Just a little blog about me and mine.

Tricking Kids Into Manual Labor (and saving the world) January 31, 2009

Filed under: family,Why didn't I think of that? — Katie @ 3:09 am

A headline about tricking kids into doing manual labor was enough to get me to click through a link on a website (Gizmodo) to see what they were talking bout.  It’s a computer gadget website/blog, so I was fairly certain the article wasn’t going to be about parenting or chores, so it got my attention. Kids should be good for something, and manual labor tops my list.  I generally think that kids are a giant drain of energy, time, and money and not really good for anything other than to have a socially acceptable excuse to play on a playground and see kids movies and not look like a social deviant.

My parents were relatively cool in the childhood manual labor department. Unlike my dad, I didn’t have to spend my childhood “leisure” time picking cotton or putting up tobacco, churning butter, milking cows or castrating pigs. He once told me that a summer spent working tobacco, in a hot barn, arms covered in black tar, made him decide to go to college and not have to work on the farm. I grew up within 20 miles of that farm, but had a much more posh childhood. I had to keep my room generally neat and suffered through reminders that, “drawers that open are drawers that close.” I set the table when asked, I cut the grass and got paid $5, and if you’ve ever seen the size of my parents’ yard, they got the better end of that deal. Overall, I was expected to just be generally agreeable and nice and had to do what was asked of me.

But, back to tricking kids into manual labor. Clicking on the headline proved that it’s not a parenting article, or a child abuse article, but a really awesome invention called the Play Pump that has the potential to make a huge difference in the world.


It looks, and plays, like regular playground equipment, but it’s really a pump for moving groundwater to a tank for a village. There’s a tank between the pump and the faucet, allowing water to be stored after “playtime.”


Access to clean drinking water is one of the world’s most urgent needs:

  • more than 1 billion of the world’s people don’t have a reliable source of clean water
  • 80% of all sickness in the world is caused by water-related disease
  • the burden of finding and hauling clean water is often left to women and girls, a task that is both arduous and dangerous

I’m not well versed in international development issues, so I don’t know if the Play Pump folks are effective in bringing these to places where they will make a difference.  I hope so.  It’s often the simplest solutions that are the best.  Occam’s Razor and all that.

Nevertheless, I’m a fan of elegant, efficient, and useful technology–especially when it’s put to good use.  Technology, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad, but nor is it neutral.  Think about it.  Technology is not a moral value.  It’s capacity to be either life giving  or life taking rests not in the technology itself, but with us, it’s creators and users, and for that reason it’s also not a neutral and independent force at work in the world.  For example, the development of the machine gun prior to WWI was a huge technological leap forward after centuries of hand-to-hand combat.  It’s efficient.  It’s effective.  It wasn’t the gun that made it possible to kill one another in a cold, industrialized way–we did that–the gun was just the technology we used.

Likewise, it’s up to us to recognize the moral issues attached to the lack of clean water around the world.  And it’s also and up to us to find ways to solve them, together with the folks whose lives are at stake, or course.  Those are the moral values at stake–life, death, safety, dignity.  Technology has a big role to play as a catalyst and a tool for social change, and in this case, it’s also makes for one really sweet toy.


An Open Letter to My Most Faithful Blog Reader January 30, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Katie @ 2:32 pm

Since you are the most faithful of 6 blog readers (I got 20 hits yesterday! hopefully not all from me proofreading and editing after I posted), and I don’t want you to be bored at work, here’s a post for you. I’m drafting a new post. A cool one I think. But now I have to leave and get in my car and drive across town.

I’m working with some undergraduate business students at Emory in a Non-Profit Marketing Course. I have to go meet with a team of students, help them with their project, and act like a suitable mentor and professional. When really, I had the worst day ever at my job yesterday and only slept 2 hours since I was upset and stressed. In 2 weeks I have to go teach their class–I get to talk about whatever I want, for as long as I want. Watch out world.


I’m like, totally, like, going to be a lawyer? January 28, 2009

Filed under: family — Katie @ 9:28 pm

This is a narrated guest post by PL…just for your reading enjoyment.

While in the bathroom at Emory Law today, the following narrative by two 3rd year law students (3Ls for those in the know) took place:

Girl 1: I’m not ready to graduate. I’m not ready to leave because I don’t have a job.

Girl 2: Yeah, you and 3/4 of the class.

Girl 1: No, I think it’s worse than that. It’s like 2/3 of the class.

Let’s hope she’s not going to be, like, the kind of lawyer that needs to use math.


