Friday, October 05, 2007

I'm just another Western guy with desires he can't satisfy


God, what a week it's been.

Our Google calendar looks like the computer screen at the end of War Games, when all the nukular splosions bloom up and overlap and do it over and over again faster and faster.

Bob's like Mr Community Man at this point, he's got all kinds of meetings in the evenings. I don't so much - that crippling meeting allergy of mine has tragically limited my participation in committees and boards - but I've picked up a couple extra shifts at work and I have a couple of projects going, and, together with two evenings of soccer practice a week, that's really enough to shove us over the edge. I find myself being that pack-horse woman who drags around a 30-pound tote bag full of books and periodicals and computers just on the off chance I find myself with ten minutes and free wi-fi.

I was up for another part-time job, which I was hoping to get for a variety of noble and symmetrical reasons, but in the back of my mind it had definitely occurred to me that that job would have given me a good, defensible reason to jettison some of the smaller projects that have attached themselves to my hull. Hm. Did I just mix that metaphor? I guess you'd cast off things attached to your hull, and you'd jettison things that were actually on the vessel. Well what the fuck, I like the word "jettison". Also "defensible".

You know another good word? predictive.


Our neighbor, a retired math teacher, passed along to us this beautiful Cuisenaire Home Mathematics Kit. Copyright 1971 by Learning Games, Inc. in White Plains, the kit includes 155 Cuisenaire Rods, activity cards, a guidebook and glossary, and a flexi phonograph record "for preschoolers". Wow!

This kit is designed to make "MODERN MATH fun for child and parent," and you know? it just could work. The Cuisenaire rods are precisely machined, vibrantly stained wooden blocks that sort of ring when they clink against each other. The smallest is a 1x1x1 cm cube, the next is a 1x1x2 cm crimson red rod, the next longest is 1x1x3 cm and lizard green, and so forth, through 1x1x10 cm, which is orange like a navel orange.

The activity cards teach concepts ranging from greater than / less than to like, functions and Cartesian products. Big Man and I sat down with them last week and did some of the activities, making trains of equal length from different colored blocks and stuff, and it was very subtle - he was learning about common denominators in this very concrete way. I had to back off a bit actually, I was dizzy from all the learning!


So apparently the Europeans, you know them, they're all up in the Cuisenaire stuff. Apparently you can learn almost anything, including Chinese, using these rods. I read the description and I absolutely couldn't get my head around it.

And the gorgeous colors of the Cuisenaire rods put me in mind of the L
üscher Color Test, also developed by some midcentury Euro maverick social scientist (I see these guys in like Martin Landau jumpsuits in perfectly white lab environments: "we have discovered how the mind works and we can fix it through the use of pure hues and precise geometry.").

The color test involves arranging a set of ten densely-printed color cards in order by "what color makes you feel the best". You do it twice. There are like 5015 possible combinations. It works just exactly like Internet quizzes do today, which is why you can find it online.

We had it at home. It was the closest my parents came to Tarot, or psychiatry. I took it the other day.
Your Existing Situation
Acts calmly, with the minimum of upset, in order to handle existing relationships. Likes to feel relaxed and at ease with her associates and those close to him.

Your Stress Sources
Wishes to be independent, unhampered, and free from any limitation or restriction, other than those which she imposes of herself or by her own choice and decision.

Your Restrained Characteristics
Willing to participate and to allow herself to become involved, but tries to fend off conflict and disturbance in order to reduce tension. The situation is preventing her from establishing herself, but she feels she must make the best of things as they are. Feels trapped in a distressing or uncomfortable situation and seeking some way of gaining relief.

Your Desired Objective
Wants interesting and exciting things to happen. Able to make herself well-liked by her obvious interest and by the very openness of her charm. Over-imaginative and given to fantasy or day-dreaming.

Your Actual Problem
Seeks to avoid criticism and to prevent restriction of her freedom to act, and to decide for herself by the exercise of great personal charm in her dealings with others.

Sort of standard horoscope BS but I remember being just fascinated when I was a kid. So here's to these guys, a sort of mini-Bauhaus of the mind:
Georges Cuisenaire: Belgian, introduced the rods in 1952
Max L
üscher: Swiss, started using his color test in 1947
And to quote the adorable pop culture librarian:
I'm out.