Friday, February 27, 2009

The Credit Crisis in English

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Meet Turner Owen Hames

Autumn and Gavin's new cousin. He weighed in at 9lbs, 10oz.

Mom and son are doing great. Dad (aka my brother), most-likely doing well today.


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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Big girl bed

As I write this, Autumn is sleeping in her crib. But, this weekend, she slept and napped in a big girl bed.

That's big news.

So lets start at the beginning and get back to now. We brought up her bed, and she was thrilled. Whoa, it's beautiful daddy, she said to her bed, pillow and comforter.

A big girl bed.

On and off, she sleeps in it, naps in it, and every once in a while, abandons it. Not sure why, but she does. I can tell when she is going to abandon it. After books, she'll look at me with her big brown eyes and implore: "Daddy, don't LEAVE me."

Want to sleep in your old bed? I ask.

And she'll nod her head.

See, she's afraid of monsters. But then, who isn't? Her old bed, also known as a crib, didn't just keep her in, it kept out the monsters. The new bed doesn't.

That means we have a new thing added to the evening ritual. The hunt for monsters. We check the closet, under the bed, under the chairs, in dad's pockets, it various books -- basically everywhere one can think that monsters might live.

And since we never find any, it's getting easier to sleep in the big girl bed. That said, it's a big moment. Even the words "Big Girl Bed" imply that she's a big girl.

A little girl is getting bigger, one milestone at a time.

A dad could cry.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

On Darwin's 200th birthday

According to Gallup, only 39% of Americans 'believe in the theory of evolution."


Check out this image:

What's really going on here are two things that are important to me. The first is that this questions is meant to pit evolution vs. creationism. But here's the thing: they aren't in conflict.

Creationism proposes the untestable theory that life began when something (they never say god) popped life into existence. Some creationists think that happened billions of years ago, some think it happened 6,000 years ago.

But the theory of evolution has nothing to say about that 'pop' moment. That's a whole different branch of science called physics. The theory of evolution doesn't address the creation of life. That's important to understand, because when you do, you'll see there isn't actual conflict between evolution and creationism.

To say one doesn't believe in evolution merely shows how uninformed, and dogmatic a person can be. With millions of species, and billions more to be discovered, it seems very simple minded to suggest that a creator is responsible for all of them. And yes, that's sort of a strawman too, because a creationist can say God created fish, but then some fish evolved, but that's personal opinion, not science. Once one goes down the creator road, they are on a one-way street to religion.

Interestingly, the theory of evolution doesn't comment on where life came from, but it does comment on how we came to be us. And that, really is the crux. The bible says that man was created in his image.

The Theory of Natural selection proves we weren't.

There's a substantial fossil record (one doesn't here the term missing link anymore) that shows that we indeed evolved from somewhere else. The evidence is fairly hard to ignore, which is why some creationist concede the earth is billions of years old. But in doing so, they attempt an end around of the debate.

If they can get people to think it's possible that someone (like god), popped the universe into being 14 billion years ago, then it's possible to take them down what road I referenced earlier.

Once someone thinks the big bang was helped by a force called god, then it isn't hard to begin suggesting that after a few billion years (what the bible helpfully calls days), God popped out man and planted fossils to help us with our curiosity. I made that last part up, but my point is this: when you add the God end-run, the discourse in this debate is purposely dumbed down.

And I think that's on purpose.

I don't want to Dumb down learning.

The answer, "Because God did it" is an end to the argument. It can't be refuted or explored. And this brings me back to the original premise of my problem. I want my kids to explore. I want my kids to ask questions, to wonder why. If the answer is 'God did it', then there's no incentive to ask why any more.

I've often thought that I will have way more fun with my kids than a fundamental religious dad will. When his kids ask: "Dad, how does a tree manage to 'pump' water from the roots to the very top against the force of gravity?" The religious dad will just say, "that's how god designed it."

I'll start by making a whole pile of shit up, then my kids and I together will explore the nature world to figure it out.

Whose kids will be in a better place to succeed? Now, one could argue, and they will, that the God-fearing kids will be more moral. But that's a straw man argument. Morality doesn't depend on God, Allah or Yaweh.

