First Contact

A bunch of my friends and I were hanging out in my room telling jokes and acting like typical guys. I was lying on the bed when a flash of light emanated from the right of my headboard. Suddenly, there were three large yellow and black spider-like creatures hanging in webs where the light had come from! They were the biggest spiders I had ever seen. I am sure they were not there a moment ago! When one of the guys saw them, he yelled, “That big one is the size of a dinner plate.” After a moment of relative panic, we calmed down enough to look at the spiders. The largest was at least 10 inches across and the two smaller ones were maybe six inches across. They were bright yellow with dark black markings all through their bodies; they were huge! Before we had much time to consider our options, the spiders leaped out of their web across the room in different directions. One of them landed on my shirt in the middle of my chest. I screamed and instinctively slapped it. A high pitch squeal came from the creature. Its insides squirted in all directions. Similar reactions by my friends brought the quick demise of the other creatures. We all stood there in silence for a while surveying the green goo that was all over the room. A loud buzzing noise began to fill our ears and seemed to be increasing in loudness. Without warning the room began shaking violently back and forth as a booming voice filled my head…”Charlie, you better get up or you are going to be late for Jerry’s class!”

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That’s Why You Call It a Quarter

Fractions may be one of the most difficult concepts to teach middle schoolers. The routine usually goes something like this. Johnny, how much pizza would you get if I gave you a quarter of a pizza? Johnny would reply “I doughno.”
Johnny, if the man at the pizza place cuts the pizza into fourths how much pizza would you get? “I doughno.” OK Johnny, if I give you a quarter of a dollar how much am I giving you? Twenty-five cents, he answers with a big smile on his face. Johnny, what do you call twenty-five cents? A quarter, he replies, like maybe I am dumb or something.
Why do you think they call it a quarter, I ask? He answers smugly, because it is. So Johnny if I ask for a quarter of a pizza, how much pizza will I get? Johnny answers, twenty five cents worth”?

I believe the problem has its roots in basic child behavior. Children do not deal in parts of things; they deal in whole things. When a child has a candy, it would be a rare occasion for a young child to approach that child and ask for a fraction of the bar, or maybe a percentage; the child wants the whole thing. There is no room for compromise on this issue.
This may be an insight to a much deeper process that is taking place in the inner sanctuaries of a child s brain. Early man was not interested in parts of things. I mean, ask yourself: Would you want part of the latest wild boar kill? Did he place fences up and divide the land in to sections? No! Early man wanted the whole thing and nothing but the whole thing. Maybe children are more like early man than they are like modem adults. Maybe we should give up this silly notion of trying to teach children fractions. Of course, maybe there is another factor involved here. Could it be that we adults enjoy teaching fractions because we know in our hearts that the children cannot hope to learn them, thus assuring our position on the top of the mathematical mountain. Just a thought…
So Johnny, if you cut a pizza into fourths and four people are eating the pizza, how many pieces does each child get? Johnny thinks for a minute and finally says one each with a large smile stretched across his face. I reply, yes that is very good. Now, Johnny how much pizza would you get? He replies one piece. Yes Johnny, but what fraction of the pizza would you get. A quarter, he replies. Yes Johnny, but could you say that like a fraction, like one third or one half. Yes, Johnny replies, it would be one fourth?
You did it! So Johnny, if I gave you a third of a pizza how many pieces would you get? “I doughno.” For those of you who have not taught, this may seem a little trite, but to the experienced teacher this is a regular occurrence…and I must admit, are very frustrating part of education.

Men are from Mars, women are from Wal-Mart

My wife is a loving and caring lady…at least, most of the time. Several years ago she took her dog to be shaved at a local dog salon, for lack of a better word. When she went to pick the dog up, the lady told her that just because she loved her animals, she did not need to feed them all the time. The obese shaved dog waddled to the car and attempted to make the jump to the back of the van, unsuccessfully I might add. I often repeat this story because it is so much fun to tell. Recently, while my mind was exploring the many weird and confusing things that happen around me all the time, I came across this revelation that I will share with you. I think it has relevance to the obese dog story.
My wife buys cookies and candy all the time and places them where I can see them. Sometimes she hides them in relatively easy places to find-kind of game we play. Right now in our kitchen there are peanut butter cookies, Reese’s peanut butter cups, candy chocolate kisses, Dove chocolate bars, ice cream, chips, and numerous other fattening treats. I have asked my wife not to buy these things. She says she buys them for me and if I do not want them, I should just not eat them.

Now, this is where “the men are from Mars” part comes in. I have talked to several of my friends (yes, I have a few friends!) who have all expressed the same concern. They believe, like me, that if the snacks were not in the house, they would or could not eat them. Sometimes when I am feeling strong I can walk by a snack a couple of times, but eventually the snack wins! Most of my friends are either trying to lose weight or trying to maintain their weight so snacking is a no-no. I have pleaded with my wife to stop buying these things but she continues. This leads me to one inevitable conclusion, she is unable to stop gathering. It is her nature to gather, collect, store and keep the man-cave properly stocked. I surmise that in early times a woman could keep her man happy by bringing him sweet roots or berries. This behavior is apparently ingrained in a woman’s brain. On the other hand, I am programmed as much as one can be to chase down a buffalo or caribou and must consume lots of calories to do this. So how do I solve this problem?
I have even considered throwing the snacks out but I am not that strong. Once the snack touches my hand and the smell reaches my nose, there is an uncontrollable tendency to place the snack in my mouth.
I am at a loss; I do not know how to fix these apparent inherited tendencies. Therefore, I am throwing it out to all my readers to make suggestions on how we men can get through this hereditary conundrum. We must keep our wives happy and so allow them to gather as they are programmed to do as we keep ourselves from consuming everything that is placed in front of us…Help!

INCREMENTAL

Change in most situations is a gradual occurrence with an occasional burst. A seashore experiences gradual erosion which will eventually change its shape. Education, for example, an area I am somewhat familiar with, has changed immensely over the last 90 years but very gradually with events that remained below most of our radar. When I began teaching, some of the older teachers warned me that things were getting crazier and crazier. Thirty years later I found myself telling the young teachers the same thing. Freedom can also be lost over a time. Giving up one’s rights in small incremental portions that seem to be insignificant at the time, leads to a loss of freedom. Here is one of my favorites-love! Folks get married because they are deeply in love but as the years pass, too often love begins to wane because tiny events occur that are quietly swept under the rug. Over time, this proverbial “love-dirt” collects, leading to one partner quietly falling out of love. Then one day he or she announces to the partner, “I don’t love you any more.” This did not happen overnight; it occurred over many nights and many small events. Physical fitness is also an area of gradual change. We do not get old over-night. We get old over what seems like a long period of time. It happens when one day a person decides to go up one step at a time instead of two, or when a small hole is something he goes around instead of jumping. The fact that we get older and slower is non-negotiable, but be forever diligent in your fight against aging. Age will win in the end, but I plan on fighting till my very last breath.
As we head off into a new century we are going to experience change at an ever-accelerating rate in every aspect of our lives. Like Siddhartha in Herman Hesse’s book, let the stream take you down the river and do not get stuck behind a rock and spend your entire existence fighting a rock that is not going to move. Change can be good, keeping us alert and making us keep a watchful eye on the course we take. In a nut shell, my advice to all my friends for the upcoming decade is – enjoy all the people around you, watch for small changes, decide if moving on is more productive than fighting and take the stairs two at a time for as long as you can.

Watch for my next blog in a couple of days; Men are from Mars, women are from Wal-Mart.