Saturday, June 30, 2012

Bracelets and Siblings

Ezra picked out a green sea-glass bracelet as his delayed birthday present, inspired by ones we saw in Maine recently.  We found this gorgeous one on etsy, by "sourisbythesea":

It arrived and he put it on, and it looks really nice.  (Bonus thing to ponder:  what makes a bracelet masculine?)  I like that he chose something so interesting and personal, and also beautiful.

The only drawback, if we can consider it such, is sibling jealousy ("why can't I have a bracelet too?").  Gedalya is struggling to accept not being old enough to do and have everything just like his brothers.  It doesn't necessarily satisfy him that he does more interesting/advanced things than his brothers did when they were his age.  I think it will help that this summer, he will be going to camp with his brothers, and in the fall, real Kindergarten school too.

Aqueous Akiva

Today, Akiva and I were walking back from shul in Cambridge's oppressive heat and humidity.  And, we ran out of water in the tote bag.  I was so relieved that the 1369 Coffee House person invited us to fill the water bottle from their ice-water tap (what mensches!  even though I told them I didn't have money to buy a drink that day because of shabbat!).  Akiva and I were there, and it reminded me of about a decade ago when the same thing happened and we were walking by the "Coal & Ice" people and that guy gave Akiva an ice cube and a "shabbat shalom" as we passed.

Akiva had severe dehydration when he was three days old, resulting in neonatal hospitalization and a lot of scary things.  Thank Gd that is all passed now, years later (and indeed it was resolved after a few days at the time), but honestly, I am still relieved when any of the boys has a good strong urination.  :)  Yes, they gave me permission to state that in the blog!

Water and its science are obviously so crucial to our health and our environment in the broader sense.  It surprises me that hydrology and fluid mechanics are so rarely taught at the high-school level  I think sometimes that everyday, applicable topics are considered too trite for the really strong science students - this happens when those students are not encouraged to enroll for Environmental Science or Statistics, but rather to focus on Advanced Placement courses that may tend to the more theoretical.  I think it happens in the humanities as well, though I can't be sure because that is not my field - students may be steered away from "contemporary topics" classes and toward more traditional honors courses in literature and history.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Teaching with Technology

I think many teachers use technology effectively in their classrooms, but for me it has been a struggle to figure out what adds to the experience and what does not.

Every year, we do a physics lab with shared class data.  Every small group contributes their set of data, and we use the larger data set for statistical analysis.  The usual old-fashioned thing we did was for kids to come up and record their data on the white-board in their lab group's column.  (The lab wasn't all that old-fashioned; it was an electronic motion-sensor projectile motion experiment!)

One year, I tried to use our "smart"-board to record the data.  It was all fun and games until one student accidentally bumped something wrong, and the whole data set was wiped out.  There was one second of the board telling me to click "here" if I actually didn't want everything erased, but I wasn't fast enough.  All I can say is that white-board markers never erase themselves!

But at my school, the district really cares about helping us use technology effectively.  I think I did something good in making two videos these past couple of days, to help my students understand the "P.U.K.E.S." method of problem solving.  My thought is that they can have the videos whenever needed, as a little way to help me nag them 24/7 - and who wouldn't want that?

The first video gives an overview, basically identical to what we'll do in class (sorry for the bad audio; it was my first ever director position - but watch out, Mr. Tarantino, by next summer!).  The second covers pitfalls, in case anyone is still missing credit on their problem sets.

Because We've Solved The Rest Of The Middle East's Problems

It's old news that fundamentalists control religious expression at the Kotel (Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem.  In 1995, I used one of Caltech's first color printers to make an "I support the Women of the Wall" button.  The Women of the Wall is a small but strong group of women who daven (pray) regularly at the Kotel in a traditional women's-only service.

Women of the Wall are routinely harassed when they come to daven, because, you know, the most pressing thing for Jerusalem's Jewish police officers to do is to arrest religious Jewish women for praying respectfully at their holiest site.  To be fair, it's not really the police's fault, but the fault of their employers, the peculiarly theocratic and misogynist controllers of the Kotel.

But now I read this recent news, about someone it turns out I know!  She's Deb Houben, who davens at my synagogue in Cambridge when she's in town, and who conflicts with me for Perek 8 of Megillat Esther :) at Purim.  It turns out that this sweet woman is actually a hardened criminal, which is to say feminist, so she was arrested:

Apparently, shunting the women to Robinson's Arch and harassing them for decades wasn't enough.  Now they've arrested and detained women (Houben is just the latest) for wearing tallit while davening.  According to the article, while all tallitot are forbidden by city ordinance for women at the Kotel itself, some styles of "feminine" tallitot are allowed in the Robinson's Arch area.  The official Kotel Rabbi, a Shmuel Rabinowitz who is quoted in the article, claims that halakha (Jewish Law) backs him up, but many other Orthodox rabbis are not in concordance with his position.

This was a recent discussion on the mailing list Mail.Jewish of this topic, including sources:

I replied in a later issue:

It is so infuriating that these men won't give up even a tiny bit of their exclusive privilege - and that they distort *my* religion to give themselves backing.

Culture of Patriarchal Oppression - episode 6/28/12

Ann Romney must have been in the focus group that vetted this latest campaign advertisement for MA Senator (incumbent and hopeful for another term) Scott Brown.  His wife, Gail Huff, brags that he's not as much a sexist neanderthal as maybe we thought, at least to Republican women in his family:

It is so appallingly sexist - can anyone imagine that Brown's opponent, Elizabeth Warren, would benefit in public opinion if the masses saw *her* folding laundry?  Or suggesting that it was up for debate whether family members should have their own lives to live?  The most depressing aspect, of course, is that this ad gets an audience who might be swayed.

Gym Bullies

There's this obnoxious woman at my gym who likes to make fun of me and say mean things.  Seriously?  Aren't we out of middle school?  Yesterday it was a rant about how "rude" I was for changing the TV across the room from her without asking - at our gym, all TVs are silent; her headphones/machine were in attached to another TV - but I should have read her mind that she was also glancing at the other one in front of *my* machine.

I allowed myself one smirk that she was totally engrossed in "Fox & Friends".  That suggests something about her intellectual fitness, though admittedly her physical fitness is pretty good.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Starbucks' Hot Chocolate

The last time I got a Starbucks' hot chocolate was in the summer of 1998, nursing baby Akiva.  I guess he hadn't had even that small amount of caffeine in his young life because a few hours later he screamed and couldn't settle down.  He's on his own with the same order this evening, with a friend!

Tech TaDa!

So, we were supposed to make a blog as part of this technology workshop (after making a twitter handle yesterday).  Most people probably did this eons ago, but this will catch me up a century or so.  :)  Why "Queen of TaDa"?  That's what my parents called me when I started spouting opinions to the masses who may or may not have been interested.  My husband once asked if that made him "King of TaDa" and my oldest son said, "Oh no, Daddy; you are the Royal Consort of TaDa - I will someday be King of TaDa, if anyone."  Glad to know he's all set for life in a democracy....

Pricing Soapbox

Finally, I can be like my friends who say, "OOOH...this is *so* going in my blog" - and not be lying!

One thing I've never understood is how some companies have lifetime satisfaction guarantees, with attendant return policies, but don't have price guarantees on their products.  Suppose I buy a sweater for $30 and the price drops to $25; the company should refund me $5 if and when I call.  But if they don't, in principle, I could return the sweater for $30 and buy a new one for $25, costing the company much more in the long run (and causing everyone more inconvenience).  I guess they figure no one will bother to do that.