Family: October 2009 Archives

A busy day

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How I spent my Saturday:

I slept in. I've been short on sleep all week, still haven't completely shaken this cold. I actually got 10 hours of good sleep. The downside of that is I lost some precious hours on a perfect autumn day.

My wife and older son have what I had about a week ago. Both are afflicted with what one might palindromically call the "tons o' snot" virus. My wife has a raspy voice from drainage, but otherwise isn't feeling too bad; the 13-year-old also has a fever.

I took the three-year-old with me on some errands. First, downtown to the Performing Arts Center to buy tickets for the Tulsa Symphony Orchestra concert of Italian music. It's a required concert for our two older kids, as part of their music scholarship, but of course the kid with the fever won't be going. I head up Boston Ave., but it's blocked off between 4th and 5th to allow a huge crane to set up. It appears to have been involved in swapping out a massive air conditioning unit from some building's roof -- the Atlas Life building, I'd guess. The inconvenience was far outweighed by the opportunity for a three-year-old boy to look at a big piece of machinery up close.

As we walked up Boston, I pointed out the interesting animals carved into the Philcade and Kennedy buildings and the Philtower gargoyles. (I learned a lot from Ed Sharrer's downtown safari walking tour.) The ticket office was closed -- didn't open until two hours before showtime -- so we walked back to the car, then drove to the library.

We returned a rolling backpack full of books and videos, then checked out some audio books on CD and a few videos, plus a couple of books on owls for the big son's next science report. I'd have spent more time browsing, but Little Bit was getting restless.

We went to Coffee House on Cherry Street for a treat and to let me see about buying tickets online. He wanted a cream cheese brownie and a bottle of Orange Crush, except that he didn't. He drank about a third of the Orange Crush and took a few nibbles of brownie. I could buy tickets online, but two discounted $5 tickets would cost me $19.50 including "convenience charges." Seems like online tickets are as convenient for the venue as they are for the buyer, so I don't get why I need to pay $3.75 extra per ticket. I decided it would be worth it to drive back at 5:30 to buy the tickets at the box office.

We headed up the hill to the Christ the King Parish playground, which the parish allows the public to use evenings and weekends. The three-year-old decided that the equipment was a big airplane, and because there were two steering wheels, both of us had to drive at the same time.

I tried to talk him into a walk around the block to see some pretty trees and houses, but he was ready to go home and maybe play a computer game. So we did. He got to play Putt Putt Saves the Zoo, while I did laundry and waited for 5:30 to roll around.

At 5:30 (despite some teary protests) I stopped the game and loaded him in the car to get the tickets. We bumped into David White and his wife in the ticket line. David has served for many years on the Board of Adjustment; I got to know him through the Midtown Coalition. It was nice to see him again.

Back to the car with tickets in hand. The three-year-old wanted to go back to Joe Momma's Pizza, where we had dinner the night before while Mom and the two big kids went to a showing of The Wizard of Oz at their school. I said that we had some leftovers at home, but I'd drive by so he could see where it was.

(At Joe Momma's, we had played tic-tac-toe on the butcher paper tablecloth and after dinner played a few games of pinball and Asteroids. He had a non-linear definition of three-in-a-row, which worked to his advantage. There might be a 90-degree bend in the line, but it was still a line connecting his three Os.)

(He has a sense of Mid-Century Modern architecture, too. When we had passed the old First National, Liberty, Bank One, Chase Auto Bank at 7th and Cincinnati, he said it was part of the Central Library. When I said that it looked a bit like the library but it wasn't, he then claimed it used to be a library. He must hear somebody saying "that used to be..." rather a lot on drives around Tulsa.)

My wife usually goes with the kids to these concerts -- a chance to get out of the house -- but she wasn't feeling up to it, so I went with my daughter. The first two pieces, featuring oboe, were lovely, but a bit too soothing for my already tired brain. As an extra piece -- not in the program -- guest conductor David Lockington sang a monodic madrigal, Amarilli, mia bella by 16th century Florentine composer Giulio Caccini. He has a lovely voice, perfect for the type of music, a sort of recitative, and was accompanied by a harpsichord. Respighi's Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite No. 1, closed out the first half. An early 20th century composer, Respighi made use of baroque and renaissance themes, as his contemporaries played with atonality. The program had a wonderful quotation from Respighi:

We are against art which cannot and does not have any human content and desires to be merely a mechanical demonstration and a cerebral puzzle.

