Saturday, January 30, 2010

Interesting research on children

Here's some interesting research done recently on 5 to 7 year old children to see whether they were aware of how their emotional and physical states and surroundings would affect their schoolwork. This paragraph summarizes their findings:
They found that children of all ages understood that negative emotional and physical states would lead to poorer school performance. The fact that young children knew that negative emotions could cause poor school performance was especially surprising, since parents and teachers often focus on the physical side of getting ready for school (hence the advice to get lots of rest or eat a good breakfast), and rarely talk about the emotional side (for example, advising children to try not to feel sad). The researchers also found that children understood that levels of interest, effort, and classroom noise would affect performance.

I'll have to put more effort into lessening the negative emotional states that occasionally attend my morning "school" sessions with dd5.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

It's not like a woman is going to eat steak at such a time...

Here's a recent metastudy stating that there's no benefit now to preventing women in labor from eating and drinking.
Study authors analyzed 11 studies, which included five randomized controlled trials that incorporated 3,130 women who were in active labor and at low risk of needing anesthesia. Tranmer said the review found "no benefit" to restricting oral food and fluid during labor. However, the authors acknowledged that they found relatively few studies to analyze.

Honestly, what are they afraid we're going to eat? A full-course meal? Most laboring women are kind of busy breathing and coping with labor pains, aren't they? In my three labors, I've eaten some food just before going to the hospital so that I didn't have to labor while starving (with number #3, I finished my large chocolate Frosty just before checking into the birthing unit--I was a fairly happy camper until transition began), and once I've been at the hospital, I haven't wanted to eat. Some water and maybe light juice, yes, and maybe even chewing gum. But heavy food was not appealing to me once labor really got going; I was focused instead on bringing a baby into the world in just a few hours (and updating my Facebook status via the hospital's wireless internet connection, this last time ;) ). I would like to see all hospitals lift blanket restrictions on food and drink during labor and exercise some common sense about a laboring woman's need to intake calories to keep up her strength.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Good news!

The German homeschooling family that sought asylum in the USA has received it! Here's the link to the Guardian's piece on it. A German diplomat responded to the immigration ruling:
The German consul general for the southeastern US said in a statement that mandatory school attendance ensures a high education standard for all children, adding that parents have many educational options.

Sure, rich parents have many educational options. For the not-so-well-heeled Volk like us, home schooling is often our best alternative to a public school environment and/or curriculum that doesn't meet the needs of our children. There are other ways to ensure a high education standard for all children without forcing them all to sit in a classroom. How odd that a fairly tech-savvy nation like Germany should be so clueless about the availability and efficacy of online classes.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Curriculum addition

Dd5 now does geography four days a week. We are using the first Maps, Charts, Graphs workbook and doing just one lesson (two pages) each day. We don't actually own the book; it's on loan from a homeschool resource library. Because we are only borrowing it, we don't consume the workbook pages. I just ask her the questions on the pages, and she answers them orally. It's a quick, painless, and fun way of introducing maps as a study subject. It must be working. She just drew a "map" yesterday of her own initiative. I can't wait for our next road trip to see if she'll actually understand those pretty road maps I throw her way!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Head Banging

I'm getting old. I was at a dance tonight and just before we left, they played "Living on a Prayer" by Bon Jovi. I did a little head banging and hurt my neck. I came home, took Tylenol, and looked up the medical consequences of head banging. I found this study online. I'm suspicious as to how serious the authors are, though, because of the following excerpts:
Though exposure to head banging is enormous, opportunities are present to control this risk—for example, encouraging bands such as AC/DC to play songs like "Moon River" as a substitute for "Highway to H---"; public awareness campaigns with influential and youth focused musicians, such as Sir Cliff Richard; labelling of music packaging with anti-head banging warnings, like the strategies used with cigarettes; training; and personal protective equipment.
Possible interventions to reduce the risk of injury caused by head banging include limiting the range of neck motion through a formal training programme delivered before a concert; substitution of adult oriented rock and easy listening music such as the controls, or others including Michael Bolton, Celine Dion, Enya, and Richard Clayderman, for heavy metal; and personal protective equipment such as neck braces to limit range of motion.
"Moon River"? Suuuuuurrrre.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Cool tech news: solar shingles might be affordable soon.

