Blake's blog

Haw Does Day Care Affect My Kids?

"Are There Long-Term Effects Of Early Child Care?"
Though it seems like that's a yes/no question, the answer seems to be "maybe," and it raises more questions than it answers, at least for me.

With 2 kids under the age of 2 in daycare I'm always on the prowl for new stories on daycare. There's a big one out now with some really catchy headlines. Almost All the headlines use the words "Disruptive", "Aggressive", "Problems" even "Brattiness". I half expected to read something like "You're Ruining Your Kids Lives In Day Care!" I'm not one to leave it at what I can learn from a paragraph or 2 written by someone who didn't read the study, so I read The Original Release and tried to find The Actual Results. I went and read some of the Data Set and finally went and read The Original Study [you might not be able to download it depending on where you are.] There's quite a bit to quote in there, but I'll just drop the study summary:

"The results indicated that although parenting was a stronger and more consistent predictor of children's development than early child-care experience, higher quality care predicted higher vocabulary scores and more exposure to center care predicted more teacher-reported externalizing problems. Discussion focuses on mechanisms responsible for these effects, the potential collective consequences of small child-care effects, and the importance of the ongoing follow-up at age 15."

Reading the entire study leads me to believe the I should be asking a different question: "Are There Long-Term Effects of Putting My Kids In Day Care?" From what I can gather from this study, and several others, the answer seems to be "Probably NOT." It's important to understand the limitations of these studies. It's also important to take the time to read and apply the results to your situation. If this is something that interests you I highly recommend reading this study as a good starting point, the bibliography will lead you to all the other major studies done recently.

"Mattering in the Blogosphere: Observations"

"Mattering in the Blogosphere: Observations from the Well-Connected."

"AL asked 16 much-visited librarian bloggers why the medium continues to appeal to them and what keeps

them posting. The 10 who replied are, in alphabetical order:"

Nicole, Rochelle, Jessamyn, and Kathleene have all posted their answers, and here are

mine. Normally I'd reread and edit this because it was so long ago I have no idea what I wrote at this point. Unfortunatly I don't have the time, so here 'tis:

What does it take for a blog to have an impact on the biblioblogosphere?

A writer who's obsessed/possessed & smart, and a really good writer. There are soooo many people writing

now it's really hard to stick out. But a good writer who writes regularly will stand out in the crowd. A

new blogger needs to write A LOT. It's easy for people who were way out in front of the curve to stick

out because they've been around forever, or someone like Walt Crawford because everyone already knows who

he is, but for someone just starting out, it's going to be tough to go at it alone and get noticed if

they're not working hard. I guess I'd also separate someone who's just a blogger who posts links and

quick thoughts from a real writer who will write thoughtful and intelligent essays. It's those writers

that will find it easier to stand out from the crowd.

What do the readers of your blog value about your posts (i.e., “voice� as an online columnist,

value-added news coverage)?

There's only one thing I've heard regularly over the years, and that's "You never know what's coming

next". Since LISNews is collaborative I don't even know what's coming next. We might post a story about a

book that's been overdue for 70 years, a student getting tazed in an academic library, or something about

Cuba, you just never know. That's my favorite thing about LISNews and blogs in general, you just never

know what you'll read next. Since we're a group we don't speak with a single voice, but rather try to

cover a wide range of topics that won't be seen elsewhere.

How do you decide when to post—inspiration, obligation to keep the blog fresh and readers engaged, or

what?

The "official LISNews FAQ" used to say "We post stories and links we find interesting. If you find the

interesting too, then today's your lucky day." The instructions I give the new authors are about the

same. We post things we find interesting, things we learn from, things we laugh at, and things that will

provoke discussions amongst our readers. It doesn't really matter to me if anyone else likes everything I

post or even finds it interesting. It doesn't matter if there's a million readers or just 10, since we're

a noncommercial site we don't need to follow any numbers.

How do you determine what the right length is for a given post?

For me the biggest determining factor is time. I simply don't have the time to write long, involved

original essays. I would love to be able to have each new post at LISNews be a literary masterpiece that

will be studied for decades. Instead, 99% of the time, I only have the time to post a quick link and a

summary of what I've seen elsewhere. There really isn't any right length, some topics lend themselves

very well to long expositions, others are just a line with a link or two.

