Rising in Beauty

Rising in Beauty
Sky over North Park

Just Learning

Just Learning
Kitchen Studio

Monday, May 28, 2007


This energetic site is new to me. It's all about books, and games based on books. There are sections where kids give their opinions. Some teachers get into it, too.

I read about it in the San Diego Union Tribune, under Surfing With Kids, by c. Barbara Feldman at barbara.feldman@surfnetkids.com.

Featured on kidsreads.com is Harry Potter, with lots of games and quizzes.

She mentioned other sites: http://harrypotter.warnerbros.com, and mugglenet.com

If I had kids under 30, I would definitely use this site with them.

Bees Over Bournemouth

Reuters reports that a plane flew into an enormous swarm of bees over Bournemouth, UK today. The plane malfunctioned, and the pilot took it back to the Bournemouth airport. The pilot thinks the engine was clogged with bees. I suppose the bees blew out on the way down.

Bees are disappearing in the USA, yet thriving in the UK. Clouds of bees have been sighted over Bournemouth this year. Is life better for bees in Britain?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

My Pink Hat

Happy after a week-long visit with my son, I just had to buy this pink hat.

Celebrating parenthood...Happy Spring and Summer to you.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Robot Hall of Fame

Since I saw the robots at WIRED's fair last October, I have been more interested in the subject. So when I found out about the Robot Hall of Fame (www.robothalloffame.org) I looked it up right away. If they didn't have the robot from The Day the Earth Stood Still, I planned to nominate it.

Happily, Gort had been inducted in 2006, along with David from AI: Artificial Intelligence, and Maria from Metropolis. These were inspired choices. R2D2 and C3PO were inducted in previous years.

The Hall of Fame equally honors the robots that exist in the flesh - uh - in the real world - uh - you know - and I was happy to see the one from SONY that looks like the marshmallow man on a diet, wearing a spacesuit. The version we saw last fall had a very realistic head, modeled on Albert Einstein. Even with a very benign expression, this was kind of spooky.

Another Hall of Famer is the very first robot arm ever used on an assembly line. Think of that.

From "Deep Thoughts"

I wish I had a kryptonite cross, because then you could keep both Dracula AND Superman away.
by Jack Handey

Monday, May 14, 2007

Identity and Violence

Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny, by Amartya Sen, W. W. Norton Company, New York and London, 2006.

Part of a series, Issues of Our Times, Series Editor Henry Louis Gates Jr.

The writer, Amartya Sen, is a Nobel prize winner in economics.

I've just begun the book. A witness of violence between Hindus and Muslims at the partition of India, Sen seeks ways to overcome the way rigid standards of identity and solidarity often result in demonizing people outside that identity.

Us and them: Too much US, can lead to trying to destroy THEM.

Sen invokes the many ways we identify ourselves, the many circles we belong to, as a clue to seeing each other as complex, struggling, loving human beings rather than as radical Others.

I'll post as I go along. Hope you'll read with me.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Bees Worse and Better

This week a TV newsmagazine (Brian Williams, I think) indicated that not 25 percent, but 60 percent, of commercial honeybee hives have collapsed.

Honeybees, said the news show, pollinate 30 percent of crops in the United States, mostly fruits.

A friend, who used to keep a few hives for honey and wax, wondered if this would be an opportunity for indigenous bees. The honeybees were imported, and drove out native species. Sure enough, the reporter interviewed a biological worker in a field of wildflowers. An effort to increase the population of wild bees is being made, by sowing lots of their favorite flowering plants along streams and in areas not used for crops. Having many types of bees can lower the risk of having them all collapse at the same time.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Genetic Pre Depositions

The notion that humanity will evolve further, or be changed by genetic or surgical manipulation, fascinated science fiction writers all through the 20th century. Biological sciences were getting closer in the 1990's, when Nancy Kress wrote a trilogy, Beggars in Spain, Beggars and Choosers, and Beggar's Ride. She explores ethical and sociological possibilities, that is, the impact on people and society of biological change. Today a person might feel he would have done better in life if his parents had been able to pay to send him to a better school. In Kress' stories, a person might feel bitter and handicapped because her parents had not been able to pay for genetic modification of her IQ and her facial bone structure when she was a foetus.

The stories extend today's concerns with the gap between rich and poor, with some ironic twists.

Some people exploit the science, producing humans with extra limbs or internal organs for the illegal transplant trade, or modified for the illegal sex trade. This is a small step from today's purchase of a kidney or an eye from a living person who is very poor, or the tricking or forcing of women and children into the sex trades.

With a good plot and interesting characters, science fiction writers can lead us to think ahead. SF may not so much predict the future as goad us to think about choices in the present.