BYOBike Lane

Filed under: Why didn't I think of that? — Katie @ 3:23 pm

In the category of “Why Didn’t I Think of That?”…

It costs $5,000 to $50,000 per mile to make a bike lane (I’m not sure what a $50,000 bike lane would look like, but that’s what Huff Post tells me. I imagine it might be the bicycle equivalent of the locking cart escalator at Ikea). Living in a city that is not bike/pedestrian/public transit friendly, I’m not holding my breath for dedicated bike lanes anytime soon. My favorite bike lanes in Atlanta are the ones that go for a while and then stop, dumping you unprotected onto a busy street.

I’m proud of my retro looking bike, and it even has a basket now (installing it is another matter). I haven’t been too many places by bike though because I like living and not being squashed by cars on Memorial Drive. There’s a back way to the library so I rode there one Saturday, and PL was brave enough to climb the giant hill to the Wal Mart parking lot (thereby cutting through and avoiding Memorial Drive) and then pedal through Avondale Estates in search of coffee and Wi-Fi. She’s my hero. And a beast.

I have dreams of a bike friendly society (and riding with my side baskets 3.1 miles to the Farmer’s Market), and I know that if it was safer and easier to get around by bike I would be more likely to do it. A friend living in Denmark introduced me to the cool site Copenhagenize, and also the stylish Copenhagen Cycle Chic–both lots of fun to browse. At least 500,000 people ride their bike everyday in Copenhagen, and don’t need silly padded pants, bike computers, or even sun to do it.

Check this out:


Right now I barely ride my bike in the day, and certainly wouldn’t at night where I live. (The darkness is only one of the reasons, we also live in the ghetto where we hear gunshots (er, fireworks) sometimes and neighbors don’t keep their dogs inside a fence).

I’m now taking bids for one of my geeky friends to make me one of these. It appears to be a laser projection apparatus set up under the seat. My birthday is not until October 15, but Groundhog Day is right around the corner.


How Do Sea Kittens Meow Underwater? January 14, 2009

Filed under: in the news — Katie @ 9:12 pm

My 2.5 blog readers know me well enough to probably guess what I think of PETA’s Sea Kitten campaign. Although they are very cute. Very very very cute. But as a campaign, I suspect it will be a colossal flop. Just like singing clean coal.

It is a youth focused campaign, but that only makes the Sea Kittens Stories section of the campaign even more horrific. I don’t claim to be an expert on children, but I’m pretty sure they don’t need to read about Tony the Trout giving some kid mercury poisoning, or bitter and insane Sally plotting revenge against her oppressors who live on the harsh and alien land world above.

Between sea kittens, Joe the Plumber as a war correspondent, and people actually buying and selling the Porch Potty, I sometimes wonder when someone will tell us that we were all part of some elaborate hoax.


Howard Gardner’s Eight Types of Intelligence Test January 13, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Katie @ 10:37 am

My friend Ina posted this test to her blog, and as an architect, it was not surprising that she scored well on the Spatial area of intelligence. I’m obviously not strong in that area which is probably why even though I’m usually even-keeled and calm (note: I didn’t say patient), I turn into an anger ball and cuss while putting together Ikea furniture and reading those infuriating instructions without words.

My result for Howard Gardner’s Eight Types of Intelligence Test:

31% Logical, 12% Spatial, 14% Linguistic, 69% Intrapersonal, 6% Interpersonal (see what a crazy introvert I am!), 16% Musical, 18% Bodily-Kinesthetic and 67% Naturalistic!


“This area has to do with introspective and self-reflective capacities. Those who are strongest in this intelligence are typically introverts and prefer to work alone. They are usually highly self-aware and capable of understanding their own emotions, goals and motivations. They often have an affinity for thought-based pursuits such as philosophy. They learn best when allowed to concentrate on the subject by themselves. There is often a high level of perfectionism associated with this intelligence. (editor’s note: No, really? I hadn’t noticed.)

Careers which suit those with this intelligence include philosophers, psychologists, theologians, writers and scientists.” (from Wikipedia)

Yep, that’s pretty much me.

My Naturalistic score was pretty high as well in this test, in the past I’ve always scored very low on the nurturing type parts of personality tests, but that’s usually people not animals and nature like in this test–I’m nearly a 100% pure INTJ according to the Myers-Brigg inventory and reason doesn’t leave room for dealing with people and their flighty emotions and irrational behavior.


“This area has to do with nature, nurturing and relating information to one’s natural surroundings. Those with it are said to have greater sensitivity to nature and their place within it, the ability to nurture and grow things, and greater ease in caring for, taming and interacting with animals. They may also be able to discern changes in weather or similar fluctuations in their natural surroundings. They are also good at recognizing and classifying different species.

