Sunday, January 31, 2010

January's Failed Goals

Well, I hoped to average a blog post per day through 2010. As January ends I'm behind.

I've been doing a lot of computer work on my math slides, Smiley photos and videos, and role-playing game (mostly the math slides). This uses all of my computer time during the day, and reduces how much I am in the mood to do other typing at the end of the day.

Normally have no draft blog posts: I have an idea or two in my head and eventually write the entire blog post. But I currently have a dozen drafts waiting for me to finish them; I have typed out an outline of something fun to share but decided to postpone the rest of the writing.

I'm trying to shift to an earlier schedule and go running in the mornings (at least M-W-F when I do not teach at LCC in the mornings). Unless it's raining: without a running partner I lack the motivation to get that wet. And I sometimes lack the motivation even without rain. 6:30am is dark and early!

The first week of January I did no running. The second week I ran once. The third and fourth weeks I ran twice. This week I ran Sunday morning so I am off to my best start yet.

But last week I woke up three times at 5:30am for no apparent reason and could not fall back asleep. Only one of those mornings I ran: with more willpower I could have run four times last week.

Here's to a new month with more running and better keeping in touch!

A Better Hush Little Baby

I have a friend who really does not like the song Hush, Little Baby. Her father used to sing it to her when she was very little. But during her childhood tragedy struck and she did not even get to enjoy having her father around as she grew up, let alone receiving comforting presents from him.

I've mentioned Sylvia Long's beautifully illustrated Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. She also illustrated a version of Hush, Little Baby that she rewrote herself, purposefully changing the lyrics from gifts to scenes of the mother and child appreciating nature. Like my friend, Mrs. Long did not want the song to be about using unreasonable promises to bribe a baby to be quiet.

We got Smiley that Hush, Little Baby from the library a few days ago. Today he really grew fond of it. I enjoyed reading it five times, then decided to distract him by changing the activity to looking online for videos of elements of the nature scenes (hummingbirds, fireflies, etc.) with which he was unfamiliar.

We do own Sylvia Long's version of Mother Goose, which I am eager for Smiley to latch on to. But so far his favorite books are either short songs or stories where each page depicts an event happening to a central character.

Second Fridge, First Spa

In January my family made two appliance purchases.

We bought a fridge for the garage.

Because of my wife's extreme gluten intolerance we need to prepare a lot of meals, and it really helps to do the bulk of that cooking on the weekends. Having both leftovers and food for later in the week really uses up fridge space.

We also enjoy participating in a CSA. That means for many months of the year we get a week's worth of produce on a certain day of the week, no matter what our fridge space looks like that day.

Also, I'm terrible at "fridge tetris". If a container is not easily visible when I glance into the fridge then I don't see it.

So for all three reasons we decided the cost of a second fridge is quite worthwhile for our family. For some reason this never occurred to us until we had spent a few weeks away from home (in December).

Long before CSA seasons begin, the extra fridge has provided an unexpected benefit. Tillamook is currently selling a special 100th anniversary extra-sharp 3-year cheddar. It's an amazingly good cheese for $7 per pound, and will not be available long. So I stocked up by buying four. With only one fridge we would never have had room for such a purchase.

We picked a well-ranked model that "converts" between refrigerator and freezer because our garage stand-up freezer gets packed each summer with u-pick berries. It might be nice to have two garage freezers at the height of u-pick season. And if the freezer ever breaks we can rescue its contents.

We also bought a Reward model Marquis Spa.

My wife has been wanting a spa for many years. She really enjoys relaxing in a hot bath, but standard home bathtubs are only luxurious if you are child-sized.

So we looked at our finances last Spring and figured out that if I taught two classes during Summer term (normally I teach none Summer term) our year's earnings would exceed our expenses by enough to by a spa. As things turned out we did spend somewhat from our savings. My sister invited the family to her home in Denver for Thanksgiving; the airfare and hotel cost used up an amount equal to the cost of the electrical work needed to install and permit a spa.

Since I like a hot shower more than a hot bath, I thought the spa would mostly be a nice thing for my wife. But I think I am benefiting more.

I have mild case of lax ligaments all over my body. I'm not double jointed at all, nor is the condition extreme enough that I dislocate joints by normal use. But more than usually I am held together by muscle tone. The vicious cycle of "sore muscles, so poor posture, so sorer muscles..." is especially steep for me.

Most days I can use the spa twice: while Smiley naps and after he goes to bed. I have been amazed at how better I feel with two 15-minute massages each day.

Now I need to be responsible and work on improving my posture and doing abdominal exercises, to best retain and enhance the massage benefit.

Smiley has not been in the spa yet. We have invited him, but he is afraid. He is well-trained from the kitchen to not touch steaming water. We cannot convince him that the steam is because the outside air is cold instead of the water boiling.

If any of our local friends want to visit and try the spa, let me know. I suppose you could also try the refrigerator but that is not nearly as relaxing.


