Lifestyle: when to harvest apples

Lifestyle is continuous self-tutoring – for me, anyway. The tutor comments about when he chooses to pick apples from the tree.

When my first son was born, we planted him an apple tree. Without having to compete for sunlight, or space, it’s prospered over fifteen years. Today it’s heavily laden with apples, which I’m about to pick.

When to harvest the apples is often a question. I’ve read it’s best to wait until a few fall off, but for me that’s only one of three cues:

  1. A few apples fall off by themselves.
  2. Picking one, it tastes sweet.
  3. The first fall storm has come.

Our first fall storm was yesterday, of course: for me, therefore, the time has come to harvest the apples. I’m not recommending these guidelines, but they’re how I decide.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Music, Art: piano lessons

Tutoring, you notice different knowledge students bring from their backgrounds. The tutor reflects about piano lessons, including his own exposure to music as a child.

By my recollection, my family got a piano when I was about six. At first, we kids didn’t play it; my mother did. She had been a music teacher and knew lots of old show tunes, the music for which she purchased. From the dining room came those old tunes, hours each day, from then on. Often, she sang along. (That house had hardwood floors: I’m sure most musicians would proclaim that the acoustics were probably favourable.)

My mother and I have rarely had much in common, but I’ll admit that she always could play the piano. (Really, she wasn’t a bad singer, either.) I learned the piano because of her. Back then, my tastes didn’t point to show tunes. However, hearing, day in and day out, those songs by Gershwin, Cole Porter, and many others, was an education that, to quote Otto Harbach (lyricist of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes), “cannot be denied.”

My kids (12 and 15) are both in piano lessons. I’m not formally their teacher, but most days of the week I run their practice sessions, and I direct them through the summer. This past one I told them to learn some Gershwin–I guess you could say it goes back to my mother’s playing. They didn’t like Gershwin’s style at first, but my wife and I held the line; they’re doing well now with a couple of songs each.

My kids often don’t want to practice; ironically, they like performing. I’ve watched their progress since they started around 2010 – only seven years ago. What can happen in seven years is unbelievable, as any parent knows:) Moreover, I have no doubt that learning the piano has helped them with every other academic pursuit they’ve faced.

I studied the piano for seven years, some without even a teacher. When I finally gave it up, I didn’t know what value it might have given me. However, I didn’t know I’d be a parent, either. Playing the piano has become a family tradition.

I freely admit I’ve made terrible mistakes as a parent. However, my conscience is clear about making my kids practice the piano, however much they’ve resented it sometimes.

Three interesting points to mention:

  1. My mother, as far as I recall, never made me practice the piano:)
  2. Putting our kids in piano lessons was my wife’s idea; she did it without telling me. Since then, though, I’ve been the enforcer of practicing.
  3. Somewhat ironically, my wife didn’t have piano lessons as a kid; rather, she learned the violin, which her father also plays.



Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Cooking: temp of a warm object

Cooking means constant self-tutoring. The tutor speculates about the actual temperature of a warm object.

Yesterday I took a glass casserole dish of mac and cheese from the oven. Its baking temp was 177C.

An hour later, most of the mac and cheese had been served from the dish. Moving it, I was surprised how warm it still was to the touch.

Yet, how warm was it? I didn’t have a convenient way of measuring, so I opened a browser tab and found, whose members seem to agree that about 60C is dangerous to touch for more than a second or two.

The casserole dish wasn’t hot; rather, just surprisingly warm. I’d estimate it was about 40C.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Exercise: what is a met?

Lifestyle involves constant self-tutoring. The tutor brings up the term “met”, relating to exercise.

“Met” means “metabolic equivalent.”

One met is rest energy consumption. Five mets means you’re burning five times the calories you would be if relaxing.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Lifestyle: the origin of “tin foil hat”

Tutoring, the origins of common phrases can make fun topics. The tutor shares the origin of “tin foil hat”.

A couple of years back, someone described a conspiracy theorist to me as “a tin-foil-hat guy…when he’s not dead right.”

I surmised what tin foil hat must mean, having never heard it. I thought it a funny, charming phrase, but wondered about its origin. Since then, I seem to hear it often.

Wearing a tin foil hat suggests paranoia. It derives from the fictional premise that wearing a metal hat can prevent thought-detection.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Math: what discount will exactly cancel the tax?

Tutoring high school math, you see financial word problems. The tutor gives an example.

Problem: At 12% tax, what discount will lead to paying exactly the sticker price after tax?


The final price, f, is as follows:

f = (1-discount)(1+tax)p

Where p is original price, and discount and tax are in decimals, not percent (eg, tax is 0.12 rather than 12%)

We need f=p, at tax=0.12:


Dividing both sides by p we get


Then, dividing by 1.12,

0.8929 = 1-discount

Rearranging we get

discount = 1-0.8929 = 0.1071 or 10.71%.

