At the Georgia Aquarium

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Went to the Georgia Aquarium today, where I had a fine time (well, I wanted to have a fine time, and did in parts) up to about the point that we finished viewing the exhibits and then a kind of sensory overload hit and that was pretty much it for me. My initial plan had been to make this a leisurely, long visit with a lunch break, but even H.o.p. was overdone after two hours and ready to leave.

We got in cheap courtesy a group rate, going with a number of homeschoolers, and have been looking forward to the visit since its September scheduling. Once inside however most split off to each their own and the aquarium is sprawling and broken up enough that only a couple of times did I again pass even a couple of those faces with which we’d made our way through the long entry maze culminating in the bag search and body wand check.

Why the sensory overload? I’m not sure, because I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed this second visit (our first was within the first months after it had opened) and the crowd was a manageable size, even spare to what I would have expected, and I overheard a conversation amongst employees in which it was mentioned how the economic situation has made an impact on the number of visitors they’re getting. This visit we could get close to the viewing windows and not worry about constantly moving along, nor was I crashing into a stroller every time I took a step.

It’s a huge, ambitious installation and one only wishes for success, but as with the first visit I felt as if I’d learned very little, educational content lacking, though we enjoyed the employee at the Beluga whale attraction who offered continual commentary and was taking and answering questions. She was informative as well as entertaining.

We liked the man at the horseshoe crab touching tank. H.o.p. was suddenly talking Pre-Cambrian period with him and the attendant replied something about the age of the dinosaurs, then when the attendant mentioned the sea turtle in the tank behind (H.o.p. had remembered from the first time and had entered this area specifically to see the sea turtle) H.o.p. went off to to that tank while I stuck around a few moments more, the attendant having mentioned something about spider crabs and doing his best to locate one for me.

If H.o.p. had cared to take advantage of the touching tanks, there was more than ample opportunity this visit, again there wasn’t the crush of bodies that made getting near them an impossibility for those not willing to push and shove their way to the front, but his preference was to watch.

I was sorry to see the penguin exhibit was closed and would be until 2010, as during our first visit they were so popular that we pretty much passed them by, afforded only a couple of seconds’ distant appreciation because of the milling crush of people in that viewing area. H.o.p. was pretty disappointed.

He wasn’t disappointed overall. He enjoyed himself and eagerly took my camera into the kiddy crawl areas behind some exhibits and tried for stills for a movie as he’s always thinking in terms of what he can make into a movie.

I tried to pinpoint this time what I find so exhausting about the aquarium. The way it’s broken up into these smaller cave-like portions (often with fake rock) that spider arm off a large open dining area for the food court that shakes the senses with a continual reverberation of bottled-up noise so that talking on my cell phone to Marty, even using my earplugs, demanded turning the volume all the way up? Going from one exhibit to the next means entering this central court each time and with its discotheque styled lights it’s not exactly a pleasant experience. At a museum I want something a little more meditative, calming adrenalin-amped children rather than overstimulating. The feel I get in the dark and hemmed-in cavernous parts is traffic flow impelling you though, even when there’s no traffic flow, as if the architecture treadmills with an artificially created stimulus to scurry, the effect being not unlike visiting Santa at Macy’s in New York last Christmas where you’re purposefully steamrolled in past and out; then when out in the main court the invitation is not to visit the various arms of the aquarium, that seem almost hidden, the psychological push instead seems to be for food, and not particularly inviting food at that. It’s like a high voltage mall court lined with peculiarly reticent shops, which is bizarre as those shops are the supposed heart of the aquarium, its attractions.

“Here’s food. OK, go see this arm of the aquarium. Now you’re back to the food court. Eat! Eat! Sigh, no? All right, here’s another arm of the aquarium if you’d prefer to do that rather than eat. Done? Back to the food court! Come on! Haven’t you eaten yet? Eat! OK, if you insist, here’s another arm of the aquarium. And now that you’re done with that little cavernous arm that offers no seating for viewing the marine life, back to the food court where there’s plenty of seating for eating! Come on, eat, will you? Eat! And get out! There! Through the gift shop!”

