bobquasit: (Default)
2012-12-03 10:45 am

Children's fiction being eliminated from curricula in US

Common Core sparks war over words

Apparently the government is forcing English teachers to replace huge amounts of fiction with non-fiction. I had to comment:

What concerns me is that even most modern young-adult and children's fiction is, for lack of a better word, tripe. The old classics are routinely rewritten to simplfy and dumb down vocabulary and concepts. We are forcing our children to eat bland mush when they should be having a chance to try their literary and intellectual teeth on works of substance - and then we're surprised when they tell us that reading is boring.

It IS boring. But that's only because we're restricting them to books which have been sanitized and simplified into pablum. And those purile books must compete with the hyper-stimulating and omnipresent world of television and video games. What chance do our children have?

Since the day he was born, I've read my son REAL books. Alice In Wonderland (both books, and yes I know that's not the correct title). The Doctor Dolittle books - the original uncensored editions, mind you, not the painfully rewritten versions which are all that are being published today. The Wind in the Willows. The Hobbit. The Lord of the Rings. Mister Penny. The Chronicles of Prydain. Bridge of Birds. The Black Stallion books. The original editions of Robert Arthur's Three Investigators books. The Portmanteau Book, The Teddy-Bear Habit, Edward Ardizonne's Tim series, The Jungle Books. Esther Averill's Jenny Linsky books. The Adventures of Phunsi. Robert A. Heinlein's juveniles. All of them with the original text and illustrations. Most of these are out of print, but you can find copies if you try - and it's worth it, it's so very much worth it. Great literature (and not-so-great but fun and challenging literature) is a gift beyond price for a child.

As for cost, many of these books can be obtained through your local library. Some of the best are in the public domain and can be freely downloaded from sites such as Project Gutenberg!

My son reads like mad on his own; his vocabulary and comprehension skills are excellent. And I continue to read to him every night. Next, we're going to tackle Rudyard Kipling's Kim.
bobquasit: (Default)
2012-11-24 09:48 pm
Entry tags:

A Fan

[I'm experimenting with copying a post from Google Plus to Dreamwidth/LiveJournal. Pasting the text and photo from G+ into the Dreamwidth Rich Text editor seems to work, although I had to get the public link for the photo. For some reason the LJ-to-Facebook connection doesn't seem to be working.]

My dad came over today. We've been having a couple of electrical problems, and he was trained in electronics by the army. Plus he's handy, which I, unfortunately, am not. Or not very.

The first problem was the ceiling light in the den. It kept flickering and making buzzing noises. He took things apart and figured out that the problem was that the contact in the base of the socket was depressed; it wasn't making proper contact. He pried it up, and now the light works perfectly. I'll have to look into getting a shade for it.

The second problem was the ceiling fan in Sebastian's room, which is next to the den. The light tended to go on and off randomly, and the ceiling fan rarely worked; instead, it hummed and made a burning electrical smell.

So we took it down. Dad examined and tested the wiring, and it seemed fine. But the motor was burned out on the ceiling fan. We went over to Lowe's. Teri and I wanted to get a fan much like the one he'd had, but Sebastian insisted on a short-bladed and admittedly cooler-looking fan, an allen+roth. The salesman said the fan would be virtually imperceptible, but eventually we gave in.

When we got home and opened the box, we got worried. It was complicated; the estimated assembly time was two hours! Dad and I spent a lot of time trying to figure it out. I don't know about Dad, but I'm pretty sure that my shoulders will ache for days! And toward the end we were working in darkness, since the circuit breaker for that lamp also covers the whole room.

But we got it put together and mounted. Dad did the wiring, which is good because wiring makes me nervous. It was great when the light went on! And when we turned on the fan, go figure: the breeze was far stronger than our old fan's had been. It blew papers right off Sebastian's desk.