The second half was Mendelssohn's Italian Symphony; I am almost certain that the opening movement was used by Fiat for a commercial in the '70s. (Watch this and see if it rings a bell.) It still makes me think of zipping along an Alpine road in a sporty vehicle.

Then home and a bit of a break, watching an SNL repeat from earlier in the year. The 13-year-old thought that soup would settle well, so I headed out to Reasor's for soup and a few other items. Back at home, got the food put away, dealt with some more laundry, finally got ready for bed.

And now it's taken me an hour or more to get this written, but now you know why I haven't blogged anything else today.

Michael Palin, the incoming president of the Royal Geographical Society, spoke out in support of strengthening geography as an academic subject in the latest issue of Geographical, the society's magazine, according to a story in the Daily Mail:

ptp_101_01_l.jpg'It's a subject that still seems to be neglected,' he said.

'It's seen as a slightly nerdy subject, and I can't really begin to think why when you look at what's happening in the world.

'Whether it's endemics, terrorism, or global warming, knowing the geography is so vitally important. I want to overcome the feeling that geography isn't really a serious subject, or a subject you should choose to study - and say that it's the subject you ought to choose.'

In the same article, Palin said it was time for Britain to stop apologizing for the British Empire:

The TV star said: 'If we say that all of our past involvement with the world was bad and wicked and wrong, I think we're doing ourselves a great disservice.

'It has set up lines of communication between people that are still very strong.

'We still have links with other countries - culturally, politically and socially - that, perhaps, we shouldn't forget.'

(If the name seems familiar, you might recall Mr. Palin's role in a TV series that first aired 40 years ago this week. It seems to me that much of Monty Python's humor reflects the rigorous instruction in history, geography, and literature that Britons of Palin's generation received.)

(UPDATE: Just rediscovered where I found this story linked -- belated hat tip to Violins and Starships.)

Geography as a separate school subject had disappeared by the time I came along, having been replaced by "Social Studies," which mushed together a lot of related disciplines, teaching none of them well. (On the other hand, we had some great history classes, including Frank B. Ward's 7th grade American History and the U. S. Constitution test that you had to take over and over again until you achieved proficiency.)

One of the things I love about my oldest son's homeschool curriculum is the emphasis on learning the world map. Each week he has to learn a new continent or region -- it's South America this week; last week was Central America and the Antilles -- drawing the map freehand and labeling it with countries and capitals four times over the course of the week. The beginning of the course covered the US, with rivers and mountains along with states and capitals. He had to learn to draw Canada's provinces and territories as well. By the end of the class, he should be able to find any country on a map, and he'll have geographical hooks on which to hang information he picks up in news stories, history books, and fiction. Those geographical hooks will complement the chronological pegs he established by memorizing the timeline from the Veritas history cards. Without memorizing places, names, and dates, how can anyone organize the other facts one learns about the world?

Meanwhile, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service alumni are appalled at the watering down of a traditional subject called Map of the Modern World. The challenging course walked students through the evolution of political boundaries from the Napoleonic upheaval to the present day. The revamped course will include lectures on plate tectonics and global climate change and will emphasize physical geography over political geography. The course is considered a rite of passage for Georgetown SFS students, compared by this alumnus to a "boot camp":

In an earlier post on geography, I mentioned a course I took at Georgetown called "Map of the Modern World", a 1-credit boot camp of world geography and geopolitics. As a student at Georgetown's School of Foreign Service (SFS) I had to take this course as a graduation requirement-since the qualification exam rendered me, in Professor Pirtle's thundrous voice, "geographically ignorant." Even though it was a killer for a one-credit course, it was one of the most rewarding courses I took. I know of no other university that has a geography course that even comes close.

Yet, just as it does in the world of education, the "boutique" theories seem to be adopted by administrators as if they were flavors of the month. Such is the case at SFS, where the new dean, James Reardon-Anderson, wants to take over the course personally. Instead of the classic geopolitical survey that each student in the SFS has received (gratefully) for decades, Reardon-Anderson plans to restructure the course as a study of geographic forces and human interactions. The grit-and-grind of the Mercator map is replaced by the soft Venn diagrams of interactions, encounters and relationships.

