Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cheaper by the Dozen

One of my new years' resolutions is to read more print (and less pixels).  Last year I may have made it all the way through around 30% of our book club books.  I would just put off reading the selection, then I would start reading it a few days before book club --and really start to enjoy it-- but then it would be time to meet and discuss and get the next month's book.

I was very dissatisfied with the experience, so I've committed to starting this year off right.  Our first selection was Cheaper by the Dozen.  It was nothing at all like the movie with that Smallville guy other than the idea of a family with twelve children and an extra helping of humor on the side. 

The book was written in the 40's and talks about life in the 20's.  This book is classified as biography (non-fiction) and gives a fascinating look into the way life looked during that time period.  Frank and Lillian were engineers and pioneering experts in the field of motion study where they would watch a job being done, break it down into it's various parts and figure out how to make it happen faster.  They comically --though in all seriousness-- used these principles of efficiency in their home as well, like the time when the over 200 pound Frank called all his sons into the bathroom where he was bathing to demonstrate to them the proper sequence for soaping up their bodies in order to master a 3 minute bath allowance.  

On vacation in their summer home the children had declared that they would not be forced to do any kind of learning or studying.  But it was simply against the nature of Frank to be idle, so he painted the Morse code alphabet on the bathroom wall.  Then he painted messages and jokes all over the walls of the house for the kids to figure out.  So the children choose to study the code and began laughing at the jokes on the walls and racing for treats from Dad mentioned in other hidden notes. 

I am not as fast at typing as I would like, and have thought before of painting the keys on the keyboard different colors so I know which one of my fingers is supposed to be striking which key.  Well, Frank Gilbreth marketed that color-coded training course 100 years ago (after using his children as the first experimental test group). 

I read a lot of this book out loud to Jeremy.  We got a good laugh from so many of the stories, and a real itch to do something more productive during our free time like memorizing mathematical formulas or learning a foreign language or something.  And really, reading this book made think I could write my own version of Cheaper by the Dozen of stories from my childhood.  Anyone who's ever met my dad knows--he's quite the character as well.

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