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Music and Math and Patterns, Oh My!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I'm a geek, I have always been a geek, and I have to say I like the state of geekhood. If you are one of the people in the world who calls someone a geek as an insult (of course you aren't), just know that a true geek will take that as a compliment so your insult is completely wasted on us.

That being said, I have a sudoku app and a Bananagrams app on my iPod and I like to tweak my brain with each. One thing the apps do that paper sudoku and Bananagram tiles don't, is time you. It is partly my brain, and partly my fingers, but I am not fast. Accurate, but not fast.

Skip to my guitar class. Fernando is impressed with both my technique and my inflection, and keeps giving me harder and harder technical skills to work on. Two weeks ago, however, he said that we had to get my speed on my tremolo significantly increased. I was glad he had some ideas for me because my inability to bring my tremolo up to speed while staying crisp and even has been a great frustration to me.

That week's lesson was to practice my tremolo with a metronome, which I would never have thought of because my tremolo is very even. But wait... the metronome, it turns out, is my new guitar 'fitness coach'. The trick was to start at a tempo I could practice in a controlled and even tremolo, then I was to move the tempo up by 5s, practice out of my comfort zone increasing speed until I reached a point that I couldn't keep up while keeping me tremolo even.

I swore under my breath at Fernando each practice session for about 3 days. I was dismayed at how slowly I had to start out and how slow my progress was. After the 4th day I noticed a big improvement in speed... still slow but faster than it had been.

Last week, my assignment was to do the same thing with my arpeggios - use the metronome to bring up the speed. I keep a practice journal and in my usual geekish way, I started a double bar graph of my progress, recording my top speed where I could maintain evenness and control for both my tremolo and arpeggios each day. It is gratifying to not only hear my progress, but to see it charted out. It is like seeing the food tracker chart; a clear record of measurement.

I have stopped hating that task master, Maestro Metronome, and have resumed being totally in love with Fernando. emoticon

But there was an interesting side effect, other than sore and tired fingers. One evening I pulled out my iPod after practice and played a round of sudoku. After the first game, I was astounded to see the time and the fact that I had scored in the top percentile for speed. I took on a harder level, and had the same outcome.

As an experiment, I tried playing my sudoku app before practice the next day. I was back to my same results of being in the middle percentile for speed. After practice, back in the top percentile. The results have remained consistent.

Okay, we've all heard of the Mozart Effect, which has some proponents as well as some critics. I do believe there is a strong correlation between math and music, and there is definitely a pattern recognition correlation. Never before have I seen such a clear demonstration on an instant gratification level. Some of this is working up finger speed, but my brain synapses are going a mile a minute, too.

I am loving my breakthroughs on my music; these particular ones have been resistant to other practice habits. And the increase of speed in sudoku is an interesting side effect of building speed into my daily practice.


  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

NANHBH 10/25/2011 2:37PM

    WOW, I'm gonna remember this. I need to practice the piano before doing sudoku!
emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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1HAPPYWOMAN 10/22/2011 5:33PM

    This is so cool! I am a big ol' geek too, and I love to explore how music is affecting my brain!

My mom and I like to play Chinese checkers when we see each other (we live far apart), and during one visit I kept beating her, even though we used to be evenly matched. I suggested it might be because I'd been doing a lot of sudoku.... She started doing sudoko, and now we're evenly matched again!

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MAWRTIAN 10/22/2011 11:39AM

    I love this! I should practice more with a metronome for sure. Whenever I do somehow when I start it seems broken but once I know a piece better the metronome becomes more steady lol!!!

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MARY1313 10/22/2011 1:05AM

    I love your discovery!!


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FIFIFRIZZLE 10/21/2011 2:35PM

    Thank you for this thoguht provoking blog. What a clear description of how our thinking works. I sometimes think of the silo thinking that I see around me as a lack or a habit. Many people don,t make connections that come very naturaly to me, as a lateral thinker.but of course there is the practice factor. We build and strengthen neural synapses and that opens up new possibilities everywhere. And I read somewhere that the mature brain makes more cross connections. Maybe there is a critical mass that you reach when you have made a certain number, and then woosh you are in a whole new zone of geeky fabulousness. AKA wisdom?
I do sudoku too. And share your thoughts on geekiness.
As you can see, I too am a geek.
Geeks rock!

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DOR2BFIT 10/20/2011 9:43PM

    The brain is a wonderful thing.... emoticon emoticon emoticon

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BADASSBLONDIE 10/20/2011 4:54PM

    Love this!!!! :D Geeks unite!!!!

