Yearly Archives: 2010

Driving Miss Kelly

Today we have started a regular driving schedule so the kids can get more practice.  I like our driving plan very much.  The main reason I like it is because it involves a lot of driving around looking for a place to by a frozen yogurt.  The kids like driving.  I like sitting and eating frozen yogurt, so it is a win-win for everyone.

Drawing, again.

We’ve been drawing again! 6B pencils and lots of free time (on my part) resulted in THIS:

Guess who it is!

Now that I see it all scanned, I see all the flaws (My drawing flaws of course. The person in the picture has no flaws.), but it is still my best portrait ever!

Dad and Christian are being lazy, but their portraits will come up soon.

Merry Christmas to all!

Drawing for Older Children and Teens

I mentioned in an earlier post that we purchased two books on drawing to begin to work through over the Christmas holiday.  We have decide to start with the book Drawing for Older Children and Teens by Mona Brookes.  Here is the blog post from Renee’s Book of the Day that inspired me to start with this book first.  Beside the stellar recommendation for the book, the blog made a very interesting and inspiring comment about the author’s motivation for learning to draw.

…in order to truly appreciate the beauty of something that you see on your travels, you must attempt to draw it. The act of drawing, even if you are a terrible artist, forces you to truly look at, even study, the object of beauty. It obliges you to make decisions about why this thing is beautiful or special, and the attempt itself of capturing what makes it exceptional brings about a greater appreciation of what you see. I loved this idea too.

This will be a much longer program than the two and a half weeks we have available to us over Christmas vacation. I hope we can continue to work for a half an hour or so per day after work/school when spring semester starts on January 5. I am going through a little bit of homeschool withdrawal anyway. Again, we will try to post some of our results here as we go along. We will save Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards for another time.

We have another book on a completely different topic we need to study for our work on the GaugeCam project. It is titled A Beginner’s Guide to R. The R programming language is a tool to do many things, one of which is to prepare graphical output from statistics for presentation, publication, and analysis. I will discuss our efforts with respect to learning R and statistics over on the GaugeCam blog.

Lorena and Kelly at Dayanita’s Quinceañera

Tio Laurin sent us this amazing photo last night.  Kelly and Christian’s oldest cousin on the Mexican side had her Quinceañera (a very big occasion celebrating her 15th birthday) in November. We were unable to attend, partially because of the dangerous situation in Monterrey. Lorena’s brothers, technical wizards all, set up a big screen and a camera so they could see us and we could see the party, all via Skype. The picture is of Dayanita standing by the Skype screen with Lorena and Kelly watching on. It was not as good as being there, but it was not bad.

He also sent a picture of their little Taekwondo champion, Jorgito.  Here is a picture of the arena where they had the tournament and Jorgito with his medals.

Breakfast at McDonald’s

We had our normal Saturday morning breakfast at McDonald’s then came home to hit the books.  The kids are preparing for their Calculus and Biology tests.  I will work on the GaugeCam project.  A couple of weeks ago, I was at McDonald’s trying to figure out what I could eat for breakfast that would not kill my calorie count.  I love the calorie count thing.  It fits into the way I do my workouts–with exhaustive data gathering.  It is not for everyone, but it works for me.*

Kelly said, “Why don’t you have an Egg McMuffin?”

I said, “I can’t afford the calories.”

She said, “It only has 300 calories.”

She was right!  I am now a BIG Egg McMuffin fan (again).  It has returned to its proper place on my Saturday morning menu.

We have great discussions on Saturday mornings at McDonald’s.  We are negotiating through career ideas.  Kelly is fairly well set up to get a double degree because she passed so many CLEP tests.  We talked about that some this morning then got on the internet and found a potential second degree that goes well with her current major, Math with a Statistics concentration.  Math and Statistics are required as part of a Political Science BA/BS at University of Idaho.  I need to make a call there to figure out what classes she needs to take at the community college to assure she can graduate on time, but it seems like a particularly good option.  The especially good part about a degree from University of Idaho is that we have friends close by who can give the kids tips both on Math and PE, plus they have really cute kids!!

*Note:  I know, I know, I should have the weight loss death match chart up and running.  I am WAY behind on that and it flies in the face of the exhaustive data gathering thing.  I am especially chagrined when it comes to fellow exhaustive data gatherer, Lyle.  I will put it up SOON!

The first final is over

Christian did a stellar job on his first final, Western Civilization I.  Kelly has her first final this afternoon for her American Literature I class.  There is a weekend and two days left before they finish their first semester.  The grades are not in yet, but their Dad is very, very happy with how well they made the transition from homeschool to college.  The Biology and Calculus classes were hard, but they both did well.  Calculus required a couple of hours per day of study outside of class.  They both wrote significant research papers for their liberal arts classes, participated actively with the other students in and out of class, had a least one very good teacher and one not-so-good teacher, made new friends, and thoroughly enjoyed themselves in spite of some periods of suffering and angst.

