Sunday, February 21, 2010

Holy Moses!!!

"Holy Moses" were the exact words out of my mouth as I walked out of the bedroom this morning and looked out the office window: snow and lots of it! But this has just given me an extra opportunity to try out my new camera, a point and shoot Sony Cybershot DSC H20.

I chose a point and shoot because I've become quite the klutz with my DSLR, missing most of the good low-light shots I really wanted to capture (and I hate flash, with which I've always been unsuccessful). I've had the new camera for three days now, and I am very pleased. It is almost klutz-proof (the exceptions being when my granddaughter Ione chooses to move too  abruptly). With a memory stick PRO-HG Duo, the pictures load zippily into iPhoto, and that certainly is a change from the past.

Here are some of my shots from Friday:

Maddox in his "Mohawk"..."The kids (at pre-school) laughed and laughed." And it was a good day..."no time outs," he reported on his arrival home. Hurrah! He gets to watch "Toy Story."

Meanwhile, Ione and I hung out together: and she took some advantage of her brother's absence to test out his clothes and the toys he's outgrown, but not entirely, not completely enough to really want to share with a little sister.

And Saturday, Grandma stayed home and baked tomato soup muffins for church on Sunday, which (due to the Sunday morning scene outside) never made it to our church that is 40 miles away.

So the kids came out to play:

...and to snitch graham crackers...

and to tell Dad all about it.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Do You Want to Clone a Caveman?

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Most of us chuckled at GEICO's caveman ads ("so simple even a caveman can do it!") that placed a couple of Neanderthal-appearing guys in a contemporary setting where they are regularly offended by Neanderthal-acting humans. But some day in the not distant future, the joke may be on us as scientists clone Neanderthals in the lab and create, perhaps, a modern day Neanderthal community, with which we humans will need to deal ethically and legally.

BioEdge, an on-line review of issues in bioethics, quotes John Hawks, a University of Wisconsin paleoanthropologist, who says "In the end, we are going to have a cloned Neanderthal." Hawks is opposed, but others interviewed by Archeology magazine, from which BioEdge draws its review, favored cloning. George Church, genetics professor at Harvard Medical School, even believes it may be unethical not to clone: "Just saying 'no' is not necessarily the safest or most moral path. It is a very risky decision to do nothing."

According to Archeology, Neanderthals and humans co-existed for 6,000 to 7,000 years before the more adaptable humans pushed Neanderthals into extinction some 30,000 years ago. The Neanderthal, who Archeology notes, broke away from the lineage of modern humans 450,000 years ago, was physically different from the human: shorter with a protruding brow, stronger upper torso and a larger brain cavity. He lived in communities, buried his dead, made and improved on tools, and likely communicated in a language. Archeology quotes Jacques Hublin, a paleoanthropologist at Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany: "they [had] a different way to give birth to babies, differences in life history, shape of the inner ear, genetics, the speed of development of individuals, weaning, age of puberty." But others believe Neanderthals were not different enough to be considered a separate species.

Bits of Neanderthal DNA have been found in a cave in northern Spain where 11 Neanderthals were murdered about 49,000 years ago and then cannibalized. Geneticists like Professor Church believe it may be possible to create a Neanderthal person by implanting a stem cell with Neanderthal DNA into a human blastocyst and then keeping all the non-Neanderthal cells from developing. Of course, just as does embryonic stem cell research, this requires eliminating human life and is opposed by many, like myself, for this reason.

But there are other reasons to balk at cloning a Neanderthal. Church, himself, acknowledges that anyone cloned would lack the social and environment factors that shaped the original: "They would be something new," he says, "neo-Neanderthals." "This is a species-altering event. It changes the way we are creating a new generation," says Lori Andrews, a professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law. Archeology notes that "legal precedent in the united States seems to be on the side of Neanderthal human rights" of which would certainly be the right not to be experimented on. This might make moot Professor Church's desire to use a cloned Neanderthal to further medical research.

Archeology quotes Bernard Rollin, a bioethicist and professor of philosophy at Colorado State University who believes "the problem lies in how that individual would be treated by others." Rollin says, "I don't believe it is fair to put people...into a circumstance where they are going to be mocked and possibly feared, and this is equally important: it's not going to have a peer group. Given that humans are at some level social beings, it would be grossly unfair."

In the end, Archeology poses the question: "The ultimate goal of studying human evolution is to better understand the human race. The opportunity to meet a Neanderthal and see firsthand our common but separate humanity seems, on the surface, too good to pass up. But what if the thing we learned from cloning a Neanderthal is that our curiosity is greater than our compassion (remember, as Archeology states, the number of sick and dead individuals produced by nuclear transfer cloning is the reason nearly all scientists are opposed to human reproductive cloning") ?"

More likely what's learned (or relearned) would be that our technological know how is greater that our wisdom.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Count Me In!

This is the Mt. Vernon statement, signed by a group of conservatives today at Mt. Vernon:

A Constitutional conservatism unites all conservatives through the natural fusion provided by American principles. It reminds economic conservatives that morality is essential to limited government, social conservatives that unlimited government is a threat to moral self-government, and national security conservatives that energetic but responsible government is the key to America’s safety and leadership role in the world.
A Constitutional conservatism based on first principles provides the framework for a consistent and meaningful policy agenda.
  • It applies the principle of limited government based on the rule of law to every proposal.
  • It honors the central place of individual liberty in American politics and life.
  • It encourages free enterprise, the individual entrepreneur, and economic reforms grounded in market solutions.
  • It supports America’s national interest in advancing freedom and opposing tyranny in the world and prudently considers what we can and should do to that end.
  • It informs conservatism’s firm defense of family, neighborhood, community, and faith.
Does this match your beliefs?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Sadly a Portrait in Group Think

At U.C. Irvine, Islamic students disrupt and attempt to shut down a speech by the Israeli Ambassador. To the University's credit, the disrupters are escorted out and if students, will face disciplinary action.

