Tuesday, July 28, 2009

No Peeing!

It's very naughty to tell your kids stuff that's, well, just made up, just because it's so funny that they'll believe anything. I was so noble about the whole Santa Claus thing, not wanting to lie to my kids about it.

But then the other day Leo asked me about this sign. He can recognize the letter P, and he knows what the red circle with a slash means on a sign, so naturally he was wondering precisely what it means you're not allowed to do.

"It's obvious," said I. "You're not allowed to pee here."

Obviously, he believed me. (It probably helped that he's from France, where "no peeing" zones are the exception, see my scrapbooking post.)

Don't worry though! Leo's Daddy later told him what the sign really means: "no parking."

And Leo didn't believe him...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A new review of Exmormon!

This just proves how insanely focused I am on my work at the moment: A new review of Exmormon appeared, and I didn't even notice it for two days! Please have a look, and then go read the book itself. :D

Please don't worry that my kids are being neglected during this bout of crazy-deadline-itis. As you can see here and here, Nico and Leo are in good hands.

And in case I haven't given you enough to read, there's a new round of great carnivals: Skeptical Parent Crossing, The Humanist Symposium, and the Carnival of the Godless!!!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Drinking woo-juice!!!

This country is full of strange and mysterious new things every time I come back here!

I keep having to adapt and re-invent my habits because all the food is different from what I've grown used to in Europe. At lunch, for example, I couldn't find any rainforest juice (apparently it's a Swiss thing even though it comes from the Amazon -- the Swiss are all about sustainable+fair+eco foods), so I had to pick something else. I decided to try

Kombucha!!! I had to try it since I've been wondering what in the world is kombucha? ever since I started reading Kombucha Chic's blog. Here's the verdict:

* I like it even though it tastes like vinegar. Especially the green kind.
* Seems invigorating, as claimed on the label.
* I've been drinking it for the past few days, and it's starting to grow on me. (Also in me, being a "living food"...)

* I'm not entirely convinced this stuff is safe.

I know humans safely eat some foods that contain live cultures such as yogurt and and certain cheeses, but those are foods that people have been eating for millenia. The bottle says that Kombucha is Chinese, so it's possible that people have been drinking it cold, raw, and alive for millenia, but maybe not. The ingredients are listed as "100% G.T.'s organic raw kombucha*, and 100% pure love!!!" which is probably accurate, and yet it leads me to suspect that the FDA hasn't examined this product very closely.

Then there's the list of health benefits: digestion, metabolism, immune system, appetite control, weight control, liver function, body alkalinity, anti-aging, cell integrity, and healthy skin & hair -- with a disclaimer saying that these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Further evidence for my theory above!)

I just like it as a beverage, but I'm a little worried that I may be supporting the woo industry. In particular, the testimonial on the bottle about how it helped the kombucha-maker's mother in her battle with breast cancer reminded me of Julie's post How Infertility Made Me a Skeptic w.r.t. confusing the effects of "complementary" and "alternative" treatments with the effects of whatever real treatment the patient is concurrently following.

On the other hand, it's theoretically possible that it's health-promoting. And not dangerous.

Anybody else out there tried this stuff?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

But it's good workaholism...

So, my fabulous little research project has come equipped with an amazing new deadline in two weeks. I was going to try to renegotiate (protesting "It's not possible!"), but instead I went into "start-up company" mode and made some real progress on my project. Now I'm thinking maybe I can do it -- and it'll be convenient to get this first high-pressure chunk out of the way now, leaving me a lower pressure week in which to prepare for the Sunstone Symposium.

And thanks to my wonderful family, my kids are having a fantastic vacation!!! (in spite of their mom being locked away in the computer room...) See them catching frogs, riding fifties-era carnival rides and playing with fireworks, and learning Minnesota history at Fort Snelling! Now they're at a planetarium.

In other good work news -- as much as I've bad-mouthed cars on this blog -- I have to hand it to my new little car "car" for helping me with my German! (Yes, I took y'all's suggestion and asked my kids to name the car. They insisted on naming it "car".)

Anyway, in the car, I can listen to my German lessons and repeat after the recording at full voice. Yep, that's one thing you just can't do on the train. (It's not that people would think I'm crazy, it's just that it's a breach of Swiss train etiquette.) And it makes a world of difference for learning and retaining the words. I'm making better progress here than I ever did in Switzerland!

Feeling confident again, I'm starting to see (by contrast) how discouraged I was about a lot of my situation for the past six months in Switzerland. And I'll be moving back there in January -- ready to get off on the right foot this time!! :D

Sunday, July 12, 2009

I'm going to Sunstone!!

Just have a look at the preliminary program! My panel is #275: "Bridging Stereotypes Through Blogging" -- including such notable celebrity bloggers as fMh Lisa, Jana Bouck Remy, Bored in Vernal, and mfranti!!

This is going to be so much fun!!! I can wait to meet these ladies and many other cyberfriends in the flesh!