It feels good to get something like that done!

bobquasit: (Default)
2012-05-15 11:48 pm
Entry tags:


Going home. All's well
bobquasit: (Default)
2012-05-15 10:04 pm
Entry tags:

Waiting Room

We're still in the waiting room. Tired, hungry, and bored. The pediatrician thought it might be appendicitis and sent us here. Sebastian threw up about 90 minutes ago and feels much better...but we can't leave.

AND as I was writing this, they moved us into a room.
bobquasit: (Default)
2012-01-21 10:01 am
Entry tags:

Snow and Cupidity

Snow's coming down again today - 3-5 inches, they say, but I think it's going to be more like 4-8. Sebastian went out back to play while I did some early shoveling.

I told him that we'd reward him if he wanted to do some shoveling. "How?" he asked.

"Well...with money, I guess!"

"How much?"

"...what do you think would be fair?"

"Fifty dollars!"

"What?!? But I already did most of it!"


"That's pretty steep! I don't know..."

"Twenty? I need enough to buy a Hex Bug."

"I'll discuss it with your mother," I said, rapidly retreating.

I'd been thinking more in the $3-5 range. The snow is really light...a couple of inches of dust, so far.
bobquasit: (Sebastian Riding)
2011-07-18 12:06 am
Entry tags:


Tonight Sebastian asked me to have dinner with him. He set us up in the dining room, which is unusual. Teri was having dinner outside on the new picnic table with a friend, but Sebastian and I were staying inside because the little boy from the yard behind ours will not let us alone if he sees us.

It was nice having dinner with my little guy! He's so cool. I'm very lucky.
bobquasit: (Default)
2011-05-08 10:54 pm

Mother's Day Weekend

A very nice weekend. On Saturday we took Sebastian to a penguin class at the zoo - he got to see them and draw them. I picked up a cap at the gift shop that actually fit my head, for a wonder.

Later, Sebastian and I drove up to Boston. We got choreg and lahmejun from a couple of Armenian markets in Watertown, then went over to my parents' place.

We had a nice family get-together at my sister and brother-in-law's new place (they have a harpsichord, which sounds amazing - I played the one song I know, and it came out great) and then drove home.

It was pretty late, but Sebastian stayed awake through the drive. He'd read the first Harry Potter book all the way to Boston, and finished it on the way home.

On Sunday we went to Foxwoods with Teri's mother. I hung out with Sebastian while they gambled. We went back and forth several on some people-movers (like the ones they have in airports). Then we spent some time at the arcade. After dinner at the Hard Rock cafe, we headed home.

I was pleased with myself tonight. Sebastian was watching a live-action Scooby Doo that he's seen before, but I insisted on a family movie night; we had Mary Poppins from Netflix. Neither he nor Teri had seen it before, and in no time he was laughing and laughing. Teri really liked it too, although she fell asleep before the end. Now Sebastian is interested in reading the Mary Poppins books.

Now everyone is asleep. My computer is still in the shop (I hope it will be ready tomorrow), so I'm going to sleep too. Good night!

Posted via LjBeetle
bobquasit: (Sebastian Riding)
2011-04-24 11:06 pm
Entry tags:

A moment

Tonight Sebastian thanked me for reading and singing to him every night for all these years.

I thanked him for giving me someone to sing and read to.
bobquasit: (Sebastian)
2011-03-26 11:25 pm

GoodReads Review: Lost Race of Mars

Lost Race of MarsLost Race of Mars by Robert Silverberg

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A few days ago I was looking somewhat frantically through the books on the shelves in my closet (yes, I have a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf in my closet) for something to read to my son, Sebastian. Lost Race of Mars almost fell into my lap. I'd read it several times as a child myself, and remembered liking it quite a lot. I'd nearly forgotten about it, but I grabbed it and read it to him.

It was written by Robert Silverberg in 1960, and includes some charmingly albeit slightly crude illustrations. Sebastian loved the book, and chuckled over every drawing.

