Friday, August 30, 2013

Alex's History Mystery: Reign Of Tokugawa



Japanese Music


Alex completed a History assignment yesterday.

It was called History Mystery.

As part of the project...
each student had to put together pieces of historical evidence
from primary sources, secondary sources, and from artifacts
from an era of conflict in history.

The students had to pose a question...
provide supporting evidence...
and show what had happened and how.

Alex's Social Studies Teacher is very creative in his assignments.

Alex really likes the variety...
and by the students having to do research
and put together different types of presentations and reports...
the students also get valuable practice in these aspects as well.

As his teacher had explained...
all of his assignments are designed to prepare his students for University.

Alex is getting very good in his ability to quickly produce essays and reports...
and his research capabilities grow with each report.







Alex had printed out all of the sources for his report...
but as it was lengthly...I just put in his report without the sources.


Alex is now in three after school clubs...
and one in school elective.

His elective is MATHCOUNTS competition practice.


His after school clubs are...

Peer Tutoring - Alex will be tutoring Middle and High School students in Math.

National Junior Honor Society

High School Math Competition



Alex really enjoys school.

I have spoken to some of Alex's teachers.
They said he is very enthusiastic in class...
and that he participates well with the others.

Because of scheduling conflicts...
we had to opt for having Alex take a review (for Alex) math class 
with the 12th graders.

As it is only Pre-Calculus...
(Alex had completed Calculus II at home)...
although Alex won't be challenged...
it is good to have him review the basics
while we have him forge ahead with more advanced material at home.

As Alex is still in Middle School...
their schedules are too different to have him in the AP Calculus class
with the High Schoolers.

The only Math class which would fit in Alex's Middle School schedule...
was the Pre-Calculus class.

Once Alex enters High School...
he will then be able to take the AP courses easily.


So far as our weekly bike rides...
we had to put them on hold until the forest fires
in California have been extinguished.

There are simply too many particulates in the air to
healthfully exercise in any endurance activity.

Only if the smoke clears...
will we try swimming at Lake Tahoe this weekend.

However, I fear it may be a few more weeks before we may...
once again, enjoy our endurance bike rides.

Perhaps it is a good time to scout some good Autumn bike routes by car!  :)



I must stress the vital importance of having a once a week 
pure endurance exercise session (much longer than any of the other day's exercise...
low intensity - rarely get out of breath - breathing is deep and relaxed...
long session....at least 1 to 2 hours).

It not only clears the mind of senseless worry and stress...
it resets the metabolic rate of the body...
increases normal blood flow...
stimulates capillary growth.

It teaches the body to burn fats...
and in just a few weeks...
VERY noticeable, and beneficial...
 physical and psychological changes
shall be seen and felt.

The mind, body, and emotions...
will operate efficiently...
and at a much higher level.

You will come to realize the interlink among the...
body...
mind...
and the emotions.


Hmmm...
something which greatly, and positively affects
the body...mind...and emotions....
something which you look forward to doing...
feels refreshing and purifying while it is done...
makes you feel tremendous the whole time until repeated...
how is it that it is not done by everyone?


Never strive to feel just ok.
Always feeling exceptional should be your goal.


Pick an area with natural beauty for the exercise...
and you will come to see the once a week session as
something which you very much look forward to...
feel invigorated and rejuvenated as you exercise...
and something which will make you feel 
exceptionally good all week long.


This I promise you.



A child, once taught this...
will have a lifetime of benefits and deep enjoyment.








Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Simple Lesson In Life: Finding Your Carrot...Placing It Before You



Song:  Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me

Artist:  Elton John

(I was about Alex's age when this song first came out)


I frequently just step outside our home in the hills of Reno...
just to listen to...nothing
(we live in a very quiet neighborhood).

As Reno is situated in the High Desert of Nevada...
and our house is at an elevation of a little over 1 mile up (5300 ft. or so)...
the air is crisp and clean (minus the smoke from the odd forest fire in California :)...
there are very few insects flying...
the odd fly once in a great while...
no mosquitos at all...
it is pure pleasure to just be outside.


These were taken from our front porch.

Last night, as the sun was setting...
I thought of taking some pictures for a point I frequently stress with Alex.

We live in an area surrounded by incredibly beautiful views...
all within a short drive.

