Monday, December 31, 2007


Craigslist helped me give away a (working) TV today. I love the freebies section.

Some freebies I've found on Craigslist: clothes, toys, and even the chair I am sitting in. One's trash is another's treasure, or so they say.

I know people make a profit in the cars+trucks section. I purchase 2 autos listed there. But I hope nobody uses the freebies for profit.

Give to someone who has less than you, that's my motto.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Wild about the 'Skins

Yup, the Nation's Capitol has a playoff-bound football team.

In trademark Joe Gibbs fashion, the Redskins are running their way to victory. The 'Skins have won four games in a row and looked very sharp against the 'Boys today.

They are the hottest team in the NFC and their defense gives them a chance to beat anyone in the NFC. If I screw my lids tight, I can pretend the 'Skins have a chance to win four more games this season.

I was hoping for a Redskins Super Bowl victory when I chose the name Gibbs' Comeback. GC won the fantasy league title... Now I'm waiting for the real thing. Let's go 'Skins!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Ruth the Star

The 'Star Student' gets to wear the wireless mic and do a show-and-tell presentation with some favorite objects. Ruth made quite a show of the family pictures, her favorite books, and teddy bears.

Friday, December 28, 2007

How to Solve the Rubik's Cube

About 25 years ago, I solved one for the first time. Now that my kids have one (a Christmas gift), I tried to solve it again. I still remembered the top two layers, but was totally stuck on the third layer.

I found this solution very similar to the one I learned so many years ago. Other sites have pictures and alternate solutions. Of course, YouTube has many demonstrations in case you need to see what is happening.

Cody just got it mixed up so I'll be fixing it again soon.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Blogger Hacks

Hacks add feature and functionality to Blogger. How 'bout the Bookmark and RSS Feed icons from AddThis? And the Tag Cloud from phydeaux3? And how could I forget the Beautiful Beta Picasa Album Widget? Or the Tips For New Bloggers Search This Blog box?

I'm sure Google appreciates the Blogger hacks as much as I do. Thanks hackers! Where would we be without you?!

Not dreaming tonight.

I took a little nap yesterday afternoon and then lay awake all night. Sometime around 3 AM, I decided to make a three-column Blogger template. Fortunately I ran across The Rounders Three-Column Mod. I downloaded the sample and got some late-night inspiration.

I couldn't just upload Vin's sample because I want to keep my widgets. Instead, I inserted a second sidebar. It's identical to the original Blogger sidebar.
#rightsidebar-wrap {
margin:15px 15px 0;
word-wrap: break-word; /* fix for long text breaking sidebar float in IE */
overflow: hidden; /* fix for long non-text content breaking IE sidebar float */

I placed the right-sightbar divs in the body, just before the footer.
<div id='rightsidebar-wrap'>

<div id='sidebartop-wrap'><div id='sidebartop-wrap2'>
<b:section class='sidebar' id='sidebartop1'>

<div id='sidebarbottom-wrap1'><div id='sidebarbottom-wrap2'>
<b:section class='sidebar' id='sidebar3' preferred='yes'>


Next, I widened #outer-wrapper to 995px. I had to widen the rounded corner images for the header and footer to 995px also. I linked to the resized corner images in the #header and #footer definitions.

The new sidebar fonts were all funkified, so I added some definitions right after #sidebar.
#rightsidebar-wrap a {
color: $bottomSidebarLinkColor;
#rightsidebar-wrap a:hover,
#rightsidebar-wrap a:visited {
color: $bottomSidebarVisitedLinkColor;

While making changes, I previewed the blog several times. Just to make sure things were going as expected. I saved the template and then moved widgets around in the wireframe editor. That's all there is to it.

Four short digressions... I learned these tips on Blog U and Blogger Tips. Very useful!
  1. I stored my 995px-wide corner images and favicon on Ripway.
  2. The favicon links come right after the head tag.
    <link href='' rel='shortcut icon'/>
    <link href='' rel='icon'/>

  3. You can show/hide the navbar by placing this code after the head tag.
    #navbar-iframe:hover{opacity:1.0;filter:alpha(Opacity=100, FinishedOpacity=100)}
  4. Type special characters (e.g., < >) in posts by using the ISO Entity Name.

Monday, December 24, 2007

I'm dreaming...

White Christmas is my fave song of the season. Here are some interesting facts if you're curious.

I mostly like the song because it is nostalgic for happy days gone past. The etymology of nostalgia comes from the Greek words for "homesick". So sentimental, awww...

But did you know White Christmas was originally performed with blackface singers? Just like a lot of songs/movies/acting from the twentieth century. So racist, ewww...

White Christmas can be our reminder to stay objective while getting nostalgic for the past. We don't need to glorify a racist heritage or thoughtlessly regurgitate any of that virgin birth nonsense just to have a good time.

So enjoy the season with your family. Spread some cheer to those around. And make your day a 'White Christmas'. In 50 years, we will be nostalgic for tomorrow.

Christmas Eve

The shopping is done and I have a minute to sit down. The unwrapped gifts need a little attention so this is just a short rest. We're giving the kids a few small items... no going overboard.

Our house guests Carl & Dale are loaded with gifts for their families and heading back to Shaktoolik today. 40 minutes until airport check-in. In the Bush, Santa's sleigh is an airplane!

Dinner with the cousins will be at our house tomorrow. So a big feast is in the works. Here we go with Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Hungry Like The Wolf

Seems like a few unlucky dogs are killed by wolves every year. When wolves are really hungry, they will even enter a dog lot and eat dogs off the chain. This year, some healthy wild wolves even ate a human.

I can't blame the wolf pack for trying to survive, but damn. Hope someone kills those wolves before they carry off small children.

Now I can't get Duran Duran out of my head.
In touch with the ground
I'm on the hunt I'm after you
Smell like I sound, I'm lost in a crowd
And I'm hungry like the wolf
Cool, man, cool. 1982 had the best pop music ever.

Check it out:
Hungry Like The Wolf, Tainted Love, 867-5309, Private Eyes, Don't Stop Believin', Mountain Music, Always On My Mind, Physical, I Love Rock And Roll, Ebony And Ivory, Eye Of The Tiger, Centerfold, Maneater, Jack & Diane, Don't You Want Me, Up Where We Belong, Abracadabra, Hard To Say I'm Sorry, I Can't Go For That, Mickey, Who Can It Be Now?, Chariots Of Fire, Hurts So Good, Little Red Corvette, 1999, White Wedding, Shock the Monkey, Sexual Healing. Oh, and some little album called Thriller. Does that playlist rock or what?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

'The Arctic is screaming,' expert says

This article issues an ominous Arctic ice warning.
Last week, after reviewing his own new data, NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally said: 'At this rate, the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012, much faster than previous predictions.'
I don't believe the 12-21-2012-Mayan-astrology predictions... but might think differently if my house floats away in 5 years.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

New Slideshows

Hi family, I finally put up some new photos.

Jon's trip to the dentist was pretty funny. He had some cavities filled under anesthesia... I might rename the slideshow "legally inebriated 5 year old." Or else, "I can't move too good Mommy."

And this other album is just a few random "shots" from the kids' basketball teams. ugh. That was a groaner.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

OpenCourseWare for High Schools

Campus Technology reports:
Five years after the initial pilot of MIT's OpenCourseWare initiative, it's now making its way into secondary education with the launch this week of "Highlights for High School," which aims to bolster high school STEM education through free and open course materials, from complete curricula and syllabi to videos, lecture notes, and animations.

