A Day for Some Minerals, part 1.

I woke up this morning and thought about minerals, quartz in particular.  Why quartz?  For one thing, about two out of every three steps we take will be on silicon dioxide, or quartz.  Although quite common, it occurs in many colors and forms.  Quartz sometimes appears in striking crystal formations that have the grandeur of fairy tale kingdoms and palaces.  As for color, quartz runs the gamut–from smoky quartz to sparkling amethyst.  Just a simple change in the chemical formula for quartz will do the trick to turn rose quartz into citrine.  Heat also plays a role as does the interaction of different elements.  And suddenly, the most common mineral becomes an object of wonder.

Towering spires of quartz crystals.

Towering Spires of Quartz Crystals with the Blade of a Japanese Twin Sticking out on the Right. 

A magnificent array of majestic quartz crystals

A Magnificent Array of Majestic Quartz Crystals.

Amethyst arises from impurities of iron and manganese.

Amethyst Arises from Impurities of Iron and Manganese.

An impressive array of amethyst crystals.

An Impressive Cluster of Amethyst Crystals.

Amethyst in botryoidal form.

Amethyst in Botryoidal Form.

Sukhomlinsky and his Children

The famous Ukrainian educator, Vasilii Sukhomlinsky, had a special relationship with the children with whom he worked.  He had the ability to immerse himself into the child’s awe-struck world of wonder and discovery.  Sukhomlinsky knew how to instruct without being didactic.  He was ever sensitive to a child’s desire to learn and ask questions.

In China, virtually all of his works have been translated and he is considered one of the greatest of the world’s educators.  In the West, alas, such is not the case.  However, through the efforts of Australian Sukhomlinsky scholar, Alan Cockerill, Sukhomlinsky’s name is gaining prominence.  Alan has established a site and a newsletter to promote Sukhomlinsky’s multi-faceted pedagogy.  He has translated several of Sukhomlinsky’s works and has been a tireless supporter of the Ukrainian educator’s work.  Most importantly, he has put together a video showing Sukomlinsky interacting with his children.  The video is in Russian with English subtitles.  To watch this brief video, please go to my facebook page at:  facebook.com/robertmkweiss.

“The Flowers that Bloom in the Spring, part 2: Southern Oregon

Spring in Southern Oregon has seen widely changing climates, from days over 100 to freezing temperatures.  Most of the spring flowers did not last past the middle of May.  My delphinium lasted just a few weeks.  The stronger foxglove is now giving up the ghost.  The dogwood at my duplex has flowered and gone into hiding for another spring.  Petunias, of course, are hardy plants that will endure just about anything except poor soil.  My jasmine is issuing its special perfume over the front porch.  My English lavender is still thriving in a comfortable shade.  The impatiens, nestled in a cool spot at the side of the house, are covering the landscape with their resplendent colors.  I plan to put in some zinnias near the English lavender outside the office window, so I will have something colorful to look at from my place of work.  In the meantime, I water and nurture my plants as best I can.  Below are some photos of the spring plants:RH 31RH 16RH 15RH 12RH 11RH 9OH 8OH 11

Some Thoughts on Fly Fishing and the Rogue River

Fly fishing was de rigueur for my Dad.  In Oregon, he would fish from after breakfast until shortly before dinner.  After dinner, he would usually put on his heavy waders, and come trudging back as darkness fell.  He would do this virtually every day of our one month summer vacation from the end of July until right after Labor Day.

His preparations, though, would begin toward the beginning of July.  Then, he would take out his fly tying equipment and begin making flies for the trip.  I remember seeing flies shining in his den with many different colors.  He was quite an expert at creating flies, and usually had an abundance of them ready to be dropped into the water for trout, and, most importantly, summer steelhead, which he loved to barbecue or put into the freezer for future eating.

Dad learned about the art of fly fishing from the chauffeur at Rogue’s Roost, Joseph Chevigny, and river guides Glenn Wooldridge and Bob Pritchett.  The latter initiated him into the art of boating, and locating steelhead holes on the Rogue River.  From an early age, Dad could find steelhead water and navigate a navy surplus raft.

Dad always enjoyed fishing the Upper Rogue.  He tried to teach me how to fish, but trout was all I could manage, and, besides, I didn’t want to pull fish hooks out of my ear, which happened almost every summer with Dad!  But I did learn to appreciate and love the river and all its natural habitat as well as do some inner tubing and rafting.  Swimming across the river was never one of my talents!

In the early years, the Rogue River was a pristine mountain river, its color a pristine blue, and so clear that you could see trout swimming or salmon spawning.  All that changed when the Lost Creek Dam was built in the late 1070s.  Because it was an earthenware dam, it increased the amount of silt that floated downstream, and the river’s clear beauty disappeared with it.  In the years that followed, more and more people used the river, though without the respect early residents had shown.  At one point, the river was declared unfit for swimming and a major effort was made to bring it back to its natural state.

