Sunday, May 21, 2017

May's Reading List

I've been reading books by and about awesome women this month!  One's set in modern times, the other is set at the beginning of the last century.  Both tell the tales of women who built extraordinary media empires.  One was born into privilege, the other into homeschooling in the South.  They both did things the way they wanted to!

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

What a fun book to read! I found out about Felicia Day first when my future wife told me about Dr. Horrible and later, on Eureka. This book details Day's experiences through the present day: what it was like to be home schooled, how she started started a successful internet company, and what it's like to be a fan icon. The stories are entertaining and funny even when they deal with serious subjects like depression and creative burnout.

I approached the book from a curious perspective. What does it take to be an internet sensation? This book was remarkably clear on just how much work it takes. It didn't shy away from descriptions of the massive amounts of effort expended by Day and others as some biographies/memoirs do. An awesome read with plenty of detail!




The Huntress: The Adventures, Escapades, and Triumphs of Alicia Patterson: Aviatrix, Sportswoman, Journalist, Publisher
Alicia Patterson founded Newsday. Before that, she was a wild game hunter, accomplished equestrienne, wild game hunter, and aviatrix. Born into privilege as the black sheep daughter of the family that owned the Chicago Tribune Ms. Patterson lived a life full of adventure and journalistic accomplishment. The book entertains while it educates by detailing the fascinating historical backdrop of Patterson's life.





Friday, May 19, 2017

Binary Math Lessons: The Secret Origin

Unschooling?  How did my last post have anything to do with unschooling?  As soon as I saw the title on the screen, I cringed.  The benefits of binary math, check, anything to do with unschooling?  Nada.

As it turns out, I’d started in the middle of the story.  Our six year-old, No. 1, and I started heading towards binary math—in more proper unschooling form—because she wandered into the room one day and said, “Dad, I want to learn what you do at work.”

All I do at work is test machines whose sole job it is to move ones and zeroes around: microprocessors and other digital devices also known as computer chips in the vernacular.  So, since one and zero are pretty simple concepts, and as it turns out, the logic gate building blocks of digital devices are also really simple, off we went!

The first thing we need to nail down were the handful of logic gates I encounter.  What’s a logic gate you ask?  It’s just an electrical embodiment of a logical construct, (you know like the one’s you had in philosophy 101).  Take the ‘and’ gate we started out with for example.  The device takes two inputs that can be either a one or a zero, and outputs a single number in return, again either one or zero.  If both the inputs are 1, (known as logical true in the vernacular), then the device outputs a one, if not, then the device outputs a 0,(a logical false value).  Hence, if one output AND the other are both true, the ‘and’ gate gives a true output aka 1.  Otherwise its output is 0, aka false .

No. 1 and I made up some homework sheets for her to play around with.  Her homework was to fill in the logic gates on the page with any sets of inputs and outputs from the table.

Did I mention we talk about this stuff all the time too?
"Hey, what's 1 AND 1?"
"1"
"What's 1 AND 0?"
"0 Dad," and so on.

I personally think our constant conversations drive things home more than the homework, but who knows?  In any event, there are a lot of MUNI riders who know more about logic gates than they used to or maybe wanted to.

In case you wanted to play along:

And as a picture:

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Unschooling Math: Binary Addition

Faced with the specter of having to memorize addition tables, and with the reward of building a calculator from scratch, our six year old—aka No. 1—and I have been working on math from a slightly different tack.  We switched to base 2 numbers.  Base 2 numbers, also known as binary, are the numbers all computers use.  For those unfamiliar with binary numbers, the binary system, (technically referred to as a ‘base 2’), only gives you two numbers to work with: 0 and 1.  Consequently, the binary addition table is far easier to memorize:


Addition Table
+
0
1
0
0
1
1
1
10


In contrast, the number system we’re all familiar with, (known as ‘base 10’), gives us 10 numbers to work with: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9.  Given a single digit in our ‘normal’ base 10 system, we can represent up to 9 things.  If we have ten things, we have to add a new digit—known as the ten’s place—hence 10 uses two digits.  In base 2, given one digit, we can represent at most one thing.  So, when we want to represent two things, we have to add a new digit—known as the two’s place—so in the table above, when we add one with one, the result—two—is written as 10 in base 2.

The concept of ‘carrying’ was easier for us because we didn’t have to use such large numbers to practice.  You might not think adding 4 to 6 is a big deal, but you also might have memorized your addition tables more than a decade ago. 