This morning I heard a sermon about "What is truth?"

Biblical Hebrew has no word for truth. Instead there are four concepts:
  1. Reliable and faithful (emet)
  2. Straight, in other words it "lines up" (yashar)
  3. Righteous and having integrity (tzaddik)
  4. Set apart by God's ways (kadosh)

The ancient Hebrew mindset was very concerned with if an event taught valuable lessons about how to relate to God or other people, and less concerned about historical accuracy. This is why we have four gospels that do cannot be completely harmonized along a historical timeline.

Those four concepts are what the Hebrew mindset uses to determine if someone is true ("true" in a manner that the writers of scripture cared about).

For example, consider the Exodus from Egypt. It teaches us many things about what God is like and how people develop from a slave mentality to properly serving God: useful, reliable lessons about God's faithfulness and our blessings, responsibilities, and common mistakes. It "lines up" as an ancient and integral part of the Jewish identity. It calls us to a higher standard for how we treat people and devote ourselves to God. It has a track record for making people more giving, welcoming, and selfless.

Is the Exodus story true? I have heard esteemed archaeologists argue both yes and no based on evidence. But that approach misses the point. The story is reliable, faithful, straight, righteous, and holy--and helps us to acquire these virtues.

Those four qualities also are useful to gently debunk falsehoods.

Consider a man making an excuse for a habit of pornography. "It does not hurt anyone and is a release," he says. In reply we can ask, "Does it really reliably help you relax or be faithful in relationships, or does it also cause worry and negative feelings? Does your belief that it does no harm line up with what has happened in other people's lives? Does it help you be a person of goodness and integrity? Does it aid your spiritual growth?"

The Four Cups of Friendship

The Passover seder includes drinking four cups of wine that represent the four promises in Exodus 6:6-7:
  1. Separation out of slavery
  2. Deliverance from oppression
  3. Redemption into God's intended identity
  4. Reliable and faithful continued relationship

The order is important. People can still feel oppressed and exhibit the habits of slavery even after they are no longer enslaved. Only after both slavery and oppression are ended can someone develop the identity God wants them to have.

The holiday of Tu B'Shvat happened last weekend. For this day Jewish mystics of the sixteenth century created another annual seder meal that also had four cups of wine. However, because of the theme of Tu B'Shvat the meaning of the four cups was shifted from God's caring for Israel to farmers caring for trees.
  1. Separation out of slavery became Winter protecting and planting: even when no potential is visible the farmer still prepares the trees
  2. Deliverance from oppression became Spring buds and flowers: the trees are rejoicing
  3. Redemption into God's intended identity became Summer fruitfulness: the trees are giving fruit and shade as God planned for them
  4. Reliable and faithful continued relationship became Fall pruning and care: the trees are not abandoned after being fruitful but are still valued by the farmer

Again the order of the four steps is important.

Friendship also follows these four steps. We cannot have a rich and healthy friendship with someone who is enslaved by addiction, abuse, etc. That person must escape from the slavery and shed the oppression before they can develop into who they are meant to be, at which point they can finally be a good friend.

It's easy to say to someone, "I'll be there for you." Perhaps we say this too often. The first three steps really require God's assistance. A habit of jumping prematurely to step four only creates a plethora of troubled and usually superficial friendships.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Three Political Priorities

Here's an interesting question. After signing up to receive Jeff Merkley's senator newsletter, you are asked to pick which three political issues you most care about from the following list.
Abortion/Reproductive Rights
Afghanistan / Iraq
Animal Rights
Arts and Humanities
Campaign Finance Reform
Children and Families
Civil Rights
Crime and Drugs
Elections and Congressional Affairs
Environment and Public Works
Foreign Affairs
Health Care
Help With a Government Agency / Casework
Indian Affairs
Insurance Health
LGBT Issues
Military, Retiree Health Care
Small Business
Social Security
I chose Civil Rights, Elections and Congressional Affairs, and Taxes. Civil Rights because scripture so often asks us to work for justice. Elections and Congressional Affairs because a republic is only strong if voters can find candidates who represent them well. Taxes because that is an issue I have studies somewhat which is ripe for big changes.

Which three would you chose?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Captain America Quotes Mark Twain

About three years ago Marvel Comics had an "event" named Civil War. I have not read any Marvel comics regularly for many years, but apparently a bit of reality changing at the end of the plot allowed the story lines of their major characters to be cleaned up.

I do like Spider Man, so when I saw his share of these comics at the local library I checked them out.

The climax of Spidey's story is a rooftop talk with Captain America. Two other bloggers share those pages, in which Captain America quotes Mark Twain. I'll cite the part that made me ponder a bit.
Who, then is the country? Is it the newspaper? Is it the pulpit?...

In a republic it is the common voice of the people. Each of you, for himself, by himself and on his own responsibility, must speak...Each must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, and which course is patriotic and which isn't.

