• It scared me to death when I heard the bedroom door open. The latch clicked loudly and the hinges creaked. It sounded like someone had burst in.

    No problem, though: it's just Mimi. She was unable to open the door by pushing or scratching, and she figured she was entitled to be in any room (it is HER HOUSE, after all), so she just jumped up and pulled the handle down.

    We've never actually seen her jump for the handle, but we have pretty good circumstantial evidence. Eri once saw the handle moving while she was reading Kayla to sleep. Then Mimi walked in.

    If cats ever evolve thumbs, we're in serious trouble.

  • For years, lunatics and conspiracy theorists have been telling us that America is becoming a police state. Privacy advocates and alarmists have been telling us that the erosion of our rights, such as warrantless wiretappings and secret courts, will lead to abuses of power. Warhawks and cowards claim that these measures are required for our national security, and that abuses are wildly unlikely.

    Most average citizens just tune out and continue their daily activities, unaffected. But take care! Rights are like emergency generators: you never know how important they are, or how well they'll work, until you really need them and try them out.

    So, how could we tell when abuses occur? How could we know that our rights have become secondary to the powers of the government? Navigating through civilization and politics is a dark, difficult task, like working in deep mine. What would be our canary?

    I would propose that when peaceful protestors are deliberately included on a list reserved for terrorists, members of violent gangs, sex offenders, and other heinous crimes, we've lost one of our most valuable rights. We must have the right to protest the actions of our government; otherwise we are not represented, and not governed so much as commanded.

    Cynics will point to the problems with the "no-fly" list, and ask why I'm just waking up now. When I look at the way that list is composed and used, I see bureaucratic idiocy. Seriously, a list of names? How stupid, how obviously destined for misunderstanding and mistake. This list uses a more comprehensive method of identification, so this isn't a case of mistaken identity.

    And this list of criminals is not available to just anybody. Only the FBI can modify it, and they use information from a number of judicial agencies. Here are the details of the NCIC list. Somebody in a position of power added them to the list inappropriately.

    This wasn't even a case of some fat-fingered newbie putting the names in the wrong spaces. According to the colonel's account, both she and her colleague were listed on the NCIC for minor infractions related to protests. That's two protesters showing up on the list, and six separate offenses for one of them. When it reaches that stage, it's not a mistake. It's deliberate; it's policy.

    You may no longer protest, or you will be placed on a list of violent criminals. This will prevent you from travelling freely. Who knows who else uses this database? I had to affirm that I haven't committed any crimes just to be a volunteer at my kids' school; would being on this list have excluded me? Would it prevent me from getting certain jobs? What other lists am I on, and for what?

    Ladies and gentlemen, the canary has died.

  • With a face like this...

    My daughter, Melissa, wanted to run for student council, and I agreed to help with her posters. So I put her face on the Uncle Sam from the classic recruitment poster. Then we blew it up with the printer's "3x3" setting (which smoothed some of those nasty edges) and pasted it on posterboard with "I want YOU to VOTE FOR MELISSA!" in giant letters. It was eerily fantastic!

    She lost. There were only three candidates, and they needed two representatives. They chose both of the other kids, but not Melissa. How in the world did we lose?

    I'll never understand 4th graders.


  • I made this last year, but I needed it again today. It's a printable, customized multiplication worksheet for timed tests. It's set out in rows and columns, which you can customize, therefore changing the number of problems. It also allows you to select a range of number for the top and bottom. If you prefer, you can specify the exact numbers you want to choose from.

    By default, it produces one hundred questions with both multiplicands between 0 and 9. Thanks to the way it picks, that means each possible problem will appear exactly once.

    However, you can also use it to practice difficult numbers. If you have trouble with the fours and sixes, you can specify the top as "4,6", and it will produce 100 problems that include a four or a six.

    Use it and have fun!

  • Kinda neat: a site with a customizable game called "Muncherz". It's a big grid, and you have to chomp some of the squares while monsters chase you around. For instance, if you play "Even Numbers", you have to chomp only the even numbers.

    I made a spelling game: "Misspellings". I used words from 1st through 7th grade spelling lists, finishing off with a grid of the most commonly misspelled American words.

    Go check it out! If my game becomes the most popular, I get a $10 bonus!