Bronte Sisters Action Figures Commercial

A friend linked to this on facebook, and I like it. It's not only funny, but feminist. Especially the Bronte-saurus part. Here's the video for your amusement:

Wanda Sykes Show is Alright

I watched the Wanda Sykes show for the first time tonight. Not only was it Tivo'd from last weekend, it was a repeat from back when the Olympics were on.

She starts with a monologue, which was to me as funny as most late-night monologues. Then she moves on to a celebrity panel. It seemed a bit awkward at times, but still generally pretty funny. I liked that everyone had a drink. That has been missing from TV for some years now, since everyone went all PC. I think W. S. really hit on something here, that perhaps comedians and actors and stuff would loosen up and be a little more interesting on camera after a drink or two. Do ya think? It seems that so many of the interviews on the other late-night shows are just phoned-in, they are dull, dull, dull. Except for Colin Ferguson, but I suspect that is mostly because his guests are not regulars on the circuit, being on a talk show is a novelty and they are not so on guard, or jaded, or bored, or whatever is the problem with the ones who have been on a bajillion talk shows and are obviously tired of it and just fulfilling their contract.

Let's see, after the panel she talks to some guy, then showed a skit. So far the most surprising thing I've learned tonight is how big her rack is. I'm really curious about what brand of bra she wears, it's totally a feat of engineering, check this out:

Now she's interviewing a single celebrity. At least, I presume he's a celebrity, but I haven't heard of him.

And that's the show. It's not as polished as the late-night shows that have been around for a billion years, but she at least has a different formula, which is something, since most of the others are exactly the same. Monologue, sketches, guest, guest, band. So Wanda's Monologue, Panel, Banter, Sketches, Guest at least is a break from the late-night monopoly. Not to mention, she's not a multi-millionaire middle-aged white guy. That's different, too.

"Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain" by Sharon Begley

So far, Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain: How a New Science Reveals Our Extraordinary Potential to Transform Ourselves by Sharon Begley is the best book I've read about the brain. It describes various experiments on neuroplasticity and the general function of the brain and brainwaves, and the results of the experiments. Remember how we've all been told that once brain cells die, they don't regenerate? That's wrong. They totally DO regenerate, even in people in their 80s.

And although many brain inefficiencies such as depression, ADD, anxiety, OCD, etc. are largely influenced by genetics (certain people are born predisposed to these afflictions), people do NOT have to live out their lives bound by these things, or beholden to medication to mitigate the symptoms. Their brains can be RETRAINED to function normally. This is an amazing message, and generally counter to what most medical doctors promote. Because most medical doctors went to school before all this was known, and they've not kept up with the science.

Not that an inefficient brain can be changed quickly or easily-- they compare it to an athlete. If someone wants to get really good at a sport, they're not going to get there practicing only 45 minutes once a week. So it is with brain conditioning. You're not going to undo a lifetime to ingrained patterns by going to therapy once a week (or it will take a very long time to see the change at this rate, in any event). But if you practice daily, and really make an effort, over time you will see results.

I recommend this book to everyone, not just people who have diagnosed mental issues. Because the book also discusses ways that even highly-functioning people can improve their minds to ever more optimal conditions. This is all really fascinating, and the book is well-written, easy to read, and without jargon.

"Day Care Deception" by Brian C. Robertson

The full title of this book is Day Care Deception What the Child Care Establishment Isn't Telling Us, and it was enlightening.

Since my son was born, I've heard from many people that I really should put him in preschool to "socialize" him, and that kids in preschool learn more than kids who stay at home while they're young.

I wasn't keen on putting him into preschool, so I tried to read up on studies that showed the benefits of preschool so I could just do whatever it is that's helpful here at home.

But the strange thing was, the more I looked into these "studies" that purportedly showed kids with preschool do better than kids without, the more I was confused because no articles I found had any specifics. When I read this book, I found out why.

Preschool is NOT better for kids. But there is an entire industry that puts out lots and lots of PR to make it seem like it is. And preschool = daycare = preschool, it's just semantics. No articles could articulate what exactly was going on in preschools that is so advantageous to children because there isn't anything.

What some studies have shown is that not all kids in daycare suffer long-term damage from not being at home with their mother (although many do). That's about it.

But the media takes the story and twists it into "daycare is fine for kids," because of the natural bias of reporters. Since most reporters on this beat are women who have kids in daycare. And academics who study this sort of thing have similar incentive to give their stamp of approval to daycare. But the science just isn't there. And some social scientists have tried to point this out, but they are shut out of conferences and labeled as misogynists. It's a problem.

More recently, the media has been going on about how babies need the stimulation of preschool during their first three years, based on new findings in neuroscience. Again, this is NOT what the science suggests. Fortunately, since the neuroscientists are doctors rather than social scientists, they have been better able to speak out against this practice. Here's a link so you can read the first chapter of the book The Myth of the First Three Years online.

Can I recommend this book to others? This is a hard one. If you're a parent who thinks their child is going to be best raised at home by a parent, then you are already going to do whatever you need to do as a family to make that happen. You don't need to read this book, unless you're looking for a reason to get outraged.

If you have already made the choice to put your kids in daycare so both parents can pursue their careers, I don't think this book is going to change your mind. So many mothers of kids in daycare, when asked about how they feel about their poor kids getting sick so often, reply that it's fine, they've got to get sick sometime, if not now it would happen later. I personally have always thought this was ridiculous and just something they tell themselves to make themselves feel better about putting their kids through so much sickness. I'm sure many actually believe it. So they can probably read this book and think, "oh, well, the day care MY child is in is not like this," or "I know my own child, and they LIKE going to day care," or "this book was obviously written by a biased misogynist intent on keeping women barefoot and pregnant and reversing any gains made in the workforce in the past 30 years," or any number of rationalizations to justify their own position.

