Thursday, December 20, 2012

Gallant's 18 Month Checkup

Gallant had his eighteen month checkup a month ago.  It was a bit early, but that was the day an appointment was available.

Now he is 31.2 inches tall (25th percentile), he weighs 23 pounds 2 ounces (20th percentile), and his head size is 47.1 cm (30th percentile).

(Comparing him to his big brother's eighteen month checkup again shows how inaccurately those percentiles are read from the chart.)

Tuesday his right upper eye tooth finally broke through.  He is still working on at least three more teeth.  Fortunately, he is sleeping through the night again.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Smiley at Preschool

Smiley goes to preschool three days a week, from 9 am until noon.

My wife and I were not planning on enrolling him in any preschool.  All of the local preschools we knew about were very expensive because they catered to families in which every parent works.  They provide breakfast and lunch, last more than three hours per day, and some even provide busing.

Then, a year ago, we heard about the preschool run by the city Parks and Recreation District at the Amazon Community Center.  It was a great fit for our family.  The cost is great ($5 per hour) and we admire Smiley's teacher for the wonderful job she does.


There M/W/F class is still accepting students for this school year.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Manosphere Theology

A couple months ago I started reading a few Manosphere blogs.  Four of them are intriguing.

As far as I know, none of these authors are religious.  But they readily ascribe to some basic scriptural theology.

First, we are more broken than we realize.  In our natural state we do things we do not want to do, often without realizing it.  We often think we want things we do not really want, or we not realize the deep desires at the root of our superficial wants.  Although we like to consider our behavior as rational our actions are often better explained by natural inclinations and desires.

(Scripture would add that this broken "old self" can be replaced by a fixed "new self" infused with God's own spirit.)

Second, we focus too much about what others think of us.  We put on acts to impress people.  We monitor ourselves in an attempt to see ourselves as others do.  We say things we do not mean to smooth things over with people.  We dwell on trying to figure out what others want, even though this is often doomed because (as mentioned above) people often do not really know what they want.

(Scripture would add that we should instead focus on what pleases God.  This is more important because God is eternal and in charge.  It is easier because God really does know what he wants, and for the important issues had told us.)

Third, we think about ourselves more that we like to admit.  We assume events near us are about us.  We attribute meaning to impersonal things.  We hear about acts far from us and assume they will effect us.  Even when we are generous and sacrificing we still often think about how our deeds cost us and change us.

(Scripture would add that we can escape thinking about ourselves by keeping our focus on God as we channel his goodness and generosity.  Then our actions are about what God is doing, other people's reactions say something about God instead of about us, and we have no worries about running out of resources, time, or energy.)

Therefore, despite my disagreement with many things these authors write, we have some deep foundational agreement.

Some of their posts prompt a response in me, "Thank goodness I have a 'new self' and need not worry about that any more."  A few posts even help me notice areas in my life where I am neglecting my new self and letting the old self emerge again.

Some of their posts prompt me to consider issues of fatherhood or marriage that are worth thinking about.  What will I teach my sons about masculinity and being a gentleman?  Can I do a little about my physical fitness and dress to be more pleasing to my wife?  Etc.

Some of the posts are just interesting psychology, even if irrelevant to my life.  A few might be relevant to my math teaching, but I am not sure about that.

And a lot of posts I just read and forget.  But even those posts were usually interesting due to seeing that largely scriptural understanding of people filtered through a very secular combination of world-view and application.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Samsara of Laundry

Although I am not a Buddhist, I can appreciate some of that faith's truths.

Laundry is a great example of "escaping the wheel of illusion".

In my family, I am the person who does nearly all of the laundry.  I used to feel happy or anxious because of this responsibility.  Being caught up with laundry gave me a warm, fuzzy feeling.  Having a lot of laundry to do caused discontent.

Neither feeling had any solid foundation.  We own enough clothes that an empty laundry basket offers no real benefit compared to a half-empty laundry basket.  Days when I really had to laundry were never miserable because of that chore.

The situation was also an overall negative.  The warm, fuzzy feeling from finishing laundry was never as intense as the anxiety from urgent laundry.

All this exemplifies "illusion".  It was all in my head, and an overall source of unhappiness (albeit a very minor one).

Moreover, the only choices were to stay within the illusion or completely depart.  I needed to let go of the warm, fuzzy feeling of completed laundry if I wanted to cast away feeling anxious on urgent laundry days.  Trying to hold onto the former would keep me from being able to cast away the latter.  Overall my life would be less happy if I tried to retain one particular happiness.

Having left behind that particular "illusion" it seems a very silly thing when I view it from outside.  There are many issues that a far worthier sources of contentment or stress in my role as househusband.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Berry Comparison

We buy a lot of bulk food at Azure Standard.  Back in 2010 I wrote about our normal purchases: gluten-free grains, flours, and pastas.  (The prices from that old blog post of 2010 are more-or-less unchanged.)

During our most recent order we also wanted to buy organic berries for our two boys to eat.  This prompted us to do some price comparisons among Azure Standard, Trader Joe's, and Market of Choice.

(This analysis ignores some bulk pricing for berries at Azure Standard.  We do not have room in our garage freezer for ten pounds of a single type of berry.)

The results were surprising.  Market of Choice was never the least expensive choice.  Trader Joe's won for the two most commonly bought kinds of berries.

Trader Joe's had the least expensive organic berries.  Strawberries were $2.79 per pound and blueberries were $3.99 per pound.

Azure Standard had the other least expensive options: cherries at $4.94 per pound, Marion berries at $5.55 per pound, blackberries at $5.79 per pound, and raspberries at $5.79 per pound.

(Earlier in the year Trader Joe's was selling organic raspberries, but they had sold out by the time we did our pricing.  Perhaps they are the best buy for organic raspberries when still in stock?)

None of these sources sell organic cranberries or mango.  The least expensive conventional cranberries were at Azure Standard at $1.10 per pound.  The least expensive conventional frozen mango was at Trader Joe's for $1.79 per pound.

Trader Joe's also had the least expensive pesticide-free or organic spinach, at $1.49 or $1.99 per pound, respectively.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Round Beard at Sixteen Days

I mentioned that I was growing a beard for Movember.  This morning Smiley took a picture that shows sixteen days of beard growth.  I am growing a "round beard", also known as a Van Dyke.


The ultimate goatee with mustache might be the Batman goatee.  Yet I do not think that style really suits me.

I am curious how a round beard would look if really long.  Ever since I was old enough to read The Hobbit I have wanted a long beard.  But I do not want a full beard, and as far as long round beards go I do not anticipate having the eyebrow length to do this look.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pathfinder Play-by-Posts

I have started playing in two Pathfinder games online, using the Paizo forum for Play-by-Post games.

In Gravel to Granite I play Shayne Anigon the gnome bard illusionist.  This is an interesting campaign because we are asked to start at "zero level" which means my character is temporarily relying on theatrics and cantrips instead of more potent weapons and spells.


In GM Odea's Short Adventure Playtest I play the fourth-level variant of the Paizo pregenerated wizard Ezren (PDF file).  This adventure has stalled for two days; I am not sure why. 


Like many people I have an itch to check my inbox.  This is a nice way to feed that itch in a very limited way, without the danger of becoming sucked into reading online news or comics for too long.

Visiting Far Away Land

More than a year ago I wrote about how Smiley invented Far Away Land as the place where characters in stories live.

