Commonplace
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Publick Occurrences 2.0

May 27, 2008

Are You Smarter Than an Eighth Grader? No, you’re not.

Filed under: Pasley Brothers — Jeffrey L. Pasley @ 8:13 pm

Here are the questions Isaac had to answer to get to the National Geographic Bee finals, or paraphrases of them. See how you do, without Wikipedia or Google. Answers will be given in a later post.

PRELIMINARY ROUND, 21 May 2008 — individual questions

  1. Practice question: Which African city has been a capital for a longer time, Yamoussoukro or Tripoli?
  2. Physical geography: What is the name of the shallow part of a stream caused by sedimentary deposition, riffle or oxbow?
  3. Literary landmarks: Franz Kafka was born in this city, located on the Vltava River, that was the former capital of the Austro-Hungarian province of Bohemia? [This question, and the whole category, are way harder when you are in 5th-8th grade and have never heard of the author in question. Isaac is not exactly a heavy Kafka reader.]
  4. Landlocked countries: Ciudad del Este is located on the Itaipu Reservoir, near where Brazil, Argentina, and which other country meet?
  5. Historical geography: With the support of India, what country did Bangladesh split from in 1971?
  6. World geography: Pinar del Rio is located near Cabo de San Antonio on the western tip of which Caribbean island?
  7. International disputes: Guatemala claims part of the bordering region of which neighboring country that was formerly colonized by both Great Britain and Spain?
  8. Economic profile, using a cartogram projected on the screen: The second highest per capita GDP in Africa is enjoyed by a country in what ocean?
  9. Ports: Peru’s most important port is located in what city, west of Lima? [This is the one Isaac missed in the preliminary round.]
  10. Analogies: Mt. Cook is to New Zealand as Punchak Jaya is to ______?

TIEBREAKER ROUND (among 12 students who missed only one question in the preliminary round) — all students were asked the same question, wrote their answer on a card, and held it up

  1. What present-day Russian city, formerly known as Stalingrad, was renamed during Nikita Khrushchev’s de-Stalinization campaign? [Isaac missed this one.]
  2. What country borders Colombia to the south along the Putumayo River? [All the other students held up one answer, and Isaac another. He was right and got into the finals.]
  3. The Musicians Seamounts, including Brahms, Wagner, and Chopin, are located in what ocean? [Isaac did not have to do this one, which was good since quite a few people in the room though the moderator said Musician's Sea Mouse, which made it really confusing.]
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May 23, 2008

Isaac Goes to Washington

Filed under: Pasley Brothers — Jeffrey L. Pasley @ 12:12 am

Readers here (and people who have emailed me over the past week) may have been wondering where I was. The short version would be, in a place with expensive Internet connections and a 9-year-old and his grandparents to occupy, amidst unparalleled family excitement. I am going to write up some of the saga here, but it will have to be in chunks, as we make our way back home.

As reported earlier, my older son Isaac won the Missouri State Geography Bee a few weeks back. The reward for that was this week’s trip to the National Geographic Bee in Washington, D.C., hosted by the National Geographic Society itself. (At the state level, I had not quite twigged to the fact that the venerable educational publisher was the ultimate organizer of the event.) The National Bee turned out to be a nearly week long series of events based at a rather strange old downtown D.C. hotel, where we all had to stay, at no little expense. The contestants themselves were paid for, but also required to room with other contestants, and we could not see not being the building while Isaac was having the first experience anything remotely like that. Karen signed on as the parental representative at the various banquets and picnics, whilst I was deputed to entertain our younger son Owen (and visiting grandparents) in the many hours when geographic competition was not occurring. So we hit the tourism, and the pavement, hard. (I will have some thoughts on the History Channelization of history in the various D.C.-area museums, based on what Owen and I saw, a bit later.)

The trip was not a small thing before, but it got a bit bigger when we arrived here Monday and saw the auditorium/television studio and giant three-level game show-style set that would host the finals. As if that was not daunting enough, reading through the ready-for-Harvard biographies of the other 54 state and territory winners made it even more so. Poor Isaac has not yet written any novels or mastered any musical instruments or weapons, and his travel experience has largely been limited to family visits and car trips built around his father attending history conferences. We had his birthday party in a hotel bar in Philadelphia one year. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

The foregoing is just a way of saying that it was quite unexpected when Isaac actually made it into finals, in last-minute, walk-off fashion, I might add. I will have to explain that tomorrow when Isaac is awake to help me remember the exact question.

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April 8, 2008

The Curious Incident of Isaac and the Geography Bee

Filed under: Pasley Brothers — Jeffrey L. Pasley @ 12:30 pm

Isaac Pasley at Ft. Ticonderoga, July 2007

We had a busy weekend that did not leave much time for blogging. So, as an explanation and substitute, please accept a bit of family news. Last Friday, our older son, Isaac, won the state geography bee and qualified for the National Geographic Bee (brought to you by National Geographic, of course) next month in Washington. It was the last of many different bees (& c.) in which he has competed, and the self-described happiest moment of his life, topping even the 2006 World Series.

Yes, there are lot of these kid academic competitions around these days, but this was Isaac, so we cried. (Also, I will say that compared to some of the things he has done, like the spelling bee, this one actually revolves around useful information such as the location of Tuscany.)

Isaac’s life has not been without challenges. It has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride, in fact. He was a remarkably “good” baby who amazed everyone by sitting quietly for hours in restaurants and then by spontaneously learning to read around age 2. We patted ourselves on the back about what a little prodigy we had on our hands until he started preschool a year or so later. Then it slowly dawned on us how far behind the other kids he was in most other social and language areas. When Isaac spoke at all in his early pre-school years, he did it in the second person, in fact, and could not answer basic questions like where he hurt or whether he was hungry or what his name was. (Long story about the second person speech pattern, kind of like Faulkner for kids, without the death and run-on sentences. Isaac was our oldest, what did we know?) He went through a scary period where his language actually deteriorated back into baby noises, or actually less patterned than that. Eventually this was all diagnosed as a form of autism, more recently as the trendy Asperger’s Syndrome, or, as I prefer to call it, Jeffersonianism. [Just kidding — trust me when I tell you that dinner-table conversation skills like Jefferson’s are not one of the usual Asperger’s benefits. This guy seems to have the Famous People with Asperger’s canard about right, though he is a little meaner about it than I would be.]

Many years of arduous and expensive therapy later, and having missed out on a lot of the normal kid activities that his younger brother loves, Isaac is doing very well, with only a little support, in regular public school. Nevertheless, it has been a huge milestone for us to have something go as well for Isaac as this has. It is a little bit of vindication for all of his struggles in the past, and it has been hard to focus on much else these past few days.

And yes, Isaac is a big fan of the novel Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and sees a lot of himself in the main character.

Just to make this post slightly more historical, I am going to include one of the champ’s better recent pictures, trying out a musket like all other guys at Ft. Ticonderoga last summer.

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