Good discussion about American Culture on Slashdot

I was a bit more, um... "direct" than I am normally.  I probably stuck my foot in my mouth a couple times, but...

Last week I wrote quite a bit - almost a good essay's worth - of stuff about the moral culture of the United States.  Given the impending election, I thought I would post a link to the writing/discussion on the Slashdot story "Is Silicon Vally Morally Bankrupt and Toxic?"

The gist of the discussion is that the culture of conflict combined with a culture of consumerist capitalism in America is morally bankrupt.  This culture is one of the reasons getting rid of racism in America is so hard.  Have fun with the read and let me know here what you think!

(By the way, on Slashdot I go by the handle "under_score").


On Graduations and Rites of Passage

Well... grand title, but only a short little entry.

Two significant milestones have been reached in our family: first, our eldest son, Justice, has graduated from Grade 8 and second, our youngest daughter, Ocean, has been weened.

Justice is just about to turn 14.  He likes girls, he's grown a couple inches in the past two months, he has a dark shadow starting on his upper lip, and his voice has deepened.  He went to public school this year, at his own behest instead of homeschooling, in order to make some friends.  This was partially catalyzed by the departure of his best friend Joseph from the house beside us.  He did well in school this year and I am very proud of him... particularly how he handled various challenges in the adjustment from home schooling to public school (including the adjustment of his loving parents).  Congratulations Justice!!!

Ocean is just a smidge under 30 months.  She has nursed the longest of any of our children.  She is cute and definitely enjoying the benefits of being the youngest of four and (at least as far as we plan) our last baby.  Over the past three days Melanie and I have done the final stages of weening her.  Melanie has been progressively reducing the amount of nursing over months... but she was still nursing several times at night and usually needed to nurse in order to fall asleep.  After one very hard night (where she ended up nursing a bit during the night anyway), a less hard night, last night an easy night, and tonight (Jun. 26th) a surprisingly easy night, we have confirmed that she is no longer nursing.

Wow.  It's hard to believe that Melanie and I are coming up to our 15th wedding anniversary in just a couple days!



Something Silly: Spice Bandits and the Secret Spice Foundaries

I'm a big fan of tower defense games and my current obsession is called Spice Bandits. I'm playing it on the iPad, bit it is also available on the iPhone and iPod Touch. One of the things that makes it so addictive is the achievements system which includes three levels: "Battle Medals", "Trip Medals", and "Secret Spice Foundaries".  (By the way, this incorrect spelling is what they use in the game - it should be foundries, not foundaries.)  You can see and work towards the first two levels of achievements - they are described in the game. For example, building 300 missile launchers wins you a gold medal. There are 68 medals to be won in the first two categories. In the third category, the Secret Spice Foundaries, there are only ten achievements... But the game does not give you any clues or hints as to what you need to do to achieve them. Only once you have (most likely accidentally) done something particular does one of the Secret Spice Foundaries unlock... And give you a bunch of Spice which is quite valuable in the game. Here are the Secret Spice Foundaries I have unlocked so far (I will update this list with more as I discover them):
1. Win a sudden death game running all waves before time
2. Complete The Wall Sudden Death using only machine guns
3. Complete Buenos Aires Airport Normal using only level 1 towers
4. Complete Dangerous Valley Normal with a star
5. Complete Desert Freighter sudden death with only one tower
6. Complete Sahara Desert Sudden Death without building machine guns
7. Build Duke Nuke in Berlin Wall Normal
8. Build three Gatling Superguns in Moscow Normal
9. Build 5 freeze towers in Athens Normal
10. Win French Castle Air Attack without building AA towers
Since I'm not going to play this game forever, if anyone out there knows any of the other Secret Spice Foundaries, please let me know in the comments. (And, of course, feel free to read my other blog entries which are about more serious stuff.)
(UPDATE: June. 27th... finally got around to reading the comments... now all the Secret Spice Foundaries are in my list although I haven't done them all yet. - Thanks dear readers!!!)


Collaboration and Visibility

A few days ago my kids were playing MineCraft together. Each of them was in their own room, and they were all playing on a common server. In MineCraft, this means that they share a world and can either build things collaboratively or they can compete. In this case, my daughter Haifa became very upset because my son Justice killed her character (not the end of the world). Anyway, at first I was very angry at Justice. However, after consulting with Melanie, we realized that some of the problem was simply that Justice was not aware of Haifa being upset until it had escalated to crying and shouting!

Solution? A very simple rule: everyone needs to be in the same room together if they are playing together! So, we set them up in my office downstairs where there is enough room.

Now - no problems. Visibility creates empathy which in turn enables better collaboration!


Lost the Camera... for the Second Time!

Melanie and I and the family have been in the Bahamas at the Atlantis resort for three full days now. One of the great features of the resort is the "Rapids River" which is a tube ride that includes water slides, rapids, and a very large wave generator as well as some nice "lazy river" type parts for relaxing. This morning, I was going on this ride with Verity, my seven yo daughter. I took our brand new Sony EX-10 waterproof digital camera with me and snapped a few pics of Verity along the way. And then, somewhere, I lost it. Ug.

What's worse? Last time I was here (just with Melanie), I did EXACTLY THE SAME THING!!!! Gosh. How stupid? Well. Suffice it to say I feel terribly ashamed. I went over the stretch of the Rapids River three times, twice with goggles, looking for the darn thing. No luck. This evening I called three separate on-site lost-and-founds. No luck. Tomorrow morning I'll call the water park management. See if it has shown up. Not likely.

Last time, I was lucky. The same evening I lost the camera, it was recovered, returned to lost-and-found, and I got it back with all the pictures. This time? Only time will tell. Maybe if I really lose it this time I will really learn the lesson: don't put things unsecured in my pocket while riding a water park tube ride!!!


Turn of Phrase

My mom and I were talking about how it is hard to reach my brother (in China). He doesn't seem to be on Skype nearly as much as he used to. His in-laws were spending a lot of time with them helping to take care of his two young daughters, but they have now left to help his sister-in-law with her own new baby. That leaves my brother and his wife in a situation they have never been in before: the throes of early familyhood. Nice turn of phrase.


The Unity of Food

Two days ago I had a little discussion with Justice, my eldest, who is just turned twelve. As Baha'is, we are very aware of the importance of unity in solving the problems of the world. So we are talking about what to eat for breakfast. Justice comments that toast is boring by itself, butter is icky by itself, but united, they taste great. He also used the example of pizza - melted cheese, pepperoni, etc. are all boring by themselves, but in pizza they are fantastic. He said these are good examples of unity in diversity.

I was thoroughly impressed!



Great little article about forgiveness: http://zenhabits.net/2009/05/how-to-let-go-and-forgive/. I have to admit: I have never had a hard time forgiving people. However, I know that sometimes it is very hard. I see it in other people around me from time to time. I hope that if you come to that article through my blog, it will help you or someone you know. Pass the link along!