31 January, 2006

Math Rally

I spent the morning working with my colleague on a concept for a math rally. The idea for a math rally originated from a math teacher’s comment about how children now-a-days are not consciously aware of their surroundings as numbers, geometrical forms, or mathematical formulas.
This comment supports my experience last year in a 3-D project, where 13th graders were supposed to create a 3-D representation of their school. At the beginning of the project the students didn't know how big one room was in comparison to another, how to approximate the size of a room (e.g. measure how big your step is and then "walk" the room), nor proportions, let alone architectural characteristics.

In this present project, math rally, the 5th and 6th grade students will have to discover their school as a collection of mathematical paradoxes, parameters and challenges. Example 1, the school auditorium is going to be changed into a swimming pool. How many cubic meters of water would fit in it and how much will it weigh? Example 2, the windows on the west side of the school have to be replaced. How many sheets of glass, each 2 square meters, must the contractor order?

The questionnaire is created on PCs and then transferred later for the rally on PDAs. The questionnaire will, hopefully, be produced by a grade 10 or 11 math class. What we need is a math teacher willing to take the lead of the project. My students and I usually end up doing too much work on these projects. Ideally, it is the students and teachers who are suppose to surge ahead.

29 January, 2006

Weekend’s Twilight

Don’t you feel there should be a special term just to describe Sunday evenings: Weekend's twilight…? This special time, with all sorts of hues; both twilight and dawn to the new work week. There is a feeling of loss, for the weekend gone, of anticipation, or in some cases, apprehension, for all the tasks to be done.

My whole family is occupied with tomorrow, mourning yesterday, and living in the now only as an escape from that which they should actually be doing. Such a strange time these Sunday evening hours are.

28 January, 2006


Some of my favourite in-laws are due to come here later on today. I have eight brother-in-laws or sister-in-laws: all with partners (except one brother-in-law) and most with a selection of children. It makes for a wealth of personalities, conflicting dynamics, and continuing stream of gossip.

It’s nice to have such a vast selection of in-laws because I can pick and nurture Favourites. Yes, from a political point of view, or even from a Christian point of view, this is just not done. I am well aware of that. But, from my limited viewpoint it is a delight to be able to pick who I like the best from a whole slew of candidates. It’s like participating in a televisions series of “Family Super Star” and I am the jury, audience, and sole voter. What could be more fun?

Most of my friends have a durst of in-laws: an occasional brother-in-law or a niece living in a city far away. What a pitiful situation this is. Often, my divorced friends continue, through desperation, to nurture relationships with ex-in-laws. And everyone looks on and smiles a frozen smile of insipid sympathy, instead of just leading their friend away to find a new life. If she is lucky, she might discover a whole new pool of in-laws where she can choose Favourites.

27 January, 2006

Personal without being Intimate

Yesterday, I realised that there is an aspect of blogging which can be very beneficial to relationships which are in stalemate. This aspect is the fact that blog entries can be personal without having to be intimate, and therefore it enables the reader to share the blogger’s thoughts without feeling the necessity to respond in any way to the content matter. If the reader feels inclined to respond, fine, but it is not a prerequisite as it is with one-on-one communication.

My sister wrote to say that she has been experimenting with blogging and, kindly, sent me the address. She is not so certain where the blog is going (welcome to the club), but is enjoying the process. She apologised for the fact that her ex-,not-so-ex-, pseudo-ex- partner is still ever present in many of the blog entries.

She apologised because she and I have no consensus about her relationship to this woman. After seven years, I am just hoping her partner will disappear from the face of my sister’s world. My sister has a much more moderate/naïve (who knows) view. Reading an email from my sister about her struggles concerning her partner is excruciating. Reading a blog entry is not. Rather it was a liberating feeling to know just how much her partner figures into her thoughts, or not, … and to know I don’t have to think or respond at all.

24 January, 2006

Freezing Our Behinds Off

We are experiencing a cold front here in the Baltic coast. It swept in from Russia (or do I say ex-Russia?). Minus 30 degree C weather.

My children have never felt this type of cold in their lives. And, truthfully, they (we) are really not prepared for coldcold weather. Winter coats are just chic alternatives to jean jackets of the autumn fashion line. No one wears boots unless they are of fine leather and can be worn to the theatre with your new black cocktail dress.

I discovered there is no word for frostbite in German. Or at least none of my colleagues knew of the word. We all sat around the water cooker (boiler) this morning talking about the whole process of sending our children off to school this morning in the cold. They were just stunned by my description about all that we learn as Canadian (and presumably American) children about prevention, identification, and the healing of frostbite.

To them there is just cold and then mountain climbers getting their black toes cut off after conquering Everest. They have missed all the in between…. Isn’t that strange? It reminded me about reading somewhere how some language (of the Inuit?) there are numerous (30?) names for snow.

18 January, 2006

Long Hours of Musing

I have been home on sick leave this week. Chest rattling, bellowing cough. Excellent opportunity to work on my Talkshow Rivals game concept, since lying down acerbates the problem. There is a BBC radio series called Who Rules Your Life? (WRYL for short… really), some of the programs are very fine hearing (access the open BBC radio player here).

