Monday, December 9, 2019

Read the f·&·%·&ing manual

Apparently if you phone for tech help, less of a thing now, but still, they had an acronym... RTFM.  Read the effing manual. 

Teachers have a similar one.  RTFI.  Gonna guess?  Read the effing instructions!!!!

Honestly, there are two elements at work here.  One is that the hardest thing for a teacher to do is to get the students to think.  I mean really think.  It is easy to bore them, and they sit and gaze out the window.  It's a little harder to get them to pay attention, so they take notes.  It is even harder to get them really engaged.  (I'm not talking about little kids here, they are constantly on, engaged and thinking unless you're REALLY EFFING UP!). So, moving back to what I was saying, it is harder to get them engaged, but the very hardest thing to do is to get them to think.  Really really think about something.  Deeply.

Daniel Kahneman wrote a book, Thinking Fast and Slow, in which he described (at aching horrifying length, he must have had the same editor who worked on Moby Dick, honestly, that book was sooooooo much longer than it needed to be) how there are basically two gears to human thinking, one is semi-automatic and based a lot of 'gut' first impressions, associations, assumptions and preconceived notions.  This is generally pretty effective and saves a ton of time and energy.  Anyone who's spent time with a child who will stare and stare and stare at anything new will realize how much of our day would be taken up by this if we didn't start generalizing knowledge.  Then there's really thinking hard and we are reluctant to do it.  Partially, he argues, cause it is so calorie dense in its requirements. which is an interesting take.  It's also work, plain and simple. 

If I ask you what 4 x 4 is, you can tell me, no problem.  16 x 16, most people will work that out, but sorta groan about it.  3579 x 42?  Almost no one wants to work that out in their head.  That's really thinking hard about something. 

See?  (I would be inclinded, based on experience with lots of different age groups and lots of different students, to argue with this binary description of thought, I think there is rather more nuance to it - see engagement as a different level - but this is not the place for that arguement).

Well, back to students and getting them to really think.  It is HARD to get them to think that thoroughly about something.  It can be done, don't get me wrong, but it is tough and usually requires a fair amount of either brutality (see university physics exams) or creativity - my preferred method.

This ties into getting them to read the instructions, and to learn from their mistakes.  If they don't take a moment to really think about what feedback they've gotten, and what the instructions are, they make mistakes, they screw up, the get lower marks, they burn up a lot of their time uselessly and a lot of the teacher's time too.  All to save a couple of minutes of thinking.

I'll tell you something else from years and years of teaching.  The students who read the feedback automatically, and then maybe even sometimes come up and ask about it?  Always the most successful.

Always.  Cause they're thinking.

Now read the effing instructions!!!! OMFG. (AKA; THINK!!!!)

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Holy Sh*t, we leave in 10 days

OK, Christmas has kinda leapt up on us!  We leave to go have xmas at Eldest's place in 10 days!!!! How did that happen?????

Fortunately I've been thinking about this quite a bit already, so I have a fair idea in general of what I'm getting for folks, and Eldest's two room mates are going to be there to expand the festive fun, and substantially lower the average age of the event!  Should be a blast, honestly, and at six, we'll have enough people that Xmas dinner will be maybe more than a chicken.  We'll see.

Sitting here, planning what to buy and where to buy it!  We're taking trains and ferries to get to the party, so we're carrying just a knapsack each as we'll also have a slightly skittish dog with us.  A bunch will be bought there, and gifts must be small or edible!!!! 

I adore Christmas, I have to confess, pretty excited.  Keen to cook too, this year, feeling motivated!

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Walking the dog

Stella Petronella and we are thoroughly settled in, I'd say.  Obviously over time it will all evolve, but we're all pretty comfy and we have our routines in place!  (Good thing, cause we're about to start travelling with her a LOT!)

But, there is one thing that we are still really really working hard on, and that's walking on a leash.  She's bigger and heavier than Chuck was, about 5 kilos more and is seriously strong.  When she wants to she pulls like a monster.  Truly, it's like having a rope around a horse. My back does not love this.  It goes out from time to time, and I try hard to do all sorts of exercises and sleep right etc etc etc to avoid it springing out on me, but Her Stella-ness if she's in a real mood, can do it to me.  So, she absolutely must learn to walk well on a leash.

My sister in law came to visit and as I've said before gave us the miracle tools to teach this to Stella, now it is mostly persistence, and she has come a million miles and can walk for quite long periods of time with the leash actually loose, no tension at all.  This is my goal for 100% of the time. 

We're not there yet. 

This morning was pretty horrible.  NOTHING like when we got her and she pulled like an absolute train All. The. Time, but still, she was towing me around.  The biggest difficulty was that it was Saturday morning, everyone was out walking their dogs and she wanted to go into town rather than over to the off leash park in the next town. 

Now, she is seriously fascinated by other dogs and wants to watch them, smell them and go up to every single one of them.  So every time we see a dog, or cat, she starts to pull.  We're working on this, but it's a battle.  I may get her to sit instead, but eventually she needs to learn to not drag us over towards whatever she sees.

