Thursday, December 21, 2006

Big Update

It's been a while since I did an update, and I have a lot to write about. Nothing earth shattering, but lots to write about.

The other day I put a comb in my back pocket so I could comb my son's hair down while we were out. I spend a lot of time walking around the house turning off lights that aren't in use. And I've started to listen to Johnny Cash. In other words I've become my Dad.

I sold off my Nortel stock the other day. Nortel had touched $126 a share, and when it backed off to $70 a share I bought. After all, it can't go any lower, right? In fact it ended up going down to 68 cents a share. This is my reminder that one shouldn't try to catch a falling knife. In fact, it was a five thousand dollar reminder. My broker offered to sell it for a $5 commission. That's what you call pity.

No all is bad on the financial side. To qualify for the Universal Child Care Benefit I had to apply for the Child Tax Benefit. They looked at the records since Hannah was born, decided we qualified at some point in the past and mailed us a CTB cheque and the UCCB cheques from last summer. The total wasn't quite enough to buy a plasma TV, but it's close. Not that we'll be buying a plasma TV; I suspect the money will go into the children's education savings.

I was at the grocery store tonight and saw the new PS3 video game. Amazing graphics. Simply amazing. Not that I'd waste money on one though.

I took Hannah out to Tim Horton's tonight as a special one-on-one activity. She ate one bite of her doughnut and announced she wanted to go to the grocery store.

My goal for the Christmas holidays is to spend some time with each of my children individually. I take them out together quite frequently, but I figure they would like some individual time. Bethany and Joel each want to go to the new War Museum.

As I was driving to work the other day I saw a couple of girls crossing the street. To find out what happened, you'll have to read the editorial in the January issue of Learning at Home, the newsletter of the Rideau Valley Home Educators Association. I might publish it here after it goes out to our subscribers.

I renewed my subscription to First Things magazine. I wasn't sure whether I wanted to or not, but finally decided to go ahead. The Editor is a Roman Catholic priest, and must of the magazine has a strongly Roman Catholic focus. There are actually advertisements for Monasteries. Anyway, I find the Roman Catholic focus to be somewhat oppressive. I think most Roman Catholic intellectuals would be surprised to find out how little the world cares about changes to the Roman Catholic liturgy. However despite all the Roman Catholic content, there is nothing within the evangelical Protestant community that offers the kind of interaction between faith and our society that First Things offers. Want to know about Russia? They publish Solzhenitsyn. Want to know about the American legal system? They publish Supreme Court Justice Scalia. And Catholic Cardinal Dulles has some interesting insights on C.S. Lewis. Every month I have to wade through a bunch of material that disinterests me in order to find the nuggets. But each issue does contain nuggets I don't find among Protestants, so I re-subscribed.

Speaking of First Things, the December 2006 issue had an interesting article on Uncaring Conservatives. It is commonly understood that those with a Liberal worldview are more caring and compassionate towards the needy, while those who have a Conservative worldview are rather heartless. But along comes some research by Arthur Brooks of Syracuse University. Dr Brooks found (1) religious people (who are far more likely to be politically conservative) are far more charitable with their time and money, (2) people who believe the government should equalize income give and volunteer far less, (3) the working poor (who tend to be politically conservative) are much more generous than the poor who are on public assistance, (4) charitable giving is a learned activity reinforced by intact families (and family breakdown is less prevalent among conservatives than among liberals), and (5) Europeans on average are more Liberal and less charitable than Americans. Now remember, this is statistical data so it says nothing about how any given individual will act. But it does make sense, doesn't it? If a person is taught that charitable giving is a personal responsibility rather than a governmental responsibility, and if charitable giving is reinforced by your family and religious teachings, you are going to end up giving more. It's little nuggets like this that make First Things a worthwhile read.

I had lunch with “K” today at work. He has a range of interests as eclectic as my own, and frankly it is a challenge to hold my own in our discussions (which is what makes the discussions so enjoyable and informative from my point of view). Anyway, he took me through the first 110 pages of Stephen Wolfram's “A New Kind of Science”. Wolfram is a well known mathematician. From what I was able to understand of K's description, I predict Wolfram's book will be to the next 30 years what Mandelbrot's fractals were from 1970 until now. Basically it is a new way of exploring and depicting reality. For example, he would depict certain mathematical problems graphically, and see repeating structures. For he might find non-repeating strings and realize that this was related to the shortest possible proof for a problem (i.e. He proved graphically that no shorter proof could exist).

One of the things “K” described (and I don't know if it is in the book or not) was an interesting mathematical structure. Take a square and draw upon it 9 smaller squares (e.g. Take a 3 inch by 3 inch square and divide it into 9 squares each of one square inch). Then cut out the middle square. Now do the same for each of the remaining squares. Now iterate to infinity and you have a structure that has dimensions but no surface area. But that got me to thinking. You could do the same thing with a 3 dimensional cube, and end up with a structure that has size and dimensions but no volume. And if it has no volume, then it would have no weight. And if it has no weight, it could be accelerated to the speed of light without taking on infinite mass. Very interesting. Too bad 3 years of university level math doesn't allow me to pursue these thoughts further.


Anonymous Deborah said...

Interesting to hear more about the First Things newsletter. At our local Classical Families group I mentioned a WONDERFUL book I am reading called Crunchy Cons by Rod Dreher (very cool ideas about being truly conservative), and one of the men present mentioned the First Things newsletter in relation -- thinking perhaps Dreher writes for them from time to time? This man's family is Reformed in theology and yet they really enjoy the newsletter as well. I'll have to look into it!

12:56 a.m.  

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