Apr 29, 2009

Going down on Idol Wednesday

It's Idol Wednesday, and my laptop was in the truck during the show because for the first time all week, we actually DID get the rain everyone has been telling us was coming our way.

So, I am writing this from memory...

Bottom three:

Adam, Kris, and Matt. That was a bit of a surprise. I didn't expect Allison to make top two! Fortunately, Kris was the first to be allowed to sit down.

Say what!? Adam is in the bottom two? Wow. Really? Is his fan base finally getting tired of all the screaming he does? Are they growing weary of the "sultry" way he tries to look at the camera? Are they just sick of him?

Regardless, the person getting the boot this time was no surprise. Matt leaves the show, only to wait around for the Top Ten Tour.

And, referring to the title of the post, someone please explain something to me. Why is it that Saving Abel's "Addicted" has to have a 'radio-friendly' version, yet Flo-Rida's "RightRound" does not? Both songs openly refer to oral sex, yet only Saving Abel had to change their song to 'when you're loving me' instead of 'when you're going down on me.' Flo-Rida's song clearly says "You spin me right round when you go down, down..."

Is it because Saving Abel plainly says "in between the sheets" in their song? Is it because Flo-Rida's is a remix/mashup of a classic dance hit and Saving Abel is more rock?

Seriously, someone explain this to me.

For the record, I was making fun of all the people wearing masks long before Leno made the crack about Michael Jackson. I wish I had said something on here for proof, but you'll have to take my word or ask my wife. Or not, whatever.

I spent the day Tuesday at one of my area schools going through all of their technology in order to create a report for the incoming Superintendent. I think it went very well, and the district is actually more up-to-date than I think anyone thought. I have a feeling other districts will start to request the same kind of site survey.

Today, I worked at a district switching everyone's computer on campus to Office 2007. I'll be back there on Thursday and Friday to try and finish the job. It's not going as quickly as I had hoped, but I would rather get it done right than have it done wrong poste haste... ("poste" may not be spelled correctly. I have no idea, nor any desire to check my spelling on it. Yeah, I'm that lazy tonight...)

Referring back to Michael Jackson, I think everyone needs to take a moment and just relax. According to several newscasts I have seen, wearing the masks does very little to protect one from the Flying Pig Flu (that's what I'm calling it, thanks). The best thing we can do is wash our hands and cover our mouths - you know, the two things your mother has been telling you since you were three years old...

I absolutely HATE how the government, media, and freaky-deekies try to rule the world through fear and intimidation. Keep everyone afraid of everything, and you can get them to do just about anything.

Please, if you are someone who is freaking out over this whole Flying Pig Flu, quit freaking out. Take common sense precautions. If you think you have the symptoms, go to the doctor to be tested. But ONLY if you have the symptoms. If you're not sick, don't go to the doctor to be tested. It's a waste of time and money. If you end up with the Flying Pig Flu, take the medicine, monitor your status, work with your doctor. But, most of all, chill out.

Oh brother, and speaking of fear and intimidation - HOLY CRAP, foreigners are building the windmill turbine things that no one is even really using yet! OMG! The world is coming to an end because Americans aren't building them, or buying them, or whatever it is we're not doing... Puh-leaze...

Apr 28, 2009

Idol Tuesday - Top 5


standards from the rat pack era... Okay, why does AI insist on making their contestants sing songs that no one has heard in 40-50 years!?

Kris looks a lot like Ryan tonight - that's funny! "The way you look tonight" - Very smooth and nice. Shan said she is voting yes for him no matter what - well, "unless he comes out looking like Sanjaya or somethin..."

Allison - "someone to watch over me" - Man, she is good. She really is talented beyond her years. Let her rock, let her do ballads, let her sing. She is great. Shan likes her singing, but thinks she or Matt may be going home.

Matt - "my funny valentine" - I don't understand how Matt even made it this far. This is very Vegas, and not very good at all. Shan says he just bought Allison a one-way ticket through to the next round. I agree completely. He should go home.

Danny - "come rain or come shine" - Wow, very nicely done. I have to admit, these folks are doing some very good things to these very old songs. Man, he's got some Joe Cocker in him...

Adam - "feeling good" - LOL, this is like a bad 'rocky horror picture show' spoof or something. Shan think he'll win the whole thing just because people will keep picking him. I don't give the voters that much credit, or maybe I give them more credit than that. Please, dear voters, send Matt home this week and Adam home next week. Seriously. Save us.

Apr 27, 2009

Time Travel

What you see above is one of the coolest things I have ever seen done with a Commodore 64. Yes, you remember those, right? Well, if you grew up in and around the 80's, you probably do. Well, Ben took a Commodore 64 (technically it's a C-64C) and built a custom-made laptop out of it with an LCD screen. The whole story is here. And, I have to say, it is a stroke of genius and beauty as a kid who not only owned a Commodore 64, but who grew up and got into the technology field because of it. At one point, I even had a 'custom' Commodore 64 that I labeled the "XTC" because it was housed in an old IBM-XT case. It was ugly. Ben's finished project is a true testament to the computer that changed 'personal computing' in the 80's. Oh, I know, a lot of folks say it was IBM and their "PC jr" that did it, but I say "nay-nay" (heh-heh). The C-64 made personal computing AFFORDABLE in the 80's.