You cannot shirk this and be a man...This nation was founded on one principle above all else: The requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences.
Certainly a republic asks its citizens to share their voices. And our republic was founded upon the idea that no group had a monopoly on truth or right.

But I disagree with Twain on two particulars.

The first relates to how a republic differs from a democracy. We are the former, and thus individually do not politically "stand up for what we believe". Rather, we elect someone to represent us.

Our problem is thus not to stand up ourselves, but to find candidates who will represent us well. I see this as an increasingly serious problem, despite being fond of the bumper sticker that reads If God had meant us to vote he would have given us candidates.

My second disagreement with Twain hinges on his use of the word patriotic. To me, activity that is healthy for our republic is patriotic. We cannot simply invent things and claim they are patriotic if they show no obvious relationship to the health of our political system (i.e., eating chocolate) or seem obviously harmful to it (i.e., undermining our military).

Not terribly deep thoughts, but more than I usually get from a Marvel comic book. Well done, whomever planned that scene!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Wednesday's Varied Thoughts

Wednesday was a great day for things to think about. I had five very different topics to keep my brain busy and happy.

First, during breakfast I studied Oregon Ballot Measures 66 and 67 (PDFs for 66 and 67). Both are dreadful, but the state legislature has backed Oregon into a corner where not passing them may be as harmful as passing them.
A general summary is here. Compare S-Corporations and C-Corporations here.

Measure 66 sounds just, but between 65% and 75% of the "individuals" hit by it will be small businesses measuring income and taxes through the personal incomes of their owners. Sure, some small business owners should be paying more taxes. But hitting too many small business during a big recession is not the right answer, and a tax retroactive-for-2009 is unjust.

Measure 67 taxes corporate sales instead of profits. The large businesses it hits (pdf flowchart) will simply raise prices to effectively give Oregon consumers a sales tax. Sure, some large businesses should be paying more taxes. But giving Oregon a sales tax is not the right answer, and again a tax retroactive-for-2009 is unjust.
LinkSecond, after breakfast I checked my e-mail and an old friend me had asked me two religious questions.
  • How do I respond to stuff like this?
  • Do I accept that non-Jewish Christians should convert to Judaism, as per James in Acts, or do I believe Christians should only keep Noachide laws while Jews must keep Torah laws?
The linked argument can be paraphrased: "You believe A, and then later B and C caused by X. I believe A and C, caused by Y. I'm open to dialogue when I see A and C caused by X." This is obviously nonsense not worth a reply.

I talk with Yeshua a lot, and such a relationship makes eschatology seem unimportant. When someone says, "if you even happen to see [Jesus] around at that time..." the reply that comes to my mind is a quotation from the movie Ladyhawke: "Sir, the truth is I talk to God all the time, and no offense, but He never mentioned you."

Regarding the second topic, James didn't say that. The motivation for the group decision loosely based on the Noachide Laws is ambiguous. What is meant that the reason for non-Jewish followers of Yeshua to refrain from a certain four things is because Moses is read in every city? Is the rationale merely that Yeshua's followers need to be able to eat meals together, or is there an expectation that Jewish culture will be contagious?

In any case, currently (no Temple) no one can keep Torah. The Mosaic Law is a covenant. Obeying some but not all of that legal agreement is as invalid as paying only two-thirds of your mortgage. Fortunately, scripture is consistent and clear that eternal judgment examines a person's heart, not his or her legalistic innocence.

There are two reasons to obey any scriptural commandments. First, they show God's ways: those who love God will want to follow his ways, and are called to demonstrate their validity even in a broken and sinful world. Second, we should be Yeshua's disciples, which in context means we should mimic our teacher's lifestyle in all practical ways.

So Yeshua's non-Jewish followers need not convert to Judaism, but should be sufficiently knowledgeable and respectful of all God's commandments to be able to represent God's ways on whatever paths he guides them.
Third, I mentally composed some encouragement for math class after I handed back the term's first test. I decided to share a paraphrase of one paragraph from my e-mail to my Fall 2009 class after their final exams were graded and their overall grades were posted online. The original paragraph read:
I think many of you were aiming for a C and succeeded, which can be as praiseworthy and honorable as acing the class. Often someone with jobs and kids cannot invest in a LCC class the time and energy required to earn a high grade; successfully balancing numerous real-life responsibilities and distractions while pacing yourself to be successful and not burned out in math class is a noteworthy accomplishment. This term many of you dealt the flu, either yourself or a child. Many were dealing with job loss. Several were caring for very ill or troubled extended family members. One student had a new baby. I also heard about a failing marriage, an unexpected pregnancy, and living in a tent. In other words, there were lots of C's, but some of those C's hide tremendous amounts of fortitude, energy, study habits, and goals achieved. In class you were all sitting next to some very heroic people, whether or not you knew it or the grade book shows it.
Fourth, while Smiley napped I read Shamus's post about guns in role-playing games. and thought about my older thoughts about the topic as well as Shamus's issues.

