Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Relo Alert!

The time has come to move the Woundup. I will only say that our current hosting environment crossed one line too many in their desire to micro-manage the web, and that one line was the determining factor.

Look for the Woundup at it's new location:

Give it a few weeks and this site will be taken down.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Of Dogs and Cars

I don't mind admitting that I'm a tremendous Dave Barry fan. Over the years I particularly enjoyed his columns that dealt with either dogs or cars. These, because of my own memories with such things, always set me chuckling.

I've dealt with a few dogs myself over the years, ranging from a Heinz-57 variety when I was a toddler (known to me only via home movies), an extremely nervous chihuahua named "Twinkle" (for whom my grandmother was nicknamed), and, when I was a teenager, a neurotic whippet named "Splinter."

Her actual name was not Splinter. She was in reality an AKC-bred whippet and a name like Splinter does not sit well with the AKC for purposes of registration. So her registered name, dreamt up by my father (proving once again that his sense of humor extended beyond merely creating five interesting children) was "Fleetfoots Frangere Dubois." This appropriately pretentious-sounding name was, in fact, a loose composite of French and Italian for "splinter of wood," except for the Fleetfoots part, which was the name of the breeding farm where Splinter was dropped off by extra-terrestrials during an emergency.
Loudspeaker on ET's bridge: Warning! Transwarp engines reaching critical mass! Eject the whippet core!
ET would use whippets for their spacecraft because these dogs, bred as miniature greyhounds, are lightning fast. We were never rich or pretentious enough as a family to do anything like turn Splinter into an actual racing dog, so her primary form of physical activity was going to the school yard next door and running around like an antelope on meth. I'd let her off the leash, and she'd leave me behind in a cloud of dust. Only an occasional sonic boom would indicate her approximate position. Her favorite trick was waiting for a larger dog, like a labrador or a shepherd, to wander into the school yard and then - ZOOM - she'd run right underneath the larger dog, sending that animal into paroxysms of barking and howling, begging his owner to let him off the leash so he could hunt her down and turn her into a snack.

Ironically, they wouldn't have had to try very hard if they'd simply wanted to get rid of her. Splinter was a very high strung animal. Her nervousness was such that if our cat happened to wander into the house (on those occasions when she deigned to let us feed her), Splinter would immediately take up residence under our couch and refuse to come out until the cat stopped threatening to shred her like an old credit card.

I've since been told that whippets are, in fact, highly intelligent animals and capable of amazing feats beyond just running faster than our current fleet of F-22s.


Splinter's main amazing feat was her ability to jump over a given fence or wall, while still chained in our yard, and effectively hang herself in the neighbor's yard. She did this frequently because we spent a lot of time in our neighbor's pool next door during the summer, and Splinter could not bear to hear us having such a good time without her. Since I was a mindless teenager, I usually forgot to shorten her chain and she would easily jump the six-foot fence into the next yard. The chain, however, was only long enough to clear the fence with about three feet of chain left.

Ah, the good times.

This morning I was reading about Dave's experiences with buying a car. This reminded me of my Dad's stories about various cars he'd owned. Our family owned cars that were not what I would call muscle cars. Our cars tended to be technological weaklings that other cars could not resist kicking sand at while on the beach.

The coolest cars we owned were handed down to us by my grandparents who had themselves moved on to muscle cars and gave us what were, when they owned them, perfectly serviceable automobiles, but which became, after our family got hold of them, simpering, blithering shadows of their former selves. Even our Chevy Bel-Air (1955! Baby blue!) could not long withstand our inability to keep any car running without developing some sort of fatal car disease. In the Bel-Air's case, a transmission that somehow or other lost the ability to move in reverse. This meant never parking anywhere that we could not move out of nose-first. If we parked in a driveway, it had to be steep enough to allow us to drift backwards in neutral all the way into the street so we could then move forward.

Once upon a time, Dad told me about a car they bought mostly on the recommendation of my grandfather (my mom's Dad). It was called the "Goliath," and Dad hated this car. Thanks to the internet, I now know that the Goliath was of European design and build and was considered "revolutionary" for its time. However, the words "two cylinder, two stroke engine" helped me understand the vitriol my father felt for this car. Dad would have considered this car a lawn mower with a trunk and a steering wheel.

Dad bought the Goliath and before long developed the kind of relationship with it that was similar to Ralph and Alice Kramden in "The Honeymooners." Except that Dad's language when dealing with Alice (the Goliath) was much more colorful than anything Jackie Gleason ever came up with.

