Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Why Blog?

Elsewhere I saw a post about "why blogging?" so I decided to weigh in.

I became aware of blogging 3 years ago, because my brother-in-law had a blog. I found that at family reunions I felt more connected to him because I'd been able to keep up with is life on a daily basis and know about his everyday thoughts and reflections -- things that might not be shared in an email or phone conversation but that are such a rich reflection of who he is.

I decided to start blogging too for two reasons, as a means for friends and family to know what is happening in my life day-to-day, and as a format for sharing my philosophy of life (mostly through poetry) to anyone who might be interested - "my letter to the world."

I have found it to be much more than what I envisioned at the outset.

Through blogging I've "met" a couple of really cool people from elsewhere in the world, who have truly enriched my life, and whom I would not otherwise know. They are Nethe, who lives in Norway, and Tony who lives in Massachussetts.

Through blogging I've been able to complete a project for my graduate work with the help of people around the world! How amazing is that?! I can have the whole world collaborate with me on a project in a matter of days!! It was really fun and came out really well!

Through blogging I was able to ask loved ones (and the whole world!) for prayer for my husband last fall when he had a stroke, and I was easily able to keep people updated on his recovery without being tied to the phone or email, which freed me to do what I needed to do for David and our family, yet allowed loved ones nearby and far away to have up-to-date details of how David was doing.

Through blogging we were able to be encouraged at that very difficult time as people posted comments wishing David well and letting us know they were praying for him and us, and we continue to be encouraged as people keep checking in on his progress and leaving comments.

Through blogging serious things such as the above can be shared -- but so can fun things that I hope to share in order to bring a smile to someone else.

Through blogging I can keep all my favorite poems in the same place, can access them anywhere in the world there is a computer - don't have to have 20 books with me or look them up individually online when I want to find one.

Through blogging I have a personal and family diary that I can access anytime and anywhere in the world there is an internet connection - for myself to reminisce or to share with others I am visiting. I used to keep a written diaries and have many volumes of them, but I stopped doing that years ago. Without carrying photo albums or volumes of journals, I can go back and access things like pictures from an "album" I put up celebrating our 20 years of marriage or pictures from our son's first track meet or pictures of recent family trips - or what I was thinking and feeling in summer 2006.

Through blogging I can record and hold onto my favorite season of autumn with winter coming on.

Through blogging I can recommend favorite books and get recommendations - also from all round the world!

Through blogging I was able to wish my sister and brother-in-law a happy first anniversary at the same time although they were half a world away from each other -separated as he was serving his country in Iraq.

Through blogging I feel connected to the world (see map at top). Since May 1, 2007 there have been 12,329 visits to my blog from people all around the world, including ALL 6 of the continents that are displayed on the map. (It will be a year tomorrow since I started keeping track, and the "hit map" will be getting archived and reset to zero tomorrow, which is one of the reasons I posted this today.) It's kinda cool to think that people on at least 6 continents have seen my face and read my thoughts - and some have even come back and visited again! :-)

I also read other people's blogs from all over the world and can get a very personal taste of life in Scandanavia, Australia, South America - anywhere! I have friends heading to Africa soon on a two year missions trip. They are talking about setting up a blog. I sure hope they do, so I can feel close to them and their work as they are so far away for so long!

And right now, through blogging, I can remind a friend who, as I was writing this, just called me with a health concern and whom I know reads my blog (you know who you are :-), that I will be praying for you throughout the day and into the future as you go through testing and get more information. Love ya, friend!

For me blogging has proven to be far more than I imagined it would be when I began - a thing full of possibilities - a very flexible - very connecting - very useful - very encouraging thing.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Time Again

Each time we get a new picture of one of the boys I put a 5x7 in a frame. I never take the old ones out, so each frame is almost like a photo album (except that you can usually only see the picture on top!). Today I was putting in Caleb's new picture, and I stopped to look at the oldest one I have in there; it was from when he was 4 years old. It really struck me how much the same yet how different he looks. He's definitely the same person and yet so changed.

I've written about this before, but time really intrigues me on all sorts of levels - pratical and mathematical. To go from age 4 to age 11, Caleb was changing every day, but we can't see any change from one day to the next, yet when we take a large number of days we CAN see tremendous change!

In physics, time is sometimes called a fourth dimension. In fact, as HG Wells puts it, scientific people "know very well that time is only a kind of space." One way to think of dimension mathematically is an independent direction in which we can move. We experience three spatial dimensions in which we can move pretty freely:

1) left/right 2) forward/backward 3) up/down.

