For some years I had noted that the effect of the early introduction of arithmetic had been to dull and almost chloroform the child’s reasoning faculties. There was a certain problem which I tried out, not once but a hundred times, in grades six, seven, and eight. Here is the problem: “If I can walk a hundred yards in a minute [and I can], how many miles can I walk in an hour, keeping up the same rate of speed?”
In nineteen cases out of twenty the answer given me would be six thousand, and if I beamed approval and smiled, the class settled back, well satisfied. But if I should happen to say, “I see. That means that I could walk from here to San Francisco and back in an hour” there would invariably be a laugh and the children would look foolish.
I, therefore, told the teachers of these experimental rooms that I would expect them to give the children much practise in estimating heights, lengths, areas, distances, and the like. At the end of a year of this kind of work, I visited the experimental room which had had a combination of third- and fourth-grade children, who now were fourth and fifth graders. I drew on the board a rough map of the western end of Lake Ontario, the eastern end of Lake Erie, and the Niagara River. I asked them to guess what it was, and was not surprised when they identified the location. I then labeled three spots along the river with the letters “Q,” “NF,” and “B.” They identified Niagara Falls and Buffalo without any difficulty, but were puzzled by the “Q.” Some thought it was Quebec but others knew it was not. I finally told them that it was Queenstown. I then drew a cross section of the falls, showing the hard layer of rock above and the soft layer eating out underneath, and they told me what it was and why it was that the stone was falling, little by little, from the edge. They told me how this process was going on. I then made the statement that in 1680, when white men had first seen the falls, the falls were 2500 feet lower down than they are at present. I then asked them at what rate the falls were retreating upstream. These children, who had had no formal arithmetic for a year but who had been given practise in thinking, told me that it was 250 years since white men had first seen the falls and that, therefore, the falls were retreating upstream at the rate of ten feet a year. I then remarked that science had decided that the falls had originally started at Queenstown, and, indicating that Queenstown was now ten miles down the river, I asked them how many years the falls had been retreating. They told me that if it had taken the falls 250 years to retreat about a half mile, it would be at the rate of 500 years to the mile, or 5000 years for the retreat from Queenstown. The map had been drawn so as to show the distance from Niagara Falls to Buffalo as approximately twice the distance from Queenstown to Niagara Falls. Then I asked these children whether they had any idea how long it would be before the falls would retreat to Buffalo and drain the lake. They told me that it would not happen for another ten thousand years. I asked them how they got that and they told me that the map indicated that it was twenty miles from Niagara Falls to Buffalo, or thereabouts, and that this was twice the distance from Queenstown to Niagara Falls!
Our goal was to enter this two level hermetically sealed, all welded steel coffin called the Mobil Launcher Base topped by a fully loaded 363 ft. high Saturn V, weighing 6.2 million pounds, and the permanently attached 380 ft. high Umbilical Tower, weighing 500k pounds. We finally stopped and left our van to walk up and into the second level of the Mobile Launcher Base. About this time, it came to my mind that during one of our training sessions we were told that one of the fully fueled prototype S-II rocket stages had been exploded out in the desert. The results showed that all buildings better be at least three miles from the launch pads - which they are. We were now within 25 feet of this 363ft tall bomb that sounded like it’s giant fuse had been lit, and we were soon going to get much closer.
Japanese Manhole Covers. Flickr pool.
In Japan, modern sewer systems began to appear during the late 19th century, though evidence of older sewage systems dates back to over 2,000 years ago. Foreign engineers introduced the Japanese to modern, underground sewer systems with above ground access points calledmanhoru (manholes). At first, Japanese manhole covers used geometric designs similar to those used in other countries. In the 1980s, when communities outside of Japan’s major cities were slated to receive new sewer systems, the public works projects were met with resistance – until one dedicated bureaucrat solved the problem by devising a way to make these mostly invisible systems aesthetically appreciated aboveground: customized manhole covers.
Because the Japanese elevate design in all aspects of life to a new level, the custom covers were welcomed, even though they cost more than generic ones. Today nearly 95 percent of the 1,780 municipalities in Japan sport their very own specially designed manhole covers. Designs range from images that evoke a region’s cultural identity, flora or fauna to landmarks and local festivals.
Unsurprisingly, this phenomenon has bred another phenomenon: manhorumania. A rabid online community, based in Japan and abroad, has developed around this city-sanctioned urban art. Several blogs and websites dedicated to manhole covers provide details about locations and designs. With numerous colorful photographs organized by region, Drainspotting is the first book to document yet another wholly distinct aspect of contemporary Japanese visual culture.
The Jean-Paul Sartre Cookbook
Spoke with Camus today about my cookbook. Though he has never actually eaten, he gave me much encouragement. I rushed home immediately to begin work. How excited I am! I have begun my formula for a Denver omelet.October 4
Still working on the omelet. There have been stumbling blocks. I keep creating omelets one after another, like soldiers marching into the sea, but each one seems empty, hollow, like stone. I want to create an omelet that expresses the meaninglessness of existence, and instead they taste like cheese. I look at them on the plate, but they do not look back. Tried eating them with the lights off. It did not help. Malraux suggested paprika.October 6
I have realized that the traditional omelet form (eggs and cheese) is bourgeois. Today I tried making one out of a cigarette, some coffee, and four tiny stones. I fed it to Malraux, who puked. I am encouraged, but my journey is still long.
Today I made a Black Forest cake out of five pounds of cherries and a live beaver, challenging the very definition of the word “cake.” I was very pleased. Malraux said he admired it greatly, but could not stay for dessert. Still, I feel that this may be my most profound achievement yet, and have resolved to enter it in the Betty Crocker Bake-Off.November 30
Today was the day of the Bake-Off. Alas, things did not go as I had hoped. During the judging, the beaver became agitated and bit Betty Crocker on the wrist. The beaver’s powerful jaws are capable of felling blue spruce in less than ten minutes and proved, needless to say, more than a match for the tender limbs of America’s favorite homemaker. I only got third place. Moreover, I am now the subject of a rather nasty lawsuit.