Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas for Your Brain

Because I like mine and am all about finding ways to keep it as healthy and well fed  as can be. And I am really excited by the fact that  the internet is making all kinds of knowledge available to anyone. And I don't have to leave my house, which means I could be wearing my pajamas. Which I am not. But I could.

Shane has been on a brain stimulating kick lately. After a particularly good day at work, he came home so full of energy and ideas that I thought he was on something. Turns out he had had the opportunity to think all day, as opposed to sit through , as he calls them, soul-sucking meetings. He was on a roll and all evening was looking for opportunities to  explore and expand his knowledge, of everything. His brain was churning out so many new things he could not sleep and finally had to get up and email himself a list so he could follow up on them the next day.

Which was great because it gave me the idea of getting him a little handheld voice recorder. He is incredibly difficult to surprise as he usually just gets what he wants on his own. So the next day I went out and got him one, and then put it in his shoes for St Nicholas day, today. He was pleased and I was pleased and now he can  keep track of all his thoughts on his commutes or just before he falls asleep.

Shane was also very animated about a TED talk he watched on gameification. Not sure if that has a defined spelling or not, but the concept is that gaming  is a new way of learning and ought to be treated as such. At first I thought the speaker was just trying to justify to his wife his propensity to stay up shooting zombies. But he did have some good points.


A great website of mostly math and sciencey things. It used to be just a collection of videos, but now you can log in with a Facebook account and it keeps track of your progress, makes charts to show what you have done, what needs more work, how long you spent on it etc. We all have accounts, though the little ones are coming up against their reading levels holding them back. They spent around 4 hrs the first day, earning points by doing math problems or watching the videos. Cyprian got up to adding with negative numbers and double digit multiplication. I felt it was fine to abandon our usual math books for a few days. Ok, weeks.

A pilot study is being done using it in classrooms. It works for our classroom.


A philanthropic vocabulary game. Again, you sign in with a Facebook account. You go through vocabulary quizzes. For each correct answer, you get 10 grains of rice added to your bowl. After 10 correct answers, they donate 100 grains of rice to charity.


This one does not need an account and at first look I though it was definitely a game site. Then I watched Cyprian try it out. It looked like he just needed to get the red ball in the red box. Simple. Then he figured out there was a series of events that needed to happen first. And then that was a correct order to the events. Which he quickly figured out. We have not spent as much time here as my brother-in-law just told me about it. But we'll look into all it has to offer.


Not a game. But very educational and entertaining talks by people all over the world on topics from cancer to writing, super string theory to gamification. Each lecture is around 20 min and usually is a spring board to more research and much conversation. If Shane is lucky he'll have the time to watch one with his lunch. Then he'll email to me to watch and we'll talk about it over dinner and whatever other topics it leads to. No shortage of brain stimulation here.

So these are places we've been frequenting lately. I love how the gaming and learning are coming together and am excited that my kids' definition of learning is not something that is static and boring, but engaging, entertaining and can be shared with the whole family.

Enjoy and Happy St Nicholas Day. Also, let me know of any other sites out there. They seem to popping up all the time.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Worst Dinner Ever- and I Made It!

Looking over the rest of our Scotland trip pictures, I realized a lot of the pictures are of what we ate. Given the chef we had on the boat, it is not surprising. But just to off-set it I wanted to tell about tonight's dinner. Which was not a pretty picture. Hence no picture.

It has been cold lately and with the Christmas tree and lights up, I wanted to make something cozy. So I picked up a roast for dinner, which I thoughtfully browned and roasted  to a nice rare 115 degrees. I made some mashed potatoes and roasted carrots and sweet potatoes to go with it. Then rounded it out with a butter lettuce, cranberry, feta salad.

After letting the meat rest, I went to carve it before calling everyone for dinner. My arm got tired so  I got out the electric carving knife to help me out. Even then, it was still slow going and my arm was getting tired. The blood spattering that resulted made the kitchen look like a scene from Donnie Brasco and I wondered what was up? The meat was nice and rare and should not have given any trouble. I kept at it until it was all carved, then set the table.

At first, everyone was excited for dinner. Then we started eating. Shane got up after his first bite to relieve his mouth of what he had just put in it. Cyprian started complaining he could not cut his meat. So I helped him. Cyril started to say the same, then decided he would be brave  and kept sawing away at his piece.

Shane got up to dispose of his second bite and finally, very nicely, hinted that  the meat seemed a little difficult to cut. Or chew. Never mind swallowing.

I cut and ate some meat and found it extremely stringy and not at all amenable to being eaten. If I cut the bites small enough and mixed it in with mashed potatoes then washed it down with wine, it was somewhat edible.

After 30 min, Kateri said " I just swallowed my second bite".  Cyril was still chewing. Audrey decided not to make a fuss and kept eating her mashed potatoes.

I suggested to the kids to cut the meat small and  swallow it whole. It was faster.

I looked over at Shane and we both started laughing. I apologized for the meat, then tried to point out the good points of the meal.

'At least the potatoes were good', I offered.

'I do like mashed potatoes', he said  'with gravy. Otherwise it is just  a big mouthful of starch.'

I hadn't made gravy.

'But the salad was tasty', I tried again.

Again, he countered.  'Some bites  it was lots of cranberries and lots of cheese. And one tiny lettuce leaf. You can finish yours, but I don't want to see it.'

I started to go into hysterics realizing I had made the same salad four nights this week.  I liked it. Apparently, he had just been suffering through it.

I looked at all the left overs and thought maybe we should  put it out for the raccoons to eat. Shane said he did not want to wake up to a bunch of  choked animals on our back porch,  so I asked him to dispose of the evidence and drank some more wine.

He ended the meal by saying , " I appreciate everything you did for dinner tonight. Just don't do it again."

Next time, I will post some picutes of fabulous things we did chew and eat successfully. And the rest of our Scotland trip pictures.