However, the whole scene is a sorry spectacle of closed ears and closed minds. This is an un-American spectacle...though at least one and probably many in the group are American citizens. As such, they certainly are bereft of American values. We can not let our culture of free speech be destroyed by those who so totally disrespect it.

These people need to be strongly condemned and prosecuted. I would same the same if it were Israeli or Jewish students acting in the same manner...but Israeli and Jewish students don't act like this.

This video is raw footage and a little lengthy, but please watch and note that politeness in the face of fanaticism effects nothing. I apologize for not being able to embed it here, but click on this youtube address, and you will be able to see the video:

After watching, think about whether tolerance for such actions is un-American as I believe it strong as that word is. Dissent that shuts down the constitutional rights of others is a threat to the foundation of our system, and perpetrators need to be prosecuted. Free speech requires constant vigilant protection, and it is cowardly to tolerate its affront.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

From Little Rhody: A Rare Portrait in Courage

I'm a product of Rhode Island public schools: a good elementary (then Broad Street School in Providence), a bad junior high (Roger Williams, but only for 7th and 8th grades), and an excellent college prep high school (Classical). But that was in "the day," I guess. With five of my siblings, I went on to college and also earned an advanced degree, and I do credit much of that success rate to our high school education that sent more than 90% of graduates on to college or nursing school (and, of course, also credit much encouragement from home).

Today, I am passionate about the need for better public schools, and I believe that means charter schools where parents lead and participate and/or school vouchers where parents choose public or private education for their children. This will only be accomplished, you can bet, over the cold dead bodies of teachers' unions. So cheers to School Superintendent Frances Gallo who will fire all the union teachers at Central Falls High School, which has a graduation rate of less than 50%, because they refused to work an additional 25 minutes each day or to help tutor failing students. Guess where teacher unions' priorities are!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Got Ya (Cel Phone) Number! Friday's Quote

"… Where liberals once screamed foul that George Bush ordered the monitoring of phone calls going in to and going out of the US from, or to, known or suspected terrorists and phone companies who participated in that measure should be tarred and feathered… [to] when Obama says Americans should have 'no reasonable expectation of privacy' and it is decided their 'Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when a phone company reveals to the government its own records' ... is fine and dandy and is met with silence…
"My, what a difference a “historic” and “unprecidented” presidency makes."     Erick Erickson

Monday, February 8, 2010

Patience, thy name is Stubborn!

"There's no use being Irish if you can't be thick," my Dad told me with a chuckle on a number of occasions, not all of them appreciated. Stubborn I am; patient I am not. And I've long realized my lack of this virtue. It's golden, my mother frequently reminded me. And I won't quote some of what Dale has said as I have fidgeted, muttered, and banged my way through frustration.

In truth, I have even prayed over my failure, and God has left me impatiently awaiting a fix: until now, until my ever-patient younger sister Madeline reintroduced me to knitting during a visit last month. Years ago when my two oldest children were young, Madeline guided me through the making of two afghans before I set my needles down. Last month she guided me through the making of a scarf, and it occurred to me that I should become more ambitious and make a gift, a shawl for a dear lady I will be visiting in May.

Luckily it's still February. As I curse the delay of sunshiny days, the absence of even buds on the trees, the soggy ground, the filthy car that would be senseless to wash, the dour expression on the face in my mirror, the darkness even until past seven in the morning, the chill, the flat grey sky, the dog tracks on my living room floor, the power bill, and the grumblings of discontent that fill my mind, I begin my project and find I am grateful that I have three months to succeed in it.

For knitting is an in and out proposition...not so much the movement of the needles, I mean more the knit five rows in, tear six rows out. Indeed, I have been driven nearly to distraction. I have spent periods of three and four hours bumblingly testing my sanity.  And it's been a very near thing. Ask Dale.

But gradually I am making some progress. I'm learning to be smarter about tearing out and catching the added stitch that necessitates pulling out nine rows. I'm taking some of this with a grain of salt; it really doesn't require I tear my hair out as well even as it makes me feel like doing just that.

There's even some humor in the situation. For instance, Dale finds it hysterical that I am becoming the caricature of a grandmother. I have the white hair, the spectacles, and now, Lord help me, the knitting needles. But he restrains himself also because knitting needles have other uses, which is why, I suppose, the TSA in its high flying wisdom forbids taking them on board an airplane.

There's really no joy in tearing out. In some ways, it's rather masochistic. It really would be a whole lot easier to simply dump the whole mess and begin shopping for a gift. But I'm from New England (originally), and it's hard to take all of that out of a girl even in riotous Reno town. Remember, I am stubborn. So I stand over the trash can, and retract the hand that is about to dump in the yarn. I pull out the needles. I grit my teeth, and I begin again. Some might call this patience...but as you can see they would be wrong.

Quote of the Day

"You [President Obama] say you want innovation. You say you want competition. And you say you want America to lead, not follow. You brought down the house during your State of the Union address by saying so. But education innovation, competition and leadership depends upon giving parents, teachers and schools the freedom to do their jobs, not forcing them to abide 20th century labor laws that [protect] adults and not kids, and allowing children to attend schools based on their best interests, not on their ZIP code.
Good domestic policy isn’t just about making tough decisions on biofuel, energy or health care. Good domestic policy means making tough decisions about who educates our kids and who does not, and puts parents, not bureaucrats in charge."                 Jeanne Allen