Back then "Eugene" was the real world and Far Away Land was inside Eugene, surrounded by a tall wooden wall so the wicked bad guys could not get out.

During the past year Smiley's internal sense of geography has developed.  He now understands that the real world contains many places other than Eugene, included places like South America that are bigger than Eugene.

Today Smiley finally comprehended that Far Away Land is not in the real world.  It is only pretend.  It is not "on the same map" and we cannot get there by walking or by car, train, or airplane.

For a few minutes he was terribly disappointed.   I could almost see his dreams of visiting Little Bear, Magalene, and Robin Hood crashing down.  Then he brightened up and said, "All my dreams are in Far Away Land.  When I dream I am there."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Arborist Comparisons

During that April snowstorm a tall wild-looking apple tree in our back yard fell on our house.  It fell slowly and caused no damage.  (My wife did not even wake up.)

But we needed it removed and its stump ground so it would not regrow.  We also needed to remove a big Ponderosa Pine on our uphill property line that was threatening to fall on our neighbor's house.  Finally, we had a tall, skinny, and sick White Oak near that might as well get removed while the other work was being done.

I contacted three arborists. How did the bids compare?

The first was Gene Burks of Second to None Tree Service (541-517-3736).  He is a one-man operation, and the arborist we use to prune dead branches from our back yard's wonderful White Oak tree.  He does not do stump grinding.

His bid for the Apple was $400, the Ponderosa Pine was $1,650, and the sick White Oak was $100.

(We eventually hired Gene to remove all three trees.  His method for removing the Ponderosa Pine was fascinating to watch.  He removed half of the branches and hauled them away, then removed the rest and built a "bird's nest" under the Pine.  Then he started at the top and dropped ten-inch to twelve-inch rounds down into that nest cushion.)

The second bid was from Bakke Tree Care, another one-man operation that was recommended by a friend.  Jonathan Bakke was friendly and prompt.  I cannot say more since we did not hire him.

His bid for the Apple was $280, the Ponderosa Pine was $3,900, and the sick White Oak was $100.

(I have no idea why his bid for the Ponderosa Pine was so high.  I also wonder if he would use the same "bird's nest" method or if he had some other technique?  His bid for the Apple was quite low: I'll never know if he had some trick to make that job simpler.)

Finally, we called Sperry Tree Care, which might be the biggest tree care business in Eugene.  Since they were the only arborist I called who was able to do stump grinding we hired the for that job ($80).

Their bid for the Apple was $380, the Ponderosa Pine was $1,950, and the sick White Oak was $250.

(Talking to the fellow who removed the stump, I found out that Sperry Tree Care prides itself in "beautification" jobs.  They often have customers who say "make the yard as nice as you can for such-and-such amount of money".  A crew of four to six workers arrives, makes plans, checks the plans with the client, starts the clock, and then divides and conquers.)

Gas Pump Ineptitude

Oregon has a law prohibiting motorists from pumping their own gas at gas stations.  One of the multitude of original reasons was to help employ teenagers, although now most gas station attendants are adults.

Because of that law there is a stereotype that Oregonians are inept at pumping their own gas.  Saturday I fulfilled that stereotype in an humorously exemplary manner.

Last weekend my family visited relatives in Auburn, Washinton.  After the five hour drive from our home we thought it prudent to refill the tank.  I forgot how much I had been spoiled by Costco gas pumps and ran into trouble.  (The gas station at which I most often pump my own gas is at the Costco near my grandmother's home.)

First, I mistyped my zip code when using my credit card.  I am used a gas pump that makes a beep with each key press and has a decently readable display.  This pump was silent and nearly illegible from age and glare.  Pressing "Enter" after only typing four digits caused an error.  I am forced to go to the building and have an employee clear the pump so I can try again.

For my second attempt I slow down and double check my keypad use.  But when I remove the nozzle I discover the hose does not reach.  I am used to the super-long hoses at Costco gas stations, and parked with my car's gas cap facing away from the pump.  I turn the car around, but the gas pump has given up on waiting for me.  Again I go into the building and ask the employee to clear the pump.

On my third try the pump will not accept my credit card.  It apparently has a "two strikes, you're out" policy.  Again I go into the building.  I cannot use the credit card inside without specifying a dollar amount.  I pay with cash, and finally pump my gas.  Of course, getting my change means I have to enter the building a fourth time.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Two Fun Fairy Tale Picture Books

Smiley has two new "favorite" fairy tales in our current round of library books.

The Well at the End of the World is a delightful fusion and adaptation of a few much too traditional tales.  The author, Rober D. San Souci, is quite a wordsmith.  The illustrations are active and cute.

The Hinkey-Pink seems to be a more modern fairy tale.  It does not have as interesting a plot and is not as carefully written.  But has more physical humor, which Smiley enjoys.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Half Price Hult Tickets

Today only, until 5pm, you can buy half price tickets for two Hult Center holiday events: an evening Christmas music performance and an afternoon performance of Swan Lake.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Worn In

On Sunday I took the boys for a walk.  Smiley wanted to visit the playground on the way home.
Me: You just said you were worn out.  You asked if you could ride in the stroller and Gallant could walk.  How can you enjoy the playground if you are too tired to want to walk?

Smiley: I am not tired.  I am just worn out, and it takes a little while for a person to get worn in again.

After the Election

The election results are nearly complete.  As usual, Intrade was a most accurate election predictor.

President Obama has been re-elected.  Congress is probably divided with a liberal Senate and conservative House.  (Moreover, as xkcd illustrates, Congress is at its most ideologically extreme divide since 1820.)

Perhaps the presidential election is less significant than whether Congress is divided: any president's potential to effect legislation is small compared to whether Congress is churning out new laws or suffering stalemate.

But the presidential race is better blogging material, so here I go.

I've written before about how living in Oregon prevents me from caring too much about the presidential race.  My state's electoral college votes are very predictable.

Yet I can still talk about the big issues.  (It will be interested to re-read this blog post years from now, when time will tell whether these are the big issues.)

Normally the most important long-term implication of any presidential election is the potential Supreme Court nominations.  For this issue a Mitt Romney win would have been nice.  The next president will probably appoint two or three new justices.  President Obama has already appointed one or two justices who believe axiomatically that impartial laws do not exist.  If four years from now the majority of the court holds this view it will change our county incredibly.

The other huge issue for this election is the Affordable Care Act, and for this issue I am happy President Obama was re-elected.  The PPACA  It is an ungainly and horrendous bulk of legislation.  But it is the lesser of two evils.  Our country is hurt more by having health insurance tied to employment (as opposed to being part of the market like automobile insurance or home owner's insurance).  Because half of employed people are, by definition, getting a better than average deal on insurance through their employment, and many retired people still benefit after ending employment, Americans will never vote away the current system unless our country passes through a time of national health coverage.  (I just pray the Affordable Care Act allows removing the link between employment and insurance before the economy is really hit by the Entitlement Crisis and the Federal government runs out of money.)

Regarding the other, smaller issues President Obama's re-election provides many unknowns because so many of his first term accomplishments have delayed implementation.

Personally, I will enjoy a break from reading Instapundit, a blog that has succumbed to frustration.  Today Glenn Reynolds wrote, "If Romney loses this thing, it’ll only be because of fraud," and later he wrote "They [the mainstream media] must be neutralized in coming years."  I normally enjoy Glenn's hobby of pointing out media bias, but I do not enjoy reading someone who feels bitter and combative.

