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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Yes or No?

Maxine figured out some time ago, before we left Korea, that if you asked her a question starting with "Do," and she answered "No," it would get a laugh. And like her Daddy, Maxine always likes going for the laugh. So I am used to being able to get her to say what I want by carefully phrasing my yes/no questions. It has no impact whatsoever on her behavior, but it keeps me and Horyon entertained.

Yesterday evening Horyon asked me to sing a song for Maxine so she could work on her hair before bedtime. I sang "Oh, Susannah," going right into "Someone's in the kitchen with Dinah," giving quite a spirited performance, complete with little actions and the occasional sound effect. When I finally finished, out of breath and quite proud of myself, Maxine just stared at me. No smile, no clapping. Nothing. I asked her, "Why are you staring at Daddy like he's crazy?" Of course this got no response, so I reworded, keeping in mind her tendency to answer "Do" questions with "No":

"Do you think Daddy is crazy?" I asked.

Her immediate answer was, "Yes." I just about lost it, and Horyon laughed out loud. I thought to myself that she was going into a new pattern, so I tried testing it:

"Do you think that Mommy is crazy?"

"No." Aha. The child already has some discernment.

"Do you think Maxine is crazy?"

"Yes." Now that's Daddy's little girl. Horyon and I laughed, and of course Maxine joined in. Because for her anytime someone else is laughing is a good time for her to laugh.

For what it's worth, she still answers "no" when asked if she loves Daddy. I don't mind so much, because I can still get a kiss on demand.

Another recent development was her first phone conversation that didn't involve her just sitting and listening to the phone. Now she has practiced quite a bit on remote controls, and seemed to have no trouble vocalizing in that situation. But whenever we put her on a real phone she just clams up. Then the other day when my Dad called, I put her on and she actually talked! She was following my cues, just echoing "Hi", "How are you?" and a few of her other words, but Dad was surprised at how well he could understand her.

The closer we get to real conversation, the more excited I am. I am so looking forward to knowing what she is thinking. Growing up my parents always had at least one cat in the house, and I always wondered what they were thinking. Maxine has been a little bit the same, except that someday she will be able to tell me! And she doesn't shed!

In other news, my test was postponed until next Tuesday, July 3rd. The prof. was worried that there wasn't enough material for a test this Friday. Right. Today he threw some stuff at us that was completely incomprehensible to me. It helped a bit that he told us up front that it would be so, and that he wasn't putting any of it in the homework, but it was still not fun. It's hard taking notes on something that you just don't get. If he goes into it again tomorrow, I'm going to raise my hand and tell him that I'm clueless, because I'm pretty sure I'm not alone.

Other than that, I guess it's going well. Horyon has been sick the last few days. We are uninsured, so we're not going to a clinic unless it gets worse. Right now she has a slight cough and a fever that Tylenol is managing. The rough part is that she needs more sleep than she can get. Like all day. That leaves me with Maxine most of the day, trying to do my homework at night, and waking up early to go to class. I'm glad the test is next week, because I wouldn't be ready for one tomorrow, even if I had used this Roblog time for statistics. And if I don't get on here once a week or so, I feel like I'm letting the time slip by and completely disappear into the past. I need a record of what's happened! And you get to share it! Lucky you!



Monday, June 25, 2007

I found this to be compelling.

I got my first test back today. 69%. Ouch. I am definitely out of practice, though I managed to predict my grade fairly well. Fortunately, I have another opportunity this Friday to show that I got what it takes to go statisticking. Becoming a teacher is looking to be an uphill, long-term battle. This video kind of reminds me of why I want to do it.

Friday, June 22, 2007

First Test

I took my first test today in my Statistics for Engineers and Scientists class. I think that if I drew a cumulative probability curve, my chances are about 100% of passing, dropping to a zero percent chance of getting an A. (Unless everyone else in the class did as poorly as I, which I seriously doubt.)

It's almost enough to make me feel sorry for my former students. Almost. The thing with taking a summer course is that it's so concentrated, there isn't time for the various formulas to sink in. We've turned in a total of 4 homework assignments so far. My average has been around 88%. At the time I am doing them, I feel fairly confident in my understanding. Some problems have required further explanation from the prof, but in the end I understood what was going on with all of them. I just didn't have all of the formulas memorized. I put together my study guide, three pages of notes. If I had been able to look at my study guide, I would have finished in 20 minutes, instead of using the entire 50. As it was, I had to reconstruct a few things from scratch, rather than just using formulas. And when you do it that way, you run the risk of getting it wrong. Which I did. More than once.

However, his homework grading style was somewhat generous in partial credit. I hope that his test grading is the same.

I went to bed at 1 a.m. last night, and woke up at 7:30. This is about the smallest amount of sleep I can get away with. If it weren't for the bike ride to school, it wouldn't be enough, but huffing and puffing my way up Mt. Oread gets the blood flowing, and leaves me plenty awake for class. Sure I drip some sweat on the desk, but that's the price you pay for quality transportation.

