Thursday, October 7, 2010

County fair

Here's some of what's been happening:
  • I walked quite a bit today around the college neighborhoods while listening to Emma. I've got two more chapters to go.
  • My husband is trying to prequalify us for a mortgage, but the process is much slower than I remember from when we last did this (in 2006?).
  • The kids were telling me about studying The Magic Flute in music.
  • I think D really likes school. I've heard about these kids, but I've never seen one before.
  • El patito es amarillo, said D. The duckling is yellow.
  • We went to preview night at the county fair and parked out in Siberia to avoid the $5 parking. A complete stranger at the gate gave us two coupons for free admission, which was nice. We grownups spent $13 on the evening's entertainment (admission and ride tokens, mostly) and C contributed $10, split between ride tokens and funnel cake. (D was out of cash today, but next time I will make sure he pulls his weight.) We were very efficient. The kids climbed on tractors, we visited goats, steers, and horses in the livestock barn, the kids did three obstacle courses and a small dragon roller coaster, D did a medium roller coaster by himself, and C rode a white and gold horse on the carousel. Then the kids had funnel cake with chocolate syrup and powdered sugar and we headed home. Tomorrow's a school day. One of these days, when we are more flush with cash, I'll want to try out some of the guilty pleasures of the fair, the deep-fried this and that, the smoked turkey drumsticks, the taquitos, etc. We were also tempted by an attraction where you get put in a big plastic bubble (a sort of giant gerbil bubble), get put into a pool, and entertain bystanders with your antics.
  • I never thought that it was going to be a big deal, but my husband and I have had to come down hard on gambling. The problem is, that left to their own devices, the kids are capable of feeding every last token into some highly dubious game of chance and learning nothing from the experience except that they "won" some trinket. I normally don't go in for neo-Puritan strictness with the kids, but even I got fed up from seeing them getting ripped off by kiddie one-armed bandits at the local birthday place. I believe that the psychological mechanism at work is intermittent reinforcement, which is one of the most powerful forms of reinforcement. Karen Pryor explains in Don't Shoot the Dog that the most hard-working dolphin is not the one that knows that he's always going to get a fish--that dolphin gets minimalistic and lazy. The hardest-working, most enthusiastic dolphin is the intermittently rewarded dolphin, the one who doesn't know which spectacular leap is going to earn him a fish. Tonight, I steered C far away from the carnival games. Sometime soon, I'm going to have to have my husband explain to her the mathematics of games of chance.

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