nature 99, nurture 0

The researchers are perfectly comfortable with, and don't mention any suggested conclusions to be drawn from, the fact that they observe variable degrees of self-control and guilt in children as young as age two, and that the variation doesn't show any correlation with parenting methods or styles.

They observe it, and five seconds later you'll see them hemming and hawing over the role parenting plays in teaching morality.

Err, perhaps I still overestimate them; more likely those are the more conscientious and intelligent ones. Probably the majority of people have all the observations available to them: children's innate sense of responsibility, and innate norms that actually match ethical individualism: not to use others as means to your ends. But people also have their innate bias towards exaggerating control, and optimistic exaggeration of control over their offsprings' characters and thus lives, so they can obseve the innate morality and then boldly contradict their observations two seconds later.

The article is short, the description of the observations is fascinating: Guilt is a dropping feeling in the tummy.

Guilt and Atonement on the Path to Adulthood, The New York Times,

“Even if you don’t have that sinking feeling in the tummy, you can still suppress impulses,” Dr. Kochanska said. “You can stop and remember what your parents told you. You can stop and reflect on the consequences for others and yourself.”

But what if your child lacks both self-control and guilt? What can you do? And should you feel guilty for doing a lousy job of parenting?

Well, you could blame yourself, although researchers haven’t been able to link any particular pattern of parenting to children’s levels of guilt, says June Tangney, a psychologist at George Mason University. But Dr. Tangney, who has studied guilt extensively in both children and adults, including prison inmates, does have some advice for parents. (To offer your thoughts on parents and guilt, go to

make sushi

A few days ago Natasha told me that she'd been reading about how to make sushi and she felt we should do it. I, smarter than escargot, said 'Sure!'

I had this internal un-critically-examined model of what is involved in making sushi. 99% of the task is about how to select and slice up the raw fish. The rest is, well, I already said - 1% of the job.

So we found what looked exactly identical to a RANCH 99 market in downtown Phoenix yesterday, and we bought a hefty king filet of salmon, which the fishmonger assured me was sushi grade. Natasha, being the one who did all this profound research which I believed must be robust in arcane detail, executed the task like this: "Ok Kirez, go find and buy some fish. Make sure it's sushi grade and can be eaten raw!" (I wonder if the pharaohs assembled 100,000 slaves and said, "Ok. Build pyramids!", because I'll spoil the story here, it ends up working just fine.)

We also bought Mischka some massive brontosaurus-looking femur bones coated with rich red bits and full of marrow. The two bones weighed 7.4 pounds. Freaking awesome!

I'm eager to see Natasha's insights into the slicing of the sushi. She's very excited about the preparations. We've bought nori (seaweed for the rolls, which she had me select), chopsticks (these have been lacking in my life the last year), wasabi, soy sauce, and the bamboo mats for making the rolls. Also, rice vinegar and rice. We bought clams as well but those weren't for the sushi.

She remains excited and throws herself into the sushi preparation. As I said, I had naively believed that 99% of the challenge is in selecting and slicing the fish, but I totally ignroant had already selected the fish.

She covers the bamboo rollers in plastic. I make the wasabi using a powder and adding equal parts water, which I'm surprised to learn is a BETTER wasabi, and less expensive, and which will last near indefinitely and allow you to make exactly the amount of wasabi you want, at any time. Also, making wasabi this way is like cutting onions but harder on the eyes!

Then Tash says to me, "Okay, cut the fish!" She didn't know anything about this internal model I had about What Constitutes The Massive Skill Set And Learning Curve Of Making Sushi, so she issues this command with zero sense of self-consciousness. I'm alone in my amusement.

So I got out my favorite knife, which is, contrary to all rational expectation, the bread knife --- very long, very slender, and very sharp, thank you Cutco. And Tash dictated to me the sizes of the pieces she wanted, and I cut them. (how high do you want these pyramids, pharaoh? Pharaoh points at the sky. Oh, ok.)