Fifth, I thought some about my growth in becoming warm as well as kind, a process that began with a dream I had in December of 2005. I have had very few dreams about Yeshua, but this was obviously one of them and a clear message from God.
The scene was a round hilltop. The sermon on the mount had just ended. Yeshua was walking down the mountain, pausing to talk with many individuals. He approached me and said, "You are kind. But your kindness helps little until more people come to you for support. Be welcoming so that people seek out your kindness. Be warm as well as kind."
So for several years I have been aware of the task of creating a welcoming space. I pray daily that Smiley will have both warmth and kindness (so far he does). I have seen the odd truth that people appreciate peace but seldom want it badly enough to mimic people who project it.

Friday, January 15, 2010

New Use for Christmas Cards

Last month I realized that Facebook makes holiday cards obsolete. The same kinds of things are shared in both: births and deaths, graduations and vacations, resolutions and regrets. Most of my old friends already know what I did during 2009, and I've read their small stories (and Han Solo's, and Kenobi's).

So this month I began to use holiday cards for thank you notes. Smiley draws in the blank side of the card's interior: a personalized touch for each recipient. Ta da!

Head Start's Limits

Yesterday I read two new articles about a new report that Head Start has no lasting benefit for its students.

Why is this news? The same "no lasting benefit" verdict happens every time Head Start is studied.

I taught Head Start during the 1999-2000 school year. The staff all knew our work was about giving those kids an ephemeral bit of light and hope in inner-city Rochester, NY: some memories of a room with projects, music, teamwork, community, role models, and joy in learning.

Surely a discussion about Head Start's future and funding is appropriate; any business effort needs continual refining. But the "what is it good for?" discussion ended in sad conclusions over a decade ago.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

No Longer Five Per Day

The old government recommendation for fruits and vegetables was simply "5 a day".

Obviously this was an informational compromise. Five servings of either fruits or vegetables could not be correct for everyone. But the message could not be personalized for every American!

Except that now it can. A new website allows Uncle Sam to provide you with more detailed advice after you input your age, gender, and level of physical activity.

Monday Morning Run

I enjoy running as exercise. But my Fall 2009 term was so busy I stopped running.

(I last blogged about running in 2007!)

Not everyone enjoys running. This is fine. Running is only better than walking if you have a full schedule: while give very similar health benefits, running burns more calories per mile than walking but has a higher risk of injury.

I once read a striking statistic: every minute you run adds one minute to your life expectancy. If true, this only means running shifts to your final days your free time from youth and middle age; anyone who does not enjoy running is doing themselves a disservice by spending their running!

Anyway, I happen to live next to very nice running trails maintained with wood chips by local property tax dollars. The common route of my morning run is about 1.5 miles each way. I can also extend the loop by 0.8 miles each way, if I want to run nearly 5 miles instead of close to 3.

Class, Vocabulary, and Cultural Literacy

Bernard Schweizer wrote a very interesting article (pdf) in the Fall 2009 NEA magazine.

After a brief introduction he dives into the topic with:
When I tossed out questions about what these words and phrases might mean, I got the following results: one student out of 15 could identify Mahatma Gandhi; none had ever heard of Ernest Hemingway; none had a clue who Thoreau was; two could identify Job as a biblical character; one had a vague recollection of George Orwell; and as for “in the offing” or “excretions of our economy,” only one or two could do anything at all with these expressions.
His thesis statement appears a few pages later:
The more we argue the unimportance of cultural literacy among the general populace, the more we relegate the possession of this knowledge to the province of a socio-economic elite, thereby contributing to a hardening of social stratification and a lessening of social mobility.
As a teacher of low-level math at a community college, none of this surprises me at all. Basic math concepts are also a set of terms and skills that create economic stratification: a whole bunch of jobs suddenly become available to someone who learns proficiency with ratios, percents, and measurement unit conversions.

My students are quite aware that their mobility is hindered until they acquire what society sees as an "expected" math vocabulary. It is sad that some college instructors are so isolated in ivory towers that only during a recession do they become aware of the importance of cultural literacy.

Reverse Image Search

During the past few years I would now and then wonder when the internet would have a reverse image search (where you would submit part of an image to find the source) or reverse music search (where you would hum a few bars to find the tune).

The reverse image search I've heard of is TinEye. Apparently it was launched during 2008.

Still no evidence of a reverse music search.

Saving vs. Saving Up?

Steven writes about water conservation in Portland. This paragraph makes me wonder about word usage:
"Conserving" something usually means "saving it for later" -- but there isn't anything here to save. We here in western Oregon are not short of fresh water, and we won't be for the forseeable future. And excess water here runs off into the ocean; there's no way to "save it for later".
Has the word save changed its meaning since I was little so that now consuming less counts as saving even if nothing is set aside for later? In other words, is there now a vocabulary difference between saving and saving up?

