June 3rd, 2009


Pushing on the Short End of the Lever

I saw this article ...

James Forman Jr. | No Ordinary Success
James Forman Jr., The Boston Review: "How much can schools improve the life prospects of children growing up in poor neighborhoods? This question has divided the education community since at least the 1960s, when a group of researchers led by James Coleman attempted to quantify the extent to which segregation hurt black children. Coleman concluded that differences in family background had a greater impact on student achievement than did differences in school quality."

... and had to wonder if it ever occurred to anyone to create a concerted program for teaching family skills in poor neighborhoods. Yes, education is important; good schools help, while bad schools can be fatal. But of course family environment has a huge impact -- children can't learn well if the parents are drunk, stoned, violent, neglectful, terminally clueless, or otherwise worse than useless.

Think of raising a child like trying to grow a tree. It needs good soil (the family) and good light (education). You can't fix a soil nutrient deficit by holding a magnifying glass over the leaves.

We need to nourish families. First that means stopping the habit of picking on ones that aren't fashionable but do work, such as families headed by pairs of siblings, or by grandparents, or by homosexual couples, or by single parents living together to save money. Second, it means reaching out to people in need and teaching them practical and social skills that can improve family function. Ideally, the outreach should be done by people who have lived through similar circumstance, or who share ethnic, religious, or other common ground with the target audience.

For instance, I was pleased to see a MOPS booth (for mothers of preschool children) at a local event with a big sign encouraging "Teen MOPS" to join so they could learn parenting skills from experienced mothers. There was even a tent for breastfeeding, changing, and other baby care. MOPS is a Christian organization that actually puts their faith into practice with activities that meet people's needs. That's worth emulating. Even if the teen mothers eventually decide to practice some other religion, they'll have more parenting experience and friends to build on.

Fieldhaven Flowers and Fruit 6-2-09

We're supposed to get a couple days of rain, followed by several sunny days. This should be a good balance between mowing and fruit.

Near end of bloom: black raspberries, honeysuckle, wild strawberries, chives, white peonies, multiflora rose

Full bloom: rugosa roses (dark pink and white), red clover, comfrey, petunias, marigolds, blue lobelia, pansies, torenia, moss rose, snapdragons, zinnias, blackberries, white clover, sage

Beginning bloom: million bells, privet, Yellow Pear tomatoes, Red Roma tomatoes, Black Prince tomato

Green fruit: wild strawberries, saskatoon serviceberry, Criterion apple, mulberry, black raspberry, gold currant, rugosa roses

The wild strawberries have set a fair amount of fruit. There are lots of tiny apples and rose hips, too. The mulberry fruits are starting to turn pink.

Fruit starting to ripen: pie cherries, wild strawberries

The pie cherries are yellow and pink, some almost red. Another several days to a week and I can start picking, if I beat the birds to them. A few of the wild strawberries are ripe enough to eat, though still tart; I picked a few today.

Partner Rights for Homosexual Immigrants

I came across this piece about legislature that would extend partner rights to homosexual immigrants, allowing them to enjoy the same rights that heterosexual people have to bring a partner into the country.


"On Wednesday morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold the first-ever Congressional hearing on obstacles faced by lesbian and gay couples under U.S. immigration law. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the committee, has scheduled a 10 a.m. hearing on the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). The bill, sponsored by Leahy in the Senate and Congressman Jerold Nadler (D-NY) in the House, would modify immigration policy to end discrimination against lesbian and gay Americans who want to sponsor their permanent partners for residency in the United States. Such couples are often separated, or torn apart, because current U.S. law does not allow for the same sponsorship rights for lesbian and gay citizens as for heterosexuals."

One Photo This Time: Cat Tracks

I'm going to try again posting a photo to see if it will transmit. This was my first attempt at shooting animal tracks, and then I tested the software's line-and-label functions. There were also bird tracks but they're difficult or impossible to see in this image.