Movie Reviews:
The Prestige - too many murders, but interesting for the period piece aspect of it and the actors in it.
Star Trek - fun reboot, but I have a hard time accepting Sylar as the new Spock.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


I just watched Julie & Julia last night. The movie didn't particularly please me (c'mon, what Foreign Service spouse complains about being posted in Marseilles or Bonn when they could have been sent to Africa?!), but the concept of cooking one's way through a cookbook is pretty cool. I'll bet Julie could easily whip up French dishes after the year in which she completed over 500 French cooking recipes.

I think I'll do it. I'll cook everything in a cookbook, reserving the right to tinker with the recipes when necessary or convenient. I'm not a recipe Nazi. I won't set a one-year limit, nor will I choose such a large cookbook. I'm torn between this Ecuadorian cookbook and a free food storage cookbook that someone put on their blog.

Epigenetics article

Here is an interesting article about epigenetics. It makes me wish I'd eaten better my whole life, especially during the last six or seven years.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Boston Tea Party

OK, this Washington Post columnist is either dishonest or clueless to immediately deny that the Massachusetts election result tonight is not a referendum on the health care bill. If you're interested in my opinion on the subject, anything that doesn't act to discourage tort lawsuits with their resultant malpractice insurance costs and defensive medicine practices is an incomplete bill and should not be passed.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ni Hao, Kai-Lan review

I'm not a fan and I don't recommend it. Ni Hao, Kai-Lan supposedly supports preschoolers in social and emotional development. However, I noticed it made my children hyperactive and easier to upset, and they behaved quite a bit worse than usual after watching it. And, Ni Hao, Kai-Lan is even more annoying than Dora (yes, it's possible). Stick to Blue's Clues if you want happy, well-behaved children. That is a GREAT show.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Another reason to lose the TV

Prolonged TV Viewing Linked To Higher Risk Of Death Even In Regular Exercisers. Is being up on the latest "reality" show worth cutting short your own reality?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Geek Shortage

Oh, no, DARPA says we have a geek shortage in this country! I'm more sympathetic to what people say in the comments: it doesn't seem like there's much of a shortage when American programmers are unable to find work and companies prefer to bring in foreign (i.e. "desperate to escape their home country's lack of economic opportunity and social nets and so willing to accept much lower salaries") employees. Work visas distort our domestic labor market. If the U.S. government wants more U.S. citizen programmers, they shouldn't assist in giving away the non-government programming jobs to non U.S. citizens. (I won't get into the outsourcing issue, though, because I don't think the federal government should get involved in trying to "fix" it; there's a limit to how much a U.S. company can outsource and still turn out a good, timely product.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Silver Lining

We watched the pilot for the Knight Rider reboot series on Hulu last night. We weren't terribly impressed. It seemed more like a soap opera than we expected or wanted. All the younger adults in it looked like models, not like the FBI agents/linguists/scientist geeks they're supposed to be. My husband was able to point out one positive thing about the series: finally, Val Kilmer is not going to be French kissing onscreen...he does K.I.T.T.'s voice!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Carnival of Homeschooling

The homeschool carnival is up here.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Foreign Language Instruction in our Home

Second language acquisition is a weighty topic in our home. As newlyweds, our first major spat was a difference in opinion on how best to teach a foreign language. My husband, who was studying to be a German teacher at the time, believed that the best way was immersion and practice. I, based on my own experience learning four other languages, felt that he was missing the boat and that students needed to start with much explicit instruction in grammar and vocabulary in order to actually "learn" a foreign language and be able to use it properly. Believe it or not, we really fought over this. Most couples prefer to fight about money and housework!

Fast forward eight years...dh speaks German to our children all the time. I occasionally read to them in German, put on German cartoons, and use German when speaking to them or their dad. They understand German fairly well, but have yet to speak it regularly. There is some progress in that dd5 has learned that the best way to get her father to do what she wants is to ask for it in her cute low-level German; he can't resist her "Vati, bitte...."

Clearly, continued effort is necessary to help them gain fluency in German. We just got a free upgrade in our internet speed, so we have started watching German-language TV programs at home. I bought a 1965 German reading book called with Fun with German that my husband can use to teach her how to read German once she's well on her way to English reading proficiency. And I plan to teach her German and English grammar and vocabulary explicitly once she manages reading in both languages.

I don't fight with dh now now about language learning. We each teach our children according to our own opinions, and we have time to do it because we homeschool. Chalk up a point for family harmony and hopefully another one for eventual German fluency for our children, too!


A Crestone opinion forum.