The influence of that computer is so great that Nintendo recently announced that the Commodore 64 will be available for download on the Wii's virtual console. Frankly, I'm puzzled by that whole thing, but hey if it brings a new generation of kids along for the ride, why not? Of course, I'm sure it's aimed at the parents who had a Commodore as a kid. that, of course begs the question: Why not just go to www.c64.com and download nearly everything made for the Commodore 64 on your own computer? I don't have an answer for that. Frankly, I'd rather play C64 on my PC than on my Wii...

Now, I have also seen people go in the OPPOSITE direction:

What you see above is a Commodore 64 that is now a modern-day PC. The guts were stripped out, and a very small system board (called mini-itx) was used on the inside, along with a CD drive and more. So, here is a computer you could use right now, running Windows XP, dressed up in a Commodore 64 casing. Brilliant!

Amazingly, people are still very interested in what the Commodore 64 could do in the past, and what it can still do today. While poking around for material to be included in this post, I came across a live web server being hosted ON a working Commodore 64 computer:

The web site has an entry page (found here) that lets you know if the C-64 is up and running at the time. But, once you're in, you are sitting on a website hosted on a Commodore 64 that first showed up in 1982! I find that remarkable, and an enduring testament to just how well the main units were put together.

Now, i did say "main units" here. Having owned several Commodore 64's throughout my younger days, I can attest to the horrid power supplies those things came with. in fact, at one point (this is when I was living in Virginia), I hunted down a company that manufactured power supplies for the C-64 and bought two on the spot. One of those ended up in my custom XTC in fact. And, if you read the laptop article, you'll notice Ben opts for a GameCube power supply himself. That says a lot right there!

The original computer ran at 1Mhz. that's 1 Megahertz. A Megahertz is the number of cycles per second a computer can perform tasks. By comparison, today's mini netbooks (like the EeePC) run at approximately 2.2 Ghz (that GIGAhertz). Most 'regular' computers these days run at 3+ Ghz and often sport more than one processor handling things. But, for the sake of argument, let's stick with the 2.2Ghz EeePC. This little laptop is 2.2 THOUSAND TIMES faster than the Commodore 64 was!

I also came across the Jac64 project, which lets you play certain Commodore 64 games in your web browser! Holy Crap! Here is the list of games. What's great about this project? You don't have to download anything special, other than Java! And, most folks have Java anyway, so there ya go! The controls can be alittle hard to get used to, but I had a blast playing the old "Lode Runner" game for a bit (once I figured out how to move!).

What's cool about the emulators today is that most of them allow you to bump the speed of the C-64 up to hundreds of times faster than the original. An emulator is a program that 'pretends' (hence, emulates) to be the original device. I've talked about this before somewhat in relation to my own kids 'discovering' certain games and programs that were out on the Commodore 64, but still create enjoyable playtime (such as "Little Computer People" and "M.U.L.E.") today. Frankly, no one wants to wait while the slow Commodore loads up a game - heck we didn't even want to wait back then! So, like I said, most emulators let you speed things up (and then slow then back down, too).

So, if you're feeling a bit nostalgic, check out the links I posted and each of those sites will lead you further down the road to checking out what serves as the foundation for many of the computer geeks, er gurus, you know and love today...

Apr 26, 2009

Showing Dedication

This weekend, the whole family headed to Little Rock for my nephew's dedication. Shan, Tyler, Emily, Mom, and I opted to stay at the Hampton Inn and get a suite. I love staying there!

Here are pictures from the weekend (in no particular order):

A note Emily wrote for me:

Casey, Vanessa, Samuel and the pastor:

Kensley enjoys a free ride:

The outside of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock:

The inside of Immanuel Baptist:

Emily brought her John Deere bear:

Apr 23, 2009

40 Favorite Movies

In honor of this being my 40th year of existence, I am going to randomly choose 40 things and write about them. Today's 40 things: my favorite movies. No particular order, just out there for your enjoyment and/or bewilderment:

  1. Stand By Me - my all-time favorite movie. Period.
  2. Arthur - used to be all-time favorite until "Stand By Me" came out.
  3. Major League - baseball, Indians, what else do you need?
  4. Pretty Woman - First movie Shan and I ever saw together.
  5. Grease - Yes, I like it. I'm a guy. Get over it.
  6. Saw movies - All of them. They're great fun, in a sick sorta way.
  7. A Pure Formality - one of the best independent films I've seen. I know a lot of people hated it, but I loved it. I'm weird like that.

  8. Candleshoe - I was very young when this came out and it gave me an instant crush on Jodie Foster. What can I say?
  9. Embryo - The scariest movie I saw as a 4th grader on HBO or something. I watched it every time it came on, and it freaked the crap out of me. I loved it.
  10. Field of Dreams - hands-down one of the best baseball movies ever.
  11. The Jackal - I am a huge Bruce Willis fan.
  12. Die Hard series - see note above

  13. Hudson Hawk - see note above the note above
  14. The Sixth Sense - one of the first DVD's I ever owned.
  15. Risky Business - probably the first "R" movie i remember - I stayed up late to watch it without my parents knowing. It was worth it.
  16. The Matrix - Amazing story and incredible action!

  17. Toy Story - the best animated film in history as far as I'm concerned.
  18. Cars - tied for the best animated film in history
  19. Heavy Metal - the strangest animated movie I have ever seen, but was young enough that it gave my libido fits.
  20. Armageddon - I shouldn't admit this, but the end gets me every time I watch it, and I know exactly what's going to happen.
  21. Con Air - Lots of my favorite actors all on one crazy ride!
  22. 1408 - I love Stephen King and John Cusak - this movie brings them together wonderfully.