This Week on Hypatia's Hoard


Image Files and Handles

I've managed to upload one photo successfully. Yesterday's attempt to upload flower photos got an error message saying "handle is in wrong position." Does anyone know what this "handle" is and how to make it be in the right position? Whatever affects it is beyond my awareness, because different photos from the same machine and same shoot can have different results when I try to upload them. It's driving me nuts.

Further Thoughts on Upside-Down Tomatoes

My upside-down tomatoes are beginning to bloom. First a couple of the Yellow Pears, then the Red Romas and the Black Prince. The mystery tomato hasn't bloomed yet.

I can see roots growing up the sides of the milk cartons, visible through the translucent plastic. Unfortunately the cheap potting soil has compacted into lumps. For best results I think upside-down plants would need a lighter potting medium with plenty of peat moss, vermiculite, or other things that trap air and water. I may try buying a bag of higher-quality potting mix if I can afford it, and top off the jugs with that. Right now, when I water, most of it just runs out the neck of the jug.

Another way to deal with that would be to use something absorbent around the plant stems inside the jugs. Next year, if I do this again, I might try cutting filter collars out of sponges, instead of using dryer sheets as I did this time.

Also, I came across a reference in a book to grow-bags made of "woven plastic." That made me think of reusuable shopping bags, most of which are made of recycled plastic that is woven or flossed into a very tough, breathable fabric. These things cost $1-2 each and have a large interior capacity; we can fit two gallon jugs in there. Plus they have their own handles and wouldn't need a hanging net. It might be interesting to try this next time. I am not sure, however, whether it would be better to cut a hole in the bottom, or just plant the seedlings upright and let them dangle over the edges like a normal hanging basket.

My current arrangement looks like this:


Flower Photos

This is my first attempt at sharing some of the photos I've taken with my new camera. These are not up to my usual standard; I'm posting them because I promised to share results, good or bad. The "flowers" topic was requested by camera sponsor browngirl.

This shows some of the typical blur I'm getting. It's supposed to be a picture of the container garden I have set up around one corner of our house. However, the blues come through nice and bright.

Here is a picture of a peony that shows some of the framing challenges I've had (my fault) and the light/shadow washout (probably at least partly the camera's fault).

In real life, this rosa rugosa flower is poke-your-eye-out hot reddish-pink. In the photo, it appears as a rather drab shade of medium pink. I suspect this may be a camera-quality issue, since my computer monitor does fine at producing brilliant colors from other files. It may also have to do with lighting; I'll keep poking around and see what develops.

These photos were from my first shoot. I managed to get slightly better ones later, but I thought it would be useful to show the first results.

This Is Why Bullying Is a Problem...

... it kills people.

A Tragic Lesson in Anti-Gay Bullying
If you were taunted with words like "fag" and "dyke" daily in school, to what extent would this affect you? Perhaps the experience would keep you hiding in the closet for years, send you into a depression, or lower your academic achievement. Maybe the homophobic culture of your school would convince you that gay people are inferior, and you might start using the ubiquitous phrase "that's so gay" to describe every unfavorable person, place, or thing.</p>

    Or, if the bullying were unrelenting, perhaps you might do the unimaginable: commit suicide.

The suicide rate among LGBT children and teens is several times that of straight ones. But sometimes straight students are harassed to death because people simply think they are queer. School staff may not stop it because they agree with it, they don't witness it, they consider it harmless, they are afraid of being fired for being queer-friendly, and/or they are just so overworked or overcrowded that they can't maintain a safe atmosphere.

What you can do, if you witness young people harassing each other, is stop it. If you don't have enough power for that, at least scold them and tell them it's wrong. You might save a life.

This goes for the myriad other reasons that young people torment each other -- someone is fat, or sweats a lot, or is a different ethnicity, or has less money, or wears glasses, or is smart, or is dumb, et cetera ad nauseam. Tormenting people is wrong; it can cripple or kill the victim, and it is harmful to the perpetrator because it encourages bad social habits that can interfere with relationships later in life.