Right now, Highlights for High School has resources for AP Biology, Calculus, and Physics. There is a nice collection of physics video demonstrations and chemistry/physics labs. Good stuff and well organized.

And if MIT isn't enough of a challenge for teenage autodidacts, Open Culture has a list of other university courses online.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Vote the issue or vote the polls?

Polls can be manipulated (Penn & Teller on Frank Luntz) so why not vote the issue? And the most important issue is foreign policy. Especially when so many politicians have been so wrong in the last 4 1/2 years. Take a look back...

The 2002 Downing Street Memo is sometimes known as the "smoking gun" which shows that President Bush pre-fabricated the case for invading Iraq. It reads in part:
It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran. We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would also help with the legal justification for the use of force.

In October 2002, only 23 Senators and 133 Representatives did NOT vote to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq. As Thomas R. Eddlem wrote:
The president has no powers to order the military to do anything, unless Congress first orders it. Only Congress has the power "to make rules for the regulation and government of the land and naval forces" under the Constitution. Only Congress can "declare war," and only Congress can declare "enemy combatants" under its exclusive power to "make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water."

Later, in 2003, Donald Rumsfeld's advisor, Richard Perle admitted the Iraq invasion was illegal. Mr. Pearle said,
international law ... would have required us to leave Saddam Hussein alone

So am I placing the blame on Bush for leading the charge? Or placing blame on Congress for authorizing and supporting him? The answer is both!

The vast majority in 2002 and the new, 2007 Democratic Congress continue to support the President's illegal occupation of Iraq. Helen Thomas asks tougher questions than most congressmen!

But here is the real question: Will Americans research the issues before voting in 2008? Or just read the polls?

Choose a Hero for President

I am going to choose a hero for president in 2008.

Following politics kid of runs in my family. I do my homework before voting in any election. Heck, I didn't even vote for my AEA Union Rep. 'cause none of the candidates were good enough for me.

Back in 2004, I probably spent 200 hours reading articles on the various candidates and another 30-40 hours making a list of various issues and weighting their relative importance. Then listing the candidates' opinions and making a choice. Well, I decided to vote for a war hero. John Kerry carried only 19 states and D.C. but I felt good about my decision.

This year, I've been doing some online research at Vote Gopher. I've taken the Select Smart, Glassbooth, and MPR presidential selectors out of curiosity. And guess what?

As things stand right now, the most important issue in '04 is the most important issue in '08. Foreign policy. And I'm voting for a hero again.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Healthy Food On Budget?

As the family wage-earner/bill-payer/shopper, it's my job to keep us all fed. I actually enjoy finding ways to save money, so it's really not much of chore to shop and cook on a budget. Just what I like to do.

Healthy food costs more but our family shops carefully and stocks up on sale items. We also have a warehouse store membership for bulk items. And bulk items are also great for a game of stack 'em.

But saving money on healthy food requires careful planning and creative cooking. We have a few cookbooks and this pdf from the USDA with 40 thrifty recipes. It really helps to have our weekly meals planned out before making a shopping list and heading down the grocery aisles.

When we find a good sale or food coupon, it's time to ditch the meal plan and take advantage of cheap eats. Recently we found FOODPAIRING and started experimenting with new combinations of veggies and meats. It's fun to invent soups and main dishes! Wild animals make a good cheap meal, too. Really.

For example, we ate fried trout with rice and fresh green veggies yesterday. And this afternoon we used the leftover rice and made vegetarian stir fry with sweet-n-sour sauce. Tomorrow we'll be making a big crock pot full of moose stew. (I'm not much of an outdoorsman, but my wife knows a few hunters.)

Of course we eat processed foods, but only allow 4 such meals per month. Usually one at the kids' favorite burger place, one rotisserie chicken, one family restaurant, and one pizza night at home. We use coupons on those meals if possible. Once in a while, we try one of the free Top Secret Recipes.

When all is said and done, we spend about $800 per month on food, or about $3.76 per person per day. That's frugal, considering that the USDA averages for an Alaskan family of 7 is over $1100 per month.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Be Green

Scientific American recent article 10 Solutions for Climate Change included some amazing facts. I had no idea that 20 percent of human-made greenhouse gas emissions are produced by timber harvesting. Or that transportation is the second leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.. And each meat-eating American produces 1.5 tons more greenhouse gases through their food choice than do their vegetarian peers.

Finally, the article mentioned the "potential last resort" of geoengineering which looks like something from a Star Trek movie.

For the record, the 10 solutions are:
  1. Forego fossil fuels
  2. Infrastructure upgrade to buildings, highways, and transmission lines
  3. Move closer to work
  4. Consume less
  5. Be efficient with cars and energy-saving appliances
  6. Eat smart, go vegetarian
  7. Stop cutting down trees
  8. Unplug and use less electricity
  9. One child
  10. Future fuels - solar, nuclear, maybe biodiesel?

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Covert U.S. Regime Change Actions

This Wikipedia entry gives some perspective on the 'hidden' side of U.S. foreign policy. And you won't find this map in any high school textbooks. Something to consider before voting next year...

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Scientific Research Videos Online

A recent USA Today article mentioned a few niche science video sharing websites. I looked at the four sites mentioned in the article in hopes of finding something useful for my classroom.

SciVee looks the most user friendly for demonstrating science concepts in high school. The tag cloud and communities on SciVee make it easy to find videos related to a single topic.

LabAction, JoVE, and DnaTube have some professional science research videos. Some of these videos might might augment a discussion or investigation of current issues and techniques in scientific research. (I sure wish this type of sharing existed back in the early '90s when I was working on an immunofluorescence assay for Blastocystis hominis.)

Of course, Google Video is the best place to search out Google/YouTube Videos. Try searching rat dissection, for instance. Very cool.

The Secret to Raising Smart Kids

Hint: Don't tell your kids that they are. More than three decades of research shows that a focus on effort—not on intelligence or ability—is key to success in school and in life
Scientific American has an article about developing a 'growth mind-set' in children. Carol Dweck cites studies involving junior high students, Columbia freshman premed students, fifth graders, and other students over the past 30 years.

Students with a growth mind-set hold hard work in high regard and feel that learning is more important than good grades. Setbacks such as poor test grades made these students want to work harder next time.

On the other hand, the fixed mind-set students think that a person with talent or intelligence does not need to work hard to do well. These students attributed poor test grades to their own lack of ability and said they would not bother to try harder, preferring not to take the class again or cheat on future tests.

Milton Chen of The George Lucas Educational Foundation posted an interview with Dweck back in March where she recommended these specific strategies to build a growth mind-set:
  • Teach students to think of their brain as a muscle that strengthens with use, and have them visualize the brain forming new connections every time they learn.
  • When they teach study skills, convey to students that using these methods will help their brains learn better.
  • Discourage use of labels ("smart," "dumb," and so on) that convey intelligence as a fixed entity.
  • Praise students' effort, strategies, and progress, not their intelligence. Praising intelligence leads to students to fear challenges and makes them feel stupid and discouraged when they have difficulty.
  • Give students challenging work. Teach them that challenging activities are fun and that mistakes help them learn.
All good suggestions, yes?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Experts link teen brains' immaturity, juvenile crime

In 2005, the Supreme Court decided that sentencing minors to death is unconstitutional. USA Today reports that many states are taking a new stance on teen offenders based on the ruling.
"As any parent knows," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy for the 5-4 majority, youths are more likely to show "a lack of maturity and an underdeveloped sense of responsibility" than adults. "... These qualities often result in impetuous and ill-considered actions and decisions."