The most interest response to the election I have read so far was from Sarah Hoyt, who wrote, "We’re not a country of land or blood.  We’re a country of beliefs.  If we’ve lost that, who are we?  Who am I?  And where do I go?"  My reply was that we are a country of stories, not a country of beliefs.  Contrary to what pundits proclaim, I do not believe that today's election could save or doom the country or its economy.  The next four years will provide plenty of stories, and from these we will draw our identities, values, hopes, fears, and dreams.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Newspaper Political Endoresements

Today I learned about two interesting "predictors" for the presidential election.  Both are just entertainment for mathematicians: neither has any experimental evidence supporting its predictive power.

The first is the types of books being sold in each state: the Election Heat Map as tracked by Amazon.

The other only applies when there is an incumbent running for re-election.  How many newspapers endorsed the incumbent during his first campaign but have now switched to the opponent?  Mitt Romney is doing well by this measure.

I already knew about Intrade and a few of the many sports related coincidences.

Which other "predictors" do you know about?

Saturday, November 03, 2012

To the Pain

As the election approaches I am each day reading from both Google News and Instapundit.  Together these provide a pretty good balance of bias.

At Instapundit a few guest bloggers were invited to participate until the election.  I was amused a few days ago when one of them, Sarah Hoyt, offered a public challenge of a duel to the pain.

Friday, November 02, 2012

A Househusband Muses about Modern Motherhood

Allow me to paraphrase a pair of humorous conversations I had one day earlier this year.
Me: We both have two kids of the same ages, who we spend all day parenting.
Mom at a park: Go away.  We have nothing in common.
and
Me: I got a vacuum as my father's day present.
Mom at the grocery store: You are my soul mate.
For a couple months the difference puzzled me but I eventually figured it out thanks to some magazines in the pediatrician's waiting room.

Moms in urban American are exposed to an interesting phenomenon I'll now nickname Modern Motherhood.  (I'm sure that phrase has been coined a gazillion times already.  But I'm stealing it for just one blog post.  With italics.  Then you can have it back.)

There are lots of magazines offering to teach the basics of Modern Motherhood, which seems to primarily involve which books about child psychology to read, where to go to talk about those books, how to decorate your home and bake cute treats for each holiday, and new ways to relax.

Keeping the house clean is also a part of Modern Motherhood although these magazines would never, ever use the word "housewife".  Even the word "housework" is avoided.  Instead it is "chores" or "cleaning" and these always are assumed to be as enjoyable and mood-friendly as an equivalent time spent doing long division.

Actual parenting is secretly optional.  The magazines avoid saying this explicitly but grandparents can also fully participate in Modern Motherhood with those books, those places to talk about those books, all the cute decorating of home and baked goods, and deliberate destressing.

I do not care about Modern Motherhood and clearly give off a vibe that proclaims I am much more interested in boffer swords than Fourth of July cupcakes.

Those moms who do participate in Modern Motherhood correctly surmise that despite any similarities of offspring ages or genders our parenting interests are divergent and so they do their best to ignore me.  Mentioning a dedication to housework offers a bit of commonality, but only briefly because another couple sentences of conversation will still reveal that I barbarically have never spent a moment (let alone the proper number of days) worrying about whether to purchase or sew a Halloween costume.

Smiley has many friends he sees fairly often at play dates at parks or homes.  Would it surprise you to hear that none of his close friends' moms subscribe to Modern Motherhood?  They look for toy/clothing deals on Craigslist instead of reading parenting books, discuss kid-friendly U-pick farms and library/museum events instead of new fads in child psychology, collect beauty by memorizing the funny things their kids say instead of making carefully iced cookies, and unwind not intensely at spas or on a solo hike in the mountains but just a bit during play dates because there is someone older than five to talk to.

(Postscript: I should mention that the small and local Mom Magazine is much more sensible.  It is also at all the pediatrician waiting rooms but is not part of the parenting subculture this blog post pokes fun at.)

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Starting Movember

Two years ago Nathen introduced me to Movember.

I keep my hair the way my wife likes it best: long hair and clean-shaven.  This year my wife granted permission to grow facial hair for Movember.  (No plans yet to ask for sponsors and raise money for a men's health cause as Nathen did.)

This morning I shaved my face as usual.  Tomorrow I start shaving more carefully.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Smiley Learns About Riddles

Smiley has been introduced to riddles by the delightful library book Clever Rachel by Debby Waldman.

One of the book's riddles is: "Impossible to touch but easy to feel, it's sweet as honey and hard to conceal.  What is it?"  The answer is love.

Smiley wanted to answer the riddles as soon as they were stated in the book.
Me: What do we call things you feel?

Smiley: Feelings.

Me: Are feelings something you can touch?

Smiley: No.

Me: What is a feeling?

Smiley: Being scared.

Me: Is being scared sweet like honey?

Smiley: No.

Me: What is a nice feeling that is sweet like honey?

Smiley: The kissing feeling.
So he does not fully have the word love in his vocabulary, but I think he solved the riddle.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Gallant Teething Again

Saturday morning Gallant got his eleventh tooth.

For many months he had four top incisors, two bottom incisors, and four molars: nicely balanced.

Now he has his lower left lateral incisor.  He let me play with his gums.  No sign of anything other imminent developments.

Election Telephone Silliness

I have received three amusing phone calls about the upcoming elections.

Two were simply routine phone calls from Democratic supporters.  These were amusing because they focused on re-electing President Obama instead of other Democratic candidates or issues.  I find it almost unfathomable that Oregon's electoral college votes will not go to the Democratic presidential candidate.  But apparently the polls show that outcome is no longer certain: currently President Obama leads Mitt Romney at 47% to 41%, but eight percent of the voters are undecided and the poll margin of error is five percent.

The other was a call from Kate Brown herself, who after some small talk asked for a campaign contribution of ten thousand dollars.  I told her thank you for the compliment, but I certainly do not have that kind of money floating around.  From what list did she get my name?  She did not know.  Since most political donations are public record and I have never made any donations more than twenty-five dollars it seems that someone earned a few bucks selling our incumbent Secretary of State a bogus list of likely donors to call.

Sugar

Someone asked me to share this infographic about sugar on my blog.  I might as well as an excuse to archive some statistics, which can always be useful on future Math 25 tests.

(Be careful trusting statistics.  That infographic claims Americans get most of their sugar from soft drinks, but a recent Wellness Letter stated it was from grains.  Americans simply eat so much cereal, bread, baked goods, and so forth that the total sugar from that category exceeds soft drinks.)

Talking about sugar also provides an excuse to link to Nathen's blog post about chocolate bars and sugar content, and the Wellness Letter writeup.  My preferred low-sugar chocolate bar is the Dagoba Eclipse with 87% cocoa.

Monday, September 24, 2012

New Vacuum


My present from my wife for Father's Day was a Miele Onyx vacuum.

Before the purchase I did quite a bit of research and comparisons.

My main complaint with our old Hoover Windtunnel was that using it for more than a few minutes made me sneezy.  Although Consumer Reports had recently written an article about vacuums they provided no information about how allergy-friendly the vacuums were.  Apparently this is difficult information to find because vacuum manufacturers are allowed to use language describing only the filter with disingenuous wording as if it describes the entire vacuum.