Similarly, is Steven correct that conserving means saving up? I would disagree. As I normally hear the word used, someone could "conserve money" if they spend less to minimize debt even if they do not accumulate any savings, and someone could "conserve energy" if they lower their home's electric bill even if the power plant does not notice because their neighbor has increased electric use.

Clever Penguin Ads

I stumbled across two funny penguin videos at YouTube.

In the first, a penguin plays table tennis with its flippers. In the second, penguins fly.

The latter was a BBC April Fool's Day event, and has a "making of" documentary.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Smiley's December Milestones

Smiley got to meet some of his relatives at Thanksgiving. That was good family time and a nice vacation.

In December we visited with other family in December, for Chanukah and Christmas. That trip was only a few weeks later. But it just so happened that Smiley reached a gazillion developmental milestones those weeks. It was a treat for his grandparents to see.


He began using two-word sentences regularly, and using three-word sentences occasionally. This was helped by his starting to referr to people by name routinely.

He started saying "hi". This was especially popular while at the dining room table, since he could elicit a response from a family member without having to find something to talk about.

He started using "go" (as "start!") and "come" (as "follow me!"). Previously "go" had only one context: to start him spinning around on an office chair.

He became fascinated with "hot" and "cold". He also started creating guessing games. His favorite guessing game is for on a walk: he guesses if each car we pass is hot or cold, then touches the car, then says if the car really is hot or cold. (For Smiley, "hot" includes merely warm, so the front of a recently driven car is still "hot".)

He sometimes recognized the letter O. He sometimes informed us of a needed diaper change.

He started playing parent with his dolls and stuffed animals: feeding them, burping them, taking them for stroller walks, etc.

Large Motor

He learned to jump with two feet at once, rather than stepping off a ledge. He was soon able to jump off a two-inch ledge without holding someone's hands.

He began using doorknobs; deadbolts are now our friends.

Small Motor

He developed neater eating. Now he eats without a mat under his chair, and he uses adult dishes (but still toddler silverware).

He started drawing closed shapes and loops; previously he only drew zig-zags made of mostly straight line segments.

He learned to use very small stickers, including peeling the stickers off their sheet.

While at Carrow's restaurant he stacked 7 creamers; previously he could stack blocks that tall, but these were much more wobbly.

Once he unzipped his pajamas. Fortunately, he did not develop an interest in undressing.


He really gained an understanding of "later". Previously when I told him that he could have a request granted, but later, he did not understand. Now he does, and is usually patient for getting what he wants.

He began talking about what will happen, not just what is happening.

He suddenly began enjoying hearing a story told aloud without a book, especially if the story was about what Uncle Nathan did today.


These days (a week later) using two- and three-word phrases is routine. Four-word phrases happen daily. His jumping with two feet is by now quite proficient, and currently among his favorite activities.

He is now each day saying words for the first time that are words no one has ever helped him practice saying: he has begun to naturally (if slowly) transition his receptive vocabulary into a spoken vocabulary.

Anathem and John's Prologue

I just mentioned that my current audiobook is Anathem by Neal Stephenson.

My current paper book is Craig Keener's commentary on the Gospel of John.

Surprisingly, as I was listening and reading today, the two totally different books mentioned the same concept, albeit from completely different angles.

In Anathem, one of the weird things in the book's setting is a group of philosophers who believe in a literal "world of geometry".

According to these fictional academics, there is a reason that everyone who is taught about abstract shapes naturally thinks in quite identical ways about them. There is a real world inhabited by perfect geometrical ideals that influences our world, both in inspiring patterns in nature and in affecting human thought.

Keener discusses the gospel's prologue, specifically the context of John's choice of the word logos. Today, most Christians read John's prologue and think something like, "Well, I know lots about Jesus. I'm a lot less certain what it means that Jesus is God's word, so I'll use what I know about Jesus to put meaning into that strange phrase." This is the opposite of how John's original readers would meet the text.

The three terms logos (word), sophia (wisdom), and nomos (law) mean very specific things in the standard Greek philosophy of John's day. Among Hellenized Jewish writers these meanings changed slightly to related but significantly different concepts. Among non-Hellenized Jews the three terms meant yet something else.

What does it mean that John uses logos instead of sophia or nomos when describing Jesus's role in creation? That word choice would seem incredibly significant to John's original readers who knew nothing about Jesus yet. It forms a first impression that would affect how they understood the rest of the gospel.

Keener's uses two chapters to answer this question. I'm not about to try to summarize his satisfying conclusion.

The relevant section of Keener's discussion has sentences like these, from pages 377-378:
A later neoplatonist like Plotinus could declare that the world of intellect formed the universe, which is now held together by the Logos... For Philo, too, God used the world of intellect as a pattern for the rest of the world...In Philo, Logos is not only divine Reason structuring matter, but as in some middle Platonic thought a determinate pattern which is God's image.
Don't worry that out of context this quotation is pretty meaningless.