It's the story of a family who visits Mars for a year on that far-off date of 1991. The children, Jim and Sally, are the primary focus. But what grabbed Sebastian the most were the cats. First was the family cat, Chipper, who is left behind on Earth early on. Sebastian asked several times if we'd see Chipper again. A few illustrations later in the book showed Chipper, and he was particularly interested in those. He is a cat person (we're a cat family, in fact), so his interest was quite natural. Perhaps someone who doesn't like cats wouldn't enjoy the book as much as we did.

There was also Mitten, the Mars cat, in the later chapters. Again, Sebastian loved Mitten and chortled over the drawings of him.

The story is nicely paced, well-written, easy to read aloud, and has a very satisfying ending. The science is a little shaky, but not outrageously so (I'm still tempted to look up the temperatures on Mars). The prognostications are way off - a thriving Mars colony by 1991?!? - but that's not an insurmountable problem. The Martians themselves are, well, pedestrian by modern science fiction standards. But they work well for children, and that's who the book is written for. I'll also credit Silverberg with giving Sally, the younger girl in the book, a stronger-than-customary role for the time; she's not simply a stereotypical docile little sister, nor is she one of those cliched "spunky" girls.

Sebastian is nine and a half. He's a bit advanced when it comes to books, but I'd say we hit the sweet spot with this one - he's the perfect age to enjoy it. I think any child from say, eight to thirteen would be likely to enjoy the book, and many older children would too.

I'm giving the book four stars just because I can't classify it as a deathless classic that will last through the ages. But Sebastian gives it fives stars without reservation.

View all my reviews
bobquasit: (Default)
2011-03-21 11:28 pm
Entry tags:


After we finished Cheaper by the Dozen, he asked me to get Belles On Their Toes. While we were waiting for the inter-library loan to come in, we started Robert Silverberg's Lost Race of Mars - I'd forgotten all about it, but it practically fell into my lap when I was looking through the books in my closet for something to read to Sebastian.

He likes it very much so far. It's better than I remembered, and the illustrations are engaging.

He also started reading (purely on his own initiative) the first Harry Potter book. I tried to explain that they're derivative and not particularly well-written, but he really wants to read it. He's been pretty diligent about it, too!

Other than that, we bought the old Turbo-Grafx Neutopia game for the Wii. He likes it quite a bit, but he's often having me play it while he watches. :D
bobquasit: (Sebastian)
2011-03-20 11:49 pm
Entry tags:

Sebastian's Alien

Sebastian's Alien A few days Teri told me that Sebastian had been drawing swearing, and showed me this picture. That didn't sound like him, so I asked him what the second line of writing was.

"It's Alien!" he said, as if surprised that I hadn't figured it out immediately.

He's such a good boy...

bobquasit: (Sebastian Riding)
2011-03-14 10:39 pm
Entry tags:

Frisco's Sock

I have two or three pairs of wonderful thick old socks from Abercrombie & Fitch, from the days when they were still a respectable men's clothing shop - as opposed to the child pornographers and pimps that they are today (did you know that they have an attractiveness requirement for their employees? Their sector managers check out all new hires and fire any that aren't attractive enough to suit them).

Anyway, one of the pairs wore through badly towards the toes. It wasn't an Abercrombie & Fitch pair, actually, but I wanted to record that rant about them anyway . For some quirky reason I put Sebastian's favorite stuffed animal, Frisco the Cat, inside the sock. His snout and eyes fit through the hole perfectly.

Sebastian loved it. The hole soon expanded, but that sock became Frisco's new sleeping bag and wardrobe. Eventually I found the other sock. Teri had been planning to throw it away, but I noticed that there was a tiny hole in the same place as on the other sock, about the size of a dime. I switched Frisco from the large-hole sock to the new one, with just his pink nose showing through the hole. When Sebastian got home he liked it a lot. He's already enlarged the hole enough for Frisco's whole head!
bobquasit: (Sebastian Riding)
2011-03-14 10:32 pm
Entry tags:

Pinewood Derby 2011

The Pack Pinewood Derby race is tomorrow. Sebastian and I hadn't been able to go to the cutting event, so we emailed a design to one of the dads and he cut it for us. But it came out rather flatter than we'd intended. It's considerably flatter than last year's car, and that was the thinnest car in our whole pack (and the fastest, probably not by coincidence).