I thought I would get another bagless upright, but eventually got a with-a-bag canister.  The Miele was that astounding in being nice to my nose, very quiet, and doing a great job on our berber carpets and wood floors.

At our local Miele dealer, Viking, it did not cost as much as that website price linked above.  It was more than a low-end Hoover, but not nearly as much as a high-end vaccum.

(I had even looked at the absurdly expensive Rainbow vaccums but learned they cannot be used with fireplace ash.  I need to be able to vaccum downstairs, where we heat the house with wood!) 

With the Hoover I vacuumed as little as possible--which was still often because I have to keep our house free of possible gluten crumbs.  Now I vacuum almost daily and enjoy it.  The canister is well designed and easier to use than the old upright.  The air smells nicer after vacuuming.  Removing hair from the vacuum head is much easier.

Both boys like it too!  Here is a photo of Smiley helping.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sector Investing

As long as I'm writing today about what I have added to recent website I might as well mention my essay about Sector Investing.

The fact I have categorized it under "games" should hint about context.  But it might interest those family, friends, and other blog readers who are interested in economics.

Lots of Math

My Fall Term teaching Math 20 at LCC starts Tuesday night.

I just wrote about one big website project I have been working on during the past two years.  The other was changing my Math 20 lecture format from Powerpoint to website use.  I have blogged about this in June.  Spring Term it was incomplete.  Summer Term I saw it work very well.

Some of my students do not have a computer at home.  Most of this group can still see my lecture notes at home on a smart phone, but that is a tiny screen for real study.  So I print a copy of the notes for them.

During the Summer Term I printed the notes topic by topic, since I was still making minor edits.  For the new Fall Term I got copies of the entire thing to hand out the first day of class.  Before submitting the copy order to LCC's Printing and Graphics service I had to count the pages and was astounded that there were 103 of them.

No wonder blogging was light this year!

Sharing NAME with the World

Two years ago I wrote about having a "working draft" of the role-playing game I was then designing.  I shared it with the world, and later observed its web traffic.

Since then I have written almost nothing about my RPG design.  Primarily this is because "work on my game" and "blog" are both typing activities, and while caring for two young boys typing time is precious.  The days I make design progress I have no blogging time.

After lots of work, a new version of the game is ready to share with the world.  May I formally present Narrative Adventures Made Easy!

I am still in the middle of sharing NAME in the manner I did its predecessor.

I might also offer to do a slow paced (a few posts per day) play-by-forum at RPG.net or somewhere similar.  I could quit hanging out at the Paizo forums to make time for that.  My wife and I play the game together when we can, but she never tries to break the game: I could benefit from someone noticing the options and combinations with which a min-max player or rules lawyer would take advantage.

Those two years of design have been a fascinating experience.  I tried to design the setting of the old game prayerfully but never heard anything from God.  So I saved the setting's religion for last, not wanting to touch that subject without guidance.  Finally, when everything else was well developed, the game design became something I was doing with God.  I heard lots of guidance about how the setting's religion should work--and it caused me to go back and start the setting over from scratch as well as to refine the game mechanics substantially.

A quick summary of the result is available as the second table of contents on the welcome page.  Each of the setting's "Powers" creates a kind of dungeon, hosts a kind of contest, empowers a kind of champion, bestows a kind of gift, and oversees a kind of monster.  The result is rich and self-consistent while providing an excuse for the existence of traditional fantasy RPG dungeons.

The NAME design is nowhere near done.  I have barely begun to write about the setting's hub, Arlinac Town.  I have lots of "art of playing RPGs" essays to revise and transfer over.  I have sample NPCs, items, and adventures in my head that need typing.  (The last saddens me.  I love reading other people's RPG adventures.  To have a few all written out on paper and play-tested with my wife but not yet online seems tragic.)

Yet even if unfinished it is solid, tested, and entertaining.  Enjoy!

(And know one reason my blog post count has more than halved during the past two years.)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Please Pray for Family Health

Well, I had a fun idea for a blog post for tonight, but spent my time processing fifty e-mails instead.

My wife and two sons both have a cold.  I cannot afford to stay up late writing more here.

Tomorrow is another day!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Gluten-Free Licorice Flavored Snacks

Most licorice is made with wheat.

That means I do not get to eat licorice at home, since our house is a gluten-free zone.  But I have found two alternatives.

The first are licorice-flavored hard candies from Chateau D'Lanz.  These are great.  But since Market of Choice stopped selling them I have not had any in years.  (I do not like them quite enough to buy eight packs at that Amazon link.)

The second is licorice-flavored gum from Xylichew.  I do not like the taste of these as much as the hard candies, but they are better for my teeth.  And Market of Choice still sells them.

My Improving Eye Roundness

During the past five years my eyes have been getting rounder.

Vision prescriptions involve three measurements: sphere, cylinder, and axis.

(It sounds like a math test, doesn't it?)

My sphere measurement has remained constant at -0.75 which means I am slightly and unchangingly myopic.  I wear my glasses when driving or when I go to a movie.  My prescription is minor enough that even glass lenses are light and comfortable, so I always get glass lenses to avoid lens scratches.

My cylinder measurements have decreased, which means my eyes are getting rounder.  In 2007 they were -1.00 and -0.75 (right and left eye).  In 2009 they were -0.75 and -0.75.  Two weeks ago they were -0.5 and -0.5.

The axis measurements have also changed slightly: 172 and 22, then 164 and 20, then 165 and 20.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Another Happy New Year!

Happy High Holy Days!

It is almost sundown, but I have time to squeeze in a quick

L'shanah tovah tikatev(i) v'taihatem(i)!

This traditional Hebrew greeting for the High Holy Days means "For a good year may you be inscribed as sealed."

The alternate (i) endings are the grammatical form used when addressing women.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Rinsing a Memory Foam Mattress Topper

One nice change during the summer was how Smiley's aim improved.  I no longer need to check the toilet seat and nearby bathroom floor and each time I enter the bathroom.

But he did have an odd during-the-night accident a couple weeks ago.  No reason why.  He did not drink more the evening before, or have extra water to drink in bed, and he was sleeping in a pull-up.  Yet he flooded the pull-up and wet the bed.

Remember his bunk bed?  He was sleeping on the top bunk.  Both bunks have a memory foam mattress topper that he uses as a mattress (because it is thin, so the railing is effectively higher).  But on the top bunk we never put a plastic cover, since he had stopped wetting the bed before we let him sleep up top.

So I was up at 2:00 am helping Smiley, and then it took me a while to fall asleep as I worried how to clean a memory foam mattress topper.

I found tips on a couple websites.  But the cleaning was actually very trivial.  It turned out to be barely wet, and the day was very warm, so I just set it on the deck and rinsed the damp spot.  The water drained right through it, like rinsing a sponge.  The only "trick" was setting up a shade to keep it out of direct sunlight, which supposedly would harm it.

But even if clean-up was easy that time, we did order a second plastic cover to avoid any future problems.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Oregon and the Castle Doctrine

A few days ago Instapundit had a link to a map of Castle Doctrine states.

Oregon's laws are not quite so simple.  According to 161.219(2) it is lawful in Oregon to use deadly physical force against someone attempting to commit burglary in a dwelling.  But defending a home in this way still leaves the defender vulnerable to a civil suit, which a failed ballot initiative desired to fix.

