Saturday, June 21, 2008

Ramblings for the Afternoon (6/22/08)

I haven't done a rambling in a while, so with the sun and the rain here today (and my gardening on and off hold), here you go.

So, without further ado: PARENTHOOD!
The Beauty of Words:
I have to thank "Michele" for this:

This picture comes from "Wordle" and is of one of the poems that I love to teach: Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken.

I recommend, dear reader, that you take a text that you love (including one of your own blog posts if you wish) and see what it looks like.

It's an interesting idea, and it could also become a useful tool. Take a philosophical text, and use Wordle to find the strongest ideas. Those are usually the words repeated the most.

Could this be a teaching tool? Hmmm.

Little Leab has become Toddler Leab (though he's still Little Leab). Friday he turned two. It's odd watching him and thinking about how much he's changed since he was born. Instead of a mush-covered conehead, I now have a blonde whirling-dervish.

On the day my son was born, the hospital decided that my wife would be the room for teaching. That's right: She got the newbies. This meant that eight people were in the room when my son was born (he was the ninth). I didn't get to cut his cord, but I'm not bitter. I got something better instead.

And two years of being a father have taught me patience. Infinite patience. Yet, I wouldn't ask for anything else.

Vague Understanding of Choice:
It's election time again, which means annoying commercials, yahoos screaming at you in the
street, and (my personal favorite) dinner or late-night phone call surveys. For three days in a row, I have been called to answer questions about presidential and senatorial candidates. I usually don't answer, but with family members outside the country right now, I pick up the phone when it says "Unknown" as it may be one of them. I'm also not rude enough to hang up.

What has struck me about these surveys were how vague the questions were worded and how your choices were not varied (though this also tips you off as to who is sponsoring the call).

Examples: The first call was about Al Franken and Norm Coleman. The vague questions begin here:

"What is," the tele-marketer starts, "more likely to make you vote for Norm Coleman: If he cuts taxes or raises taxes?"

"Whose taxes?" I ask. "Raise the middle or cut the middle? Raise the rich or cut the rich? Can you be more specific?"

"No," I am told. "Just answer the questions.

Beyond this, the questions begin to get slightly pointed. "If I told you that Al Franken enjoys ripping the heads off of puppies and sucking the blood while shooting your grandma, would you be more or less likely to vote for him?"

Maybe not that pointed, but you get the idea.

The other issue is the choice of answers. "Who are you more likely to vote for in the upcoming election," Gene asks me. "Barack Obama or John McCain?"

"I don't know," I reply. "Is there an undecided?"

"There is, but then you have to tell us who you are at least leaning toward."

"No one. I'm really undecided right now until I hear them discuss the issues that matter to me."

"Ummmm," Gene says, "That isn't going to work. You have no inkling right now? I need a name or a leaning."

I don't understand why he couldn't just put that I was undecided. Perhaps that means problems for the candidates and their spin crew who don't want to hear, "there's people who have NO idea who to vote for." That won't help them win.

Of course what do I know? I asked about the Communist candidates. I could be wrong.


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