Notice that we can go one direction and also the opposite of that direction, backward is the same dimension as forward, just in reverse. Any other movement is some combination of these; for instance, walking diagonally may be a combination of forward and left. We can move a shorter distance or a longer distance, can reverse direction and can move quickly or slowly or choose not to move at all in these dimensions. So, think of time as a dimension. We do move through it, but we are forced to go only one way and never to stop and always to go the same speed (one second per second).

If time is a dimension, shouldn't we be able to figure out how to move, by choice, at different speeds and in different directions through it? (Of course there are some problems posed when considering this.)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Better Late Than Never?

I would have posted this in a more timely fashion, but I am still catching up on my sleep after "springing ahead." UGH!

NPR Talk of the Nation aired a broadcast at the time of the change. According to the broadcast the time change is also hard on dairy cows. This is especially the case with "fall-back." Imagine the "udder pain" of having to wait an extra hour to be milked! It's not just painful but also unhealthy for them. From what I've read, chickens have a hard time adjusting too - takes weeks in both fall and spring. Also to be considered are the internal clocks in computers, some of which are programmed to make the change automatically. Then this past year congress changed the dates, so some computers changed when they shouldn't have and didn't change when they should have, which is either a minor inconvenience or a major problem depending on what the computer is being used for.

There are pro's as well as con's, but I personally happen to have sentiments along the lines of those of this cartoonist.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Men, said the Devil,
are good to their brothers:
they don’t want to mend
their own ways, but each other's.

-- Piet Hein (1905 - 1996)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Day in the Life

Usually I have so many things to post I almost want to post more than one a day! As the semester winds down (I think that phrase should be winds UP!) my attention is quite focused on teaching and study related items. I miss posting so I thought I'd just write what's up with us as a family today-ish.

It's a Thursday, so we will, of course, be eating pizza.

Yesterday Anthony had a track meet. He usually runs the distance events in track, but he ran the 400 meters this time - my favorite race from my running days. His time was 68 sec., 5 seconds slower than my best 400m. He will soon surpass me, but for the moment I still hold the family record! (I don't know what David's best 400 was as he too was a distance runner, so I'm claiming the title while I still can!)

A while back I almost had a picture taken of me and Anthony and Jacob with a yardstick across the top of our heads, as we were all exactly the same height. It's too late for that as Jacob has quite suddenly now surpassed me (and his older brother) and is an inch taller. It had to happen some day, but it still feels weird to look up to my son! He's spending the night at a friend's house to work on a school project tonight. He'll be graduating from 8th grade this year.

Caleb is currently in his dad's office diligently doing his homework (and will be shorter than me for some time yet! :-) He made a wonderful book recommendation to me the other day; it's actually a series. The author is Margaret Haddix; the series is The Shadow Children, and the title of the first book is Among the Hidden. I couldn't put it down and am looking forward to reading the rest of the series. If you're looking for a quick good read, I recommend it.

I taught my last class of the semester today, which means the end is in sight (after getting through the craziness of exam week). It's nice that my university semester goes a month longer than the college where I teach, because I'll then be able to FULLY focus on my studies and get all my ducks in a row for my research next semester. It's cool to see the pieces falling into place, and as they do I feel more and more enthusiastic. I'm feeling sick this week, so I'm moving a little slower in terms of getting things done, which is a bummer. I did do a presentation on fractals for my Math 20 students, and that was fun.

David is in the midst of his second week back full time. I'm concerned about him, because he is overly fatigued - more so than I think can be accounted for just in terms of being back full time. The fact that he's mentioning it has me worried, because he never complains about anything, so it must be pretty significant. I'm concerned it might be an issue with his closure device . He feels totally confident that it is just getting back into the full swing of things and finally realizing with completeness what he's been through and seeing more fully the effect it's had on him - maybe a slight depression associated with the scope of that realization. I can't help but worry about him. I sure hope I'm just being paranoid and that he's right!

We have a special birthday celebration coming up this weekend, my grandfather will be 95 on Sunday!

As to the rest, we're just keeping busy with the usual: church events, academic events, studies, work, sports events, music lessons, etc. (Notice I didn't mention housework. We'll worry about cleaning in 7 or 8 weeks - if we can still find the house, that is!) It's amazing how as the end of the school year approaches everything intensifies before it comes to the stop that is summer.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Quote for Thought 13

If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything.
- Mark Twain (1835-1910)

Saturday, April 12, 2008


. . . and Eagles Soar!