So in my state you can protect yourself if someone breaks into your home, but you might get sued in civil court.

That map I linked to above is not very reliable, in part because the author made some research errors, but mostly because the legal issues in any state tend to be pretty complex.  Criminal versus civil court is but the tip of the iceberg compared to what happens in some states.

Firefox Protection

According to my wife, Firefox is currently having trouble publishing an update that will successfully patch a security risk due to what embedded Java can do.

Time to disable Java in Firefox, at least for a while.

This issue prompted me to read a bit more about Ubuntu security, which recommended three Firefox add-ons that would benefit people who use the browser on any operating system.

Two I already use: NoScript and Adblock Plus.  I found out there is a third important one: BetterPrivacy, which blocks parts of Flash files that act like cookies (called LSOs).

Installing BetterPrivacy was easy and took only a few minutes.  After the install I needed to go to its option in the Tools menu, tell it which LSOs I do not want deleted, and then tell it to delete and protect from the rest.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Blender Ice Cream

This week held some unusually hot days.

Well, sort of.  Summer here in Eugene always has a few days in the high 90s.  So the heat is "unusual" as in "fairly rare" rather than "unpredictably surprising".

Anyway, the weather prompted me to buy ice at the grocery store during my morning walk with Gallant around the neighborhood, while my wife and Smiley slept more.

Our freezer has an ice maker but we disconnected it several years ago after the plastic tube that travels between the freezer and pipes under the sink had a leak.  Now we have ice cube trays and more freezer space.  So having a lot of ice at home is unusual.  Time to experiment with recipes!

We have a new blender ice cream recipe online.  We've made it twice today.  Yum!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Red Cane Theatre

Last Saturday was a hot day, and an early and uncomfortable work-day for my wife.

So I spoiled her by driving to Ring of Fire to get some fancy Thai food that is gluten-safe even for her acute sensitivity.

In the same shopping plaza is a new theatre, the Red Cane Theatre.  You can read more about them in a Eugene Weekly article.  Some (all?) of their actors were out front, taking a break and welcoming arriving dinner patrons, while we were two doors down getting our Thai food; they appeared very friendly and professional.

Looking at the upcoming shows, I expect my wife would enjoy Robin Hood and perhaps Grease. I am not sure if any of their productions are appropriate for children Smiley's age, but Robin Hood and the mermaid story might be.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Somewhat Unhappy Week

Last week I suffered from stomach problems.  I do not know if I was sick or had food poisoning.  I was blessed that it did not interfere too much with parenting or math teaching.

I wrote in May about changing my novels from DOC files into HTML.  That is now done.  Yay!

I also got to do some pleasure reading last week, since I was forced to spend extra time sitting alone.  I read some of my favorite fantasy story, The Initiate Brother.  I did not finish, but got to again enjoy the best parts.

My next book to read in the bathroom is an overview of Biblical archeology.  It is one of those books I purchased years ago when I was actively running a religious congregation but never got around to reading.  Fortunately, I am healthier this week and have not gotten very far.

A Busy Weekend

This weekend was a very busy one.  My wife's work required her to do an online training on both weekend days.  Fortunately, this could be done at home.  Unfortunately, it was East Coast time, so she was required to be at her laptop from 6am until 2pm (with a break for lunch).

I had to keep the boys away from the house as much as I could, so they would not interrupt mommy!

On Saturday we hung out on West 11th.  Smiley had his normal gym class at 9:45 am until 10:30 am.  To keep away from home we also went to the open gym at 11:00 am.  But what to do for the half an hour in between?  Drive a few blocks to our favorite pet store, Zany Zoo.

We found out that Zany Zoo now has "petting zoo hours" on Saturday and Sunday from 1pm to 4pm.  We were too early for that, but still enjoyed looking at the animals.  We will try to visit their during petting hours next weekend, perhaps as a play date with one of Smiley's friends.

Sunday we went to a friend's fourth birthday party at Camp Putt.  I had never been there before.  It was very nice, and the miniature golf was silly.  I should write more about it later.



A Planetarium Rainforest Adventure

On Friday I enjoyed my first ever movie date with Smiley.

Grandma babysat Gallant while Smiley and I went to a Science Factory planetarium dome showing of Bugs! A Rainforest Adventure.  (It appears that you can watch the normal-screen version on Hulu.)

Lots of bugs were featured.  The two stars of the show, whose complete lifecycles were shown, were a caterpillar named Papilio and a praying mantis named Hierodula.  At the end of the film the mantis eats the butterfly, which seemed a very odd choice for a kid's film but did not bother Smiley at all.  He liked the film a lot.

The movie was beautiful and the filming was amazing.  But there was not much of a story: just the two stars eating and developing, interrupted by lots of other bugs, without any sense of narrative flow.  I'll readily trust this reviewer who claims he knows about better bug films for kids.

I was worried that I had forgotten Smiley's earmuffs, but he got used to the volume.

All the audience was families with at least one young kid (some older siblings too), which meant that no one minded Smiley's frequent quiet questions.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Gallant's at One Year

Somehow I have neglected to write about Gallant since late May.  What has he been up to for a bit over two months?




One Year Check-up

He had his one-year check-up.  That day he was 28.4 inches tall (10th percentile), he weighed 20 pounds, 4 ounces (15th percentile), and his head size was 46.5 cm (55th percentile).  Compared to his brother at that age he was an inch shorter, half a pound heavier, and about 1 cm less head circumference.

(For comparison's sake, here is the link to Gallant's nine month measurements.)

Walking and Running

Gallant is very comfortable on his feet.



He walks well, and likes to carry things.  Both hands full is best!  Sometimes he drag things behind him.


Pushing toys can fun, but only now and then.  His big brother really adored pushing things, especially toy wagons.  Gallant just wants his hands full.


The exception is pushing toys down stairs or down the back deck's ramp.  He loves that!  I spend a lot of time bringing toys back up onto the deck for him to push down again: bump, bump, bump.  His favorite pushing game is pushing the little doll stroller down the ramp.

When we go for a morning walk he likes to leave the stroller for the home stretch and walk down the sidewalk from the middle school to the bottom of our hill.  That third of a mile takes him 18 minutes.  He has to stop and look at every crow, dog, and cat.  The sidewalk has a few deep worn-down cracks, which he often will cross and re-cross to make sure he has mastered walking over them.  One neighbor has recently replaced their duplex's water meters: he always takes a little detour to walk on the sand around those and step about upon them.

He also runs a lot, usually in the back yard but also when I am exercising by doing some sprints across the fake-grass field behind the middle school he runs about and shouts.

He only jumps when I hold his hands.  He likes that.


He climbs, but is not at all the super-climber his big brother was.  He loves our plastic slide.


He can climb up stairs very well.  Down stairs is usually okay, but occasionally (almost always on the steps leading down from the gazebo) he tries descend while sitting and might tip over.

He also likes stepping on things.  I am not sure how much this is a balance game and how much it is a manipulating objects games.  Cloths, small toys, bits of rope or chain.  He reaches forward with one foot and wiggles them around.

Smiley likes to use a walking stick when we go on a walk around the neighborhood.  (He has two lengths of broom handle.)  Gallant has picked up on that.  He looks very cute walking around the back yard using one of his big brother's sticks as a walking stick that is slightly taller than he is.