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MCGS62 10/20/2011 9:41AM

    of course there is a Correlation between math and music.
I wish it worked for spelli9ng
I love to hate metronome practice too !!!
be careful of the side effect though when you push the tempo with a metronome
and practice at that level
when I play for people without a metronome I tend to ave "tempo creep" and play everything too fast then it feels boring to play at the right speed

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HAWKTHREE 10/20/2011 8:01AM

    I am a geek from way back when my parents tried to make me hide that part of me -- I'd end up an old maid because what man would want me?

I am proud to say that my granddaughter, age 7, is currently fascinated with the patterns of numbers. Why are some numbers not divisible by anything? How big is infinity?

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CHALLENGER15 10/20/2011 7:17AM

    You had me at the third word in your title...actually the first word...and "Geeks..." and "double bar graphs"...

Right up my alley, girl!

The guitar lessons and the Sudoku...I am taking piano lessons again at age 52..I started a couple of years ago and enjoy it so much. I believe I would enjoy guitar as well. And Sudoku has always been a great way to relax for me. I have been a mathematics teacher for years...guess that might not be a surprise. We actually have another Cloverleaf teammate who is a mathematics teacher as well. So there are at least three geeks...

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Wild Animal Escape

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The news of the wild animal escape from a farm in Ohio has saddened me on many levels. Apparently, the owner deliberately set them free, then committed suicide.

It is sad that people keep wild animals. Those animals have a need to run free in their own environments... they have not been domesticated over many years to adapt to living with humans, and in the majority of cases, these situations are at the very least less than optimal for the animals.

It is sad that the animals, through no fault of their own other than being large carnivores that had been kept in a less than desirable living situation, had to be killed because they were loose. There is a great deal of rationalization for this. I was not in charge of keeping the town safe, and if I had been, I might have made the same decision. I wish that there had been an option to use tranquilizer darts, but there wasn't.

It is sad that it is reported that no one in the area feels badly for the man who committed suicide. He was not liked, he did much to antagonize his neighbors apparently, and had recently been released from jail. I'm not saying he wasn't an unpleasant human being. I never met him. But it is sad when someone opts for suicide and sadder still when no one really cares.

Just my thoughts over the course of the day.

These are a few of the news stories about it:




Apparently there are still a few of the animals loose.

Do not concern yourself with Miss Stella. She is in more danger of being attacked by coyotes than a stray tiger. And of course, we take precautions to keep her safe.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

DELAPIS 10/25/2011 2:34AM

    This broke my heart too. Tranquilizers were tried first, but they didn't work. That's why they had to be put down.

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TABBYARTS 10/23/2011 10:38AM

    Deeply saddened by the senseless loss of wild creatures. There is a terrible amount of trafficking of these wild creatures, and they are often purchased merely as an ego statement rather than a concern for the creature itself.

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MARY1313 10/20/2011 1:37PM

    I am very saddened by this too. :(

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MAWRTIAN 10/20/2011 10:30AM

    heartbreaking on so many levels! emoticon

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MCGS62 10/20/2011 10:05AM

    Agreed.. Large animals are "majestic" even the predators but for the most part should be left on their own continent where the people there can create natural reserves if they choose.
We may need a few for study purposes in a well done zoo like Pgh or woodland Wonders by Ft Necessity smaller but even better natural settings.
But If I could I would still like to own a giraffe-- this goes way back to childhood at the zoo with
my grandparents.

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FIFIFRIZZLE 10/20/2011 5:03AM

    It's hard to know what to say here. Our animal companions are lucky to have humans like us to care for them. And we are lucky to have good friends.

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TRULYVISIBLE 10/19/2011 10:07PM

  I feel your pain as i have the same pain thinking about the situation. Just give Stella a big hug tonight and that should make you feel a little better.

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BADASSBLONDIE 10/19/2011 7:45PM

    Sad a million times over. :(

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WATERMELLEN 10/19/2011 7:20PM

    That is beyond sad; for the animals, for the person who was so despairing, and for the whole community having to recognize that he felt that way regardless of his behaviour . .

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NANHBH 10/19/2011 5:45PM

    A sad commentary in many ways. Perhaps if someone had cared about this man and gotten him help, he and the animals would still be alive.

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KASEYCOFF 10/19/2011 5:32PM

    I hadn't heard about it, but... surely evidence of a disturbed individual.

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KRITTERKEEPERS 10/19/2011 5:23PM

    I was so sad to hear about this. Apparently this man had previously been convicted of animal cruelty. If he cared at all for these animals he would have notified the authorities and left the animals caged for them to relocate with zoos. Very sad.