What has surprised you most about the process of blogging?

How quick people are to criticize and attack. How mean spirited and angry people can be. And how kind and

sharing people can be. The best thing about being a blogger is the people who read and comment on the

blog, and the worst thing about being a blogger is the people who read and comment on the blog. I've

also been really surprised at how hard it's been to get more people to join LISNews as an author. I beg

and beg for more people to write at LISNews and it's hard to keep anyone around. Bloggers tend to be lone

writers, they tend to be very interested in self promotion and generally don't jump at the chance to work

with others. It's really surprising how little we all want to work together.

What lessons can libraries learn from your experiences as an individual blogger?

Don't be afraid to open things up. The first thing I hear from librarians about any interactive web

products (blogs/wikis/comments) is they're afraid of what will happen. They're afraid of criticism,

spammers, kids and any other evil doer you can imagine. LISNews has been open and interactive for almost

8 years now, and while we have had some problems, all the positive things that happened have far

outweighed the bad. When you're open and honest and allow people to participate they really feel more

attached to what you're doing. Librarians need to let go of their fear of losing control and of using a

less than perfect system.

What’s missing from the LIS blogosphere that you’d like to see someone take on?

More collaboration. Getting bloggers to work together is like trying to pick up greased cats in a bounce

house. There's so many of us writing about so much of the same thing I'd love to see more collaboration.

I can't imagine there's a topic or niche that's not being covered out there by someone.

How will the blogs of today be regarded a decade from now? Should digital libraries collect

them?

Blogs of today will be more or less similar to blogs a decade from now. The purpose of blogs is

communication, and that's not something that'll change. The tools may change, the method of getting that

information will change, but the content will essentially be the same. People who use blogging software

to share and promote themselves will be doing more or less the same thing in a decade. They might use

more video or audio, the software will be easier to use, there will be more bandwidth, and small hosting

providers might not be around, but the primary goal of communication/promotion will never go away.

Because of how much is being written, and what's being written it would be wonderful to have a collection

of blogs to view in 10 or 20 years. Much of what we write about is so transient and easily forgotten

about, so a way to preserve this content for the future is important.

Linux On My Desktop

One of the LISHostees was having trouble with Evolution, a Linux email reader, so I thought it a good idea to actually check it out myself. It ended up my Fedora Core install was way too old to do much of anything to, so I thought it was a good time to give something else a try.

I finally got OpenSuse running, and it ain't bad. I shouldn't say "finally" because it really wasn't all that bad. It took me longer to get the CD/DVD/ISO burning to work on my XP laptop than it did to actually install Suse. For some reason I could only get CDs to burn properly, so I eventually just gave up and burned the network install CD and used that instead of trying to burn 4 or 5 CDs. I just couldn't get the iso to burn to a DVD on my laptop. Once I got the one CD burned I needed, the install took no time at all, no more than XP took when I did that on the box downstairs a couple weeks ago (we're a 5 computer family).

So, here I am, using Linux on my desktop. I spend a good 80% of my time on my Linux server, so it probably makes sense that I see if I can do it on the desktop.

I'll be just like Shoe in no time!

Averages

Today I Read "Average hourly earnings rose to $17.16, a 0.4 percent increase from January. That was slightly faster than the 0.3 percent gain economists were expecting. Over the 12 months ending in February, wages grew by 4.1 percent." That got me thinking about living an "average" life around here.

So that means the average person working brings home about $36k a year. I guess librarians are above average? Taking a look at a similar number, Real median household income is about $46k in NY, but lower here in my neck-o-the-woods.

This Site Says the average "value" of a house is about $107k in Erie County, and our Median Income (household?) is $40k. Mortage/taxes (according to my rough guess) for an "average" house in Erie County would be about $1,000 a month.

So assuming you're perfectly "average", making $40k a year, paying $1,000 a month for your house you're paying about 50% of what you bring home *just* to own your house.

I would love to see these same numbers for the year my house was built, 1968, and compare them to the numbers for this year. If I had to guess, based on the original owners, we live in what would've been an unoffordable neighborhood 40 years ago. I guess what I'd need would just be the original sale price of my house and maybe average incomes from that time.

A Gift For Librarianship?