Now that juvenile crime is down, states are focusing on rehabilitation.

But crimes don't usually occur in rehab, they occur out in society - when teens are in the care of parents or relatives. Should juvenile offenders go back home, go into state custody, or foster care? What environment will best support their rehabilitation? Should we sentence violent teens to life without parole?

I'm all for rehab (and abolishing the death penalty entirely), but the U.S. needs to protect it's citizens and the rule of law. So let's err on the side of caution... don't release teen offenders if they are going back into an environment where they might re-offend.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Assets Wanted

Another part of my training today covered The 40 Developmental Assets. It was an informative, quick review that allowed us to share asset-building strategies in use around the district. I have some new resources and contacts that will help build assets in AVAIL students. Woo-hoo!

Recovering Teen Addicts

Today I attended drug and alcohol prevention training and was totally blown away by the teenage presenters.

Recovering teen addicts shared their experiences with drugs and alcohol. They shared emotional and descriptive personal stories, too graphic for this family blog.

Stories of being stoned daily at age 4, physical abuse, incarceration, alcoholism and crack cocaine addictions. Family histories of alcoholism, early deaths, and jail time. Indoctrination into criminality by older siblings, routine beatings, violence, and being kicked out of the home.

They told heart-wrenchingly tragic stories with courage and strength. Theirs were terrible tales of decent into addiction and equally terrible determination to overcome it.

Here is a bit of their hard-earned wisdom.
  • "Low self esteem doesn't come from other people telling me I'm bad. Low self esteem comes from me pointing out the bad and focusing on the bad things in me."

  • Adults should be aware of the following warning signs for drug use: frequent bathroom breaks, routine absences & tardies, classroom conversations about drug use, missing after school activities, and a rapid drop in grade percentage.

  • One wished to to have been arrested sooner, another wanted, "someone to tell me that I was putting my parents through misery... to let me know that I was disrespecting my parents."

  • Detoxification was a physical and emotional battle. Detox from marijuana took up to 4 months. Crack cocaine detox made it impossible to sleep normally for 3 weeks. During that time, they were "pissed off", irritated, and unable to focus on school work.

  • They need to feel comfortable and accepted while in treatment. Talking about addiction requires a trust relationship.

  • Talking to people helps teens stay away from drugs and alcohol. It helps to have sober support people as well as recovering addicts with whom to share.

  • Strength comes from a higher power, from role models, or from family. It's important to follow the 12-step programs.

  • Addicts need to stay away from drug hangouts and drug friends after leaving treatment. One said, "I need to strengthen myself to say no to my old friends."

  • Teens can try to convince other teens not to use. One teen wants to "give them the lecture", to say "just because I did it doesn't mean you can do it."

  • The others try not to "preach", just "tell them what happened to me." To say, "I don't know what is going to happen to you, but, think about it, do you want to take that chance?"

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dropouts drop off

The dropout rate is decreasing in the Anchorage School District.

It's no surprise that Natives dropout at the highest rate, currently 9.2%. But for Native Americans, that is a significant improvement. Nationally, the Native dropout rate was 25.4% only 15 years ago. Last year, the number was 16.9%.

Here's a quick thank you to the teachers and parents of Native American graduates. Give yourself a pat on the back. Your commitment does make a difference!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Natives in for big royalty boost

Now that Red Dog is in the black, the profits will trickle out to other corporations. Here's hoping that Bering Straits will be careful in choosing a banker for their money.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


$50 million will be paid to 110 Alaska Natives who were abused by 13 Roman Catholic Priests and 2 clerics. The abuse occurred over 30 years, mostly in Western Alaska and Yukon River villages. U.S. courts have assessed damages of $1.1 billion for antitrust violations and $8.5 million for a double-murder. But only after the plaintiff has a day in court.

Remember how Bush II started a war in Iraq to destroy Hussein's weapons of mass destruction? Well that was a lie. Saddam had no banned weapons prior to the U.S. invasion.

And remember when Joe Wilson told the truth about WMD, his wife Valerie Plame was put in mortal danger? Remember when our government blew the cover of our own CIA operative in order to discredit our own U.S. Ambassabor? Well even that has been exposed in court.

All of these facts are not in dispute. And the facts lead to Vice-President Dick Cheney as the man responsible. But only one congressman is actively seeking to impeach him. (Of course it's Dennis.)

One question though: When the citizens of Iraq get reparations, how much will we pay for over 1 million deaths?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Villagers Unite! Or Not...

Economic development has long been a concern in rural Alaska. Now a group of village corporations is trying something new. The Alaska Native Village CEO Association is a way to build relationships between well-to-do corporations and smaller, less successful ones.

Other 'bootstrap' solutions exist. RurAL CAP has been trying to promote culturally relevant services and UAF's College of Rural and Community Development makes it possible for rural students to attend college in a culturally sensitive environment. Preference for Native hire has been tried in many industries and is now a focus in Anchorage construction trades. The CDQ program has generated $110 million on behalf of 25,000 Western Alaska residents since 1992. Of course, AFN has been addressing native issues for 41 years.

Here's the problem: Native groups are so diverse that one voice cannot speak for all. Television and political action committees often ignore both sides to the debate. Natural resource development (especially mining and drilling) screws up the environment. But it pays the bills and many Natives benefit from the economic boon.

Case #1, Upper Yukon Athabascans strongly oppose ANWR drilling. But the majority of native groups support drilling. AFN even passed a resolution saying so.

Case #2, Pebble Mine could be a huge economic success yet Bristol Bay Natives fall on both sides of the debate. Some pro and con.

Case #3, Red Dog Mine is the world's largest producer of Zinc and the largest polluter in the U.S. But does the major media expose Red Dog pollution? Not so much... because NANA is happy to get the money.

Destruction of subsistence economies is a hot-button topic whenever government supports ANWR or opposes the Pebble Mine. But we should be wary when media and politicians are so far out of touch with the local citizens.

Bionic women

Once there was a lady named Ruth who had powers to beat the bad. Ruth can't outrun a bullet from a pistol. Ruth can do a pull up with one hand! Bionic women can hold three People Mover busses - amazing!

Most kids would like to be bionic women. So kids started to lift heavy weights to be bionic women. Some people say she is not real.

But Ruth can run 1,000 miles per hour!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Did You Know 2.0

This video is a unique presentation of global trends in education and technology. The target audience is school staff and parents, but can be enjoyed by anyone.

An official update to the original "Shift Happens" video from Karl Fisch and Scott McLeod, this June 2007 update includes new and updated statistics, thought-provoking questions and a fresh design.

What does reading have to do with education?

A new reading study by the National Endowment for the Arts was released last Monday. The NEA found many academic, social, and economic implications of reading.

Statistics are broken down by age and reading habits. (e.g., reading for fun, time spent reading) Reading habits have remained essentially the same for nine year-olds and test scores have improved for that age group. Way to go pre-teens! Teenagers not so much. 13 and 17 year-olds are reading less and their test scores have declined.

