austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

A cloud appears above your head

Wednesday, the first, we got up way too late for the hotel breakfast, so, we checked out and went looking for somewhere to eat in Newark, Delaware. It turns out there is nowhere to eat in Newark, Delaware, and residents apparently are routinely found on the side of the road, collapsed from malnutrition, trying desperately to get to the rim of the Twelve Mile Circle and maybe find a Wawa. After a lot of aimless driving we found a Subway and that would do.

We weren't driving back to New Jersey, though. My youngest brother and family had set up in Maryland, following a new job, and this was our first chance to visit them. While the satellite navigator was still being very weird about actually showing the map instead of a ``device connected to a computer'' screen, it was ... mostly able to get us in the right direction. Apparently my maps are out of date enough that navigating around Baltimore was a mess, with several false turns.

We did have gifts for them, of a sort: about as much more stuff leaving my parents' house as my father was able to get us to take. There'd have been more --- I don't think my father understood that bunny_hugger and I were bringing luggage that had to go in the trunk too --- but I refused, and my sister-in-law was ... certainly aware that much of this stuff existed, and she only sent some of it back. My father insisted that the thick envelope labelled ``AUTOPSY'' wasn't really that, but was some other personal papers.

They took us to a vegetarian/vegan restaurant to which my other brother and family had been last week, and which my parents had also enjoyed. The place was pleasant, pretty friendly, and had Thai offerings so that, guess what I had again.

My niece was a little more matured this time around. She's still energetic, mind you, and a touch bossy, but I think she's getting to be more sociable and a bit better aware of other people's feelings, at least as six-year-olds will do. She was reportedly over getting sick from my other niece, the previous week, which puts us in the position of having two sets of parents each blaming the other's kid for the illness going around. This is just one of those things parents live with, really. I hadn't yet shown any signs of getting sick from the contact the other day, and, as it turns out, I didn't get sick from this visit at all.

My brother managed through his Twitter activities to get invited into trying out Google Glass, which is great, since if there's anything a person who can barely look up from his iPhone needs, it's a computer on his glasses. He did give us the chance to try it out, though, and I have to say, the Google Glass device is ... er ... I don't seem to quite have the knack for doing things before it times out or maybe crashes. I think we got it to take pictures and to give directions to places we didn't really need, but I felt awkward about the whole thing.

We talked into the night, well past when my niece went to bed, and learned something about the town my brother lives in: it's not really a town but some kind of late-60s utopian-vision thing managed not by that pesky ``democracy'' thing but rather some shadowy homeowner association type structure. My brother and his wife evaded all attempts by bunny_hugger (with my assistance) to get answers to things like ``who hires the people making planning decisions'' or even ``who decides what are aceptable house-painting colors'', with the whole thing eventually breaking down into their asserting that we would like it here, we would like it here.

Eventually even my brother went to bed --- he had work and apparently has outgrown the days when he would sleep for maybe twenty minutes a night --- and we got deeper into talks with my sister-in-law that touched on our sense of doom about my parents' move her daughter's new school. This turned into a surprisingly barbed conversation about how unhappy my sister-in-law is with the new ways they're teaching mathematics these days. Since I don't know how they're teaching arithmetic to elementary school students these days I couldn't do much to explain it. However, my natural inclination to things is a mild contrarianism, and I generally feel that making people memorize addition and multiplication tables is a waste of good enthusiasm, so I'm sympathetic to ``experimental'' mathematics. Of course, I also liked the New Math.

(My sister-in-law pointed out how according to a YouTube video some arithmetic procedure that would be really simple the old-fashioned way can take a hundred and two steps done the new way. Perhaps that's so, but, how are steps defined and counted, and how hard is it to know what steps to do, and, is that a typical difference, or is it a freak event? And so on. My sister-in-law also complained, justifiably, that she didn't know how to help her daughter with this new-style mathematics, but she hadn't gone to the parent-teacher session explaining the way it works. Granted the school should offer enough sessions that no parent could reasonably miss them all, but, I can't bring myself to declare that ``that isn't the way we did it when I was in elementary school'' is sufficient argument against a pedagogical technique.)

We went on far too long, really --- I failed to use a couple decent chances to say we should really get to bed --- but eventually we petered out and went to sleep in the downstairs guest bedroom.

Trivia: Moscow in 1840 had about twelve hundred educators, doctors, lawyers, and artists in all. By 1882 it had about five thousand teachers, two thousand doctors, five hundred lawyers, and fifteen hundred artists. Source: The Age Of Capital: 1848 - 1875, Eric Hobsbawm.

Currently Reading: Galatea 2.2, Richard Powers.

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