Learning historically was the goal of schooling: kids went to school to learn about the world and foster an interest in our world. Is that true? Or has school always been about socialization of our children to follow the leader, and do what they are told?

I think that the most important thing that a child can learn is how to think on their own; how to reason complicated things through and come to a logical conclusion. We won’t be around forever, and they need these abilities.

Schools today are largely teaching to tests. So today’s children are going to school 1) to be socialized and 2) to learn to rote-ly regurgitate the information for tests.

I consider homeschooling because I don’t want Oskar to learn either of these things, necessarily. Of course there is value in learning how to get along or ahead in the systems of our society. But that is not what I think school should be about.

I want Oskar to keep his innate interest in the world fully intact. I want him to always be interested in learning new things and trying new things. I want him to have the opportunity to keep learning more about a topic he is interested in.

My 6th grade class in Georgia, had this VERY progressive education plan which fully integrated all of the subjects around one major subject: Humpback Whales. Music: we learned about whale songs. Math: we leaned about waves and how to calculate the waves made by the whale songs. English: we learned facts about whales and wrote about these. Spelling: Our vocabulary was all about whales. Science: more whales. It was so much fun. I loved it. And this really helped me see all of the connections in the world, something I still see today.

I want Oskar to have the chance to explore the world through school, not learn that life is shit and you just have to memorize stuff and get through...to what? Life is today. Getting through is not enough. I want him to regularly enjoy the wonder of our world. And 35 hour a week at school might just kill the wonder in him.


someone else with beliefs

the designers at office:

What We Believe /

  1. We believe that mediocrity is our nemesis.
  2. We believe that design should make you feel something.
  3. We believe in clarity.
  4. We believe that gut instincts are usually right.
  5. We believe in bringing together extraordinary creative minds. And then going bowling.
  6. We believe any color can be the new black … except for purple.
  7. We believe Buckminster Fuller when he said, “A designer is an emerging synthesis of artist, inventor, mechanic, objective economist, and evolutionary strategist.”
    (And we wish we had said it first.)



Sorry for the radio silence folks. I took a great weekend course on photoshop and blogging last weekend and want to share one thing I made!

Oskar...crawling! He walks now though...

The Blogshop girls have quite a following and people flew in from Chicago and New York to attend the class. I heard about it from a friend of a friend who took the class in LA. Whitney is now their intern. Met lots of fun people and that was great.  It was also great to meet two women entrepreneurs clearly doing what they love. Inspiration.

Links to Photoshop: http://www.photoshop.com/ and Blogshop: http://iheartblogshop.com/.

Full disclosure: with this post I am entering the Blogshop/Photoshop contest to win the new Photoshop 6! Fingers crossed!



book review: the lifespan of a fact

Reblogged from www.bureauphile.com.

The Lifespan of a Fact, by John D'Agata, author. Jim Fingal, fact-checker.

I heard about this book from a podcast out of Wisconsin, TTBOOK. Listen to the interview if you have a few minutes. But you might be wondering what this has to do with bureauphiles. Well, lots of our government's time, and energy, all joking aside, is spent checking facts before government publications are published. As an intelligence analyst I spent days double and triple checking reports before they were "sent forward" for review and action upon my recommendations.But working at GAO is where I spent the most time checking facts. All words in GAO reports have been fact-checked. What Lifespan of a Fact distills so clearly is the back and forth regarding facts. A friend once spent hours trying to find original support for the assertion that the F-22 is the Raptor...hours. I spent time citing the Periodic Table of Elements to prove that Na was indeed sodium.

The flip side of this obsessive compulsive checking is that the information is reliable.
What is somewhat disappointing about the book is that it is apparently some kind of meta commentary on the nature of fact checking. The book itself, while publicized as nonfiction, is actually fiction.

So check out the book if you want to read some entertaining, yet apparently not entirely factual, insanity...and pull your hair out a bit.


book review: an everlasting meal

An Everlasting Meal, Cooking with Economy and Grace
by Tamar Adler

She gets a bit philosophical at times, but overall, this is one of the best cookbooks I have ever read. Less recipes, and more home cooking theory, if you will, we have already started implementing a lot of Adler's ideas into our kitchen. For instance, we now have "spread night." You basically make pestos out of whatever you have in your fridge with olive oil and walnuts (we used pistachios last night) in your handy chopper. Have someone bring home a fresh baguette and call it dinner.

