Archives for the month of: September, 2012

Me: Ugh, I have no idea where these afterimages are coming from.  It’s like I looked at something really bright and now I can’t see, but there aren’t any bright lights around.

J: Huh.


Me: I found the light.

J: What?

Me: The light. [Points] The one that gave me afterimages. [Looks up] Ow!

J: [Looks where I’m pointing] Ow!

T: What just happened?

J: The light’s too bright.

Me: That one. [Points] Ow! &$^%!

T: [Looks] Ow!

J: [Looks] Ah! &$^%! Why do you keep doing that!

Me: I don’t know! Just don’t look at it any more!

A: Look at what?

Me: Don’t look at that light! [Points]

A: Ow!

J: Ow!

T: Ow!

Me: *%&# I did it again! And I said don’t look! … No one listens to me.



I was having a discussion (okay, argument) with Mr. Suspicious last night over what to do with the welfare system.  I’m pretty liberal, I wanted to expand it; he’s solid conservative, and was more interested in concentrating the money we already spend in the hands of the people who needed it the most. I.E, not welfare frauds*.

So, are there any welfare frauds? Him: Yes, and they’re common. Me: Yes, but they’re rare.

I’m not going to argue that there are none at all. People are complicated, and do things that don’t make sense. I’m arguing that the number of people that do cheat are rare enough it doesn’t make sense to give them their own category.

Obvious Questions:

  1. How many people are definitely frauds?
  2. What do we do with someone if we’re not sure?
  3. How many make “rare” and “common”?

Bonus points!
Say he’s right. What do we do about it?

I mean, the big point is how we tell with any certainty that someone is a fraud. Courts do it all the time. I guess one way to tell would be to see how many people actually get convicted of welfare fraud, and trust that judges/juries know what they’re doing.

*Actually, he used the term “welfare queens”, but that implies that it’s only women doing it, and specifically by using children to get more money. In context, he meant anyone who takes welfare they don’t deserve, so I’m going to say “welfare frauds”.

Free to a good home! Someone who’s actually good at writing should write this book.

First, quick primer on Dyson spheres. Okay, so you have orbiting solar panels out in space, so you can collect solar energy and pipe it back down to use on Earth. Now mega-size that idea. The panels get bigger and bigger, until you’ve completely surrounded the sun with solar panels.

The upside of this is you get all of the sun’s energy, with none wasted lighting up, say, Mars. Hopefully the Earth is still somewhere inside the sphere, or you’ve just condemned the human race to eternal darkness. Oops.

Now back out a couple orders of magnitude. You’re an alien somewhere on Betelgeuse. What did that just look like from your perspective? A star just went out. It didn’t go nova, it just went out. That has to be scary, right?

And just to add a dash of paranoia fuel, there’s a type of matter called dark matter (different from antimatter) that must make up 4/5 of the universe, if our physics is right — except that it doesn’t absorb or emit radiation. Astronomers can only find it by looking where orbits are distorted by gravity.

Now go back to the alien looking at Earth’s shiny new Dyson sphere. You can’t see any light coming from the sun (because it’s all getting absorbed by the sphere), but its gravitational effects are still there. In fact, it would look just like our description of dark matter.

What if it’s already happened? What if it’s already happened to 4/5 of the universe?

Why yes, I am a crackpot, thank you for asking.

I was reading this article about bedtime stories (via Feministe).

My parents would read me a story before I went to bed each night, and it was always something I looked forward to. .. This absolutely fostered a love of literature and reading in me from a very young age, and had I not had this experience, I might not have become an English major in undergrad and gone on to teach high school English.

I think every family has some kind of bedtime ritual like this.  Kids like rituals, in general, and I know I did when I was little.

It gets really interesting when she points out that it doesn’t matter what you do before bed. It doesn’t have to be a story:

[B]edtime math can be a great way to get kids, especially girls, involved with math from a very young age. This is important because, although there is no difference in math ability between girls and boys, girls do tend to suffer more from math anxiety than their male counterparts. If parents can expose their children to math in a fun, comforting environment, this can help alleviate math anxiety in school. If using bedtime stories is important to foster a love of reading in children, then the same can definitely be said for using bedtime math.

It’s been a while since I had a bedtime.  Probably even longer since I’ve been read to. But I remember one thing my dad would always do after a story.

“Do you have any questions?” he’d ask.

That tradition stuck around even when he didn’t read to me. I’d shout (I have no manners) “Good night!”, and he’d come upstairs and say, “Good night, Cate. Do you have any questions?”.

Sometimes when I wanted to stay up a little longer, I’d try to think of something to ask. “How do cars work?” “How did you and Mom meet?” And then he’d sit down and talk about it for a while.

My dad is one of those guys who seems to know a little about everything – I’d catch him reading my school textbooks for no reason but curiosity.  I think the reason he kept asking whether there was anything I wanted to know was to try to share that with me.  Not just getting good grades, but wanting to know things.

I don’t know if it took. I mean, if this woman says her love of books comes from bedtime stories, and the linked blogger is trying to make her daughter comfortable with math by bedtime math problems, you’d expect me to become a researcher or scientist from bedtime questions, and I’m not.

It was a great tradition, though, and it was a low-pressure chance to just sit and talk with my dad.

Maybe if I have a daughter I’ll try it with her.