Monday, September 5, 2016

Putting a Toe in the Water

We haven't blogged much this year at Along The Gradyent for a number of reasons, not the least of which is focus on family and health.

On the health front I am proud to say I dropped 60 pounds since the first of the year. To get there we changed our diet and ramped up our exercise program. I look forward to continued weight loss. I intend to keep up the new regimen -- now a set of habits -- for a very long time, let's say the rest of my life.

I increased the distance of weekday swims from around 1400 yards with multiple breaks, to 1500 to 1600 meters continuous. This entails more work increase than the longer distance alone suggests, because of less frequent push offs from 50 meter lengths (compared to 20 yard widths). Although Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky have nothing to fear, I've picked up the pace by a good 25 percent as well. Unlike previous years, in 2016 I kept swimming throughout the spring and summer after the golf season opened. To ease the doubling up in the beginning I rode a golf cart. But as of late I've been swimming in the mornings and walking all 18 holes on the links. At times there is even a little spring in my step, especially a couple of weeks ago when I celebrated my first hole in one, on the par 3, 146-yard 14th hole at Cottonwood Hills.

Hole in one ball -- a cut seven iron uphill on the uphill 146 yard (measured on a rangefinder that day) par 3 14th hole at Cottonwood Hills Golf Club in Bozeman, Montana.  The tee was all the way back and the pin was on a little ridge in the front section of the green. We saw the ball hit the front edge, hop once and then roll along the left to right slope and melt into the cup.

I completely eliminated sugary drinks from my diet. This is an enormous change, as I had been a dedicated fan and prodigious drinker of Coca Cola virtually from birth. I reduced food portions mostly from 30 to 50 percent and have enjoyed our fresh home garden harvest this year (carrots, beets, potatoes, onions, radish, broccoli, peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes included).

On the family front, our oldest daughter applied and successfully competed for a slot in the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) program yielding an academic year in Germany. I am proud of her for showing the initiative to apply and then her performance and poise throughout the essay writing and interview process, as well as building a record of involvement and accomplishment that put her in the mix. Two Montana students were awarded the scholarship this year. According to the program's web site:

Basic Eligibility:
To be considered eligible for a CBYX scholarship, you must be:
  • A U.S. citizen, national or permanent resident
  • Between the ages of 15 years and 18 years and 6 months at the start of the program
  • A current high school student at the time of application, with a GPA of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale
Previous German language study is not a requirement and all levels of language ability are encouraged to apply. Only those students who meet the basic eligibility requirements will be considered. Applicants from all racial, economic, ethnic, religious, and social backgrounds are encouraged to apply, as are students with disabilities.
Applications are evaluated based upon:
  • Evidence of the personal qualities essential for adjustment to another culture, such as flexibility, curiosity, open-mindedness, sense of humor and tolerance for adversity

  • Written and oral communication skills

  • Motivation for a cross-cultural experience

  • Academic merit
After a few early August days touring in our nation's capital with her fellow CBYX scholars, they flew to Frankfurt and hopped on a train to Hamburg where the scholars bonded during the course of a three week intensive language camp. 

CBYX scholars in front of old city hall, Hamburg, Germany.
Blake has been with her permanent host family for just over a week now in the hamlet of Plau am See (6,055 population) where she will spend her junior year of high school attending the Gynasium at Malchow (just across the "See"). The first full weekend in town she has already posted pictures from a visit to Berlin (50 miles distant). 

Berlin Wall, September 2, 2016.

Checkpoint Charlie, September 2, 2016.
Blake was Gold Award Winner in the Level 3 National German Test (90 or above percentile) last spring. Our family hosted Lisa, a German foreign exchange student for the 2014-15 academic year, who has let it be known she hopes Blake will "visit her favorite foreign exchange student" auf Deutschland.

Our middle daughter is blossoming beyond belief. She traveled to Japan this summer with her aunt where she put to full use her startling command over the Japanese language achieved courtesy of YouTube. 

Posing with Samuri, at Matsumoto Castle, Nagamo Prefecture, Matsumoto, Japan.

Among a wide variety of experiences they visited, Asa, the Japanese foreign exchange student who we hosted uncer the aegis of the 4H program in the summer of 2014,. You wouldn't think there a whole lot of opportunity for international culture exchange here in Montana, eh? Blythe started high school last week, where she hit the ground running almost literally as a happy and involved member of the Bozeman High School Hawks marching band.

Our youngest child, age 10, is the strange kid, the odd kid, the out of sync kid, a kid who is totally nonstandard in this world of data driven top down standards based education. Which means she was a problem kid last year as far as her teacher and newly minted gung ho common core principal were concerned (previously she had fantastic teachers). She got picked on, demeaned and bullied (including assaults) by classmates and labelled a liar by her principal. We learned the hard way those anti-bullying signs they have every 50 feet in the hallways in the public schools are just that -- signs. We had to pull her out of school last spring and now are focusing on undoing the damage and hoping to get her committed to our home school program. In a fit of anger, she destroyed my computer (and much of my blogging research) in the aftermath. We got her a cat from the shelter a few weeks ago -- HER cat. There are signs of hope. No matter how many tries and how much time are required, we are going to make this work.

One of our fun activities over the summer was attending the Bozeman Stampede Rodeo. Competitions included calf roping,

bucking bronco riding, and

and bull riding.

Only one bull rider made it the full eight seconds.

Perhaps the best competition of the night was the Bull Scramble, involving audience participation. What is a Bull Scramble you might ask? Watch and watch to the end.

My buddy Buzz says the rodeo requires scramblers to sign a waiver certifying they don't have an IQ over 70. You may have noticed the last man standing (who had already won by virtue of being the last remaining in the circle) did not respond to the yelled instruction to get out of the circle before the bull threw him into the air.

As for the future I intend to continue research and writing. I have a couple of Morton Grove history posts in mind, and have a bunch of ideas for new genealogy posts. Some will be on parts of relatives lives I have not previously written on (like my grandfather Ike's auctioneer career), others will be on relatives not previously featured, and yet others will supplement posts previously written (for example, the on-line digitization of the Los Angeles Times published in August makes newly available dozens of references on my uncle Lyn R. ("Red") Foster). I have a new Glen View Club post or two to get on to after I reconstruct research, and I intend to focus some on Bozeman, after getting acquainted with the resources available at the Gallitan County Historical Society and the Bozeman Library. 

I write this post on Labor Day, September 5, 2016, because we have an early taste of late fall/early winter. Temperatures are in the 40s. It is rainy. When the clouds clear from the mountains I suspect we will see snow. Until later.

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