Sunday, October 30, 2005

Ho Hum

The game was not ho-hum; oh no, it was an exciting game. However, after the third quarter, the score was 6-1, and Jacob's team had been given a "cease and desist" order in the scoring department. So they spent the fourth quarter playing keep-away -- and got more great scoring chances in that quarter from playing as a team than they did the rest of the game on their superior one-on-one skill breakaways. It was a proud day for papa.

(For the record, though, Mia's team lost their game in a close 2-1 match. I'm still licking my wounds as a coach.)

Oh, come ON!

Miriam's teacher has yet to reveal the correct answer to the Rat Population problem (see below), but she did say this: if the first generation is born on day 1 (Jan. 1), the next litter is born 40 days thereafter -- that would be day 41. So far, so good. The next litter is born 40 days after that, but counting begins NOT on day 41 as day 1 of the next cycle, but on day 42, the following day. Thus, the second litter is born not on day 81, the third on 121, etc.; instead, the birth-days for the litters of the first rat couple are 82, 123, 164, etc.

Does this way of interpreting the question seem counter-intuitive for anyone else? Or even flat-out wrong? We're relatively frustrated by the way this interpretation gets rid of the symmetry of the problem, inhibiting the discovery of math formulae to solve it. I insist that Mia's teacher has taken a perfectly interesting math problem and turned it into a stupid busy-work assignment. Math geeks, I need to hear from you.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Like a Rat in a Maze

The whole family has been sucked into a math POW (problem of the week) that has been vexing Miriam. We have tried solving the problem in 27 different ways, using color-coded charts, excel spreadsheets, algebraic formulae, playing with fibonacci numbers -- you name it, we've tried it. We always arrive at the same answer. You'd think that would suggest convincingly that we've done it right. But no. Miriam's teacher insists that answer is wrong. Grrr.

Here's the problem:

Two rats, one male and one female, scampered on board a ship that was anchored at a local dock. The ship set sail across the ocean. When it anchored at a deserted island in late December, the two rats abandoned the ship to make their home on the island. Under these ideal conditions, it might be interesting to estimate the number of offspring produced from this pair in one year. You should make these four assumptions:
  • The number of young produced in every litter is six, and three of those six are females.
  • The original female gives birth to six young on January 1 and produces another litter of six 40 days later and every 40 days thereafter as long as she lives.
  • Each female born on the island will produce her first litter 120 days after her birth and then produce a new litter every 40 days thereafter.
  • The rats are on an island with no natural enemies and plenty of food so no rats will die in this first year.
What will be the total number of rats by the following January 1, including the original pair?

We'd love any assistance on this one. Remember to show your work.

Soccoup d'etat

Yes, that's me on the sidelines at a soccer game, looking at important papers, making very important decisions. I'm a power player now in the world of AYSO soccer. Specifically, I'm Mia's coach. How this came to be is a tale of power-grabbing, false alliances, shady back-room deals, and full-grown adults acting like snippy middle-schoolers.

The Reader's Digest Abridged version of that story is this: Some parents on the team were not happy with the coach for many reasons, giving the whole team a negative vibe, an undercurrent of dissatisfaction. (It didn't help that the team hasn't been winning lately). Then at a recent practice there was a coaching tantrum, which led to a parent-coach tête-à-tête, which led to many of the parents going to the powers-that-be (a mini-drama in itself) demanding a change of leadership. At that parents' meeting, it became plain that a coup d'etat was a fait accompli, and the discussion turned to the question "qui est la grande fromage now?" Only one parent on the team was properly certified, but she lamented that she didn't "know anything about soccer." Of course, this begs some intriguing questions about the certification process, but we'll let that be for now.

Absent during the inciting event, I had little to say at the parents meeting. I was sitting quietly reading Alexander Schmemann's Liturgical Theology, when a parent said: "Hey, you know how to play, don't you? I've seen you work after practice with Mia. You know what you're doing. Why don't you coach?"

"Yes," I replied. "I did play when I was young and spry. And I do know what I'm doing. But I'm not certified. And there are other problems...." And then I suddenly became, much to my own surprise, the truth-telling equal-opportunity prophetic scold, chastising one faction for undermining the coach's authority with snide comments on the sideline, and chastising the other for culpable loyalty, ignoring manifest coaching faults. I don't remember exactly what I said -- I think I might have been channelling Dr. Phil.

