Thursday, February 20, 2014

A conversation with Hugh Nibley about my answer key

I was writing an answer key for my International Finance class just now. In passing, I mentioned an "Edenic business climate." That's when the imaginary ghost of Hugh Nibley walked into my office and took a seat.

Hugh: That is a contradiction in terms. There is no business in Eden, so there cannot be an Edenic business climate.

DW: Alright, fine. I'll call it idyllic then.

Hugh: Idyllic for Bablyon?

DW: Listen, Hugh, I'm trying to write an answer key here, and I'm not teaching a religion class.

Hugh: Why not? Shouldn't you be preparing them for the real world?

DW: I'm not being paid to teach religion. I'm being paid to teach about that part of the real world that deals with international finance and that means talking about business.

Hugh: 'Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business: charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of [international finance] were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!' Do your idyllic business conditions improve those?

DW: Thank you, Charles Dickens. Look, I do the best I can to bring ethics into my teaching. I have students consider the impact of these policies on the poor; I continually challenge them to "rove beyond the narrow limits of their money changing holes" to serve their fellow Nigerians; every semester at least one class gets to see me tearing money into shreds to convince them that money is not the point and never has been; according to their answers on the midterm, I seem to have convinced my principles of macro students that their businesses will be best served by paying their workers more; 

Hugh: Which you weren't trying to do...

DW: I'll take it anyway. I gave a mini-lecture just last week on Christian and Islamic finance. I do what I can. It's hard being an economist and a preacher at the same time.

Hugh: You mean it's hard to have one foot in Babylon and one in Zion at the same time? Some day you're going to have to choose.

DW: That's not a fair description of me and you know it.

Well, either he gave in at that point or else I had successfully fought against the light long enough to go back to the darkness of mere economics. 

And idyllic business climates.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

What do you remember about Nigeria, Superstar?

We figured the Princess would be too young to remember anything about Nigeria. There was some chance though that Superstar would keep some memories of his home here. So now that they have been gone for almost a year, I interviewed Superstar to see what he remembered.

DW: What do you remember about Nigeria?
S: We didn’t have Mario Galaxy 2 yet. …. I had a train track.
DW: Do you remember any of the people?
S: Monday, Friday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. 

[This is only partly a joke. Monday is a guard and Friday is a driver. I also know multiple people named Sunday. I have yet to meet Tue, Wed, Thur, or Sat. I assume this is because I don't get out much.]

J: Do you remember any of the children?
S: Dahiru, Ethan, and who was the little one? Issa. I remember what he looks like because he looks like one of my friends at school here.

[Superstar did not remember his bedroom, so I took him on a Skyping tour of it.]
S: I remember the alphabets on the wall and the Winnie the Pooh clock and that is it.

That is most of what Superstar remembers from being a 3-5 year old almost a year later.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The many identical love interests of Modesitt

I've been enjoying two of L.E. Modesitt's series - Imager (a trilogy and one at 5+ books) and Recluse (a long series). In trying to keep the chronology of Recluse straight, I visited his Wiki page, which notes some criticism that his characters are all the same. Now, he's written a ton of books in many series, and I assume he is right to point out that he has a lot of other characters.

On the other hand, I'm 12 books in and having a hard time distinguishing the male heroes' love interests.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Superstar learns about jobs

I got home to UT. We left for CA to spend Christmas with my parents. We went back to UT. I left again for the big economics job market conference at the beginning of January in Philadelphia where I had a number of preliminary interviews. I came home and had another phone interview. I flew out to Texas to have a major interview with Tarleton State University. I came home, had a last phone interview, and flew back to Nigeria.

It was not quite the Have-Daddy-Stay-At-Home the kids were hoping for. I forget whether I was in Philly or TX, but Joy reported on a conversation she had with Superstar:

S: I don't want Daddy to get a job.
J: Why not?
S: I want him to stay with us all the time.
J: But if Daddy doesn't find a job, then Mommy will have to get a job. Would you rather Daddy stay home and Mommy goes to work?
S: No. I want you both to stay home, always.

Joy managed to convince him that if we're going to eat, someone needs to work. When I came home, I spent a good bit of time talking with the kids about how my goal was to find a job in the States so we could all live together again.

For Family Home Evening one night I decided to have a lesson on setting goals - it being so close to New Years, it seemed festive.

So bright, his father calls him Son

My dad's a smart guy. He made sure to train me to do some math in my head. While waiting in lines at Disneyland or for a restaurant to seat us, he'd play math games with me.

Having a grandson is a fun thing for Pop because he gets to do it all over again. Imagine his surprise when Superstar - who is only 5 years old - walks into his office, asks to practice his math with Pop, and wants to work on fractions and division.

Superstar's school is a wonderful place. Recognizing he already has remarkably advanced math skills, they let him join the older kids for math. One day the teacher was showing a movie in her class, and he complained that he was there to do math and wanted to do his math. They have him work on addition Tuesdays, subtraction Wed, multiplication Thur, and he gets to choose what he wants Mon and Fri, which is usually subtraction. Just before I left to return here, he passed a multiplication test. (One school I was interviewing with during lunch heard about this and asked if he got an A or just a passing grade - as if that made a ton of difference in a 5 year old. The answer is: he got a B.)

Now, I'll grant you, the way he does his multiplication is by adding numbers quickly. So you give him times tables to fill out and he can do them, 6x7 is just the last question 6x6 plus 6 more, and 6x8 is that plus 6 more and .... But he can still figure it out if they pick problems at random too.

Superstar, Joy, and I played Quirkle - a Scrabble-like game using colors and shapes instead of words. Superstar was able to keep track of his score in his head, adding up double-digit numbers to over 200 almost flawlessly.

My dad's a smart guy. He's in a little bit of awe about Superstar. That's my boy! My son, the math will be with you, always.