Well, there's football season and basketball season and track season. This must be geek season! Our boys (whom we are purposefully and proudly raising to be GEEKS) have participated in 2 science olympiads and one math competition so far this spring, and we have one more math competition two weeks from now.

First the science (saving the best - math - for last!):

This is Anthony's Science Olympiad Team: the Enochs Eagles. This competition took place in February. A good time was had by all. And now for more recent science:
Here's Caleb taking a break during his Science Olympiad today.
Here's Caleb's team. They did some pretty creative and cool stuff. One event Caleb was in was the "Can Race." They had to take a coffee can and punch holes in the bottom and the lid and then rig it up with an axle and washers and rubber bands and sticks to try to get it to roll, and they had to create it in such a way that it would roll a specific distance and then stop. He also took place in the paper and pencil "Starry, Starry Night" portion of the competition, so he and David have been pouring over astronomy books and checking out the night sky lately in preparation for that event.
This is Caleb at the awards ceremony. Notice the man in the grey suit in the distance in the middle of the picture. He'll come up again later.

Now for the MATH!!!!

Here is the Enochs team. Coach Kampen is hidden in the middle in the back. She's a very busy lady, and we're so grateful to her for giving of her time to make this possible for the students. A LOT of effort on the part of parents and faculty goes into supporting sports teams, but there is not the same level of willingness in general to support a math team - so, again, we are very grateful to Coach Kampen.
Above and below one of the Enochs Bomb Teams is pictured (actually both can be seen in the picture below). The Bomb is a really cool event that involves 5 students, but they can't talk to each other. Each has a different colored pen, and each begins with a different colored piece of paper. Each sheet has 5 problems on it. Competitors have to choose which single problem to do on the sheet. They can't start one then decide it's too hard and then begin another (hence the individually color-coded pens), so they have to make a wise choice in selecting the problem they are going to work. When they have finished their problem on the first sheet they pass the sheet counter-clockwise, and the next person has to choose one of the remaining 4 questions on the sheet and so on. The 25 questions on the test are composed of a mix of very challenging geometry, advanced algebra, precalculus and calculus problems. It's an EXTREMELY difficult test - most years there is no team that comes close to getting even half of the problems correct.
Above, the team is "chillin'" between events - a much needed break!
Here I am, wearing a "math shirt" - as requested by Anthony, but which I would have done anyway as befitted the occasion - conferring with Coach Kampen during break. (Please don't analyze that "sentence" grammatically!)
Here Anthony and teammate Onkar spend part of the break discussing problems from the Bomb.
Round 2 - the Blitz, which is an individual test of 45 questions. This event is composed of 4 tests, one for geometry students, one for advanced algebra students, one for precalculus students, and one for calculus students, each of those composed of very challenging problems as well - not just regular problems you'd do in class at each level. Enochs competed at only 3 levels, since they do not yet offer calculus.
I tried to get a picture to convey the scope of the competition. I couldn't get the whole thing in, but this gives some idea. Anthony earned first place in his level. In the above picture he is receiving his award from the superintendent of schools for the county, Tom Changnon. He is the guy in the grey suit I mentioned earlier. These competitions were both held today - a beautiful Saturday - in different cities, and the superintendent showed up for the awards ceremony for both and handed out the awards! I'm impressed!
Here is a picture of all the winners (1st, 2nd, 3rd and honorable mentions) for the advanced algebra level. Notice teammate Onkar - also a winner - third from the right in this picture.
This is one of Enochs' Bomb teams - also winners. I am SO PROUD of the Enochs team!! This is REALLY an accomplishment! Enochs is a new school - opened last school year with only freshmen and sophomores. This is the first time a team from Enochs has competed in this competition, and Enochs has no seniors - no calculus class. Remember that the Bomb has questions all the way through calculus. Yet, even with those strikes against them they came in second - only ONE POINT behind the first place team! They also won one or more trophies in EACH of the three individual levels they took part in - and two of those trophies were first place trophies! I realize this post is effusive to a huge degree, and I'm sorry if I've broken any rules of etiquette, but I think this is something to celebrate!

Way to soar Enochs Eagles!!!

Jacob's turn comes in 2 weeks at the middle school math competition.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Far Better Artist!

I teach math, and I can't draw a circle to save my life.
This elephant can draw a self portrait!
I stand amazed!