After probably too much build-up, my point is simply that some of John's contemporaries were Greek philosophers who also believed in a literal "world of intellect" inhabited by the patterns that the material world is based upon.

There's no inspired conclusion to this musing. It was just amusing that my entertainments had unexpected similarities today.

Anathem Word Combinations

Last month I mentioned listening to James Bond novels as audiobooks.

My current audiobook is Anathem by Neal Stephenson.

Like Tolkein's Silmarillion, it is very nice as an audiobook because the author has created new vocabulary words which someone else has to bother pronouncing properly.

In the case of Anathem, the new words are sometimes blends of standard English words. When this happens, their meaning is related to the real words they resemble.

Now, people with a paper copy of the book get a glossary at the back. Since I only have the audiobook, I do not get to look these up and must rely on context. So for me they become a guessing game: upon which real words are based the invented ones?

I also have no idea how Stephenson spells these new words. I don't think about that when listening to the story. When writing this blog post I'm forced to make a choice, which may be different than Stephenson's "real" spelling of these invented words.

Here are the invented words I have figured out. I'll update this list as I continue with the story.
anathem: anthem, anathema
apert: aperture, extrovert, overt
arb: arbor, orb
ark: art, fork, arc, ark
aut: audible, act, authority
avout: avowed, devout
cartabla: cartographic, tablet
comvox: communication, convocation
concent: concentration, convent
orth: ?
tenner: ten-year, tenor
voca: evoke, vocation, vacate

Two to Four Words

I had heard in my child-development classes and from our pediatrician that in many ways language development was a series of "light switches turning on" rather than a gradual process.

Over New Year's weekend, Smiley demonstrated this difference as he went from using two-word phrases rarely to doing so routinely.

December 30th

He possibly said two new words this day: his name and dinosaur. We might have been imagining it, though.

He did chant for a long time while playing with mommy, "Me mommy, me mommy, me mommy,..." He still says things like this that omit and or with.

He also demonstrated a more developed sense of rhythm. We were playing a game about running from one end of the hallway to the other. I would start each dash by saying, "One, two, three, go!" After a few repetitions I was quiet and he tried to copy me, but it came out, "Two, two, two, do!" Replacing go with do is an old issue. He does not yet count and two is a favorite number, so I found it amusing that he caught on to the number of beats in my chant but replaced all the numbers with two.

Replacing numbers with other numbers is common, and also with colors. Perhaps because of his counting and color books he has a very good sense that number-words are a group that goes together, as are color-words. But he has no firm idea what each number-word or color-word means. (He does regularly use his favorite color, blue, simply to mean colored.)

December 31st

The next day he said a bunch of two-word phrases, for example "Daddy's shoe[s]" and "Go [to the] beach."

He also said his first three-word phrases. "There a[re] bubbles," was said in the morning about a washtub of soapy water. "There [is] our car," was said when seeing our car in the Torrey Pines Beach parking lot after a walk along the beach. Then, during the drive back to my wife's family's house, he twice said, "Naynee deh ho," which requires more explanation. His uncle Nathan has a tricky name that he says Naynee or Ninee. The words deh ho were an attempt at saying "at home". Smiley knew Uncle Nathan was at home and was looking forward to seeing him.

January 1st

The next day he said another three-word phrase: "Da Bubba haise." We were entering my grandmother's neighborhoood and he was telling us "The Bubba's house."

January 2nd

The next day he began talking about what was going to happen. He said "Swimsuit on" as we were getting ready to put on his swim diaper. Then he said the "Me mommy, me mommy,..." chant again but this time referring to the future: I'm going to be with Mommy.

January 6th

Smiley's first four-word phase happened on Friday. I had made myself hot tea, and offered Smiley either hot or cold tea to drink. He told me cold tea, and then began a new chant: "Hot tea, cold tea. Hot tea, cold tea." He meant Daddy's tea is hot, my tea is cold or perhaps Some tea is hot, some tea is cold.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Freight Train

Two of the best Donald Crews board books are Freight Train and Inside Freight Train.

Smiley likes noises and rhymes, so we've added words and noises to Freight Train.
Freight Train. (this line is reading the title page)
A train runs across this track. Red caboose at the back.
Orange tank car goes slosh and glub. Yellow hopper car is a big tub.
Green cattle car has cows that huff, smelling smoke that curls and puffs.
Blue gondola car holds heavy weight. Purple box car is packed with freight.
Black tender is full of coal. Black steam engine is ready to roll.
Freight train.

Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black.
Smoke up above and underneath a track.