My favorite story about the Goliath, however, was one which always caused my mother to shrink back into the couch and try, if possible, to disappear. This is because she was actually with Dad when this happened, and she tried the same trick in the front seat of the car.

Dad had pulled up to a red light and - only because the law required it - stopped. The car, sensing an opportunity to get some well deserved rest, expired. Being Los Angeles (the Big City!), some gracious lady pulled up behind Dad at the light. When the light turned green and Dad was frantically trying to get the Goliath resuscitated, the lady began honking her horn. Those of us who knew and loved my Dad could just envision Dad's reaction to this lady's helpful horn blowing. After a moment or two (I reckoned Dad's legendary patience would have been strained after precisely two honks, but that may be a slight exaggeration) Dad got out of the car, walked back to the helpful lady and said something to the effect of, "Look, lady. I'll make a deal with you. You come start my car, and I'LL SIT HERE AND HONK YOUR #$&*%! HORN!" Mom, at this point, was attempting to phase into an entirely different dimension.

I'd tell you about the joys of being a two-Volkswagen family when I was a teenager, but I think Dad's patience has had all it can stand for one post.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Gotcha? Not Really...

Interesting article in Yahoo! News today. Perhaps not so much for the incident itself, which is telling, but rather for the reaction and bias placed on it by the reporter.

 A young man named Bret Hatch brought what appeared to be a "gotcha" question to a town hall meeting that Mitt Romney was hosting in Wisconsin today. He had been culling through the Book of Mormon looking, no doubt, for some "controversial" doctrine with which he could trip the candidate up, and immediately placed a backward spin on Romney's response that would actually make Jay Carney turn green with envy.

The headline screams "Mormon Question Sparks Tense Moment During Mitt Romney Town Hall."

No big deal, really. This sort of thing is par for the political course these days. Certainly we were treated to all sorts of "gotcha" questions back when Sarah Palin was tossed into the meat grinder and Katie Couric threw down her "which newspapers do you read" IED. There was probably no correct answer to that question. Her honest response won no small amount of scorn in the press, while any other answer would have been torn apart as "phony" or "pretentious."

Today's question was a ham-handed attempt to make Romney admit that because he believes the Book of Mormon to be inspired scripture, then he must be racist because the book refers to a "skin of darkness" as part of a curse for extreme sinfulness.
"I guess my question is do you believe it's a sin for a white man to marry and procreate with a black?" asked Hatch.
"No," Romney responded sternly, before turning to face the other side of the room.
Mr. Hatch later tells the reporter that Romney's answer means he "just denounced his faith up there."

Simply stated: No, he didn't.

What he ignores - conveniently - is the fact that the rest of the book speaks of continuous attempts over the centuries to spiritually reclaim those very people and help them accept the gospel, regardless of the color of their skin. This, after all, is the true message of the Gospel: that the blessings of the Lord are available to any and all who will humble themselves and receive them, irrespective of their skin tone or nationality.

Here's the interesting part of this entire incident. When interviewed after the Town Hall, Mr. Hatch was all too willing to throw out the screed that if Romney believes the Book of Mormon, then it becomes (wait for it) a racial issue. Get that? It has nothing to do with how successful President Obama may or may not have been during his first term. No, if Romney is the nominee this November, then it boils down to race and little more. At least for Mr. Hatch.

Here's the thing: as a life-long member of the Church and believer in the Book of Mormon, Obama's presidency (or the man himself, for that matter) has never been about race for me. It has always been (and will always be, I might add) about his radical socialist policies that have kept this country in a state of continuous economic ruin since the day he took office. That's not racism. That's anti-socialist prejudice, and I will freely stipulate to that particular prejudice for the rest of my natural life. His policies and those of the Democrats currently infesting Congress are ruinous, plain and simple.

If that makes me a racist, then someone needs to contact the various purveyors of dictionaries and get the definition changed. Pronto.

In the meantime, I have to go. My anti-anthropogenic-global-warming re-education sessions begin tonight.

Friday, October 21, 2011

I'd Have Written Sooner, But I Just Woke Up

I'm a few days late for my annual birthday essay, but I have an excellent excuse:

I forgot.

Not my actual birthday, of course. I have a wife and daughters that keep me well in mind of my actual birthday. They do this with a series of increasingly subtle hints as the day approaches.

"What would you like to do on your birthday, Dear?"