What’s weird is I love eating at museums. Nearly every single museum I’ve been to, I thoroughly enjoy taking a break and getting a sandwich or a snack and coffee, even if the cafeteria is packed to the gills with people. H.o.p. likes it and I like it and I don’t mind spending the money to sit and relax a bit and fuel up for more touring of the museum. Getting a little something to eat at the museum and discussing what we’ve seen and what we’re going to do next is part and parcel of the celebration of going to the museum.

We ate nothing at the aquarium. We purchased nothing to drink. We just made trips to the water fountain in the main restroom area. Which meant crossing through the dining court.

2008gaaquariumfoodcourt

Museums are usually an exhilarating experience for me. Malls drain me. I don’t like shopping, I hate malls, I stay away from malls. The Georgia Aquarium is, for me, like visiting a mall and is draining. I enter excited and full of anticipation. I exit the gift shop exhausted (one must go through the large gift shop to exit), glad to see the skyline, and wondering why–given this is a rare opportunity to experience Beluga whales and diverse salt water marine life–I didn’t enjoy myself more than I did.

You've heard this, right? (and still, I will blog about it and tomorrow you will have a chance to cast your vote against four more years of edge-of-your-seat Palintertainment and at this point even MccCain is secretly hoping you will do just that)

Over a million listens on Youtube, so you’ve heard this, right?

A couple of Quebec comics, the Masked Avengers, managed to get hold of Palin on the phone and had her believing she was speaking with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Palin was so taken in she scarcely seemed to blink as the conversation departed the interstate for tricky woodland paths then swang through the crazy jungle with such goodies as…

A: I just want to be sure. That phenomenon Joe the Plumber. That’s not your husband, right?

P: That’s not my husband but he’s a normal American who just works hard and doesn’t want government to take his money.

A: Yes, yes, I understand we have the equivalent of Joe the Plumber in France. It’s called Marcel, the guy with bread under his armpit.

P: Right, that’s what it’s all about, the middle class and government needing to work for them. You’re a very good example for us here.

Transcription tidbit courtesy Gawker.

And there’s the part where she doesn’t blink over Sarkozy talking about how hot his former model wife is in bed and the part where Sarah is all up for going hunting with Sarkozy and agrees that no they don’t need to take Cheney with them, she promises she’ll be a careful shot and that hunting and working together they can “kill two birds with one stone”.

You can’t read this conversation and fully appreciate it. You must hear it.

Which you have certainly already done so why I am I posting this here.

At the end, when Palin is told she has been pranked, she limply replies, “Oh, have we been pranked…and…what radio station is this…” as her brain stumbles to comprehend and deal with the situation, and by dealing she hands the phone off to an assistant who terminates the conversation with, “I’m sorry I have to let you go, thank you.”

Five minutes worth of conversation which begins with Palin effusing, “We have such great respect for you, John McCain and I. We love you!”

We love you, Sarkozy!

That’s just the way I’d choose to speak to the President of France. Those are the first words that would pop to my mind. “WE LOVE YOU!” Toss a little teenage heart in that exclamation point why don’t we?! And an internet fuzzy yellow smile. 🙂 “WE LOVE YOU!” That’s all statesmanish isn’t it. And diplomaticky. Cuddzy warm cuddles.

Gawker also supplies this bit of transcription…oh, well, never mind, I just closed that browser window by accident…

Anyway, Gawker transcribes the Masked Avengers as saying, “You know we have a lot in common also, because, except, from my house I can see Belgium…”

But that’s not what was said. What was actually said was, “You know we have a lot in common, because, except, from my *ass* I can see Belgium…”

To which Palin responded, “Well, see, we’re right next door to other countries…we need to be working with.”

It’s not so much that Palin is dumb as she’s remarkably disingenuous.

