Backyard History

Musings on a different (for me) approach to teaching history and my plan for doing it this year.

My youngest is a history fiend. He loves history. He loves alternate history. He knows folks I’ve never heard of in history. (I was a history major in my undergrad.) And at the ripe old age of 13 he’s completed 11th grade American history.

My eldest thinks history is boring. History is useless. There is no point to history.

But he was excited about taking psychology at the college because “everyone needs psychology.”

Now, I grew up with a love of history. My father was a history major undergrad. (He didn’t recommend it. Said all you could do with it was become a bank teller or a lawyer.) And he loved history. He shared that love through stories and odd facts.

I want my eldest son to love history and as he prepares to leave the family nest and head out into the cliffs of college, I only have a year or two left to share my love for it.

So I have decided that we are going to try something new and different, for us, in our history class. We’re going to go backwards through time, first of all. I’ve never tried that before.

And we’re going to research things that happened in a certain ten years by asking people who were involved or alive then what they thought at the time. (I have done this before as a student. One of my teachers gave us an assignment on this. I found out that my dad had some contact with the shooter at the UT tower, a huge story in Texas, even if no where else.)

We’ll start with their parents. Surely there is something newsworthy we were involved in. And hopefully we can point them to other people we know who were involved. Maybe I’ll have them read the Mudville Gazette or one of the other military blogs I enjoy to help give them a sense of the Afghanistan and Iraqi wars. They could even write an email to several different bloggers asking the same question (which one I don’t know. They would have to formulate it.) and see what kinds of answers they might get.

Okay, maybe we’ll start with their Uncle M who saw the shuttle explosion on his way to work one Saturday.

They’ll have to interview their grandparents on both sides. My folks were in school when they brought tanks to campus to quell riots. (I was there, but I don’t remember that.)

One set of great-grandparents is left. They’ve agreed to be interviewed by email. One was a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps. One they could ask what she sees are the differences between growing up as she did and growing up for children now. Or something else. Their great-grandfather wrote a self-published book, so they’ll need to read that to prep for the interview.

Then several of my aunts and uncles are older (into their 70s) and can be contacted about the family history. I have several geneaology crazy relatives. (Ours is even up on the net in two different places. One per side of the family.)

I’m related to Sgt. York from WWI. We can rent the movie, read the newspapers of the time, and do research. It’ll also be interesting to see if we can figure out just how we are related. (I’ve been told we are, but no one has told me how.)

There are several older people at our church who, I believe, would be inclined to give interviews if we knew the right things to ask them. (We’ll have to research those.) And it would be fun to visit with the older people. They leave our lives so quickly.

So we are going to look at history as it was lived by people we know. They can interview my uncle about occupied Japan. And AB’s mother, who is Japanese, and the same age or a bit older than my uncle. My other uncle was in Korea. I don’t know if they can interview him, but we’ll see.

Maybe we could, if I am braver than usual, go to the VFW post and talk to people there. But I’d want to learn about the wars with the boys first.

My Oma is 96. She’s been around a long time. If we get to it soon enough we could interview her about her life. Maybe we should start with her.

And her daughter visited all around the world with her first husband. She remembers when Lebanon was a beautiful country and had some of the best universities in the world and she was thinking they could stay there and raise their children.

I don’t know if we know anyone who chased Chinese spies, or if the internet blogger we have heard of who did that would be appropriate to contact because of his blog content, but we could widen our study of history that way.

Maybe, if we go far enough back, we could watch Monty Python and the whole “Bring out your dead” skit for the black plague. “Ring around the rosie” anyone?

What is my philosophy of history when it comes to education?

It’s not just dates and numbers. Real people lived their lives and left their marks on the world in those dates and numbers. If the people become real to you, the events will live in your mind. Explore the things that you find interesting in much more depth. And then put it in perspective with some simple study of the times around it.

Maybe things we’ll touch on:
what were people doing then for leisure?
What were people eating then that we don’t eat now?
When did the person you are interviewing first notice that the world it was a changing?
What household item was introduced during their lifetime? (My dad remembers refrigerators. My great-grandparents-in-law remember running water inside.)

If you have any suggestions that you’ve tried in this arena that worked well, I would love to know about them.

Rapping Apple Software Writer’s Knuckles

(I had some other title, but I figured my husband wouldn’t read the post as it was. So I came up with that title, which is accurate, but much longer than I had originally intended.) Language Log has a post about a dialog box that pops up on the mailer and isn’t linguistically coherent. What happened to Apple’s “intuitively obvious” responses?