So many of the simple pleasures in life...
are free (just the price of gas in most places).


As I have said before...
I am 53 years old...
and I have been retired for over 2 years now...
and for me...life just keeps getting so much richer.

I frequently look back at the happiest times of my early life.
Almost all of them were the simple pleasures I had enjoyed...
with family or friends...and frequently...alone.

Many of those happy memories were when I had very little money...
but I had met some very good people who had shared their friendship with me.

We shared one of the most valuable and simple pleasures of life together...
we shared our time.

What we enjoyed together was free...
heart to heart talks...
deep and genuine laughs...
enjoying the mountains or beaches...
a simple meal...and a sunset.


I have a special love of sunsets.

For me...
it is a time of reflection...
a time to affirm my path in life...
to assure my next day's path will lead to some sort of growth...
 a time for the setting of my old self...
a time of psychological death...
a sacred time which I had earned...
either through my actions...
or through a formulated plan for furthering myself toward a goal...
without which I had truly earned...
I would deny myself...
even the most beautiful of sunsets.

Although I am not religious...
if this is what prayer is to religious people...
I think I understand the importance of it...
the great sanctity of it.


My great love of a simple sunset...
or the sweet solitude of the stars at night...
is my daily carrot.

Some of my daily objectives include...
helping my son understand a fundamental concept in his studies...or in life...
furthering my passion for writing through the outline progression 
of several books I hope to one day finish...
refinement of plans for the future...etc.

The crucial portion of placing a carrot before yourself...
is to never lie to yourself.

Should you not truly earn it for that day...
you MUST NOT partake in the enjoyment of your carrot.

Complete all of your necessary objectives BEFORE taking the carrot.


Something which is easily gotten...
is not highly valued...
it ceases to be your carrot.

It simply matters psychologically.

We each love progress in life.

A carrot ensures some sort of reward...
something we may look forward to.

This provides the motivation to achieve...
and it provides us with the ability to suffer now...
for greater returns later.



Like so many of us...
we each have our long term goals.

And like many...
what I had done many decades ago...
was to decide that which I had most wanted out of life...
and reversed planned back to myself.

By doing so...
the necessary path becomes clear.

By holding on to that dream...
by ensuring timely progression upon it...
it becomes a foregone conclusion.

This in itself leads to great peace of mind and happiness.


Just like with anything else in life...
because of the nature of human beings...
shorter term goals...
and the objectives to meet those goals...
should also pave the way.

And so...
the medium and short term goals and objectives.

My medium goal in life was to fully retire at a young enough age...
to then concentrate on the pursuit of my longer range plans...
and to fully enjoy all of the simple pleasures in life...
to make it rich in love and adventure.

My carrot then...
is what I am fully enjoying now.

It was SO worth it!



With each shorter objective completion...
should come an appropriate reward...
and so...
my daily carrot.




The two things a person must do in life to enjoy it...
is to get rid of the negative...and to enhance the positive.

Simple in concept...
yet...
I have seen so many people not do this in life.

We are made up of three major components...
the physical...
the emotional...
the intellectual.

Each are subject to negative factors which detract from life if allowed.



The Physical

Health...without which...
life becomes so much harder to enjoy...
especially when it is done to us...by us.

Don't smoke...
Don't drink to excess...
Don't constantly over eat...

(ok...this one needs some qualification :)

I have always eaten a lot...and yes...
I really do have a relatively high metabolic rate...
especially when I augment it with exercise...
which I do.


SEE!!!

I don't have a big belly!  :)




The Emotional

Get rid of the negative drama in your life
(drama should only be Korean or Japanese TV and movie dramas :)

While we may not be able to control the actions of others...
in many cases...we may control their access to our lives.

For those situations where we can not immediately do so...
use it as fuel to improve your life for the day when you may do so.




The Intellectual

Apathy...
having no sense of urgency in life...
having it rob us of the impetus to improve it.

With just the simple realization that we have but one shot at life...
it becomes precious....
life becomes seen as too short to not fully enjoy.

Simplify life...
so you may enjoy all of the simple pleasures in it.



My long term carrot?


To die well.

To do so...
you must have lived well.

