Thursday, November 29, 2012


A few weeks ago in church, while in the midst of a discussion, a woman asked a rhetorical question.

"Doesn't it just make you feel wonderful when you're helping someone?"

And I thought about my latest foray into volunteerism, and honestly answered:  No.

I have been volunteering since October at Jonathan's school, running a once-a-week after school math program for kids.  I wanted to be able to include all the kids who were interested, so I paid all the up front expenses myself (particularly the background clearance fee to work in the school), and have been charging the kids nothing with the idea of helping them have fun with supplementary math.

It hasn't really worked as planned.

The first issue was that too many kids were interested.  We had 25 sign up and turned 10 away in a single day.  I have not been trained in managing 25 kids that age.  The meetings have been chaos.

The second issue was one I discovered later.  I want to include kids who like math, who come there for the fun of it. I have a couple of kids who haven't been participating, who complain all through the hour long session, and can't wait until it's over.  When I pulled them aside and suggested they stop coming, since they clearly hate it, they said their mom would be mad if they didn't come.  She wants them to attend and learn something.  So the kids show up and resent having to be there and drag the class down because Mom thinks that they should be learning something.  I'm not running the program for Mom.  I told the kids they would not be able to come back if they don't start participating.  We'll see whether my talk has any effect.

Another problem is location.  Because of space issues, we're borrowing a teacher's classroom.  The teacher has almost no blackboard space at the front of the classroom.  I can't plug in my laptop.  That means I get to communicate via interpretive dance....  ?

So how does volunteering make me feel?

Completely exhausted.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Quantum states

It snowed all day Friday, making for a scary bike ride home.  This afternoon Jonathan and I took a couple of neighbor boys up to the park near the mouth of the canyon and went sledding.  There were lots of people out, and the snow was wearing itself off the local sledding hill.  Jonathan had his arm cast wrapped up in a couple of plastic bags, with his coat sleeve pulled over on top.  After the first time down the hill he said it hurt, and I almost took him back home.  But the arm felt fine quickly, and he was ok after that.  We spent at least an hour running up and down that hill afterwards.  That's good for everyone.


This week has been an eventful one, locally, nationally.

Lots of losing.  Failing.  My mother's big cause, the culmination of a lot of work on her part, was voted down.

Is it really better to have tried but failed?

In quantum physics, the state of a particle is generally changed by the action of measuring it.  In real life, before having tried, there are two possible states: success and failure.  Before you invest the time to try, you have to believe that success is a more likely outcome.  But after you've tried, and the measurement has been taken, and you have failed, there is only failure.  There is no more potential for success, unless you re-run the experiment, adjusting something.  Unless you start over, you're just a failure.

That hurts.

Let the world run without trying.  Leave the quantum states unmeasured.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Broken arm

Jonathan broke his arm on Wednesday.  He was out gathering candy from the neighborhood, in the dark, and he tripped over a scooter left on a lawn between houses.

Wednesday night he came home in tears, and Thursday morning I spent the time with him at the doctor's office, waiting, and then at the radiologist's, waiting, and then waiting, until I abandoned the waiting to Tim, who took Jonathan in to get the cast.

The boy is fine now, and was happy to show off the cast to his friends in school on Friday.  In four weeks we'll go in for more waiting and get the cast taken off.

Meanwhile, watch out for sharp toys on dark lawns.