Palin’s is the voice of a parent who stopped listening to their child five years ago and just rolls right along with and ultimately over whatever that child says because what that child says doesn’t make a damn bit of difference, she’s not hearing it, she’s not responding to it, she’s got her own script and that’s all there is.

Except, well, she is, yes, dumb. It’s one thing to pull this tactic on a constituency which she treats as children, another to babble that brand of ride-along-with-and-over-you nonsense when she believes she’s talking to a French President.

Which is why McCain was so relaxed and had such a good time on Saturday Night Live this past weekend, because he’s hoping the polls are right and that he won’t have to live with that mistake.

And he won’t have to rule over crazy Joe American the Bomber, which has got to be relief.

Tomorrow we vote.

Please, let there not be a Ghost in the Machine. Please, let the Republican powers-that-be look at their stash and say, “Yeah, we’ve got enough for now. Let’s park the Fisher Price clown car in the garage and fly to our tropical island retreats and let someone else deal with the mess.”

Tomorrow we vote. We must vote as if it means something. The overwhelming crowds that have been turning out for Obama, thousands upon thousands in every city, are counting that it does.

Ummm, this week….not much….to say…

Nothing to say all week.  Nothing to say today.  I watched the debate Tuesday night and was alarmed by McCain.  No, say it as it was.  The moment I saw the expression on his face as he entered the stage, I felt dread on a scale that surprised me.  Subsequently, I have been increasingly disturbed by what’s coming out of his rallies.

But enough on that.

I’m only writing today to say that H.o.p. immediately returned to Flipboom last Sunday and began another movie and with his brief familiarity he made a large leap in quality.  He has since worked on it off and on all week, putting in about two day’s work altogether.  He finally finished it last night and I’m setting my computer up to try to do the accompanying recording, because he needs my help for this.  He can’t try to sync by himself and I doubt my own ability to sync sound with his cartoon considering my primative set-up.

I mean, this kid very carefully and diligently animated mouths for voiceover.  I’m amazed at how well he did it, the only problem being that for one scene he didn’t write out his script, he was doing it mentally, and a couple of days after his finishing that scene he forgot one of the sentences the character was saying and he can’t think up another one to match the movement of the mouth.  But it’ll hardly matter because my attempt at syncing sound will be lamentable.

Flipboom has its problems.  It’s fine but it could be a lot better.  More on that later.

Fernbank Science Center Planetarium, October 3 2008

2008 October 3, Fernbank Planetarium
Fernbank Science Center Planetarium
Light box enlargement
Oct 2008

Man, Machine and Shadow, The Planetarium
Man, Machine and Shadow, The Planetarium
Light box enlargement

This evening we saw, at Fernbank, Marsquest. H.o.p. loved it. Marty enjoyed it. I sat and wondered what in the hell we’re doing going to Mars, but I still rather enjoyed the show as well, though I’ve got to say that I enjoyed the show as well just because I love sitting in a planetarium.

Amending that, it was an informative show but I found the concluding ode to future Martians a bit much.

Afterward we took a peak through the telescope at Jupiter.

Perhaps the most difficult subject we’re homeschooling this year

Above is the most difficult subject we’re trying to begin to learn this year. The Baxoje language, of which only a handful of speakers remain.

One of my long term projects has been assisting Jimm GoodTracks with his Ioway, Otoe-Missouria Language Website, which I’ve done for a number of years. He has been compiling a dictionary of the Ioway, Otoe-Missouria Language and is a remarkable individual and resource. We have his books and CDs and have had them for several years but it wasn’t until this year that I felt H.o.p. was really ready to begin learning.

In order for me to learn I needed someone with whom to speak the language or to learn along with me. In order for H.o.p. to learn, he needs me to learn. So we are learning together.

Some will say, “Why learn a language which is very nearly dead?” Why not learn Spanish instead?

Because…because. I can think of many reasons to learn it. Whether we’ll be able to do so is something else.

