Category: Miscellaneous

Introduction to Addition and Subtraction

I came up with a game to visualize the concepts of addition and subtraction. I asked Anya to get a couple of stuffed toys and line them up on the floor. She brought three. I then asked her to hide one under the table and tell me how many there were (2). Then hide two under the table and see how many (0). Then take one out from the table and put it in the pile – now we have one. Add two more – we have three. Add one more … oops, had to run upstairs and get another one. Now we’ve got four. Subtract two – hide them under the table. Now that the terms ‘add’ and ‘subtract’ have been introduced, I began to just say ‘add #’ and ‘subtract #’.

Then we worked on a little algebra — you have two in your pile now. How many do you need to add to make five? Don’t know … well make a second pile … three, four, five. How many are in that second pile? Three – so if you have two and want to have five … you need three more.

Alternative Facts: Maths Edition

Alternative Fact: From Mick Mulvaney (Director of the Office of Management and Budget) on CNN:

“But you could have a long conversation, when you have got a numerator and a denominator, how to arrive at a percentage.”

Real Fact: When you have a numerator (call it X) and a denominator (call it Y), you arrive at a percentage using the formula:

( (X/Y) * 100) %

If this involves a *long conversation*, either you are teaching someone a new concept or they are screwing with you (let’s debate the pros and cons of Excel, long division on paper, the calculator on my phone).

Cultural Appropriation

I know cultural appropriation is an unavoidable thing – and there’s something to be said for enjoying aspects of another culture. But why do we have to move dates around? I’m used to American Oktoberfest celebrations being in October (sounds the same, must be right?) although the actual event in Munich starts in September and can run into the first few days of October. There’s a Hindu celebration, Holi … there are several stories behind the celebration, but it is a SPRING celebration. That starts on 12 March this year.

Since that date is coming up, I wanted to find a local kid-friendly Holi celebration … and found a local kids-allowed festival is in September. There are, it seems, many “Festival of Colours” celebrations across the US and a handful actually occur in Spring. We’ll probably still go … never refused to drink a nice eisbock just because it was mid-October either 🙂

Don’t Talk To Strangers

It was 68 degrees, and I took Anya to the beach by a local lake to build sand castles. Three different kids, with three different families, wandered up to us and started playing. I said ‘hi’ to each one, and got a funny look. Each kid spent around fifteen minutes playing with us without saying a word. It was really strange. Until I heard the horrified mother admonishing her kid as they walked away: “you know not to talk to strangers, what were you doing?”. Here’s a guess – he wasn’t talking to strangers. Playing with, yes. Walking around on the beach with, yes. But he dutifully avoided talking.

Kids process language literally. It’s funny, sometimes, what Anya doesn’t get because figurative and abstract reasoning are not well developed in four year old kids. I’ve heard the don’t get into a car with a stranger / don’t talk to strangers/ STRANGER DANGER!!!! through most of its evolution from perfectly reasonable advice (seriously, don’t GO somewhere with a stranger. I remember trying to convey this to friends when I was at University – go to a club, meet a cute guy, don’t go somewhere alone with him. It isn’t like this is advice merely for young kids.) to absolute paranoia (kid lost in the woods who spent his time hiding from the strange people who had volunteered to search the woods looking for the missing child). Until yesterday, it never occurred to me how children process these messages (and I’m not talking about the whole “living in fear of seven billion people” thing that’s got to have psychological ramifications).

I don’t know how we’ll convey an appropriate level of caution to Anya – “don’t go anywhere with a stranger” is a good first step. Especially now that most people carry cell phones – know your phone number and have them call us. Don’t go anywhere, we’ll come to you.


Do you know …

Having a commonly recognized accent often leads to hearing similar illogical thread: Oh, you are from over-yonder-place. Do you know so-and-so. The polite response (“no, I do not”) does nothing to dissuade the asker. I suspect most people want to answer “no, I don’t bloody know David Beckham. There are fifty three million people in bloody England. You’re from Atlanta, do you know Usher?” Which might better get the point across that it is statistically unlikely that I’d know any individual from a country none the less a fairly famous one who, I imagine, has a fairly exclusive social circle.

Evidently it isn’t just accents that prompt this nonsensical assumption. Trump’s press conference today:

Black journalist: “Will you meet with the Congressional Black Caucus?”

Trump: “I would. You want to set up the meeting? Are they friends of yours?”

And he probably thought he was being nice in acquiescing to the meeting. I wish the reporter had responded with a terribly rude and likely honest answer: “No, they aren’t friends of mine. But, as a decently well informed citizen, I am aware of their existence and wanted to know if you planned to meet with them.”

Legal Precedent

This may set an interesting precedent:

Not quite the same as saying the preconceived notions broadcast by the now-CiC of the military branch means it would be impossible to achieve a just result from a military tribunal … but extrapolating a little can any minority get a fair trial in an executive branch run by Trump? Can a woman?

My Latest Conspiracy Theory (Movie)

There is a logical extrapolation to a world with facts and ‘alternative facts’ — why would alternative facts just be used to refute a report? They can just as easily make a story of their own. Trump has made a lot of outlandish campaign promises — ones that require significant money, legal maneuvering, and time to complete. But why bother completing them at all? You can just say it is done.