Having 2 kids under 2 I spend allota of time wondering about intelligence, careers, and whether or not being "smart" is inherited, or it's something the kids will have to work at. If this is something that interests you, check out "The Myth of Prodigy and Why it Matters." I'd give you a link, but I'm lazy, and you're probably a librarian, so you can find them on your own. Here's my one sentence interpretation/summary: Being a child prodigy probably doesn't mean you'll be some kind of super successful adult genius. Most things take ALOT of practice to really stand out at. Being a child superstar means you're a good learner, being an adult superstar means you're a good doer. See Also: "What Do We Make Of A Boy Like Thomas" and "How To Grow A Super Athlete." Almost all my reading time is spent on parenting articles these days.

Those articles, and my own children, got me to thinking about we're "naturally" good at doing and how that might influence our career paths. Should I hope my kids are all super geniuses and become brain surgeons, oncologists or world famous physicists? What happens if they turn out to be naturally gifted sociopaths and become lawyers, Senators or CEOs? With a "natural" gift some career choices are obvious, like sports, or art, or music, but what about all the other normal careers like librarianship? I can't think of anyone who would get excited about a young child showing a natural ability to organize books, "Oh boy, he's going to be a librarian when he grows up! Look, he knows how to use LC and he's only 18 months old!" Lebron James was a superstar that excited everyone at a young age because he did so well at basketball, somehow I can't see much excitement over him if he could memorize cutter 6 numbers or search Medline better than anyone else. But I suppose that's just how it is with most professions, not just librarianship. No one gets excited about "natural" skills unless they involve sports.

I can only think of one thing I seem to be naturally better than the average bear at doing. That is, there's one thing I don't need to practice and I still seem to stand out in a crowd: I have an almost photographic memory for most places I've been. I'll give you two examples to illustrate.

When I was young (between the ages of about 11 and 16) we would go to a family member cabin down in Alleghany County once or maybe twice a year. So I'd probably been there 6 or 7 times in my life and then stopped going for 10 or 15 years. The last time I went was sometime during the early 1980s. The wife and I went down in 2004, and I didn't need a map to get there. It actually never even occurred to me to bring a map. Keep in mind the cabin is at the end of a 5 mile long unnamed, dirt road. Another example; A friend of mine was showing a group of us his vacation pictures. He had taken a road trip to the Atlantic Ocean and had all the usual shots of the beach, random road signs, people, and dead fish. There was also one shot of an alley, just a random alley. I have no idea why he took that one, but I recognized this as an alley in Corning, NY, because I had parked in that same alley probably a decade before that.

You could probably drop me blindfolded any place in Western New York and I'd be able to tell you how to get back home. I can still picture random cities I spent a few hours in 15 years ago like Salinas, KS; St. George, UT; and Phoenix, AZ. I can't really remember street names, but I remember buildings, houses, bridges, and major landmarks. It's not all that impressive, and it drives me crazy that I can tell you how to find some stupid bike shop in Seattle I haven't seen since 1993, but I can't remember where I left that letter I got from my bank with the new password I'll never remember to get into my new account. If I could just find a way to make a million dollars with my useless talents.

So anyways, as is often the case, I'd like to finish with a question. Are there skills most librarians seem to posses naturally? Some common trait we share like superstar athletes are all fast, muscley and competitive?

Are we, as a profession, naturally inclined towards something? Meetings? Conferences?

In Like A Lion, Out Like A Lamb

Michael Pate emailed me over the weekend to brag about the 91 degree temperatures he was enjoying down in Florida. The Forecast for the rest of the week here in Western New York looks to be almost as good, though not quite as warm. It's supposed to be almost 90 degrees colder tonite than it was in Florida on Friday. Miami is currently under a Red Flag Warning, something that's new to me, for obvious reasons. Not much fire danger when it's only 4 degrees outside at night. Damn gas bill is going to be a million dollars again. The Forecast up in Juneau looks quite nice compared to here this week!

In like a lion, ideed.

Is "boobies" really an offensive word?

Everytime I put "boobies" in a story I get a bunch of bounces when the nightly email goes out. Tonite I posted a story "from the Pleanty-Of-Boobies-For-You dept." and got a few bounces, e.g.

