Amy at Play

Here’s a picture of Amy in her “Kick & Play” bouncy-chair. Just in the last couple of days, she has learned how to make the chair live up to its name by kicking the toys that usually hang from an arch above her waist (removed for the picture).

Amy in her Kick & Play

What’s Good for the Goose

Warning: this post uses stronger than usual language. Somebody pressed one of my buttons.

Jacob T. Levy writes:

Relatedly, there’s something offensive in the “Take America back”/ “Let America be America again” stuff. It’s something I fully expect to keep hearing; it’s something I remember loathing about the first Clinton inauguration. It’s the necessary implication that Republicans, and Republican government, aren’t really American

You find it offensive? You loathe it? Well, too freakin’ bad! Democrats and other liberals get pretty bloody tired of being told their beliefs are un-American, un-patriotic, etc. We’ve been putting up with that crap for years, with hardly a peep of reproach from non-liberals amongst themselves, and now when we start to respond in kind such claims are a bad thing? I swear, sometimes I think an anti-liberal’s idea of a fair debate is one liberal lying bound and gagged on the floor while a half-dozen conservatives and libertarians take turns kicking him. I guess when that’s the only way you can hope to win, that’s what you call fair.

Gobble Gobble

I see a lot of birds in a typical day. Work is especially good for that, since there’s a large undeveloped wetland area nearby bounded by 128, 4/225, Hanscom, and Hartwell. There are at least two herons who have been hanging around back there lately, at least one killdeer, and red-tailed hawks. Those are just the ones I notice. The catbirds and mockingbirds and red-winged blackbirds, the goldfinches and field sparrows and so on, are such a constant presence that I’d be surprised if I didn’t see or hear them back there.

Today, though, I saw a bird on the way to work that I haven’t seen for a long time…at least not upright and wearing its feathers. In the residential street running from the Minuteman National Historic Park to MIT’s Lincoln Labs, I saw a wild turkey. At first I thought it must be a lawn ornament or something, but it did move as I went past. It’s pretty amazing to see a bird like that – especially a flightless one – in an area that has been so thoroughly developed for so long.

The “Everyone Can Do It” Myth

Mark Kleiman wrote an interesting article about libertarian support for war, which starts somewhat like this:

After all, if taxation is slavery, and wars are financed by taxation, then war must be always wrong, no? And of course charging the current war on your credit card just means it has to be paid for out of future taxation.

…and ends up with this:

There are two possible conclusions here: either (1) war is always wrong, or (2) Libertarianism as a moral philosophy (as opposed to the libertarian tendency in politics) is not merely false but transparently silly, since no actual group of people could live under Libertarian principles unless some other group of people did the dirty work of collective self-defense for them.

What Mark has hit upon is a more general truth about libertarian/laissez-tricher beliefs: they only work as long as there’s someone else to deal with the problems that the libertarians themselves try to ignore. Contrary to Randian rhetoric, they are the leeches who feed off others’ efforts. The best-known example relevant to this is Garrett Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons which involves overgrazing in a common pasture, but I’ll use an even more pointed example.

Even More Amy

As usual, let’s start with a picture. This time it’s Amy with Cindy’s mother, from yesterday. She’s also showing off her favorite “baby power” arm position.

Amy with Jan

In other news, Amy did something today that she hasn’t done before: she rolled over! She’s had the strength for a while, but this is the first time she’s been able to apply it to reorient herself. It’s pretty amazing how far her motor skills have developed already.

Even More Plats

I found a bunch more platypus pictures. Most of them are here. I also have a set showing that I’m not the only guy who ever tried to build a snow-platypus (1 2 3 4). Last, but most certainly not least, I found the mother lode of ultra-high-quality platypus photos by Dave Watts. I’ve been collecting these pictures for a long time, and this set just totally blew me away.

New Term

I invented a new term last night: google guru. Anybody who has spent any time reading weblogs or web forums has probably met bunches of these people. They’re the ones who have become a little better than average (which isn’t saying much) at finding information via Google, and think that makes them instant experts on every subject imaginable. You’ll find them trying to second-guess real lawyers about law, real doctors about medicine, real soldiers about fighting wars, real programmers about software, etc. What they don’t seem to realize is that real knowledge lies in understanding the connections between facts. That requires not just the facts (or factoids) available through search engines, but context and the logical skills to recognize valid vs. invalid connections. Often the necessary understanding only comes from experience, but on the net nobody knows you’re just a high school kid with a DSL connection. They’re not all as bad as Jonathan Lebed, but it’s still worth knowing that there’s a difference between Google and real expertise.

Liberal Media, My Ass

Today’s Boston Globe was a bit of an eye-opener. Here’s what I found on the op-ed page of this supposed bastion of liberal journalism:

  • One cartoon poking fun at how un-democratic the Democratic convention is. I don’t actually mind this one, because the way the DNC convention has been handled has been practically guaranteed to offend every eastern Massachusetts resident of any ideology.
  • The other cartoon collecting just about every negative liberal stereotype in one drawing. Probably very funny to right-wingers who think that insulting people and laughing at their reactions is just the funniest thing in the world (i.e. Mallard Fillmore readers) but nobody else would consider it either amusing or insightful.
  • The most prominently placed editorial on the main page by Jeff Jacoby, accusing liberals of hate-mongering. This one’s a little ironic, since it’s usually the right complaining about the left being too quick to use the h-word. Here’s another h-word for Jacoby: hypocrite.

Maybe the Globe is letting their pique over the convention run away with them. They are, after all, more affected by it than those of us in the ‘burbs are (though being on the main entrance road to Hanscom AFB might prove to be a problem for Revivio if there’s any kind of security alert). At least for today, though, they’re still doing some pretty effective PR for the Republicans.

In a similar vein, Michele at A Small Victory rants about the New York Times, and then winds up with this:

Liberalism. It’s new elitism.

Uh, yeah, because the NYT unfailingly speaks for all liberals everywhere. I must be the only liberal out there who finds the NYT, its readers, and NYC in general more annoying than representative of my views or attitudes. And if you’ll believe that, there’s a bridge in New York that I’d like to sell you.

Yet Another Plat

Economics of Education

I just found an excellent article by Mark Kleiman called Unbalanced growth and educational technology. It makes an interesting point about teacher pay, from a non-obvious starting point.

Thirty-five years ago, William Baumol thought about why the price of orchestra tickets keeps rising, even compared to other prices or to wages. (Citations here.) His answer: while most of the economy enjoys productivity gains, live music performance doesn’t: “Any attempt to produce a half-hour string quartet with less than two musician-hours of effort would meet with resistance.” Therefore, the price of live music must rise compared to the prices of other things, or the wages of musicians fall compared to other wages.

Now think about the application of that principle to education. If the fundamental instructional technology for K-12 schooling remains one teacher writing on a blackboard in front of a class of thirty students, then the relative cost of education will rise without limit.

The response from Steve Teles is, if anything, even more pointed than Kleiman’s original.