Famously misattributed to Bill Gates, the quote "Be nice to nerds. Chances are you'll end up working for one," still rings pretty true.
"That's alright, that's okay. You're going to work for us someday," is what my college friends and I shouted at the top of our lungs in support of our winless football team. When the average lineman's weight is lower than his IQ, you have to come up with something to boost morale.Even my mom got in on the pro nerd act, reminding me all through high school that, "He may seem a little geeky now, but nerds definitely make the best husbands." While settling down wasn't exactly top-of-mind my senior year, I paid heed to her advice when prom night came. My date sported horn-rimmed glasses, a yellow tux and looked like he stepped straight out of a Weird Science casting session. I resembled vintage Sarah Jessica Parker in my neon taffeta and oversized corsage. Unfortunately, the look was far more Square Pegs than Sex and the City.
Yes, my geek tendencies still run pretty strong. I am proud of my ability to speak over 250 words a minute, a skill mastered during hours of debate team practice. I can still recite Longfellow's "Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" on demand. And I can't tell you how jazzed up I am to go on my kid's field trip this week to Blue Mound State Park for Civil War Days. The costumed re-enactors will be performing a mock field amputation and will teach us how to can and make soap. What's not to love?
But I guess you would call me more of a "word nerd." I am definitely not a science geek. I hated dissections in school, and, due to my general uneasiness around any blood that isn't my own, never once entertained the thought of being a doctor. I am pretty much only interested in rocks in the form of mounted jewelry. And even though I have lived abroad, I feel more out of place walking the halls of the Computer Science building than I did scaling pyramids in the jungles of Guatemala.
But my kids and I have a unique opportunity to develop a keener appreciation of the hard sciences this week as UW-Madison plays host to the National Science Olympiad Tournament through Saturday. More than 6,000 students, educators and parents from all 50 states will be in the house for the 27th annual tournament. It's one of the nation's most prestigious competitions of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); we'd be fools not to check it out.
The line-up of events sounds pretty cool. There is the "Helicopters" challenge, a flight endurance contest powered by rubber band engines. And there is "Storm the Castle," a precision catapult exercise. Kind of science fair meets Renaissance Faire.
New this year will be a "Sumo Bots," a boxing match of robots engineered to muscle other robot competitors from a ring. Kind of like a real life "Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots." Maybe next year there will be a way to bring the wonders of science to another toy from my youth, the "Easy Bake Oven." I'd love to be able to actually cook dinner for the whole family using a compact fluorescent light bulb.
FutureLab: The Innovation Expo will be open on Saturday, May 21 in the Engineering Centers Building. This unique traveling expo lets visitors test hydrogen fuel cell cars, play space station simulation games, and view a 3D hologram. And for die-hard sci-fi movie fans, there will be actual props from Star Wars and Alien. If they could only re-enact the "chest busting" dinner scene, they could give those pseudo- Civil War field surgeons a real run for their money.
Here is a full rundown of all events.
Now is the perfect time for my kids to be exposed to all the Science Olympiad has to offer. I hold out hope this expo will motivate them all to delve a little deeper into protons, neutrons and rocketry. Sure seems a lot more practical than talking fast or impersonating Stonewall Jackson.
And we will certainly be nice to all the exhibitors. It's never too early to start buttering up the boss.comments powered by Disqus
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (Near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.
Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.
The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.
Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.
As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.
For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.
The longest day of the year is upon us. For those of you keeping track, the sun will rise at 5:18 a.m. and set at 8:41 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. All that daylight, courtesy of the annual summer solstice, will provide the perfect backdrop for Make Music Madison, a daylong event featuring hours and hours of free performances in nearly every corner of the city.
Last week, for the first time, I made my way up to one of the open gallery nights during Madison West's Fine Arts Week, the school's annual showcase for all things creative. The scope of the event is huge, with nearly 1,600 students participating, and the quality of the presented works is phenomenal. It's almost as if the school had been lifted off its perch on Regent Street and traveled back in time to Belle Époque Paris.
If you have aspiring authors in your house, this summer offers a fabulous opportunity for them refine their writing skills. For its second summer, the Greater Madison Writing Project, in partnership with Olbrich Botanical Gardens, is sponsoring two week-long camps in August for young writers entering grades 3-8.
There are lots of benefits to living in a college town. First and foremost, there is always something going on -- a lecture, a film series. Maybe even a protest, if you're lucky. And since becoming a Madisonian, I, for the first time in my life, find myself interested in college football.
My passion for the talent show clearly runs deep, but I'm more than just a fangirl. This year marked my second as one of the "Ziegfelds" of the Follies, Hamilton's annual showcase for singers, musicians, dancers and other varied forms of entertainment. Trust me, when you are part of the spectacle's "producing/directing" team you get a new-found appreciation for how hard the kids worked to get up on stage.
My daughter, who turned twelve just this past week, is not legally "of age" when it comes to social media. But I guess, in many respects, especially in those that involve screens, I am a permissive pushover. I've allowed her join some networks.
What adults love about camping -- sleeping under the stars, getting away from it all, the sounds of nature -- can be scary for children. It's dark in a tent. Nothing is familiar. Of course, camping with kids is more work for adults, too. Stay cool, live in the moment. Forget about that lost fork. Making s'mores, spotting wildlife, that's what kids will remember.
I have just returned from a whirlwind, five-day, four-city college tour with my son. You know those "101 Things to Know Before Visiting Disney World" guidebooks that experienced theme park travelers have written to help the uninitiated? I think I am now officially seasoned enough in information sessions and campus tours to give some serious thought to penning a similar "insiders guide" for the junior-year parent.
This past week, against both my will and better judgement, I accompanied 50 or so middle school kids to the Future Problem Solvers Wisconsin State Bowl, a popular academic and skit-writing competition.
It may be a bigger waste of breath than electricity to ask my kids to turn off the lights when they leave a room. If I've nagged them once, I've nagged them a thousand times. No, I've never noticed anything amiss with their fingers. But it appears they are physically incapable of flipping a switch to the "off" position.
I want to say thank you to the Board of Education for allowing Maia to return to class, unquestionably the place she belongs, as well as to thank them for adopting the new policies. But just as importantly, I also want to thank Maia and her family for their willingness to come forward with their story.