Saturday, December 09, 2017

Parenting Month 85: Competition

A fun milestone was a recent taekwondo tournament.  This was T's first competitive tournament (i.e. where they actually award places)  He recently moved up a group in the ATA system of classes (the lowest age group was 4-6) so now they award 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in the 7-8 year old category.  And he won first place in forms and first place weapons. (his ring was 9 boys, red belts (the level below black), non-leadership (leadership students are the ones who compete for points over the year))

So, his strengths are keeping focus (he had the option of doing only half the form, and most kids his age do, but he did the whole thing) and his punches, kicks, and blocks actually have some strength to them (often kids will have the right starting and right ending point, while the middle is a bit flabby).

Jaang baang form (staff)
One thing I noticed was that parents are actually getting competitive at this point.  One parent was telling me how her son was really into the tournaments for several years now. (son got 2nd in forms and weapons).  Another had traveled from Ohio and this was also her son's first competitive tournament (same reason as T). Some of the boys did not react well to loosing in the sparring (T did not get all of the medals).  We did note that T does not take the sparring very competitively.  He was doing sparring like his school does testing (where part of the goal is for both participants to show off) as opposed to point sparring where you really do need to hit each other.  I found that quite amusing once I figured out what was going on.

two first place medals

The more competitive environment is definitely showing up in school.  We can tell that in his more diverse school (compared to last year), there are definitely families that are much more academically focused than we are.  We are hearing stories of T's peers doing the after school tutoring programs, the multiple after school enrichment activities, and drilling in school work. I think we are keenly aware that there are tests and evaluations that will have significance in his school experience and opportunities that will occur this year. We won't completely ignore it (we do drill him on the homework he gets), but we want to limit the organized activities if there are enough interests that keep him engaged (so he is stretching, even if it is not directly pointed at school work type things)

A is still quite verbal. And as proper for a 3-year old, without a filter. Sometimes it is very cute and amusing, if semi-horrifying (last night she spoke out during a poor music student's tuba recital, saying quite clearly at one point "what is that noise)).  One minor milestone: she is now willing to sleep with daddy vs. with mommy, so giving mommy a break. (T was always flexible on who was with him.)

Challenges on the horizon: T is more aware now of how other kids compare, and there are more examples of those not as talented than more talented. So he is not as inclined to persist and stay focused on things as he used to be. Similarly, he is more aware of material things and short term rewards; and the carrot of being able to do things and have experiences that other do not do are not as attractive as they used to be.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Book review: Personal Memoirs by Ulysses S. Grant

Personal MemoirsPersonal Memoirs by Ulysses S. Grant
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The memoirs of Ulysses S Grant begin with him attending West Point, being a junior officer in the Mexican-American War, then his more well known role in the U.S. Civil War. What I found notable was his willingness to look at his actions and the actions of those around him and admit of what worked and what did not, and a fairly levelheaded and charitable view of those who commanded, served under, or opposed him.

The first part is a view of what the war looked like to a junior officer, prior to and during the Mexican-American War. It was a learning experience for him to lead men, and also look at the quality of the officers above him, who would be the commanding generals of the first part of the Civil War.

The Civil War section was a lot about managing logistics, and how logistics drove the campaigns. The actual battles do not as much discussion as the discussions of overall strategy and goals, and how logistics drove how he ran the various campaigns, and discussions of leading generals on both sides and his opinions on each.

The book is also notable because he discusses the backgrounds of both wars, and it becomes a touchpoint on what the country thought about as the cause of the Civil War in particular during and shortly after that conflict.

Definite must read into what being at war is like at the junior officer and at the general officer levels. And a 19th century feel of the U.S. Civil War.

View all my reviews

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Parenting month 84: Now we are 7

It has been an eventful couple of months. T started at a new school, new classmates, new schedule, new bus.

Met new friends at the bus stop. The girl who lives three doors down turns out to be one grade ahead of T.  We were glad that it turned out there was someone else in his taekwondo class in the same rank and the same grade. And also one of the relatively calm kids
Double knife hand block
Double knife hand block

Front kick in Choong Jung 1
Jump kick

His new school is much bigger than the one he came from. So we are worried about him getting lost in the mix. There have been good days and bad days. Days where he comes home and goes on and on about what he did and who he played with, and days he played with noone and did not want to talk about it.  But he is getting more good days as he adapts and gets to know people, and there are some kids where apparently he is the playmate of choice (he still seems to attract kids who like quiet).

Looking at the solar eclipse at the Northland library
Looking at the near solar eclipse

We still try to encourage a making attitude.  At the solar eclipse we made our solar eclipse viewers, and at the library viewing party we were the ones teaching everyone else how to use them.  (it helps to know the physics of how pinhole cameras work)  His favorite birthday present was a Foldscope, which is a paper based microscope that we had to assemble.