But this time I was worried...very worried. We'd picked up another metal stud plate at Lowes to weight it, but unlike last year we didn't get a second smaller plate to put under it; there simply wasn't enough thickness for me to fit another plate under the first. In fact, I had serious doubts that I'd be able to hammer in even one plate without destroying the car. There just wasn't enough wood left to work with. It didn't help that I didn't have the leftover wood that the car had been cut from to use as a support when hammering in the stud plate, as I did last year.

So after some thought I decided to skip the stud plate entirely. Instead, I used as many car-weights as possible. I hollowed out the car, carefully; it made a mess. shavings everywhere, but this year I didn't cut myself and the process went more quickly and smoothly than I'd expected. The weights fit well into the hollow, almost flush with the underside, and were fastened in with little screws. We're still light, so one more large weight will be fastened on top, towards the back. It should look pretty cool. It may produce a bit of drag, but the rest of the car is very smooth and flat, and the top weight doesn't stick out too much I think. Besides, we're not going to beat the cars made by professionals anyway!

Sebastian and I sanded it out back - there were a few flakes of snow falling, go figure - and the car ended up very smooth indeed. Then I used a pencil to put a heavy layer of graphite over the points where the tire hubs may touch the car body. Teri and Sebastian laid down the first paint job. They'll finish things off tomorrow, and I'll screw the top weight into place. Then we'll race. A lot depends on how well I fit the wheels in, of course, but all in all this car seems to have a smaller body than last year's, and it's so close to five ounces that the paint job just might take it over the limit! I'll bring a piece of sandpaper just in case.

I think we'll do well, barring accidents.
bobquasit: (Chris Elliot)
2011-03-13 12:37 am
Entry tags:

A Cheaper Day

Sebastian asked me to read more of Cheaper By the Dozen this afternoon. I was happy to do it, since it meant that the TV wouldn't be on. So the three of us sat in the living room for several hours while I read. Teri slept for about two hours, but woke up in time to hear the last three chapters, as I hope she would.

It's a very fun book to read, but also physically challenging. The father, Frank Gilbreth, is a grand character, and I read him with a booming, hearty voice - it's really the only way to do it. After a while I started to feel as if I'd been lightly sandpapering my throat. But after a short break or two, I continued. I ended up reading the whole second half, and finished it.

He loves the book; he laughed and laughed. But I knew that the last three chapters would be tricky. While much of the rest of the book deals with the family members as children, in the two penultimate chapters the older girls have started to grow up. I knew that much of those chapters would go over his head.

And as for the last chapter...well, I don't want to spoil the book, so here's a spoiler warning. )
After that we watched the 1950 movie adaptation of Cheaper By the Dozen on Netflix - it was available to watch via instantly. If you don't know, let me say up front that the execrable Steve Martin movies that go under the same name have nothing whatever to do with the book - other than the title, and that they feature a family with twelve children. It's just another case of Hollywood taking something nice and crapping all over it, as they always do.

We'd all seen bits of the movie before, but never the whole thing. It was nice to all sit down together and watch it, particularly since we'd just finished the book. The movie was considerably more faithful to the book than any movie adaptation I've seen in the last twenty years; certainly far more faithful than Peter Jackson's inexcusably awful Lord of the Rings movies. The father was played by the slender and sprightly Clifton Webb, who was not a good physical match for the real Frank Gilbreth (he was tall and quite overweight, according to the book), but Webb played the part well enough. A romantic subplot was shoehorned in, but it's relatively minor and inoffensive. Likewise, a small running "suspense" plot was added too; it didn't really work, but didn't harm the movie much either.