She also instructs the reader to shop and then cook immediately all of your veggies, so you have them ready at hand to put into other meals, such as omelets or soups or pasta. This saves you time on the other end. We have done this for a few weeks now with great success. We are eating better and cheaper, at home.

Fun quote:
"Children must shell peas. In a world of things too big, getting peas from pods is a chance for pea-sized people to exercise authority. Always told to put things back where they found them, here, children have it right. Pea shelling goes only in one direction: dig, disperse, and never look back." pg. 53

This book is so good, I am going to buy it. (I got it from the library...)



I have been spending some amount of my time blogging over at www.bureauphile.com. I need to spend more time there. For those inclined we are posting information and topics of interest to people interested in government.

We are also looking for guest posters...so if you are interested, drop me a line!


40 under 40

Had a great time today at the Renwick Gallery's 40 under 40 exhibit. The art was amazing. Oskar enjoyed the Ostridge feather dress.

Worth checking on online or in person.

Click here to see more.


about our mission statement

A good friend asked us why we say, "we believe" rather than "we value" in our mission statement.

What is the difference between beliefs and values? Brent and I chatted about this and I am not sure where things will shake out.

This is how it would change...I think.

we value spending time with our family and helping our family financially if needed.

we value friends and family.

we value helping the less fortunate.

we value living close to work.

we value our money.

we value the benefits of small living.

we value our time away from work and therefore take all of our vacation days.

we living each day fully.

we value honesty.

we value promises.

we love.


book review: "getting started with R"

From Brent's blog:

Book Review: 25 Recipes for Getting Started with R by Paul Teetor; O'Reilly Media

25 Recipes for Getting Started with R by Paul Teetor is a little book of examples that solve particular problems using R. What's "R" you ask? Well, then this isn't the book for you, despite its "Getting Started" moniker. I knew that R was a hot new thing (program or programming language or environment or something) that people were using to do neat stuff with data and statistics. But I wanted to know more and this seemed like a good book start with. I should have read the Preface a bit more carefully as it clearly says:
This book is not a tutorial on R, although you will learn something by studying the recipes. The book is not an introduction to statistics either.
Those are both important caveats. While I know slightly more about R than I used to, I'm still looking to "get started" using R. The problem here, to be fair to to Teetor, is probably the publisher's (which it pains me to say since I love them so and I got this book for free in order to review it). This book is a set of excerpts from a larger book of recipes called the "R Cookbook." That book probably makes sense to buy if you've already gotten your start with R and want some guidance on how to solve problems using R. The "25 Recipes" book is too short (only 44 pages of actual "recipes", the first 6 pages of which cover installing and getting help on the web) to provide more than a very cursory overview. More troubling is that some of the explanations within the recipes seem truncated. I'm guessing that's because they refer to recipes in the full book that weren't included here. For example, Problem 1.10 carefully explains that, depending on how you select a column you might get a "vector" or a "data frame" returned. While most people reading a book about R are probably going to be able to intuit the distinction it still would have been helpful to have thrown in a "recipe" about it.  But of course, that would be more of a "tutorial" which this book states that it is not. As a positive, the book does cover the main things you'd want to know (basic statistical function, basic plotting/graphing, regressions). But it's hard to imagine that there aren't free alternatives on the web that get you at least as far. In sum, I like the idea behind the book but couldn't recommend this version. Perhaps the full "R Cookbook" is the way to go. Find the book here: http://shop.oreilly.com/product/0636920018315.do


going dancing...


