rhetorical question

April 9, 2013 Comments Off on rhetorical question

C:  “You know what I hate?”

O:  “People who answer rhetorical questions?”

C:  [head explodes, hijinks ensue]


tuesday philosophy

April 2, 2013 Comments Off on tuesday philosophy

O was tired of being nagged encouraged about finishing up some late homework.  “You know how to stop the nagging?” I asked her.  “DO IT.”

“There’s another way,” said C, taking his sister’s side for a change.

“Silence is golden,” he said.  “But duct tape is silver.”

He got a high five from O for that.  It’s good to have them back.  Even if they’re conspiring against me.

power point

May 9, 2012 Comments Off on power point


This is what happens when you teach powerpoint to determined sixth graders.

When C announced that he had an assignment to do a powerpoint for his class, I grumbled.  I use powerpoint all the time, but I’m an Ed Tufte fan, and I hate powerpoint.  Everything about the program seems designed to distract people from the fact that there’s rarely any content in these things.  There’s nothing worse than seeing one start off with a lame background, and knowing you’re going to be staring at that background, with words in some execrable font (Comic Sans?) and color, for the next hour.

Not so much with this kid.  His mother dropped him off after band concert last night, and he asked if he could have a few minutes of our time.  And he proceeded to go through an efficient, clean, five-minute powerpoint that suggested three things:

  1. He should be allowed to play more minutes of video games per day.
  2. He and O should get an Xbox.
  3. He should be allowed to have his own YouTube account.

The kid had done his research.  He dropped mad statistics.  The chart that opened things off above?  That’s a 99th percentile math kid’s version of stomping his feet and yelling that all of his friends get to play more video games than he does.  And he had a script:

Image“As you can see from this chart, my friends have a lot of different systems.  Some of them have more than one.”  Point taken, as he himself likes to say.

Note the design.  There was no background of dolphins or sunsets.  The font was simple.  There were no cheesy sound effects or animations.  Just data.  And there wasn’t even any whining–the titles were just “here’s what games sixth graders play.”  Not “why I deserve a video game.”  He followed the number one commandment of persuasive rhetoric:  show, don’t tell.

And for his final slide?  A business plan:

Image“If I get a YouTube account, I get a penny every time a subscriber watches my videos,” he explained.  “I can use that money to make better videos.  If I make better videos, more people will watch, which will mean more money, which will mean better videos, etc., etc., etc.”  He really said “etc., etc., etc.”  What he left out was that the end result is likely to be a senate campaign.  And a Ferrari.

His mother and I were, to say the least, impressed, and not unmoved.  The kids have been troopers this year.  They’ve never complained about the fact that their lives got thrown a major monkey wrench.  They’ve rolled with things, sometimes better than I have. They’ve taken on more responsibility, they’ve put up with being on their own many afternoons, and they’ve put up better grades since the divorce, not worse.  So they’re entitled to something in return, and I suspect they’ll get something along these lines later in the summer after.  K and I are meeting this morning about other stuff, and this will be tops on the agenda.  We think he’s a bit optimistic about the YouTube, but as long as he’s not using it to pump and dump penny stocks (and I wouldn’t put that past him), I’m not opposed.

If we do go this route?  I want C to do the research, and to figure out for himself what the best game for the money will be.  Partly because I want him to understand that it’s a major decision, and expense, and that we need to make those big purchases carefully, not just because something’s caught our eye.  But the real reason I want him to do the research?

I want to see another one of his powerpoints.


November 14, 2011 Comments Off on dude

“Dude,” said O last night.

“Wait a minute,” I said.  “Did you just call your father dude?

There was a split second pause, and then the unmistakable sound of the girl’s gradual rejection of all that is sweet, lovely, and sparkly.

“Yup,” she said, grinning.  “Suck it up and get over it, dude.”

She got pie anyway.

new species

November 13, 2011 Comments Off on new species

We’re walking in to the grocery store today, and O asks what we need.  I reel off the list, which includes kale.

“I didn’t know this place had fish,” O says.

The foodista merit badge committee would like a word, dear.

black holes

October 28, 2011 Comments Off on black holes

I’ve finally got the TiVO working, and the kids and I have agreed on a fair apportionment of its recording capacity.  NOVA and The Daily Show are my two programs.

So last night we had two NOVAs available–the murdered ice man or the Hubble Telescope.  The Telescope won, and the three of us watched goggle-eyed at footage of the last repair mission.  One scientist talked about how before the Hubble we could only theorize that there were black holes, but with Hubble we could actually see evidence.

“What’s a black hole again?” O asked.

C responded without missing a beat.  “A collapsed star so dense it warps the space-time continuum,” he told her.  And the look on his eleven-year old face made it clear that he was seriously dumbing it down for her.

Have I mentioned that he tests at a college level in science?

decaf mocha

March 23, 2011 Comments Off on decaf mocha

Now that O has discovered decaf mochas, she can’t drink them fast enough.  We did homework at the local cafe yesterday afternoon, and our usual waitress came over and had her chat with the kids–how was spring break, what do you have for homework, etc.  Then she took out her order pad, and O casually threw the decaf mocha bit at her.  The waitress looked right at me and I shrugged.  “Just make sure it’s actually decaf,” I said.  Or I’m leaving her here for the afternoon.

K expressed mild concern at this new habit.  “It’s like a gateway drug,” she said last night.

“Yeah, but it’s a gateway drug to coffee,” I said.  “Which isn’t so much a drug as a religious sacrament for us.  So it’s kind of sharing a family tradition.”

O doesn’t seem any more wired than usual.  And track season starts Thursday, so she’ll have someplace to burn the extra calories and energy.  But I do have visions of her ordering doppio espressos next spring in Rome and the Polizia hauling me away on child endangerment charges…

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