(Ironically, Gallant still refuses to ride that little wood scooter which had been such an important part of Smiley's life at one year of age.)

Teeth

I wrote about Gallant getting in his sixth tooth.  Now he has ten teeth.  A top and bottom molar on each side have arrived.  (My lack of sleep during that long process is a big reason I have done so little blogging since May.  Now he is sleeping through the night again.  Yay!)

Wrestling

A year ago I wrote about all sorts of roughhousing games that Smiley invented.  Gallant is now old enough to enjoy rough housing, but does not usually care what it involves as long as the movement is fairly gentle and he is receiving lots of attention.

Foods

Gallant is allowed to eat just about anything now that he is over one year old.

He enjoys feeding himself.  Using a spoon is still very tricky, but banana and full-fat Greek yogurt stay on pretty well even turned upside-down.  Applesauce is a favorite but much more messy.


We are no longer keeping track of when we introduce foods, but I should mention that today he had chocolate chips for the first time.  (Today has record heat for this summer so far: 97 degrees Fahrenheit.  I took some cookies out of the freezer.  Cool cookies are nice on a hot day, and he loves dried cranberries even though they go right through him.  I bit off the obvious chocolate chips, but he still got some.)

During his molar teething he had some very fussy days when all he really wanted to eat was fruit.  A lack of non-milk fats caused his poops to turn soft and white.  We solved that problem by mixing olive oil into his applesauce and introducing him to Larabars (which taste like fruit but have nuts with their fats).  He still refuses to eat avocado, which once was a favorite--why, oh why that sad change?
We are using our Toddler Nutrition Log to confirm that Gallant eats a balanced diet.

New Toys

Gallant also gets to use the sandbox now.  We move it down from the stand I built to keep it at a good hight for Smiley.


One day he tried crayons with his brother.  They were great for putting into and out of the purple cup.  That is all he did with them.


On warm days his brother plays in the wading pool.  Gallant just watches, and splashes the water (with his hands or a toy) while leaning over the edge.  He likes baths, but for some reason does not like being in the wading pool.


Remember the new big swing?  Gallant can swing too!  We unhook his brother's wooden circle seat and hang up our baby swing seat.  It is nice to have a child who enjoys the swing at a young age.  (Smiley would only swing for a few moments until we made the big swing.  Park swings were too boring for him.)


Gallant's selection of inside toys has not changed much.  He still likes stacking toys and putting objects in boxes.  He shows more interest now in board books and shape sorters.  He has become fond of rolling toy cars down cardboard ramps.  He gets to shake the vacuum cord when I vacuum (which is a treat since he is otherwise prohibited from touching electrical cords).  He yearns to play with dishes in the dishwasher, but I do not let him help with unloading the dishes (as his brother got to help at that age) because he still drops them on the floor so often.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Four Categories of Traps

Steve Winter, author of The Howling Tower, has recently written a Kobold Quarterly article that categorizes traditional role-playing game dungeon traps into four purposes.

Here is my version, which is as much alteration as paraphrase:
  • Puzzle: The story hopes the heroes find this puzzle and spend time or resources to solve or disarm it.  Which colored tiles are safe to walk on to cross the room?  How should the levers be moved to open the exit rather than the monster's cage?
  • Certain Death: The story hopes the heroes notice this trap's placement and also that they cannot nullify it.  The trap must be avoided and exists only to redirect them.  It does so with a satisfyingly suspenseful escape that focuses entirely on the current location.
  • Forward Railroad: The story hopes the heroes do not notice this trap until it forcibly moves the heroes to a new place in the story.  The heroes fall down a chute to a deeper level of the dungeon, are gassed unconscious in the wizard's tower and awake in a cell as toads, etc.
  • Roadblock: The story hopes the heroes do not notice this trap until they trigger it, temporarily stopping the story.  (Sometimes it is triggered yet the effect is not noticed until the heroes return to the location and then discover that an exit is blocked or an item is missing.)  Yet it neither provides hints about what to do nor does it move the heroes along in the story.  Instead the heroes must use the information they have gathered so far to decide how to respond to the halted progress.
(My blog has very few comments.  I expect a better discussion where I copied this as a topic in the Story Game forum.)

Thursday, August 02, 2012

A Nice New Tea

I am enjoying a new kind of tea.

At Sunrise Market, the local Asian grocery store, I saw a new type of tea and decided to try it.

It is Hojicha, a Japanese roasted green tea.  Hojicha only contains tea leaves, unlike Genmaicha and other Japanese or Korean roasted teas that contain rice, barley, or corn along with or instead of tea leaves.

(Barley would not be welcome in our gluten-free home!)

I bought one of these packages by Yamamotoyama (but I only purchased one package instead of the six-pack Amazon sells).  I cannot say how similar other brands taste.  But I like it a lot, both plain and with milk.

Last summer I wrote about discovering Yerba Maté.  Will I continue to discover a new type of beverage each year?

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Classroom Fair Use versus Copyright Infringement

The LCC Library posts a newsletter named Inklings three times each year with news about the library.  Instructors get a copy in our department mailboxes.

The Spring 2012 newsletter (PDF) had a fascinating list of ten classroom situations that may or may not involve copyright infringement.  You can quiz yourself by following that PDF link.  Is each situation fair use or copyright infringement?

All ten situations and the answers are at this link.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

More Foods for Our Toddler

In June I mentioned updating our Toddler Nutrition Record Page.

Gallant is eating more types of foods now, so I updated it again.  Now it has servings for watermelon, plum, and Larabar.

Monday, July 23, 2012

More Recipes!

I've updated my recipes page, and added recipes for my currently favorite breakfasts: tropical pancakes and chocolate waffles.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Best Google Voicemail

Google Voicemail never transliterates voice messages 100% accurately.  But it usually does fairly well.

A funny exception was this one from a doctor's office, back in February, confirming my appointment.
Yeah you air parks yo you of your appointment. Oh, bye you. Dr YYY YYY, bye.
 Heh.

Comment Spam

During the past two weeks my blog, which seldom receives comments, has gotten some comment spam.

All is unusually polite, with some generic blurb about "Have you written more on this topic?" or "It is nice to have found someone who shares my opinion," before the link to another website that is the actual purpose of the comment.  The plethora of spelling and grammar mistakes add to the entertainment.

Oddly, as blog author I receive e-mails about these but they do not appear in the blog.  It is as if Blogger notices they are spam and removes them, but only after sending me notice of their existence--which seems different from how the comment's anti-spam measures intend to work.

Here is my favorite so far (with the link removed), which seemed programmed to detect blogs with few pictures.
I was wondering if you ever considered changing the page layout of your blog? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.  But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or 2 images. Maybe you could space it out better?  my website..
I wonder who is going through this much effort to put links on random blogs?

That spam's question might actually deserve an answer: perhaps when Gallant is done teething I'll again have time to blog regularly about the family photos I still am quietly putting up on the Picasa albums.  For now, here is a recent favorite: Smiley on his big new backyard swing.

 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Becoming a Little Boy

Yesterday Gallant ran for the first time, across the sitting room carpet to mommy.

Earlier this week he started being able to remain standing steadily while putting one foot on something.  (He did this at first to mimic my using my foot roller massage thing.  Then he did it on other days with some of his toys.)

His balance is certainly improving!

