Thursday, September 22, 2005


I've been meaning to write this particular post for some time. I need to return this book so I have to just get this out or I’ll never return the book.

Anyway, I recently read _Freakonomics_ by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. It was interesting and I enjoyed it, but I was struck by a large flaw and had to comment on it. Part of the book discusses the "mistaken belief" that parents can positively influence their children by raising them well. They go into more detail about what studies have shown to work and not to work, but clearly, the authors believe that peers and genetics and maybe wealth have a lot more to do with successful child-rearing than good parenting.

Then, in the next breath they say that good adoptive parents can have a good influence on their adoptive children. Genetics aside, adopted children do seem to grow up to have better jobs and be happier people with better lives than children raised in poor, single-parent, etc., etc., homes.

So which is it, folks?

The problem, as I see it, lies in relying too heavily (in the first place - with the first argument) on the criteria measured by a lot of studies. Those studies are not proving that parents can't have a positive impact on their kids with attentive, good parenting. They may well be proving that this sort of parenting doesn't raise public school or SAT test scores, but I’m not raising my kids to be tested. Those tests will affect their lives of course, but it is their lives I am raising them for, not someone else's standardized test.

When they examined a study that measured the general lives of adults (not scores on the tests that minors took) they saw that parenting does matter. Which frankly, makes sense. Adulthood isn't about test scores. (Thank heavens.) Adulthood is about jobs and relationships and creating and striving for personal goals. It's about being a part of a marriage and a community and raising one's own children. Or at least, those are the things that adulthood is about for the vast majority of Americans.

So I suggest that the authors of this otherwise very engaging book reexamine this chapter. I think they need to take another look at the baseline assumptions underlying their point. Basically, I think they goofed.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


so i was talking about politics, katrina/new orleans and the iraq war with friends the other day, and i found myself quoting george orwell and 1984. "we have always been at war with eurasia"... and Joy said something like it is scary how often this president inspires folks to quote george orwell.


i'm not sure why this blog hasn't inspired a single political post until now, but here it is. i'll just be clear for anyone who doesn't know. i voted for kerry and i'd do it again. the knowledge that women voted for bush because they thought we would be safer under him makes my jaw drop.

sadly, i find that writing well is a great deal harder than it feels like it ought to be. i hope this llnk: remains viable for a long time because this NYT op-ed columnist said it much better than i can.

Monday, September 19, 2005

slightly wrong word

my son doesn't understand that the word "born" is not the word "boring". here's a gem from him. he just said this a minute ago.

"Zora was boring here, I was boring in a hospital!!"

sudden flash of insight (many years ago)

You know those rare instances when someone tried to get the better of you but you got the better of them, instead? I have no idea what triggered the memory, but for some reason I was thinking about one of those this morning.

I was in high school when this happened, and was definitely not one of the more popular kids. One evening I got an unexpected phone call. I immediately recognized the voice. It was Randy York, who I'd had a few classes with over the years. He said "Hi, this is Marvin." I said no, you aren't Marvin, you're Randy, I recognize your voice. You don't sound anything at all like Marvin. Well, we went back and forth a few times, as he insisted he was Marvin and I insisted he was Randy.

Finally I gave up and said ok "Marvin", why are you calling? Of course, I was pretty suspicious at this point. Indeed, it wasn't about finding out the pages we were supposed to read or which math problems had been assigned. No, "Marvin" was calling to ask me out on a "date".

So, I heaved a huge fake sigh and said that I really appreciated his offer, but I just couldn't accept. You see, I exclaimed, I have a huge crush on Randy York.


And that, my friends, was the last time Randy York spoke to me. I recall that a year or two later we had trigonometry together, and I was desperately searching one day for someone with a watch. I can't remember anymore why I wanted to know the time, but though Randy was wearing a watch, he wouldn't tell me what it said. So I had zinged him so bad, apparently, that two years later he literally wouldn't give me the time of day.

I have a bad habit of dwelling on the moments in my past where I made a fool of myself or someone else made a fool of me, so really, it was nice to remember this moment instead.

Friday, September 09, 2005

delightful things my children have said

"The opposite of Aladdin is Jafar". - Zora, 2 years old
"Cheetahs bite their own food!" - Razi 7/15/05
"I gave Boo bread. That was kindful." - Zora 8/11/05
"Monsters are scared of trains! They are GOOD!" - Razi 8/23/05
"Bodies are for dancing." - Zora 9/8/05

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

another harry potter prediction

Ok, at the beginning of book 5, a bunch of folks from the Order of the Phoenix come to the Dursley's house to get Harry. Why so many folks? I predict that they will all serve a purpose (some of them already have, of course).

Prof. Alastor "Mad-Eye" Moody - very important to book 4 and shows up often after
Prof. Remus Lupin - very important to book 3 and shows up often after
Nymphadora Tonks - a character in books 5 and 6
Kingsley Shacklebolt - a character in books 5 and 6
Elphias Doge - can't remember him being mentioned again
Dedalus Diggle - mentioned a few times here and there since book 1
Emmaline Vance - horribly murdered "between" books 5 and 6, murder mentioned in book 6
Sturgis Podmore - arrested and sent to azkaban in book 5
Hestia Jones - quite sure she isn't mentioned again in book 5 or 6

Here's my prediction. Elphias Doge and/or Dedalus Diggle and/or Hestia Jones will figure into book 7. i'm rooting for Hestia Jones. She has a cool name. ;)

Monday, September 05, 2005

another harry potter post

A prediction.

I hereby predict (sound pompous enough? ;) that book 7 will end, or Voldemort will end, anyway, in the "always locked" room in the Department of Mysteries.

I also believe that the archway that killed Sirius and those flying brains will be important in the final battle scenes and/or whatever final scenes end Voldemort.

Having studied JKR's style a bit too obsessively lately, I see that she leaves hints for the future in certain ways. Rereading book 5 I am a bit stunned at how often Montague (whose sojourn in the broken vanishing cabinet gave Draco the crucial information he needed to get Death Eaters into Hogwarts at the end of Book 6) was mentioned. She just casually throws Montague in several times, just to remind us of him. His angry parents show up to talk to Umbridge, he's in the hospital wing getting medicine from Madame Pomfrey, etc. I didn't notice that the first time I read the book, or the second, either. I had to read book 6 and THEN reread book 5 to notice.

With that sort of writing style in mind, I see the experiences that Ron, Hermione, Ginny, Neville, Luna and Harry had in the Department of Mysteries in a new light.

I was really struck by the way only some of the students were drawn to the arch that later killed Sirius. Harry was fascinated by it, but Hermione knew it was dangerous, and explicitly labeled it as such.

The flying brains are also mentioned several times. Ron tries to play with them when his brain is addled from an unknown spell. Then the brains apparently come close to killing Ron.

The door that melted the magical knife is probably the "always locked" door that has behind it the power of love. Dumbledore tells Harry about this on pages 843 and 844.

These things were all emphasized to no known purpose in book 5 (or book 6, for that matter), and so I feel they are very likely to be very important in the last remaining book.

Prediction made. Now I have to take care of a crying 1 year old. ;)

Friday, September 02, 2005

parenthood is sleepy

the other night my spouse and i both fell asleep while putting the kids to bed. my spouse fell asleep in our son's bed, and i fell asleep between the girls. we both woke separately in the middle of the night and wondered why the other hadn't woken us up! there goes watching a movie together.