Christian said he will probably take another golf PE class when he gets to a four year college.  He did not have a lot of great instruction in the class, but could see that it would be a lot of fun to play with his cousin Lauro or his buddies in Oregon.  Kelly took a volleyball class and learned a LOT.  They played a lot of games, so she got a lot of experience and learned how to play the game correctly.  She would take another volleyball class next semester if it were offered, but will have to wait until she gets to a four year college because Wake Tech does not offer one.  Next semester Kelly will take a fitness class for PE and Christian will take the volleyball class.

Next semester will be a new challenge.  Now that they have shown they can perform at the college level, we will kick up the number of hours next semester from 12 hours to somewhere in the 15-17 hour range.  Kelly and Christian will take Integral Calculus and Art Appreciation together.  Both of them have a public speaking class, but will take it at different times.  We will talk about all that a little later.  The challenge at this point is to transition from taking a light, but full load of classes up to a normal to heavy load of classes.  I think their study skills and time management skills have improved to the point where they can handle it well.  In addition, they know their way around the school, have some friends, and know more about what to expect at the college level.

Finals week and vacation art practice

Christian has his first final exam today.  Tomorrow, Kelly has her first.  Both of the kids continue to study hard.  They will both be finished by Tuesday.  We have decided we need to do some creative stuff over the holidays, so we ordered some new art books.  The books we ordered are The New Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and Drawing for Older Children and Teens. Both of those books are come highly recommended.  We plan to work our way through them just like we worked our way through Mark Kistler’s Draw Squad and Secrets to Drawing Realistic Faces. That was did not quite get us to the total we needed to get free shipping on our Amazon order, so we also ordered Christian’s favorite, a box of #2 Black Warrior pencils.  Lorena bought us a 750 piece puzzle last week, so we are all set.  We hope to draw for and hour or so per day for as many days as possible during Christmas vacation.  We will try to put some of our results here.

¡Bruno el nuevo sobrinito!

There is a new baby in the family!  Lorena’s brother Lynn and his beautiful wife Rosalinda had a bouncing baby boy.  It is their third.  My understanding that his two big brothers Lynncito and Marloncito decided that he should be named Bruno, so Brunito it is!!!  Congratulations.  We are very excited for all of them and for us, too.  There is one more to come in this round.  Bruno was preceded by Rigo and Minitas new baby girl Estefania last month.  Lauro and Dayana are expecting their third a few months from now.

Skype as part of daily life

Better living through Skype.  Kelly and I, this very morning, determined that it is easier to Skype each other when I am upstairs in my office and she (or anyone else) is down in the kitchen.  That is our normal state of affairs when the kids are home during the day because they like to work by the fire (or maybe because it is closer to the refrigerator).  It works great.  I can turn up the volume to whatever level is required.

Thanksgiving turkey soup

Special note:  I mentioned in this post that I would try to find a picture of our first Thanksgiving turkey.  I looked for it, but found this one that liked even better.  It has nothing to do with anything.  I just wanted to post it.  I particularly liked the picture of Don Lauro.

Lorena and I lived in Boynton Beach, Florida after we got married in early October of 1992.  We invited a Mexican couple from the west coast of Florida to our home for our first Thanksgiving dinner.  Neither of us had ever cooked a turkey before, so I took that task on while Lorena did most of everything else.  It was great.  We still have pictures and even some home movies of the whole thing.  I will try to put up one or two of those pictures later today.  At any rate, our dinner with Rodofo and Dinora was a great success.  After they left, we decided to try to make turkey soup.  We called Grandpa Milo and Grandma Sarah for some instructions, put the turkey carcass in a pot of water on the stove and ended up with what we thought was the best turkey soup ever.  I took all the credit for that.

We have failed abysmally to duplicate that effort ever since, until this year!  Lorena does not agree with me.  We put the carcass on the stove to simmer on Monday morning.  I was going to make gumbo, but for some reason I got busy and Lorena ended up doing all the work (some people would say, “as usual”).  She called Grandpa Milo.  He told her what to do.  She did that, but thought the soup was way too bland.  Of course she is Mexican and almost everything we cook here is way to bland.  She added a bunch of more spices of the picante variety and we ended up with what I believe is the best turkey soup, ever.  Even surpassing the soup we made right after we got married.  The said part of this whole tale is that she does not remember how she did it.  We are going to try again at Christmas time when Grandpa Milo and Grandma Sarah are there, but this time we are going to write it down.  I hope we get it right.

Mexican/Swedish Thanksgiving

We had a great time down in Atlanta.  One of the funniest parts was when our buddy Ralph (from Sweden) took us down to his favorite Mexican grocery store to buy some stuff for a Mexican barbecue that he cooked for us on Friday night.  It was very, very good.  Lorena hand-made some corn tortillas and we bought some raw wheat tortillas.  Ralph grilled a ton of meat just like my brothers-in-law would have done it.  He and Lorena made up salsa and guacamole.  It was great eating.  Of course, I blew my diet.

