February 21, 2005

Gratuitous Domestic Posting (TM)

Please. Indulge me in this one because it's way cool.....

At dinner this evening, the topic swung round to what the Llama-ettes wanted to be when they grow up. The five year old, who usually answers "astronaut", surprised us this evening by announcing that she wishes to become a rock star, although she admitted that she would need some help from people who actually know how to play instruments. In the manner of one playing dead in the face of a pawing grizzly bear, I said nothing, only smiling in a generally encouraging although non-binding way.

But the real surprise was Llama-ette No. 1, who turns seven in a few weeks. She has been bouncing back and forth between "lawyer" and "teacher" for the past year or two, in honor of her parents. This evening she announced she wished to become a farmer. Damme if I know where that came from. Upon further inquiry, she said the reason she wanted to do so was so she could take care of baby piggies and chickens and calfs. We suggested that she might want to consider life as a veterinarian instead, but she was steadfast.

As the conversation developed, we began to explain to her all the work involved in maintaining a farm, self trying hard to refrain from blurting out that the goddam gov'mint bankrolls everything. Nonetheless, the topic shifted around to the economics of agriculture.

And here is where the magic kicked in.

You see, the gel has always had a penchant for math. She's only in first grade, but can do double-digit addition and subtraction in her head. She has the multiplication tables memorized up through her 8's, and can do both long multiplication and division on paper. (I have a strong sense that her mathematical talent has some correlation with her manifest need for order and logic.)

Anyhoo, I suddenly found myself explaining basic microeconomics to the girl via a series of word problems: We would agree that a gallon of milk would cost X dollars to produce and that she could sell it for Y dollars. We then agreed on how many gallons she would sell: For example, it might cost her two dollars to produce a gallon of milk which she would then sell for three dollars. If we assumed she sold 1000 gallons, we went on to figure out the total production cost, the total gross revenue and, subtracting the former from the latter, her profit.

That in itself was pretty cool, but here is where it got almost spooky. I wasn't paying particular attention to the numbers I was using. But as we went through four or five variations on the exercise, it turned out the girl was keeping a running total of the compound profits and would state the new sum after the completion of each excercise. What was notable about this was not the potential gain so much as the girl's natural instinct to go for the calculation, something she did completely on her own. I like to think that she already has such a solid grounding in practical mathematics that, when the time comes, she will leap right into the theoretical. Who knows - maybe she'll turn out to be the astronaut, or at least the rocket scientist.

Of course, this is just the first step into a larger universe. The last example we used had a gallon of milk going for seven dollars. I asked the Llama-ette why on earth I'd pay seven dollars for a gallon of her milk when she'd sold it in an earlier scenario for three dollars a gallon. Her ingenious reply was that it cost her five dollars to make (which is the number we used) and fair is fair. I also suggested to her that the farmer down the road might try and sell his own gallon for less than her. She replied that if they were friends, he'd never think of doing something like that. Alas, we have a long way to go.

I can't tell you how much the overall discussion impressed me. We talked about competition from the farmer down the road. We talked about all the expenses and hard work that go into producing a gallon of milk. We talked about the physical realities of having to care for a large herd of dairy cows. In the morning, the gel may have forgotten nine tenths of what I told her, but I like to think that at least something sank in.

Dang I'm proud of that girl.

Now if only we can do something about the rock star......

Posted by Robert at February 21, 2005 11:51 PM

Compare the annual profit of a successful rock star and a successful farmer.

Now start nudging the farmer toward rock.

I figure comparing the number of successful rock musicians and successful farmers is pretty much a wash.

(I say this as the father of a 19-y/o who is indeed inclining toward rock. These are the things one mumbles late at night to ward off the evil sprites that occasionally bother parents.)

Posted by: John at February 22, 2005 12:04 AM

Have her watch American Idol.

Out of the many thousands who audition, only a few get on the program. And all of them lose but one, even though many of them are quite good.

Posted by: The Colossus at February 22, 2005 12:14 AM

Look out. Rainman in training!

She can take my place in my family any time she wants to. I'm still a disappointment to my father when it comes to math. He is Rainman. Without the autism. You can ask him what the square root of 1,376 is and he can do it in his head. In a few seconds. The fact I'm his kid baffles him to this day, given my failures in this department.

This does explain her need for logic and order. It's very much the same with my dad.

Posted by: Kathy at February 22, 2005 12:27 AM

That was really too friggin cute in a scary Chicago School pareto superior kind of way.

Posted by: Wittysexkitten at February 22, 2005 02:43 PM

How come this does not remember info????

Anyway, Robert, why don't you buy her two of my llamas for real and see how she does. Can't do anything about the rock star bit but find some real oldies that were ridiculous and show her some pictures.


Posted by: firstbrokenangel at February 23, 2005 06:22 PM

Encourage the girl to be a farmer, and count your blessings that she has expressed interest in such a noble profession. While rock stars have a lot of disposable income, they live in an artificial and worthless world, popular today and forgotten tomorrow, idolized for all the wrong reasons, addicted to drugs. Farmers live in a soul-satisfying world, close to the land and the rhythm of the seasons, feeling really good about themselves, getting up every day knowing they are doing what the want to do, storm, wind, whatever, there is no place they would rather be, every minute of every day. And they live in bonded and mutually supportive community--not in a shark eat shark world like DC.

Little old ladies could run a herd of a few hundred dairy cows. With the modern milking machines, the cows line up and file into the barn at night, you attach a tube to each nipple, the machine milks the cow, you slip the suction cups off, the next cow steps into the slot, repeat. I have watched my cousin's wives, ladies in their seventies, run a herd through the drill.

If she wants to raise vegetables, buy her a truck and get her a contract with Hanover. With steady effort--no goofing off--and good accounting practice, farmers can make good money. No Hollywood type excesses of course, but who needs them? And they are the happiest people I know.

Or consider a vineyard and winery. Instead of talking her out of this, you should be trying to help her decide what type of farming she is interested in. But be sure she knows that if she does go with the pigs, the only way to realize a profit is to slaughter them. Personnaly, I like dairy, vegetable, or winery options better. I love little piggies too. (And I'm a vegetarian.)

Posted by: American Daughter at February 24, 2005 10:04 PM
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