Moving. (slowly chugga-chugga-chugga...)
Going through tunnels. (faster chugga-chugga-chugga...)
Going by cities (fast chugga-chugga-chugga... and a few choo-choos)
Crossing trestles (fast clickety-clack, clickety-clack,...)
Moving in darkness. Moving in dayling. Going, going... (fast chugga-chugga...)
gone. (quiet)

Monday, January 04, 2010

Fountain Pen Ink

Eugene had a great fountain pen store for many years. I got my nice fountain pen there. Sadly, that store went out of business.

I was not sure where to get more of my favorite fountain pen ink without driving to Paradise Pens in Portland. Today I noticed that Amazon carries it. Yay!

Sadly, none of the current retailers do the Amazon Prime shipping deal. I wonder if Paradise Pens has a cheaper cost with shipping included?

Math 20 Review Update

I recent wrote about changes I am making to the Math 20 review material. (Mainly moving half of it to the end of the term.)

Today I worked out the details about what the changes do to my old Math 20 review packets (for which I had to place the order at Printing and Graphics before my changes were approved).

I expect the changes will be very helpful to students. I hope this next week goes well!

Smiley's Top 10 Toys of 2009

For 2008 I blogged about Smiley's ten favorite toys.

For 2009 I've done two lists. I just blogged about his ten favorite books this past year. Now it's time for the top ten toys.

In retrospect it's odd how I don't have Picasa photos for many of these. (The missing ones, except for his most recently acquired toy phone, are in the Flip videos.)

1. Bunny and Baby Doll

"Bunny" is a Peter Rabbit stuffed animal that he received as a new baby gift. It quickly became Smiley's favorite stuffed animal. He normally sleeps curled over it, with his knees tucked in.

It came in a set with a book. We looked for a duplicate that could be available when the first was in the washing machine, but the only ones we could find by that manufacturer were noticeably different. Fortunately, our washing machine is a front loader with a clear door and Smiley is not too traumatized when Bunny needs to take a bath. ("Bubbles!")

"Baby Doll" is a cabbage patch doll that my mother gave me when I taught Head Start in Rochester, NY. Since it was a classroom doll and only has a tuft of hair, it never received a name or gender. My wife and I enjoy the challenge of keeping Baby Doll nameless and genderless until Smiley picks what he wants.

2. Trains and Trucks of All Sorts

Train cars he can hook together are the best. But any truck with turning wheels that he can push is a great toy.

3. His Scooter

Sadly, it does not grow larger with him. I've blogged about it often.

4. A Piece of Broom Handle

I cut for him a piece of broom handle to use as a walking stick. He plays with it almost every time he is outside. He also wants it when he starts on a walk, although I often wind up carrying it for him after a few minutes.

Besides being a walking stick, it also serves as a hanging bar: he hangs and I do curls. I also cut a second piece of broom handle and hung it on both ends from the big oak tree in the back yard: a trapeze is better than a swing because he needs no help to start and stop using it.

5. His Wire

My wife and I have laptops in the sitting room, with power cords that Smiley is not supposed to touch. To be fair, I gave him a wire that connects a computer to a pair of computer speakers (male microphone-size jacks on both ends). That is "his wire" so he has his own and does not need to touch our wires.

Surprisingly, he loves that wire. He tries to plug it in to all sorts of small holes. Many of his toys have indented screw-holes on their underside into which it fits. The best fit is with his Duplo train cars, which have a hollow vertical peg as the male side of the train connector: turn the train car over and it's a perfect match for his wire.

6. MegaBlock Wagon

Anything to push or pull is great. We did not get him a doll stroller until December, or it would be on this list. He has two plastic wagons; this one is his favorite.

The MegaBlock wagon is large enough to comfortably push or pull. It holds lots of sticks, rocks, leaves, or pine cones for back yard collecting. When the dump-back is opened, he can sit straddling the wagon's bottom like riding a toy car. (He never used it with the blocks as the manufacturer intended after the first day.)

When we returned home from spending half of December with family in California, this wagon was the first toy he went to play with.

7. His Dice

I have briefly mentioned his dice. He has a bunch of eight-sided dice in different colors. They were a new toy when he outgrew putting things in his mouth, and needed something to go inside containers or be cargo for his trucks.

He loves them. I have no idea why. When someone new visits our house, he often goes to his dice and shares them as his first attempt to make friends.

8. Various Phones

My grandmother wants Smiley to talk to her on the phone. So she has sent him a few toy phones with which to practice.

His first phone was a rattle that he never used as an infant, which spent most of 2009 in the car as a mostly unpopular car seat toy. I already mentioned his second toy phone, which he plays with much more, and for which the pull-string doubles in his mind as a ear piece wire. His newest phone makes the best noises and is clearly his favorite phone.

Much to my grandmother's frustration, Smiley loves holding the phones to his ear and pretending to listen to them, but both in play and reality says very little.

9. Bubbles and Bath Crayons

Baths are always fun, and the only sure way to calm Smiley on those nights when he was sick or teething and woke up after throwing up.