Thanks for sending this on Amy!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Our Week in Poetry

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends--
It gives a lovely light!

- Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

Monday, April 07, 2008

Another First

This week marks David's first full week back at work since his stroke. To put it in perspective his last full 5-day week at work was the week before Halloween. So, this marks a new adjustment for him and us.

Insurance approval on his physical therapy ended last week. We are working on getting approval for him to go to English Oaks once a month - for feedback on progress and for suggestions from the physical therapists.

David is doing very well, and when we look back on the days when he could not even move in bed on his own we realize how far he has come, but there is a lot yet that has not come back that would be nice to have back, God willing. To give one example illustrating this, yesterday he and I went for a walk, and he apologized to me partway through, saying, "I'm sorry I'm not very communicative. I'm having to focus so much on getting this leg to do what it needs to do that I can't focus on having a conversation."

We are SO grateful for the healing he has experienced, but it is also the case that it sure would be wonderful if he could walk without having to concentrate on it so hard. We hope that can yet come.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


There have been some news stories that have given me pause this week, both literally and figuratively. I've sat down many times in the last few days to post something light and breezy in this space, but I just haven't been able to do it, because my heart is too heavy. It's also taken me these few days to talk myself into mentioning these stories here. There are many reasons for my reticence, but since this seems to be the only thing I can think about, I'm going to go ahead and post it.

Currently in the media are tragic stories of two children who died recently of easily treatable illnesses because the parents believed that seeking medical help would be an indication of a lack of belief in prayer and God's healing power. One story is of 11-year-old Madeline "Kara" Neumann of Wisconsin, formerly of central California. She spent her last day of life, Easter Sunday, in a diabetic coma and died of ketoacidosis. The other is of 15-month-old Ava Worthington of Oregon who died of infections easily treatable with antibiotics. In the second case, the parents belong to a church which has buried 78 children in its cemetery since 1955, at least 21 of which are confirmed to have died from treatable illnesses, 3 of whom died in the one year span from 1997 to 1998 - prompting new legislation in Oregon eliminating the "spiritual-healing defense."

These cases have prompted a storm of debate all over the country about parental rights, parental responsibility, religious freedom, the role of the state in protecting children, the existence of God, the efficacy of prayer, laws, medicine and many related issues.

There are hundreds of thousands of articles, editorials, and blog posts about these situations (a google search gives 212,000 results) and, I would estimate, millions of comments appended to the articles, editorials and blog posts, so I will refrain from adding my own commentary here. In fact, I've turned off the "comment" ability for this post, because there is already so much out there, and it seems that everything that can be said has been said. (If you feel a strong need to comment, just google either one of these stories, and you can find thousands of places to do so.)

These situations have weighed so heavily on my heart and mind that I haven't been able to post anything else, so decided I may as well put up here what is on my heart - not as a forum for debate, but just as a statement of what has happened - and also why I've been kind of "quiet" for a while.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

God Save the Queen

Given my love of all things British and my detestation of all things political, I am posting a shortened version of an email I received today that brought a smile to my face.

The United States is getting repossessed.

A Message from John Cleese

To the citizens of the United States of America:

In light of your failure to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately.

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except Kansas, which she does not fancy).

Your new prime minister, Gordon Brown, will appoint a governor for America without the need for further elections.

Congress and the Senate will be disbanded.

A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.

To aid in the transition to a British Crown Colony, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

01. You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary.

02. Then look up aluminium, and check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it.

03. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'favour' and 'neighbour.' Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters, and the suffix "-ize" will be replaced by the suffix "-ise".

04. Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (Look up 'vocabulary'). Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication.

05. You will relearn your original national anthem, "God Save The Queen".

06. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not adult enough to be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you're not grown up enough to handle a gun. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. A permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

07. All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

08. You will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the World Series for a game which is not played outside of America. Since only 2.1% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable. You will learn cricket, and we will let you face the South Africans first to take the sting out of their deliveries.

09. You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.

10. An official from Her Majesty's Inland Revenue (i.e. tax collector) will be with you shortly to ensure the collection of all monies due (backdated to 1776). Until these are paid, there will be no representative government in the USA, in line with the policy: "No representation without taxation".

11. Daily Tea Time begins promptly at 4 pm with proper cups and saucers (never mugs), and with high quality biscuits (cookies) and cakes; strawberries in season.

12. Some tea has gone missing, and we expect it back. We'll be searching Boston first.

God save the Queen.

John Cleese