And, also on Language Log, a response/explanation for the poorly written dialog boxes.

Too much flouride

is bad for your health. So say archaeologists, ARCHAEOLOGISTS? (yes), who have been researching and digging up ancient Tadmoor or Palmyra or Palmyra Hadriana.

As a waypoint on the ancient Silk Road, the metropolis of Palmyra had it all, broad towers, impressive temples and enviable trade. Water from local wells even contained fluoride, limiting that scourge of the ancients — tooth decay.
But just as the wealth of Palmyra vanished, leaving behind ruins in the Syrian desert, a new study suggests its waters may also have been ruinous in the end for the city’s inhabitants.

My favorite line, though, is this one:

Palmyrans drank, and still drink, water from wells tapped from ground water by long tunnels called “qanats” (an excellent Scrabble word).

(I am not very good at Scrabble.)

Now the opening paragraphs, the first blockquote, say that the flouride may have been “ruinous” for the inhabitants. Which made me think, erroneously, that it somehow killed them off. It did, however, cause them problems.

Despite Palmyra’s prosperity, “skeletal remains uncovered from the underground tombs of Palmyra have been found to retain an arthropathy of the joints, especially in the knee joint, bone fracture, marked bone lipping, spur formation, and eburnation (smoothed bone cavities),” ….

But the Palmyrans’ symptoms, along with discolored teeth, point to “fluorosis,” a skeletal and enamel-damaging syndrome caused by ingesting too much fluoride over a long time, the researchers note. Looking at two large tombs for example, 25 of 33 individuals (76%) had discolored teeth in one, and 45 out of 65 (69%) had discolored teeth in the other.

found via Mirabilis

Calcium as Weight Gain Inhibitor?

According to Reuter’s, “Women in their 50s who took in more than 500 milligrams of calcium daily in supplements gained 4 pounds less over 10 years than women who didn’t use supplements, Dr. Alejandro J. Gonzalez of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and colleagues found.”

Word of the Day: Asymptote

This word, used at least twice in Wired’s “What Kind of Genius Are You?” is not one I have seen before. Or, at least, I don’t remember seeing it. What does it mean?

It appears to be a math term, which is understandable since the article is on an economics prof who does lots of statistical analysis.

On a graph, a curve which is approached but never reached.

from Bagatrix’s Math Glossary

Encarta says this:

as·ymp·tote (plural as·ymp·totes) noun

line not touched by curve: a line that draws increasingly nearer to a curve without ever meeting it

[Mid-17th century. Via modern Latin < Greek asumptōtos "not adapted to fall together" < sun- "together" + ptōtos "adapted to fall"] as·ymp·tot·ic adj as·ymp·tot·i·cal·ly adv

Asymptote. The math term for “reach for the stars.”

Used in the article in these contexts:
“Yet Galenson, whose parents were both economists, pushes on, ever approaching the asymptote.”

“Experimentalists never know when their work is finished. As one critic wrote of Cézanne, the realization of his goal ‘was an asymptote toward which he was forever approaching without ever quite reaching.'”

Genius: What kind?

In the fall of 1972, when David Galenson was a senior economics major at Harvard, he took what he describes as a “gut” course in 17th-century Dutch art. On the first day of class, the professor displayed a stunning image of a Renaissance Madonna and child. “Pablo Picasso did this copy of a Raphael drawing when he was 17 years old,” the professor told the students. “What have you people done lately?”
What he has found is that genius – whether in art or architecture or even business – is not the sole province of 17-year-old Picassos and 22-year-old Andreessens. Instead, it comes in two very different forms, embodied by two very different types of people. “Conceptual innovators,” as Galenson calls them, make bold, dramatic leaps in their disciplines. They do their breakthrough work when they are young. Think Edvard Munch, Herman Melville, and Orson Welles. They make the rest of us feel like also-rans. Then there’s a second character type, someone who’s just as significant but trudging by comparison. Galenson calls this group “experimental innovators.” Geniuses like Auguste Rodin, Mark Twain, and Alfred Hitchcock proceed by a lifetime of trial and error and thus do their important work much later in their careers.

from Wired’s “What Kind of Genius are You?”

What kind of genius am I?

Well, since I’m 44, if I’m a genius, I must be one of the experimental innovators. (I’d like to be a genius. And experimental innovator gives me a goal to strive for. I like goals.)