The Beautiful Tree

I just heard about a book by an education professor name James Tooley (h.t. NRO).  The book is titled The Beautiful Tree.  It is about private education in the poorest neighborhoods of the poorest countries.  I know that homeschool is not for everyone, but I have been at a loss as to what I should say when people ask what to do if they cannot homeschool.  I have always said that I do not know what to tell anyone else about how to educate their children when I had to work so hard to figure it out for my own, especially since the results are not even in yet.  The one thing about which I am most confident is that government schools and government participation in educational decision making are not the answer.  I cannot wait to get the book.  Here is the money quote from the Wikipedia article on the author:

The basic findings of the research show that in urban and peri-urban poor areas (slums and shanty towns) in India and the African countries studied, the majority of schoolchildren are in low cost private schools.  After testing 24,000 children, it was found that children in the low cost private schools significantly outperform children in public schools, after controlling for background variables and the school choice process.

We had a great Thanksgiving down in Atlanta with a group of very good friends.  The kids stayed up until all hours of the night, then suffered because one of the other kids was an early riser.  They all had a super time.  Of course we ate way too much.  When I started the four-day weekend I was down eight pounds from my high.  I am now only down three, but hopeful.  The kids are in the midst of the big final push to finish their semester well.  They did better than me last night in their schoolwork.  I should have completed more work on GaugeCam, but could not seem to get off center.

Update:  Christian found this very interesting fact. I though it was very worth noting. My brother Doug only missed this by a couple of months.

I disabled my Facebook

I went ahead and disabled Facebook last night.  I decided I could see anything I want to see on Lorena’s Facebook.  It is something that did not add any value to my life.  It is interesting that the kids spend much less time on Facebook than they did just a couple of months ago.  Maybe it is because they are so busy with school.  Maybe it is because there are no big exciting social events going on.  We are so far away from many of our friends that it is nice for them to have a way to stay in contact with the ones they do not text and email several times per week.  Still, I am glad their initial enamoration is now somewhat more tempered.

The rest of this post is just a placeholder for some topics on which I hope to expand over the coming months:

  1. Several buddies and I (you know who you are) plan start a business over the next couple of months.  It will not be a full time job for me for the foreseeable future; I will only be one of the worker bees to provide machine vision code.  The leader of the group and I met yesterday to talk about when and where to get started.  I should be able to talk about it a lot more after the first of the year.  The really cool part for me is that includes gadgets and software that just about anyone can appreciate.  I will write more when I can.
  2. My weight loss program is working quite well even though I have not yet had a chance to get the chart up.  I am now down eight pounds!
  3. We need to get a color printer for the kids to use for school.  Christian has found a way to turn a very good $300 photo quality inkjet printer that takes very expensive cartridges into a one that uses a “continuous ink system”.  The upside to this is that ink is purchased in bottles for cheap rather than in expensive inkjet heads.  It is about a $100 upgrade and well worth the effort.
  4. Christian has purchased a ZipIt computer for $15 on eBay.  It is a full blown computer that runs Linux Debian with full wireless support.  It is very small:  4 x 3.5 x 0.75 inches.
  5. Kelly is working furiously on Betty Blonde.
  6. GaugeCam proceeds on course with our Beta software release still on track for the end of the year.

Another working weekend and I hate facebook

Man, it seems like we have been working through weekends forever.  I worked at the GaugeCam laboratory again this weekend while the kids spent virtually the entire weekend on labs, papers, and other homework.  They work late into the night most nights, too.  They have been really troopers.  Fortunately, they should have every thing complete (with the exception of one small speech for Christian) by tomorrow so they can have a work-free Thanksgiving.

I found out that I had been (unknowingly) spamming everyone in one of my mail account contact lists because I made the mistake of giving a password to Facebook.  The more I engage with Facebook, the less I like it.  There is no room for an in-depth conversation, their business practices, in my opinion, are truly nasty.  I am trying to rethink the whole thing.  Lorena and the kids stay in touch with friends, but it might be too high a price to pay.  I will sleep on it a few nights and see if I am still mad.

Math and weight loss

This weekend will be a test of will for me.  I have two ambitions that are diametrically opposed to each other.  On the one side, I started my diet a few days ago and am one of those anal-retentive types who likes to count calories in for food and calories out for exercise, then graph the whole thing at the end of the week.  On the other side, I have a hard programming problem to solve for the GaugeCam project that involves a good chunk of math–not complex math, but tedious math that requires periods of diligent concentration.  I am one of those kind of programmers that is more productive when I leave the computer for a doughnut, a bag of Doritos, and a Mountain Dew every now and then.  Even worse, when I am really into it, I bring the doughnuts, Doritos and Mountain Dew back to the computer with me.

So when I came to work this morning, I was told there would be cookies at the training session we are having.  The world is conspiring against my diet!  The say times of testing and temptation make you stronger (and in this case, maybe, bigger, too).  At this point I am down a little under five pound.  I am hoping to escape the weekend at breakeven.