Dino Bites

Dino Bites

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Successful Fiasco

Dinner was a successful fiasco tonight. How is that possible? Well, I would like to share with you our culinary experience.

It started relatively early in the day when I asked myself the dreaded question, "What should I make for dinner?" This was followed by typical questions, such as, "What do I want for dinner? What do I have in the house? If I make that, what would the kids eat?" I settled on a yummy Indian Lentil soup. Ben and I love it, and it is low calorie. (Granola is not a low-calorie breakfast, so I was looking to compensate.) So that's what I planned on. What should I feed the kids, though? Most of them won't eat the soup. I decided to try my hand at naan, which for those of you poor ignorant souls who haven't eaten Indian food, it is Indian bread. I found a recipe that while not exactly traditional, it caught the spirit of the thing and was bland enough that I knew my kids would like it. So it was all settled. Now, this particular soup comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, America's Test Kitchen's The Best 30-Minute Recipe. I have altered it for the Crock-pot sometimes, but I had to choose between making the naan and starting the soup. I started the naan, and the baby woke up. He was unusually grumpy and insisted on my holding him.

I figured I could at least assemble the ingredients and have one of the girls sort the lentils while I held him. I went to the cupboard. No lentils. I went to the basement. No lentils. No coconut milk, either. Oops. Meanwhile, the naan was rising, so I felt like I should stick with an Indian theme. I looked in the same book and found a recipe for Pork Vindaloo. Yum! I figured that in a pinch, a pork roast would do for a pork tenderloin. I did what I could with a baby on my hip until Ben came home.

Now, I love my 30-minute cookbook, but the recipes almost always take more than 30 minutes the first time I prepare them. Even when I'm experienced, a lot of them take 45 minutes. The beauty of it is, though, that you can make something in 30-45 minutes that normally takes hours, like lasagna. The soup took closer to an hour to prepare, at which point I realized in a panic that I had ignored the naan. I made the naan and rice as quick as I could, and we all sat down to dinner about 6:30.

I was fully prepared to hear my children complain vociferously about this weird soup I made. We dished some up for everyone, and I was totally surprised to hear: "This is great! I love this! Make this again! Can we have this every night?" Especially from my pickiest eater, Sunny. I was floored. And thrilled. And it was very yummy. It was as yummy as the pork vindaloo I have eaten at restaurants. The bread was too bland for me by itself, but dipped in the vindaloo it was a chunk of heaven! Butter and honey on it was also excellent.

The planning and preparation were a total fiasco. The final product and reception were a smashing success. We'll be having leftovers for dinner tomorrow, and they're all excited about it. I will never understand their taste buds! Sunny balks at spaghetti sauce but she'll eat pork vindaloo? Crazy.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


In all the craziness of the holidays, I could hardly think of any resolutions. As things have calmed down, I have come up with three:
1. Lose 20lbs by June 1.
2. Exercise at least 3 times per week, even if it's just dancing with the kids for 10 minutes!
3. Write thank you notes. I have been terrible at this. Sunny just got a thank you card from one of her friends for a birthday gift. The mom wrote it, but the child signed it. It made Sunny so happy, and I know thank you notes lift my spirits. I have found thank you notes in storage from my wedding and from baby gifts! Some are written and addressed, some are missing addresses. They weren't sent though. Oops! So I want your opinion: Since they are already written, would you send them even though they are 10 years old now?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Why I Love Companionship Inventory

When I was a missionary, we were told that every week, we should sit down and discuss anything that was bothering us about our companion.

Since Ben and I are both return missionaries, this has continued as part of our marriage. Every Sunday night, we sit down together. We discuss the schedule for the week, look at our finances, track our progress on goals, and finally, we bring up anything that is bugging us about each other.

I prize this time together. Being on the same page with schedules helps the whole family. During Family Home Evening, we summarize anything that may affect the kids, and they tell us anything we forgot. This minimizes surprises during the week. Keeping tabs on finances and goals keeps us united or gives an opportunity to resolve any differences in what we want to spend our money on. On the occasions where something is really bothering me about Ben or our relationship, we have an automatic time built in to discuss these things instead of uttering the dreaded phrase "we need to talk."

Finances and relationship issues can be so emotionally based. When they come up, we're not always thinking straight, and we can say things we regret. If there is a relationship issue, I take a few days to calm down. Sometimes I realize it's not really worth bringing up. Often, though, it just gives me time to contemplate the best way to talk about it. In this environment, we can approach things with concern and love, and rarely do we feel attacked or get defensive, both of which prohibit problem solving.

