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


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A boy and his rover

Elias has been so enchanted by the idea of the Mars rovers, he'll figure a way to arrange almost any of his toys into one. Here some "city blocks" constitute a rover suspended by ropes from its landing craft.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


On her email list, Lisa VanDamme says there are three common ways that educators approach student motivation today. There are,
first, the Waldorf types who evade the problem of motivation because they evade the responsibility of education; second, the Catholic school types who proclaim education a moral duty; and third, the public school types who think gold stars and pizza provide the only compelling reasons to learn.
The assessment of Waldorf seems right to me. In Portland, Waldorf schooling is very popular, and we've had a real time figuring out why college-educated parents want it for their children. It's not just that favorite activities of Waldorfians include: (a) pretending you're a fairy, (b) wearing drab clothing, hand-made entirely of felted wool, and (c) generally aiming for an existence that Laura Wilder would enjoy and Al Gore would enjoy reading about. The clincher comes when a parent tells us, with exquisite excitement, that at the Waldorf school they've just signed up for no one will be teaching their four-year-old to read. (Does the hatred of civilization get any more ironic? Let's pay $500 a month to send our child to be with professionals who will make sure there will be no tainting by advanced human culture.)

Still, I'm left wondering where the Montessori approach would fit into VanDamme's analysis. Montessori elementary is definitely not unschooling, and Maria Montessori was a pillar of the historical reaction against education-by-edict.

Update: David Elmore criticizes Lisa VanDamme for having a wholly determined curriculum; she vigorously defends herself here. I suspect David makes a good point, while Lisa attacks the straw man of unschooling. Her response makes one almost wish that, as children, Benjamin Franklin, Frederick Douglass, and Ayn Rand hadn't been allowed to follow their "juvenile desires."


My wife's funny, #2

I don't know where it all comes from, but it keeps on coming and cracking me up:

- Our kids might believe in God. Boy, that will be a tough cross to bear.

- For one, our box spring is a piece of crap. It's just a box.

- I'm never having two Peppermint Cocoa Joe's again ... I feel horrible.

- We're frickin' camping, I want to eat in a restaurant.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Witchcraft in the Kingdom

Our great and noble friends, the Saudis, have condemned a witch to death. Perhaps something is lost in the Arabic-to-English translation of "witchcraft"? Sounds to me like a bunch of people just don't like her.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Elias and I have been having fun watching the videos on the NASA site about the various Mars rovers. I was surprised to learn that there are currently two rovers on Mars (Opportunity and Spirit), and another one on the way (Sojourner), and another super-advanced "science laboratory" rover planned to launch in 2010. My treasured issue of National Geographic with 3-D pictures taken by Pathfinder is seeming so passé.

Our favorite video is "Mars Science Laboratory Mission Animation", which looks so real you'd swear John Carter* had a camera crew.

* Annoyingly cute references are to Edgar Rice Burroughs's action-packed Mars series. The start-up, A Princess of Mars, is great fun (especially if you're a 14-year-old boy), but I thought episode 2, The Gods of Mars, is even more so -- I mean look at how creepy-cool the blue "plant men" are.

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