Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Working and Observing by Grampa

Along with babysitting, I got one project out of the way; remodeling a spare bedroom which was badly in need of work anyway, into a sewing room for Mrs. Eyes (her name is Everly). This room will also double as a sleepover room for the grandkids. They've slept over in there before but we weren't happy with the way it looked. Now we are.

My granddaughter who will be 3 July 4th has really been stringing sentences together lately. But last week I noticed she hasn't yet grasped the meaning of counting. She brought me three little refrige magnets which were Dalmatians one with a blue shirt, one with a yellow shirt and one with no shirt. I asked "How many do you have?" and she said "I don't know". So I said lets count them and I pointed at blue shirt, yellow shirt and no shirt while saying '1', '2', '3'. You have three doggies I said. Later she brought them to me again and I tried to repeat the exercise. Again she said she didn't know how many she had. So again I pointed to them counting 1,2,and 3 only this time I pointed at yellow shirt, no shirt and blue shirt. She then said loudly "No" pointing at yellow shirt "This is 2" and pointing at no shirt "This is 3" and "This is 1" pointing at blue shirt. That's when I understood what she was doing conceptually. She remembered how I counted them before. She's treating numbers as if they were a kind of name which when assigned to a thing, the thing always carried that number-name with it. I think she'll be grasping the idea of quantity very soon. But I marvel at how such little ones deal with concepts they don't yet understand.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Light Blogging

Blogging will be light this week as I divide my time between painting and rearranging a spare bedroom and babysitting my grand kids.

I've made a slight change to the title of my blog and I think an explanation is in order. I originally wanted to title my blog Spotted by Mike's Eyes but wrongly thought it was too long. Over time I decided I don't like just Mike's Eyes so I've added Spotted By in parentheses. I've had a few people ask why I named it Mike's Eyes so that too is partly why I decided to clarify it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Definition Exercise

As a grampa, my babysitting is sometimes done at their house and sometimes at my house. When I go to my son's houses I usually take a book to read in the event the tykes take a nap. One day a few months ago I went to sit and forgot the book. I had a legal pad out in the car so I decided to try my hand a putting together some formal definitions in an effort to hone my skill at it. I started out with Rand's definition of table at the top of my list as a model. So here for your perusal and criticism is my short list.
*********************************************
Definitions

>Table

Genus:

An item of furniture...

Differentia:

with a flat, level surface and
supports, designed to support
other, smaller objects.

>Duffel Bag

Genus:

An item of luggage...

Differentia:

in the shape of a bag, with
compartments, designed to hold
personalized items usually for
one person.

>Closet

Genus:

A small space or room within a human habitat...

Differentia:

designed to store small accessories such as apparel or
equipment.

>Gate

Genus:

Part of a fence or enclosure...

Differentia:

that opens to allow passage from one side to the other.

>Television Set

Genus:

An electronic communication receiving device...

Differentia:

that recieves audio and visual communications via microwave signals.
******************************************
Admittedly this is a short list and only very simple things defined. While doing this I refused to consult a dictionary for assistance for two reasons. One, many dictionaries don't give genus/differentia definitions and second, I need to get better at identifying definitions myself. So if you're a mind to, spare no criticism.

Friday, May 09, 2008

See No (Solutions to) Evil

The Sunday May 4th Detroit Free Press editorial "Graduate to Solutions" about dropouts, discusses the fact that in 22 of 27 districts in the Detroit Public School system (DPS) students are not meeting basic minimum requirements and that three-quarters of the students who start high school don't finish.

The editorial then states the obvious solution but treats it as a fantasy:
Think of Detroit Public Schools as a $1.3-billion enterprise and ask yourself: What enterprise would tolerate the utter failure of 22 of its 27 divisions, and for how long, without an urgent overhaul?
That's exactly right. A private enterprise would not tolerate it. And that's exactly why DPS should be shut down and turned over to private enterprise. I'm willing to bet that such an enterprise would not need anywhere near $1.3 billion to properly teach students. If students actually learn something they won't drop out. Yet the intellectuals and leaders insist that a public system is better for students than a private one.

Just as they won't consider a private system seriously, so they absolutely won't look at the curriculum either. In several years of reading Detroit newspapers the only mentions of curriculum I've seen were calls for a more rigorous one. But the gods of whole word for reading, the helter skelter approach to math, science and everything else are not to be questioned. Why?

In her essay "Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World" Philosopher Ayn Rand wrote: "Observe how noisily the modern intellectuals are seeking solutions for problems--and how swiftly they blank out the existence of any theory or idea, past or present, that offers the lead to a solution." That's exactly what the DPS and the press are doing. But again, why?

It's the morality of altruism. A public school system is one in which a large number of people are being sacrificed to others. Many people without kids have their money taken in taxes to pay for the education of those who do have kids, a violation of the former's rights. But it's more than that. Altruism has placed the stigma of selfishness, which is held to be evil, on private actions, and the halo of selflessness, held to be virtuous, on public actions. (Evaded here is that "public actions" involve the force of government.)

But the reverse is true. There is nothing innately virtuous about a public school and nothing inherently evil about a private one. In fact, the public schools are mostly failures because the teachers, administrators and leaders have nothing to gain by doing a great job and nothing to lose by doing a poor one. The system should be privatized, the curriculum challenged, the government moved out of education and a rational philosophy of education adopted.