To have lived and loved fully...
to have accomplished ones dreams in life...
to have lived in the service of others...
to have lived morally...honorably...
is to die with no regrets.

To experience the sunset of life...
without regret...
 is a dream we all share.



Sorry, Sir Elton John...
I believe you got it wrong once again :)

I say...
bring on the sunset.

It is both...
my daily reward...
and my final one.















Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Gift Of A Tree - From Alex's Cousin And Aunt



Song:  Michael Meets Mozart

Group:  The Piano Guys




Alex received this card notifying him of a tree being planted
in his honor...as gifted to him from his Aunt Linda and his Cousin Christopher.




A picture from last year of his Aunt Linda and his Grandmother when they visited.


A picture from a few months ago of Alex's Cousin Christopher
when we had visited his (Alex's) Aunt Linda's family.


For the past month or so...
the air around Reno and Lake Tahoe has been smokey
from various forest fires throughout California.


As of today...
there are these fires still burning out of control.

This is a result of arson...
it simply has to be.

I've never seen so many uncontrolled forest fires all at once throughout California...
that was not caused by arson.


This particular forest fire is the one that has been occluding the sunlight 
in the normally crystal clear air of Reno and Lake Tahoe.

There hasn't been a fire in this particular area in over 100 years.



This is a picture of it
(not my photo).


We had some slight rain last night...
and some high winds which had cleared out the air in Reno.

All of today, the air was, once again, crystal clear.

However, so long as this particular fire burns out of control...
the smoke will be back.

They believe this particular one will continue to burn for weeks.

Of course...
this is nothing compared to much larger disasters
around the world.

It is just the largest natural event in this area...
in a long time.

I just think of it as...
there has been a little Hell introduced into this slice of Heaven...
by some little Devil  :)














A Life Lesson Reminder For Alex: Life Is Not A Circle...But A Conical Helix




Song:  The Circle Of Life

Artist:  Elton John



Alex completing his short term assignment for English (due on Monday).

As this was Saturday...and he also has to finish most of his longer term
project for Social Studies today (Sunday)...he had to finish this assignment yesterday
before he could begin to tackle his Social Studies assignment, which is due in
two weeks (it will be on the successful reign of Tokugawa...almost 200 years).

Due to his projects coming in close succession...
we are going to put off his Lake Tahoe swim until next weekend.


This was his direction sheet for his English project.
It is a typical character development line for a hero's path in a story
(with one correction I had Alex make for his path - not a circle - but a Helix).


Alex had made this in accordance to the directions...
with one crucial addition...
making a helical representation instead of a circle
(more correctly his last statement would have been below his first...
since life is a conical helix...
however, his project was almost completed when I looked at it...
so a simple correction was all he could afford).

He was going to follow the directions exactly...
however, as I explained to Alex about not only life being a helix...
but about general directions in life...
he made the simple correction of one sentence...
and its placement.

Many directions are guides.
Should he discover a more refined path...
he is to not be afraid to demonstrate it
(however, he MUST have a better way).

To always follow directions...
is to never be able to surpass the giver of the directions.

Progress in the process would not be possible by doing this.

This is to guarantee stagnation.


Alex had originally put the arrow back to the hero's starting point.

I stressed to Alex that to do so is to not factor in time...
and psychological growth...
that life is one of three directions on a helix...
a positive spiral...
stagnation...
or a negative spiral.



With each growing experience in life...
we move ahead...we are not the same person we started as...
and so we would not be circling back to our starting point (stagnation)...
 we move ahead on the helix.

What makes it conical is experience.
We become more efficient in our thought processes...
we develop techniques which shortcut our actions for all similar situations.

It is this wisdom which puts us on the cutting edge of the conical helix.

With time always moving...
and with the backstop of life always getting nearer (death)...
those who stagnate...and especially those who dive into a negative spiral...
eventually find themselves screwed to the wall.


It is a very simple shift in thinking...
some may even think an unnecessary one...
but it is SO necessary if one is to live life well.

To think of life as a circle is to miss out on all of the 
naturally occurring implications 
when you realize life as being a conical helix.


However...
Elton John...
you are forgiven...
"The Circle Of Life".... 
simply flows better in the song than would have...
"The Conical Helix Of Life"... :)







Friday, August 23, 2013

A Ramen Restaurant - Alex's Dinner Conversation



Song:  Charlie Brown Medley

Group:  The Piano Guys





We tried a new restaurant tonight called...
Momiji Ramen.