“Naturalists” learn best when the subject involves collecting and analyzing, or is closely related to something prominent in nature; they also don’t enjoy learning unfamiliar or seemingly useless subjects with little or no connections to nature. It is advised that naturalistic learners would learn more through being outside or in a kinesthetic way.” (from Wikipedia)

Careers which suit those with this intelligence include scientists, naturalists, conservationists, gardeners and farmers.

Since I was a science major first and then ended up doing theology, these results makes sense, but I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Ideas?


My Own Backyard (a post about money, not gardening) January 7, 2009

Filed under: finances — Katie @ 11:47 am

A while back I wrote about signing up for the site Mint as a way to better keep track of our multiple checking, savings, and credit card accounts and the transfers we make from one to another. Since that post I even added a new account–an ING direct savings account to hold PL’s student loan money.  We get a lump sum for living expenses each semester after the extremely costly tuition and fees are paid, and we use what’s left a bit at a time each month to pay what my measly paycheck won’t cover.  It was sitting in the checking account for a while, but having such a high balance tempted us into overspending and not paying attention, so I moved it to our linked savings account so I could just move our certain budgeted amount into checking each month. 

I realized that a chunk of money like that, even if it would be more or less depleted by the end of the semester, would earn a little bit of interest–but not at the pitiful .02% that most savings accounts pay.  I did some research and found that many online banks pay 2-4% interest, and I picked ING Direct (not the absolute highest interest rate out there but I liked them the best).  We’re $23.66 richer because of interest earned just since opening the account in mid-October.  I’ve been very happy with ING Direct so far–it’s easy to transfer money back and forth since when you set it up you have to link it to a checking account. 

If you have money sitting earning .02% in a savings account, go right now and open an online one–they pay from 2-4% usually and are easy to set up. Actually, don’t do it right now–tell me first if you want to do it and I can officially refer you and get $10 for me, $25 for you.  I didn’t close our other savings account since we get the keep the change cents added to it when we use the debit card, so it’s worth keeping around. 

Here’s my final verdict on Mint. After much time spent tracking down account numbers, log-in information, and guessing answers to long-ago selected security questions, I decided that Mint isn’t all that useful for me and my needs.  Setting it all up was a royal pain for some accounts, and I consistently had trouble syncing it up to ING Direct for some reason.  What I did like about it was being able to set budget categories for expenses and have the system classify the expenses for you–that part worked quite well usually.  It obviously doesn’t know that Kroger is usually groceries but sometimes prescriptions so it’s not totally hands-off.   The main reason it simply isn’t useful for me is that you can’t actually pay any of your bills or transfer money back and forth inside the program.  It is nice to see everything all in one place, but I was still logging into multiple sites to transfer money and pay bills. 

What I should have done first when trying to get an organized way for seeing how our money is spread in so many accounts (nothing offshore or illegal though, I think), is check to see what undiscovered services my own banking site actually had.  As is often the case, something I already had sitting around being underutilized has features I didn’t know about–for free no less.  It should always be a rule of mine to check out undiscovered features that are a part of products and services I already have.  Our fancy oven, for example, can do all kinds of clever things other than turn on and off and I never knew it until I read the manual.  

Back to money–our online banking site at Bank of America has a feature called My Portfolio (a name that’s a registered trademark somehow) that does the same thing as Mint–links multiple external accounts into one place, shows you a summary of all transactions in all accounts, and lets you categorize expenses as you wish and set budgets for them.  Since my main complaint with Mint was that it was separate from where you actually transfer money and pay bills, having it in my online banking site–where I actually do those things–is great.   

In just a few minutes I added our Kroger credit card to it easily.  The ING Direct site is still being a hater and I don’t know why.  To sync up with most accounts I needed to enter my account number and/or username and password and maybe answer a security question or two.  For ING though, it gives a list of 10 security questions to answer, a list of 20 possible questions in a drop down menu and then you have to both pick the right questions and give the right answer.  That hasn’t worked yet, even though I even went back to ING and set up all new questions so I could remember which 10 to pick and know the right answers.  My main goal in using a service like that is to better keep up with day-to-day spending, so I’d really like to have the ING Direct account in there sine that’s money we use for regular expenses.  So I’m going to try again later, maybe make a complaining phone call to them if I have time, and decide what other accounts to put in there.  Wish me luck.  It really shouldn’t be so complicated to keep track of the comings and goings (mostly goings) of my money.