A few of the not-too-surprising results: Reading for fun correlates with improved test scores in reading and writing. Kids with more than 100 books in their home scored better in History, Science, Civics, and Math. Good readers participate in more civic & cultural activities, make more money, and have more opportunities for career advancement.

Download the full report and executive summary. After reading the report, I bet you'll be reading more with your kids. And buying more books. I know I will.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Did a Comet Cause the Great Flood?

Bruce Masse thinks that a comet could be the basis for mythological flood stories.

Masse believes that he has uncovered evidence that a gigantic comet crashed into the Indian Ocean several thousand years ago and nearly wiped out all life on the planet. What’s more, he thinks that clues about the catastrophe are hiding in plain sight, embedded in the creation stories of cultural groups around the world.


Masse’s biggest idea is that some 5,000 years ago, a 3-mile-wide ball of rock and ice swung around the sun and smashed into the ocean off the coast of Madagascar. The ensuing cataclysm sent a series of 600-foot-high tsunamis crashing against the world’s coastlines and injected plumes of superheated water vapor and aerosol particulates into the atmosphere.


All told, up to 80 percent of the world’s population may have perished, making it the single most lethal event in history.

I bet that guy won't be doing any college talks with Bill Nye.

Silly Americans

It's well documented that Americans don't score as well as other developed nations on math and science tests. But David Warlick found a publication that ilustrates just how silly we can be. Among other inanities, 25% of all Americans don't know that the earth orbits the sun.

The metric system is taught by science teachers everywhere. But the U.S. government still can't follow the Metric Conversion Act of 1975. Thirty-two years ago and our street signs are still marked in miles! Our silly government amended the Act three times (as recently as 2004) but still can't get on the SI.

American social policy is at odds with most western nations too. With our laudable freedoms and economic opportunity comes a government of the silly people, by the silly people, and for the silly people. Just this November 15, the U.S. voted against a U.N. resolution for a moratorium on executions. From Mary Shaw's OpEdNews story:

Want to guess who voted against the resolution? Yep, the good ol' United States of America, along with Afghanistan, China, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, and a handful of other countries known for their systematic violations of human rights.

Want one more bit of silliness? Read the That Was Then, This Is Now by Californian Daniel Miessler. Best comment was this one:

Hi, I’m from Europe, I just realized reading the comments that, in your culture, a) you find it normal to go to school with a shotgun in your truck b) you find it normal to put children on psychotic drugs Boy, how pervert your culture is when it comes to this kind of things. I’m glad I always turned off all job offers I received from there.

Comment by db — 11/18/2007 @ 10:57 pm

Based on his grammar, I believe db is actually an American. Probably from Alaska.

Democratic Ideal

This is a promo spot for my candidate, Kucinich. Someone who is savvy and experienced.

Check out his plans to address global climate change. Americans (especially in Alaska) need a President to initiate serious reforms before it is too late. Here is an optimistic man who is not afraid to lead by example and stand behind his words.

Kucinich has pragmatic, long-term solutions. Oh yeah, and he won 47 states in the latest Democracy for America pulse poll.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I'm eating crow for Thanksgiving.

After talking smack, Gibbs' Comeback had a tie this week.

Playing Frank Gore (6 points) ahead of Chester Taylor (38) and Edgerrin James (11) was my worst move all year. Terrible call - I blew it big time.

Ayn Rand on racism in 1963

Racism, writes Ayn Rand, is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.

In 1963, Rand denounced conservatives, liberals, Soviets, and Negro leaders in one fell swoop. She finds them all guilty of various forms of collectivism and advocates for complete freedom of the individual.

It is not a man's ancestors or relatives or genes or body chemistry that count in a free market, but only one human attribute: productive ability. It is by his own individual ability and ambition that capitalism judges a man and rewards him accordingly.

I've been reading a few Ayn Rand books and appreciate her objectivist philosophy. Someday our society will be truly color blind. Someday the U.S. government will be, in the words of Harold Washington, "equitable and fair". Someday our free market economy will not trample the rights of individuals halfway around the globe.

But the fact is that someday will never come if we don't address the needs of people today. Scientific reason makes progress in each generation, but we are still an unreasonably impetuous and foolhardy species. Technology has advanced to the point where the next global war could annihilate our entire race. Scary, but true.

It's in our own best interest to help the less educated and less skilled to improve. Why? Because doing so increases the chance that Homo Sapiens will survive another half-million years. It's not low-rent housing by Howard Roark, but Bill Gates is making significant contributions.

And I can't help thinking that John Galt's Twentieth Century Motor could have been Zefram Cochrane's warp drive.

Am I an optimistic hippie or what?

What Do Teachers Really Make? Taylor Mali Explains...

YouTube - What Do Teachers Really Make? Taylor Mali Explains...

What Teachers Make, or
Objection Overruled, or
If things don't work out, you can always go to law school

By Taylor Mali

He says the problem with teachers is, "What's a kid going to learn
from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?"
He reminds the other dinner guests that it's true what they say about
Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.

I decide to bite my tongue instead of his
and resist the temptation to remind the other dinner guests
that it's also true what they say about lawyers.

Because we're eating, after all, and this is polite company.

"I mean, you're a teacher, Taylor," he says.
"Be honest. What do you make?"

And I wish he hadn't done that
(asked me to be honest)
because, you see, I have a policy
about honesty and ass-kicking:
if you ask for it, I have to let you have it.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.
I can make a C+ feel like a Congressional medal of honor
and an A- feel like a slap in the face.
How dare you waste my time with anything less than your very best.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall
in absolute silence. No, you may not work in groups.
No, you may not ask a question.
Why won't I let you get a drink of water?
Because you're not thirsty, you're bored, that's why.

I make parents tremble in fear when I call home:
I hope I haven't called at a bad time,
I just wanted to talk to you about something Billy said today.
Billy said, "Leave the kid alone. I still cry sometimes, don't you?"
And it was the noblest act of courage I have ever seen.

I make parents see their children for who they are
and what they can be.

You want to know what I make?

I make kids wonder,
I make them question.
I make them criticize.
I make them apologize and mean it.
I make them write, write, write.
And then I make them read.
I make them spell definitely beautiful, definitely beautiful, definitely
over and over and over again until they will never misspell
either one of those words again.
I make them show all their work in math.
And hide it on their final drafts in English.
I make them understand that if you got this (brains)
then you follow this (heart) and if someone ever tries to judge you
by what you make, you give them this (the finger).

Let me break it down for you, so you know what I say is true:
I make a goddamn difference! What about you?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sometimes teaching is a shot in the dark

Brett Stirling tells a story of hunting for rabid fox as a principal in rural Alaska. Can't say I have ever hunted fox but the story brings to mind the one time my wife shot a moose.

Fall moose season in the Bush can be a major event. Most men in our village take a boat ride up the main Shaktoolik River, hoping to cross paths with Bullwinkle. Not me - I stay indoors, teaching school.

Well one early morning in September, just after first bell, my students spotted a moose only 500 yards away from our classroom window. He was a big bull, ambling slowly across the shallow Tagoominik River.

No sooner had the bull been spotted, than my wife excitedly entered the classroom. She was carrying our infant daughter and a diaper bag. "Hold Ruth," she said, "there is a moose across the river!"