It is just 10 - 15 minutes away from home.

Alex likes Ramen so...
Momiji Ramen was where we went.

As Alex has the most limited palate range...
and because he is working the hardest...
his vote for where we eat out usually carries the most weight.

My wife has the next most limited palate...
and so her vote usually carries the second most weight for where we eat out
(plus Alex loves pretty much anything his mother does).

I simply love almost any type of food...plus...
I can always eat out by myself when Alex is at school
whenever I get a strong craving for a particular type of food  :)


It had a very relaxed and simple layout and design.



Alex with his ever present iPad.


They had a variety of, not only Ramen...
but of selected other delicious dishes.


Maybe once or twice a year or so...
Alex will have a soda to drink...
as a special treat.

The only type he will drink is Ramune
(a Japanese soda).

He is trying to pop the glass ball from the top in this picture
(this drink is unique in that there is a small glass marble
at the top which seals the gases and liquid inside...
and which must be popped to a small inside chamber...
using the included plastic plunger, before the beverage may be enjoyed).




Alex had gotten the Karaage Chicken and Gyoza appetizers...
along with a soya based Ramen.




I had gotten the Tonkatsu plate...


and a cold Ramen dish.


My two plates.

The two appetizers are Alex's...not mine...
I don't want you to think I am some sort of gluttonous pig!  :) :)


Alex had gotten the Mango Mochi ice cream for dessert.


During dinner...
Alex made an analogy comparing his love interest
(he has liked this particular girl at school since the 6th grade)...
with the main characters of the Korean Drama...
Winter Sonata.

This particular girl at his school presently likes someone else...
and just like in the drama...
 so did the girl...
until she had gotten to know the main character.

Alex is hoping his love interest will...one day...notice him.

One of the driving forces behind him doing well in his studies...
is his desire to one day...find true love...
someone pure of heart whom he may give undying devotion...
and to be such a man as to be worthy...
of her undying devotion.

Alex's heart is leading his mind in the right direction...
 and his mind is planning ahead to create conditions where
he may one day satisfy his heart.



SEE...

Demonstrated effectiveness of positive modeling in a child's life 
through a good Korean or Japanese Drama  :)

Now all he has to do is wait until University to think too seriously
about his pure hearted woman  :)








Thursday, August 22, 2013

Alex's Initiative Assignment - Daily Class Synopsis - Web Site Updating



Song:  Bring Him Home

Group:  The Piano Guys




Alex's first update.


Alex was given the chance to complete a daily synopsis of what was learned
in his history class...and to update the teacher's class web site on a daily basis.
He has to find an appropriate picture to illustrate the day's lesson...
and then to write a concise description of all that was covered in class.

I realized how this would be a perfect way for Alex to greatly improve his listening...
and reading comprehension.

He has to take accurate notes in class to update the web site correctly, and fully.

He will have almost daily practice in understanding concepts and meanings...
and efficiently expressing them.

This is such a wonderful daily exercise for Alex...
and, he, of course, earns extra credit for his work...
once a quarter (his teacher wants him to do it all year).

I am also glad that Alex's teacher trusts him to be responsible
enough to do this assignment without fail...
and to do it well enough that his students may depend on the 
information given by Alex
(as he was Alex's teacher last year...
he already knows of his writing abilities).

Alex was fortunate enough to have gotten 
the same Social Studies teacher as he had last year.

His teacher is very enthusiastic in his teaching...
and very imaginative in his assignments.



Alex's first priority for homework to complete... 
is the updating of his teacher's web site.

This will allow students who had missed a key portion 
of information for the day's class...
 to be able to get an understanding of it...
 in a timely manner.






Alex's class was recently assigned a medium term project...
to be completed in two weeks.

I will be helping Alex brainstorm for his project this weekend.


Alex just completed his second day of reading Musashi.

After completing his synopsis...
we discussed what had happened...
and why.

He still gets a little baffled, so far as motives of key characters are concerned...
however, with our daily practice of this masterpiece of literature...
I foresee a great amount of improvement in this area also.