  23. The Great Gatsby - I loved the book and thought the movie was well done.
  24. Funny Games - the original 1997 version. Man, a couple kids kidnap a family in their own house - talk about nutjobs! Great movie.
  25. Airplane - classic slapstick humor. Great!
  26. Princess Bride - I almost forgot about this one! DUH! One of the best comedies EVER!

  27. Spaceballs - Nothing like a movie that pokes fun of sci-fi!
  28. Star Wars series - okay, I don't know why this did not pop into my head until way down here, but DUH - it's friggin STAR WARS!! Personally, I think "The Empire Strikes Back" is the best of the whole series.
  29. Smokey and the Bandit - It was either this movie or "Close Encounters" that I specifically remember seeing first in a theater with my Uncle Bill.
  30. Close Encounters - potato mountain. What else is there to say?

  31. A League of Their Own - women playing baseball. And based on real life. That's what I'm talking about!
  32. Saving Private Ryan - The greatest World War II movie of my generation.
  33. Big - Zoltar, Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Montgomery, and toys. Yeah, buddy!
  34. The Breakfast Club - High school angst at its peak!
  35. Ghostbusters - one-liner after one-liner

  36. Strange Brew - My brother and I must have watched that goofy movie hundreds of times, and I could pop it in right now and laugh my rear end off, you hoser!
  37. Ferris Bueller's Day Off - The way I wish I could have skipped school!
  38. Dream a Little Dream - Corey Feldman's Michael Jackson routine - priceless

  39. Moonwalker - I was a massive MiJac fan when this came out and I have (or had) the VHS tape to watch over and over - Smooth Criminal was great!
  40. Save the Last Dance - Julia Stiles, DUH!

Apr 22, 2009

Idol Wednesday

Two people go home tonight.... Let's see who it'll be:

Lil - GONE - Whoa... That is very surprising!! She is better than almost everyone still in this competition. Well, she'll be a huge star anyway.
Kris - SAFE - Way to go Conway boy!
Adam - SAFE - ugh.
Danny - SAFE - Whew! I was afraid he was bottom three....
Anoop - Bottom Three - Well, there's only three left, DUH...
Allison - Bottom Three - that's a bummer!
Matt - SAFE - really? why bother?

Who goes home?

ANOOP!! It's about time. I think a lot of people voted to keep Matt, and in the process left Anoop on the side of the road. Of course, he'll be on tour and he'll put out his album which will go the way of Taylor Hicks - fans but not mainstream.

Custom "Birthday" Card

I received this custom baseball card in my email on my birthday. Unfortunately, I had a lot of other messages in there, too, and it got lost until today!

The card above is a custom creation by one of my card-blogging buddies, PunkRockPaint. He does very cool custom cards using only the paint program that comes with Windows!! That is some serious talent, let me tell you! I have to use special photo editing software to pull off anything even close to things he does with MSPaint - incredible!

Now, you may be wondering what the significance of the card is... Well, the card is based on the 1991 Topps baseball set. I'll let you do the rest....

I don't think he ventures to this side of my brain, but THANK YOU, Travis!!

There is no title

Borrowing (and changing) the line from "Matrix" for the title here - there is no spoon, there is no title, whatever works right?

It's Arkansas Children's Week. I have no idea what that means, except for the fact that the employees of the education service center where I work have to don these GREEN t-shirts today. We always wear whatever shirt they come up with on Wednesday of Children's week. I'm guessing that's because they don't want us wearing the same shirt every day. I would have no problem with that. My co-workers might by the end of the week, though.

The Philips SKIN project is one of the strangest things I have ever seen. The image above does not convey the weirdness level of this project. Follow the link and you see a video of two people in an intimate (albeit sensual) embrace. Now, what happens in the video is an artist's 'interpretation' of what could be done, but still, it's where Philips thinks life should be heading.

(sidenote: please watch the video. To me, the most interesting part is the girl's face throughout the thing. Frankly, I don't think she's in any mood to show any kind of tattoo. And, the guy could do a lot better than her if he ever sees the video and sees just how 'excited' she is to be there - I think she'd rather be at McDonald's...)

What is it? Living tattoos. using nanotechnology, Philips gets these little creatures (or whatever they are) inside a person's body. They react to touch, and 'light up' (or become visible, really) based on the warmth, feeling, etc of the person.

And, believe it or not, they aren't the only ones looking into this kind of thing. Another application would be to incorporate a none display device in one's hand, allowing it to receive text messages in the palm of your hand!? Are you friggin kidding me with this? Why the heck would I even WANT to get text messages in my hand, or dosplay some kind of 'emoticon' on my cheek depending on how I am feeling!? Really, do people even WANT this?? I sure in the heck don't....

Apr 21, 2009

Idol Tuesday

Two go home this week. I pick Matt and Adam. Move along, people. Nothing to see here. Thanks for playing.


Lil - "I'm Every Woman" - She dominates the stage, her voice is awesome, what else is there to say. I mean, really. I'm betting she'll be safe tomorrow.

Kris - "She works hard for the money" - As Shan said, "definitely unique." she liked it. I'm not so sure it worked well. Guess we'll see, but he has a lot of fans so I think he'll be safe after voting.

Danny - "September" - I like this a lot. Very updated version, in my opinion. A little karaoke, maybe, but you can't sing this without it being so.