Anyway, you might expect that I'd be blacklisted after that. Apparently not. Instead, the parents decided to make the certified mom head coach, and me the "unofficial assistant coach." Unofficial, because I'm not certified. But you can guess who actually assigns positions, yells encouragement and instruction to the girls at the game, and runs drills at practice. Yes, I'm the Karl Rove of AYSO.

By the way, we won our first game Saturday 3-0.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Soulless Student Drones # 8236862-8236864

The kids were complaining again today about having to wear their school uniforms. They suggest that the authorities at VCS, with their love of conformity, are attempting to turn them into soulless student drones. So here's my little brood of Blond borg in chino shorts and polo shirts.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Here we go again...

Last winter during the rainy season we endured record flooding here in Sun Valley, which quickly revealed itself as the flood capital of greater LA. Today, after two days of rain, we're back to flood conditions again, with the water rushing down the streets and turning the outer lanes into turbulent rivers. Storm drains? Say, what a novel idea! We should get some!

Waiting to turn the corner from our street onto the main street, up to our chassis in churning water, makes us wish longingly that Pip really did have super powers and could part the waters like Charleton Heston. The kids were saying yesterday that instead of living near Sunland Ave. in Sun Valley, we live near Floodland Ave. in Rain Valley.

It should clear up tonight, we hope in enough time to dry out the soccer fields for tomorrow's practices.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Threshhold of Oblivion

While stuck in LA traffic this weekend on the way back from our camping trip, we were playing one of those guessing games designed to keep everyone from killing each other in the car. The game is called "I'm thinking of something" and it involves asking yes-or-no questions of one player, who must have a person, place, or thing in mind.

We had discovered through our questions that Philip was thinking of a person, and the rest of us were trying to figure out how old this person was.

"Is the person older than 40?" we asked. "Uh... " Philip hesitated, "I have no idea. I only know, like, five people that old."

So apparently in his six-year-old mind, 40 is the threshold of oblivion. Once you're 40, fine distinctions cease to matter. You're just oooooollllllllld, baby -- and fading fast.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

The Cheyenne Say...

No doubt the spirits of Native Americans past were getting a good laugh at us this weekend as we set up camp with our thin little tent and summer-weight sleeping bags. "Paleface idiots," they chortled, "don't they realize that at 7000 feet in October, the weather drops below freezing at night?"

After passing a shivery, sleep-deprived first night, we vowed to survive the next night in better shape. If this were a Dr. Quinn episode, we reasoned, the hunky mountain man, Sully, would be muttering something about what the Cheyenne would do in our situation. So we decided to try the ancient Native American fire-heated-rock-in-the-sleeping-bag trick.

Here are some things we discovered:
  • If you put eight or nine rocks in the firepit, they won't all heat equally.
  • It's a good idea to wrap the rock in a towel before putting it in the sleeping bag.
  • If the rock is too hot, however, it will singe the towel and may even start it a-smouldering.
  • If this happens, you will wind up with the charred, shredded remains of your teenage mutant ninja turtle towel, and a sense of relief that someone noticed the smell before the children burst into flames.
  • If you get the rock temperature right, this solution actually works great and can help keep you warm all night.
So all in all, it was an educational weekend. We learned all kinds of things about sequoias as well as a thing or two about the survival (barely) of the not-quite-fittest.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Sequoiadendron Giganteum

This weekend we made a pilgrimage to Sequoia National Park, about five hours north of LA. Here we are, paying homage to the world's largest living thing. We discovered many interesting things about these lovely, long-lived, cinnamon-colored giants. For instance, sequoias produce dainty little cones about the size of chicken eggs, while their neighbors in the woods, the skinny, comparatively unremarkable jeffrey pines and sugar pines, produce cones so enormous you could use them to defend yourself against bears. Not that we had to do this, thankfully.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Daddy, where do guitar picks come from?

Apparently they mine them.

(This post inspired by the family's trip yesterday to the LA Museum of Natural History. Additional picture [and, incidentally, another Deb-posting] on the Theologiggle blog.)