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Archive for the ‘Favorite Things’ Category

The idea of the DOW Bee Mental Math Project stems in part from one of my fondest memories — a game my father used to stimulate thinking when my brother and I climbed into the back seat of the family car. We would no sooner hear the engine start than our father asking us “the” question.

“Ready?” he’d ask in a rising tone.robot
Once he knew he had our attention, he would begin. “Four, plus four, times two, plus six, minus two, plus seven, plus 1, divided by nine and you’re answer is?”

Naturally, we would compete to be first to belt out the correct answer and upon hearing it, Dad would proceed to give voice to one problem after another until we reached our destination. On many an occasion, of course, we’d fail to get the right answer so he’d repeat the problem until at least one of us discovered the error of his way.

As time passed, not only did the tempo of the problems accelerate, they became increasingly difficult because they required a reasonable command of fractions, decimals, squares, and square roots. As described, the game was not only engaging and entertaining, it was highly competitive at least in the sense that at the time nothing was more motivating for me than being given the opportunity to best my older brother at anything.

I was reminded of that childhood experience several months ago when I stumbled upon Professor Arthur Benjamin’s The Secrets of Mental Math, a book I wish I had had in hand when I taught math to elementary and junior high school students back in the late 60s and early 80s. The text was so inspiring that I came out of retirement to introduce my grandson’s seventh grade class to not only a half dozen of the mental math tricks contained in the book’s opening chapters but the concept of calendar calculations. It would be an gross understatement to say that he and his classmates were excited when I asked them if they’d like to know how to calculate the weekday they were born on.

A month later I found myself sitting in my daughter’ s living room converting random calendar dates as far back as the 1500s in a notebook I’d brought along with me to entertain myself. A young man, Robert (not his real name), stepped into the room and inquired as to what I was doing. One thing led to another and I found myself explaining the underlying algorithm.  Not just a little taken by the idea, he shared the following story related to a job interview he’d recently undergone.

An experienced aerospace engineer with a degree from Ohio State University, he thought himself well prepared to answer the dozen or more questions the interviewer asked. In fact, up until the very end he thought he had pretty much aced the interview. That perception changed, however, when the employer handed him a pad of paper and a pencil and asked him to do a set of relatively of simple multiplication and division problems without the use of a calculator. Robert picked up the pencil to do as he had been asked but had to abandon the task a minute or so later when he realized he couldn’t complete it.

As shocking the discovery was to him and informative as his story was to me, it turned out to be less an eye opener than the revelation that followed. The hiring official smiled before he shook his head and chuckled out loud at Robert’s obvious embarrassment and discomfort.  It was then that he revealed that he had apparently assigned the same task to more than a half dozen candidates and all but two had apparently failed the test just like Robert.

With my childhood and Robert’s experiences in mind, imagine yourself seated at the dining room table listening to your family discuss plans to celebrate a sibling’s next birthday only to hear your 10-year-old nephew casually declare that his birthday will fall on a Wednesday this year, Friday next. You look in his direction as he reaches out to pick up another dinner roll.  He has gotten your attention. Naturally you wonder if his assertion was an accurate one.

You reach in your pocket and pull out your iPhone, activate the calendar app and discover that your brother’s birthday will, indeed, fall on Wednesday this year. You then spend the next 10 seconds fast forwarding the calendar to the following year only to confirm that next year his birthday will occur on the aforementioned Friday.

“How did you know that your uncle’s birthday will fall on a Wednesday this year?” you ask.

“It’s magic,” he responds with an all knowing smile as he takes a big bite out of that now well-buttered roll.

As you will soon discover, a command of DOW mathematics not only provides a fascinatingly efficient and effective means to make future plans but to recount the past. In the process it turns mathematics from an all too often, technologically driven passive mental activity into a proactive one. One can, of course, always refer to a calendar, just like engineers refer to their calculators, but it is so much more gratifying to be in the unique position to determine the day of the week (DOW) without referencing one.

As for children, who among them can help but get a real sense of accomplishment and self-worth when they will be the only one seated at the table who has no need to reference a printed or computer generated calendar. What is more, who amongst those seated with her/him can help but be impressed by such a bright youngster.

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This is a list of my favorite books. Several come to mind when I find myself dealing with the challenges that accompany every day living. The others I just find interesting or entertaining. The title of each is hyperlinked to reviews that have been posted on Amazon.com.

Maugham’s short stories don’t carry many reviews but I found his depiction of humanity personally enlightening. In fact, I find many his stories so engaging that I can easily see myself playing and living the assigned roles of several of his characters. I didn’t hyperlink Sherlock Holmes only because Doyle’s stories are so well know that reviews are superfluous.

Journey Without Distance by Robert Skutch (An essential prerequisite to A Course in Miracles.)

A Course in Miracles (Author Unknown)

Victory Secrets of Attila the Hun by Wess Roberts, Ph.D. (Great lessons in every day management.)

Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards (If you’re artistically challenged this book is a real eye opener.)

The Complete Short Stories of W. Somerset Maugham by Somerset Maugham

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff . . . and it’s all small stuff  by Richard Carlson, Ph.D. (If you are the least bit offended by the formatting of the title, you really need to read this book.)

Maverick by Ricardo Semler (If you’re in business, this is a mandatory read.)

Green Belt Sudoku by Michael Rios (I’m working on the third copy of this one. Like the story of Goldilocks and the three bears — the puzzles in this volume are not particularly easy; not particularly difficult; they’re just right. )

Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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Every man, married or otherwise, occasionally finds himself struggling to find something to eat when he’s living alone or occasionally left to his own devices. If married, the chick food stacked on every shelf in the refrigerator just won’t cut it — you know, stuff like yogurt, fancy cheese spreads, low fat cottage cheese, fruit, vegetables, and an endless variety of half consumed salad dressings. Enough already. Get your butt to the store, buy the following ingredients and feast like a king.