So, in order to try to bring it more fully into our every day lives (we are still mainly very slowly gathering vocabulary), I have been making comics for H.o.p. that are in Baxoje, which can exercise what he is learning. Above is an example of one of them.

I fell behind last week. I’ve been trying to do one a day. I need to make up for it tonight and tomorrow and get some done.

The iPhone is proving to be a wonderful assist. I spent some time and compiled a glossary of the first Baxoje language book (need to finish the glossary of the second) and put it online as a Google document spreadsheet. When we’re out, I’m able to bring the spreadsheet up on my iPhone and practice vocabulary with H.o.p.

The trick is making it an established part of our lives. We did very well through the beginning and middle of September, working on this daily. But last week I began to feel a little depressed about it all, wondering if all this effort was futile on our parts. Thinking, “Well, we’re not Ioway tribal members. Our Ioway ancestry is distant. Is it somehow presumptuous for me to be doing this with H.o.p.? Could I be thought of as trying to, in a sense to own something that isn’t mine, as I’m not a member of the tribal community? Am I somehow doing a disservice to H.o.p., trying to teach him Baxoje instead of, say, Spanish or French?”

I felt this way for several days and didn’t do the cartoons. (I had done 20 so far.) We still did a little practice, but not much.

But I pulled it all up again today. And I have to keep on my mind, I think, what I told H.o.p. today.

He so far has been cheerful about learning the language, but I had begun playing for him daily old recordings of fluent speakers who have died so we could work on pronunciation (it’s a very different way than English with certain gutteral sounds and aspirating through the nose). He is bored by this and loses interest.

Today I thought to tell him, “You know, this woman you’re listening to, she was one of the last fluent speakers. She is dead now. You’re learning the language from one of the last fluent speakers when you listen to her. This language is a window to a world of your ancestors. She lived in that world. She had possession of a language that the U.S. government attempted to kill. We can’t have possession of the language like that because we weren’t born into that language, we didn’t grow up with it. But we can listen to her and learn from this woman and in learning the language try to build a bit of a window onto that world. Every language mirrors, instructs and even builds a way of thinking, of seeing the world and relating to that world. We can learn something about how your ancestors thought by learning this language from these recordings of one of the last fluent speakers. She knew she was being recorded. It was for the intention of teaching others. She’s continuing to teach and she’s now teaching us.”

H.o.p. replied, “And I can teach it to my children then from when they are little so they’ll know it like one of those fluent speakers?”

Welcome to Presidential Debate Night at Our Apartment

Welcome to Presidential Debate Night at our Apartment
Welcome to Presidential Debate Night at Our Apartment
Sept 2008
View On White

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We, like how many other households, were turned in and I thought I’d show this because it is a mass participation event, kind of like football, only we don’t watch football.

First we settled down with coffee and with H.o.p., me telling H.o.p. it was part of his education to watch the debate with us–but it’s not exactly 1968 is it, the election that first really caught my attention as a child (I vaguely remember the one before it because I recollect my amazement at the name Goldwater). H.o.p. wasn’t thrilled but tried watching for around 20 minutes while we explained things to him. He’s well familiar with Bush Land but the names McCain and Obama are still fuzzy and remote to him. When he said, “I really don’t understand anything they’re talking about,” I said, “OK, that’s enough,” and he ran off to pursue another film project.

After H.o.p. was done watching I dug out the cherry pie we’d purchased a couple days ago in memory of the nights we would purchase cherry pie and watch Lynch’s “Twin Peaks.” I had been reminded of those nights because I had been reading interviews with David Lynch and watching his earliest film shorts on Netflix, “Six Men Getting Sick”, “The Alphabet”, “The Grandmother” and “The Amputee”. And with the weather cooling off it seemed a good time for cherry pie.

Cherry pie à la David Lynch and the debates seemed to be a good fit. And the wilting sunflowers. I thought they fit in as well, considering the economy.