"Daddy, what's your favorite [insert random item here]?"

"Can we stay home while you and Momma celebrate your birthday?"

So remembering the day was not the problem.

Nor do I have a problem with my actual age. Chronologically I turned 53 this year, which is, I dunno, about 137.4 in programmer years. At least that's the way the newer crop of programmers make me feel. I just attended the annual Adobe MAX conference a few weeks ago, and the saddest sight in the world is an old programmer who tries to dress like the hip but nerdy youngsters for which these conferences are really created. I saw one complete with a full head of extremely gray hair in a long ponytail. He was wearing leather (pants and jacket) and a black tee shirt. There were probably piercings, too, but my highly-developed inner eyelid closed before the vision could cause any further damage.

I'm okay with my apparent lack of hipness, however. I've earned my gray hair, by golly, and I'm ready to accept the fact that when I move, it's not without first having checked to see if my back muscles are in complete agreement with my intended direction. This baby does not turn on a dime, y'know.

I'm also okay with my need for increased sleep. I've always been a comfortable sleeper, and have been known in past years to sleep even through the occasional six-point-something earthquake. (Sylmar, 1971. Barely registered on my subconscious.)

Lately I've found myself desperately needing a short nap in the afternoon, no matter how much sleep I get the night before. It generally hits me shortly after lunch, and I can feel my head getting heavier and heavier. Before I know it I startle myself awake with crick in my neck from having slept with my head at a weird angle.

No, I think my main concern this birthday is my shrinking brain mass. It used to be that we thought we were losing something like a million brain cells every year. It turns out, though, that what really happens is that we lose brain "mass," which is a polite way of saying our brains shrink over time. Again, I'm completely cool with this idea, but I sure wish I could control which portions of my brain engage in said shrinkage.

Victor Borge used to say, "There are three things I can never remember."

[pregnant pause]


I know what he meant now. My wife and I will be having a conversation, generally having to do with my going to the store to buy something or other. Immediately subsequent to this conversation, my brain will finally remind me that I've just been asked to go to the store. "Just one thing, Honey. What do you need me to get at the store?" To which she replies with that look that women have perfected over centuries of evolution that immediately communicates to the men that they are in Big Trouble because they Haven't Been Listening. "Did you not hear me just tell you what we need?" she will ask.

Ummmm. Apparently not.

Here's the part of my brain that I'd love to shrink: Whichever part it is that impels me to believe that I know what I'm doing.

Really. My Dad was a supremely confident man, at least as I remember him. When he spoke, it was generally with a voice of authority with which other people tended to agree. This may have been because Dad had a somewhat intimidating presence, which is akin to saying that the South Pole is somewhat frozen. But I always thought it was because Dad just always knew what he was talking about.

Then, however, I think back on some of Dad's homeowner projects when I was growing up. Building walls between rooms in our house, for example. Dad was convinced that we didn't need an open path between our living room and our dining room. Since we had a perfectly serviceable pathway to the kitchen, he decided to wall up the dining room and turn it, briefly, into a "den." That poor den suffered through quite a number of Dad's homeowner projects over the years, until ultimately he tore out everything he'd ever built except for the wall, and turned it back into a dining room.

Likewise our backyard gardens. Dad was the world's greatest armchair gardener. He had a long-standing subscription to "Organic Gardening" magazine and even took classes at the local junior college on the topic. These resources were, of course, applied directly to his children, whom he employed as migrant farm workers. I don't mean to say that he didn't get out there himself and work; I'm just saying that I always felt like I was getting more than my fair share of garden-related assignments.

These two examples, however, illustrate perfectly this idea that, as an adult, I always feel that I not only know what I'm doing, but I'm not generally happy when a) not everyone else seems to think so, and b) my ideas frequently seem to turn out differently from the way I originally planned them.

That part of my brain I would never miss. But it seems to be the only part of my brain that not only isn't shrinking, but seems to be expanding. Probably sucking up mass from other parts of my brain, like my memory, or my attention to detai...

What was I talking about?

Nuts. Now I can't remember. Guess I'm done with this one, then.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Statistically Speaking

Just based on my own observations with respect to any argument related to Global Warming or any data quoted by the current Administration:

Statistics are the artful manipulation of raw data in such manner that the end results are entirely disconnected from that raw data.

Or so it seems to me.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Raising the Bar for "Dysfunctional"

Because, at the end of the day, we're all just one big happy family, right?