MailMarshal Rule: Content Security (Inbound) : Block Unacceptable Language
Script Offensive Language (Basic) Triggered in Body
Expression: boobies Triggered 1 times weighting 5
Script Offensive Language (Extensive) Triggered in Body
Expression: boobies Triggered 1 times weighting 60

I'm really suprised that just ONE booby (or is it boobie?) is enough to trip any kind of language filters. So, really, is that offensive??

Find Men Here, Start Flirting Tonite.

I just did a Google search for "man find" which means I was looking for the manual page for the Linux command "find," I wasn't looking for a man. The ads that popped up made me laugh.

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War Couching?

You've heard of War Driving? Seems I'm doing it from my couch.

I'm downstairs working on the laptop and I just tried hitting the server status page on LISHost. I got a "denied" error, which surprised me because my IP hasn't changed in years here at home, when suddenly I realized I was logged in upstairs via a different IP. It turns out the laptop had picked up a neighbors wireless network and I was using it without even knowing it.

Something must've happened to my wireless router, or maybe the new laptop doesn't have a very good antennae because the signal for my network is much weaker than the other.

So Now What Would You Do?

Should I stay or should I go now? I emailed the COO of the company that screwed me last week, and got this response. So if you were me, would you stay? Context for this point is below in my other post.

Although it might not make much of a difference, I wanted to explain what happened last week to you.

As a hosting company you must realize we receive many fraud cases a day. Even still, the percentage of fraud cases that go undetected are even greater. We've seen everything. From people purchasing hosting and just using it, only for us to find out there has been charge backs a month later, and also the clients who are ever so bold as to actually fraud us, but at the same time interact with our staff as an actual client.

The confusion started when we noted a long trail of fraud cases around the time of your signup. I am not saying in the least that the mistake should have happened. However please understand that given the shear number of clients we have, there are sometimes mistakes that are made. I am deeply sorry for this, and would not like to lose you as a client. If I can only make one request, it is that regardless of this mistake, you'd give Us another change. We all make mistakes, and as you've mentioned as you have made them we have been there to help you, I ask only that you give us the same consideration and try to sustain a relationship with our company.

I don't often get the time to write long messages with explanations as to what went wrong, however from the start I've worked with you and would indeed like to keep you as a client. The decision is up to you of course, but I wanted to make it known that even with our mistake made, you have been a loyal and understanding client. I appreciate that.

Thank you Blake for coming to me about this. If you do decide to stay with us you are welcome to receive the full 1 month credit on your vps as but a small token of our most sincere apologies.

Have a good day my friend.

Server Stress: Attack Of The Clones

As if my mail server worries weren't enough, one of the LISHosted sites came under attack starting on Friday by a dedicated and dangerous spammer botnet. At least I'm as sure as I can be at this point that they're just spammers. They have a HUGE number (probably 2,000 at least) of servers they're using to do Trackback, comment and link spam, and they're targeting quite a few different domains on the LISHost server. For some reason they really love one domain in particular. Hits to that site's Wordpress comment file number in the 10s of thousands, while all other sites get just a few hundred from the same IP ranges. They're hitting mostly MT and WP comment forms, but they're also throwing in some referral spam for good luck. It also looks like they're adding new computers to their network all the time because there seems to be a big jump in new IPs around 7 am EST, and then again about 4 or 5 hours later.

I still don't think they're out to bring down the server or that one site on purpose, but I can't be sure. If I had to guess they simply have something misconfigured on their botnet and as a result one site is getting destroyed.

I'm fine tuning the scripts I use to detect & block the bad guys, and I think they're getting pretty accurate. I added a new one last night that did a great job in finding several hundred new IPs. From what I can tell I'm doing a good job at only blocking bad computers, I've only heard from one person that I can't seem to unblock for some reason. I'm using a combination of mod_evasive, mod_security, 3 shell scripts I wrote, and now a modified version of SSHBlack. These are all watching for patterns, and then firewalling the offending IP via iptables.

There's a new phrase I've been using the past few days, "I have server stress."

What Would You Do??

What you do??

The company that I had set up the new LISHost mail server really screwed me this weekend and I want to double check myself and make sure I'm not being irrational.