I am grateful for my mission for a lot of reasons, and the fact that it taught me this principle is one of them. Ben and I have a very happy marriage, and I'm sure this is one of the reasons why. I look forward to this time each week. More often than not, we don't have any relationship issues to talk about, but when they come up, we have a great way to deal with it.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Why People Are Tech Idiots

Hi, this is Ben. I teach computers. I am constantly amazed at the number of Tech Idiots that parade their helplessness in all things tech through my classroom every day (almost). I have long searched for the answer of WHY? Why are all of these people seemingly unable to grasp basic concepts? Why, after hours of patient instruction in multiple methods can people still not know how to find the button that takes them up one folder in Windows Explorer? How can people miss buttons labeled right in front of their noses? WHY?

I think I may have a couple of answers.

But first, a flowchart: (Click to see the whole thing.)

This was a great post from xkcd, one of my favorite web comics, and a great many of my computer literate friends loved this flowchart, but I have found two major problems with it. Both problems can be illustrated with stories. The problems may be related.

The first problem is first decision point. Finding a menu item or button related to what you are trying to do. I have found a significant number of people that cannot even recognize what is and is not a button. Why? Because they do not deal with them every day.

A story: About a year and a half ago, I was remodeling the house I had just purchased. My father, a lifelong general contractor, was helping. Or more to the point, I was helping him for a great deal of it. At one point I was sent into the living room to fill nail holes from the paneling we had just removed. I was in there for about 30-45 minutes. I came out satisfied that I was done. My father came into the room and glanced around.

"What about that hole?" he asked, pointing to a hole I had missed. "And that one, and that one, and..." My father then proceeded to point out between 30-40 holes that I had missed all around the room. All it took from him was a casual glance, and he was able to see so much more than I. He looked at my astonished face and asked, "You didn't even see those, did you?" I mutely shook my head. Then he said something profound: "It's just like me on the computer."

Since that day, I have never been frustrated with my Dad when he has computer issues. I just recognize that there are a lot of things that he simply cannot see due to lack of experience.

The second problem that I have found with the flowchart applies to both the first decision point and the box that instructs people to Google for a solution. Googling for a solution would also include looking in the help file. This problem is that many people are conceptually illiterate. I just made that term up, but I could not think of one that I already knew that fit.

What I mean by that is that many people can decode words and understand, often slowly, the written word, but they are unable to understand complex sentences, or quickly evaluate textual information for any sort of value judgment. They also cannot generate a list of words that are related to their current situation that might not be the exact words that they are thinking of. They cannot act as their own thesaurus.

How is this a problem? Let me illustrate with a couple of stories:

1) A few years ago, a friend of mine, Scott, was teaching some graphic design courses for a local private college. He taught all about the elements of graphic design, and he had a class that really seemed to get it. They were able to produce very good images. The final test was a multiple choice exam with questions asking about design principles and the answers clearly in the choices. Every student failed the exam. (Scott, if I am telling the story wrong, let me know.)

Why, when they were clearly able to consistently produce images using good design principles, were they unable to recognize those same principles when they were in written form? It is because they are conceptually illiterate. They never learned to process and internalize concepts in written form. In effect, all but the most basic text might as well be gibberish. They can read the words, but they cannot understand the concept.

The second story. Recently in my InDesign class, I had a student who asked a couple of very specific questions to which I did not know the answer. During a break, I found the answer to both questions in under 2 minutes per question. One answer I found in the help file, and the other in a Google search. When the student asked how I found the answers, I told her they were simple searches. She asked me to show her the procedures to do what she had been asking. I asked if I could just point her to the solutions online. Her reply, "I really have a hard time following any sort of written directions." She also asked what search terms I had used, as she expressed frustration that she had also looked in the help system and in Google. When I told her, she just said, "Oh." I did not have the heart to ask what she had searched for.

Many times in my classes, I have attempted to teach people to use the help systems that come with computers. I have little success. The biggest reason is that I ask people to look for something in the help file, and unless the answer can be found using the exact words that I used, they are unable to come up with their own search terms. They cannot verbalize what they are looking for.

What are the implications of conceptual illiteracy, or the inability to process concepts from written language? People cannot understand contracts. People cannot understand terms and conditions. People cannot understand The Constitution of The United States or their own state. For those that are religious, they cannot understand the scriptures. They are cut off from what should be one of the most powerful experiences of their life.

The only question that I have, and that I have not found satisfactorily answered anywhere: can conceptual literacy be taught effectively after about the age of 12?

What do you think? Are you conceptually illiterate? Do you know those that are? How in the @#$%#@ do they cope with life?

On the other hand, they make failbook a funny place to visit.