Why Do We Have To Know This Stuff?

This is a really interesting and fun old short story about an archaeology expedition on Mars and the efforts of a member of the team to decipher a language for which there can be no Rosetta Stone.

Or can there?

It’s Omnilingual, by H. Beam Piper

It won’t convince a die-hard skeptic, of course, because your 12 year old die-hard skeptic isn’t really skeptical about whether or not ‘this stuff’ might have a use, he just is convinced it has no use for *him*, and just as you cannot convince a 2 year old that you can’t see the picture he sees when he is looking at the pages and showing you only the cover, you can’t do much to convince a hardened 12 year old skeptic that when he is twenty he might wish to know more about subjects he disdained at 12.  He kind of has to make it to twenty to find that out.


For best use, I’d simply include this story with half a dozen other short stories in a brief introduction to speculative fiction in short form.  A few others:

A Pail of Air, from The World Turned Upside Down

A Gun for a Dinosaur, also from The World Turned Upside Down anthology; going back in time to hunt dinosaur. A good man dies, another man demonstrates the truth of the Biblical warning about digging a pit for others and falling into it yourself.

The Hunting Game, by Robert Scheckley- Humorous.  neither the hunter nor the hunted have any idea what they are actually up against.

Harrison Bergeron, by Kurt Vonnegut: classic tale of the tragic result of equality as mandated by democratic votes.

The Barnhouse Effect, Kurt Vonnegut (both of these are found in Welcome to the  Monkey House, an anthology of Vonnegut stories)- Read carefully.  What really causes war? Is it truly that lack of resources, or something else inherent in human-kind?

And He Built a Crooked House, by Heinlein: about an architect who outdoes himself and almost undoes himself building into another dimension. Fun story, interesting ideas.

A Sound of Thunder, Ray Bradbury – another time travel book about hunting dinosaurs.  Makes an interesting compare and contrast tale beside a gun for a dinosaur.  The Butterfly Effect- I don’t know if it comes from this story, or if Bradbury incorporated it into his story.

The Feeling of Power, by Isaac Asimov – what happens when everybody forgets how to do any arithmetic and leaves it entirely up to the computers, and then somebody else rediscovers it?    Weaker than the others.

The Cold Equation, by Tom Godwin: Heartbreaking story built on the solid premise that math doesn’t care about your feelings.  Things are as they are, not as you wish them to be, and there are hard realities,  things that you can’t change.  Unfortunately, to make the story work there are a couple of extremely irritating and irksome flaws.  If the punishment for trespassing was death, you’d expect there to be a sign a bit more stringently worded than “Do not enter,” for one thing. But the underlying premise is sound.  Math does not care about your wishful thinking, nor do physics (or biology, I would add).

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The Boy walked with his classmates at the private school he’s been attention part time since we moved to the Philippines.  We gave him a diploma.  What I am saying here is that tonight I handed him a piece of paper marking the end of my 29th consecutive year of homeschooling.


Aren’t I supposed to get a watch or something?

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Martial Law

Mindanao (the island where we live) is under martial law because of fighting between the government and terrorist groups in a city about six hours from here.  
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Bible reading and young children

Q. How do I get my 3 y.o. to narrate?

You don’t.  Narration, the kind where you ask the child to tell you back (rather than his own spontaneous retellings) doesn’t start until six.

Q. If I don’t teach him how to do this now, how will he do it when he’s of school age?

Developmentally, this question is a lot like asking ‘how do you teach a child to read at 6 if you don’t teach him how to read when he’s 2?” You don’t (yes, yes, there are some special exceptions, but in general, 2 year olds are not interested or developmentally capable of handling, or in need of formal reading lessons). You teach him other things that are related- like letting him develop maturity and good health (lots of outside free play), get used to word patters and rhymes (nursery rhymes, conversations with parents, stories), some letter recognition if he’s interested but drop it if he isn’t (and this is best done naturally, and as you go- pointing out one letter whenever you see it at the grocery store or on a cereal box in the morning, and then later another), singing together, and so on- these things all are like building blocks with connections on all sides (sort of like waffle blocks with lego interfaces) that work together and kind of lay the foundation which makes later learning work.  There’s good research showing that seemingly unrelated skills- catching and throwing a ball, climbing, jumping, building eye hand coordination and large motor skills, aid in brain development in areas that will be later applied in academics, so that free outside play is vital at this age.

Q. so what are some of those early building blocks for narration skills?

Much the same as for other skills.  If you give him plenty of free time to play freely and spend lots of time outside at this age, and work gently on issues of cooperation and obedience, and tell him stories now- orally, and choose about 6-12 or so per year to tell over and over-  he will learn to listen, to picture in his mind’s eye the ideas and events of the stories, he will build those connections that make other things work together later.  Also be sure to sing together, work together, build relationships, then at 6 you do not have to motivate him to respond when you read a story and ask him to tell it back to you. He will try to do that. Then if he does poorly, you model narration for him to give him an idea of what you are asking for. Sometimes you have him draw a picture- but that is for six and later.