Skipping over the gory parts... My wife and her friend Isabelle later radioed into town that they needed a a little help butchering the kill. Well, as luck would have it, an officer with the U.S. Fish and Game was listening to the radio from the village police office.

Now hunting without a license is not uncommon in Shaktoolik, but when a Fins-n-Fur Cop is nearby, it is best to comply with the State regulations. And sure as my wife can shoot, she didn't have a hunting license.

Fortunately my niece was listening in the police office, too. She quickly and surreptitiously came into the school and apprised me of the situation. Handing Baby Ruth to my niece, and telling her to watch my 3rd period class as well, I headed out the door.

I borrowed the school's four-wheeler and drove over to purchase a couple of permits for the lucky lady hunters. Buzzing through town on the Honda, I made back in time for 4th period.

Baby Ruth taught school the rest of the day, taking turns going from one junior high student to the next. Just cooing away in swaddling clothes as her babysitter-of-the-moment solved algebraic equations and read about the civil war.

Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age

Connectivism, more than cognitivism and behaviorism, places emphasis on the ability to locate and access external sources of information. As George Siemens states it:

The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe. Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today. A real challenge for any learning theory is to actuate known knowledge at the point of application. When knowledge, however, is needed, but not known, the ability to plug into sources to meet the requirements becomes a vital skill. As knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses.

Connectivism presents a model of learning that acknowledges the tectonic shifts in society where learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity.

Lifelong learning and accessing collective intelligence is important in nearly all professional careers. Connectivism is certainly important in research and problem solving. But how does connectivism apply to the profession of teaching?

Here's my take:

I'll take an old-fashioned behaviorist in the elementary classroom anytime. The behaviorist excels in teaching phonemes, oral reading, handwriting practice, and most importantly... hardwiring the brain's ability to retain information. The stimuli-response-level learning lays the foundation for other teachers to build upon.

Cognitive theory provides a solid framework for understanding and conceptualizing mathematics but I still need the behaviorist to teach the times tables and division algorithm. Heck, I'll take the behaviorist for math and reading strategies up to age 12.

It is about the age of 11 or 12 when students become aware of the social framework of society and of their own internal (pubescent) development. At this point, I can see the importance of a cognitive or connectivist approach to learning. By puberty, students should have a firm foundation to begin the study of abstract concepts.

As children develop physically, they become more aware of themselves and their surroundings. From Algebra to Shakespeare, students must create new connections from self to culture. Cognitive theory helps the teacher make the accumulated wisdom of society "stick" in the brains of our future generation.

Technology is developing so quickly that accessing external sources of information (hello Google) is sometimes more effective than taking time to memorize something. Why bother to learn xyz fact that will change in a year? Yes, the connectivist has a place in high school and college education. But don't expect to use Google on your GRE exams.

You know what else would help improve our schools?

Administrators need to be free to recruit (pay) great teachers. On the flip side, schools must be free to cut and burn the standing dead wood in America's classrooms.

Free market economics again. Free the administrators to make personnel decisions based on who gets the job done. Some teachers simply get better results than others. And some teachers have expertise in subjects that are in great demand. Let's pay them!

Teacher unions and the federal government share the responsibility for fixing this problem. It will take a courageous reform effort with a strong leader. Obviously, I'm more Ron Paul than Kucinich on this issue.

But that is mainly due to the fact that teacher unions have become so successful that they have no incentive to improve. The government must provide that incentive in the form of free school choice for all students. I still think Dennis is the man!

"Stupid In America" on 20/20

Warning: Tabloid TV. This 'aint PBS. Yet...

The portrayal of high academic standards and school choice in European nations is sensationalized but makes a few valid arguments. It seems that America is so absorbed with equal education for the masses that we have neglected to provide a rigorous, competitive school system.

Don't get me wrong, compulsory education is in the public interest. But why are students compelled to attend inadequate and ineffective schools?

Students that have the freedom to choose which school will not attend poor schools. Simple market economics. The worst schools in America simply would not exist if we didn't force students to attend them.

How about opening up all public schools to lottery admission? What do you think?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Teacher won't be punished for killing raccoon with a nail gun

I found this hilarious story on The Obscure Store and Reading Room. But the comments are even better. Soo's comment just became be my new email sig:

oh sure, they let the teacher get away with killing a racoon with a nail gun. but we all know that if he had killed a nail gun with a racoon he would be getting fired. this is obviously a case of nail gunism.

Maybe I've been spending too much time over on History Is A Weapon this week. Or maybe it's because I listened to This American Life's story on Harold Washington this afternoon. But that 'racoon' comment killed me.

Friday, November 9, 2007

How to Improve No Child Left Behind

Sean Gonsalves offers an opinion on How to Improve No Child Left Behind.

Here's my code (idea): before any new fill-in-the-bubble crazy NCLB legislation is considered, let's develop a test that measures multiple intelligences and think up a way to identify teachers’ teaching styles. Then, parents and teachers would have a better way to assess and adjust long-term learning plans that should be required for every student entering elementary school, matching them with the appropriate teaching styles along the way.

I think Mr. Gonsalves is saying that success is not defined by a paper-pencil test. He is saying that we need to be aware of teaching and learning styles and adapt the curriculum to the diverse needs of students.

Sure, almost every student can be trained to pass a paper-pencil test. The tests are not difficult so what is the big deal? Shouldn't all students meet a minimum level of proficiency?

The problem arises when school districts emphasize paper-pencil skills to the exclusion of a well-rounded education. Too many schools have let the NCLB tests cloud their vision and narrow their focus.

Multiple intelligences have been well-studied, but not well-funded in schools. Do we have money for extra physical education teachers? How about music? Foreign language? Industrial arts? Counselors? How can we teach all children if we don't allow for all of their differences?

Matching students to their areas of interest will stimulate and engage them in all classes. Numerous studies and research support addressing multiple intelligences as a means to improving academic achievement. Don't take my word for it, just go to Google Scholar and type "multiple intelligences" "improve academic achievement" with quotes.

Now go out and support a presidential candidate who supports equal education opportunities for all students.

Alaska Youth for Environmental Action (AYEA)

Cheryl Lockwood testified before congress and drew the ire of Rush Limbaugh last Monday. The Anchorage Daily News reported the story and the Fairbanks Daily News Miner followed with this report. The Alaskan newspapers found several inaccuracies in Rush's radio commentary.

As a side note, the AYEA Youth Employment in Parks program provided two of my students with summer jobs. They maintained trails and parks in Anchorage, earning money and learning to care for the environment. So I'm biased because AYEA is doing good things for youth.

But that's not all. I'm also biased because I live in Alaska and study global warming issues. And because oil emissions erode my beach and melt my permafrost. And oil wars kill my friends. And oil spills bankrupt Alaskan fishermen.

Yes, Alaskan oil is fills my bank account with a PFD every year. That is great! But oil won't last forever. Rising gas prices (and increased electricity and heating costs) are outpacing my wage increases and lowering my standard of living. What will the future hold?

Alaskans live with the effects of a changing climate. So we see the importance of transitioning to cleaner energy and making that energy profitable. Longterm. As in the next hundred years plus.