I’m grateful that I saw the Rogue River in all its splendor.  The short videos that follow show my Dad fly fishing on a truly magnificent river.  I hope you enjoy them!

Something to Think About: Fifty Million People can be Wrong!

Hugh Lieber's drawing of Nazi Germany.

Hugh Lieber’s drawing of Nazi Germany from The Education of T.C.MITS by Lillian and Hugh Lieber.  More on the Liebers in a future post.

Some Mathematical Healing

Mathematics is not often thought of in regards to healing.  Instead, we think of meditation, absorbing the wonders of nature, relaxation, living in the moment, letting go, listening to soothing music.  However, lately mathematics has been a source of healing.  The following example will show you how.

Recently, my Dad’s 93 year-old brain has been on the on and off mode.  Sometimes he cannot distinguish between dream and reality and acts with extreme apprehension concerning the circumstances of his dreams.  The more practical side of his mind is obsessed with financial transactions, often spending hours trying to solve problems that seem impossible, but are really quite doable.  It dawned on me that a simple algebra problem might gather Dad’s thoughts in a tighter and more purposeful direction.  I might say that mathematics seems to me like a demanding yet supportive parent.  Like a parent, there are rules that must be obeyed and an order to be preserved.  However, there is also something truly soothing about logical boundaries, and a clear set of rules, which, if followed to the letter, lead to future paths of discovery.  Parts of the mind are held in check,  but others are ever expanding, testing, and exploring.  So too, an effective parent guides the child through progressive steps toward exploration.  With these thoughts in mind, I gave Dad the following problem:  Solve for x:  (x)(x)-7=9.  Dad simplified the equation to (x)(x)=16.  Then he began to test numbers such as 2, 4, 6, 8, to see which ones might work.  He also talked about square roots.  After about ten minutes, he came up with the answer 4.  When I told him that was only half the solution, he was nonplussed.  It took him awhile(with some prodding from me) to realize that negative numbers also exist.  When he resisted the idea, I told him that during our lifetimes we had encountered many negative numbers, and a smile crossed his wizened, unshaven face.  He allowed for the possibility of negative numbers.  He then gave -4 as the other solution.  Suddenly, he said that any two negatives squared would result in a positive, so there would always be two numbers as possible solutions  to the type of problem I was asking in which the x’s squared are equal to a positive number.  It amazed me to see how his mind was able to move to such a generalization, so I cried out,  “Bravo!”  Later that evening he was able to solve a financial problem that he couldn’t solve earlier.  Temporarily at least, my Dad’s mind had climbed to a new level of thinking.  I thought this was as an excellent example of mathematical healing and that is why I decided to share it with you.

Something to think about: “Would you pay the price? What would you do?”

The above lines come from the 1966 American musical Cabaret based on writings of Christopher Isherwood and John Van Druten.  The musical focuses on the lives of a few people and their reactions to the growing Nazi threat in 1930s Berlin.  The musical was unusual in that it did not have a happy ending, and Americans are used to happy endings.  Thomas Hischak offers his own description of Cabaret in his The Oxford Companion to the American Musical:  “Arguably the most innovative, hard-hitting, and uncompromising musical of the 1960s,…”  What makes this musical so innovative?  It introduces us to decadent Berlin through an MC of the Kit Kat Club, himself a mixture of playfulness, immorality, and darkness.  As the show progresses, the political overtones become ever more ominous and threatening.  The title, which also serves as one of the main songs in the musical, is a celebration of irresponsibility and seediness.  Sally Bowles, one of the chief entertainers at the Kit Kat Club and the girlfriend of Clifford Bradshaw, an American writer, sings the song as a tribute to her late girlfriend Elsie.  Sally’s friend was a prostitute, drug addict and alcoholic who died from too much of the latter.  Sally sings of Elsie’s death, “… But when I saw her laid out like a queen, she was the happiest corpse I’d ever seen.”  Elsie’s memory motivates Sally to return to the cabaret where she will probably end up like Elsie.

A sub-plot concerns the romance between Cliff’s landlady, Fraulein Schneider and the Jewish fruit seller, Herr Schultz.  After she accepts Herr Schultz’s proposal of marriage, pressure is put on her by Nazi smuggler, Ernst Ludwig, who had introduced Cliff to Fraulein Schneider’s boarding house, to break off the marriage to avoid the repercussions of marrying a Jew.  She decides to comply with Ernst’s demand.  Cliff and Sally are shocked to learn of her decision, so she asks them, “What would you do?”  Although, she emphasizes her status as an old woman, the song that follows could be sung by anyone who is confronted with a despicable regime and the consequences of doing what is ethically right.

In London in 1993, Sara Kestelman gave an intense, harrowing interpretation of the role of Fraulein Schneider for which she won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Performance in a  Supporting Role in a Musical.  What follows is her version of the song, What Would You Do? My thanks to lluluss for posting this song on youtube.https://youtu.be/dQ3b3JzctWE

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