No. 1 and I discovered that we when needed to carry what had really happened was that we’d run out of room adding two digits together.  In other words, when we add two one digit numbers together, and need to write the answer as a two digit number, we’ve carried.  For normal base 10 numbers, you ‘run out of room’ when you add two numbers and wind up with an answer larger than 9.  In base 2, you carry when you add two numbers and come up with an answer larger than one.  Consequently, we wind up carrying in almost every math problem.  No. 1’s getting all the benefit of practicing carrying without having to memorize a 100 entry addition table first.

Monday, January 23, 2017

No. 3's Second Birthday!!!



Today is No. 3’s second birthday!  All of our kids were homebirths.  No. 3 though, was our only solo delivery.  We called the midwives at the same time we always had, as contraction began, but No. 3 was ready to go.  She arrived five minutes before the midwives.  As I scooped her up, she was fascinated with chewing on her foot.  What I really needed her to do though was breathe.  She couldn’t have been less interested.  Consequently, I took her foot away from her mouth.  She very calmly, put it back in, and got back to work.  We did this two more times before she became frustrated enough that she let out a yell at the offending foot and dad.  Hence, No. 3 took her first breaths in the world!

Since then, she’s been a little cuddle monkey.  Of our kids, No. 3 seems to emit the most endorphins/pheromones.  She nuzzled everyone she met when she was little.  They’d gasp, and then they’d start to cry; without fail.  No. 3 is our tears of joy inducer.  It still happens occasionally.  Someone will meet No. 3, and by the end of the day, they’ll be happily weeping for one reason or another.

She’s been fiercely independent since she learned to walk.  Boarding buses or trains, she insists on getting into her own seat just like her older sibs.  When she was shorter, grabbing on to either side of a seat, she’d use her upper body strength—the kind only toddlers and gymnasts seem to possess—to literally pull her entire weight up and into the chair.  Now, that she’s grown a little more, she attacks the problem a different way.  She’ll fold into the seat from the waste up, and then swing her feet up and under her torso till she’s sitting on the seat backwards on her knees.  She has to turn around, but she’s so proud that she’s got it.

Which reminds me.  In addition to endorphins, she’s in possession of copious amounts of pride, and I for one think she should be.  Each of her new achievement is celebrated with a giant grin, clapping hands, and a little dance.  For the last two weeks she’s been psyched that she’s finally in a soccer practice all he own instead of just tagging along to the sibs’ class.  She’s quickly picking up ball handling.  As we navigated Chinatown this weekend, she’d find an interesting piece of garbage, and kick it up the street, all the while absentmindedly dodging the elbow to elbow people making their way along the sidewalk.

And did I mention her bravery, and aplomb?  Plowing through the crowds on Saturday, she wanted to be carried some of the time, but as soon as something interested her, she was down and rooting.  With me serving as a six foot tall safety flag standing right behind her for the more than occasional person who was in a hurry, and didn’t think to look down, No. 3 made her way through the crowd;  stopping when she needed to; waiting for an opening; and then threading through with me close behind.  Her sibs, having learned this game long ago were ten to twenty feet in front of us, checking out the parts of the street, shops, and people that interested them.

All in all it’s been a grand two years since No. 3 came into the world gnawing on her foot, and we’re all looking forward to what comes next!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Calvin of Calvin & Hobbes outed as an Unschooler!


As No. 1, our five year old, and I headed into town for a writing class yesterday, I presented her with her textbook for the class: Teacherless Writing by Peter Elbow.  She grinned from ear to ear, “I learned to write without a teacher!”  No. 1 recently found out that she’s ‘unschooled’.

She continued to check out her new book, as we lurched along the BART line into town.  I thought she was just excited to receive a new book, she soon let me in on the real cause of her thrill though.

“So, there’s a book I read called Calvin and Hobbes”

“I know that book.” I said.

“Right, well in the book, there’s a boy named Calvin, and he goes to school.  When he does, he usually has a piece of paper.  I have one of those.  He also has a pencil.  I have one of those.  He also sometimes has a book.  And now, I have a book!  And I'm going to a class!  I'm just like Calvin!!!”

To No. 1, Calvin & Hobbes is a ringing endorsement of classwork!  Could it be?  Could the little boy who arguably hates school the most serve as the poster-child for positive public school experiences?  I thought about it a bit, and it all made sense.  The view we're given into Calvin's schoolwork looks exactly like unschooling.  The class has been assigned to write a paper on George Washington, meanwhile, Calvin is stalwartly doing his own thing, drawing stories about dinosaurs or Spaceman Spiff.  Calvin is an unschooler!  He just doesn't know it.  Alas—and she seems perpetually perplexed by this—neither does his teacher.