Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Ratio of Humble Pie is...

Oh who cares?  I'm eating the whole pie.

Which is good because while I know Pi =3.14159265359...I've never once understood why, not even when I learned it.  Back in the day, I just memorized and regurgitated, without ever understanding.  Perhaps because few math facts ever were digested, it continues to disagree with me.  At the very least, we lack tolerance for one another. However this discipline and I have worked out an uneasy truce, born of years of systemic consenting neglect, reinforcing our mutual disdain.

But today, I forced myself to reenter the math world, and discovered a whole new reason to hate it.

I'm studying for the Praxis, and that means passing the math.   That means studying.   It also means my teenagers get to mock me mercilessly for my errors.   I'd love to tell them to knock it off, but it's hard to do that when you need them to explain the problems.   It is the cost of doing business with adolescent tutors.

I took the English practice Praxis.  I scored a 99 of 100 and finished in 1/3 of the time.

I took the Math practice and got a 63.   If they don't let me use scratch paper, it will be far worse.

During the exam, I could hear my gray cells squeaking and creaking, as the neurons fired up and found that a whole section of my grey matter needs dusting.   I did remember the slope formula y=mx+b.  Alas, I found it a slippery slope formula as I couldn't remember what to do with it.   On a multiple choice quiz, you don't get any points for recalling partially what is needed, and eenie-meenie-miney-moe proved itself to be an unreliable method of determining the answer.  So much so, I'm fairly certain when I take the actual test, there will be a word problem as follows:

If Sherry guesses at the Praxis on the math section for 1/5 of the 40 problems and gets only 1/5 of those guesses correct, what total number did she miss by guessing?  (I'm not going to go easy on you and give you the answer not because I'm mean but because I actually don't know, don't want to know, and don't want to know even if you know, how to know it).  

So after listening to my children question how I could not know what I obviously did not, how I could forget so much, how I've managed to walk upright and drive given my limited command of arithmetic, I went back to the world of words and took another test.  But my brain felt tired.  I scored only a 92.

Looking at the score with disgust and fatigue, all I could say was, "Et tu Brutus?" and wonder if I failed badly enough, would they send me to 7th grade as a student?   My only comfort, one day, these teenagers will grow up, they'll become adults in the adult world, and hopefully, they'll have children.  Hopefully, one day they'll discover they've been lapped by their kids, and I'll be right there, handing them the recipe for humble pie or Pi.   You take 3.14159265359...


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Toasting Today's Sunday Funnies

My children seldom concern themselves with what day of the week it is unless there is a birthday, vacation or field trip pending. As such, Sunday mornings feel like every other morning.  My five year old son comes down the stairs, observes that no one is up yet, feels peckish but knows he's not supposed to help himself.  Being helpful, he brings the loaf of bread or at least a few slices to our closed door and slips them under the door.   "MOMMMMMMmmmmmmm." he gently calls until I respond.

And it does have to be me. 

The other day, after three pieces of not yet toast failed to wake me, he began chanting, "Mom, mom, mom mom mom mom Mommmmmmm."  I shuffled to brush my teeth.  "Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom."  he kept calling.  His father answered his call.  "What do you want Paul?"

The answer was everything. What did he want?
"Mommmmmmmmmmmmmm."

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Hallmark of Evil

I remember back in the summer of 2001, when Taliban militants destroyed the tallest Buddah statue in the world.  I read the article about it in Time magazine, and said when I saw the photos of its destruction, "This is evil."   I remember thinking in my bones, this is evil. Destroying beauty, destroying what others consider sacred, destroying art, destroying anything which brings others hope and peace, is violent, is cruel, and is evil.

 
Today, I looked at the news feed and saw once gain, militants within ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) group first stopped people from praying at the shrine, then filled it with dynamite and destroyed it.  They blew up "Jonah's tomb"/the Muslim Shrine of Yunus so that according to witnesses, there is nothing left but dust. They even released a video but I won't post it.
 
But digging below the newsfeed which is oddly making the rounds, there lurks a thread about the video being six months old, manipulated and a piece of propaganda. Indeed, a quick search indicates there were reports back as old as 2013 --ancient in internet terms, about the destruction of this site.  Yet I found the films of the destruction touted on CNN, editorialized at the Washington Post, and on other sites today. 
 
So we are left with what happened and why is it important?   If ISIS destroyed a shrine for the purposes of destroying a shrine, (asserting rule), it is evil.  If they claim to have destroyed a shrine for the purposes of establishing themselves as powerful and promoting fear in those who might pray or practice a different faith, it is evil. The hallmark of evil is destruction, is violence, is the willful elimination of the sacred. Lies are also a hallmark of evil.   
 
The world is focused on the sensational of this story, the reporters tell you not to blink or you'll miss the destruction.   They mention the oddity of the story of Jonah because that's splashy.  But they are not asking the question "Why?" Perhaps it seems simply par for the course with the chaos that marks this week's news cycle.  But truth is found by asking questions rather than repeating whatever catches the ear and the eye. Why?  It is dangerous to ask why, because it then demands an action if we get an answer that indicates, here is an evil. We must act if we would not be complacent or complicit with evil.
 
Then I came across this story over at the Anchoress, I'd not read it, but I'd seen the headline, that the US government knew ahead of time of the plan by ISIS to overrun and chose to not respond to it.  There were reasons, but perhaps they should answer and rethink, why? Those caught in the crosshairs who have the misfortune of not subscribing to the radical form of Islam promoted by Isis, face the choice of conversion, paying a tax for being non-Muslim, or death..  Those who dare to speak up against this religious/ethnic purge in Iraq, might wind up like Professor Ali ‘Asali. 
 
So again, the destruction of the innocent, the creation of a state of permanent fear, and prospect of violence for speaking out against violence, looms.  And if we continue to watch with a detached spirit, one day, it will be asked of us.  Why?  If we recognize in these acts, the destruction of beauty, the assassination of dissent, the threatening of those who think differently, the displacement of residents who flee out of fear, why are we not doing something?  If we just watch, we will see a wild fire of evil consume more innocent, more beauty, more of what we value, hearth and home, peace, freedom and family.   And one day, we'll have to answer what we aren't asking now, why?
 
What we can do? 
 
1) Stay informed.  Amnesty International, BBC, and whatever other sites you deem credible.  But cross reference.  I liked this article over at Get Religion. 
 
2) Pray.  We perpetually underestimate in the way a child misunderstands space and time, the efficaciousness of prayer.  Best bet?  The Rosary.  Pray to the Queen of Peace, asking her to ask her son to grant his peace, to pour it out over the whole world, the way one might pour out water or rather what we're asking for, wine.   We are out of peace the way the people at the wedding feast of Cana were out of wine.  If you've never prayed the rosary, here are two favorite sites.  here if you want to do it quietly with meditations on the mysteries, and here if you want to pray with others.
 
3) Fast.  Jesus tells his apostles, there are some demons which can only be driven out with prayer and fasting.  We often think of Fasting as only a seasonal thing.  Rather, we should think of it as a necessary thing, something which helps dislodge the evil of this world, even if we know it not, just as exercising gives benefits we do not see, even if the number on the scale hasn't moved much.  (Sigh, now I have to fast and exercise).  It doesn't have to be an over the top thing, just offer something up, anything, but do it knowingly.
 
4) Give alms.  Give to a charity that either provides needed necessities to refugees from the violence or one which helps give sanctuary or which helps them leave.   While it is a dated list, the American Institute of Philanthropy rates the top charities capable of distributing aid to those in need. 
 
5) Speak out.  Name it.  Evil works best when people either turn away their gaze, or say nothing. 
 
 

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