Life & Work

Neurological Health – Perhaps it’s time.

Here’s the deal. I’m fat.

I’m also thinking I can do some things to make my brain more …. able to retain. My 84 year-old mother’s recent MRI was a shock to me. Here is a woman who has taken impeccable care of herself all her life. Never overweight, never excessively eating or drinking or fasting or anything like that. Ate almost exclusively whole grains and food from the health food store for the last 40 years. Exercised moderately 3-7 times a week. Great blood pressure, low cholesterol.

And yet there is all this dead matter in her brain.

Perhaps it runs in the family, and I can’t escape it. My aunt thinks my grandmother had the same challenge late in life, although there was no MRI for her. So all this dead brain matter. Not dementia. Not alzheimers just a massive loss in short term memory and the ability to connect things that would have been a snap a decade earlier.

The neurologists, all of whom are shockingly fit, said that a neurologially healthy diet is far more stringent than a cardiologically healthy diet. High in Omega 3s, low in Omega 6s, moderate intake in terms of quantity at one sitting, and much exercise which is very neuro-protective. “Almost monastic” was the term used for an ideal brain healthy diet.

So to return to the key point, I’m fat. And I’d like either to be pushed off a cliff at age 80 or to protect my brain so as to enjoy my 80s. Then again I like cheese.

Life & Work

Does entering the digital age mean abandoning simplicity?

IPhones were free yesterday, so we ordered them for most of the family. I’ve ordered one of the last Typo keypads available now that the maker is locked in a legal dispute with Blackberry. We are at the point where certain kinds of texts do not make it through to our flip phones, so we are obliged to move into the digital age at last.

While most of the family is thrilled, I find myself grieving a little. I have no desire for a smart phone. One of the few ways I have been able to guarantee time not working, time exclusively and truly with family, has been to leave the house. If work can reach me anywhere now, I know myself, and I have a hunch that I will grade the occasional test or essay at a ball game.

The obsession with work will not drop off my shoulders anymore when I leave my home office. It will follow me everywhere because technically – and technologically – I can do it anywhere now.

I do not want our kids to become zombies constantly checking their phones, texting in face-to-face social settings, unable and unwilling to allow themselves to be a little bored for the sake of others who need their undivided attention. They have done well with their flip phones, so perhaps this is not a concern. We shall see.

So I am trying to wrap my head around how cool it will be to …. what? What will be cool about this?

Life & Work

Ten Tips for a New Graduate Student

Outstanding Advice: “Work harder than everyone you know and collaborate with people smarter than you. My experience is that these two things are related. Smart people have better ideas, get more opportunities, and generally have more fun. Part of the reason that they are successful is they have less smart collaborators and colleagues who work really really hard. Work hard and smart people will let you ride their coattails.”

The Archaeology of the Mediterranean World

This evening I’m taking out a couple of my students who have been accepted into graduate school for next year. I threatened (offered?) to give them my list of ten tips to being a successful graduate student (also know as “things that I wish I had done in graduate school or did, but only by accident). I riffled through my harddrive and found a few versions of it and decided to compile them into one list. 

This list is directed at prospective graduate students in my field and it reflect my mistakes and successes more than anything else. 

1. Have fun. Graduate School is fun. Resist the urge to rush through the program toward an uncertain future. Don’t dawdle by any means, but make sure to savor your time in graduate school. Chances are that your graduate school environment will be the most supportive, robust, and dynamic that you experience…

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Languages, Life & Work

Norwegian Resources for Children and Adults

Norwegian is an excellent language for children because it is relatively easy to learn. There are several children’s books available in Norwegian. Two fun stories are Det røde eplet and Engstelige Eddie får en venn.

Kan jeg …?  is not for the faint of heart. Readers follow the story of a curious (and not very bright) little girl, who in trying to find out what she can and can’t do, loses limbs, drills a hole in her head, and goes swimming with piranhas. Some find the book funny in a wincing sort of way. My seven year-old does not like it, but some adults seem to find it silly. It is best seen perhaps as a cautionary tale that makes odd adults giggle. These were gifts, so I can not speak to the shipping costs.

Vangsgutane is a bilingual book available in the U.S. without overseas shipping. The Boys of Vangen, as it is called in English, is a 1940s children’s series.

EuroTalk offers two inexpensive game-style programs that are, if nothing else, not a bad way for kids to spend time on the computer. They are not necessarily designed for children, but they are child friendly.

Teach Yourself Norwegian is the first tool I used to familiarize myself with Norwegian. It is surprisingly thorough and effective for so inexpensive and user friendly a set.

Janus’ Norwegian Verbs and Essentials of Grammar and Haugen’s Dictionary are excellent.

Sett i gang is the wonderful textbook series used at the University of North Dakota. It is very user friendly, and there are online exercises for testing one’s progress! My cousin, Ottar Dahl, happens to be one of the contributors, so I may be a little biased.

Languages, Life & Work

Teaching Children a Foreign Language

I have been experimenting with methods of teaching languages to children in a busy household. Some things work, and some things don’t.

What works:

  • Flash cards.
  • Following a textbook that teaches grammar.
  • Translating.
  • Working with your child about 20 minutes per day 4-5 days per week. Older children should work on their own as well.

What doesn’t work:

  • Rosetta Stone alone. RS is a fine way to help children become comfortable hearing, seeing, and pronouncing a language, but it is only a supplemental tool.

Years ago, I taught our eldest the basics of Latin and our middle child French in a structured homeschool environment. This was extremely effective. However, when we put our children into school, we no longer had time for languages. The children lost most of what they had learned.

The older two missed their languages, so at their request, we resumed language training in the summer of 2011. They each chose a language: Latin, French, and Norwegian from oldest to youngest child respectively. Using two homeschool textbooks for Latin and a friendly college textbook for French, I worked with the older two. Our youngest was only 6, so we used home made flash cards and children’s books from Norway.

When school started last fall, the kids’ activities soon eclipsed their languages. Eventually, I settled for daily Rosetta Stone for the older two and flash cards for our youngest. Now that we are returning to the more active language schedule of summer, I find that our youngest has retained the most. Surely his age had something to do with this, but it also seems that good ol’ fashioned flash cards are simply more effective than Rosetta Stone.

For specific language resources, see coming blog posts on French, Latin, and Norwegian.

Life & Work

Finished the Encyclopedia Entries

50° and overcast. What it was a relief to send those encyclopedia entries on their way! I wrote on the 1944 Shinnston, WV, tornado outbreak and the 1946 Unimak, AK, Tsunami. Both events were among the reasons behind the push for tsunami and tornado warning systems following WWII.

I spent several hours on the bike yesterday while working on the encyclopedia entries, so I feel pretty good this morning. Now I can begin working on course design for online US History 1 and 2 courses. I am very excited about this!!

Today is mostly devoted to an out of town excursion, so I will only have a little time for my work. I am looking forward to a some French and little Julius Caesar.


Life & Work, Prairie Village Museum

A Bright, Brilliant Day!

65 degrees and glorious. Yesterday, I made progress on the encyclopedia entries and cleaned a building at our heavenly Prairie Village Museum with the children during breaks from their activities.

Today’s professional goals are:

1) 2 languages: Italian and Latin.
2) Polish & perhaps finish the encyclopedia entries.

Today’s personal goals are:

1) Enjoy the children and their busyness.
2) Feed them.
3) Attend to paperwork and household chores.
4) Exercise and eat well.