Anyway, I considered staying up to study later, "cramming" more formulas into my head. I'm still not sure if I made the best choice. In my youth I would have stayed up, and it might have payed off. Now I'm not so sure.

I tacked another six miles on to the five mile ride home. I just needed to work out some frustrations. I'm beginning to understand that the decision to "go back to grad school" is not one to be made lightly.

I made up for the extra exercise by allowing my lovely and generous wife to treat me to lunch at Buffalo Bob's Smokehouse. It's always been one of my favorites in Lawrence, and I hadn't been since we returned to the States in April. I had a huge plate of meats (chicken, sausage, ham, turkey and ribs) piled high with curly fries, some coleslaw and baked beans, and a fritter for dessert. Oh man oh man, there is nothing better my friends. No doubt you can feel your arteries hardening just from reading this, but believe me, it's worth it. And I still have a pretty good pile of food in the fridge waiting for me. Calling to me, in fact. It's saying, "Rob? Are you still there? Hey, whada ya say to a late nite snack of MEAT, baby? Oh yeah, U no U want it, so come on over here and git it!"

Fortunately, I'm tired enough to ignore it. It's been a long day. A day that started with an uphill bike ride followed by an uphill test. Time to get to sleep.



Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day! (One of Two)

I would like to celebrate Father's Day this year by posting a few pictures of my father. These pictures are special because as far as my Dad knew, all copies of them had been lost in a house fire many years ago. He mentioned this to his cousin Joanne, and she mentioned to me that she had found a few copies of Dad's baby pictures, and would I like to have some scans of them?

You can bet I jumped all over that action. And boy, did it pay off.

This first post will include just one picture:
The white streaks are glare in the actual photo, not a problem with the scanner or anything else that can be fixed without a time machine. The man and woman are Melvin and Kay Sack, my grandparents. The tallest girl is Dad's sister Charlotte, and the other girl is his sister Opal. The baby is my Dad, Richard Sack. Isn't he cute?
In this close-up it's easier to make out their faces. When I look at Grandma and Grandpa just right I can recognize them. It's a good deal harder for me to imagine them in color and moving around, but I have it on very good authority that color had been around for quite some time in 1945, when this picture was taken.
As you can see, Dad's father was very proud of his little boy. And I am sure that he always was, even though he was not very good at expressing that kind of feeling.

Seeing Grandpa with a pipe in his mouth also makes me sad. He had given up smoking long before I knew him, but he had replaced it with chewing. However he took it, the poison eventually got him, just as it had gotten Aunt Opal some years previously.

My mental picture of him is thinner than in this picture, but still strong. And quiet. He just didn't talk much. I remember his laugh, though it was heard less than Grandma's. My strongest memory of him is not really a direct one. Chris and I used to stay with Grandpa and Grandma Sack in Emporia once a year. Our parents would drop us off and go do the stuff that parents do when they aren't dragging their kids around for a few days. (I'm finally coming to a better understanding of this.)

One time my brother got in trouble with Grandpa, and Grandpa yelled at him. A little later they went off together for a talk. And much later Grandma told me that Grandpa had apologized to Chris. She told me that it was a pretty hard thing for him to do. And I remember thinking that it must be hard for someone as old, no, make that ancient, as Grandpa to change his way of thinking. And I was proud of him for it.

Now I realize that you don't have to be in your 50s (or 60s, or whatever) to be stubborn. That kind of change is hard for most people. But I am no less proud of him for it.

Right. It's Father's Day, but that also counts as Grandfather's Day, right? Check the next post for more about my Dad.

Happy Father's Day! (Two of Two)

I want you to take a close look at this family. Something is missing. Yeah, they look happy enough, I suppose, but all four of them look a bit sad. We all know why. No Richard. He's just a gleam in his daddy's eye, though it's possible that by the time of this photo he's more of a gleam in his mommy's uterus. Perhaps that explains the hint of a smile on Grandma Sack's face.Nothing, however, explains Grandpa's hair. Joanne was guessing that whoever took the picture yelled, "Melvin! Take off your hat so we can see your face!" He may have tried arguing, but obviously lost.

And suddenly Dad is in the world. As you can see below, he was unimpressed. (Joanne was placing this photo in the spring of 1945, probably a few miles south Bunker Hill, KS, based on the way there is absolutely nothing to break the horizon other than these smiling kids.)
The kids so proud to be posing with him are his sisters, Charlotte and Opal (the girls in the middle and on the right, respectively), and his cousins, Duane and Gail. They were the children of Melvin's brother, Roy.
Melvin and Kay were very close to Roy and Florence. Though Florence and Kay were only related by virtue of marrying brothers, they got along better than many true sisters. Grandma and Aunt Florence even looked like sisters. They continued to visit and keep in touch until Grandma started to slip away. I once gave Grandma a ride to visit with Florence during winter break around '91-'92 on my way to visit my g.f. at the time. The two families spent a lot of time together

Next thing you know, there's baby Richard jumping rope.
I have no idea why they posed a baby with a jump rope. It does sort of explain why I've never seen my Dad jump rope, I suppose. This looks pretty traumatic to me. You will never catch me taking photos of Maxine doing silly things. Unless you read my blog.