As far as I can tell nearly all of their regular programs are each doing their own angle of the same question. The science Discovery program has one about science, the Ticket about the entertainment industry, etc.

All the while I am updating text, redesigning graphics, and tying to layout the document. Now, you are talking about someone who normally can not walk and chew gum at the same time, so the results are dubious.

16 January, 2006

Embracing the Inevitable

Read this article and blog entry about the demise of books in the future. Seems such a odd premise to think people are not going to want to read books, even though they have for hundred of years.

Isn’t the whole debate just a matter of learning to embracing new media to support traditional practices? It really isn’t a choice of books or ebooks/no books, is it; it is more like the issue of choosing to watch a film in a cinema or on a DVD.

They will still continue to produce films even though there are some interesting developments in DVDs. Film studios and cinemas have rethink their marketing strategies. Having the price of a cinema ticket being half the cost of a DVD is just not acceptable to many film viewers any more.

Why can’t publishers and bookstores just embrace new possibilities of bringing books to readers in all sorts of formats (e.g. print, audio, electronic), instead of making doomsday predictions about the demise of books?

Take in point the new independent bookstore, Crockattpowell & Powell Booksellers in London. They obviously want to sell books in their store. To do this they have an attractive store in a good location and offer online services as well on their website. Yes, standard stuff you are saying. Yet, look at their blog: delightful. The blog is bound to be a great source of indirect advertising to sell some books.

I presume that if a good customer of theirs wishes for print material in another format (e.g. audio or electronic) they would do their best to serve them. They would still go on selling books though, wouldn’t they?

There is also the fact that people seem to underestimate how part of the whole reading experience is just simply the sensual pleasure of touching and smelling paper, as well the visual pleasure of good print.

Nothing will replace the joys of reading a nicely printed book.

13 January, 2006

Quiet Evening

Just off with the family to my favourite Tai restaurant. The only Tai restaurant in this city, I believe. Nevertheless, they have got it right even within their monopole.

The children and I went out and had a delightful lunch with our ex-neighbour. We visited her at her new apartment and discussed the possibility of moving into the apartment across the hall, when the students move out.

Whether this happens or not, is rather secondary. What struck me as special is that the idea of living next door to each other again, struck both parties (children included) as highly desirable; and that after having done so for about four years now.

09 January, 2006

Phew, That’s Over!

Our research institute holds weekly lectures on various areas of research. I had to give a lecture today, which went well. But heavens, was I ever pleased when it was over and I could get oxygen flowing to my brain again.

The thing is, when does a normal person get the chance to talk for an hour straight without anyone interrupting or someone getting up from the table leaving your to your rant?

08 January, 2006

Knocking Ankles

I went off skating today with my daughter and friends. The skate rental counter gave me a pair of those white girlie skates that we had when we were children. My heavens! Can you believe the same model has been around all these decades?

So, I laced on the skates and manoeuvred my way through the crowd of adults standing around drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes (Sunday is after all family day) until I got to the rink.

I glided over the ice with my ankles knocking together and remembered how, ions ago we would always tease the kids who skated so. There was one boy in our neighbourhood who skated with his ankles so badly bent that his skates were positioned parallel to the ground. We are talking about Canadian children: who are born with skates tiny feet and hockey pucks in their mouths.

Not liking where these reminisces were getting me, I went back to the rental kiosk and got myself some modern (i.e. plastic, no laces, total support) skates.

07 January, 2006

The Joys of a Sharp Knife

Is there anything like a fetish for sharp knives? No, I am not thinking of anything kinky, just for cooking. I just went on a binge and bought myself a new kitchen knife: a thin, long blade with a weighty wooden and steel handle. Bliss.

The salad this evening is full with all sorts of condiments. Definitely not the usual fare; I tend to mix different types of lettuce leaves, but keep it sparse when it comes to the frills.

Now the other trivial question, after the one about the knife fetish, is whether different cultures have different salads? Now, I am not talking about your typical Greek salad in Greece, or Cesar salad in Ceasar… but more, do the typical salads made in the German, Canadian, Zambian, Indonesian households differ from each other?

Such thoughts do beat de-flossing my bellybutton.

To all a good night.

05 January, 2006


I started reworking my Talkshow Rivals computer game concept. Ugghh! I last looked at the concept over a year and a half ago. At best, it can only be considered a decent first draft. My goal/New Year’s resolution/dream is to have the concept in good enough form to give to Kay in Grenada for her to edit in April. Something she kindly offered to do the last time I saw her.

Since CM, my graphic designer is otherwise occupied; I am going to do the majority of the graphic and layout work myself. Another ugghh!

It’s meaty work: the right type of challenge to take on at this time of year.

01 January, 2006

Holiday Hibernation

We are off visiting with friends in southern Germany. Snow has fallen.

All the exploded firecrackers from the New Year’s Eve celebration have left a slaughter field of debris behind. It was marvellous last night to see everyone out on the streets and in front of their homes letting off the firecrackers. This morning, on my walk, navigating my way through the multitude of plastic pieces or pappy lumps of cardboard, I could still smell the residue of shameless abandonment.

May this new year bring many moments of health and happiness to all.