Crestone, Colorado

Our family just spent two nights in Crestone, Colorado, a little town in southern Colorado just north of the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The Crestone area attracts "spiritual tourism" because of the several meditation and retreat centers there--Buddhist, Zen, Hindu, and even a Carmelite monastery. Crestone town is very tiny, taking up only about 8 blocks. It does have a few stop signs, though, and the locals appear to consider them a forum for expressing themselves, be they full of new age hopefulness ("Stop being afraid") or feeling political ("Impeach Bush!"). I took a picture of one of the stop signs and will post it later.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince review haiku:

Slow darkness misting
Persistent worries, shadows
of fate and courage.

A very impressionistic movie. Read the book first, and don't try to watch it if you're tired.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Will she be a programmer?

With my third child, now a big 11 weeks old, I've kept myself occupied during nighttime feedings by reading things on the internet. My precious little daughter now expects her to be fed and held while bathed in blue rays from the computer (I do turn the screen brightness WAY down). She even likes to be held so she can watch the screen sometimes. Does that mean that her "comfort occupation" as an adult will be one involving spending hours looking at text-intensive content? In short, will she be a programmer? Or turn to blogging like her mom? The world could use more cute bloggers. :D

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Driver's Plea

Please, oh, please turn into the proper lane! You can always switch lanes later, and you're less likely to hit someone who thought the coast was clear.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Similar theme in 2 very different books

While at my brother's house in Oklahoma, I picked up one of his paperbacks, Tom Clancy's Without Remorse, in which a Vietnam veteran loses his girlfriend to a vicious drug dealer and proceeds to "clean up" Baltimore's streets as he seeks revenge. Then yesterday, I read the very popular teen fiction book, The Hunger Games, in which a girl is forced to fight to the death against other teenagers in a "game" set up by political overlords to keep the people of outlying districts painfully aware of their status as subjects.

Both books deal with the issue of when it is justified to kill another person. Not a pleasant subject, and one I hope never to have to grapple with personally. I preferred the way this question was answered in The Hunger Games, where the author demonstrates how killing done to protect a vulnerable, innocent other from imminent death can take place without any subsequent guilt. In Without Remorse, the protagonist's decisions to end others' lives are not so clearly justified, and I do not feel that he was a hero or a model of good, or even acceptable, morality; he seemed far more motivated by a desire for vengeance than a desire to protect present and future drug addicts. I cannot accept vigilante justice in a place that has functional police and courts.

We must never be casual about inflicting violence on anyone, but there do exist circumstances which justify the use of deadly force. I support the U.S. Constitution's right to "bear arms" because people need to be able to protect themselves and others from deadly force wielded by criminals. The police can't be everywhere, and there are evil people who seek out "soft" (undefended) targets all over the world. When we stop them from intentionally killing innocent people (yes, I saw the memorial of the Oklahoma City bombing while I was there over Christmas break), we do a good thing.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Amarillo excitement

During the Christmas break, we took a little trip to Oklahoma City to visit my brother and his wonderful wife and children. Because of our infant, we decided to do the eastbound leg in two easy stages, spending the night in Amarillo, Texas. I can't even hear "Amarillo" (pronounced the Texas way, not the proper Spanish word for "yellow") without thinking of the country song "Amarillo By Morning"; via Grooveshark, I proceeded to inflict various versions of "Amarillo By Morning" and random other songs about Texas on my long-suffering husband. (I love George Strait's music!)

After a pleasant drive through rural America, we arrived in the early afternoon at the motel. I was so excited for Vietnamese food--pho, specifically--for dinner, having done some internet research beforehand. There's a little strip mall in northeast Amarillo that has several authentic Laotian, Vietnamese, and Thai food restaurants. In the darkness, though, it was a scary little group of restaurants with minimal lighting in the parking light, empty storefronts, and an overall ghetto appearance. Then when we entered the restaurant, we nearly choked on the cigarette smoke. Who knew that you could still smoke in restaurants in Texas? Fortunately, the only smokers were Vietnamese guys playing cards together at one table, and they were kind enough to stop when they realized that we had small children and the smoke was bothering us. The pho was tasty, although the broth wasn't as yummy as I've had in the past; I was very happy, however, that they gave me basil leaves instead of cilantro, as has happened to me at a couple of restaurants in Colorado. Cilantro is for salsa, not Vietnamese pho.

The next morning we hit Cadillac Ranch (truly an odd landmark), the local botanical gardens (not much to see in the winter, sadly), and historic Route 66. All that sightseeing took us less than two hours, and then we left Amarillo. Would you believe that I didn't see a single man wearing a cowboy hat in Amarillo? From what I saw on our drive, the real cowboys live in rural areas and seem to prefer baseball caps these days.