Seeing Dad, Aunt Charlotte and Aunt Opal in pictures like this is fascinating. It's still difficult to mentally transition them from black and white, still pictures like this into kids that ran around, playing, undoubtedly getting dirty and having fun, and all that other stuff that kids do. Intellectually I know it's true, but it's hard to absorb it as a truth.

Dad, I hope you enjoy seeing these pictures again. If you have anything to add, I will be happy to post it here.

And now, I would like to catch up to the present: My Dad has been a very good father. If I am in any way doing a good job with Maxine, it is because I had a most excellent teacher. Not only did he do a great job, he continues to be a good father to me, a good father-in-law to Horyon, and a good grandfather to Maxine. He has put as much, if not more, time and sweat into this house than I have. He has prepared a sewing room for Horyon that is everything she hoped for, and more. He has probably used up his next ten years' quota of getting stuff done on time to make us feel that we are living in a home, and not just a house. He is always ready to listen when I have a problem, and usually able to give helpful advice. I'm not even going to go into the money he has spent on us, the minivan he bought before we even arrived (which we're still going to pay for!), the expertise he brings to home construction, the loads of stuff he's hauled away for us, the meals he's cooked and bought for us. I will simply leave it at this:

Moving back to America has been physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting. I'm not sure we would have come back, if not for my parents. And I know we couldn't have done this well without them. I know Mom didn't get a big Mother's Day write-up, but this goes for you as well. We love you both, and are more grateful than you can imagine.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Growing Up

Today as I was riding my bike home from class I saw little bunny rabbit. I thought to myself, "There's Bunny," and made a little satisfied "Hmm" sound. And then I felt just a little bit sad.

Goodnight Moon was one of Maxine's favorite books. She still likes it from time to time, but it's no longer a favorite. One way we would read it was for her to point at different things in the room, and I would name them. If you are not familiar with Goodnight Moon, it's basically about a young bunny saying goodnight to all the stuff in his great, green room, which includes, but is not limited to, a red balloon, a light, a comb, a brush and a bowl full of mush, and a bunch of other stuff. Maxine would kind of obsess about the fireplace and the tools with it, even though the little bunny never said goodnight to them, or in any way admitted that they were present.

When Maxine pointed to the bunny, I would say, "There's Bunny," or "That's Bunny." And Maxine would give a little chuckle through her pacifier (because it was usually a bed time book, and the pacifier is only for bed time). She didn't laugh or make noises about other things in the great green room. I suspect that the connection had to do with one of her toys; a Beanie Baby rabbit, which we called (you guessed it) Bunny. There's no way to verify it, but I think she was very amused that her Bunny was also in her book. And it was funny enough to provoke a response.

I was getting the Bunny laugh up until February, when it started to peter out. By the time we got to America, it was no longer amusing. And I miss that little pacifier-muted chuckle. It means that my little girl is growing and changing. Inevitable as that is, and although I am aware of it intellectually, it is something else to experience it. It's a reminder that most, if not all of her current behaviors will be gradually replaced by new ones. I am sure that some of them will gradually accrue as the core of her personality, like reading books, giving Mommy and Daddy hugs and kisses, and saying "no" all the time. But the actual day-to-day actions will, for the most part, will fade into the past.

It puts me in a slightly melancholy mood, while at the same time it fills my heart with joy. Maxine is less than two years old, and it's already hard for me to hold a complete mental picture of her entire life in my mind. When I think about God knowing how many hairs are on my head, I figure it means something more like this: having a complete mental picture of my entire life, from conception to death. Maxine is the first person I have ever wanted to know like that. I love Horyon so much, but exploring each other is part of that relationship. I love my parents, too, but I still want them to be more permanent than me, and beyond my comprehension in some way. (Blah. That's not exactly what I want to say, but it's as close as I'm going to get at this time of night.)

I want to know her entire life. I am truly blessed to have experienced it so far. As she gets older I know that my concept of Maxine will be less and less accurate. When she leaves home it will become even more so. I can't really know her completely now, and I never will be able to. And so I am trusting that God does have that mental picture of Maxine's life, and that God loves her even more than I do. God will remember the way she giggled when I named Bunny in Goodnight Moon, and God will remember all of the other details that I have forgotten, and will forget.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

New Bike with Class

I bought a new bike and it's swell.
It is silver and has it's own bell,
The frame is made from
mostly aluminum:
Carbon fiber is costly as hell.