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LMB-ESQ 10/19/2011 5:20PM

    I heard about this. It made me absolutely sick. How sad :-(

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LIVINGFREE19 10/19/2011 4:50PM

    this is an extremely sad situation all the way around, I do agree! emoticon

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Opera Tonight

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Today is going to be cold and rainy all day and into the night. There is a fall chill in the air, and the damp makes my hip ache. So, it is very nice to have something to look forward to in addition to work.

The opera guild offers young people the opportunity to get exposure to the opera by offering them a chance to go to the dress rehearsal of the first opera of the season. When I first found out about this 20 years ago, I called to arrange for my students to attend. When they discovered that I taught 4th - 6th grade children, they told me that it was for middle school and high school; my students were too young to participate.

For those of you who know me, I don't take no for an answer when it comes to educational opportunities for my students. I told them that my students were very musically inclined and well behaved, and that we would love the chance to see the opera and show that they can do it. The opera guild relented and permitted us to come. I took 14 students that year, they loved it, and one of them even went on to study operatic voice in college.

I have taken groups of children and their parents almost every year since then. It is a wonderful way for them to experience opera. The dress rehearsals are usually at least as good as the opening night performances, with all of the glory of costume, scenery, and music. Usually the performance is not stopped for director instructions, but on the evenings when it has been, it added another element of interest.

Tonight I am taking children, their parents, and some of their siblings, plus one of my graduates from last year, to see La Boheme. On their packing list; hankies.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

DELAPIS 10/30/2011 12:44AM

    Bravo to you!!! La Boheme is a favorite of mine. I'm sure your students, as well as their parents' enjoyed the performance. emoticon

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TABBYARTS 10/23/2011 10:48AM

    WOW! You are a great teacher and your students are SUPER! Who would have thought kids these days could appreciate such works! Have you ever heard about the motivational speaker Leo Buscaglia? He came to our school in the states,and was sharing with us about the prejudice he had met as a youngster. But he shared with us his love of opera that his large Italian family shared. They would gather around the phonograph after dinner, listening to an opera and each singing along with the parts.
Does your class act out the operas that you expose them to?
(my fave is Pagliacci)
tee (new to BYC)

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MARY1313 10/20/2011 1:35PM

    oh that is so AWESOME!!!! I love it!


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WATERMELLEN 10/19/2011 7:22PM

    Love La Boheme -- heard a wonderful "Opera by Request" performance of it recently (sung only, "unstaged"). Glorious! How satisfying that you set at least one of your students on the path to professional study of opera!

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KASEYCOFF 10/19/2011 5:49PM

    Oh, I'll tell you, if I ever win the lottery, I plan to get a subscription to The Royal Opera House and / or The Met, depending which continent I'm on, lol... The only full-blown opera I've seen for real (as opposed to small touring companies or on television) is Rigoletto, at TROH. Puccini is my favorite but I took what I could get. I envy you - and your lucky students--!!!

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DDOORN 10/19/2011 4:18PM

    Kudos on expanding SO many minds and exposing them to new experiences!


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MCGS62 10/19/2011 1:43PM

    OH NO !! You didn't say what they are performing.
I'll have to wait for the review tomorrow.


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GOLIGHTLY344 10/19/2011 1:02PM

    How incredible! Don't you think that sometimes sharing performances with the young crowd makes for an added layer of pleasure for us? Children are properly impressed with such drama! :)

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OLDERDANDRT 10/19/2011 9:59AM

    emoticon emoticon

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NANHBH 10/19/2011 7:33AM

    What an awesome teacher you are! I remember going to see La Boheme when I was in junior high. Enjoy!

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Intrigued By Textures

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Life has been pretty good so far this school year. As usual, I have a hard time finding balance in my time. Work is very time demanding, so my 'Chris' time is, by necessity, dramatically reduced. However, since I made such a concerted effort to get my exercise routine back on track this past summer, and since my hip and back pain have been much more under control, my energy levels have stayed up. I cannot get the same amount of exercise in as I did during the summer when I was an exercising fool, but I am continuing an exercise program that so far seems to be working.

One of the things I am really enjoying this school year is taking the class out for a two hour class once a week that combines hiking, science, art, and creative writing. The science teacher and I planned it into this year's curriculum because of the high ratio of children who need to move to learn. As a side benefit, I get in a good hike as well and a chance to take in this scrumptious fall, too. And yes, we will be hiking in the winter as well, although our hikes may be a bit shorter when the weather gets really cold.

I am in love with texture and made the texture of wood my personal theme of this hike.