So they declare the wall built. Then there’s a whole conspiracy theory about it not actually having been built, people trekking down to Southern Texas and to get pictures of the not.a.wall down there. Government press releases with this huge, aesthetically pleasing, immigration stopping wall. How do you know which is the fact and which is the alternative fact (i.e. an obvious lie).

The problem with lying is you’ve either got to have people sufficiently willing to believe you to overlook the missing logical consequences of whatever you lied about OR you’ve got to create the same conditions either way. There are a lot of people willing to believe Trump *now* … but if they don’t start seeing results, either his wall was a complete waste (yeah, it was – I still say a massive fleet of drones could actually stop human traffic across unauthorized checkpoints for FAR less money — not saying I think the stopping human traffic is a good thing or not, but if we’re hell bent on DOING it, at least DO IT) or illegal immigrants were not the cause of unemployment and huge government spending on entitlements (yeah, they weren’t).

A priori assumption: an insufficient number of people are willing to believe the lie as evidence against it mounts to sustain a re-election campaign. Now they need to recreate their predicted result … government assassins offing some percent of people on public assistance (so they can declare reducing illegal immigration eliminated this money we’ve been wasting) and maybe even offing a random percent of the gainfully employed population (to open up jobs now that illegal immigrants aren’t “stealing our jobs”).

Just need some out there hippy type in an old VW bus cruising around the country trying to stop this murderous conspiracy.

Ideas – not exactly a viral infection

I remember a stir not too long after Obama took office – mid-April 2009. He was attending a conference in South America, and Hugo Chavez gave him a book, “Las Venas Abiertas de America Latina”. And people who were already saying he was a disgraceful president who undertook an apology tour decided that the mere possession of a book chronicling the history of American imperialism in South America was just farther proof of his anti-American beliefs. The whole thing struck me as silly – I’ve read Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto. Managed not to become a Fascist or a Socialist. I’ve read stories about unicorns flying over rainbows too; didn’t turn me into one. I didn’t realize that making oneself aware of opposing viewpoints was so controversial.

What makes me think of this incident now? The problems the UC system has had with Milo Yiannopoulos’ speaking engagements. Discourse is civil discussion of issues with people – even if their opinions differ from ours. Compromise isn’t bullying others into taking up your beliefs. To have an effective governance of a large, incohesive population requires compromise. How can there be any compromise between individuals who fear being made aware of an alternative viewpoint? No matter how abhorrent you find someone’s belief, there is generally a reason for those beliefs. And without understanding the reasons, you have no way to find a path that addresses both people’s desires.

It’s easy to dismiss someone as a white-supremacist. Or a fascist. Or an ape, or any other ad hominem attacks that forestall the type of compromise that is necessary to govern effectively. We’re setting ourselfs up for marginalized minorities (even when there are three million MORE people in the “minority”) or radical swings between left and right leaning governments as they trade off every couple of years and un-do whatever the previous administration has accomplished / mucked up (depending on your point of view).

Educational Philosophy

I was discussing educational philosophy with my mom a few days ago — especially early childhood education, which wasn’t either of our specialties. But as Anya is getting older, it’s becoming relevant. And I’m surprised by the rigorous curriculum adopted by one of the local “elite” preschools around here. It’s got a wait list and enormous price tag. And it ignores a great deal of recent research regarding childhood learning – essentially that very young kids form the neural connections that are needed for formal schooling through free play. Not by getting them to sit down and listen to lectures at an earlier age, not by being told what to do and doing it … but by being left to their own devices to use toys “wrong” and run and climb.

Made me think of my experience with education — and I graduated top ten in my class, so this isn’t just “the school is why I’m failing, not me” complaining. School managed to take all of the fun out of any subject. Not sure if that’s just the Puritanical history of the country dictating that work shouldn’t be fun or just a reality of trying to teach 30 kids in a class.

I love reading. And talking with friends about what I’ve read. I do *not* love reading a few chapters and writing a five page double spaced Arial 12 point text essay on the allegory … you get the idea.

I started University as a history major – but I don’t care as much about the exact date that the Treaty of Versailles was signed as much as the socio-political impact the treaty content had on much of Europe. I don’t want a list of the crusades and their dates – but the cultural impact, the religious impact, hell even the political impact that having a large number of military leaders and men roaming across the continent had “back home”.

Chemistry lab experiments were graded on the % deviation between your results and the predicted outcome. You were essentially being tested on your ability to get exactly 12 milliliters into a container. Or you had the good sense to BS your way through the experiment, calculate the intended results, and reverse engineer your experimental values with a variance somewhere between 91% and 97%.

Art – first of all, I find the idea of grading such a subjective subject to be right silly. Personally, I would have graded on attitude and effort. Someone who lacks hand-eye coordination but put a lot of thought into the media and technique may have made an ugly picture … but they got something from the experience. A talented artist may have fobbed off the class but made a beautiful piece. I have to say, I had a physical education instructor who graded with that exact logic. Someone from the girls’ basketball team could grade poorly in the basketball unit not because they didn’t make baskets but because they were disruptive to class and weren’t trying. Someone who was putting forth a lot of effort but didn’t make any baskets could still get an ‘A’. Usually, though, physical education was graded on one’s ability within specific sports.

Maths and physics become a memorization challenge. Foreign language classes were recitation. Any class – they managed to turn it into an unpleasant experience.