From his bath later on, H.o.p. called out, “Who won? Really, I want to know!” And we talked about the debate more in depth and answered a number of questions he had formulated in the meanwhile.

Programs for homeschoolers at Zoo Atlanta

Tuesday was Homeschool day at Zoo Atlanta and they have a brand new program called Homeschool Academy.

Join Zoo Atlanta for an afternoon of learning and discovery designed specifically for home school students. The HomeSchool Academy is a unique program allowing students to explore animal and science concepts in a fun, interactive environment. Programs are grade-appropriate and include games, activities, Zoo tours and animal encounters.

Information on it crossed a list I’m on last week. I checked out the zoo’s website and found one must register and pay seven days in advance. So, I was lucky. One day later would have been too late for this month’s fun.

The 8 to 10 year old group was scheduled to learn about physical adaptations.

Discover the amazing adaptations that help animals survive.

Parents aren’t permitted….and I mourned a little over this as I’ve always wanted to see backstage at the zoo. But as they aren’t permitted and I get precious little time to myself, Marty took H.o.p. down, as he has just finished a big job down at the studio that has had him there 12 hours a day for weeks. (I planned to get some more writing done but then I took a Benadryl and sometimes Benadryl puts me to sleep and sometimes it doesn’t and today it knocked me out.)

H.o.p. promised me photos, taking along his little camera.

There were loads of kids. Marty said it took him 25 minutes to get H.o.p. checked in and they weren’t at the back of the line.

After the program yesterday, H.o.p. related excitedly that he had a great time and took a few photos, including this one of a model of a Panda skull. (His camera did surprisingly poorly at the zoo. Usually it does fairly well but the pictures today are all blurred and very overexposed. H.o.p. and I worked a little on this one in Photoshop.)

Marty says the educator told him, “You have a budding photojournalist.”

In other words, H.o.p. was the only one who took along a camera.

We’re Doing Our Math and Right Now H.o.p.’s liking it

Since we began our homeschooling year at the end of August/beginning of September, I’ve just not had the time for much of anything but homeschool, which means projects like the UFO interviews have gone back burner for now.

We are especially deep into math right now.

Gotta tell you, last year we got Timez Attack to try to help with memorization of the times tables, and H.o.p. really enjoyed it the first few weeks, then fell out of love because memorization just isn’t there for him. He’s dyslexic and it’s not going to happen. But I’m more interested in getting him to understand concepts anyway.

I’m not saying Timez Attack isn’t good. I still think for kids for whom memorization comes fairly easily, it is a real fun way of doing interactive drill. Because, believe me, decent gaming programs are almost absent in the education department. Someone will say, “Oh, there’s a great computer game here!” or a website will say they have good games but they’re nothing but your regular old non-interactive drills.

Math became a real sore spot for H.o.p. last year. I tried and tried and didn’t find anything that would help, an approach that didn’t send him screaming, and eventually I decided, don’t fight it, wait until he’s a little more mature and try again.

Then it was August and we would be starting the more organized part of homeschooling up again and I had found nothing to use for math. I just knew what wouldn’t work.

Continue reading We’re Doing Our Math and Right Now H.o.p.’s liking it

The child has (yes, thank god) half a brain!

The Bad Homeschooler is what we ought to call this blog except for the fact that I don’t write much about homeschooling here (relatively speaking) and it’s not like we want to draw attention to ourselves and have people gathering about going, “Look, they’re bad homeschoolers!”

It’s that time of year in which books I’ve ordered for H.o.p.’s studies begin pouring in via the mail.  Such as today the doorbell rang and orders for the past two weeks were dropped in my arms in a heap.  “For H.o.p.’s studies” I sometimes mean to aid me in deconstructing myths and highlighting cultural biases.  The prize so far  is “The Distorted Past, A Reinterpretation of Europe” by Josep Fontana, which came in last week and which I’ve just begun reading through.  Fun!  We already have Lowen’s “Lies My Teachers Told Me” and  “Lies Across America”.  I suppose we ought to pick up Howard Zinn’s, “A People’s History of the United States” as well.