The Geophysical Institute at UAF is researching these issues and more. Scientists and students are paid to be objective. They are dedicated to open-minded examination of the facts and identifying solutions to the problem.

But Rush Limbaugh, not so much. I think he's blinded by his own short-term popularity. He only sees the Republican side of issues and takes every opportunity to belittle those that disagree.

Rush ignores scientific research and ridicules environmental activists. With no room for intelligent conversation or scientific objectivism.

No doubt, this is a good way for Rush to sell airtime. Rush even responded to ADN's report on his radio show.

The sad thing is that America buys it. And the cost is our great grand-children's environment. Such a travesty. It's no wonder that some people are moved to tears.

The 2007 Weblog Awards

The 2007 Weblog Award winners were posted this morning. I spent about 2 hours surfing around and added a few more URLs to my RSS reader.

Most of the winners got thousands of votes by virtue of their popularity. But the lesser-known runners up write great blogs too.

So don't forget to check out some of the finalists in each category. You are sure to find something that strikes your fancy.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

We're 64!

Anchorage comes in at 64 on the list of Top 101 biggest cities of 2006.

By way of comparison, our population is greater than Buffalo NY, St. Petersburg MN, Norfolk VA, New Orleans LA, Baton Rouge LA, or Birmingham AL to name a few.

Anchorage seems so much smaller than the DC Metro area in which I was raised. It was surprising to find that we outrank other major metropolitan areas, some of which support professional sports teams.

I also found 4 Alaskan cities among the 100 shortest commuting times and 2 cities among the 100 longest commutes.

Of course, Alaska is large, but looking at the list of largest land area puts that fact in perspective. 24 cities in Alaska are in the top 100. And Alaska has the 3 largest cities in terms of land area.

Another interesting fact, Eielson AFB (near Fairbanks) is on the list of youngest cities and highest percentage of renters.

You can check out the Top 100 and Top 101 lists at Perusing the lists certainly piqued my interest.

Know any good websites with demographic maps, graphs or statistics?

Monday, November 5, 2007


Today I started sending boosts to students in my advisory group.

BoostUp provides positive encouragement for young people to graduate from high school. The site follows ten seniors on their path to graduation. Each student contributes videos and stories to encourage others. They even make TV commercials like this one.

Do you know any high school students? Why not send him or her a boost?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

All about Hannah my BFF

Today my BFF Hannah is coming. BFF means best friend for ever! Do you like Halloween? I do! Is it fun?

To Hannah: Choclate kiss to comfort you when you are sad. A sticker to remind you that we will all stick together and help each other. The penny to remind you that you are valuable and special. A band-aid to heal hurt feelings in your friends and yourself. An eraser to remind you that everybody makes mistakes and that's okay. Finally, a pencil so you can do things like explore your mind.

The Boy With The Incredible Brain

The Boy With The Incredible Brain is a fascinating documentary of Daniel Trammet. Ever heard of him?

Mr. Trammet is a savant who sees numbers as colored shapes and emotions. He is amazing for his mathematical and linguistic talents; he does huge calculations, performs feats of memory, and learns a language in 7 days.

Equally remarkable is that Mr. Trammet is willing and able to share himself with science. Some scientists believe that, by research, they can unlock similar abilities in everyone.

Mr. Trammet's ability developed after experiencing childhood seizures. What happened in his brain that made him so different from the rest of us? Is he a Hero?

But seriously, what would the world be like if humans developed super-intelligence? Would there be a race of ruling elite? Would greater intelligence serve the greater good?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Teacher's test protest leads to reprimand

On Tuesday, a Wisconsin teacher refused to administer a test mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act. David Wasserman received a letter of reprimand and will be fired if he refuses to administer the test again.

Now I don't know if Mr. Wasserman was standing on principle or just slacking off. But his actions set a terrible example for students.

Civil disobedience and intelligent discourse have their place in society. But Mr. Wasserman didn't have the moral high ground. His protest ended quickly and he was back to proctoring a test on Thursday. This was a mere publicity stunt, at best.

If you decide to make a protest, PLEASE do it with positive actions and words. Do NOT let your protest be one of inaction and insubordination. Choose your cause wisely and be willing to follow through.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Undefeated football teams in week 9

Time to talk smack.

Sure the Pats and Colts are unbeaten but one of them will lose. My fantasy football team is also undefeated and going to stay that way.

Gibbs' Comeback is looking great for the rest of the season and into the playoffs. I love this roster! I like my chances with Romo, MJD, Edwards, and Edgerrin racking up 15-20 points each. And the SD defense has been HUGE lately.

The supporting cast of Evans and Davis is coming on strong and Santonio makes a big play every couple weeks. Brown is a good kicker with a weak schedule and no-touchdown Alexander in the backfield. In all, GC is a consistent, well-balanced squad. No holes in the stat sheet at all.

I'm keeping Gore, Johnson, and Favre on the bench for insurance. They can fill in for injuries or if the matchup is right. Driver, Muhsin, and Skins D are just an afterthought. But their spots might be useful if someone else shows up on the waiver wire.

No matter what happens, GC will win 'em all this year!

How's that for smack?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Human body parts now available online

Ruth, Jon, and I looked at hearts, lungs, skulls, and other body parts while eating Halloween candy on the floor. Online body parts, of course. It was an educational end to a spooky night of trick-or-treating.

Wright State maintains a QTVR Anatomical Library with 360° views of human organs, bones, etc. Their list of QTVR Links is great. We started there and surfed a few other sites too.

The top three virtual anatomy sites we found are Human Anatomy Online, Get Body Smart, and MEDtropolis's Virtual Body.

Some sites have interactive flash videos that teach about the human anatomy and/or disease. I liked Health Tools Online. And there is a heart model done in Holomatix Blaze 3D.

BBC's Interactive Human Body and Mind site has fun and games for budding anatomy students. A parent who can quickly search the web would probably find many similarly engaging and educational activities.

And the teacher in me is already pondering whether virtual anatomy would be a good tool in the biology class. My students could write reports, make simulated medical diagnoses, create models, do anatomy scavenger hunts, or analyze human anatomy structure and function. Virtual anatomy projects could be individualized for different ability levels and completed asynchronously. Hmmm... Might give this some more thought...

Culture of the Networked

Danah Boyd recently shared her personal experience in researching networked youth. She studies social networks as they develop and has a unique perspective. Her blog is worth checking out, too.

I've seen the increase in networked teenagers while teaching High School. And I know a fair cross-section of networked youth and adults. It's obvious that 'networked' individuals consider their online communication as an important and valued part of daily life.

For many, their social reality does not delineate between face-to-face communication and networked communication. But there is more to being 'networked' than just communication...

More on that in a second, but first let me argue that social reality is culture. Understand? The social reality of a group is its behavior and attitudes, artistic achievements, customs and social institutions, etc. By definition, its culture.

Now here is the kicker: the social reality, the culture of the networked, is the network itself.

The digital social network exists as not as an extension of an individual or corporate entity. From the 'networked' individual's point-of-view, the network is social reality. And being 'networked' implies becoming part of a new, rapidly evolving network - a new culture.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Are U.S. Schools 'Dropout Factories'?

Yes, Alaska has high school dropouts. Too many.

ABC News: Are U.S. Schools 'Dropout Factories'?

Last year, the graduation rates for high schools in the Anchorage School District were 59, 82, 83, 82, 69, 72, 84, and 56.