Made a Foldscope
I made a Foldscope

And we had our now annual Makerfaire visit.  One highlight of the end of summer is we have a visiting colleague with a 5 year old boy, who enjoys having a playmate.  We went to Alcosan together, then the Science Center and their ropes course.

Things inside the body
Visiting the Science Center

And also MakerFaire at the Children's Museum

Playing in the web at the Children's Museum maker space
Playing in the web at the Children's Museum makerspace

Some issues, not as much as attention span as he used to have, although that may be regression to the mean, or it may be that with more kids at school, he is realizing how unusual he was and he does not have desire to do much more than blend in.

The little one is still in day care.  She still talks our ears off, and now she can do that with words. Lots of words.  Funny note: we got our annual evaluation from daycare. It indicates how she is quiet and shy, and encourages us to talk with her more.  We wonder if we are talking about the same kid, as this girl talks to use alot.


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Making a Foldscope

We received our Foldscope yesterday, and this evening we made it after dinner.  The Foldscope project is a microscope with a paper base.  The concept was that using heavy paper, it is possible to mount a lens and a slide stage and that allows for fairly high magnification, and a fully adjustable slide stage while being durable for field use. While it may not be to the same specifications as a western research university, it is good enough for identifying cells, and especially cellular organisms that carry disease. (See TED talk)  So it is being sent around to field research groups in areas where the environment would quickly deteriorate conventional instruments, and areas where samples need to be visually inspected cheaply.  And also classrooms where you could cheaply give every student a microscope and not be worried about children damaging delicate equipment. Of course, we do not fall under any of these categories, but it is a cheap microscope that does not take mush space. So we are going to try it.

What we get in the box

The foldscope parts are in a bag. Take them out of the bag, and match them to the instructions.

Foldscope parts

Following the instructions, as well as the YouTube demonstration of its assembly, we started putting together the lens mount and stage.

Lens stage and sample stage assembly

Then put the whole thing together

Assembled Foldscope
And happy new owner

The Foldscope kit we got came with a couple of premade samples.  

dragonfly foot
dragonfly leg

Monday, September 04, 2017

Parenting Month 82: Hosting visitors

The last month of summer was spent being a host for others.  We had an author of a book that we have a signed copy of visit (he is a US Army Col (ret), his wife is an elementary school teacher who enjoyed the company of a rising 2nd grader).  The prior visitors from China. And more recently being host to people coming to Pittsburgh to work for a year.

Phipps Conservatory
Lagoon at Phipps Conservatory
Frog at Phipps Conservatory lagoon.
Frog in the lagoon. We were trying to decide it was real when suddenly it jumped

Part of maturity at the early elementary level is learning to take care of people other than yourself. So it one thing to teach them how to do specific tasks when called upon, or even on a regular basis (and this is hard enough!), but another to do mission type tasking, asking them to act on principles rather
than direct commands.  So the significance of having guests, is that we told T (6yrs old) that he could do whatever he wanted, but he needed to tell his guests what that was. So that is a bit open ended (I get trouble giving those instructions to my much older students) and he sometimes gets fixated on something and forgets about his new friends, or goes off like 6 year old boys do leaving his new friends behind.  But all in all, he does pretty good. (as long as he is fed and rested, but that goes without saying)

Getting harnesses for the ropes course
Getting ready to go on the little ones ropes course
Things inside the body
How long are intestines? What noises does the body make?

Another major event was that this was the month of the total solar eclipse moving across the U.S.  While libraries all advertised that they had hundreds of eclipse glasses available, all outlets (Lowes and Walmart) ran out weeks before the main event.  We modified instructions found on to make an eclipse viewer and tested it the weekend before and made a few modifications.

Solar eclipse viewing boxes ready
Eclipse viewer. Opening on side
We ended up going to our local library for the viewing. They had advertised a viewing party, and they were on top of a nice hill with grassy areas to stand around and look into boxes. We saw a few people with the glasses. A few people with super expensive solar telescopes or industrial equipment. And many people with the pin hole boxes.  We had the advantage of actually knowing how these things worked, so early in the afternoon we taught everyone else how to find the image in their boxes, and we got to get some good views.
Looking at the solar eclipse at the Northland library
Using his solar eclipse box

A (3 years old) is very sociable (at least with us). We get a range of concerts at the drop of the hat. Every morning she wakes up around 6 ~ 6:30 and is very happy to greet us with a good morning. (and she also wakes up at 3AM , but goes back to sleep).  Among her favorite activities are singing, dancing, taekwondo (using big brother's equipment) and taking walks. Oh, and getting big brother in trouble (whenever we yell at T (even if it is only through tone of voice), she feels compelled to provide commentary that T is a bad boy, A is a good girl).


