My Dad, Atrophy And Mathematics

To bring back and extend Dad’s concept of numbers, my sister, Nancy, and I have been giving him simple math problems.  My sister is giving him addition problems that require carrying. I’ve been trying to get him to relearn the multiplication table.  Both my sister and I realize that part of his brain has atrophied.  But we believe that a better knowledge of numbers will not only help him solve basic mathematics problems, but also improve his ability to reason and strengthen his confidence.   I was astounded yesterday morning to see my Dad at 95 solve all my problems in ten seconds!  He was definitely proud of his accomplishment and so was I!

My Dad at work.

 

Gokusen: The Japanese Morality Tale

Gokusen was a Japanese manga series(2000-2007) by Kozueko Morimoto that was later converted to a three season TV program(2002, 2004, 2008.)   Gokusen(“gangster teacher”) concerns the adventures of orphan, Kumiko Yamaguchi, who has been brought up by her gangster grandfather in the Oedo Clan.  She is in line to take over as the fourth head of the Clan, but chooses instead a life teaching estranged, would-be delinquent boys in all-male private high schools as a homeroom teacher.  Because of Kumiko’s training in the Oedo Clan, she has become an expert in all forms of martial arts and can defeat most opponents easily, even groups of opponents.  The role of Kumiko in the TV series was played by former Japanese model, Yukie Nakama.  Throughout the series, other Japanese models appear as well, usually as school colleagues.

3D at each school contains the worst students, future delinquents, kids with no apparent future, troublemakers in general.(The one exception is Sawada, Shirokin High School’s top student, who gives a stirring and insightful valedictory speech at graduation.)  Thus, Kumiko or Yankumi(her students name for her) has her hands full right from the start.  Her specialty is mathematics and the first day we see her writing equations on the blackboard that require complex numbers as solutions.  However, her mathematics skills are never appreciated by her students.  And this is important.  Formal education with a small e:  mathematics, languages, history, science, music, art, physical education, etc. is minimized throughout the series.  Indeed, excellent students are often shown to be arrogant, domineering, and even engaging in criminal activity just for sport.  The emphasis here will be on universal moral Education(education with a capital E) and that is where Kumiko demonstrates her strength.  The main reason for the particular emphasis is that formal education does not apply to everyone;  not everybody is skillful in the above-mentioned disciplines.  However, universal moral Education is just that:  It is universal, so it applies to everyone.  That is the point Yankumi will try to make with her troubled students.

Kumiko’s first step is to observe her students carefully to find out which one of them is the leader.  Then, she tries to gain that student’s confidence and support.  This is often a difficult task, but essential,  because that student will convey her principles to the group.  Her goal is to show that school is more than formal education, but that there are experiences that school provides that impact all their lives.  Above all, there are friendships that are made in school which will last a lifetime.  This principle is repeated emphatically whenever any student separates himself from his schoolmates.  Friendship means you are never alone and Yankumi emphasizes that there is nothing she wouldn’t do to save her precious students.  Her students begin to see through her actions that she means what she says and often fights off opponents to help them and is unwavering in her support of them at school.  She teaches her students about other experiences that can be shared by them regardless of society’s condescension.  Fighting is meaningless, she says, unless it is to defend another person or is carried out to achieve a noble goal.  When Kumai, the worst student in his class, fights to protect a girl, he is rewarded by gaining a girlfriend and eventual wife.  Later, other students from Akadou Academy share Kumai’s profound feelings for the awesome birth of his daughter.  Students learn to appreciate the great sacrifices their parents have made and not to take their parents for granted.  The parents, though, are sometimes overindulgent, or sometimes overly strict and unwilling to listen to their children.  In each case, the student learns to appreciate a moral lesson from life.  And, Kumiko reminds her students that they have a choice to make something of their lives and that there are beautiful human experiences which can be shared by all.

Some Thoughts About Scrapbooks, The New Year And Writing

My baby scrapbook, published by Richard G. Krueger, Inc. and designed by Ditzy in 1946. It was a gift from my godparents Aunt Jackie and Uncle Ralph.

My baby scrapbook, published by Richard G. Krueger, Inc. and designed by Ditzy in 1946. It was a gift from my godparents Aunt Jackie and Uncle Ralph.  At that time my name was “Rodger” Weiss, but was soon changed to Robert Weiss.

“Life may be a stage, but I wish I didn’t have a reserved seat!”–Uncle John from Aunt Jane’s Nieces by L. Frank Baum

Usually in the month of January I peruse my many scrapbooks.  I begin by looking at my baby scrapbook with its satin sheen cover and remarks about me by my mother, Twyla.  It takes me back to my childhood days of the 1950s, when people left their doors open, kids had vacant lots and piles of sand to play in, and lemonade stands were plentiful with lemonade one cent a cup.

However, time goes on and memories begin to fade as new memories take their place.  The almost unbearable slowness of  early childhood is exchanged for the almost unbearable speed of late adulthood.  And New Year follows New Year.  I think of lines by Robert Clairmont from Forever X:

When wrinkles cut your brow

And love goes gaily by,

Sing:  Young, old, tiny, tall,

Whatever happens, happens to all

When we leave this Odd Old Ball.

Indeed, this earth truly is an “odd old ball”.  Events follow events, triggering other events.