What happens to the students who dropout? Well, some go to AVAIL. We take students who are behind in their academic credits or dropped out of school.

And the AVAIL graduation rate is 31%. In other words, we are 31% successful in helping students earn a diploma. On time. (Some AVAIL students graduate in their 5th year. They don't count in the graduation rate but I consider them successful.)

Is a 100% graduation rate realistic? Can all students can meet the minimum standards for graduation in 4 years?

Probably not by maintaining status quo. 'All men are created equal' does not extend to intellectual ability. And so 100% is unrealistic if we continue to educate all students in the same way.

We need to do a much better job of graduating those students who are capable of doing so. We need earlier identification of at-risk youth. And alternatives for those students with diverse learning styles or learning disabilities.

America is great because it gives all men the opportunity to become great. Public education must do no less.

Edit - ADN has a similar story in the paper today.
Seven Alaska schools labeled 'dropout factories' by U.S.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Bloody students

I'm awake early and watching The Bride (of Frankenstein) with Jennifer Beals and Sting. It's a love story, not horror, but it has me thinking about Halloween.

And nothing says Halloween like fake blood. You can get directions to make fake blood with corn syrup and food coloring but the bleeding trick is very realistic and good for teaching, too.

Chemistry teachers might even use the 'bleeding trick' reaction to teach chemical equilibrium and aqueous reactions of complex ions. Bloody students would surely be memorable.

The Equilibrium Reaction (LeChatlier's Principle) from Cal State Northridge is very good. Visit their page for the teacher's guide, pictures, and links to background material. To do the Cal State demonstration, you need sodium phosphate monobasic, potassium thiocyanate, and ferric nitrate.
1. fill a petri dish with KSCN solution and a few drops of ferric nitrate solution (becomes orange)
2. add a couple ferric nitrate crystals (turns red)
3. add sodium phosphate (becomes clear again)
4. add a drop of ferric nitrate solution (red spot)
5. add a couple KSCN crystals in a different spot (orange spot)

Or students could do the experiment and make observations. After the experiment, you could write out the chemical reaction and discuss equilibrium. Then students could watch their classmates bleed!

The 'bleeding trick' only requires potassium thiocyanate and ferric nitrate. Here is a video demonstration by Bhmeta.

How To Make Blood Appear In Body Without Any Wound!!

P.S. My students tested cholesterol in fake blood samples this year. I must have a macabre fascination with hemorrhages. Boo!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Little Shovelers

Jon and his friend from next door have some initiative, huh? The little shovelers made quick work of the one-inch snowfall. And had fun, to boot. I hope they keep it up all winter.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Arctic Alaska villages caught in slow-motion disaster onslaught

Coastal Alaska is feeling the effects of a warming climate. Some villages are considering relocation. Here are some projected costs to move:

• Newtok, $412,000 per person.

• Shishmaref, $330,000 per person.

• Kivalina, $330,000 per person.

I thought, "That's a lot of money! I would rather have cash than a relocated village - I could build a cabin upriver and buy a house in Anchorage, too."

My wife agrees that (hypothetically) the cash would be a better deal. Can you blame us? Our family of 5 would get a $1.5 million windfall. What would you do?

Out in remote "Bush" Alaska villages, the federal and state governments have built runways, clinics, schools, homes, and subsidized local government and corporations. Many villages have little or no tax base and their real subsistence is living on the dole. So it is no wonder that the vocal majority want to move their communities and expect government to foot the bill. The village of Newtok is the prime example.

Having lived in coastal Alaska for 10 years doesn't make me an expert on rural and Native issues, but living in the Washington DC Metro area for 23 years makes me qualified to spot a waste of government money. Do we spend millions to rebuild entire communities every 50 years as sea levels rise and permafrost melts? Do we relocate an entire coastal population at the expense of taxpayers who live 1,049 miles away?

Disclaimer: I'm a leftist wacko who supports Kucinich for President. I am happy to give a disproportionate share of state revenues to support rural education, electrification, and sanitation. I think public health care and welfare are the duties of an educated citizenry. I support alternative energy research and eliminating dependence on fossil fuels. And I think that all of the above are good long-term investments for society.

But moving entire villages is not a good deal for anyone. It is not a long-term solution. Better to face facts and realistically plan for the future. Moving 10 miles away and asking for government handouts makes no sense. Coastal villages will be facing climate change for the next two centuries and most do not have the economic resources to relocate every 50-75 years.

If a village cannot be self-sufficient, then it is time to 'close up shop' and stop wasting taxpayer money.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Relaxing at home

It is 1:30 on Sunday, but I find myself still thinking about Saturday. Saturday was a busy day in the Knoll family. It was Katie's birthday and Jeff is in town for flight school. But I spent most of the day herding my little ones.

First thing yesterday morning, I did some shopping for my son. It was Jon's turn to bring snacks for his basketball team. And I was supposed to get a birthday present for Jon's little friend - which I forgot... more on that later.

Jon, Ruth, and I then drove over to her basketball game. Uh-oh, Ruth forgot her socks! After coaching my daughter (who wore little brother's socks), I rushed her over to Jon's game to deliver the socks just in time.

Jon's game ended just in time to attend the birthday party, but we forgot to buy a present. With no time for shopping, we made our apologies for arriving an hour late and empty-handed. We'll make it up somehow.

Next I took the two little kids and their dog Lacy to the park to run around for an hour. When we got home, we said happy birthday to Katie and ate a few sandwiches. Elmer, Doll, Wes, and Denita came to visit for a while and then they all followed Cody to watch his basketball game.

Cody and Jeff went out for a movie and I put the younger kids to bed. Next time I saw Jeff & Katie was Sunday @ 1PM as they came in the front door. Apparently Cody, Ruth and Katie stayed out with their friends or Aunt or somewhere. (Nobody told me ahead of time so I still don't know where Cody is.)

Edit: It is now 2PM and Shyrel just woke up. She's looking over my shoulder and says Cody is at Aunt Ebba's.

So now I am going back to my relaxing Sunday with the little ones. Ruthie just dealt out another hand of cards for Jon and me to play 'War'. I lost the first hand, gotta go.

Friday, October 19, 2007


AVAIL now has 20 MacBooks ready for student use. The brand-new computers were imaged today and they look soooo pretty. Of course, Netrestore is the best tool for such a job.

And our file server worked all day today.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Round and round and YouTube

My circular motion lesson plan called for 3 demonstrations and one inquiry activity. I started off with a quick demo and an informal pre-assessment. 12 out of 15 students surveyed did not know the word centripetal. 10 did not know any of Newton's laws of motion.

After playing with balls in a hoop, rotating water jars, and swinging paper cups on a string, they could all explain the forces at work in circular motion. Students formed a basic understanding of the relation of radius and period to centripetal force. Some groups asked about pendulums and so we made a side trip into the effect of a pendulum's length on it's period. We even calculated the speed of our 'astronaut' in miles per hour. A whopping 14 mph!

Not bad for 75 minutes.

But sometimes I can't think of that perfect demonstration. Or need a quick lesson filler. Or I need a visual 'hook' but don't have the materials. What to do? How about a quick video search?