Q. I don’t buy that a kid of 3 or 4 can’t narrate.  My kid tells the story of the 3 bears to his toys, and when daddy comes home he is always retelling something that happened to day.

That’s true- but those things are spontaneous, he’s not being put on the spot and told to tell back.
Before he is six, he will also narrate some things naturally on his own but they will at first be concrete things he experienced or saw himself, not abstract things he only heard about- when you go to the park he will come home and tell Daddy something about it- listen, be glad to hear him, don’t badger him, and when he’s done sometimes you might say, thank you for narrating that for me, that was interesting, and it sounds like you had fun, use the word narration here and there to connect that word in his mind with what he’s done (if you don’t learn about narration until you kid is ten, that’s okay, you haven’t ruined his life or failed as a parent, I’m just suggesting things you can do if you are fortunate enough to know about it before 6).  When you go to the zoo and he tells you later about his favourite animal, listen, be engaged, tell him something about what you liked about the zoo, but don’t badger him with questions- it might help before you ask a question to think about it and see if it would be natural to ask this question of an adult who just got done telling you about his zoo trip. I know the child is not an adult, and you are his parent not his colleague, but this will help you recognize which kinds of questions are conversational and which are really a form of pestering and turning something natural and fun into an oral pop quiz.  Don’t do the pop quizzes for this kind of thing.

Q. What do you mean by oral stories?  Why only 6-12?

Oral retellings- the kinds of things pre-literate cultures would sit around the campfire and tell each other, or that families might have told around the fireplace in days before gas lights or electricity.  Children like stories of when their parents were young- and the stories do not have to be dramatic and brilliant.  They like continuity and old familiar tales, so you don’t need a variety.

Here’s Charlotte Mason, volume 5:

But we must adapt ourselves to new conditions; “books for the young” used to be few and dull; now, they are many and delightful.

In connection with this subject let me add a word about story-telling. Here are some of the points which make a story worth studying to tell to the nestling listeners in many a sweet “Children’s Hour”;––graceful and artistic details; moral impulse of a high order, conveyed with a strong and delicate touch; sweet human affection; a tender, fanciful link between the children and the Nature-world; humour, pathos, righteous satire, and last, but not least, the fact that the story does not turn on children, and does not foster that self-consciousness, the dawn of which in the child is, perhaps, the individual “Fall of Man.” But children will not take in all this? No; but let it be a canon that no story, nor part of a story, is ever to be explained. You have sown the seed; leave it to germinate.

Every father and mother should have a repertoire of stories––a dozen will do, beautiful stories beautifully told; children cannot stand variations. “You left out the rustle of the lady’s gown, mother!” expresses reasonable irritation; the child cannot endure a suggestion that the story he lives in is no more than the “baseless fabric of a vision.” Away with books, and “reading to”––for the first five or six years of life. The endless succession of story-books, scenes, shifting like a panorama before the child’s vision, is a mental and moral dissipation; he gets nothing to grow upon, or is allowed no leisure to digest what he gets. It is contrary to nature, too. “Tell us about the little boy who saved Haarlem!” How often do the children who know it ask for that most hero-making of all tales! And here is another advantage of the story told over the story read. Lightly come, lightly go, is the rule for the latter. But if you have to make a study of your story, if you mean to appropriate it as bread of life for your children, why, you select with the caution of the merchantman seeking goodly pearls. Again, in the story read, the parent is no more than the middleman; but the story told is food as directly and deliberately given as milk from the mother’s breast. Wise parents, whose children sit with big eyes pondering the oft-told tale, could tell us about this. But it must be borne in mind that the story told is as milk to the child at the breast. By-and-by comes the time when children must read, must learn, and digest for themselves. By the way, before a child begins school work may be the time to give a little care to a subject of some importance.” pgs 216-7

Q. What Bible stories? 

Here are some suggestions of the sorts of Bible stories to tell him:
Jesus birth; Creation; the serpent tempting Eve to sin and the awful result; noah’s ark, Jonah and the coat of many colours, the miracle of the loaves and fishes, Jesus raising a little girl from the dead, Jesus calming the storm, Peter walking on the water, the fishing story (where the disciples caught no fish and then Jesus came along and told them to cast their nets elsewhere and the nets were so full they started to tear), Elijah, Elishah, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, David and Goliath, the fiery furnace,
Rather than questioning him about them, listen in on his own free play – he may incorporate them into his play, retell them to a toy, or make observations like “there’s a fish like the little boy gave Jesus,” or “A rainbow! God showed that to Noah.” Use a couple simple props to tell the stories and you may notice he picks them up on his own and retells.

So should we stop family Bible readings?