She assembled the rolls: vanilla-American flavor, with cream cheese, avocado, cucumber, salmon, rice, the nori. I grabbed the camera and took a few photos. The dog sat loyally and watchfully at our feet, and of course she got some sushi too.

Just uploaded photos via email to Facebook, behind the cut.
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Slumdog Millionaire

I didn't expect to like this movie, which made my experience all the brighter.
* * *

Slumdog Millionaire achieves a remarkable effect with an imperceptibly light touch: a bright, life-affirming sense of life, in an ugly, gritty world and amidst the harrowing conflicts the protagonist confronts. There is serious ugliness in the movie, but the overall atmosphere achieves lightness and love within the gravity and suspense. Perhaps similar can be said of Life Is Beautiful and Amelie.

But that's starting soft on Slumdog's virtues!

The movie is a character-based movie, so it stands or falls on the strength of Jamil's character. But Slumdog doesn't muddy the waters -- its theme is starkly simple: the success of a boy, innocent and benevolent, who is unswervingly and indomitably persistent.

The story is entirely foreshadowed in his early characterization: in a world of ugliness, and cornered and abused by the evil people around him, he gets locked in an outhouse right at the moment he desperately wants to be free. What does he do? Nevermind how disgusting the world around him is! He jumps straight into the shit and fights on, and comes out triumphant. How does the world respond? It immediately punishes him again. And yet, he persists; we see his lack of anger and vindictiveness -- and again he succeeds.

What kind of emotions does his world evoke in us? How dark is it? We see his evil brother as a foil, and we see the evil people around him, all of which are quite realistic. We ourselves feel anger, horror, and the hopelessness of his world. But Jamil persists seemingly unscarred. Toward the end even the girl he loves has given up and rejects him --- but he persists. And his strength is both their savior.

Jamil's strength, the theme of the movie, is communicated with further delicious detail: look at him. Look how mousy and simple, slender, how unchallenging and unaggressive his facial expressions are. Look at the big, famous TV star towering over him, playing with him like a cat with a mouse -- and the brightest light of this characterization, the nickname that sticks to him: The Chaiwalla, the tea-boy. A position even lesser than a bus boy in our culture. The exquisite characterization continues: we see his consistency repeatedly, in the face of so many challenges, so many insults.

The movie opens with this scene and continues returning to it: we see an inadequate, mousy, ungraceful boy, intimidated, scared, utterly outclassed by the TV game show host. In the end, with no tricks of camera or special effects, just the weight of the story's trajectory and Jamil's heroism, we see a lion.

Objectivists can do even better at specifying the heroism: it's beyond persistence. Jamil's heroism includes honesty and, dare I say it, psycho-epistemology: unflinching commitment to the simple facts of what he knows. Because there is no strategizing, no manipulation or poker playing in Jamil's repertoire, it brings his indomitable will into greater relief.

Yes, the storyline contains strokes of luck. Jamil is struck by bad luck over, and over, and over throughout his life. Even in his final episode of triumph he is struck by bad luck. The luck, you see, plays both ways -- as in real life. It's true that the magnitude of his triumph depended on a stroke of luck, but even this conclusion slights the real story we see.

Whatever luck we witnessed paled in comparison to the little boy, who in abject poverty and desperate circumstances shows benevolence and courage as a child, and then grows into a veritable freight train of willpower.

blood glucose control update

April-May 2009: average BG = 156.9, STD DEV = 75.5

June 2009: average BG = 112, STD DEV = 58.8

July 2009: average BG = 126.5, STD DEV = 66.2

average daily total of injected insulin: 54.5 units

Motivationally, I'm an absolute wreck right now. I have near zero direction or discipline and can barely keep myself going.

Blood sugars have been rollercoastering, with multiple weekly extremes in the 36-38 range. Only one of these had severe mental breakdown symptoms --- I felt myself falling down a slippery slope into a dark pit, realized what was happening too late, was clawing at the sides and finally made the consciousness explicit: "Oh no this is a sever hypo, quick get up and save yourself", and severe physical weakness and pain hit right at the same time -- and I actually did it, I walked to the kitchen and started eating a frozen juice concentrate. I thought Tash saved me, but in fact she found me in the kitchen incoherent but doing the right things. I couldn't remember most of that period, some of it came back though.