By the time we got back from our walk this morning, we were both a little grim around the edges, it had been a trying time.  This afternoon went soooooo much better!!!!!  So much better.  We went into town even and it wasn't tooooo bad!  Not so many dogs out, which definitely helped.  Over Xmas the kids will have to be equally consistent with her, I'll have to show them how, cause she simple has got to learn this, or I can't walk her.

Tomorrow?  We're going to the off leash park.  No questions asked.  She's off leash for 90% of a three hour walk, and we need a little joy after the hassle of today.

It's all learning, but sometimes learning is more fun that others. 

Thursday, December 5, 2019

ooops! Sinterklaas

Well, you make your plans!

We had the day all laid out, had an idea of what we were going to do...and it mostly went according to our plan, except the last little bit!  I ran a little late finishing some work for the uni, and we left the boat at around 4.30.  No biggie, stores close around 6ish, and the grocery store later still, around 9.

We get up to the hardware store at 5:15. Closed up tight as a drum with a note on the door.  OK, well.  As we walk through town, a lot more stores are closed.  We start to wonder, is it a holiday or something?  We get to the cheese shop, closed.  Hmmm, what day is it?  Dec 5th?

Jeez, it's the day all the little dutch kids put out their clogs for Santa (sinterklaas) to put presents in!  Ah haa!  How did we forget!!

It's one of the wild things about living in another country, you just don't instinctively know when the holidays are!  Even after all the years we were in Catalunya there were some that came as a surprise every year.

So, happy sinterklass to all the Dutch kids, hope you were good, cause apparently if you weren't he'll put you in a sack and take you back to Spain to teach you to be good.  (echos of slavery????? though honestly, the weather's better there, so you know, it wouldn't be all bad!)

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

And, continuing with the food theme, cooking!

I've suddenly found myself collecting recipes to cook at Xmas when we're all together!  I saw a mention of Shaker Lemon pie, which sounded amazing, it uses two whole unpeeled lemons as the filling!!!!  Plus a lesson for making almond torrons, very simply....then I mentioned that the to man and he said he'd like beer nuts, well, while looking for that recipe I came across about 6 different seasoned nut recipes!!!

OH my.

Let's hope this holds on, we're staying with eldest for 10 days and we'll have to do something to keep them from getting totally sick of seeing our faces before we go!

I'll post if I make something other than Xmas dinner.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019


One of the lovely traditions we've created living on the boat is a cookie with tea (or coffee, or a decaf mocha or even miso soup, as the case may be) in the afternoon!  Hello Peggy!!!!

That of course means that we have to buy cookies, baking them is not a reasonably option on the boat. We've had a bunch of Dutch cookies, particularly the windmill cookies that I remember the dutch kids bringing from school.  They're fine, but I do think they taste slightly undercooked. Plus, they're called 'speculaas' which honestly sounds like a gynocological instrument to me. 

Don't get me wrong, I'll happily eat them, but variety is good too.  Plus there is the packaging, some of the cookies here are so heavily packaged I cannot bring myself to buy them.  Ikea however, famous for their minimal packaging, makes really good cookies.  Honest to goodness, those suckers are delicious.  So today was the day, got on my bike and made the excursion to Ikea for cookies.  10k each way, and well worth the ride.

Got ginger snaps and oatmeal chocolate.  Mmmmmmmmm

Bring on tea time!!!

Monday, December 2, 2019

Reading in a muddle.

How many books do you read at once?

Me?  One at a time.  I read quickly, but I read one book, finish it and go onto the next one.  The man, no, he reads a lot of books at once, at least three of them on the go at any given moment.  Also, he doesn't read as quickly as I do (and remembers much more of what he reads.  Ho hum.)

Right now though I'm reading seven (7!!) at the same time.  I'm not really sure why.  I think a slight dissatisfaction with all of them, so I get irritated and then read something else.  One of them was really good to start with, but has faded.  Another is a weird premise and rather grim, but well written, another not very well written, but part of a series I'm somewhat invested in, so I persist.  Another is great, but a little violent for late at night.  Yet another is a series of essays, fascinating, but not meant for steady reading through, more like snacking.  One looked really promising, but is turning out to be too deeply in the (frankly uniteresting) weeds, and on and on and on.

I'm finding it uncomfortable.  I wish I could find one to settle on and see it through.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

to cabbage head or not to cabbage head

Take a moment to have a look at that image.  It's pretty weird.


To me what is weirdest is how calm everyone is!!!!

Well,  I saw this image at a castle near where we're staying, and did a little homework on it.  It's apparently to do with a 16th century Dutch legend about the Baker of Eeklo.  There's a whole write up about it at this site  if you want to really dig into it, but basically if you aren't happy with your head from some reason, you can go to this baker, they'll chop it off for you replacing it with a cabbage as a temporary measure, then they'll kneed it a bit, maybe a glaze and a rebaking and put it back on for you!  According to the story, though I don't think it shows in the painting, sometimes the reworking doesn't go well, and you just have to live with a misshapen head.

Pretty weird.  Honestly.

Oddly, if you click over to the site there is quite an adorable dog looking out at us looking rather amused at the foibles of the humans.  He's sitting next to the basket of heads in the foreground.  Sadly, in this version, he's missing.

See?  There he is from the other page.