About 9pm Friday I was doing some work in the mail server, when suddenly it went down with a message from root "going down for halt now." Which basically meant someone turned the thing off on purpose. I thought maybe they were doing some work and forgot to tell me. So I waited, and waited, and about 30 minutes later I started worry, so I emailed them. About 30 minutes later I got an email that simply said "You will need to get in contact with billing about this. I will forward this to them." From the "Chief Operating Officer" of the company. So I waited an hour and got nothing, so I logged onto their chat support and asked the support guy there what was up. He said something like "Mr. COO replied to you already" and to wait for Billing. So I emailed support, COO, Billing, and anyone else I could find. No response. No one answered the phone, nothing.

8 hours later I try again, no on responds. I tried several more times on Saturday and got no response. FINALLY, 24 hours after the server vanished, I get this "Upon investigating your account, it seems that the reason for your suspension was unfounded. I apologize deeply for the inconvenience. I have credited your account for next month's service." To which I respond, "I can totally understand making mistake, but turning my site off with no notice and not getting any response to numerous emails for almost 24 hours wasn't an inconvenience, it was well beyond that. That was totally unacceptable." That was 10:30 last night, of course I got no response.

Luckily I had a disaster plan in place for the few accounts I had moved there already, and they really only had no email service for about an hour. Now that I can get to the server I can get any mail synced up with the old server so very little harm done to the people who had mail on the new server.

So…. Am I wrong to move my business elsewhere? Do they deserve a second chance?

Politics Thursday: Investi-Gate: 1,000+ Vs. 15

I'm curious what folks think of the numbers in this paragraph from Investi-Gate:

"This is not the approach the GOP Congress took when Bill Clinton occupied the Oval Office. Since 1997, the House Government Reform committee has issued over 1000 subpoenas related to allegations of misconduct involving the Clinton administration or the Democratic party—compared to just 15 related to Bush administration or Republican abuses. The seemingly endless probes of the Clinton administration turned up little in the way of corruption, and stymied the Republican revolution: In the 1998 midterm elections, with the Lewinsky scandal in the news, Democrats picked up seats in Congress."

1,000 vs. 15. That's all I'm really curious about. Assuming those numbers are accurate, why do you think they are they so one sided? Those numbers really jumped out at me more than anything else in this piece.

LIS dot damnit

I must be getting old because I'm starting to confuse things that should be obvious. I've been working on setting up a new mail server for LISHost (.org) for a few weeks now, and from time to time things need a domain name. I keep getting it wrong. The new LISHost (.org) email server is named lishost.net. For 7 years I've run LISNews (first .com and now .org), and LISFeeds (.com). So as you can see, I own a bunch of domains that start with LIS. For 7 years I've been typing lisnews (.something), and for 4 years I've been typing lishost.org. Anytime I type the 3 letters L-I-S my brain is hardcoded to then type N-E-W-S. I can usually get out H-O-S-T without much thought. So now I'm trying like mad to get the N-E-T added in there and it's really driving me nuts. To make matters worse, as soon as the .net server is finished, I'll be adding a third server to LISHost, probably .com. I'll never get that one right, ever.

Library Wars

I caught the 'Fiasco' episode of "This American Life" a couple weeks ago and it got me thinking about libraries, how we do things, and what our patrons want. Act 2 of "Fiascos"("Car Wars") is a tale about how "Car Talk" has become incredibly popular on NPR. They're putting all the "indy" car shows out of business, and some people think that's a bad thing. A couple interesting quotes from the guy who got bumped remind me of things I've heard from librarians. It turns out "Car Talk" is the most popular show on NPR (or at least it was when this show ran), and it costs $33,000 for an affiliate to run.

If you don't want to listen to the full episode, it comes down to 2 different ways to look at programming on NPR that I think apply to libraries:

Serious, weighty, informative and educational
vs.
Flashy, catchy, entertaining, and, popular

This is similar to the debate we all see between libraries (and librarians) and the web. Here's a bit more on the show. The WPR programming folks proposed a time change for their local car show, and the radio host says "absolutely not", he flatly rejects change. Matt Joseph, the host, dug in his heels, "his ratings were strong", he says, the show was cheap, and he had loyal listeners. He knew what was best, or so he thought. But the people in charge thought they could do better with "Car Talk", so they canned him. This all turned into the "Fiasco" when his fans revolted, he started a newsletter, and the Wisconsin State Legislature got involved. He says he had something better than "Car Talk" because his show was serious because it had content, it was educational and there "should've been room on NPR" for his show. He says he was "an expert" and the "car Talk" guys are for casual fans. He thinks NPR should have more "expertise" on their shows and less fluff. He finishes up with the quote that immediately turned my mind to libraries. (Selective quoting here) "Is this over yet? No, it'll be over when changes are made at WPR… there needs to be more room for things that don't draw much audience…"

For me this show could've just as easily been about (some) librarians vs. technology. The mind set that says we know what's better for people, vs. letting the people decide what's best for them.