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Parenting Month 81: Travels

The notable thing about the mid-summer months has been trips. Either they have visited others or others visit us. We have: One trip to perform at Carnegie Hall Guests from the Carnegie Hall recital staying with us Visit to Cleveland and Cuyahoga National Park to visit all the uncles and aunties and cousins who met us halfway. Red Crossers visiting Pittsburgh from headquarters.

Cranberry park
Front page of the Post Gazette.  Memorial Day 2017 at the USS Requin
Friends visiting Carnegie Science Center
Guest on the Ropes course
Friends visiting Carnegie Science Center
On the Carnegie Science Center Ropes Course
Friends visiting Carnegie Science Center
On the USS Requin
Friends visiting Carnegie Science Center
Looking at the submarine music selection
Friends visiting Carnegie Science Center
Bodyworks at the Carnegie Science Center
Friends visiting Carnegie Science Center
Controlling a robot at the Carnegie Science Center

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Setting up the Raspberry PI with the 7 inch touch screen and SmartiPi Touch display mount.

I recently got the Official Raspberry Pi touch screen and the SmartiPi Touch display mount. The main reason I got it was that I was getting a couple things that are intended to work with a computer, and I wanted said computer to be portable.  And the Raspberry Pi with Touch screen could be run off of a USB battery.  And this also means I (or my kids) won't be tying up a computer (or a desk) that I would rather be using for work while they do their explorations.

The standard references for assembling the SmartiPi Touch are the videos by the creator, Thomas Murray, and and a more complete video by Francesco Vannini (both videos embedded at end for reference)
However, many commentators have noted that there is not a good set of written directions, and I think the big disadvantage of an expert commentator is that they don't always remember to say things that a non-expert may have a hard time figuring out. I mostly followed Francesco Vannini's video, so here are a few additional notes.

Here are the boxes, with a Raspberry Pi. Not pictured is the Sense HAT that I will also put on.
Raspberry pi in a Smartipi Touch case with touchscreen display in boxes

Raspberry pi in a Smartipi Touch case with touchscreen display unboxed
All the components from both boxes. Note that not everything will be used.

Raspberry pi mounted in a Smartipi Touch case
At this point I have:

  1. Added rubber feet to the corners of the stand (back side of the part that is mounted on the hinges). 
  2. Attached stand to case body using included nut and bolt.
  3. Connected the display connector ribbon to both the display driver and the Raspberry Pi. I used the one that came with the touch display. I should have used the one that came with the SmartiPi case because it was longer and would have been easier. 
  4. Mounted the Raspberry Pi to the display case. the instructions state I could either use the screws to mount the Raspberry Pi or I could use the hinge cover (bottom of picture). The cover has plastic that is sized to touch the Raspberry Pi when closed so I choose that option. 
  5. Screwed the case back to the display. Note that one of the screws will be covered by the cover and any HAT so I tightened this now instead of waiting until the end to tighten everything.

Raspberry Pi camera module with mounted Raspberry Pi and SmartiPi Touch case.  Note that the ribbon that comes with the camera will be just long enough to mount to the top or side LEGO studs. A longer camera cable will be useful since the Raspberry Pi with display and case is going to be placed on a table top, which is not necessarily where you want the camera.

Raspberry Pi camera module with mounted Raspberry Pi and SmartiPi Touch case

Here is the camera attached to the Raspberry Pi. Note that it goes through the slots in the door and the Sense HAT.

Raspberry Pi camera ribbon connected through door and Sense HAT

Now, attach the door, then mount the Sense HAT and tighten the screws on the Sense HAT.  Note that the screws come with rubber spaces that put the HAT the right distance above the door.

Pi Camera connector ribbon attached through Sense HAT and door

Picamera added to Raspberry Pi in SmartiPi Touch Case on the top LEGO pieces. I used a 4X6 plate because it is long enough to reach the back LEGO mount for the top. (mounting to the side could be done with camera mount as is)

Picamera added to Raspberry Pi in SmartiPi Touch Case

Pi camera mounted to LEGO from back

Pi camera mounted to LEGO from back

The working camera.  Note that I have the whole thing running off a USB battery.  I usually have this connected to a keyboard, and use a touch screen to serve as a mouse.  It really needs a longer camera connector ribbon. I tried to mount it on a LEGO stand, but the SmartiPi case had to be right next to the stand.

Working Pi Camera