Too much of the day I'm listless. I'm not sure what I can do to force myself back on track. Workouts have been sporadic, though I just had a period of 3 workouts in 4 days that were pretty decent. My shoulder is injured which precludes most everything I want to do, so all I did was running and rowing.


R U --
this code is almost universal in its possible usage media: email, sms, phone, or shouted / rough whispered / hissed in a crowded/loud public environs; similarly, its economy is sweet for visual transmission such as hand signal, scratched on a wall or window, etc.

Its generality requires some contextual cue, however, so if the receiver has reason to believe that the sender needs *specific* information, the receiver may be anxious as to which specific info is prioritized.

"R U?" is short for:
Where are you? How are you?

and in its most specific possible intent, What is progress or status of current objective?

...all of which are intuitive depending on shared context. It's a fabulously useful and economic signal.


I've gotten a sense of alienation from seeing this number 36 and that it applies to me. These numbers became oppressive after 33, I think. Like suddenly that invisible opponent in the ring with you is packing another 20 pounds behind his punch: Whoa! Where'd THAT come from?!

About five entries I've been wanting to write for the last 5 days and still haven't gotten to it...

But yo it's my birthday, look at me!


That's my wife.

For me, it's the happiest place on earth because of how much she enjoys it. Getting to experience her experience of it -- that's priceless.

I can't believe how wonderful my life is. I'm shocked when I think through the illogic of how much good luck I have and how little it results from the things I work for. I mean, it's like I aim at a target, shoot, I believe everything should work just right, I miss the target drastically and manage to knock a tin can into a Rube Goldberg machine that pours me a Latte and sticks $1000 in my pocket. And my life seems to be a maddening continuity of this event happening about three times a week.

I only realized at the end of that paragraph that they made a movie like this once: Forrest Gump.

Which completes the circle, doesn't it? If you ever asked me which movie protagonist I most resemble, you wouldn't expect Forrest Gump to make the top 100, would you? But there it is, a box of freaking chocolates.

Oh, she simultaneously wrote a post about Disneyland and beat me to the punch of using that photo. Hey -- I got that photo in ONE SINGLE SHOT. I mean, she walked up and said - "wait! I want you to get a photo of me jumping in the air", she gave me about one second and jumped, I snapped, and that was the output. The previous and following photos are totally different locations.

Ha. So sometimes I shoot and get exactly what I want. Still, that Forrest Gump insight is frightful in its accuracy.

I told her in a chat message, "You CANNOT use that photo to blog, it's MINE, I'm using it!" and she didn't see the chat, she walked in at that second and handed me her laptop with her post written in it, for me to preview, and I started cursing as I saw the image because I wrote the chat too late.

The Sporting News writeup

The Sporting News posted a good piece
From late in the article,

For the viewer, it was the kind of compelling blend of unblinking physical horror you get from watching the last mile of an Ironman, but with the "Festivus Feats of Strength" curiosity and creativity of the aforementioned competition full of dudes named Magnus. I joked with one of the competitors that that the games would be on ESPN2 in five years. He shook his head. "Three." At the very least, as a spectator sport, it has raw potential, especially if they continue to serve three dollar beer and keep the whole low-carb carnival feel to the whole thing.

Scandinavians, by the way, were out in force and proud with it. Mikko Salo of Finland won the men's division, Annie Thorisdottir of Iceland placed 11th in the women's division overall, and the Danes provided moral support from the stands.


Strange that I never knew this ("Monadnock" was the name for an architectural project by Howard Roark pivotal to the plot in The Fountainhead). The only monads I ever knew about were all related to Spinoza's metaphysics.
A.Word.A.Day: Inselberg - noun: An isolated mountain or hill rising abruptly from its surrounding. In US it's known as a monadnock.