,itself, cannot be used to prove its own veracity. Some external mechanism / machinery is required: history, archeology, linguistics, cultural studies, etc...)

Of course, we cannot live in a state of unknowning or believing in nothing. To me, without any offer of proof, that is just plain silly.

At some point you have to buckle down and accept a series of axioms which form the fundamental core of your beliefs. You should also question those axioms (facts, dogmas, whatever...). Empricial validation of knowledge, while good, is not sufficient, you need approach from alternate persectives - just because something makes sense, doesn't mean it does. People have a tendency to make spurious associations ("Every time I wash my car it rains") that have absolutely zero correlation with any cause and effect.

So I believe that everything knowable can be known. What is knowable? Hmmm ... pretty much anything we can measure or understand. Of course, not everything I believe I can prove: 1 + 1 = 2, God, the sun will come up tomorrow. I have confidence that these things are true (and they form fundamental axioms for my life), but I am not able to prove them.

If 1 + 1 = 2, then I believe that we can build on that - indeed we have mathematics.

If God exists, then I believe we can know the nature of God.

If the sun will come up tomorrow, then I believe I can make plans for tomorrow.



Veggin out

I have just finished week 5 of my leave of absence without pay.

As expected, I am much less stressed. An interesting side effect (and definite bonus, in my opinion) is that I do not feel the need to veg out. The common state I experience while working. Weekends and holidays were never periods of leisure for me – they were periods of recovery. I have long noticed that it took me 5 to 7 days to fully unwind from work. Only at that point did I start to indulge in leisure.

A key component of vegging out is doing something which requires no user participation - watching TV, endlessly browsing the Internet for mindless diversion, or keeping up on the latest news (political, technological, entertainment, gossip, whatever). So, my ‘Danger Man’ DVD collection goes unwatched – I am certain that had I been working, I would have finished watching it by now.

On the positive side, I spend more time with my family, read more to the kids. It is a nice change to have the kids fighting over me to put them to bed (instead of running screaming to their mother).

Being a stay-at-home parent is not a holiday, but it allows me to enjoy life more. I am glad I have the opportunity to spend time with my son before he heads off to school in September (my daughter has already been in school for two years).

An interesting book on leisure (albeit dry) is "Leisure, the Basis of Culture" by Josef Pieper (here or here).

An interesting insight I gained from the book is that recovery time is not the same as leisure time. I have long know that I spent most (usually all) of my non-work time recovering rather than “playing”.



Hello World

An unimaginative, but highly predictable first post from a computer programmer. For those who are not programmers, the first program programmers typically write is called “Hello World”, because, when you run it, it prints “Hello World” – you can get history on it here).

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