The names of a few secondary characters were changed for no obvious reason, and much of the action in general was telescoped. The first half of the book was essentially cherry-picked and packed into the first quarter of the movie, with the more adult final sections being expanded quite a bit to fill in the remaining three-quarters of the film. Also, some lines were given to different characters than in the book, and a few key lines were slightly amended. But all in all, I was surprised by how faithful the movie was to the novel.

One annoying thing: our Wii's wifi connection completely failed with four minutes left to go in the movie, just after a very dramatic moment indeed. I had to run upstairs and pull the plug on both our cable modem and our router for 30 seconds. After that, we were able to finish watching the movie.

Sebastian liked both the book and the movie very much, and gave them both five stars. All in all, a very pleasant night for the family!

Our next step will be to read AND watch "Belles On Their Toes", the sequel to Cheaper By the Dozen. The movie can be ordered as a disc from Netflix; there's no streaming option, unfortunately. Our local library doesn't have a copy of the book, but the Rhode Island library network has many. I've requested a copy, and I imagine it should arrive soon. I'll put the movie at the top of our Netflix queue in time to have it just when I finish reading the book to Sebastian.
bobquasit: (Sebastian Riding)
2011-03-07 09:46 pm
Entry tags:

A Good Night

Teri wasn't feeling well, so she went to bed early. Sebastian was good as gold, though. He asked for dessert, so I gave him three Oreos and a small glass of milk. No arguments when it was time for him to floss and brush; he even used mouthwash of his own volition.

I'd started reading Lawrence Watt-Evans' The Misenchanted Sword to him at bedtime yesterday, but he'd fallen asleep very quickly. This time I started reading it to him before we went upstairs to bed. I wasn't sure that he was old enough for it; it's not particularly inappropriate (I consider Watt-Evans to be a fundamentally nice writer, much like Gordon R. Dickson and James White in that respect although not in writing style) , but it's not written for children.

But so far Sebastian loves it. We left off with Valder and Fendel the Great lying in the marsh next to the burning hut.

After that we turned off the light and talked a bit. He told me about some of his dreams, with magic rooms accessible from secret panels in his room, leading to a wonderful-sounding waterslide. Then I sang some lullabies, and he said he wished he had a button so he could request me to sing particular songs. "You could always just tell me what you want me to sing" I said, and he did.

So I sang to him, and he fell asleep.
bobquasit: (Sebastian Riding)
2011-01-30 10:10 pm
Entry tags:

A Christmas Carol

We started reading A Christmas Carol about two weeks ago; Sebastian had seen several films of it, and wanted to read it. So I took out a large illustrated (but not abridged) edition from the library.

He loved it. I kept expecting him to get bored; the language is a bit archaic, after all! But even though I asked if we should switch to something else, his interest never flagged.

Reading it was a startling experience for me. When Bob Cratchitt breaks down and sobs for his son, I teared up as well. It's strange, but I can really, really get into a part emotionally. I wish there was some practical use for that ability, other than just reading to Sebastian. Although, of course, there really isn't anything more important than that, for me!

Apparently my reading of the reformed Scrooge was very funny; Sebastian laughed and laughed. My reading was generally based on Albert Finney's portrayal in the 1970 movie Scrooge, incidentally. One of my favorite versions, along with the Mister Magoo one.

It was fun to see many odd little points that never made it into any of the movies. Dickens seems quite ravished by some of the female characters, for one thing. I enjoyed some of the odd little cultural references; I'd never heard of "Smoking Bishop" before, for example (it's a kind of mulled English punch with wine, baked orange juice, cloves, and port).

And it's quite interesting to note that Marley's Ghost specifically claims to have obtained this chance at redemption for Scrooge. Since it's spelled out just a page later that the spirits of the dead cannot interfere with the world of the living, I can't help but wonder how Marley gained the opportunity to do so, and why he did it for Scrooge; there's no explanation for it in the text. I also can't help but think that for saving Scrooge, Marley must have received some reward. He surely deserved it!

