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.