Allison - "Hot stuff" She has got one of the best "gruff chick rocker" voices ever - right up there with Stevie Nicks, Janis Joplin with some Bonnie Tyler, Joan Jett, Pat Benetar in there. I loved it.

Adam - "If I can't have you" - Oh, here we go... boo-hoo whiny Adam all over again. Really, is this an EMO thing? Seriously, dude, grow some cahones and sing, man... That was absolutely awful. What the heck is he doing on this show? Oh my gosh, Paula is friggin cryin!?

Matt - "Stayin Alive" - LOL, the best song choice just because life imitates art and vice versa. Sorry, but he should not have been save last week and this performance shows exactly why - karaoke and stupid performance. He is outta here. America spoke before and will again. Sorry, but he's not stayin alive this week.

Anoop - "Dim the lights" - What the heck is this crap? He's singing 'dance the night away' and yet the song does not inspire anyone to actually get up and dance. UGH, I forgot he was even in this show. She should go home.

Apr 20, 2009

40 Memories

Before I get started with my '40 memories" post, I woke up this morning to help Shan get some things scanned in for her and other teachers. She wished me a Happy Birthday and we got to scanning. When I got the kids up, they both told me Happy Birthday, too.

I don't normally listen to the radio when I drive - I prefer to listen to the iPod through the FM transmitter deal in my truck. But, I didn't feel like messing with all that this morning, and I had the local station playing. When they announced birthdays, my name was mentioned from the fine folks at the education co-op where I work. I thought it was very nice.

At the end of the birthday list, they draw a name to win a prize, and they drew my name! How cool is that!? My prize? a $5 gift certificate for the Western Sizzlin in Hope. I have mixed feelings about this. I'm happy I won, and I even scored a free meal out of the deal. Or did I? Actually, no. See, the meals are $6.99 and up. Yes, I realize I get my meal for $1.99+tax, but it still strikes me a bit sideways. I mean, why not give away a free meal, say up to $8 or something? The other issue is that we don't eat at Western Sizzlin. Frankly, it just hasn't been that good. We've one a time or two, mainly to see if things had gotten any better. They had a fire there a while back, and we have not been there since the remodeling (and I think they even have new ownership, if memory serves). I suppose this is a good excuse to go. So, later today, I'll run by the radio station to pick up my certificate.

The last time I won anything from a radio station, I was working in Northern Virginia for a computer retail/consulting company and happened to have the station tuned to 105.1. This scraggly, drunk-looking guy in a Santa suit walks in and before I could call security, he says, "Are you listening to 105?" I have no idea if that's what I'm listening to or not, I'm trying to decide if I need to deck the halls with you, buddy. He listens intently to the radio in the store and then to the headphones on his ears. I reach for the phone. He says, "You are a winner! You just won $105 dollars from Super105 (or whatever it was)!" I remember looking at him like he really was drunk, asking, "Really?" He reached into his 'bag' and pulled out a card, a media release form, and a cell phone. He called the station and sure enough, I had won. A few weeks later, I had a check for $105 in my hands. I bought a Garrard 6-disc CD changer. That was a big deal in 1986. We still have the thing, though one of the trays no longer works. Not bad for a piece of electronics that is more than 20 years old.

So, as I said, later today, I'll go pick up my gift certificate. Ironically, the station that I won it from is also 105, though it's 104.9... I sense a disturbance in the Force.

In honor of my 40th birthday, I thought it would be fun to list 40 things I remember. These will not be in any order, other than the order in which they popped into my head - though I will try to start with my earliest memories and work forward. Honestly, I'm not even sure I'll make it to 40 things with the way my mind works... And, I'll probably have to get Mom to fill in the blanks. Some may be funny, some painful, but they are the first 40 things that have come to mind:

  1. Yellow VW Bug we had when I was a kid
  2. One of our friends putting their hand through our glass door
  3. Getting on a bus for Sunday school or something
  4. Family reunions in Oakland (I think Oakland), outside of Pittsburgh
  5. Marci - first girlfriend (1st or 2nd grade)

  6. Penguins hockey game - first date (1st or 2nd grade w/Marci)
  7. Getting punched in the face by a girl (a friend's sister, 3rd grade)
  8. Eating little red berries, then puking my guts up from the 'medicine' I had to take because poison control told my mother to make me take it
  9. Going to the hospital because my parents filled our blow-up pool with enough chlorine chemicals to fill an Olympic-sized pool. Let's just say, that leaves a lasting impression on a young BOY - operative word there, folks!
  10. Having a blood clot in my throat, spewing up tons of blood. I don't even remember the whole story - must be a mental block
  11. Doing flips off the apartment pool diving board, and the time a 'friend' yelled "SHARK!" just as I launched once, causing me to land on my back. That was followed by a stream of cuss words which did not go over well, considering the young kids there

  12. Going to Geauga Lake, Sea World and Cedar Point for summer vacations when we'd visit my grandparents in Cleveland (Lakewood, actually), Ohio
  13. Drawing my first Chief Wahoo on poster board with the numbers of all the players on it for my grandfather (Paternal)
  14. Watching Bob Ross paint on PBS while sitting on the couch with my maternal grandfather