Before you go assuming I'm one of those geeks who think computers hold all the answers, I'm not really sure I have made up my mind who's right when it comes to the best way to handle these issues in libraries. I do think this is the most important issue we are facing. It all comes back to how relevant libraries are, and what we can provide to our patrons that the web cannot. More importantly, it comes down to what people think we can do for them they can't get elsewhere.

Even after giving it some thought I'm left with nothing but questions. However, I'm tempted to side with opening things up and making them more accessible to more people, after all, that's our job as librarians. I've never thought our job is telling people what's best for them. That doesn't mean I think people make intelligent decisions based on well researched, thoughtful ideas. For the most part people are idiots, and they really don't know what's best for them. But, they will go elsewhere if we don't make our services easy to use, open and accessible. They'll turn elsewhere if we don't give them at least some of what they want. They'll turn elsewhere even if we know it's not what they really need. Google gives them one (free) search box to one database that is most likely all they really need to answer most of their questions, most of the time. We provide them with our expertise, subject headings, information literacy and 20 different interfaces to 20 different databases that will answer damn near all of their questions damn near all of the time. But we cost them money and time. It's easier to do a half assed Google search than it is to use a library.

So like I said, I have nothing but questions...

Is it wrong to make something more entertaining to bring in more people if the same message is getting through? Is it wrong to make our tools easier to use if we're the only one's who know the results aren't quite as good? Is there a place for boring any more? Is boring really more educational? Do we dumb things down if we make them more interesting and accessible? Is it really one or the other?

Politics Thursday: Predictions?

I only have a few predictions for next Tuesday:

Lieberman will win, and then declare he's a Republican.
The Republicans will lose a few seats, but maintain control.
Tom Reynolds (my district) will keep his seat.
Most obviously, Spitzer will be the new NY governor, and Clinton will keep her sear.

That's about it, not really anything original or incredibly insightful. I have complete confidence in the Republican's ability to get the votes they need. But I really, really hope I'm wrong. I don't think the Democrats will be able to get the votes they need nationally to make much of a gain, no matter what the polls say. I haven't heard any single thing that sticks out this time that has really influenced my predictions, it's more of a general feeling this time. I knew the Democrats were in trouble 2 years ago when I heard Bill Clinton say "When people think we win." The first thing I said was "People don't think, Kerry is going to lose."

But enough about me, I'm looking for your predictions! Both locally and nationally, what do you expect to see? Are all the reports on polls saying Democrats are going to gain a majority in Congress right? Is Karl Rove correct when he says they'll hang on? How 'bout in your district, anything exciting going on? Most importantly, why?

Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down!

I'm not entirely sure why, but I was saddened to see this picture on the local page of the Buffalo News today. This obscure little tower stood at the corner of Quaker and Transit in Orchard Park, right next to Bob O' Links golf course. One insignificant old creaky tower in the middle of No Where, Western New York. It's an odd landmark that's just burned into my long term memory, like many others in the area. I have memories of it going back just about as far as my memory goes. My father used to take us out that way regularly, and as kids my sister and I were fascinated with it. It had a distinctive tilt even 20 or 30 years ago, frankly I'm amazed it stood as long as it did. We would marvel at it's ability to defy gravity. We'd be all excited every time we started to get close to see if it was still standing. And every time it was! I was surprised to see it standing still when we ventured down to Orchard Park last month for a birthday party. Most of the other places I have in my long term memory like that are gone, or at least forever changed. There was a barn at 5 Corners, the woods back behind that barn, Smoke's Creek, just to name a few. The barn is now a Wendy's, some of the woods is now apartments, Smoke's Creek is till there, though it's slowly being changed. That stupid tower looked like it was going to stand forever. It was one of those odd things that really beat the odds, and some big storms over the years.