The children call this the 'Love Tree' because of the heart shape between the break in the trunk.

Another beautiful, mellow autumn day!

I have several gratitudes today.

I am grateful to enjoy my work and know that the hours I spend at work are valuable ones.

I am grateful to live in a place of great and subtle beauty.

I am grateful to have the kind of energy I need to be a cheerful and effective teacher.

Have a gorgeous Tuesday!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

GOLIGHTLY344 10/19/2011 1:05PM

    I love these photos. Whenever I need to see nature, I know I can come to your page!
I am soooo lucky that I have a small area around my house that I can wander in, complete with little paths, lizards and sunshine or fog.

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IDLETYME 10/19/2011 8:38AM

    Beautiful walk - thanks for taking me!!! emoticon

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WATERMELLEN 10/18/2011 11:25PM

    Your life has many textures . . . and these pictures (plus your gratitude for your surroundings) are moving.

And: loved your account of the children's unicycle activities! Here's hoping that when you learn to ride, you'll post a picture!!

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NANHBH 10/18/2011 4:51PM

    I love your nature lessons!

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MCGS62 10/18/2011 2:10PM

    outdoor science and writing!! Good combo!!
I like the love tree too
and really admire the innocence of your students imaginations.

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MARY1313 10/18/2011 12:12PM

    I love textures too. Love the trees!!!


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OLDERDANDRT 10/18/2011 10:23AM

    Great pics!!! I'd be loving having that beauty to hike in and around!! Love the "Love tree" !!! So cool!!!

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TRULYVISIBLE 10/18/2011 9:35AM

  How do I enroll in this school? Is there an age limit? LOL. Kids go hiking with a theme of texture, how cool is that. Now i have to go hiking this weekend so thanks for the blog. I may lose a half pound because of this blog.

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IUHRYTR 10/18/2011 9:16AM

    And I am grateful for being able to share your adventures with you through your blogs and photos. Thank you. -- Lou

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LITTLEBJANET 10/18/2011 9:00AM

    Beautiful photos. Wonderful for you and your students that you have such a lovely place to walk and enjoy nature.

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DDOORN 10/18/2011 8:44AM

    What an *eye* you have for the subtleties of nature!

Thx for sharing your special perspectives...!


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CHALLENGER15 10/18/2011 8:07AM

    Your students are very fortunate!

I love the pics!

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FCARMICH 10/18/2011 7:24AM

  nice pics

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The 'Bear'Crow

Monday, October 17, 2011

Last week I posted photos of the Witch Scarecrow, Annie Ox Cool, my students made for a local business for our town's Halloween Festivities. Each scarecrow is supposed to represent the local business. I didn't have our scarecrow up until this morning, so I had to wait until today to post the pics.

This is our "Bear'Crow:

Our school emblem is a bear riding a unicycle, since unicycle riding is an important part of our PE curriculum. Almost every child learns to ride the unicycle before graduating, and quite a few learn to ride the 5 foot and even 7 foot unicycle. So of course, our "Bear'Crow is riding a unicycle.

It is also wearing my Antioch School sweatshirt. emoticon

The 'Bear'Crow is located at the driveway entrance and school sign. I think the children did a nice job creating it; it was a fun project.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MSSNOWY 10/18/2011 12:21PM

    Love the unicycle idea. Also think 'bear crow' is very cool.

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MARY1313 10/18/2011 12:13PM

    Love it!!!

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IDLETYME 10/18/2011 8:45AM

    What a fun school!!!

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IUHRYTR 10/17/2011 9:45PM

    I am continually amazed at the creativity generated at your school and by you. What fun it must be to be a student there. -- Lou

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PUDLECRAZY 10/17/2011 9:07PM

    Riding the unicycle is something the children teach each other. It builds self confidence, independence, a huge sense of accomplishment (especially when they get on the 5 or 7 foot unicycle), and balance. It is something they can do that most of the adults in their lives cannot even imagine doing, and how many opportunities do children have at that? Woohoo!

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WATERMELLEN 10/17/2011 8:56PM

    Very cool. So: tell us why it's an important part of the curriculum for each child to learn to ride a unicycle? Something about balance? Independence? Confidence-building? And how hard is it?

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FIFIFRIZZLE 10/17/2011 7:51PM

    A unicycle!?! Can YOU ride one?!?

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OLDERDANDRT 10/17/2011 7:37PM

    Nifty, neat-o-keen!!

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ARLENE_MOVES 10/17/2011 6:50PM

    That is cool - and a great school project!

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BADASSBLONDIE 10/17/2011 4:52PM

    Love this!!!

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