Apparently, at 12% tax, a discount of 10.71% is needed to equate the after-tax price to the sticker price.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

School supplies: mechanical pencils vs wooden ones

Tutoring math, you see the pencils students use. The tutor makes some observations.

I’m a fan of mechanical pencils:

  1. You needn’t sharpen them.
  2. One will last for weeks, months, or even longer, depending on usage.
  3. You can retract the lead when the pencil is not in use.
  4. There are many, many kinds to choose from.

You can buy a nice mechanical pencil and then lead refills for it, but packs of disposable ones can be great. I’ve typically used disposable Bics or Staples ones…there are many other kinds available that have cute features.

Last year, in grade 9, my older son started using mechanical pencils; he prefers them now. My younger son, starting grade 8 this year, still prefers wooden ones. They both share that having your own sharpener, if you use wooden pencils, is preferable.

Wooden pencils have a great feel when they’re sharp. However, they don’t stay sharp on their own. Hence, mechanical pencils seem more practical (to me, anyway).

Starting with a mechanical pencil, a student may be a bit heavy-handed, so a 0.7mm pencil is probably best. However, after getting used to it, the student might try a 0.5mm one – the finer lead appeals to some people.

PS: Although a pencil typcially comes with an eraser on it, a dedicated eraser is needed.

I hope everyone’s enjoying their last day of summer vacation:)

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Lifestyle: microwaving coffee or tea: a safety precaution

Tutoring, I drink coffee. (What academic doesn’t?) The tutor gives a hint for those who microwave coffee but drink it black.

I’ve been told that, when you microwave a cup of liquid, an air bubble can develop beneath the surface. Then, if the drink remains undisturbed, it can pop into your face when you take a sip.

For decades I didn’t worry about that, since I took cream in my coffee. However, last summer, I stopped using cream; now I just drink it black. As a precaution, I always dip a spoon or stir stick into freshly-microwaved coffee, just to release any air bubble that might be waiting.

The other day I was in such a situation, but there was no stir stick or spoon handy. Wondering what to do, I put the cup of microwaved coffee under the tap, then let a few drips of cold water fall in. It broke the surface tension well enough.

I believe the air bubble phenomenon can happen, but rarely. I think I’ve seen microwaved liquid “jump” up from the cup a few times over the last fifteen years.

PS: Only four months ’til Christmas!

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Lifestyle: taking the transit bus

Tutoring, I rarely go offsite, but it can happen. The tutor shares his recent experience taking transit.

As a student, down in Victoria, I never owned a car. For years I bought a monthly bus pass; transit was how I got everywhere. Victoria was big enough to be well-serviced by transit – I imagine it’s even better now.

In ’95 I moved to Campbell River. The immediate difference I perceived was that Campbell River was a driving town, whereas in Victoria many people chose transit over driving. Down there, even people with cars – or who could afford to buy one – would commonly elect to take transit instead.

Soon after arriving here, my wife’s father bought her a car. It was $100, but very reliable. We’ve owned a car ever since. However, we don’t own two.

This week my wife’s got the car away camping, and I’m working in town. After decades, I’m once again boarding the bus by morning and returning on it come evening.

How do I find taking transit? It’s great – much easier than driving. I don’t have to park, nor do I have to move the car several times during the day.

Perhaps best of all, I don’t have to drive. Rather, I let the bus driver concentrate on the road.

I live on Robron Road; this week, I work in town from 8:30am to 5pm. For that particular situation, the bus is much better than driving. At $2 per ride, $20 will cover my transportation to and from work this week.

Taking transit has been a great experience for me.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

Lifestyle: meal planning, part 0

Cooking keeps me self-tutoring. The tutor mentions a meal that was indispensable last school year.

Most weeks, I don’t work outside the home, but my wife does, and my kids go to school (grades 8 and 10 this fall). Increasingly, therefore, my role is domestic – cleaning and so on – of which meal planning can be the most challenging.

Although many people don’t like to admit it, we’re about to embark another school season. With relief from the higher evening temperatures, savvy, proactive sorts are already cooking meals to freeze for easy thaw and serve a few months from now, when life will be busy.

A standby meal for us last year – one the kids really enjoyed – was fresh bread with canned beans. Three to five hours before they needed it, I’d put the ingredients in the bread maker and start it up. Often I’d also open the cans of beans, put them in the pot, and leave them there without the heat on.

When the three needed dinner, I’d often be tutoring. No problem: my wife would just turn the dial on the stove, then take the finished bread from the bread maker. Dinner in five!

Beans and bread, eaten together, are complementary proteins, which means you get the protein benefit of eating meat.

My wife loves to cook, and doesn’t prefer shortcut meals. However, with her job and the children’s activities, she’s pushed more in that direction.

I’ll be sharing more of our meal solutions:)


Mader, Sylvia S. Inquiry Into Life, 11th ed. Toronto: McGraw-Hill, 2006.

Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.