  15. My maternal grandmother scolding us for drinking a glass of milk AND having milk in our cereal
  16. My maternal grandmother making us eat peanut butter with butter sandwiches
  17. Eating St. Joseph's chewable aspirin mixed into my applesauce. To this day, I cannot eat applesauce without tasting that awful orange flavor of the pills
  18. Playing football and baseball with Dad, Uncle Bill, and everyone else on the hills in the back of my maternal grandparents' house

  19. Listening to the "Grease" soundtrack while trying to kiss Kim in my grandparents' basement. LOL, now THAT was funny - not then, but it is now... I was such a dork.
  20. Listening to the Village People in Kim's grandparents' basement
  21. Painting my face my face in High School for a pep rally. It was the only time I ever did that - never before, never again.
  22. Pushing Kim's (not the same one from the "Grease" album) yellow VW bug (not the one I had as a kid) up the hill after the Senior Formal with Dave

  23. Loretto Heights College - my first 'liberal arts' environment - I learned WAY too much that year!
  24. Going to University of Colorado - Boulder and majoring in socializing
  25. Getting a letter from UC-Boulder encouraging me to take time off to consider my collegiate career
  26. Michelle and Jen - the two girls I dated during those times
  27. Meeting Wallace (who went by Wally in those days) for the first time, and his aspirations to be President some day. I'd never met anyone that actually WANTED to be President one day
  28. Wally telling us the story about drinking the NyQuil
  29. Meeting Shan for the first time - the most beautiful woman I had ever met. I was drunk, my brother convinced me to go hang out with a bunch of girls he knew, and I spent the time picking at the carpet while Shan and her boyfriend at the time sat on her bed or couch or something. I made a great first impression. LOL!

  30. "Relieving Stress" in front of Russell Fine Arts - the first time Shan and I kissed
  31. The horrid, rundown trailer Brian and I lived in while going to Henderson State University
  32. Proposing to Shan at DeGray Lake after she had just awoke from the drive in from Little Rock, and her saying "NO" in her groggy state, then realizing what I had asked and saying "YES!"
  33. The miscarriage of our first child
  34. Tyler being born

  35. Driving from Prescott to Little Rock for about a year because I could not find a job locally
  36. Working at Southern Arkansas University
  37. Meeting Pat Ward at McDonald's several times while interviewing for the job in Camden
  38. The stress of trying to have a second child
  39. Emily being born

  40. Shan's love and forgiveness - the reason I am where I am today, who I am today. It may not sound like something for a list of memories, but when two people go through the things we have gone through, there are memories that God keeps clear in my mind to show me each and every day just how blessed I am.

Apr 19, 2009

A Big Birthday Surprise!

All I knew about the surprise Shan had planned was that I was going to be 'kidnapped' for the day on Saturday. We woke up on Saturday and hung around for a bit. When my brother showed up, I assumed he part of some elaborate ploy to get me out of the house so that there would be some kind of surprise party.

While a surprise party would have been fun, the actual surprise was MUCH better!

Because my brother came to visit, Shan's plan to have the suitcase packed without me knowing sorta went out the window. So, after he and my Mom left, Shan let me know that we had to pack for the surprise. Sounded good to me!

We packed, and had a little surprise of my own for Shan. We knew we'd want to take a laptop in order to check Facebook, blogs, etc. So, while I was packing "my" laptop, I snuck hers into my laptop bag!

The first part of the surprise required that I drive the van toward Texarkana. Once we got there, Shan told me to head for Texas Roadhouse for lunch! Awesome! What was NOT awesome was all the RAIN pouring down.

I asked Shan if any part of the surprise involved being outdoors because of the rain. She told me that the rain might or might not affect things. So, after lunch, we ran to the van, dodging rain. Before we pulled out, Shan handed me a Spongebob folder and told me to open it. Inside were printed tickets to the RANGERS-ROYALS game that night!! Holy Crap!!

So, I point the van towards Dallas and away we go!!

When we get to Arlington, we have reservations at the Sheraton! The Sheraton is about a block (maybe block and a half) from the stadium! Holy Crap! Oh, and this little getaway was just for the two of us - no kids, and a KING-sized bed all to ourselves! Yee-haw!

We hung out in the room until it was time to head for the game, and then we walked together with a group of other folks up to the stadium. As we went in, She noticed that one of the concession stands had Pretzel Dogs. We walked around and found our seats. After we'd been there for a bit, we decided to grab a bite to eat. Our seats were about halfway around the other side of the stadium from the Pretzel Dog place, so we took the trek, looking forward to pretzel-wrapped hot dogs.

When we finally got to the stand, the woman behind the counter informed us that the stadium had not changed her sign. You see, they no longer SELL pretzel dogs! Say what!? Well, we walked away and decided that we could buy hot dogs and pretzels and come close to what we wanted... I have to say, the pretzels were very good, but they were the SALTIEST pretzels I have ever had. In fact, it looked like something out of one of those old-time pirate movies where they had the salt-lick ham... These things were coated in salt. For Shan, it was way too much. For me, it was a lot, and I could feel my heart reacting to the influx of salt, but it was good stuff.

The people behind us were two groups of folks. One group was a family with various-aged kids who basically ate during the entire game. The other group were three guys from somewhere in Asia. We were kept entertained throughout the game not only by the baseball game in front of us, but all the different conversations behind us.

The Rangers ended up losing 2-0, but as we left the game, there was a free concert in the park next to the stadium! We had heard an announcement about it during the game, but didn't pay it much attention. I looked it up, and it turned out that Jack Ingram (country singer) was going to be on-stage! How cool - a game AND a concert!

