Archive of Posts from July 2007

Link Roundup: Politics, Parenting, iPhone

Instead of auto-posts from del.icio.us, I'm going to post links in batches—maybe once a week. (?) This time around I'm focusing on the three P's: Politics, Parenting, and the iPhone.

If I detach from the mess our federal government is in, watching the gears grind is fascinating. In school they'd throw out wild scenarios just to show that the framers built a robust system with multiple redundancies that couldn't possibly be toppled by one of the branches loosing their collective minds. We have a system for Presidential succession, checks and balances, and an orderly justice system that can ferret out corruption even in the halls of power. With the administration pushing the limits of our system, reading the news everyday is like a civics lesson. Follow along:
  • Washington Post: Broader Privilege Claimed In Firings: "...administration officials argued yesterday that Congress has no power to force a U.S. attorney to pursue contempt charges in cases, such as the prosecutor firings, in which the president has declared that testimony or documents are protected from release by executive privilege." This article mentions congress' power of inherent contempt not used since the 30's.
  • Harper's: A Republic, If You Can Keep It: "...they will argue that the president, because he controls the apparatus of the administration of the law—the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorneys—can do exactly as he likes, and the Congress can do nothing about it." This article puts the current swing toward authoritarianism in historical perspective.
  • Why bother with impeachment? That's the question Bill Moyers put to Bruce Fein in a fascinating interview. Bill Moyers: Tough Talk on Impeachment.
Like I mentioned, if I emotionally detach from the situation at hand, it'll be interesting to see if the American system can handle the strain. I'm not giving up hope yet.

Here are a few parenting-related bookmarks:
  • Alternatives to mainstream baby paraphernalia? Every single thing we've received from the hospital has been branded—diaper brands, mostly. And the diapers themselves are branded with children's TV show characters. So this question about finding non-branded baby stuff is something I've been wondering for a while.
  • We're still considering names, and for a while I had the Baby Names Voyager up more than Google. The other day sk found Nymbler, a nice Ajax-y interface for name recommendations. I wish it had a bit more information about each name, but it's a great start.
  • Megnut: How I ate while pregnant: "Believe me when I tell you the pressure to ensure everything you eat isn't going to kill or permanently damage your unborn child is intense."
I'm loving my iPhone. Related:
  • TUAW: ssh on iPhone. Hackers have found a way to get SSH working. This is early, but ssh would let me do administrative crap on my servers via the iPhone. I hope this gets solid soon.
  • iPhone VNC. A remote desktop tool that runs in the iPhone browser. Very nice hack, but I'm not sure I trust running a modified VNC on my servers.
  • I've been trying to figure out if I like the standard Google interface on the iPhone, or the mobile interface better. And now there's this: Google iPhone Search. Too many choices.
And we're up to date.
  • "Talent isn't engineered. Hits are." David Weinberger argues that we aren't all cockroaches and monkeys here on the Web.
    filed under: community, internet
  • Nice JavaScript for assembling del.icio.us links HTML by hand for manual posting. I think I'll turn off auto-posts and switch to this too. [via anil]
    filed under: weblogs, javascript, writing
  • oh man, this is funny. The language is definitely not safe for work (but neither is MeFi, apparently).
    filed under: mefi, metafilter, art

Conquest of (Parental) Happiness

I've been thinking about parenting lately since I'm on deck, and it's reminding me of college in a way. College is where I made the transition from being a child dependent on my parents to being an adult, and that's the time when I began figuring stuff out for myself. It's also when I was fully immersed in the problems of the adult world via my classes, and thanks to that I read some philosophy (among other things) to help make sense of the world. I didn't always understand what I was reading (I wasn't a philosophy major—just read for fun), but some of those books did give me new ways of looking at things that I've found useful.

So as I'm getting ready for another life-shift, I've been wondering what philosophers have said about parenting. I know there are a lot of books out there about "parenting philosophies" and that's not quite what I'm after. I'm wondering what classic Philosophers have said.

The philosophy I read in college dealt with abstract concepts like whether or not a table exists in reality, or whether the table is simply expressing its tableness through existence or something. I didn't read anything about practical matters like raising children. (Or maybe I wasn't reading the right books.) It's not like I expect to find Baby or Superbaby? by Nietzsche, but thinking back there wasn't much in what I read specifically about family life, which isn't all bad. Ideas about personal responsibility and freedom that are a part of existential writings can apply to every aspect of life. Philosophy is sort of a meta-layer above everything else anyway. I also think philosophy has the problem of being dominated by men who might not be completely tuned into their nurturing side.

Conquest of Happiness I remembered reading some thoughts on marriage by Bertrand Russell and if you read his bio you'll know why he had some ideas rattling around about that. Even though his life isn't the model of family bliss, I've found his logical writing hard to argue with. So I thought I'd see if he'd written anything about parenting. I eventually found his Conquest of Happiness on Google Books and read a bit there before picking up a copy. It's not a philosophy book or a parenting book. It's more of an early self-help book he published in 1930 where he lays out "life lessons" for being happy.

The book is surprisingly modern for being almost 80 years old, and the issues of modern living he addresses have only become more pronounced. Parts of it are dated, and he was obviously writing for a white, Western, upper-class audience. And sometimes I couldn't decide if I was reading grandfatherly advice or cranky old man rants, but either way this book has given me a lot to think about. The book has also generated a lot of conversation around the house, and I thought I'd summarize some of his parenting thoughts.

The most fascinating chapter in the book for me was ironically about Boredom where Russell encourages parents to teach children how to endure boredom. "The pleasures of childhood should in the main be such as the child extracts himself from his environment by means of some effort and inventiveness." He talks about how the ability to concentrate on boring tasks will pay dividends in adult life. And in a poetic passage he mentions that the human body is adapted to the slow rhythm of the Earth, and children especially need contact with this slow ebb and flow. (I was reminded of this just today reading Asha Dornfest's thoughts on planning summer activities and the fear of "wasted time" for kids. It's obviously still something parents are grappling with.)

In a chapter on Family, Russell describes a conflict that arises in all parents, "...between love of parental power and desire for the child's good..." He advises parents should have an almost mystical respect for the child's personality so they don't become possessive or oppressive parents. This can lead to the classic case of Democrats having a Republican child (or vice versa), where hilarity ensues. The idea that, "...the child should as soon as possible learn to be independent in as many ways as possible..." seems difficult to me, and I'm not even a parent yet.

Russell also mentions that our modern knowledge of psychology is both a blessing and a curse. While we have a better understanding of phobias and neuroses that can help children be healthier, Russell feels this knowledge can create timid parents who are afraid of screwing up. His prescription is self-confidence, respect for the child, and self-permission for occasional mistakes. Easy!

The bits on parenting only make up a small portion of the book, and overall reading it was like a smack in the face. But in a good way. I went looking for philosophical parenting advice, and I've found just this small bit. I'm sure there are other parent-philosophers who have a completely opposite take. Anyway, just as I found in college there's only so much you can glean from books before real life takes over and teaches you the hard way.
  • welcome, Ollie!
    filed under: life
  • Good start at an iPhone-friendly interface for Flickr. Needs links to larger photos, though.
    filed under: flickr, iphone, photography, mobile
  • Access your Mac desktop remotely with your iPhone. wow!
    filed under: mac, mobile, software, iphone