So long as the weather is good...
we plan on going to Lake Tahoe for a day of swimming (this weekend)...
from the same pier we had gone to during the Fourth of July celebration.

The only detractor to the normally beautiful scenery in the mountains
right now (and has been for over a month)...
is the amount of smoke in the air from a large forest fire just on the other side of the 
crest of the Sierra Nevadas.

It is expected to burn for another month, or so, before it can be extinguished.

Hopefully, we will be able to still fully enjoy the normally beautiful scenery
that fills the view from anywhere at Lake Tahoe.


Alex has also improved in his weight training today
(we exercise right after he has completed his day of studies).

We added 5 pounds to each of three of his lifts...
and he had completed all of the day's sets in perfect form.

He is making steady progress...
and with steady progress...
no matter the area of improvement...
Alex gets very excited...
and even more motivated.

That is a key in life...
to not only personal progress...
but to overall happiness.







Wednesday, August 21, 2013

No More AR Books For Alex - Leisure Reading - Musashi



Song:  Japanese Lullabies



Alex began (once again)...
reading the epic novel...
Musashi.

This is his new leisure reading book.

He had read some of the book long ago
as part of our reading comprehension exercises.
However, we had to put it on hold as we had to prioritize other studies.

As a result of Alex's test scores at school...
he is one of the students who no longer needs to read
Accelerated Reading books and take tests on them.

So, today...
I had him restart the tremendous novel that is...Musashi.

As of 1981...
there were over 120 million copies of this novel sold in Japan alone.

How many millions more have been sold since then...
and else where in the world...I do not know.
However, I do know that at least 120 million people's lives
have been greatly enriched by this deeply moving novel.

The copy Alex is reading is the one I had bought over 30 years ago
(mine had a different cover design).

I had loved it so much (it is my favorite book of all time)...
I knew that I would want to have my future son read it
(although I wouldn't get married for another 12 years...
I was thinking how much I wanted to have children some day).

It is a book about one of the greatest swordsman in Japanese history.
It is believed that Miyamoto Musashi had approximately 60 sword duels to the death
as he traveled olden day Japan in search of self mastery through his sword. 

Although historical records reflect his duels and certain segments of his life...
not enough was known about the details to call this novel a biography.

What the author had done was to create a fictional account of the life of 
Miyamoto Musashi...based upon as many real historical facts as was known.

Miyamoto Musashi had actually written a book on tactics and sword fighting
(Go Rin No Sho - The Book Of Five Rings).

He had also produced works of art in ink...and with metal (sword guards).



The novel "Musashi" is 970 pages of small print...
and filled with all the makings of a truly epic novel.

It fully illustrates the inner growth of a person
who went to necessary extremes to change himself fundamentally...
and of the woman who loved him with a pure heart...
and of her great commitment to love.

Throughout this novel...
the reader is taken on a journey of great...
courage...
love...
friendship...
commitment...
and honor.

This book has great relevance for all young readers
as it shows the effects on those who choose a hedonistic lifestyle...
and their destination in life as a result of their decisions...
and the effects on those who choose a life of deferred gratification...
and of the greatness achieved in their lives.

This book does so much to teach a better way of life...
no matter the particular path chosen by a child.

The fundamental message is universal, and timeless.

It stresses the positive results through committed daily training...
and living with a true and pure heart.

A child will naturally infer the applicability to all of life...
whether it is Intellectual (studying)...
Emotional (music and arts)...
or Physical (sports).

Of all the books I have read...
even of the great western pieces of literature...
none sets the tone for morality as a way of life...
so well as does Musashi.

This book should be required reading for all students.


As Alex has many subjects to study on a daily basis...
along with extra credit assignments and special projects...
Alex only has time to read 30 minutes to an hour a day (every day).

After each leisure reading session...
he writes a synopsis of what he had read for the day.
We will then discuss the significance of the events which had transpired in his reading.

We still allot approximately one hour of absolute free time for him every day
(although he frequently chooses to design a math contest or instructional essay
in his free time).

Alex is in the process of designing math contests for 
Middle and High School students.

He says that his contest will be designed for the average student (non honors class)... 
in hopes of getting them more interested in math.

When he completes it...
I will post it.

After completing the High School contest...
he will then work on the Middle School contest.


