Ready for Russia?

Tonight was our final session of Russian class at U.T.P.B. The class, which has been a big help in our efforts to learn some of the basics of Russian language, has met once a week for 3 hours (whew!) over the course of 4 weeks. So despite only having 12 hours of actual class time, our teacher, Tatiana, seemed to cover A LOT of material with our small class! We’ve learned to read the Russian Cyrillic alphabet, how to count, a little bit about how to read & write cursive Cyrillic lettering, and several very useful conversational phrases.

One of the highlights of our class was going as a group to see Mikhail Gorbachev speak at Midland College’s Chapparal Center a couple of weeks ago. He had some interesting views and it was quite a treat to be able to understand a few of his words throughout his speech.

I’m don’t think we’re quite ready to blend in with the Russians without notice but I do feel a bit more confident about our upcoming (hurry, hurry!) visit to the country.

The Handwriting Is On the Wall

Several months back, I ranted a bit about the disturbing trend for elementary schools to stop teaching cursive writing as a mandatory part of their curriculum. Recently, I came across Margaret Webb Pressler’s Washington Post editorial The Handwriting Is On the Wall that suggests that handwriting makes a qualitative difference in what is written, not just how it is written:

The loss of handwriting also may be a cognitive opportunity missed. The neurological process that directs thought, through fingers, into written symbols is a highly sophisticated one. Several academic studies have found that good handwriting skills at a young age can help children express their thoughts better – a lifelong benefit.

Or to put it more succinctly, handwriting equals better learning, especially for school-age kids. Not convinced? Read on:

Why Does Writing Make Us Smarter?

Brain Research and Cursive Writing

Hardwired for Writing: The Intelligence of the Hand

Why Handwriting Makes You Smarter

I strongly support continuing to teach kids handwriting, not because it’s necessarily all that vital to have pretty penmanship, (although as someone who does not have said, I certainly see the value in that) but because I think kids are being robbed of the opportunity to develop an important skillset. The strong cognitive connection with manual notetaking can’t be matched with a keyboard. It may also be worth considering that if we neglect to teach kids to write cursively, we may also be hindering their ability to read cursive writing.

Increasingly, schools are phasing out handwriting to make more time for teaching technology and materials needed to pass standardized tests. Pressler notes that even those few schools where handwriting is still taught generally drop that from their curriculum after the 3rd grade. And given the choice—although I’m totally baffled why they would be—most kids quickly abandon the struggle to continue developing handwriting skills in favor of keyboarding, which most have been doing since kindergarten.

Lastly, consider this: Sure, as one technology becomes common, older ones lose their place in society, and so keyboards have largely relegated paper & pen to the dustbin. But one of the newest waves of personal computers, tablet PCs, may actually bring about a renewed demand for handwriting. Pen-driven tablet PCs easily and accurately read handwritten input—in fact, the adaptive nature of tablet-based operating systems allows them to continually improve handwriting recognition. Maybe 20 years from now, we’ll show someone a keyboard and they’ll wonder what it does…

Ikea Haul Photos

Ikea logoFor the uninitiated, Ikea (Dede’s mostest favoritest store ever) might best be described as “the Old Navy of home furnishings.” (You can learn lots more about it via my Cult of Ikea post.)

We’re still reeling from our most recent pilgrimage to Ikea, having lumbered back home from our trip to Ikea Frisco piled up with more stuff in the back of the Element than we’ve ever managed to cram in there before. Here are a couple of photos showing just some of the goodies we managed to haul back:

Ikea Bjursta dining table

Ikea Lycksele LÖVÅS chair bed

The Pod People Progression

iPod fever continues to spread as Apple wins even more converts with the release of their new second gen iPod Nano series. So, like me, Dede, Gretchen, & Brad “Tre” have joined the ranks of the Pod People:

Brad rolls with an awesome green iPod Mini

Gretchen chills with her iPod Nano v2

Dede rocks with Angus & the boys on her iPod Nano v2

And all 3 quickly figured out that having clean MP3 music file metadata tags is all the more worthwhile once you start loading an iPod up with your tunes. Cleaning up your tags makes it easy to group songs by artist or album or genre and there’s no better tool to help tweak your MP3 files than Florian Heidenreich’s Mp3tag, a powerful & easy-to-use tool that’s also free!

That’s How We Roll

We met up with Clems & Brad (aka “Trey” aka “B Dogg”) at Ikea in Frisco on Friday (hey, that kinda sounds like a song) and nearly bit off more than we could chew.

Clems did some last-minute shopping on his way to the airport and picked up a dining table & 8 chairs for the new house.   Without as much as a tape measure, Rob & Clems “eyeballed” the box and decided we could probably make the stuff fit in the Element for the trip back home.

Well, technically, it did all fit, although just barely.   But in the process we discovered that rear-view visibility is really just a luxury.   Once we got Clems’ stuff loaded and him off to the airport – making his flight with less than 15 minutes to spare – we continued on with our own shopping.   A couple of hours later, we checked out but then had to figure out how to get everything to fit for the ride home.   After some careful planning and strategic manuevering (including back seat removal), Rob got everything crammed inside and all the doors closed — and there was even partial visibility from the rear-view mirror.

As Trey would say, “That’s how we roll around here…”

Rob & Dede in front of Ikea Frisco

Rob's Honda Element completely stuffed with Ikea goods

Update:   Wanna see just how much stuff we managed to bring back with us?   Click here for photos of our Ikea haul.