Like any mathematical curve, life has points that mark a change of direction.  Some of these points are obvious:  marriage, the birth of children, the loss of a beloved family member.  However, other points are not so obvious and I must admit that I envy Truman Burbank for he is able to “rewind” his life from the time he escaped his set up world to his birth.  Thus, he can see how certain events changed his thinking and further actions.  I am not so fortunate.  And when I look through old scrapbooks only pieces of experiences remain, so I have to reflect and guess at events that might have caused my life to shift dramatically.  Such critical points mark the essence of theater, novels and other writings where an author can juggle them and insert them where s/he wills.  Perhaps, that sense of power and completeness is what attracts us to literature.  The writer plays God just as Christoff does with Truman.  However, the individual must depend on his/her own wavering memories to try to understand the meaning of his/her life.

Another Brief Note

Because of health issues, family problems and sudden changes in lifestyle, I have decided to suspend my posts until I’m able to establish some equilibrium in my life.  I am grateful to the 101 followers that have taken the time to read my posts.  I am also grateful for the many comments I have received.  I wish all my followers lives of joy and fulfillment.

Some Mathematical Healing

Mathematics is not often thought of in regards to healing.  Instead, we think of meditation, basking in 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.

A Visit To Placerita Canyon State Park

Last Friday, Glenn Malapit and I took a trip to lower Placerita Canyon State Park.  This is the area of the nature center that offers a series of short hikes around the canyon.  Placerita Canyon was the site of the first California Gold Rush in 1842 when a hired hand, Francisco Lopez of the Rancho San Francisco, discovered flakes of gold.  But today, that memory has faded, and the canyon is known for its branching trees, boulder formations and creek beds.  Scrub oak, and huge sprawling oak trees abound, with sycamore and willow where the shade is plentiful.  What struck me were the magnificent patterns of dark branches against a blue sky.  The rocks, mostly quartz, feldspar, and gneiss, with gleaming biotite mica, provided their own wondrous forms.  The area is quite dry and exposed, so a coolish day is recommended for extensive walking.

When Glenn and I arrived, there were bus loads of children with teachers ready to introduce the kids to the natural world.  Most of the children walked around in the nature center to view samples of natural phenomena and to hear talks on the special features of the park.  It was not quiet, but children add their own qualities to the park experience.  The photos below reveal some aspects of Placerita Canyon, but one needs to go there to appreciate its bounties.IMG_6252IMG_6257IMG_6258IMG_6261IMG_6264IMG_6267 IMG_6272IMG_6280 IMG_6283IMG_6291IMG_6300

Down Memory Lane: My Mom’s 1971 Tour De Force

1971 was a very special year for our family;  my father’s parents(Grandma Lillian and Grandpa Johnny) were to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.  For the occasion, Mom did extensive research into the era of the early 1920’s to try to recreate the wedding in the period’s special style.  To do this, she hired a barbershop quartet, set up Johnny’s Speak-Easy for drinks and created Lil’s Candy Corner.

Cecil Ross with the barbershop quartet

Cecil Ross with the barbershop quartet

Period songs were reinterpreted by Aunt Cecil, the family’s clever lyricist.  For “Frankie and Johnny”, for instance, she made the following change:  “He’s still her man.  For fifty years they can’t be wrong!”  Seven years earlier, Cecile Ross had changed “Hello, Dolly!” to “Hello, David!’ for Grandpa David’s 85th birthday to great acclaim at the El Caballero Country Club.  We all sang her revised lyrics:

from left to right: Donald Yorkshire, Nancy Weiss, Heidi Yorkshire, me, and Wendy Yorkshire is in the foreground. The Yorkshires were the children of my Mom's brother, Buddy, and her daughter-in-law, Analee.

From left to right: Donald Yorkshire, Nancy Weiss, Heidi Yorkshire, me and Wendy Yorkshire is in the foreground. The Yorkshires were the children of my Mom’s brother, Buddy, and her daughter-in-law, Analee.

Grandma and Grandpa were picked up in a 1920’s Hupmobile, and taken to our backyard where the party commenced.  The first thing they saw was our ten-year-old basset, Peter:

Grandpa Johnny with Peter

Grandpa Johnny with Peter

Then, they approached a board that was covered with events from 1921:

Grandma Lillian and Grandpa Johnny in front of a board depicting events from 1921.

Grandma Lillian and Grandpa Johnny in front of a board depicting events from 1921, including pictures of Nancy and me.

Among the many guests that came, we were honored and fortunate to have my great-grandfather, Irving Turner:

Great-Grandpa Turner with Nancy Weiss

Great-Grandpa Turner with Nancy Weiss

But the highlight of the party was the reenactment of Grandma and Grandpa’s wedding ceremony.  Cantor Brown was chosen to officiate instead of a Rabbi.  Great-Grandpa Turner made a brief speech about the approaching ceremony:

Dad with Great-Grandpa Turner and Cantor Samuel Brown

Dad with Great-Grandpa Turner and Cantor Samuel Brown

The wedding ceremony followed, and emotions flowed freely:

Grandpa Johnny and Grandma Lillian stand under the chupah(the wedding canopy).

Grandpa Johnny and Grandma Lillian stand under the chupah(the wedding canopy).

“You may now kiss the bride!”:

Grandma Lillian and Grandpa Johnny do just that as Mom and Dad look on.

Grandma Lillian and Grandpa Johnny do just that as Mom and Dad look on.

Then, a happy meeting with Grandma Lillian’s father and brother:

Grandma Lillian with her father and brother Ralph

Grandma Lillian with her father and brother Ralph

To this day, we are all grateful and astounded by Mom’s Tour de Force:  her special theme-oriented party for Grandma Lillian’s and Grandpa Johnny’s 50th anniversary.

Note:  This blog is not static, and previous posts are often revised,  with photos or videos added.  I welcome your visits and comments!