But just for kicks, here's an excerpt from the book, starting on page 85:

The most damning evidence of all concerning the dangers of day care involves health risks, sometimes grave, that group care presents for small children. The drastically elevated incidence of infectious disease amojng day care children is hardly a secret among pediatricians and epidemiologists. The problem surfaced in dramatic form a decade ago when Pediatric Annals devoted a special issue to day care-related diseases, headlining their lead editorial, "Day Care, Day Care; Mayday! Mayday!" The statistics are truly shocking. According to one estimate published by the American Academy of Family Physicians, children in day care are eighteen times more likely to become ill than other children; at any one time, 16 percent of those attending day care are likely to be sick. (Of those sick children, 82 percent continue to attend day care in spite of their illness.) Day care children are anywhere between three and four-and-a-half times more likely to be hospitalized than those raised at home. One study estimated that "children in day care are at a 50 to 100 percent increased risk for contracting [certain] fatal and maiming diseases for each year in day care." . . . It appears that the high rate of disease transmission in day care centers is unrelated to the "quality" of the center, but is simply a function of bringing large numbers of infants and toddlers together in the same facility.

Let me see if I can summarize what I thought were the main points of the book:

-Mass media and academia are biased in favor of day care, because women working in these fields put their kids in day care.
-Corporations in general are in favor of day care since it increases the talent available to them (if all women are in the work force).
-Government is in favor of day care since the day care industry itself creates lots of jobs and tax revenue, plus having all the extra workers (women) in the labor pool increases GDP.
-Children are best-served by having a single caretaker throughout their childhood (if both parents must work, getting a long-term nanny is much better than putting the kids in day care).
-Most parents WANT to stay home with their young children, they don't want universal daycare.
-It is predominantly high-income people that are clamoring for subsidized day care (and currently benefit from the child care tax credit), not poor people.

Here's a quote from near the end of the book that I thought summed up the whole day care issue pretty well:

A key element in the cultural battle is the courage necessary to state the truth and get beyond the politically correct posturing that has so distorted the public discussion of child care policy. Keeping children's interests in the forefront of the debate is of the utmost importance in maintaining an attitude of candor. When confronted by an audience stocked with young feminists hostile to her opposition to the regular use of nonparental day care, Dr. Laura Schlessinger asked the crowd one simple question: "If you could. . .come back as an infant, stand up if you would rather be raised by a daycare worker, a nanny or a babysitter [rather than your own mother]. Stand up now." Not one of the women in the audience moved. "Then why," she asked, "are you going to do this to your children?"

It's a question that needs to be asked not only of the relatively few parents who prefer day care for their children, but of a day care establishment that would foist the destructive regime of universal day care for preschoolers on every family, all in the name of concern over children's well-being and development."

Pandora Rocks

I started listening to Pandora internet radio yesterday, and I think it's amazing! This site makes radio "stations" that play exactly what you want them to! But not the way an ipod plays the songs you want; with your mp3 player you own certain songs, and make playlists from your collection. With Pandora, you start a station with the name of an artist you like (or a song, if you want to be very specific), then Pandora creates a radio station based on the musical characteristics of the artist you named.

The first one I tried was Paul Simon. It started off with a Paul Simon song, then went on from there. And for over an hour, it played songs that coincidentally ARE in my CD collection with a few others that I knew by heart but didn't own. Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, and the Beatles were in heavy rotation in this station. I enjoyed it quite a bit.

But I was curious about how it would handle another style, so I typed in "Ace of Bass". But I didn't care for the first few songs that generated, so I switched to "Abba" and the station was great. Pop-y dance numbers, and I liked them all. Abba, of course, but also Blondie, A-ha, BeeGees, Journey, Fleetwood Mac (also on my Paul Simon station, but different songs). I suspect if I listened to that station long enough I'd hear the Go-Gos, and Culture Club, too. If I didn't, I could always specifically add them to the station definition.

It's really easy to use, and I'm very happy to hear new music this way. Because it's new music in EXACTLY the styles I personally like, not just anything that fits the general demographic of the regular radio stations I listen to. Pandora is just scary-accurate. In each station, every few songs is actually in my personal CD collection, so that's an indication of how much I like the songs Pandora is coming up with for me. It also tells me that I am remarkably consistent with the types of music I like, which I'm fine with. Terry thinks it's a little dull listening to music with so much of the same characteristics, but to me it's pleasing.

My latest station I created by basing it on Mazzy Star. At first I tried Cowboy Junkies, but like Ace of Bass, the first few songs let me know that this station was "off" just a bit. So I tried Mazzy Star, and the second song on the playlist was actually a Cowboy Junkies song. Lots of Radiohead and Cat Power (an artist with whom I was previously unfamiliar) in this station also. Today I added K. D. Lang to the station definition, and it has much more variety, but is still great. Now I also get Norah Jones, Bonnie Raitt, Fiona Apple, et al. A very good station for late-night listening while I knit.

I totally recommend for anyone. It's free if you don't mind listening to commercials every so often (like real radio, but waaaaay fewer). You can pay $36 for an annual subscription and get rid of the ads, and certain other limitations. I'll continue with the free version a while longer, and see if I want to subscribe, or if the free one will be fine for me. The free version is limited to 40 hours per month, although for a dollar you can extend that to listen as much as you want through the end of that month. So you can get all the music you want for $12/year, but you still have to listen to ads. I think if I'm going to pay at all I'd splurge and get rid of the ads.

And here's a cool widget they let me embed so anyone who wants to can listen to hear the stations that I made (go to the activity tab on the right, then expand the stations section):

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