Infinity

Driving home from Mass today, the Boy and I somehow got into a discussion about infinity. I can’t remember how it came up or even who brought it up, but there we were, discussing one of the great paradoxes of life and math.

To try to explain it to him, I talked about numbers: “You can count on and on and on and on,” I said. But this didn’t seem to support what I said earlier, about infinity having no beginning or ending.

“But it does have a beginning,” he protested from the back. “When I count, I say, ‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5.’ You start at one.”

I tried dipping into the topic of negative numbers to show him that we really could start anywhere.

“Negative numbers? Like 5, 4, 3, 2, 1?”

Throwing Away

It’s much simpler to dump now and then sort later. Much later. That is what E has been doing with his toys — cars, action figures, blocks, and the like — for some time now, until all four of his main toy bins are hopelessly mixed. Last night, we decided that we had to get things under control, organized. I suggested it while putting the Boy to bed; he readily agreed.

This morning, then, we got to work by dumping all the bins into a pile.

“That sure is a lot of toys!” said the Boy.

“Perhaps too many,” I suggested.

“Yeah, maybe too many.”

We began sorting, making little piles of action figures, cars, train tracks, blocks, and more, and I suggested that we might want to get rid of some of the toys.

“Yeah, maybe the broken ones.”

He insisted on throwing them away himself.

We made a deal with the cars: for every one car he gets rid of, he gets to keep three cars. That of course means he cuts his cars by twenty-five percent, which would be significant. I didn’t think he’d agree. I thought he’d fuss about the suggestion, but instead, he went along with it quite willingly. He selected trailers for which there were no longer trucks, cars that were, in his words, for babies, and a few cars that just looked like they’d seen their best days. He was thoughtful as he culled his toys and surprisingly mature about the whole process.

Perhaps not so surprisingly: he’s always imitating L, K, or me, always trying to be older than he is, always talking so seriously about such things as he sees K and me discussing important matters. He wants to grow up. He wants to be a man. The worst insult I can give him is to suggest, when he’s fussing and crying over some trifle or other, that he’s acting like a baby.

“I’m not a baby!” he protests.

“Then why are you fussing like one?”

The answer is always the same: “I don’t know.”

In the end, we got rid of two bags of toys. Broken cars, trailers with cars missing, mysteries (What is that? And what did it go to?) all got dumped into the trash bin. The rest we took to Goodwill.

It was a proud little moment for K and me, to see our little man realizing that he’d outgrown some toys, that he had more than he really needed, that he could live without them.

Changing

The Girl has a love/hate attitude toward her hair. She loves it because, well, she just does. I say she hates it because she really doesn’t take care of it. On our days off, if K or I didn’t remind her to brush her hair, she wouldn’t. At all. And yet it literally took us years to talk her into cutting her hair the first time.

This time, she went even further — just to the shoulders. Her concern: can I still put it in a ponytail? Our concern? Will it be easier to brush out tangles?

The unexpected side effect: a hair style that almost perfectly reflects her personality: a bit silly, a lot of fun, and simply, sweetly alluring.

Growing with the Pup

Having a puppy is like having a newborn in the house — that’s what we’d heard. There is a certain amount of truth in this: Clover requires a lot of time and attention. And like a baby, she can’t be just left unattended. But the attention is easy to give: she’s such a sweet puppy, always eager to get a belly rub or a scratch behind the ear. Eager to please. Genuinely remorseful-looking when corrected. Or is she just playing us? Probably a bit of both.

And she’s so curious. Those two things combine to torture our cats. Bida tends just to hiss. It’s all it takes after a snoutful of claws a couple of times. But Elsa runs, and so what does Clover do? Chase her, of course. Isn’t she just trying to play? It’s not just Elsa and Bida, and that’s a little worrying. There’s a little black cat that comes around often enough, and Clover tried to make friends with her, to no avail.

She remembers the encounter with Bida that left her with a slightly bloody ear, so she kept her distance.

The Boy is having a bit of trouble with her, too. She’s still trying to herd him, and the herding is getting more intense. She nips at his shoes, chases him when he walks in the room — the tail is always wagging, but like Elsa, the Boy is starting just to avoid her at times.

Unless there’s a toy to play with, like a stick.

Still, despite it all, we’re all pretty much wrapped around her paw.

How could we not be?

Too Big

Clover is a Border Collie, which means that chasing and herding are as instinctual to her as barking and tail wagging. That dog will herd anything as long as it’s only slightly bigger than she. She chases the Boy around the yard, nipping at his ankles, then crouching down in front of him as soon as he stops.

Apparently, it’s the same with basketballs and soccer balls.

Passing Along Info

This is a short piece about a recent experience I had online. I am thinking about using it as part of my curriculum for assessing internet information information. I knew from the start, before clicking on the link, that it was bogus, but since my audience will be thirteen-year-olds, I took a step-by-step approach as if each little discovery slowly confirmed my suspicions.