book review: And Then We Came to the End

By Brent:
I wanted to like this book. But I didn't. I thought I was enjoying it for a while; it is clever and well-written. But by about page 100 I was tired of clever and well-written and funny observations about work life. I get it, I'm employed. The major plot themes move too slowly and the book is written in the first person plural ("we") which, for me, meant I never quite got attached to any of the characters. First person plural isn't done much in novels, it's considered very hard. I can see why because even though, as I said, the book was well written, I kept feeling like it was being told from the point of view of a particular person who never let us hear what he or she was thinking. Who is this "we" and why don't "we" ever say what "we're" thinking? And then I realized that, by definition, "we" is all of the characters in the book and I don't like any of them. So I stopped reading the book. There's a middle section (written more conventionally as "she") that was well done and somewhat more engaging. And then I skipped to the end. And the was nice but there's like, 278 pages from where I stopped to the end and I didn't really miss anything. So there you have it. Read 100 pages; skip to page 196 and read for, like, 30 more page, and then read the end. Or just let this book go even though it was highly regarded by reviewers.

photography drama

I am in the middle of frantically trying to get my photography site together because I am doing a big shoot in September. I wanted to come up with some fun name for my photography, but it turns out that everyone uses their name. Which is lame, but I am crunched for time so I need to just go with it.

Here's what the site looks like now:

You can click around and like pictures if you are so inclined.

I am super excited about the event. I am going to set up a photo booth to take pictures of families.

Matthias, in Berlin, is working on a new banner for me. He liked the name "Tripody." Which is cute, but is a little too close to potty in English.


mission statement

We worked on these a few months ago and then let them marinate. I would like to share our family's mission statement with you. I thought it was a good thing to do since we are not religious. I wanted to have written down what we value. I am sure we will refine this as time goes on, but for now this is it.

we believe in spending time with our family and helping our family financially if needed.

we believe some friends are like family.

we believe in helping the less fortunate.

we believe in not commuting.

we believe in living debt free, even if we aren't there yet.

we believe in small living.

we believe in taking all of our vacation days.

we believe life is short and working is a means to an end.

we believe in honesty.

we believe promises matter.

we believe in love.


pie town


retirement in america

I worked on retirement issues for a few years and this paragraph, from the New York Times, by Teresa Ghilarducci explains the reality that we currently live in with respect to retirement:

"Not yet convinced that failure is baked into the voluntary, self-directed, commercially run retirement plans system? Consider what would have to happen for it to work for you. First, figure out when you and your spouse will be laid off or be too sick to work. Second, figure out when you will die. Third, understand that you need to save 7 percent of every dollar you earn. (Didn’t start doing that when you were 25 and you are 55 now? Just save 30 percent of every dollar.) Fourth, earn at least 3 percent above inflation on your investments, every year. (Easy. Just find the best funds for the lowest price and have them optimally allocated.) Fifth, do not withdraw any funds when you lose your job, have a health problem, get divorced, buy a house or send a kid to college. Sixth, time your retirement account withdrawals so the last cent is spent the day you die."

My friends in Europe will not understand why we have this problem...



I lost a friend. Not lost in the sense that I misplaced her. We just aren’t friends anymore. There was an event, but that doesn’t really matter anymore. What matters is that person is gone from my life.

But she isn’t.

I collect people. Once we are friends, I stay in contact. I may move or you may move, but I am good at making sure I am still in contact. And I was good at this even before facebook.

But with facebook, instead of my no longer having contact with this lost friend, I see what is going on her life. I can monitor her. Does she monitor my life?

Cleaning out my desk space today I ran across a container of black sand from New Zealand. Years ago, I gave some of this special sand to my lost friend. Does she still have that bit of sand? Why do I still have the sand? I think it is cool, and it reminds me of my trip to New Zealand. And of my lost friend. Without facebook I would only think of her when I saw the sand, not whenever she posted on facebook.

Unfriending this friend would seem too harsh. I like seeing what is going on in her life.

But what do I want to spend my time thinking about? Real friends now, or old friends from the past?

And that is the problem I have with facebook. It is sucking up time that I could spend doing other things. It has become my TV. We don’t watch TV because of this. I can’t seem to decide to only sometimes check facebook, so I am now going to delete my account.

I will miss the pictures of my nieces and nephews. I will miss seeing my friends from time to time. But really, I want to have intentional interactions. Not what I have now, which is unfulling and a waste of time.

Please email me if you want to stay in touch.

**UPDATE** A good friend called and said I did not need to get off of facebook, I just needed to manage my use better...DONE. We will see how that goes.


flyfishing movie

My brother is involved with this kickstarter campaign to help raise money for this movie about cancer and fly fishing. Please consider donating.

