Archive for August, 2013


August 26, 2013

2013-08-26MathWhile looking through my home library I came across a set of math textbooks which I used when I was a primary school pupil. In those days the word “mathematics” wasn’t widely applied: what we were studying during the first six years was called “arithmetic”, in the sixth year – alongside with arithmetic – algebra was introduced and continuously taught till the very last year at secondary school (grade 10). In the seventh grade arithmetic was finished and geometry came over, which was replaced by trigonometry in the ninth through tenth grades. Thus, for our finals we were taking algebra and trigonometry.

As a high school student I loved math. I loved the logic of it and the challenges it presented. All the subjects were required, but math was not only “required”: it was ESTEEMED. Every day we had either arithmetic (in primary and middle school) or any other part of math (in senior grades). Interestingly, when our primary school teacher saw that we had not mastered any aspect of the syllabus in math, she didn’t hesitate to use the time allotted for Physical Training or Arts to train us additionally in mathematics. Besides, she could move and replace courses the way she thought it right because she taught all of them.

2013-08-26Math2Till my final year at school I was not sure which direction I will choose – mathematics or humanities. Eventually, humanities won. Did it happen because I wasn’t imaginative enough to become a professional mathematician? Whatever the reason might be, one cannot but agree that mathematics is essentially poetic. Its poetry lies in the beauty of reasoning, argument, proof and evidence. The best praise I used to receive from my teacher of math was: “Vitaliy, you have solved the problem in a beautiful way.”

P.S. Together with the textbooks I have also found a dip pen and a piece of blotting paper – indispensable articles of every pupil in the 1950’s. In my picture I have just pulled the pen from the pen-holder to demonstrate that the pen was detachable and in those days could be replaced by a new pen as soon as the old one was broken.

Yes, we used the blotting paper to dry wet ink (fortunately or unfortunately, I didn’t live in the days when sand was used for the purpose 🙂 ). When used to dry the ink on writings, the writing appears in reverse on the surface of the blotting paper. This phenomenon was used by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the Sherlock Holmes story “The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter.”


August 25, 2013

2013-08-25Junie-the-DogWhile browsing the Internet I came across the website of Prospect High School of the state of Illinois, Chicago ( were I was once teaching Russian. It was (and I hope, it remains) a very good suburban school with very motivated students, and I keep cherishing the warmest memories of the several months I spent there.

This time, in the section „Student Services” I saw a list of counselors and specialists (career advisers, psychologists, speech therapists, social workers) who were ready to give the students an ssistance they needed. I remember the Counselors’ Office at PHS. I had never been inside but the students used to drop in there rather often. In the hallway, next to the Office door there was a notice board with vacancies (work at fast food restaurants, delivering newspapers, lifeguards at swimming pools, etc).

On the school website there is a service named “Counseling Assistance Dog.” As it turned out, the Office is now in possession of Junie, a specially trained dog to help the students reduce their stress and, generally, support their mental health. The students will pet Junie and play with her, which is supposed to increase the production of the stress-reducing hormones in their bodies, decrease production of the stress hormone and decrease blood pressure. According to the Prospect High administration, that will improve the students’ readiness for instruction and will make them “open up about issues impacting them.” It is also humorously observed that Junie is a PhD (Perpetually Happy Dog).

Her new position is a change in Junie’s career. Before she had worked in a service dog agency, but due to a job limitation (she couldn’t wear a service dog vest) she was transitioned into work as a counseling dog, undergoing a special training for that. During the training period she demonstrated a “strong intuition for working with kids.” At the moment she is located in the Prospect Student Services Office and comes to Prospect every school day. Two of the school counselors are certified as dog handlers and they will also receive respective consultation support from Interquest Detection Canines. Besides, Junie’s physical well-being will be monitored by specialists with medical degrees from a neighboring pet care center.

I like the school authorities’ educated approach as they are trying to equip Junie for her hard and responsible work. On the other hand, I would advise the PHS students to also hit books if they want to be “open for instruction.”


August 21, 2013

My FB friend Bob has just posted this story. I can’t but re-post it: so hilarious it is! 

2013-08-21speed limitSitting on the highway waiting to catch speeders, a state police officer saw a car puttering along at 22 M.P.H. He thinks to himself, that car is just as dangerous as a speeder. So, he turns his lights on and pulls the car over. Approaching the car, he notices there are 5 old ladies, two at the front and 3 at the back, wide eyed and looking like ghosts.

The driver obviously confused said,”Officer, I don’t understand, I wasn’t doing over the speed limit!, What seems to be the problem?” “Ma’am,” the officer said, “you should know that driving slower than the speed limit can also be dangerous”. “Slower than the speed limit? NO SIR! I was doing exactly 22 miles an hour”, the old woman said proudly.

The officer containing a chuckle explains that 22 was the route number, not the speed limit. A bit embarrassed, the woman grinned, thanking the officer for pointing out her error. “Before I go Ma’am, I have to ask, is everyone OK? These women seem badly shaken and haven’t uttered a word all this time”

“Oh! they will be alright in a minute, Officer, we just got off Route 142.”

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