Friday, February 3, 2017


Last night, Elise and I took the kids to STEAM Night at Sam's school. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. At his school in Chennai, AISC, Sam was known by one of his teachers as the "Science Guy". The name was apt. He was in heaven. His face glowed the entire night, until it was time to go home and climb into bed. He was in his element.

We got there a little after having dinner out at a new (new to us, anyway) Greek restaurant, Plaka Grill. We were actually looking to kill some time, so we didn't hurry out of there, even though there was nothing to watch on the big-screen TV except ESPN. Now I know why we don't have television. Even something as innocuous as channel...had incredibly violent commercials. Maybe I think ESPN is innocuous while forgetting who their target audience probably is, young, testosterone-driven males with too much time on their hands.

Sports don't do much for me now. I used to love watching sports on television and a huge fan of the NBA, in particular. Now, watching sports seems such a luxury, something I have zero time for and don't really miss. I admit to--on occasion--liking to catch the big game. For me, it's not so much about the outcome or contest itself. Sports is a diversion, an escape. That makes them even that much more a luxury, something I am able to do only when I have the time for diversion or escape. I think many people can be drawn to sports because intrinsic in the competition itself is a dramatic narrative lacking from many spectators' lives. My life is full enough (thank you very much) without adding in another dramatic yarn to follow. I just don't have the bandwidth to follow sports anymore, but when I do watch, it's mostly for the aesthetic. As some may enjoy going to an art gallery and appreciating the masterpieces or staring out over the ocean or at the mountains, I don't know if I'm really watching so much as seeing the green of the field, the colors in the players uniforms, and appreciating the crip clarity of hi-def television.

I'm still glad we don't have TV, because when I do take the family to watch a game, inevitably commercials for violent movies are aired. Twice in about a twenty minute span, I had to tell the kids, "Don'tlook!Don'tlook!Don'tlook! Not for kids!" when an ad for a horror movie came on. These kids sleep restlessly enough without interjecting images of ghosts into their dreams. In people with televisions in their homes, in prominent places in the center of their living rooms, as their hearths, around which the family gathers, I can't imagine what either subliminal -- or not so subliminal -- imagery kids are absorbing.

Our kids are pretty well-trained, though. It usually only takes one "Don't look!" before all three of them have their heads buried in the crooks of their elbows. None of them wants nightmares any more than I do. Especially Sam. I think they appreciate the warnings. They never fight Elise or I on them and they never raise their heads or uncover their eyes before we give them the all-clear.

We arrived early for STEAM night and that was definitely a good things. The cafeteria and gym where STEAM night were being held filled up quickly. In arriving early, we were at least able to see one or two displays before hoards of kids swamped us and unintentionally elbowed our little guys aside.

Sam, Pete, and Clementine had the undivided attention of one engineer who connected a small circuit board (I apologize in advance as I really know nothing about technology; I'm probably using all the wrong terms) to a computer, then by entering simple lines of code was able to make the line blink on and off at varying rates.

We also built "smash-bots" out of legos and made them joust one another. Clementine won her match against an older boy who slunked away in defeat while Clementine did a celebratory jig, whoop-whooping, and pumping her first in the air as though she scored the game winning touchdown at the Super Bowl. We need to work on her sportsmanship...especially as she is signed up for spring soccer.

We briefly built molecular models out of gumdrops and toothpicks before moving on to the computers. They were all full with kids playing Minecraft. Sam is smitten. I know he wants a device badly and is probably old enough for -- if anything -- a retro Atari console or something, but both Elise and I agree that once you open up that Pandora's Box you're never going to get it closed again, so we're holding off as long as we can. Especially as we read more and more evidence against exposing young brains to screens, we're happy to hold off as long as possible. I'm glad we were able to keep them off as long as we did. We see children much young than ours unable to sit still for two minutes in a restaurant without an iPad flickering in their face.

We saw programmable robots made of Legos and a 3d printer. I knew Sam was excited, but I was stoked to see Peter and Clementine equally engaged. Especially Clem. The last thing we saw before leaving was a real robot built by two high-schoolers. They controlled it from an iPhone and had designed it to throw a ball. Cool stuff. 

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