Ironically, morality has been hardwired into us thanks to Natural Selection.

There's a real sense of a need for educational changes in the US. And when I see things like this Gallup poll, I'm set off. I'm set off because being open to new ideas and new possibilities is what learning is all about.

"God did it" isn't learning. It's a cop out. And this learning cop out trickles down to the point where we get un-curious kids. And moving forward, that's a massive problem.

Hat tip

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Best team ever?

Glenn Howard in the hackImage by mutantlog via Flickr

Glenn Howard's team just one their fourth Ontario Championship, basically kicking the crap out of the field again. One can wonder from this two things:

1. Does everyone else in Ontario suck?
2. Is Glenn Howard's team the greatest ever?

This was actually asked on a blog post by Bob Weeks. I answered it there, and elaborate here.

To answer the question of is Team Howard the best team in Ontario, I want to take you back to the lat final versus Martin.

If you recall, in the seventh end Howard was up one with playing Martin. Martin was sitting two, with lots of guards around. Originally Howard was going to just pick out one of Martin's and give up a steal of one.

Then, as he sat in the hack, he saw a whole to shot rock and decided to play for one through a little port. The port consists of a guard and second shot rock, so the miss is to hit second shot (in essence, playing the original call).

As Howard throws the rock, I swear I don’t think there’s a team on the tour that doesn’t sweep it to ensure it hits more of the top one. They are relaxed, not screaming right off, or sweep. It hits just enough of the top rock, and just enough of the back one to just get three by enough.

My point: either they froze, or they are so confident in outcomes that they wait for the outcome.

I remember when I used to deal blackjack. I could tell who was going to beat the table because they were the ones who were not afraid to lose.

To me, that last shot is indication that they are not in the least bit afraid to lose. It hit a comfortable amount of the rock, but again, there aren’t too many teams, if any, that let that curl.

They are 4 relaxed guys who simply aren't afraid to miss. That might be because they have the greatest pure thrower of the rock at skip, but it also might be because they've learned as a team that misses will come, but they will also be overcome.

As a team, I think they are the best curling has ever seen.

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He's still there

Last night, I rolled over in bed and reflexively pulled the covers. For the last 6 years, there was a little cat laying on the covers impacting this movement.

Little moments like that will come fast and furious over the next few months as we grieve, remember, and celebrate.

The hole will never be filled. Small moments that mean the world to me, and nothing to you (like leaving my shirt in the floor in the closet, filling the water in the bathroom), will weight heavy on me for a long time.

I used to compare all cats to Gatsby, the old family cat. Now, I'll add Romeo to the list.

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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Lucy gets added attention

As I sit here, Lucy is resting on my knee. She's a asleep, and since yesterday, she's been the focus of our energies.

Loss does that to you. Part of dealing with loss, is looking around at how the things one currently has fit into the world.

Lucy is now the pet. And since the kids got her, she has sort of gotten the shaft. She turns 5 this month. We got her when she was a tiny 8 weeks old.

She's been a wonderful companion and a loving dog. Always greeting us when we come in as if we're the greatest things on the planet. So, while thinking about our Romeo-less life, we've decided to work harder to being attentive to Lucy. More walks. More love. More photos.

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Romeo 1994-2009

From the moment he met me, I was sure he hated me. He was seven, and for all seven years of his life, it was him and Rhona. He was her Romeo. So you can imagine how that went.

Indeed, after we got married, he would hide around a corner, waiting for me to walk into the room. Then he would pounce. He was 14 lbs, but I know he thought he could take me.

He eventually did warm up to me. We played to together a lot, and eventually he would even come when I called (now, he would come whenever I call).

I used to tell him that cats all over the world would be embarrassed for him because he acted like a dog. What cat do you know that would come when you called? Play fetch? He would even pant like a dog after playing.

He liked to get his own way. The first night that we took possession of our new house, we brought him, of course. We didn't have a speck of furniture in it, but we wanted to sleep in it. Romeo ran around the house, then sat at the bottom of our sleeping bag and howled. Rhona suggested we go home, I suggested we stick him in the basement.

We went back to the old apartment and slept. He didn't sleep here till we got the bed here.