It's tied into a bunch of ancient memories I have of when I was a kid. It was always there when that part of the world was a big part of my life. I have no idea what it was ever used for (water I've always assumed), or why it was left standing for so long, I bet there's a good story there someplace. Oddly this also only the second time I've wanted to tell my father about something since he died 9 years ago.

Politics Thursday: Mid Terms

The mid-term elections are just days away now, and here's how things look in Western NY.

The House is the only interesting race in the area. My choices this time around for The House: The new guy, Jack Davis. He has some good ideas, and some bad. Strangely enough, his ideas read almost the same as my current guy, Tom Reynolds. But almost in this case, isn't really all that close. They both just happen to "believe in" the things that get people to vote for them.

Reynolds has 2 big strikes against him:
1. he's a Republican
2. as head of the NRCC, he's not just part of the problem of how politics work today, he is the problem.

I suppose some might say his support of pedophilia could be considered a 3rd strike as well. But I never would've thought he'd handle the Foley scandal any differently. Money talks, everything else walks.

But, to add to my dilemma... I have a family member (well, not exactly family, but it's too long of a story to explain) who works for his campaign, and even had one of my sister in lawa appear in one of his TV commercials.

So I'm left with literally trying to choose the lesser of 2 evils, or in this case, idiots. One guy wants to eliminate free trade (whether or not I think that's a good idea is irrelevant to my decision, it's so obvious this will never happen it makes me question the man's sanity), the other guy likes bribery so much he chairs the organization in charge of it. I don't think any of Davis' wacky ideas stand any chance of getting anywhere in Congress, so I'm not scared to vote for him over Reynolds. He'll be a freshman Democratic congressman from a insignificant district in Western New York, in other words he'll be harmless, no matter what he wants to do.

Over on The Senate side, our choice is between Clinton and some other guy who doesn't stand a chance. Same thing for NY State Governor, it's Eliot Spitzer, and, well, no one else that matters even a spec. Other state and local elections are pointless. We have the worst state legislature in the country, and local government is just pathetic. One bright spot has been Satish Mohan, the new Amherst Town Supervisor. He's not up for reelection now, but he'd get my vote for sure.

I'd be curious to read about your choices as well.

Building Blocks

I like this post by Lessig: Removing Blocks

There's a certain mindset out there that thinks the way the world was cut up in college is the way the world is. So whatever set of texts you read as a sophomore, somehow they define the nature of world forever. Seared in your brain is the excitement of figuring out the difference between Capitalism and Marxism, or communitarianism vs. libertarianism. And so significant was this moment of education that everything else in life must be ordered according to these sophomore frames.

I'm not even sure it's all that uncommon for thinking like this to solidify even before college. We learn that certain groups of people who are different from our preferred groups are "them." We start framing the world at a very young age. To put it another way, start building our "sophomoric frames" when we're just kids. Whether it's the kids at the other High School in town, or kids in the town next, maybe it's another ethnic group, or people who go to the other church in town. We learn how the world should be cut up, and we stick with it. It's probably the only way things can make sense.

It seems like framing also happens frequently when big changes disrupt life. Events like having kids, getting laid off, divorce, moving, or retirement seem to do something to a person that (from what I've seen) frequently causes an irrational shift in thinking that's hard to recover from. I suppose just getting older slowly hardens the mind as well. I suppose I could use the Pink Floyd analogy and say every day we put another brick in the wall.

It's really hard to stop and question one's beliefs, to really look hard at how you think about the world and ask if you're really being rational about things. From what I know of people, I think the answer is usually no, there's no time or energy for rational thought. There's only making it through today, and then dealing with tomorrow. Everything else can be learned from a sound bite or a rumor.

Googlebot is nothing if not Modest!

Google is really dedicated, I can't imagine how many people they have to be able to do this:

Google is currently blocked from crawling your site by the robots.txt file that your server uses to control access by search engines. As a result, users who are looking for your site are not able to find it using Google. As you know, a large fraction of internet users use Google as their starting point and over 50% of search engines referrals come from Google. Google's mission is to deliver the best search experience on the Internet by making the world's information universally accessible and useful. We would like to include your site at http://lishost.org in Google's index to make it easier for your users or customers to find your site.

I got that from the LISHost form, and I don't think it was sent by a bot, but rather a real live person. It's no wonder they're #1, and saying over 50% seems to me modest, I'd say more like 80%

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