Kickstarter campaign page here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/travisswartz/fish-on-stories-from-a-reel-recovery-retreat


cool stuff


the "other" blog

I started working on another blog with a few other guys. You can check it out here: http://bureauphile.wordpress.com/.




thoughts on writing

"But reports can give you tunnel vision, trapping you on the middle rungs of the abstraction ladder and crippling your ability to tell a good story."

pg. 58, Story Craft, by Jack Hart

Stories are told either by using summaries of what has happened or by putting the story into scene. There are areas in between the two however. And if you are in this gray area, you are not telling a good story. Try to move towards either end.

The good writer must "show and tell."

Part of my new work is reading a book about the craft of writing each week. I liked what Hart had to say about these things.


vituary: jordan r.

My good friend, Jordan, just graduate from college. I can’t fathom that the little girl who needed help doing her homework is an adult.

But what a wonderful adult she has turned into. She is into birds. What is fun about her interest is that it has been 1. lifelong, and 2. it has given a structure to her life thus far which has allowed her to explore all kinds of other things through the lens of her love of birds. She has traveled all over the world to see birds and spent countless hours with her family in search of birds. She used birds as a vehicle to complete her Girl Scout Gold Award project. She has worked to preserve the habitat of birds and to use science to figure out why some birds are struggling.

She is gracious and fun to be around. In the last few years we have not spent as much time together as we did when she was little. But I have followed her growth into an engaged young adult who promises to do great things with her time here.

Congrats Jordan. May the world keep producing great people like you.

(Hat tip to Pam Rutter Photography for the picture.)


eating animals

by jonathan safran foer

I declined to read this book when it first came out because I knew it would make me more inclined to be a vegetarian. Since we already crossed that bridge, I read the book.

The book is his exploitation of the topic of food, precipitated by the birth of his son. For years he flirted with vegetarianism, but realized he needed to decide, firmly and finally. As a friend wrote to JSF after the birth of his son, "Everything is possible again." Yes, having a child allows you to reconsider all aspects of your life, in light of your acting as a guide to a new human as they grow and learn.

Suffice to say, as many have said before JSF is an amazing writer. His 10,000 hours are in the hopper. He has mastered the sentence. And the well thought out format of the book urges the reader onward, even if you are not sure you want to read what is coming next.

Of note:
"Animal agriculture makes a 40% GREATER contribution to global warming than ALL transportation in the world combined; it is the number one cause of climate change."

So now that you know that, what does it mean? How can you change your behavior? How hard will it be? How hard will you try? Does my behavior matter?

We are vegetarians but had planned to eat meat every so often. More plant based eaters than strict veggies. So I had a steak the other night. It was my last steak. I sounded like an episode of Portlandia asking about the meat's origins, and whether the animals were happy. But I know the answer. They weren't.

I have never eaten fish, but apparently no fish meets a demise that anyone can consider humane. And they have feelings, which was interesting.

* Thanksgiving used to be a day of fasting. pg. 259.
* Hitler was most likely NOT a vegetarian. notes to pg. 260.

Read the book. Consider your actions.


super busy weekend

i am behind on calls: marika and melissa i think of calling daily...at the wrong time.

we had the mommies from my mommy group over on friday night for drinks on the deck. a lovely time was had.

saturday morning we cleaned for nicole, bob, and bear and brandon's visit. pictures HERE and HERE. they got here and we had indian take out, again on our deck.

then sunday morning we had brunch with the sullivans. then headed to target to stock up on some cute stuff they have this week. then brandon came back for some more oskar time. then we went to bed. i thought the weekend was over.

but no. monday the chaos continued. marcus came over to have me do a sewing job and at 1:30 I realized that the cleaning lady was coming at 2. i needed to do the pre-clean...and thank goodness she was coming, because carol, aka grandma, arrived that night. whew.

i need a vacation: la on thursday here i come.


nyer and clayton christensen

The NYer printed this exact statement: "After that day, his faith grew steadily stronger, and God granted him special powers. He healed the sick. He spoke in tongues." The article is a profile of Clayton Christensen, who coined the phrase disruptive technology. My query: how did the NYer fact check this statement?




john cusak interview

Jada Yuna stated in her profile in New York Magazine of John Cusak:

"Why waste time feeling conflicted about good fortune?"