He thrived in the new house. We would run around our living room, chasing each other. He would sit on the window sills and watch the people. He would hang out in our courtyard. Him and I got really close. Each night, he would come and lay on my chest and stare at me. His head would be about two inches from my face -- a distance he picked. God forbid I try to get closer, he would run away.

Romeo gave you the space he wanted to give, not the space you wanted.

Those nights that he laid on my chest, he would size me up. He would look at me like he wished he was bigger and could just eat me.

The day we got Lucy was probably Romeo's second worst day (the first being the day we got me). Lucy was Romeo's size, but that would obviously change fast. Like me, Romeo put Lucy through some welcoming initiations. He would hide around a corner and pounce on Lucy when she walked by. Lucy got the point where she would run out of the room is Romeo ambled in. And you could hear Romeo from a mile away. He didn't get the sneak gene that cats get. If he got up in the middle of the night, you could hear the little rat, tat, tat of his paws on the wood floors.

To his credit, he never put either kid through an initiation. Not because he couldn't, because he knew there was a difference. Autumn was able to grab his tail, grab his fur, and he let her. To put that into perspective, in my early years with Romes, if I grabbed his tail he would turn on me in an instant.

Romeo was, and will always be the first pet I was responsible for. He was Rhona's cat, but he was my first pet that wasn't my parent's. He immediately became my cat, and eventually my friend. I remember one time that I took him to the vet.

He didn't like the vet.

They needed three handlers with gloves to examine him. He screamed and fought while they did their thing, and when they finished, one of the handlers asked me if I had something to carry him in. I told them no, and pick him up. Even all worked up, he relaxed in my arms.

We were buds. And we had a lot of fun together over these last 7 years, and I am grateful that he came as part of the package.

Romeo. Scromes. Little buddy. This is getting harder to write, but I just want to say that I'll never forget you. You were my little cat that acted like a little dog.

Thanks for all the fun. I'm thankful that the kids aren't really old enough to understand what is going on. I told Autumn that Romeo was really sick, and she kissed him. Earlier today, while I was sitting in the bed with Romeo, Lucy jumped up and gave him a kiss. A goodbye kiss.

As I write this, Rhona has taken Romeo to the vet, where they will ensure that he goes to sleep peacefully. He's 7 lbs, and the last month has been tough. His a little fighter, but the cancer in his is winning. His last meal was uncooked shrimp. His favorite, but you could tell is was hard to force down.

Romeo, you lived a good life. Had a good time. Now rest in peace little buddy. And we'll miss you like crazy.

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Thursday, February 05, 2009

Autumn's First dentist appointment

So, Feb 4th, 2009 was the date of Autumn's first Dentist appointment. Mom and the kids picked me up and we hightailed it two buildings over to the Dentist. The Dentist is on Main street in Buffalo, the site of the Train that Autumn loves to ride.

This is her and Dr. Donna looking out the window at the train (a huge selling feature of the Dentist!)

After checking out a few trains, Autumn sat down for her check up. Hamming it up as much as possible.
Mom joined in the picture and hammed it up too. I actually love this picture. you can tell the ladies are having a good time.

And just so you know, every picture I took, I had the little buddy in my hands. And he was smiling the whole time.

It was a successful visit. And since we're on Gavin, he turns 9 months tomorrow and doesn't have a single tooth. When those chicklets start coming, we'll actually get less sleep. If that's possible.


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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Autumn on the phone

Being a way for a week means a lot of talking on the phone. To Autumn.

So herein, are the three types of Autumn you get then you call.

1. Happy Autumn.

"Daddy. I went to (garbled from taking a deep breath) and gotta a gaballoon."
"Daddy, today, I went to (yells into phone in a manner that makes the words indiscernible) and then (more yelling), and then we ate posciple. PINK!"

The yelling is hard to decipher, but it's the ill-timed, though necessary deep breaths that make the words really hard to read. The only good answer to this is

"That sounds awesome." Which is what I say.

2. Sad Autumn.

(In background) "No. No, I don't wanna talk to daddy." Lots of crying.

This happens when the timing of the call doesn't fit into her schedule. She could be watching something on TV, she could be doing anything. But what she doesn't want to do is talk on the phone. You can't take this personal. She has a plan, and you just don't fit into it.