I have to say, this was the BEST birthday surprise ever!! WAHOO!!

Here are pictures from the game and the concert:

Apr 17, 2009

TIA day two-ah

I started off the day playing around on Twitter. The problem is that Twitter made some kind of changes to their site and now if you try to leave a comment for someone, you get a prompt to save a file. They say they are working on it, but have other issues that need to be worked out first. Really? There are people with lost tweets and a few other issues. Not a good way to have new users experience your site...

Each person was given a flash drive, and each flash drive was labeled by co-op and 'number.' For example, SW1, SW2, etc. and each person is supposed to keep everything in their own folder on their flash drive. Each co-op was also given one external hard drive that ALL of their flash drive files will be saved on.

As a techie, I have to say that the curriculum resource/alignment part of this is very confusing. I'm sure it has to do with the fact I've been running around the room helping people install the Office 2007 Compatibility Pack, but I feel a bit like a duck out of the water fowl species (forget about being just out of the water, at this point, I'm not sure I'm even a duck!).

The folks in this workshop are supposed to go find web pages, and then FILE, SAVE AS, and save the whole web page to the appropriate folder on the flash drive. I have a feeling there will be serious job security for the techs in the room.

Save YouTube videos: from the Youtube URL, remove the 'youtube' portion, and replace it with get2pc. Ex: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oC4FAyg64OI change it to http://www.get2pc.com/watch?v=oC4FAyg64OI and go to THAT site. It will download the video to your machine in an FLV format. To play FLV, you need a player. Probably the most common one is the free RealPlayer. I like VLC Media Player (here).

I will be making a handout/guide for creating comic strips in education using Power Point (or whatever your favorite presentation software is). If I think about it, I'll post it here or over on the techblog.k12.ar.us site...

It's about 9:30am now, and we are breaking up to find resources. In my case, I'm helping serve as tech support as needed. I'll update this if/as needed.

At lunch, I had ordered some chips and salsa. After waiting for a while, I told another server that I had done so. Without even a pause, she said, "They're not ready yet." Not ready yet? What's involved with chips and salsa that requires them 'to be ready?' Well, after theey arrived, the chips were certainly some kind of bagged variety. The salsa definitely tasted store-bought, though it was the sweetest salsa I think I've ever had. Maybe the 'not ready' part was adding sugar to it??

We listened to a presentation of how to use digital photo frames in classroom settings. Use power point presentations saved as JPGs. Media folks are using sound-enabled frames are doing things like 'book talks' to encourage students to read new books or certain topics, etc.

Kodak has wireless frames with FrameChannel that allows people to send photos to picture frames through their web service. Students have been sending photos, etc to students at home to help them study when they have to miss. Students could send photos from state-to-state as long as they are given access to those frames. Trivia questions, stock quotes, weather, etc - all delivered to the frame along with photos.

Very cool stuff!

Yesterday, I talked about using SurveyMonkey in order to allow people rate various resources included in the Excel Spreadsheet. The approach I came up with, which is rudimentary granted, will work for what we need right now.

Next to each resource in the document, we will have a "RATE THIS" connected to a one-question SurveyMonkey question for thhat item. Next to that, we have a "SEE RATINGS" which allows anyone to come in and see what others have rated that resource.

Sample math Assessments ----- Rate This ----- See Ratings ----
(within the spreadsheet, the "Sample Math Assessments" link to actual assessments)

We were shown books created with DesktopAuthor software (desktopauthor.com) which provides a free reader to open interactive books.

Next, Lit2Go is a free online collection of stories and poems in Mp3 (audiobook) format. It's located at the University of South Florida's web site. You can also use iTunes to view a highly organized view of the offerings on their site.

Apr 16, 2009

Never an SSDD experience!

You've heard the expression, "Same Stuff, Different Day," I'm sure. Well, I am fortunate enough to not have that kind of job experience. And, like the other day, I thought I'd share another of my experiences as we go along during the day.

First of all, I had to run by a school district so that I could drop off an external DVD +/- drive for the tech to reinstall Windows XP on the Superintendent's mini PC. The other thing I had to do was drop off a jar of caterpillars for the early childhood program.

After that, I met Phoebe (the Assistant Director for the Co-op) and we drove to the workshop I am in while typing this. We are developing a teacher resource program to aid in Total Instructional Alignment. Since I'm not even exactly sure what that means, I thought I would let you come along on this journey with me...