Bath crayons and bubble bath make baths even more fun.

10. His Big Paper

I've blogged about Smiley's Wee Ride LTD bicycle seat. But I have not yet blogged about its packaging...

The box was a great size for sitting in: just tall enough to be challenging to climb in and out. Even better was the single, long piece of tough brown paper that was used as package padding.

We have quite a few Flip videos of him playing with it. But they do not do justice to the fun he had and physical development he displayed learning to put it into and out of the box, using it as a blanket for hiding, and eventually using it as a blanket for pretending that he or his stuffed animals or Baby Doll were sleepy.

Honorable Mentions

In December, at a used bookstore, he became really fond of a doll stroller. So I told him that that one had to stay in the bookstore, but we could look for another one at the toy store. One was surprisingly inexpensive: $6.99 at Toys 'R Us. He loves it, both because he can push his stuffed animals and Baby Doll in it and because inside the house it is more maneuverable than his wagons.

He enjoys containers and stacking cups, but without his dice as his favorite "filling" they only receive an honorable mention.

We limit his computer use, but he would spend more time staring at a glowing rectangle if we allowed it. He watches Flip videos of himself, he dances to a recording of his cousin singing the alphabet song, he directs me as I play the Linux game Potato Guy, and he "plays" a course of Extreme Tux Racer named "Who Says Penguins Can't Fly?" that is a very steep downhill toboggan run that works well enough no matter what keys he presses or does not press.

As with last year, I am not counting "places" as toys. His Ergo, jogging stroller, sandbox, inflatable pool, skateboard, and of course the playgrounds near our home and the local library have all been used more hours than some items on this list.

Smiley's Top 10 Books of 2009

For 2008 I blogged about Smiley's ten favorite toys.

For 2009 I'll do two lists. First, his ten favorite books this past year.

1. My First Truck Book

This truck book is by far his favorite book. It now lives in our car, since while it is in the house he seldom wants any other book.

I have no idea why he loves this book so much. He has never seen many of these trucks, even though I made sure to take him to some construction projects after the book already became a favorite. Sure, he can make truck noises while looking at it, but all the trucks make pretty much the same noises.

2. Good Night, Gorilla

This is a great book. I already blogged about its virtues. I'm quite happy that it is his favorite bedtime story.

3. The Going to Bed Book

This is my wife's favorite bedtime board book. She has read it so much that she composed some extra lines for the poem. Her lines are in green below, prefaced by the text they follow.
The sun has set not long ago. Can you see the golden glow? The pig is already below. The lion's on the roof, oh no!
Now everybody goes below. The rabbit's fast. The rhino's slow...
And when the moon is on the rise, they all go up to exercise!
They run and skip and lift and prance, and somebody begins to dance.
And down once more, but not so fast. The bear is first. The rabbit's last...
4. A to Z

Our favorite alphabet book. Smiley likes it mostly because we sing while we read it to him. I already blogged about our variations on the alphabet song.

5. Doggies, A Counting and Barking Book

I think when Smiley is old enough to go on dates, I'll recommend he and the girl read this book to each other. A teenage romance must have potential if it can survive ten different kinds of dog bark noises.

6. Daddy Kisses

Kisses are the next best thing to singing or silly noises. Because of this book, for a while Smiley confused "hand" and "paw".

Smiley never learned to appreciate cold on his bumps. We still do "a kiss on your paw" to comfort him when he gets a bump.

7. My First Words Book (small board book)

Toddlers have this phase in which "reading" is "I point at things randomly and the adult says their name." This book is small and has a wide assortment of photographs to point at. (It is easier to recognize photographs that drawings.)

8. My First Words (large board book with tabs)

A bigger and better version of the previous book.

After several months the pointing at things game bifurcates. There becomes an additional game of "the adult names things and I identify them by pointing." With more things on bigger pages there is more challenge to finding the object that the adult has named.

9. Curious George and the Puppies

Eventually the toddler learns to care about plot. The best early picture books have a picture of the main character on every page and make it really clear that the story is a series of events that happen to one protagonist.

This is Smiley's favorite book that tells a real story. It was the first picture book he wanted us to read repeatedly. It was also the first story he learned well enough to enjoy hearing without the book: he likes me to retell this story when he is bored in the car.

10. Whose Baby am I?

Earlier in 2009 this book was a bedtime favorite. Perhaps its main virtue is that it is a dollar less expensive than most board books, so it is a good choice for those early months when board books get chewed upon.

Honorable Mentions

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star is a book he likes because it involves singing. I already blogged about his love for that song. The book would probably be on the top ten list except that he was introduced to it so late in 2009.

DK Publishers have many other board books of photographs for pointing. Smiley also owns and enjoys the colors and body/clothing board books, just not as much as the "truck" and "words" books from that series.

Scholastic publishes a bunch of I Spy... board books. They are also great for pointing. We check out these from the local library.