Knowing vs Teaching

I know how to ride a bike. I don’t mean to brag, but really, I know how to ride a bike.

Although I’ve known how to ride a bike for years, I barely remember how my parents taught me how to ride. The only bit I remember is jumping on my new no-training-wheel bike and riding away from the store with my mother holding on to the back keeping me upright, and then finding out that my mother had let go at some point. So, I remember that first moment of riding without training wheels or an adult’s assistance, but I don’t remember the work (if any) that came before and after that point.

This doesn’t matter much for my bike-riding anymore, of course, but now D’s trying to figure out how to ride a bike without training wheels. And I don’t really know what to tell him. I know how to do it myself, but I don’t always know how to help my child learn.
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Revealing the Big Secret

The boys hadn’t really been asking about sex, but sometimes it would come up indirectly.

For example, “sexy” is a banned word at D’s school, and during his kindergarten year, he asked me what it meant. “Ummm… It means you’re so good looking that someone wants to kiss you.” My response didn’t fully answer the question, but it was close enough for his purposes, so he didn’t really ask the natural follow-up of what “sex” itself is.

There was also the time a couple years ago when I was having a really bad sneezing fit due to Spring tree pollen, and one of the boys asked me what was wrong. Perhaps my response of “Trees are trying to make babies with my face” wasn’t my best moment for enshrinement in the Parenting Hall of Fame, but then we talked a little about the sex life of plants. They didn’t really transfer it to people.

There have been a couple of times recently when D and M have both asked “What is sex?” when we weren’t in a position to give a good answer (with a group, etc.), so we had had to brush them off with “we’ll talk about it later.” And, of course, there have been a few times in which a more sophisticated and observant person would have realized that it was a bad time to have burst into Mommy and Daddy’s room…
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Stephen Fry Presents “That’s Humanism”

I love Stephen Fry. From his comedy work with Hugh Laurie to his hilarious British quiz show to his forceful debating in the service of secularism, he’s someone I very much respect.

He’s also one of the world’s leading living Humanists. But what’s a Humanist?

Fortunately, Fry and the British Humanist Association have teamed up to create a series of four short animated videos to explain what Humanism is and how is applies to our lives. They cover science and knowledge (“How do we know what is true”), death and the afterlife (“What should we think about death?”), secular ethics (“What makes something right or wrong?”), and the meaning of life (“How can I be happy?”).

These are obviously big questions that can’t be fully answered in three-minute videos, but these might be good resources for explaining Humanism to friends and family who are unfamiliar with the concepts.
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You Are Very Compatible in Almost All Areas…

The Pastor came back with the results of our test. We were in his office for pre-marital counseling, and he had just given us some sort of couple’s compatibility test to see how we matched up. When he came back with the results, that’s what he said:

“You are very compatible in almost all areas, but there’s this one…”

He said that we showed up as very compatible for finances, plans for kids, general values, etc., but there was one area where we surprised him: Religion
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AngularJS after Years of Java

In December, I rolled off a project after nine years*. I had been working at Boeing on a mechanical engineering application that is used for general-purpose stress analysis. It’s used in military and commercial aircraft, helicopters and spacecraft. It was a really good project for a long time, and I even took a couple of mechanical engineering undergraduate classes to understand the material better, but it was eventually time to roll off.

The technology on that project was standard desktop Java. I liked to joke that it was perhaps the biggest resume-buzzword-non-compliant project in the St. Louis region. It wasn’t multi-tier. It didn’t use Hibernate (or even use a database). It didn’t use Spring. It didn’t use functional programming. Despite that, it was a good and interesting project for nine years.

But now I’m learning something new: web development with AngularJS.
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Not Leaving Her in the Lurch

A few years ago, someone I know got arrested and ended up out of communication for several weeks. There were lots of ways that this situation was tragic for him and his family, but there was one specific way that the situation scared me and changed the way I provide for my family: his wife’s panic about the bills.

This friend (let’s call him Tim) and I shared in common that both he and I managed the finances in our families. Yes, some traditional gender roles can be found even in the lives of bloggers on the Skepchick network. Anyway, when Tim disappeared for a few weeks, his wife was completely left in the dark about their finances.

When is the cable bill due? Is it automatically paid? What’s the account number in case something needs to be changed? What’s the website? What’s the website’s password? How about the garbage bill? The telephone? The internet? The credit cards? The mortgage? You get the idea.
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Luck, Life, and Gratitude

My older son, D, is seven now. He is healthy and happy. You would never know just by looking at him how close we came to losing him before we got a chance to know him. You see, D’s heart didn’t form correctly.

When he was born, his aorta was hooked up to send the oxygenated blood back to the lungs instead of to the body, which needed the oxygen, and his pulmonary artery was hooked up to send his spent blood back to the body without any oxygen. Essentially, instead of having a single big circulatory loop that sent his blood to both the lungs and body, D had two parallel loops that kept the lungs from doing their job. This condition is called dextro-transposition of the great arteries (d-TGV), and without modern medicine, he would have died within a month of birth.
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Show Me Some Good Bills

Recently, I published two articles about bills in the Missouri House of Representatives that attack the teaching of Evolution in public schools. Fortunately, neither bill has proceeded very far yet (both HB1472 and HB1587 have only been referred to committee), so maybe these bad bills will die natural deaths.

But I don’t want to belabor those bad bills any further. I’m writing this to point out that there are legislators writing bills that promote a progressive vision, even in a state like Missouri, where right-wing Republicans have the upper hand and a supermajority.
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Fighting the Nature Deficit

Over the Winter Break, we visited my parents in a valley in Western Montana. From their living room, I had a view of farmland turning into forest turning into a mountain range with snow-capped peaks. We saw bald eagles from the kitchen, and there were signs that deer had just crossed through their yard.

This is so much closer to nature than my normal existence in suburban St. Louis.
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Second Attack on Evolution Education in Missouri

Last week, I wrote about the first bill submitted in the Missouri House of Representatives this session that attacks evolution. I had hope that it would be the only bill this session.

Those hopes have failed.

I just found out from the National Center for Science Education that a second bill has been submitted: HB 1587. This bill’s sponsor, Rep. Andrew Koenig (R-99), was the only co-sponsor for Rep. Rick Brattin‘s (R-55) HB 1472, which would require school districts to warn parents in advance of any Evolution curriculum and give the parents a chance to opt out of that instruction. This new bill takes a different tack: Strengths and Weaknesses.
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