Anyway, Sebastian gave the book five out of five stars.
bobquasit: (Default)
2011-01-29 05:52 pm
Entry tags:


Teri and I are both dead tired. We had to get up early today, because there was a Cub Scout Belt Loop Bonanza at the local high school. Teri drove us in and then went to the animal shelter where she volunteers. Sebastian and I spent most of the day earning belt loops: Video Games, Astronomy, Computers, and Art.

Later in the afternoon, we let him buy Super Smash Bros Brawl for the Wii. He was terribly excited. But when he put it into the Wii, the wails and tears soon began. The disc simply couldn't be read. That's been happening more and more often with the Wii; lots of our discs no longer work.

So I went upstairs and looked up Nintendo customer support. Apparently this is not an uncommon problem; the lens in our Wii probably needs cleaning. We're to send it in to the factory at no charge. When I told Sebastian that we'd have to pack up the Wii and the Super Smash Bros Brawl disc (as specified) and send them both back to Nintendo, the tears increased. In a very tearful hoarse voice, he asked how long it would take. I didn't know.

"Can we hook up the GameCube while the Wii is gone?" he asked tearfully.

"Sure, that's just what I was thinking!" I answered.

"Yay!" he said, still sobbing. It was too funny for words. I had to flee the room before I started laughing and enraged him.

In the meantime, I'm having trouble reaching the mail-in section of Nintendo's support site. It's simply not responding. I've tried it in Firefox and Chrome, but nothing will come in - and my net connection is fine right now. I wonder what the problem is?
bobquasit: (Default)
2011-01-20 08:34 pm
Entry tags:

(no subject)

Mister Penny flyer Mister Penny flyer
The librarian at the library created this from scratch for the reading I'll be doing on February 25th. I like it, but it feels strange to be called a storyteller!

bobquasit: (Default)
2011-01-20 08:28 pm
Entry tags:
bobquasit: (Default)
2011-01-17 12:03 am

Arisia, Day 3 (Sunday)

We had a nice breakfast (buffet) with my parents this morning. Then we left Sebastian to play at Fast Track while Teri and I looked around Dealer's Row.

The "LOTR: Movies Vs. Books" panel was quite loud and contentious, but fun and interesting; as always, I was able to get some good laughs out of the audience, which is always satisfying.

The "Avatar: The Last Airbender" panel was also good. We only talked about the movie for the first twenty minutes; most people hated it, some (including me) were lukewarm. So we moved on to the series. Again, I was able to get some good laughs, and as a bonus found out that a sequel series of twelve episodes is coming out! Sebastian will be thrilled.

I went upstairs to check on Teri and Sebastian after that panel. One of the audience members who was wearing a pretty cool Kiss costume with 8-inch heels got on the elevator too, along with several other fen. Lastly, a drunk blonde woman got on; I instantly knew that she was Not One Of Us, not a fan. What would you call the science fiction equivalent of gaydar? Mine is nearly infallible.

She was clearly bemused by the costumes.

"Who are you supposed to be?" she asked in a friendly but condescending manner. The Arisian explained that he was dressed as one of the members of Kiss.

"What does that have to do with science fiction?" she asked. In an ensuing conversation, several of us explained that there had been a movie and comic book about Kiss, and that they'd fought Doctor Doom in the comic. We got to her floor, and she got off.

The rest of us eyed each other. After a long, long pause, I couldn't resist speaking.


Everyone laughed. "Just what I was thinking!" someone said.

"And they're worse when they're drunk." I added, as I got off the elevator to more laughter.

Sebastian was asleep and Teri was in bed, so I went back downstairs and saw the last two-thirds of Terry Pratchett's Going Postal with Klyfix and Stairflight. It was pretty riveting, so I'll doubtless look it up on Netflix.

Tomorrow is the end. I'm not looking forward to my last two panels tomorrow; neither topic really appeals to me, and neither was high up on my list of choices. I'll try to be a good panelist nonetheless, but perhaps I won't be one of the loudest and most vociferous panelists.

I wish I didn't have to wait a whole year to have fun among my own people again!