Today is also trash day and for the first time he is fascinated by the yard waste and trash trucks.  He hustles to the window to watch them when he hears their noise.

His face is changing too, to look more like a little boy and less like an infant.  Those huge cheeks are slowly losing prominence.

New Math Website

I have done very little blogging lately because I was working on fixing up my math website with online lecture notes.

In Winter 2007 I spent a huge amount of time creating PowerPoint lecture notes for my Math 20 classes.  They have served me well for years, getting small revisions as appropriate.

But times have changed.  Now many (perhaps most) of my students carry phones that can read websites but not PowerPoint.  Also, the PowerPoint lectures were a bit too soothing and easy to "nod along to" that yes, all makes sense and is well.  Slideshows do that.

So I transferred everything to web pages, elaborated where I noticed a topic's discussion or example problems seemed skimpy, and then included lots of links to step-by-step video example problems.

The result is still "online lecture notes" that are only a complete experience along with class time.  But they should be much more useful for students studying at home while doing homework and before the tests.

Perhaps some day I will have time and energy to make the math website a more complete "random strangers can learn math here without my LCC classes" experience.  But I expect there will soon be no need.  Quite a few places are already working on that.

Please check it out!  Any feedback would be appreciated.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Smiley's Observations Today

As we arrive at a pretty busy u-pick strawberry patch:
Me: Do you see your friends?  Are they here yet?

Smiley: We should listen for noise.  If it is quiet we know they are not here yet.
At bedtime:
Me: Time to brush teeth and go pee.  Your marble run will wait for you until tomorrow.

Smiley: My marble run will get lots of rest.  Then it will be harder to knock down in the morning.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Updated-Again Toddler Log

I have written twice about our toddler weekly nutrition record page.

Today we started using it for Gallant.  So I changed it from an Excel Spreadsheet to a .svg image file it and gave it its own web page.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Naming a Casino

Last month had many adventures, including attending a wedding in Joshua Tree, California.

Driving there we passed a billboard for Spa Resort Casino of Palm Springs.  "That should not be a valid proper name for a business," I quipped.  "It's just a string of three types of buildings."

My wife and I joked about casino names a bit.  Eventually we competed to rename Spa Resort Casino with an equally descriptive but less generic and more attractive name.

My suggestion was "Relaxing Wet Pile of Money".  I think that sounds like a great name for a casino/spa.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Conservatism and Judaism

An interesting article by The Lid on Conservatism and Judaism.

I do not agree with all his arguments, and his case against Liberalism involves several Straw Men.  But it was an interesting read.

Self-Publishing

Shortly after I finished writing my novels I looked into publishing them.  But not very much.  I joined a relative on a visit to the Book Expo America 2002.  I talked to many publishers and discovered that only a few big ones were interested in publishing children's fantasy and those all required an agent.  Not willing yet to work with an agent, I stopped my effort towards publishing.

(I made one small effort a few years later.  I'm still amazed that children's fantasy is a specialty genre despite the popularity of certain a series and its many spin-offs.)

Since then I have been too busy to pursue publishing again.  A few days ago I came across an article promoting self-publishing.  Is it really only a few mouse clicks away?

Some day I'll have time to find out...

OEC Recommendations for Dry Cleaning

I had never heard of the Oregon Environmental Council before this week.  But looking for a dry cleaners that did not use Perchloroethelene, I found their web site and their recommendations.

Sherwood Showdown Art for Sale

Heather is selling extra artwork to "clean house" as her family prepares to move.

I like the card game Sherwood Showdown that she illustrated.  Her art website tantalizingly says:
Other art from the game also available upon request-- all art is available except for the game cover. You can see more illustrations from the game here.
I'm wondering which illustrations to buy as presents for myself or friends...

Wings of Wonder is Closing

Hm.  Oregon never ceases to amaze me.

Something I had never heard about until this morning is Wings of Wonder, the dream project of a couple to create the state's largest butterfly exhibit.

They are retiring.  The place will close on Father's Day (June 17th).

It is closed Mondays, open the first Tuesday of each month for adults only, and open Wednesdays through Sundays for families.

It would be nice to visit before it closes.  But it is an hour-and-a-half drive to halfway between Albany and Salem.  Not sure if we can make it.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A New Rubric

I will teach Math 20 again in the Summer term.

Sumer term classes can be dreadful.  Instead of a normal class with twenty 80-minute lectures (two per week for ten weeks) the term is shrunk to have fifteen 110-minute classes (two per week for seven and half weeks).

Math is simply not appropriate for 110-minute lectures.  Even with normally memorable information research has shown that student retention plummets after about 20 minutes.  Math is even worse because of how "I can follow the lecture" and "I can do open book homework" are actually two surprisingly different levels of understanding.

Test days are also awkward.  Devoting an entire class to a midterm now uses up too much time.  Trying to mix lecture and test during the same class is problematic.  So many small quizzes work better.  (I also provide take-home midterms that are worth barely any points.  These are mainly to help students with test anxiety get some test practice before the final exam arrives.  When I did this in the past many students took the take-home test in the math tutoring center instead of at home without proctoring or a rigidly enforced time limit to make the experience as realistic practice as possible for the final exam.)

For this upcoming Summer term I have a plan.  Even though I am taking the time to type it out it is still a very rough-draft plan.  I would appreciate any constructive feedback.
Homework includes both math problems and reading some lecture before class.

The first 20 minutes of class (more or less) I will go over the assignment.  I will summarize and clarify the "homework lecture" and do a few an example problems.

Then students will have 5 minutes to "finish" the notes they took on the assigned reading.  This will give them a chance in class to merge the textbook explanations, my online notes, our recent class discussion, and their own thoughts into one resource for future studying.  I can circulate and whisper constructive comments.

Then I will write three problems on the board to be treated as an open-notes quiz for about 15 minutes.   Students will need to provide step-by-step answers.  One problem will be a word problem for which they will need to pay attention to the problem solving process.  I have composed a homework rubric that makes my expectations clear.

After time is up for the quiz I will ask for student volunteers to share either their notes or their quiz answers.  They can explain what they did and why, and I can provide additional commentary on how their work avoided common pitfalls and/or could benefit from certain changes.

Then, at roughly 50 minutes into class, I will start my lecture for the new topic.  This will be slightly challenging for me because I'll need to focus on the parts of my established lectures that most need class time: the tricky parts or the parts that produce class discussion.

Finally, the last 10 minutes of class will be a chance to start the next homework assignment in groups.
Overall, I am decreasing my lecture time by about one-third from sixty minutes per topic to forty minutes per topic.  Students will be asked to compensate by being responsible for reading the "easy third" of my lectures along with their other homework.  In exchange they get more time with personalized feedback during class time.

I'll also try to find links to good online lectures and example problems, and add these to my online lecture notes.  That will help support students understand my lecture notes while reading them at home.

Sound okay?  What part of the plan needs improvement?  What might go wrong that I should keep in mind?

Writing Quality Step-by-Step Math Answers

I need help brainstorming characteristics of quality step-by-step math problem answers.

Ten I thought of while writing answers to a practice test.  Five more were contributed when I asked my colleagues in the LCC math department for help.

What others are we still missing?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Baby Food at Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's is not known for its baby food.  Perhaps this is because its employees believe they do not sell any.  But owning a nice blender makes Trader Joe's a great place to shop for what to feed you baby.