PHASE ONE - Starting with Math
  • Establish a file structure for the TIARP;
  • Design and deliver the professional development
  • Build awareness of and organize the project within each region
  • Recruit highly respected educators to serve in the resource identification and assignment of those resources to specific content
  • The point is to make it what it needs to be for each teacher/each region - share ideas without worrying about "what's mine" or "what's yours."
  • Working on resources and support systems for curriculum alignment
  • Collaboration and sharing will help with the time involved/needed for teachers
What is Total Instructional Alignment? It is NOT a rubber stamp, cookie-cutter approach to teaching. It DOES need structure, however. At least a game plan in order to have conversations, for accountability, for testing. Books available are "Total Instructional Alignment" and "Five Big Ideas" - both by Lisa Carter. It is a system AND a conversation - one that each district and/or each co-op should have in order to align standards, curriculum, and assessment; align the system; and align instructional practices (from Lisa Carter). Over today and tomorrow, we are looking at alignment of instructional practices. The TIA Pacing Guides are built in Excel spreadsheets covering Content Standards, learning Objectives, Task Analysis, Z Charts, Essential Vocabulary, Materials/Resources. Don't worry if you have no idea what I'm talking about - I don't even know what half these things are! LOL!! But, these are things that many of the schools in the state are using in order to benefit children across the state. districts are free to make adjustments within the pacing guides based on what they need for their students. I don't like the idea of using Excel spreadsheets for what is basically a database of information. However, because teachers need to be able to move things around using a generally standard application, I have been 'persuaded' that Excel is the most viable solution for easy statewide distribution. Basically, this being developed by non-technical folks for non-technical folks. In the Pacing Guides, the column for "Materials/Resources" is sorely lacking and is the area in which we will focus our attention during this process. We were told to READ this book: Integrating Differentiated Instruction & Understanding by Design by Carol Ann Tomlinson and Jay McTighe. also recommended reading, "Understanding by Design" by Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe. The basic premise is that you start with the end goal already in mind. We need to ask the "why" and the "so what" of what we are teaching... WHY are the students reading a particular book and not another book when discussing racial prejudice, for example. Frankly, i asked myself the "WHY" question a LOT in school! Especially in college while earning my Master's degree. seriously, WHY are we reading "Middlemarch" or "Jane Eyre" or whatever. The ultimate reasons usually went along the lines of this: "Because they are the classics." whoop-dee-frigging-doo. I wanted MORE than that. Granted, I did not want too much more. After all, I hated reading for the purpose of trying to figure out WHY the author used a horse instead of a donkey or a cow or an elephant. You know WHY? because he/she WANTED to us a horse. How is a field of horses supposed to 'represent' sexual frustration or desire!? Excuse me!? What whack-job came up with that one!? I don't think so, Tim. I digress.... Back to the topic at hand, there are three stages of 'backward' design: Identify desired results; Determine acceptable evidence; and Plan learning experiences and instruction. Notice this is probably not the way you remember school. Most of us were given an 'experience' or and assignment first. Then, we were told to provide 'evidence' (usually in the form of essays and tests). Finally, we were told what the results should be (usually in form of a grade, and not necessarily the WHY of what was being done). Move from Trivial Pursuit to Essential Questions. For example, move from "How many gargoyles are on Notre Dame cathedral" to "Why are there gargoyles on the cathedral?" Who cares how many there are? It's more about the reasons why they are there in the first place. "Why do people put gargoyles in their gardens?" Let students be involved with their own goals - where are they and where do they need to be? Do they understand WHY they need to be at a certain reading level or math level? Do they need to be at a certain level before they can move to another grade? Are they given the freedom to grow BEYOND those goals if they meet them early?

How about a break for lunch? we walked across the way to the Group Living-run eatery. I had Mozzarella sticks, a salad, and a cheeseburger. The burger came on what I believe was ciabatta bread. It was very good.

Teacher Center folks asked for a rating system for the various resources we put into the pacing guides. i believe this would be best achieved through a link to SurveyMonkey for each resource and let the user pick a rating for that resource. I say this because of the way the program is being developed (in Excel). The ultimate goal is ease-of-use for teachers...

The resources are not prescriptive and not 'have-to' use items, but at least there would be resources available. It gives teachers options. The resources are free and/or state-sponsored, state paid-for. We are not incorporating items for which we cannot get copyright permissions. Resources are captured to the folder holding the resources (on flash drive), so that "no Internet" is NO Excuse. Resources will be broken into Professional Resources for teachers (so the teachers can have resources for themselves), Assessment Evidence, Planning Learning Experiences & Instruction, and Personalized Learning.

There is a big push to try and get us push our schools to get interactive white boards (like Smart Boards) in classrooms with Stimulus money.

Resources can include video clips, images, audio clips, web sites, blogs, textbooks (with chapter/pages), etc. Cross-curricular resources (art with geometry, etc)

Well, while sitting here, I received an email from SurveyMonkey and you cannot link to a specific question within a survey. That's okay, we can create a new one-question survey for each item we would like to have in the 'rating scale' and we could link the 'results' for each question to show what the current rating is. In fact, thinking that out, I believe we could even pull that data directly into the spreadsheet from SurveyMonkey. I'll have to play with that....

The rest of the afternoon has/had us researching and collecting resources. Tomorrow, we come back to do it some more.

And, if you've made this far, I wanted to throw in here that I finished/beat FarCry2 last night! WAHOO! Though, I have to say, the ending was a bit disappointing in my book. I won't ruin it all just yet, but let's just say you don't hunt down the person you thought you were hunting.... Oh, and your character dies in the end. Nice. Okay, so I ruined it for you... You'll be okay.

Question: When do women feel it is appropriate to use the men's restroom?
Answer: In a room full of 40 people and only 2 are guys.

How do i know this? I had to wait in line to use the men's room... And the only other guy was sitting at the table at the time.

Apr 15, 2009

Idol Wednesday preceded by random thoughts.

First of all, I don't even know if I spelled 'preceded' correctly. How's that for an opener?

Today is/was Jackie Robinson Day. Major League baseball teams were encouraged to wear Number 42 while playing in games today. And, for those that are geeky enough to know, today is also sometimes paired up with "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." Why? Well, I'll let you either look it up, or you can read the series of books. Here's a hint: 42.