I found that my old bike, which I paid about $500 for in Korea, could not be purchased new here in the States for less than around $1100. Guess I should have shipped it home. The thing is, it was just a bit small for me.

The new one is nice. It's a much more comfortable ride. The price for the bike itself was about $400, but by the time I had purchased a helmet, a basic computer, tire patch kit, water bottles and cages to hold them, and some handlebar extensions, I had pushed it up to around $545. I bought it from Sunflower, in downtown Lawrence. A good investment, I think. Sunflower has classes in bike maintenance, and they offer a couple of free tune-ups with the purchase of a bike.

They also carry an amazing selection of stuff, both for biking and for general outdoor use. Their web page really doesn't do them justice. They need to have a couple of pictures of the inside of the store itself. It's an old building that has a lot of personality on its own. When you walk in, there are bikes and biking equipment all over the place. Their shop is in the back of the building, but it isn't closed off from the main space. It's all in the open so you can see their mechanics working on bikes. Very good stuff. Now all they need is someone to make it more obvious on their web page.

In related news, I started a statistics class Tuesday. Unfortunately, I have not been in Kansas earning a living for the past 365 days, so I must pay out-of-state tuition. This three-hour class is going to cost me $1450, plus $159 in campus fees. Yikes. For in-state I would be paying $551, plus the $159 in campus fees. Hopefully I can remedy this situation before I've been here for the full 365 days. In the mean time, I guess I grin and bare it.

Sorry, I mean bear it.

The class itself is interesting for a couple of reasons: first of all, I've been teaching for the past 12 years, and now the shoe is on the other foot. And if you've ever put your shoe on the wrong foot, you know how uncomfortable that can be. The very first day of class, prof. Stahl wrote something on the blackboard (sorry, I meant whiteboard), murmured to himself, "No, that's not right," then found that there was no eraser. He told us that he had expected to bring his own marker, but just figured there would be an eraser here, then wandered off to get one. I was surprised that he made it back in just a couple of minutes. At Kyungsung, I would have sent a student to get it, and been surprised if it came within five minutes.

I don't miss the hassle of dealing with ill-equipped classrooms. Not one bit. I do kind of miss being in front of the class, though. Prof. Stahl obviously knows his stuff, but his style of dealing with class is different than mine. Undoubtedly due in part to some of the differences in our circumstances. I try to make a habit of asking questions in every lecture, and waiting for answers before moving on. It's a good way to check that the students are actually following me, and not falling asleep. Prof. Stahl reacts well to questions, but doesn't really ask us anything. During our third class, he said something that wasn't exactly a question, but had a slight rising tone at the end, suggesting a question. Then he appeared to be waiting for an answer. Of course he didn't get one, because by the third day we all "know" that we will not be required to speak during the lecture. I think he sort of realized that too, after a brief, somewhat awkward pause.

It is refreshing to be in a classroom in which control is not a problem. All of the students (about 12 of us) are there because we want to learn the math and/or pass the class. (I am hoping and planning to get an "A". My undergrad g.p.a. was a trifle low, and this, plus three more hours of "A" credit will boost me up into the acceptable range for grad school.) No one talks on their phone, or puts on make-up, or talks to other students, or brings pets. A few of us drink beverages, but I always considered that acceptable from my students. My only regret in being in this serious, adult classroom is that I am not the teacher!

Friday our first homework was due. I got off to a bad start. Stayed up until 4 a.m. finishing. I'm getting too old for that crap. I'll try to keep you all posted on how well I do in the future. Perhaps the shame element will boost my productivity and advance planning.

Oh, the connection between the bike and the class is simple: I ride to and from school on my bike. It's about 5 miles (8 km) one way, and I've been doing it in about 30 minutes. Most of KU is perched on Mt. Oread. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a mountain, especially after living in Busan and Nepal, but it is a respectable hill. This week I've been trying different approaches to find out which route gets me to class with the least amount of sweat on my body.

I try to get an extra mile or two (2 or 3 km) in on my way home from class. I'm getting a lovely farmer tan. Just this week of riding every day (except today) has started to get me back in shape. By Friday I was much less winded than I was on Monday (my dry run before class started). This class runs through the end of July. I figure that by then I will be back in the kind of biking shape I was in before Maxine was born. Maybe I can even lose a couple of pounds along the way.

Well, I should sign off and get to my homework. I told Horyon yesterday that I wouldn't blog or email until I had done my homework, and now I've done both. Great start, Rob. Way to aim for the "A".

A Brief Introduction

Roblog is my writing lab. It is my goal to not let seven days pass without a new post. I welcome your criticism, as I cannot improve on my own.

Here is a link to my cung post, which remains the only word which I have ever invented, and which has not, as far as I know, caught on. Yet.