The Most Useful Algebra Lesson Of All

I first encountered algebra in the sixth grade. Numbers disappeared–or at least, were consigned to secondary importance–and letters, mysterious ones like x, y, z, took center stage.  A mathematical expression called the ‘equation’–an incomprehensible sentence underwritten by an esoteric grammar–emerged on my intellectual horizon. (Strictly speaking, my teachers were rigorous enough to call these things ‘linearContinue reading “The Most Useful Algebra Lesson Of All”

Parental Rage And Giving Babies The Bird

Rebecca Schuman–who often pisses off many on the Internet thanks to her writing on modern academia–recently made herself the target of a great deal of vitriol thanks to a post on Slate that featured her giving her sleeping baby the bird. The usual avalanche of abuse, characteristic of Internet furores, spilled forth: threats to reportContinue reading “Parental Rage And Giving Babies The Bird”

Lorrie Moore’s ‘A Gate At The Stairs’ And An Implausible Grieving

There is much to like in Lorrie Moore‘s A Gate At The Stairs: there is Moore’s trademark dry humor, her dazzling vocabulary and eye for natural and urban detail, her exploration of weighty issues–race, adoption, gender, families, parenting–with a writerly touch that is deft and light in equal measure. But there is a crucial implausibilityContinue reading “Lorrie Moore’s ‘A Gate At The Stairs’ And An Implausible Grieving”

‘Don’t Be Like Me’: A Parent’s Plea

Parents want their children to be like them; parents want their children to be better than them; and parents do not want their children to be like them. Despite Hobbes‘ shrewd remark that most humans are content with their congenital endowments of intelligence and talent, we are often quite aware of our shortcomings, intellectual andContinue reading “‘Don’t Be Like Me’: A Parent’s Plea”

Military Brats And Shoe Shines

A good shoe shine isn’t easy to pull off. You have to do a preliminary cleaning of the shoe first: a removal of the dust and grime that has accumulated on the shoe’s precious leather exterior, perhaps with a cloth or with a spare brush. Then, you apply the polish itself with another small brushContinue reading “Military Brats And Shoe Shines”

Bertrand Russell On Toddlers, The ‘Little Devils’

In ‘The Superior Virtue of the Oppressed’ (Unpopular Essays, 1960; Routledge Classics 2009, pp. 60-61), Bertrand Russell writes, Children, after being limbs of Satan in traditional theology and mystically illuminated angels in the minds of education reformers, have reverted to being little devils–not theological demons inspired by the Evil One, but scientific Freudian abominations inspiredContinue reading “Bertrand Russell On Toddlers, The ‘Little Devils’”

Chronicle Of A Cryptic Reminder

Sometimes I scribble little notes to myself–mostly on pieces of paper, but increasingly, on a little electronic notepad on my smartphone. Sometimes they are prompted by observations while walking, sometimes by a passage read in a book, sometimes by a scene in a movie. Sometimes they make sense when I return to them a littleContinue reading “Chronicle Of A Cryptic Reminder”

Biological And Adoptive Parents

There was a time when I did not understand how adoption worked. Didn’t you have to have a biological tie with your offspring to be truly, deeply, emotionally bound to it? Over the years, I came to think not–at an intellectual level. But like many other theses, I became convinced of its truth only afterContinue reading “Biological And Adoptive Parents”

Parents and Children: Perfect Strangers

A couple of days ago, I received news that a gentleman who had known my father during their years of service in the air force had passed away. A dozen or so years ago, we had established a brief correspondence by email; in his messages, he had briefly detailed the extent of his contact withContinue reading “Parents and Children: Perfect Strangers”

Babywatch: First Year Observance

New parents are barraged with a series of sage observations on, and homilies about, the parenting experience by those who have been through the grinder. Among them is one that is part warning, part rueful exclamation: ‘enjoy the kids, time flies!’ Well, time has flown. My daughter is one. She was born at 5:55 AMContinue reading “Babywatch: First Year Observance”