3. resigned Autumn.

(Crying a little, and very softly) "Hi Daddy."
"Hi Autumn, how are you."
(Mumble, inaudible, though most likely says that she'd rather be doing something else)
Hands phone to mom.

The last one is when mom puts her foot down and says talk to daddy. Autumn will do it, but she doesn't want any part of it (see #2).

There's no need to take any of this personally. Just look at her:

She's cute (even when trying to smile). And in person, we always get #1 Autumn.

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Sunday, February 01, 2009

some thoughts about curling

(Thinking about making this an article for TCN.)

Back when I was coaching a competitive curling team, the team wasn’t winning, and I wasn’t sure how to turn the ship around. I asked Ed Lukewich, a former world champion, for some advice. He told me the story about a time when his team was on a losing streak. “So I sat them all down, and told them to make more draw shots.” Then he laughed and said, “Really. If they don’t make more draw shots, we weren’t going to win.”

I related the story to the team, and the smiles and sarcastic comments actually brought them closer together.

Flag of City of BismarckImage via Wikipedia

Going to Bismarck, North Dakota taught me some things about myself, my team, and US Curling. The first is that I’m not in competition shape. I don’t mean physically, I mean mentally. I made some mental errors in just about every game, and those ended up costing us points and even games.

As a team, we can throw the rock with people, but we can’t manufacture game shape. Curling in the eastern Unites States in a city without a curling means that it’s hard to get games together. Before the eastern qualifier in Boston, our team played a grand total of 15 games together. In a deep American field, where teams are traveling to Scotland, and playing the Grand Slams, the notion that a team that has played 15 games together can win is really an insult to the caliber of teams at the event.

We think we can play the game, but can we really play the game at this level unless we play it at this level? The mental mistakes are without question due to the lack of game play. And it doesn’t matter how many draw shots one makes.

We were just as good as any team there, and yet we weren’t. We didn’t communicate as well as a Pete Fenson did (and he didn’t qualify). We didn’t grind as well as a Craig Brown. We didn’t finish like Shuster or Birr. But we played as well as them. We were in every game, even when we made mental mistakes. But as the mistakes piled up, the frustrations piled up, and the amazement that making shots doesn’t actually translate into winning more games. Fact is, it isn’t the draw shots a team makes that helps them win, it’s how they react to the draw shots that are missed that makes them win.

When teams have a history of playing together for more than 15 games, they have an ability to pick each other up. To point to times when things looked dire, but turned out well. To notice tendencies, or tells, in teammates, and know the right thing to say to get them back in the game. Play nine or ten spiels with a team in a year , and you’ll get a good feeling for the kinds of things that need to be said, when to say them, and how to say them. 15 games isn’t enough to learn all that. It’s not often long enough to learn the names of the teammates wives and kids.

Even though teams go by the name of the skip (a practice I think is as ridiculous as it is old-fashioned), curling is a classic team game. Each shot in an end is meant to build on the last one. Half of the shots a player throws are meant to be built on, while the other half build on a previous teammates shots. Individuals on curling teams are often not long for the team, unless there’s a tremendous amount of success (missed draw shots break up teams that don’t play like teams).

I was originally planning to write an article about the draws we had at both our regional qualifier and the second chance challenge round. About how in regional qualifier our draw was Wednesday at 8:00am, Thursday at 8:00am, Friday at 8:00am, Saturday 8:00am, 3:00pm, 7:00pm. I’m not making that up, but that’s not the reason we didn’t qualify for the trials in Boston, and the draw isn’t the reason we didn’t qualify in Bismarck, North Dakota at the second chance challenge round.

We didn’t have the greatest draw in the history of curling, but losing teams always complain about the draw.

We lost because we’re four guys from the east coast with lives. We’re chasing a dream that is achievable to part-time players that get on a run, and overcome the inevitable mistakes we’ll make that are so glaringly obvious with reflection that they are a little embarrassing.

Don’t let this come across as a knock on the team. We played great, and I’m proud of our team. I’m proud of the way they played, about how hard they swept, and about how positive they stayed. But the simple reality is, we’re not in game shape as a team. And that really was the thing responsible for the result.

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