YouTube is a good place to start. Search for 'centripetal force demonstration' or whatever. And get some great ideas for your next lesson. If your district blocks YouTube, then just download the video at home and bring it to work. Or ssh into... I better stop there. ;-)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Ed tech 'cheers and jeers'

Tomorrow my students are videoconferencing with the Alaska Department of Labor to discuss career planning. The conference is part of a year-long Career Exploration Opportunities (CEO) class.

CEO gives students from around the state a chance to interact with career counselors and plan for a career. More information at the CEO website.

Some of the technologies that CEO students use are Elluminate, a Moodle-based online course, and numerous web resources. There are several experienced technology leaders involved with supporting and delivering the course materials. The students have little or no problems with the technology.

The school file server is not behaving as well as the videoconference & web technologies. I'm going on 5 school days without being able to mount network home directories from the login window. Ouch.

Server: "Logging in to the account failed because an error occurred. The home folder for the account is located on an AFP or SMB server."

Me: "!@#*"

Let's run-down the time spent on this issue so far:
Me. Forums and troubleshooting (20 hrs so far)
Help Desk phone support. 1 call ticket (1-2 days)
Server Admin #1. remote assistance (1 day)
Tech support. on-site server rebuild (1 day)
Server Admin #2. on-site & remote troubleshooting (1 day)

The problem just appeared out of thin air and server rebuild / replication did not help. Bound clients can authenticate but get the error message every time. Maybe we wait 11 more days for Leopard Server? :-)

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Education Industrial Complex

I can't help wondering what Ayn Rand might say in response to Ruben Salazar's post at Daily Kos: The Education Industrial Complex. He writes,
When I decided to enroll in the NYC Teaching Fellows program this last June my motives were purely and naively idealistic. Instead of working as a paralegal or doing some entry level PR or editorial job I was going to save the world. I knew some of the forces I was going to be up against: poverty, crime, neglect, poor funding and a thousand other factors that inhibit student achievement in inner city schools. What I didn't realize was the degree to which education in this country is being systematically dismantled, privatized and engulfed by the Bush-Corporate apparatus.

Ruben Salazar is a first year teacher with an inner-city job. He's a world apart from Alaska (a conservative state). But I wonder who's getting $$$ while I proctor standardized tests?

You can follow Ruben's first year teaching at Is Our Children Learning?

A Vision of Students Today

Thought provoking video from Dr. Michael Wesch & students. Originally posted here.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Spirit Week

Monday - Pajamas
Tuesday - Inside Out
Wednesday - Crazy Hair
Thursday - Sports
Friday - Colors
Saturday & Sunday - Fix Computers

One unusual and fun week capped off with a Bowling trip for PE credit. Not a bad week at all. Just hoping that I can solve the network authentication problems this weekend. And image a new mobile lab.

Wait a minute, does the weekend start on Friday?

Hoo-boy, that's funny.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


So I bought a $25 gift certificate from for only $5.
Great deal, just spend $35 on dinner and get $25 off.

But the local restaurant (Angelina's) would NOT accept the
certificate. No problem, the owner was a nice guy and explained that
if I emailed the website I would get my money back.

Long story short, I am now the owner of 2 new $25 gift certificates.
It's $25 for the certificate that was not accepted, PLUS an extra $25

So why am I complaining?

#1 It's been 3 days since I contacted and they are
still falsely advertising gift certificates to Angelina's. WTF!?

#2 Angelina's owner says that he contacted in July
and opted out of the program. If true, then has been
selling useless gift certificates for 3 months.

#3 When I redeem the new gift certificates, that will be $25 out of a
local restauranteur's pocket... Just to make me happy about's mistake. Not feeling good about that.


The silver lining is that I enjoyed my meal. And I'll go back to
Angelina's Philippine Cuisine again.

If you like good food and service, please give Angelina's a try.
They serve inexpensive Philippine cuisine and have a nice family
atmosphere. Angelina's is located at 3600 Minnesota Dr. Anchorage, AK. On the web:

For the record, here's the customer service response from


I have sent you a credit to our website for the certificate(s) that you could not use. You will receive an e-mail explaining how to use this. Thank you and we apologize for the inconvenience. I have also sent you a free $25 certificate for the inconvenience.

We have a no cash back policy stated in our terms and condition which you agreed to when you ordered the certificates. Sometimes restaurants do go out of business/obtain new owners/opt out of our program and we can not help that situation. The restaurants do not inform us of this, and we find out from the customers. When we do find out about it however, we do fix the situation as soon as we can to avoid more certificates sold. We do email customers who have certificates for the restaurant and inform them as well as offer them an exchange for credit to our site.

The credit that you received does not expire and if you do not have anything in your local area you would like, we have online partners at the bottom of our site that you could use the credit for, as well as we are nationwide and you can use it if you go on a vacation somewhere in the United States.

Lisa Frazier
Customer Support
1500 Shure Drive
Arlington Heights, IL
Please tell my boss how I am doing by emailing:

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Commitment = Success

Sometimes I struggle to understand why my students don't graduate. Each one has obstacles and each situation is different... but commitment can overcome almost any obstacle. I guess I just don't understand lack of commitment.

Traver and I visited with a student who is within 2 months of graduation but wants to go away for a month (or more) to visit with relatives. The visit made me think of other kids who dropped out while in spitting distance of a diploma. All bright students who have the potential to complete HS and college.

AVAIL provides every opportunity for HS dropouts to catch up and graduate. But days like today make me wonder if we are effectively communicating the importance of commitment.

The bottom line is that we need to do more to help them see why education is important. It's not just about the diplomas or degrees, but making a commitment to success.

Students, be committed to yourself and to your education. And get your diploma! It will set you on the path to lifelong success.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Surplus Science Equipment

New (alright, gently used) science equipment arrived at AVAIL today.

A colleague dropped off some surplus items. I am pretty excited to have some physical science materials.
Here is what's new:
2 lasers with mirrors, lenses, filters, etc., almost new
1 vacuum (air pump), almost new
2 cars & 2 spring scales
'bout a dozen pulleys
various metal balls and a centripetal force track
2 class demos for centripetal force, well-used but COOL!
3 Thermometers
1 pH test kit
2 test tubes, brushes, clamps
florence flask, erlenmeyer flask, glass funnel, droppers
1 tuning fork
2 hygrometers, old but working

Here's what didn't make the cut:
Wind tunnel - aerodynamics analyzer. It's missing pieces and, get this, requires Windows 95. lol. Too bad it had never been used.
Aspirin test kit that came with broken bottles of HCl and Ethanol.
1 old timer and 1 bike wheel. They have seen better days. ;-)

Thank you Collette!

Monday, October 8, 2007

What looks good to you?

This year my students are taking over the webmaster and school blog responsibilities. It is their chance to write for a real audience and create something for the community at large.

But I am NOT loving from the MySpace look. (These kids and I have different ideas of what looks "good".) Ever been in a similar situation? What I really need to do is introduce ergonomic web design and color schemes.

Reading & discussing ergonomics should make a good lesson and help redirect students towards professional yet modern appearance. Grantastic has a nice gallery and tips for site design. And we'll look at other school websites in our district.

Palette Generator will be a great tool for us to discuss color schemes. We can create palettes based on successful print ads or photographs and talk about why those palettes are appealing.

Let's hope for the best.

New Blog

I looked at Wordpress but settled on Blogspot. No real reason why I am giving up the old domain. I just like trying something new...