Gallant has never eaten any baby food from a jar.  (Smiley did, but only during his train trip.)  It is too expensive!  Here is most of what Gallant eats instead.

Green Stuff

Trader Joe's sells nice pesticide-free frozen spinach.  Raw spinach is dangerous for babies because the leaves are loved by E. coli and salmonella, but freezing it has killed any bacteria.  Pesticide-free is also nice for baby food.

Trader Joe's also sells yummy frozen mango chunks.  Mango is a very nutritious fruit of the "yellow/green" category.  The frozen chunks are much less messy than raw mango, and not any more expensive.

Gallant's "green stuff" is mostly half spinach and half mango.  Microwave these frozen items a bit so they will blend better.

We also add a little of my wife's applesauce to help it blend.  (Trader Joe's does sell healthy applesauce with no added sweeteners: beware how some major brands add high fructose corn syrup, which is not good for babies.  However, my wife likes making applesauce during the chilly days of early Winter, so our freezer has many bags of it.)

Orange Stuff

Trader Joe's is the only store I know that sells full-fat yogurt.  Fat is important for a baby's brain development--in general (although ask your pediatrician) babies should not be fed lowfat or nonfat yogurt or cheese.

Gallant's "orange stuff" is half full-fat yogurt and half baked sweet potato.  (Trader Joe's does sell sweet potatoes, but we use Costco.)

Pink Stuff

Trader Joe's sells nice tomatoes.  (CostCo does too.  Where we buy them depends upon which store we're at when we need them.)

We used to buy a lot of canned beans from Trader Joe's before my wife was hit by adult-onset Celiac.  Unfortunately, she is now so extremely gluten-sensitive that we had to stop buying canned beans of any brand.  They were too frequently gluten contaminated.  Now we buy big bags of dry beans that we pick through, soak, and pressure cook.

(We know why roasted nuts and oats are usually gluten contaminated.  Why canned beans?  We have no idea.)

Gallant's third staple food mix is half Great Northern beans and half tomatoes.

Avocado

Fat does more than help brain development.  Since it is digested slowly it also helps a baby sleep longer.

For most of his life we fed Gallant one-quarter of an avocado before bedtime.  Hooray for fatty fruit that is soft enough to eat even before teeth!  But for some unknown reason Gallant has not wanted avocado much for about a month.  Strange.

Trader Joe's is one of the few stores that often sells organic avocados.  We did not worry about this because avocados are part of the Clean 15.  So we buy our avocados at Costco where they are not bruised by customers who falsely think squeezing them helps test ripeness (the skins become dark when ripe, so there is no need to squeeze!).  But if you want your baby to eat organic, Trader Joe's helps with this food item too.

Pumpkin

Unfortunately Trader Joe's only sells nice organic canned pumpkin seasonally.  The rest of the year we order it from Azure Standard.

This is wonderful, healthy baby food straight from the can.  Great for picnics!  Remember that food stored in open cans leeches small amounts of BPA into the food: perhaps not enough to trouble an adult but as baby food it should be moved into another container once opened.

Sunflower Butter

Researchers and pediatricians disagree about the age when children should first eat peanuts.  But this issue can be sidestepped with Trader Joe's sunflower butter.  It is a nice high-protein and high-fat food.

Finger Foods

None of Gallant's finger foods are as nutritious as those three blends.  But he does enjoy feeding himself.

Rice Chex are now gluten-free.  Those are the finger food we give him most often because they are the least messy.  No Trader Joe's connection with those.

Trader Joe's sells freeze-dried mango slices.  Gallant likes those a lot.  Since they are freeze-dried they keep most of their Vitamin C (unlike dried fruit) and are easy to eat even before teeth.  These are so sweet we save them for special treats on stroller walks.

Trader Joe's also sells rice cakes.  These are nothing special, except that where we live they are usually intact whereas the rice cakes sold at other stores are more often broken.  I am not sure if the difference is due to shipping, shelf stocking staff, or clumsy customers.

Trader Joe's also sells dried pineapple circles.  These pieces are difficult but fun to chew, and not too messy.  When we want to keep a fussy Gallant happily occupied for a while we use these.  Every parent needs an "emergency plan" for when chores need to be done but the baby is acting fussy and difficult to please.

(We also tried the Trader Joe's "just mango slices" but found that sucking on those turns them into a sticky paste.  Two or three pieces allows Gallant to create for himself gloves and a helmet made from a layer of slime.)

 Finally, organic banana.  Many stores sell these, but I think Trader Joe's has the least expensive ones in Eugene.  Of course, bananas are not only a finger food but also a shirt and face and hair food.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Website Reorganization

I have reorganized my website a little.

The top menu link for religion now goes to a nice index page instead of merely jumping to the P'nei Adonai website.  The essays about Parashot and Holy Days that used to be on the P'nei Adonai website but were removed years ago now live there.  My translation of the Tao Te Ching is also there.

The top menu link for stories now includes my two fantasy novels.

Those changes also mean that I do not need a "books" category, so that top menu link is now gone.

Yay!  Simpler!

Walking and Stacking

Early this month I wrote about Gallant learning to walk.  At that time he was taking up to six steps at a time.

A few days later he could walk forward as far as he wanted.  Two days later he learned to pivot to face a new direction.

By the end of that week he was able to walk on a flat floor, although lacking stability or confidence.

His second week of walking happened while visiting my grandmother.  Although she did not see his first steps, she did get to see him develop more balance and confidence.  Within a few days he could walk on her mowed lawn, and walk over the track of the sliding door that leads out to her patio.

Gallant still does not want to ride the wooden scooter that was so much a part of Smiley's life at the same age.  When I put Gallant on he climbs right off.  It is funny how different the siblings are.


Gallant's newest trick is stacking.

My wife saves Trader Joe's coffee cans for him to use as drums and stacking toys.  Smiley enjoys making towers and pyramids for Gallant to knock over.  On Wednesday Gallant started to put one can on top of another.  He was so happy after doing this!

He also has one of those colored rings stacking toys.  He started putting the rings on the post, or on any similar "post" we held (such as a wooden spoon handle).  This also made him happy.

Gallant has been settings lids on containers for a few weeks.  (Although not yet screwing them on, of course.)  I wonder why lids come sooner than stacking?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Alien Checkers

After many years off the internet, Alien Checkers is back online.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

War on Coal

Coal plants supply most of this country's electricity.  Perhaps this should change.  But attacking coal plants with Federal regulations during a recession without providing any alternative energy supply is silly.

On the Wednesday before last Christmas the EPA created the "Utility MACT rule".  It might make sense to adjust how most coal plant particulate emissions are already regulated.  But this rule instead uses the guise of "mercury emission regulations" to attack coal plants.  Its cost-increasing effects are beginning to be seen.

This is silly.  Mercury emissions are circulated globally, and U.S. coal plants are responsible for less than 1%.  Moreover, since the 1950s the nation's mercury pollution has been decreasing for many reasons.

Soon the Senate will vote on S.J. Resolution 37 to overturn the Utility MACT rule.  This morning I wrote to Senators Merkley and Wyden to ask that they support overturning such dreadful legislation.

Two New Sonnets

Last week I was in California, so my grandmother could meet Gallant and see Smiley again.  I also attended a friend's wedding.

The trip was calm enough that I wrote two sonnets, Developing Balance and Holding, Blending, Dancing.