He has hopes of introducing it to his school as an annual event
(now that is optimistic and forward thinking! :)

Alex is happiest when he is being creative
with his writing and math skills.


Alex loves to read, study, and create essays as a daily activity...
even in his free time.

I have to assign a movie for him to watch with me
(movie night...a movie chosen for its moral and empathetic value)...
as he would rather do his daily activities.

He doesn't watch TV unless it is the rare educational show
(he would rather read).

No argument from me  :)









Monday, August 19, 2013

Alex, And Me...A Comparison Of Similarities And Differences




Song:  My Immortal (piano solo)

Group:  Evanescence



My mother had just sent me a scan of my Freshman High School photo...
out of the blue.

So, of course, it made me think to do a comparative photo 
of Alex, now...and me, then.

Although I was 1 year older than is Alex now...
I wanted Alex to see our similarities at similar ages.


A photo of Alex taken today (08/19/13).
Alex is 12 years old in this photo.


A photo of me when I was a Freshman in High School in 1973.
I was 13 years old.


(Alex at 12 yrs. old - 08/19/13)

Alex has my mouth, nose...
and same basic facial structure.

He is, however, MUCH more mature than I was (ever :)

If you notice by looking into our eyes...
Alex's eyes are much more focused...
as is his mind.

He has the drive of knowing what he wants...
and his disciplined study habits reflect his seriousness in life.


My eyes reflect the unfocused mind that I had.

I was constantly daydreaming...
my grades were atrocious...
I was hopelessly immature...
I had no idea what I had wanted to do in life.

Although I was serious in my physical training...
I really wouldn't mature until my 4 years in the Army straightened me out.

When I got out of the Army, I was 21 years old...
and only because of the experiences and responsibilities
I had while in the Army...could I then put myself through University
(I am still amazed with myself that I graduated :)

I have always been so grateful to the Army.
I had so many of life's great growing experiences while there.



Similarities:

Alex, and I, have a very similar emotional side.

We have great compassion toward all living creatures.

We both tend to feel things (emotionally)...
quickly, and deeply.

However, Alex is much better at handling frustration than I am.

We are both socially shy.

While Alex had some compulsions and nervous tics...
mine were much more severe.

We both love solitude and nature.


Differences:

The chief difference between Alex, and me...
lies in our basic mental processing and memory.

Besides Alex having a much superior processing speed...
he has a far superior working and general memory.

I have a terrible memory...
I simply don't remember things unless I understand the concept.

Unless it makes sense to me logically...
it is soon forgotten.

Alex is a very detail oriented and sequential learner.
He excels at text and auditory learning in a progressive and sequential manner.

I am a very global visual and kinesthetic learner.

Things usually don't make sense to me unless I see the whole picture...
and see how the governing concepts or principles apply to the whole.

As, like with many of us who are visual learners...
I think in movies.

When receiving instructions...
either through text or auditorily...
I automatically convert the instructions into a movie of the mind.
All I have to do then is to remember the movie.

That is why I did well physically in sports.

I could learn by watching someone do something.
I could see, hear, and feel what they were doing...
as a whole...and so, the crucial timing was picked up on...
and I could duplicate their actions.

Although I am not a spectator of sports...
I think that those who are...
are also visual and kinesthetic learners.

I think they also experience what the players feel through their senses...
just by watching them play.



I have asked Alex about his learning process
(both, he, and his mother, are auditory and text sequential learners).

From what I gather...
they remember the actual directions as they had heard or read them.

As for Alex's great mathematical abilities...
I know he hadn't gotten them from me  :)

Numbers have never made sense to me...
only what they actually represented in the movie of the mind.

I could give a great generalized educated guess :)

As a result...
I could never quantify to any degree of accuracy :)

Only through great struggle...
did I pass higher math at University
(and my atrocious study habits hampered me even more  :)


Alex, on the other hand...
 is a natural when it comes to math.

Letters and Numbers...
 were always closest to his heart.

He has always loved them...
he was always excited by them.


And so...
this was a basic glimpse into the mind of Alex.

He is of pure heart...
and of pure mind.

His pure actions are a direct result
of his pure heart and mind 
being aligned...
and in synch.

I say...
focus on the heart and mind...
the actions will follow.



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