If they qualify as a "family," then they have serious in-breeding problems.

Just sayin'.

(H/T: Michelle Malkin)

Monday, August 22, 2011

It Isn't Supposed to Be Easy

A few thoughts on homeschooling, from a perspective of having done this for awhile now:

1. It's not for everyone.

We have met many, many homeschooling families over the years. Often it's just a chance meeting at a large gathering, such as when Sea World hosts a "homeschool" event. There you get to see thousands of families in split-second tableaux. Such encounters always have me wondering why many of these families choose to homeschool. Is it rage against the machine? A sincere desire to instill family values (like — I swear I saw this — matching tattoos on their teenagers)? Shouldn't they look happier if they're pursuing a family dream?

Just watching parents dealing with their kids in public makes me ask one other, even more troubling question: Are there parents who school their kids at home out of fear that some authority figure is going to sic child welfare services on them because they are obviously lousy parents? Of course, perhaps we were just catching them on a bad day...

2. The decision of whether to homeschool is never an easy one, even if it was never really a question at all.

My sweetheart and I had decided to homeschool before we ever brought a child into the world. The fact that Mrs. Woody had been a public school teacher in her past life only cemented the obvious: the state of public education was changing at an alarming rate, and not in a good way. Reading between the lines of various reports and debates throughout the nation even fifteen or sixteen years ago, it was clear that if we wanted our children to learn solid fact, rather than socialized ephemera, we needed to do it ourselves. Besides, if we want our children to learn something other than solid fact, I much prefer it be based on a gospel I can support, rather than the gospel of the micro-managing labor unions that currently control public education today.

These reasons alone, however, were not sufficient to make our final decision to homeschool our daughters. They were the "why" of the equation. The "why" is hardly ever in doubt; it is the "how" that makes homeschooling such a difficult decision. "How" are we going to teach our daughters everything they need to know, and can we possibly do so without interference from (or even notice of) state and local authorities. Those are questions that must be researched carefully and thoroughly before committing yourselves and your children to such a venture.

When we talk to perspective homeschoolers, the questions we get are never "why." They are "how." And they are legion.

3. Homeschooling is a noble act, no matter what your friends, family, neighbors, and especially the government may think.

This of course assumes that you are meant to homeschool. Interestingly, living in California is actually quite a blessing when it comes to homeschooling. I will tell you this, however: the level of potential interference from an administrative perspective increases exponentially if you live in a part of the state that is considered "liberal" in its base politics. We have had the good fortune of living in two counties that are traditionally considered "conservative" in their base. School districts in these counties largely shrug their collective shoulders where homeschoolers are concerned, and some even attempt to open their doors and allow homeschoolers access to their resources.

At a state level, California makes it possible to homeschool largely under the radar. Legally there are no real obstacles to homeschooling in this state. Challenges are usually the result of some moral diarrhea being suffered by a local authority who simply cannot accept that public education is anything less than spectacularly wonderful for every child. We even had one candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction in our last election who could not for the life of him imagine any campus in California not being perfectly "safe" for our children. This candidate had obviously never visited any campus anywhere in East or South Central Los Angeles.

I know there are families in California who have had to defend themselves legally, but by rights (and by law) they should never have been prosecuted in the first place.

4. Homeschooling is fun! Eventually!

Make no mistake: homeschool is hard work. It requires hours of planning; constant modification based on what works or doesn't work; daily fine-tuning to make sure you're understanding all the nuances that your children are experiencing as they grow (and learn!). In the early stages, frustration mounts whenever an attempted curriculum fails to do the job. This isn't working! What am I doing wrong? (Legal notice: frustrations may include, but are not limited to, curriculum, lack of internet access on any particular day, the attitudes of children or spouse, interference from "concerned" but "well-meaning" extended family, Mondays, Fridays, "that time of the month," full moons, or the latest ant infestation in your kitchen.)

It isn't necessarily you. Even if it is, you may simply need to rethink things. If one curriculum isn't working, there's bound to be one that will. Just check to make sure the problem isn't the way in which the curriculum was applied. Some people need to have every aspect of their school day scheduled out to the nth degree. Others abhor scheduling of any kind and just let things happen as they will. Either way, expect to be in a state of constant change until both you and your student(s) hit your stride. Finding that rhythm that works in most cases is the hardest thing you'll ever do. Once you've accomplished that and found the materials that properly support that rhythm, the rest is easy.

And fun.