Quick Breakfast

  1. Put half a can of Hormel beef (not corn beef) hash in a small frying pan, smoosh it down so it covers the bottom of the pan, and turn the heat on medium. (Put the rest in a small container and put it in the refrigerator for the following day.)
  2. Break an egg over the center of the stuff.
  3. Place a cover over the pan so the egg will cook faster.
  4. When the yolk solidifies, get a fork and eat it right out of the pan. It’s okay. Nobody is watching.

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Quick Sweetrolls to Die For

All you need is an 8″x12″ pyrex cooking pan, butter, brown sugar, Karo syrup, pecans, and dinner rolls.

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup packed brown sugar
  2. 3/8s cup butter
  3. 3 tablespoons clear Karo syrup
  4. Small package of chopped pecans
  5. Package of dinner rolls. (King’s Hawaiian rolls, if you can get them.)

Instructions

Melt brown sugar, butter, and Karo syrup in a small sauce pan on medium heat to prevent burning. Pour mixture to cover the bottom of the cooking pan. Sprinkle chopped pecans over surface. Separate and lay dinner rolls bottom up to fill pan.

If using ordinary dinner rolls, cook at the prescribed temperature in a preheated over as long as the package specifies. If you are fortunate enough to buy King’s Hawaiian rolls, just warm for :10 on 300.

When the rolls are done, take out the pan and,using a couple of heating pads, place a cookie sheet large enough to cover the top of the pan and quickly flip it over so the rolls fall out of the pan onto the cookie sheet. Best to butter and eat right away while they’re still warm.

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Homemade, Award Winning Chili

All you need is a large crock pot, 15 minutes of prep time, and approximately 4 hours of cooking time.

Ingredients

  1. 1 Large can tomato sauce.
  2. 1 Large can diced tomatoes.
  3. 1 Large can kidney beans.
  4. 1 Large green pepper (diced)
  5. 1 Large yellow onion (diced)
  6. 2 Lbs of ground beef.
  7. 2 Tablespoons Gebhardt’s chili powder

Instructions

  1. Put all the ingredients except for the hamburger in the cooker and turn it on.
  2. Brown the beef and drain.
  3. Put beef in crock pot with everything else.
  4. Cook for four hours on high.

Best accompanied by buttered slices of white sandwich bread.

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Chicken on Toast

  1. Put a small can of cream of chicken soup in small cooking pan.
  2. Add no more than 1/2 soup can of milk.
  3. Add two tablespoons of lemon juice.
  4. Add 1 can of canned chicken once the mixture starts to bubble. (Be careful not to stir too aggressively or the chunks of chicken will break down into tiny pieces hardly worth chewing.)
  5. Toast bread and then thoroughly butter it. (A can of ready to bake Pillsbury Grands are nice if you like a sweet tasting alternative.)
  6. Spoon mixture on toast.
  7. Eat.

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The idea expressed by the following quote has appeared in many forms but the one I’m most familiar with is the one from our 16th President. Isn’t it remarkable how many people (especially politicians, pundits, and entertainers)  ignore it?

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

–Abraham Lincoln

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The following quote popped into my head when a friend failed to show up for dinner one night 20 years ago. A half hour after the appointed meeting time, she called to say that she was with friends in a distant bar and was too drunk to drive. Needless to say, I was not only disappointed but really annoyed by her inconsiderate behavior but it finally dawned on me that while I had made the get together a priority in my life, she had not. Put another way, she just had something better to do.

That singular thought has served me well over the years because it forces me to keep personal relationships in their proper perspective.   Accepting the fact that I am not the center of anyone’s universe but my own has also enabled me to find a considerable degree of clarity and contentment.

“No expectations; no disappointments.”

— Anonymous

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I don’t know where I heard this the first time but every so often when I listen to the talking heads out of Washington.

“Same circus; different clowns.” 

— Anonymous

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“I’m never upset for the reason I think.”

— A Course in Miracles: Lesson 5

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“If you take care of the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves.”

–Anonymous

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The following wisdom was derived from a course taught by Dr. Al DiVito.

“The people who rule the world are those who ask the questions, not the people who answer them.”

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“Facts don’t cease to exist because they are ignored.”

– Aldous Huxley

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Here’s the recipe I’ve been using to bake a 2 pound loaf of bread once a week. It’s a great tasting bread especially when used to make toast in the morning, grilled cheese and panini sandwiches later in the day. I use an old Sunbeam, Model #5891.

Prep time: 10 Minutes.

Dry Ingredients: 

1 cup bread flour
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons of dry milk powder
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

Wet Ingredients:

1 cup water (make this as exact as possible)
1 large egg
2 tablespoons of olive oil. (You can use vegetable oil but the loaf won’t taste as good.)

Final Ingredient: 

1 1/2 teaspoons of active dry yeast (Highly recommend using a yeast specifically designed for bread machines.)

Directions

1. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl.
2. Mix wet ingredients in a bowl or measuring cup.
3. Pour wet ingredients in the internal bread machine container.
4. Pour dry ingredients on top of that. (Do not mix.)
5. Make an indention in the top of the dry ingredients large enough to hold the dry yeast. (This is important.)
6. Place dry yeast in the indention.
7. Set bread machine to the #1 setting (for ordinary bread).
8. Set machine for 2 pound loaf.
9. Set crust to medium.
10. Make sure timer is set for 3 hours.
11. Plug the machine in and press the start button.

Three hours later you’ll have a nice loaf of bread that is easily kept in a large, one gallon freezer bag. Highly recommend cutting slices only as needed. Keeps longer that way.

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