Plus -- as a bonus for going to Utah -- I'll get to be the first in the family to meet my little sister's new boyfriend. Any ideas on what interview questions I should grill him with?

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Breaking my eight-and-a-half-year vow...

Well, not exactly, but if you follow my blog, you'll know immediately what is wrong with this picture (Hint: see here and here):

(Hint #2: it's not the fMh t-shirt)

One time when my kids were enrolled in an activity that was really, really inconvenient to reach via public transportation, the lady there asked me "Why don't you and your husband buy a small used car?"

"Heresy!" thought I. "That's like saying to a vegetarian 'There's no vegetarian option on the menu, so why don't you just order the meat...'"

Well, no more. For this six-month stint in the U.S., some of our specific constraints prevent us from working out a car-free strategy. Anyway, it's only temporary. And at least I picked the most fuel-efficient option on the menu!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Branching out in the book review department...

Since (as you know) I love writing book reviews, and since (IRL) I've written some programming books, I figured that the logical next step is to try reviewing programming books. It's not as much fun as my true reviewing passion (reviewing obscure, indie-published Mo/exmo-interest fiction and memoirs), yet far more likely to one day lead to remuneration. I just put up my first attempt here on my Java blog, and you guys can have a look and tell me if it's good or if it sux.

Also, my bumblebee magic post was included in the latest episode of The Humanist Symposium -- along with a bunch of other great posts that you might want to check out! :D

Monday, July 06, 2009


It's time to vote for this year's "Bloggernacle Niblet Awards"!!!

This year, for the first time, I've actually been nominated for one! OK, well, I mean I nominated myself, but I'm in the running nonetheless: for "Nicest Evil Villain."

You may recall that I tried to get written in for this honor last year, but I guess I didn't understand the nomination procedure or something. This time -- as soon as I proposed the category "Nicest Evil Villain" -- a bunch of other people decided that they should be in the running for that category as well! So my little "write-in" category got promoted to being a full-fledged Niblet category!

But I'm the original "Nicest Evil Villain" of the Mormon Blogosphere, so please vote for me! :D

Thursday, July 02, 2009

A Great Riff on "The Good (??!) Book": The FOB Bible

I'm not a huge fan of The Old Testament. It's not just that the moral lessons it contains are abhorrent, it's also the fact that -- as ancient texts go -- that particular batch of legends is not particularly interesting. But, by some winds of chance, this one set collection of stories (The Bible) has become the best-selling book of the year, every year, and it's not clear that any other text in human history has been as thoroughly and repeatedly discussed and analyzed. Much like Twilight, the huge body commentary spawned by the text is a lot more interesting than the text itself (here's a fun new post about Twilight that just sprung up). In a similar vein we have The FOB Bible. Despite the retread subject matter, The FOB Bible adds some clever and original insights to these familiar tales.

The FOB Bible is a collection of literary shorts (stories, poetry, etc.) inspired by the stories of The Old Testament. Instead of just taking the biblical tales at face value (the way we normally think of them), the authors (the "Friends of Ben") imagine what it would be like if these stories really happened, filling them out in lively detail.

As an example, "The Book of Job's Wife" adds a very human dimension to what it would be like for a family to suffer the misfortunes described in "The Book of Job." The story is almost an apologist's rendition of "The Book of Job" in that it cleans up some of the most questionable aspects of the story (the idea that getting a new family makes up for burning his kids to death; the idea that God decided to make Job's family suffer on purpose, on a bet; etc.) -- portraying God as a force of good and comfort instead. Yet, I liked "The Book of Job's Wife" anyway, as a well-told story. That one was my second-favorite in The FOB Bible collection, right after "Ezra's Inbox": which is "The Book of Ezra" re-imagined as a collection of emails. That one was fun because I've been in web-like email discussion like that one, and it's an entertaining way of illustrating each character's position and what they think of one another. It almost made me want to go back and read "The Book of Ezra". Almost. But I suspect that (like the band) this short retelling is a tad better than Ezra.

Some stories from The FOB Bible have been posted online, such as the powerful Abraham's Purgatory (correcting the thoroughly despicable moral in the original story of Abraham's sacrifice), and The Changing of the God -- a lighter look at the transition from The Old Testament to The New Testament. Other excerpts (including some of the clever rhymed poetry) can be found here.

Overall, The FOB Bible is beautifully produced and illustrated with gorgeous (public domain, I assume) engravings by Gustav Doré that complement the tone and text well. I'd recommend this book as a good choice to pass around and discuss on a pleasant, rainy weekend getaway with friends.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Kids and the Internet: update!

Remember when I asked for advice on letting my kids explore the Internet? Because Nico had discovered a conspiracy theory movie on YouTube?

Well, I've just put up a new post on Rational Moms explaining how we've handled it and where we've gone from there. (Hint: more science movies!)

As a bonus, I also wrote them a post about how much we love Tux Paint (fun, educational, and free!), and don't forget to check out (((Billy(')s))) Carnival of the Godless!