The change has inspired a Facebook group called Take Back Map of the Modern World, which offers the catalog descriptions of the old and new versions:

Faculty: Keith Hrebenak

This one-credit-hour course is designed to provide you with regional overviews of the evolution of the world political map since 1800. The objective of this course is to enhance your basic working knowledge of the political map of the modern world as a first step in understanding world events and international relations. The method of instruction
will be lectures supported by a heavy dose of maps and short outside readings. The lectures will focus on the evolution of the modern political map of each region and on major nationalist, ethnic, boundary, and territorial conflicts and tension areas.

Faculty: James Reardon-Anderson

This one-credit course is designed to provide basic knowledge of the physical and political geography of the world. Weekly lectures cover the fundamental forces that shape the physical geography and the effects of physical geography on human behavior in ten regions of the world. The final exam covers information presented in the lectures,
the location and capitals of contemporary states, and the identification of major geographical features. The final examination is multiple choice and graded pass-fail. The course is required for graduation from the School of Foreign Service.

Since Georgetown's School of Foreign Service provides the United States with many of our career diplomatic leaders, I hope the school reverses course and again includes a rigorous political geography course as a core requirement. Better still, let's restore geography as one of the basic "grammars" to be learned by young school children, alongside parts of speech, spelling rules, and multiplication tables.

(Note: The photo above is from the photo section of Michael Palin's travel website.)

Wearing Irlen lenses during Tulsa Boy Singers spring 2009 concertIrlen Syndrome, also known as scotopic sensitivity syndrome. There's an informational meeting tonight, Monday, October 5, 2009, at 7 p.m., at the La Quinta Tulsa Airport, east of Sheridan on the south side of I-244, presented by Catherine Barnes, an Irlen diagnostician. To make a reservation or for more information, contact Mrs. Barnes at 859-489-7773.

Our oldest son has been helped immensely by Irlen filters. His fourth grade year at Regent was the school's first in the old Higher Dimensions facility. The walls were painted bright white, the fluorescent lights were very bright, and there was sunlight, too. The combination gave him severe headaches, and there were many days when he had to come home early. He loved to read, but he preferred to do so in dim light. (Of course, we wouldn't let him read in the dark because it was bad for his eyes.) Grid paper and sheet music were particularly problematic for him.

He had a number of medical and ophthalmological tests, including an MRI, trying to figure out the source of the headaches. Everything appeared to be normal. Contrary to occasional parental suspicions, there was something between his ears. :)

Wearing Irlen lenses and a FedoraMy wife remembered that her sister had had trouble filling in the bubbles on standardized tests, and that the use of a translucent pink overlay sheet had helped immensely. My wife found out about the Irlen Institute started working with a diagnostician to find a color that would help him. A dark shade of purple seemed to work best, and so he began using purple overlays to read text and to photocopy assignments and music onto purple paper. Wearing hats helped, too, by shading his eyes. (Hats have become his trademark.)

After finding a tint that seemed to work, he was fitted for glasses with Irlen filter lenses -- no optical correction, just tint. Direct light leaking around the sides continued to be a problem, so we found some wraparound frames that keep the stray light out. He doesn't need them all the time, but they're a must for working with music or doing schoolwork.

What's happening here is a visual processing problem that's aggravated by certain parts of the visible spectrum. The problem is not in the eyes -- it's not optical in nature -- but in the visual processing portion of the brain. Filtering out the offending wavelengths makes the letters look to him they way they do to the rest of us. He no longer has to strain to read and write, and the headaches have gone away.

Irlen lenses have been helpful to people with dyslexia, other reading problems, writing difficulties, and headaches related to bright light. If you've had these sorts of problems or know someone who has, visit the Irlen Institute website to learn more, and, if you can, come to tonight's informational session at the Tulsa Airport La Quinta, 123 N. 67th East Ave.

MORE: Here's an ABC News video about Irlen.

And this Salt Lake City news report shows some examples of ways black on white text appears to Irlen syndrome sufferers:

STILL MORE: This critical blog entry attacking Irlen lenses drew many testimonials from people who have benefited from using colored lenses and overlays and from parents of those who have benefited. As several responses point out, Irlen lenses don't cure dyslexia, but they remove a significant barrier to learning to read -- words seeming to shift, whirl, dance, blur, or fade from the page. In my son's case, he has never had difficulty reading fluently and voraciously, as long as he could read in subdued light.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Family category from October 2009.

Family: August 2009 is the previous archive.

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