Ms. Rand's above mentioned essay is in her book Philosophy: Who Needs It which can be ordered at most bookstores or here. (Only $6.95)

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Success Story

Sandy Szwarc at Junkfood Science reports that Irvine Robbins, the co founder of Baskin-Robbins ice cream died yesterday at the age of 90.
As a young boy, his father owned a dairy and he had a job working in his father’s ice cream store. He noticed that people got a smile on their face when they bought an ice cream cone. During World War II, while serving as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, he made ice cream for his fellow troops and after his discharge, he put his life savings into his first store. He eventually joined forces with his brother-in-law, Burton Baskin and the rest is history.
Another productive capitalist success story. She links to an article at 4KNBC.com Los Angeles which says that "Today, Baskin-Robbins is part of Dunkin' Brands Inc. and has more than 5,800 franchises worldwide."

Monday, May 05, 2008

Disgusting

The May 5th Detroit News has two stories that are disgusting in their premises and implications. The first is what I call introduction to euthanasia and is titled "Medical disaster plan touts whom to let die" by AP writer Lindsey Tanner. It says in part:
CHICAGO -- Doctors know some patients needing lifesaving care won't get it in a flu pandemic or other disaster. The gut-wrenching dilemma will be deciding who to let die.

Now, an influential group of physicians has drafted a grimly specific list of recommendations for which patients wouldn't be treated. They include the very elderly, seriously hurt trauma victims, severely burned patients and those with severe dementia. (....) The proposed guidelines are designed to be a blueprint for hospitals "so that everybody will be thinking in the same way" when pandemic flu or another widespread health care disaster hits, said Dr. Asha Devereaux. She is a critical care specialist in San Diego and lead writer of the task force report. The idea is to try to make sure that scarce resources -- including ventilators, medicine and doctors and nurses -- are used in a uniform, objective way, task force members said.
This isn't some right or left wing whacko group. It's your friendly altruistic government.
The suggested list was compiled by a task force whose members come from prestigious universities, medical groups, the military and government agencies. They include the Department of Homeland Security, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Health and Human Services.
So who gets to die?
To prepare, hospitals should designate a triage team with the task of deciding who will and who won't get lifesaving care, the task force wrote. Those out of luck are the people at high risk of death and a slim chance of long-term survival. But the recommendations get much more specific, and include:

• People older than 85.

• Those with severe trauma, which could include critical car crash injuries and shootings.

• Severely burned patients older than 60.

• Those with severe mental impairment, which may include advanced Alzheimer's disease.

• Those with a severe chronic disease, such as advanced heart failure, lung disease or poorly controlled diabetes.
Please understand that this policy reverses the practice that those most critically injured be attended before those who are not. If you have one leg in the grave and the other on a banana peel, well, to hell with you. But if you're healthier than that, you get care. Look at those guidelines closer. Everyone over the age of 85 is doomed. What are their chances of "long-term survival"?

"Those with severe trauma.." That would include most people in a widespread disaster wouldn't it? Since when does being over 60 disqualify burn patients from care? Since when did human life become worthless after 60 or 85 or any age?

If the mentally impaired are among the victims, well, they are out of luck too.

"Those with severe chronic disease..." Evidently, only those with a good chance of survival will get care. Man! have you ever heard of a more anti-life, anti-human proposal before? Adolph Hitler would love such a policy. Oh wait! He had one didn't he? Did you ever see that video of German newborn infants moving down a conveyor belt and being thrown alive onto a huge pile of writhing and dying babies if there was the slightest defect?

Remember, it's not the doctors and nurses who are deciding to do this. They are just "scarce resources" like "ventilators" and "medicine" who will be following orders. If you're wondering why would anyone want such a policy? Power. The lust for control over others. There is no mistake about it. The desire by some to regulate the lives of others is the desire to control all of it including the end points, birth and death. This proposal is essential altruism. Its only antidote is a life-respecting, man-respecting moral code, rational egoism. In a laissez-faire capitalist society there would be no Homeland Security, or dept. of Human Resources and the CDC, if it existed, would be entirely private and probably making a ton of money testing for industry. But do any of these regulators actually thrill at the idea of deciding who gets to live or die? It's hard to say. More likely they just think that making such decisions is doing their altruistic duty and that is what is wrong with altruism.

The second article was a report that a $5 billion project for a posh resort in the green zone in Baghdad is supported by the Pentagon.
BAGHDAD -- Forget the rocket attacks, concrete blast walls and lack of a sewer system. Now try to imagine luxury hotels, a shopping center and even condos in the heart of Baghdad.

That's all part of a five-year development "dream list" -- or what some dub an improbable fantasy -- to transform the U.S.-protected Green Zone from a walled fortress into a centerpiece for Baghdad's future.

But the $5 billion plan has the backing of the Pentagon and apparently the interest of some deep pockets in the world of international hotels and development, the lead military liaison for the project told the Associated Press.
So why do they want to do this?
For Washington, the driving motivation is to create a "zone of influence" around the new $700 million U.S. Embassy to serve as a kind of high-end buffer for the compound, whose total price tag will reach about $1 billion after all the workers and offices are relocated over the next year.

"When you have $1 billion hanging out there and 1,000 employees lying around, you kind of want to know who your neighbors are. You want to influence what happens in your neighborhood over time," said Navy Capt. Thomas Karnowski, who led the team that created the development plan.
Kind of sad isn't it? But guess who one of the interested potential investors is?
Karnowski said a deal already has been completed for Marriott International Inc. to build a hotel in the Green Zone. He also said a possible $1 billion investment could come from MBI International, a conglomerate that focuses on hotels and resorts and is led by Saudi Sheikh Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber.
Is that what our future young men are going over there to die for? A golf course for wealthy enemies? What the hell is a 'zone of influence'? Who is influencing whom? Disgusting!