Elias presents ... a worm!    Thoughts on family, philosophy,
and technology


Tuesday, October 31, 2006

6 months

Dahlia is officially six months old! Not quite crawling, but close enough that if she really wants to get to a toy, she figures it out. And she is a big fan of toys: get one in front of her and her eyes immediately lock onto it with fascination as if she's thinking "what is that?!" Next, the target is grabbed, maybe shaken a little, and placed in the mouth for more intensive study. In her car seat she'll play with the same pumpkinhead toy everyday, usually for the entire trip.

No words yet, but Dahlia sure is vocal. And very expressive in general, with a big grin for anyone who gives her a look, and a yell if there's no toys, or she is getting dressed, or she rolls and her arm gets kind of stuck. When mama is gone for a little while, as soon as she gets back there are big laughing shrieks of glee out of squirt-squirt.

A lot of times Dahlia seems to be the most popular person in the house. Here, a couple of adoring fans surround her:


Friday, October 27, 2006

Atlas Confirmed

IMDB says a movie version of Atlas Shrugged is planned for release in 2008, starring Angelina Jolie.

It just so happens I am currently half-way through the DVD of a movie starring Jolie, Alexander, having just listened to some great lectures from The Teaching Company about Alexander the Great. Oliver Stone's movie is so bad and such a waste of time I won't even watch anymore. What little story it has seriously insults your intelligence. I did like the CGI recreation of a line of Macedonian phalanxes marching towards Darius' hordes, that was neat for a moment. But I'm trying to remember if I've seen an Oliver Stone film that was worth watching. Natural Born Killers certainly wasn't; I remember regretting, at the end, that I hadn't walked out after the first 10 minutes.

Some Objectivists celebrate the fact that even a bad movie adaptation of Atlas will sell more copies of the novel. Somehow I don't imagine Ayn Rand would give a damn about any of that if the movie butchers her story, which is all but guaranteed.

Update: I'd like to clarify what I mean on this topic. I would like more people to read Atlas Shrugged, but I'd rather a movie which substantially misrepresents it not be made. Such a production would be an outrage, and the fact that Objectivists cannot stop it does not make it less unjust. Objectivists who imagine there will be some sort of "net good" if Hollywood creates a misrepresentative movie that advertises the book are slipping into pragmatism.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Slow surfing for the righteous

Things are fine in Iran, have a look:

This seems perfectly normal to me, how about you? It's just shiny, happy oppressed Iranian women surfing uncensored parts of the Internet from plastic lawn chairs, of course.

The Guardian:
In a blow to the country's estimated 5 million internet users, service providers have been told to restrict online speeds to 128 kilobytes a second and been forbidden from offering fast broadband packages. The move by Iran's telecommunications regulator will make it more difficult to download foreign music, films and television programmes, which the authorities blame for undermining Islamic culture among the younger generation.
Iran filters more websites than any other country apart from China.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Book review: Theories of Childhood

Here is my review of Theories of Childhood: An Introduction to Dewey, Montessori, Erikson, Piaget, & Vygotsky, as posted on Amazon:

5 out of 5 stars

The worst thing I can say about this little book is that the title doesn't name Mooney's intended audience, which the reader quickly realizes is very specific: the teachers and guides of preschool and early-elementary aged children. But for that audience -- and, I would contend, also for the parents of infants and toddlers -- this is an excellent book. Mooney's purpose is to make the wisdom of these five theorists accessible to those who do not have time or interest to read dense, abstract theory, and I think she has succeeded admirably.

The introduction initially turned me off, as it begins with a rant about the evils of living in contemporary America -- apparently this is meant to show the reader how rational education and childcare are in extra need today. For me this is a throw-away argument: the basic ideas of the theories presented in this book would be extremely important to consider relative to raising children in any culture, time or place. There's no need to get on a soapbox about the "consumerism" and sundry "inequities" of our society.

The rest of the book completely won me over. The main text proceeds in five chapters covering some of the basic ideas of the five theorists named. The author had a difficult challenge in trying to introduce the reader to the complex theories of five extremely prolific thinkers (Piaget alone wrote 30 books) within less than 100 pages, and yet this book is an overwhelming success. This is because by narrowing down her intended audience and focusing on practical advice, Mooney can cover just the basic ideas from each theory that are especially relevant to early-childhood teachers.

The writing is readable and never dull, despite the inaccessibility of some of the thinkers she is presenting, and the structure within each chapter works well: first the theorist is presented generally, then a bit of his or her theory is presented in abstract, culminating in a short list of specific, practical guidelines, which are described with well-chosen, homey examples. For each theorist, there are two or three bits of theory presented this way in rotation. Very short lists of review questions and further reading suggestions follow each chapter.

Mooney makes minimal attempts to note some of the most obvious overlaps between the theorists, as well as some of the contrasts (such as Vygotsky's criticism of Piaget's supposed tendency to view learning as a primarily private affair). But since the focus of this book is on readable, practical advice for teachers -- on putting the theories to use in the classroom -- there is no deep analysis of the theories or of any of their subtleties. Not only are minor points of the theories consciously missing, some of each theory's major points are missing as well. This focus on relevant essentials is a real strength of the book.

As a parent, I loved this book. For one thing, it introduced me to some of the principles of Erikson which I think are critical to good parenting. In the end, I wonder if both teachers and parents of toddlers wouldn't be well-advised to re-read this small book every year.

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

Interest search engine

This search engine is great for when you aren't looking for a specific answer, but just for more information relevant to an interest:

The results are in two panes. The right-pane lists links in the classic ordered fashion, very Googlish. But in the left-pane is a small tree of browsable clusters of results, the clustering being pseudo-topical.

I tried "Piaget's epistemology", and the clusters were immediately interesting and required no scrolling or page-nexting. I like it.

The only drawback? Seems to take a few seconds longer than Google to return results.


Monday, October 02, 2006

Book review: Piaget for Beginners

My book review of Piaget for Beginners, as posted on Amazon.

4 out of 5 stars

This 150-page book is a very quick read, having the "for Beginners" format of pictures and cartoons mixed with very concise text. The book gave me an appreciation for Piaget far beyond his most famous idea of the "stages" of cognitive development, which is actually only covered very late in the book. Piaget was as much epistemologist as psychological theorist and researcher. This is a fine and entertaining overview. The explanations are short and merely give one an appetite for more details, but what is said seems to be stated very carefully and clearly. All in all, a few hours well spent if one seeks an introduction to Piaget.

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