Oh, I don’t think so. Just be clear about what you’re accomplishing, and what you’re not.
The Bible is important, and having family readings together is wonderful, and important and I am always happy to hear about families doing this. But it’s important for the parents and for communicating and building a couple of habits and attitudes. At this young age this is not going to be where he learns most of his spiritual lessons or Bible stories.

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Buko (Coconut)

I should have taken a picture yesterday but I was too hot and sweaty to think about it, so you’ll have to make do with a description of the first part, although I did find a photo that is similar but not quite the same.

There is an open air stand not very far from our house (unfortunately, it’s just past the worst curve in the road for walking with the Cherub- no shoulder, a serious blind spot because of a wall right on the edge of the road, bumpy road which she stumbles over or trips, and lots of traffic). But once you get to the vendor- there’s a pile of green coconut rind on the ground to the side, and a bit behind the vendor, a woman who looks to be in her 30s or 40s, but it’s hard to tell. She’s been in the sun a lot, but Asian genes also have been baptized in the Fountain of Youth, so I think everybody looks younger than they are.

She has a plastic canopy, I think, and is also kind of under a shade tree, behind a white plastic table in front of her with containers of plastic bags, white coconuts with the green rind hacked away by one of the two or three machetes she has on the table close to hand, a box of straws, and a container for the juice she sells.

In the picture I’ve shared of another vendeor, the differences are our vendor has a much smaller pile of husks and shells and trimmings, her table, if I recall correctly, is a modern white plastic folding table, her buko juice dispenser is also very modern- it chills the juice and has a large capacity and she dispenses juice from a spout in the front. She has clear plastic cups, and straws for those who prefer a coconut (buko) with a straw.

You can get 10 or 20 ounce cups of the buko juice, which will have moist, succulent, creamy strips of coconut in it and the drink tastes like she sugars it but I don’t know that she does.It’s cold and it is such an awesome thirst quencher when you’re hot and sweaty.

Now, I do not love drinks with texture and I have to chew jello, so I drink the juice, but strain mine with my teeth leaving the coconut pulp in the cup and then take the cup home and eat the coconut strips with a spoon. The Cherub and the HM just gulp theirs down.

If you prefer, she will hack off just enough of the white rind at the top to reach the softer, flavourful pith in a spot where you can insert a straw. She’ll provide the straw or you can be all I speak visayan like a boss and say something stupid and broken that translates roughly as I am a straw at my house, and she will look at you oddly and try not to laugh in your face and think for a second and realize you probably meant to say that you ‘*have* a straw at your house,’ and that you mean you don’t need to take one of her straws because you will drink the buko juice at home with your own straw.

So then she hacks away a chip at the top of the coconut, wraps it up first in the clear bag and then the blue one (one keeps it moist, the blue one has handles for easier carrying).

Then you pay her 85 pesos (about 1.70) for two mga buko (coconuts) about as big as bowling balls and three icy sweet delicious drinks, one larger than the other, or it would only be 75 pesos or about 1.50 USD. A single coconut generally produces a good two large glasses of juice, and then you scrape out the inside meat for more goodness.

Every time I have purchased coconut juice in a bottle in the US or tried buying a whole coconut (those hairy, hard brown shells at home), I find the meat is dry, dry, dry and the juice is bitter. The only time there’s been a hint of bitterness here is when I cut tasted a piece of the white/yellowish outer shell here and tasted it out of curiosity. You can’t even imagine the difference in flavor- pure, sweet, refreshing, clean.

I like mine chilled. So I take home the coconut, and put the buko in the fridge (still in the bags to keep it moist). After it’s well chilled, I insert my straw (if a helpful vendor has not hacked away to the soft part for me, I just poke a hole in the top with a philips screwdriver, but not too hard because if the screwdriver goes ALL the way in, it displaces the juice inside and you waste some. Plus, get it squirted in your face, oh, look a physics lessons but no thank-you).

So anyway, I drink my chilled buko juice feeling ever so decadent and spoiled and even guilty, like I don’t deserve this goodness and somebody is going to come along before too long and ask me who I think I am to partake of this nectar reserved for spiritual beings.

The Boy and I have a symbiotic relationship over coconut. I really like it all, but especially the juice, and he doesn’t like the juice at all (nor does my husband, lucky me), but he adores the meat. So. When I have slurped it all, I tell him the juice is gone so he can have the rest and he takes a big knife and hacks the thing in two and tells me we really need a machete and then he uses a spoon to scoop out the soft, juicy, delicious inside meat. Sometimes he cannot be bothered to hack it in half himself, and when I have to do the hacking I give the other half to the Cherub and sometimes I let him have half and sometimes I don’t. Mostly, he is willing to do the hacking. And the eating.

When he goes home I will have to do most of the hacking, but maybe that is when I will buy a machete.

vender pic from here: https://hiveminer.com/Tags/buko,coconut



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