We are eclectic and do a mishmash of approaches, so today found us sitting around the computers working on stuff we know that the going agenda for state and national schooling would like for us to be working on.

Such as Roman and Greek numerals.

“It’s not bad to know this, but I’ve gotta tell you that probably the only time you’ll use Roman numerals is checking out the dates older animations and movies were made,” I admitted to H.o.p. who has already No Use For Math Whatsoever, who responded Roman numerals are good for helping to construct film names that look “really Epic”.  It wasn’t too long before we were arguing about doing math at all but we made it through the material for the day.

In the 5th grade learning folder for Social Studies at Time 4 Learning (one of the several things we sometimes use as a base, just because it’s there, but it tends to drive us nuts) the first file was on the Olmecs.

I’ve not a clue why Olmecs are decided by someone as the thing to learn at the age of 10.  Last year it was Aztecs, Incas and Mayas.  This year it’s the Olmec.

“You are 9, you will learn a bit about Aztecs, Incas and Mayas.  Now you are 10 and will learn about Olmecs. Because it is, has been and always will be thus.  First Aztecs, Incas and Mayas, then the Olmec, who we will tell you almost nothing about other than that they made big heads and provide one illustration of that so you may see that they did.”

The lesson was a very vague, not very good one on the three centers of Olmec civilization, those being La Venta, San Lorenzo and Laguna de los Cerros.  One controlled rubber and cacao and salt and one had dibbs on the rivers and one made the big heads because they had the rock for it, and that’s all we need to know about the Olmec, apparently.  And that they ate fish.

Mind you, I’ve just read to H.o.p., “The Olmec were the first civilization in North and Central America” (and I amended that by saying “known, apparently, I guess”).  So after telling him that I then tell him that the three centers of Olmec civilization were La Venta, San Lorenzo and Laguna de los Cerros.

To which H.o.p. says (bless his little heart)…

“BUT THAT’S SPANISH!”

I don’t know if the rimshot belongs there or a beat after my reading the Spanish names.

“If they’re Olmec, why are they giving Spanish names to them?” he asked, his eyes narrow with frustration over “one of these things is not quite like the other, can you tell me which one it is”.

As in, “I care not too learn anything about the Olmec from those who would define them in Spanish terms.”

I took H.o.p.’s hand and shook it and told him he got an A for thinking over blind acceptance.

He has spent his evenings, for all of August, with his dad watching all the old “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”.  It’s not part of the curriculum of the popular “Well Trained Mind”, I’m sure, but should be essential viewing.

Hurry, it's your last day to get your name on the moon (at least via the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter)

We did it. We are sending our names to the moon via NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Well, I did it. Marty didn’t. He’s in a session and knows nothing about it. And H.o.p. didn’t do it either, to tell the truth. I called his attention to the project thinking he would be “Oh, wow!” and want to type in his name himself and print out his certificate himself, and he said, “Wow, great!” then went running off.

Some people just don’t appreciate anything. You put their name on the moon and their response is, “Oh, uh, thanks, but why?” like it is such a simple thing, like it only took you two seconds to fill out a name field on a web page and submit it.

Anyway, our names will be on the moon. And while I’m at it I’m going to submit the names of some dead people, too, since they can’t submit them themselves (how many times do you think Galileo has been submitted) and the names too of some of our favorite fictitious and imaginary friends since they too are unable to do it for themselves. Yes, it’s a sacrifice of my time but that’s the kind of person I am.

Differences of Opinion – The Rusty Nail

Nail in a Jar

Though I have often thought of it as “silly overfull thing slopping water all over the place”, when an adult he will fondly remember the nail in a jar experiment that he kept on the side of the bathroom sink, retopping with water daily, for a full month and then some (as of June 24, 2008).