I recently saw a link in social media to an article that made me raise my eyebrows considerably.

NASA Admits Spraying Lithium into the Atmosphere

I’ve heard about conn trails and the suggestion that it’s some government agency spraying chemicals on a hapless population, but I wondered: In what context did NASA admit this? Was it a news conference? Will there be a video in the article with an official NASA spokesperson admitting this? Will there be a document from NASA?

I read the article and found it lacking from the opening paragraph.

New evidence emerged this week regarding NASA spraying unusual substances into the atmosphere. Officials state these chemicals are “harmless to the environment”. But the real question we need to be asking is, are these substances safe for humans?

Notice: the article cites “new evidence” but never supplies that evidence. Instead it simply summarizes the purported evidence. There’s a quote that lacks any attribution whatsoever: these chemicals are “harmless to the environment.” The quotation marks indicate that it is a direct quote from some source, but that source is never named or even explained. A search of the exact phrase “harmless to the environment” provides “about 2,230,000 results” from Google (source) and 306,000,000 results from Bing (source). So even if this is a direct quote, there’s no telling where it came from.

Next, the paragraph lists as their authority unnamed “officials.” Who are these officials? Are they insiders acting as whistle blowers? How many officials exactly are there?

The rest of the article continues in a similar vein, without listing a single source or providing anything beyond commentary.

But truth be told, I had my doubts from the beginning. The moment the page loaded, I was suspicious.

Three ads in the top fourth of the page? I immediately began thinking that this was a web site set up by one individual simply to earn money from ads. The fact that this is a WordPress.com site (See the WP logo in the clipped fragment at the top? WordPress, which also runs this site, automatically adds that if it is a site it hosts.) also makes me wonder that this might just be an ad-farm site set up by one individual. Whois confirmed this:

The domain is registered by one Bill McIntosh. he’s also the admin contact and the tech contact. I know from personal experience that when one registers a domain name, there is an option to include as admin contact and tech contact the same data supplied for the registrant contact. Most news organizations have very different data for this.

Here’s CNN’s registration information.

And here’s Fox News’s registration information:

Very different indeed.

Who is this “Bill McIntosh” behind Truth and Action? It’s not immediately obvious, and it’s not very easy to find out. What are his credentials? Who has he hired to work for him?

This too is questionable because there is a link suggesting that readers themselves can “report for” the web site. This suggests that just about anyone can write something for this site.

Finally, there’s the other content on the site itself. Articles include

  • “The Nazi Origins of Renewable Energy and Global Warming”
  • “The Most Secretive Treasury in History…Meet the Rothschilds”
  • “Who Really Owns, Controls the Military Industrial Complex?”

Applying a little background knowledge, it becomes clear that this is a site that peddles conspiracy theories as its main fare.

I commented to the original poster,

And the source? A document? A press conference? What about the web site itself? Who’s saying this? Do they have any credentials at all or is it Joe Blow in his basement making money off the ads for this site?

The poster replied that she was “just passing info” and pointed out that she “did not voice an opinion.” Pointing out that “person is free to do their own research” she encouraged me to “research for yourself please.” And so I did. What I found was confirmation of my initial suspicions: nothing but nonsense.

The question, though, is whether or not this is “info.” If its on the internet, is it automatically “info”?

Clover

It took them a while, but eventually they wore me down. I knew they would. When everyone in your family wants a dog but you, you realize that you can only resist for so long. I had one criterion: it must be a smart dog. A really smart dog. That, for me, ruled out mutts: there’s no telling what kind of genes they’ve got. So if you’re going to get a dog with the criterion of it being smart, why not just move to the top of the hierarchy and get a Border Collie?

K began the process while the kids and I were still in Poland. She looked about on Craig’s List for something, and while she was able to find Pit bulls by the dozen, BCs were almost non-existent. A colleague at work has BCs and put K in contact with the woman from whom she’d gotten her dogs.

“Do you happen to have a litter now?”

As a matter of fact, five puppies were available. Then four. Then three. So yesterday we drove three hours to meet the BC lady and her husband and picked out a lovely little girl with an asymmetrical strip down her face and the sweetest eyes ever seen on a dog.

Bringing her home was like bringing home E or L as a newborn: there was not a lot of sleeping in the house. Clover — and it’s a minor miracle we all agreed on a name — was traumatized, having lost her mother and all her siblings as well as her known, comfortable environment and owners in one instant. There was a lot of whimpering and cowering. But the sun eventually rose and we were soon all outside with the dog, laughing at her silliness.

The changes in the last twenty-four hours have been more significant than I would have ever expected. I, for one, have gone from being a lukewarm participant in the process to an enthusiastic dog owner willing to show off our little darling to whomever we can. The Girl got up at six on a Sunday morning in order to take Clover out.

And our house is developing the unmistakable scent of dog.