I want to work on this.


when there are writers

as good as Roger Ebert out there, it makes it hard to try to write yourself.

On death:
"That is what death means. We exist in the minds of other people, in thousands of memory clusters, and one by one those clusters fade and disappear. Some years from now, at a funeral with a slide show, only one person will be able to say who we were. Then no one will know."

Read the whole essay by clicking this sentence.


and on a sad note

(photo by jamie bosworth)

Our good family friend, Don Ronayne died on Monday. While he had some health problems, things seemed to be on the up. I had just spoken to him a week ago Monday.

Here is his obituary:

Donald Anthony Ronayne of Kent Island, Maryland, passed away peacefully on Monday April 9, 2012 with Carol holding his hand and his nephew and niece Jim and Morgan Ronayne of Annapolis, MD at his side. He was 69.

Mr. Ronayne was born in New York. He graduated with honors from Yale University, studied at Sorbonne University in Paris, France, and received his Juris Doctor from Stanford University. He was a trial lawyer who opened his first practice in California. He also practiced in Idaho, Hawaii, New Jersey, and Maryland.

Mr. Ronayne was an avid sports enthusiast and spent many years as an athlete and coach. He was a passionate environmentalist and pro bono attorney who generously contributed his time, resources, and professional services to the causes he championed and his community.

He was a kind and devoted husband, son, brother, uncle, and friend. He is survived by his loving wife, Carol Fordonski, and sister, Judith Ronayne of Garden City, NY. He was loved by scores of nephews, nieces, in-laws and friends. He will be missed by many.

Per his wishes, all services will be private. Memorial contributions may be made to Chesapeake Cats and Dogs, 300A Island Professional Park, Stevensville, MD 21666. http://www.chesapeakecatsanddogs.org

Funeral arrangements by Fellows, Helfenbein & Newnan Funeral Home, P. A. in Chester, MD. For online condolences, please visit www.fhnfuneralhome.com.



real food.


my favorite baby products

i am so behind on posting it is not even funny. i have stuff to say, but i am just not together enough yet to say it.

in the mean time i put together a shopping list of my favorite baby products...


and yes, laura, i see what you are saying about the ipt. but i think we are creating expectations really...he can expect to get a pottytunity when his diaper is changed or when he wakes up...and i think he is holding it sometimes...but time will tell. at least he will be used to being on the potty.



ipt: infant potty training

we are doing it folks. it sounded batshit crazy when i first heard about it in the nytimes a few years ago. (see article here.) in fact, i made no end of fun of it.

that said, it is great. the little guy goes peepee in his little toilet about 4 times a day and he has pooped a total of 4 times in the potty. he seems to really like it. anytime he wakes up or he has a diaper change he gets a "pottytunity." carol is even on board, so that is nice. we are teaching him the sign for potty too...we have noticed a reduction in diaper usage as well. (we use gdiapers with cloth or disposable inserts.)

i got this book and this book about how to do it.

even our critical friend dave thinks it is a good idea.


back to work soon

so, i have not blogged in so long. strange.

back to work next Monday. can you believe it? well i can't. brent's mom, carol, is here to watch oskar the month of february as we transition. that is great news. he is growing so much.

i will only be working from 8:30 to 2:30 and then picking him up...not much time apart really. i am still kind of a mess about it, which surprised me at first.



time is flying

ok, so I am hard at work on that book of mine. things are moving right along. I found an editor to read it for me...my deadline is tomorrow.

oskar's 4 month checkup is tuesday.

i read a great book not out yet called UnOrthodox...it is by a woman who left her hasidic community. love books like this. wow, am I glad I am not hasidic.

also read a great book about cooking: The Kitchen Counter Cooking School.

more soon.


mini book review: sister

by rosamund lupton

this book came across my radar when highlighted by one of our great independent bookstores in DC: politics and prose. i borrowed the book instead of buying it, which will not keep them in business, unfortunately.

however, the recommendation was great. Sister is a crimi set in London. the main character's sister has gone missing while pregnant. interestingly, the book is written as a letter to the woman's sister.

great quick read under the covers. highly recommended.