To keep all us oldies from being too cocky, and to keep us from being knocked down too much, this comes at the end of the article:

This is a universal theory of creativity, not a Viagra for sagging baby boomer self-esteem. It’s no justification for laziness or procrastination or indifference. But it might bolster the resolve of the relentlessly curious, the constantly tinkering, the dedicated tortoises undaunted by the blur of the hares.

4 Wks Post-op

It’s been four weeks and a day since the hysterectomy. How am I feeling? Tired. Last night at 9:23 I was working to keep my eyes open because I had told myself I would have popcorn before I went to bed. I was sound asleep before 10. (And Sunday night I went to bed at 10 pm and didn’t get up till 11 am.)

I’m tired, but not quite tired enough to sleep. Earlier on this was terrible because I wasn’t well enough to do anything else, not even read. But now I’m well enough that I can get up and get around, so I can do other things. I feel as if I am doing them at about 60%, but I am doing them.

And I am even more grateful for the 36 hours I had this weekend to be able to enjoy J and P and the pre-wedding stuff. I had 36 hours pain and exhaustion free. (I did sleep during that time, but I wasn’t shaking with fatigue.)

The Cost of Friendship

$137 for the gift (She is a good friend!)
$180 for gas to get to the wedding (10 hrs from home)
$100 to stay in a hotel (So we could take a shower before the rehearsal and wedding.)
$120 eating out for 4 days.

Okay, that was an expensive wedding trip. But I love her and she knows it.

Reading: More Info than you can shake a stick at

Chris on O’Donnell Web quotes a study that says this:

80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.

70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.

80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year. No wonder our kids have trouble reading! No one in their families read!

-Note: When I say “our,” I mean American. My kids have no trouble reading. They read all the time. Sometimes it scares me how much they know that I didn’t teach them.

I’ve read 70 books, at least, in the last month. Not great literature, most of it, but I read it.

And then there’s the 70% of American adults haven’t been in a bookstore in five years. Well, that explains the proliferation of dating services… Most of my favorite dates involved going to the bookstore.

There is some good news in the study that Atypical Homeschool referenced.

One-third of the books sold worldwide are sold in the US.
–Overseas Book Service, December 8, 1998.

And, no, I did not buy them all. The Common Room appears to buy as many books as I do. (Although they have an excuse in that they resell them.)

And here’s some depressing statistics for my book–which I don’t think is a children’s book, despite the young age of the main character. (She goes from 9 to 11 in the first book. She ages six years in the next book. And three in the one after that.)

“6 million have written a manuscript.
6 million manuscripts are making the rounds.
Out of every 10,000 children’s books, 3 get published.
–Jerrold Jenkins. 15 May 99.”

This quote indicates that SOMEONE is watching way too much TV, because they have to make up for me, and LOTS of someones aren’t reading, because I’m doing a lot more reading than that. (Or would they throw my data out because I would skew the information so much?)

Each day, people in the US spend 4 hours watching TV, 3 hours listening to the radio and 14 minutes reading magazines.
–Veronis, Suhler & Associates investment bankers

I’m going to have to do some math…

The time Americans spend reading books.
1996: 123 hours
2001: 109 hours
–Veronis, Suhler & Associates investment bankers

I think I’d have to average about 2005: 1040 hours for myself.

I always wondered where the crazy guy got his statistics. Even this one isn’t as bad as his:

1992: 20% of adults in the U.S. read at or below the fifth grade level.
–National Adult Literacy Survey reported in Publishers Weekly, January 6, 2003.

And more not-so-great news for my novel:

5,000 novels, 200 first novels and 100 scripts are purchased each year.
–Ridley Pearson, Maui Writers Conference.

Home again,

home again, jiggity jig.

We went to Lubbock in my folks’ RV this weekend for the wedding. I saw one of my best friends’ in the world and her beautiful, loving daughter who is also a friend. I was so grateful for the time I got to spend with them.

God gave pure grace and I had about 36 hours with no pain and no problems. That went away during the wedding, but I was able to stay even through most of the reception, with limited movement. It hurt to move, but I could move, if I needed to, even normally, it just hurt more.

R and the boys brought me food and drink, so that I didn’t have to move much. And we left after the official dances had been done.

The Wedding

She was a beautiful bride. It couldn’t be otherwise. She is beautiful when she is not a bride. She wore no make up that I could tell. Did she forget or did she know it would be ruined when she cried as she came up the aisle on her father’s arm?

She was beautiful. She loves him. I hope they are happy together. I don’t know him, but I know she deserves happiness.

Last I saw them they were cutting a rug, to love songs, to merengue (sp?), and to modern music. Now they should be on their long way to Galveston to catch their cruise ship.

God bless them both. And thank you for letting me be well enough to be at the wedding.

“Author Unknown”

I learned “I am an American” in Camp Fire Girls in 1969 or 1970. But I don’t think the author of the quote is unknown. (Which is what the sites with the version I learned said.) I think we changed the quote and, so, the author didn’t really say it. The original, according to the first source I found was/said:

Prime Minister John Diefenbaker said on July 1, 1960:

I am a Canadian, a free Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship God in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.

via Carleton of Canada

Despite the fact that it was probably a Canadian who originally said it, I believe it about the United States with all my heart.

And I am grateful to God and those who made it possible, that I live in such a blessed country.


We went to the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner. R was more help than I was. He took some beautiful pictures.

I love these guys.

Hurricanes, Flash flooding, Earthquakes

These are my eldest son’s predictions for what dire fates await us on Sunday as we try to return from Lubbock, where we are heading today for a wedding.

“What!? We’re going to Lubbock TODAY!”

“What!? College starts next week! Mom, you can’t take me to Lubbock. What if we don’t make it back in time?”

I assured him that classes don’t start until Thursday.

“What if there’s a hurricane?”

“Then I’ll be glad we’re in Lubbock and not in Houston.”

“No. What if there’s a hurricane between Lubbock and Houston?”

I laughed. “The ocean will have moved, then. Not going to happen.”

“Well, there could be flash flooding. Or earthquakes. Flash flooding and earthquakes. We’ll never make it back for my class and it’ll be all your fault.”

I’m not sure if he thinks I should leave him here alone (not going to happen) or if none of us should head up for the wedding (also not going to happen). But I thought it was interesting, these dire consequences of heading 9 hours north and west.

In the beginning: John 1

In the beginning was the word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made that have been made. Without Him nothing was made that has been made.

(In Him was life and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not understood it.

There came a man who was sent from God. His name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to that light. The true light that gives light to everyman was coming into the world.)

He came into the world and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came into that which was his own and his own received him not. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed Him, he gave the right to be called children of God– (children not born of natural descent nor of human will nor of a husband’s will, but born of God.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John testifies concerning him. He cries out, “This is the light of men. He it is of whom I said, he who comes after me surpasses me because he was before me.”

This is only John 1:1-14…

Flood Leftovers?

I’ve always been taught that Noah and his family were the only ones who survived the worldwide flood. But it says specifically that “only eight were saved by water.” I don’t know what that means for people elsewhere, but it seems to me to indicate that other people were saved, though I am not sure how.

And I’ve discussed before that the Nephilim existed both before and after the flood.

Genesis 6:4
“The Nephilim were on the earth in those days- and also afterward- when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.”

Doesn’t that make you wish you knew what they had done? Their exploits? Are these the origins of most of the myths of heroes?

And what does it mean that the sons of God went to the daughters of men? Did angels have children with people? Did Adam and Eve’s children marry with the Neanderthal (or whomever)? What does that mean? It indicates a clear mix of some sort. Does it just mean that the righteous and the unrighteous joined together? It doesn’t seem that such a simple answer should be right.

Numbers 13:33 (This is much later after the flood.)
“We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes and we looked the same to them.”

Now remember this is when God’s people, those who are now called Jews, went from Egyptian bondage, back to the land that became Israel—land that had been given to Abraham. He had owned a LOT of land back then. And that doesn’t count what hadn’t been claimed for his descendants yet.

Were the Jews the original little people?

Were the Nephilim really giants? I have heard it said, although I don’t know because I haven’t looked into it that well, that giant skeletons have been found in the US in burial mounds that are long and broad. Does that make those people Nephilim?

I have read that the Celts were taller than the folks around them. Were the Nephilim Celts or are the Celts descendants of the Nephilim?

There were redheads in Abraham’s family. His grandson Esau was red, hairy. And David is described as “ruddy,” a word, I have been told, in Hebrew, that corresponds to the skin color of redheads. Now you don’t have to be red headed to get that skin color. (I have it.) But you have to have had redheads in your gene pool.