Have you ever been driving down the road, listening to the radio when the 'glove bug' hits you? That happened to me today. I don't even remember what the song was, but here's a list of 'glove songs' for you to enjoy:

Glove Shack - "At the glove shack, glove shack baby"
"You give Gloves a bad name"
"I'm not gonna write you a glove song today, today..."
"In the name of gloves..."
"The power of gloves"
"My endless glove..."
"Give me all your gloves and all your hugs and kisses too"
"I'm gonna glove you forever and ever, amen..."
"Everybody gloves somebody, sometime..."
"And I-i-i-i-i-i will always glove youououou, I will always glove you..."
"I'm in glove, oooo, I couldn't leave her if I tried..."
"Do you glove me? Do ya glove me?"

And finally:

"'Cause nobody wants to be the last one there.
'Cause everyone wants to feel like someone cares.
Someone to glove with my life in their hands.
There`s gotta be somebody for me like that."


Shan says bottom three will be: Anoop, Matt, Lil

I had too many I thought could be bottom three.

Allison - SAFE - That's good news for her, but I wonder what that means for Lil.
Adam - SAFE - Not surprised. I think our friend Sarah voted 100,000 times herself.
Anoop - BOTTOM THREE - Not surprised there.
Kris - SAFE - Awesome!
Lil - BOTTOM THREE - Shan is 2-for-2!
Matt - BOTTOM THREE - Shan knows her stuff, folks!
Danny - SAFE - Excellent!

Bottom Three:
Anoop - SAFE!? Oh, wow, that's a surprise. I thought he was going home tonight.
Lil - SAFE - Whew!
Matt - GONE! Well, I suppose he could sing to be saved, but I don't think the judges will keep him here. I could be wrong.

Wow, they saved him. Bad choice. Now, two people go home next week. I hope he's one of them.

Apr 14, 2009

This is Americ.....

Our DVR ended up not recording the first half of Idol, so I present the portion of the show we watched:


What does Quintin Tarantino have anything to do with music!? Stupid. Oh, songs from the silver screen... yeah, okay, I guess.

Matt - I did not like his version of the Bryan Adams song. Why do Idol wannabes go the slow and boring route!?

Danny - Shan said "I say YES!" even before he started. LOL! Lionel Richie's "Endless Love" - another slow, sappy song.. Come on, man, let's pump up the house, folks. He didn't do too bad, but I wouldn't care if this was on the radio or not. I like him, but not this song for him.

Kris - It's late and I am falling asleep watching this slow stuff. Seriously, are all the songs in movies slow? Maybe the fast, cool songs were at the beginning that we missed. I dunno. Whatever. I guess it was fine for a slow, sappy song.

Lil - "The Rose" - OMG, yet ANOTHER slow song!? I guess I'm just not in the mood for this style this week. Not great, but the best of what I've seen tonight.

UGH, our DVR cut off again. I guess we'll have to record the news after Idol just to catch the run-over. Ridiculous.

Come along for a meeting - why not, right?

I'll catch you up with yesterday's happenings later. For now, I am taking you on a live-blogging journey.

I am in a meeting with the State Technology Coordinators. As I type this, Promethean is presenting their website, prometheanplanet.com, which has lessons, resource kits and more.

Input on the board is done with a pen-shaped stylus. You can put your hand on the board without activating items. It's like a tablet-PC in that way. users can right-click on icons for context-sensitive help. I'm not sure how often that would be used, but there ya go. The protractor and rulers are pretty cool, as is the magnification feature.

Dr. Marzano (education "guru") did some studies with the use of boards with student improvement. I guess he only used the promethean board for his research, I have no idea. That's probably a paid deal (they paid him, I assume).

promethean certified learning academy - provide boards and devices to co-ops. Work in progress - 32 assessment devices, board; must host 8 workshops in the first year you have the board. These can be formal trainings or demos or other workshops in which the board is discussed.

Their software can be used on any white board. I don't know what the software costs, but maybe they'll tell us as we go along. If not, I'll ask. Software costs $295 per license for the academic version. There is a free personal version from prometheanplanet.com. A replacement pen costs $25. But, they will replace the plastic nibs in the pens for free. There is also a wand available for the physically challenged.

Search by state standards and use the lessons on any board. Lessons are not reviewed, but supposedly we can suggest a rating system and see if they will implement it. Promethean is creating an Arkansas-specific website for teacher resources. In my opinion, this is a waste of time and resources. If the promethean planet site is already geared for lessons, then why not just have Arkansas teachers post there?

Promethean lessons are saved as 'FlipCharts' with a .flp extension. So, you have to have the Promethean software to open them. Teachers can save individual pages from a flipchart, or save individual components, depending on how the page itself was set up. Ideally, students use the end products and have the students get up and teach each other - a goal all interactive white boards should be reaching for. After all, the idea of INTEGRATION is that the students are using it, not the teacher just standing there doing it for them.

At the beginning of the presentation, the presenter said "we only do boards." And then half way through the presentation, she showed up classroom response systems (Activestudio). So, i guess they don't do "JUST" boards.... Interesting.

After Promethean presented, Video Reality presented on Smart Board technology.

Piraino Consulting contracts with Video Reality to do installs of Smart Technology. They are an Arkansas company that contracts with VR in Oklahoma.

Smart has a program that gives co-ops equipment for training and demo purposes. The advantage is that as new equipment comes out, the co-ops get the new stuff on a rotation basis.

Smart is being installed in the Arkansas School Board Association building, so every supt going through there will see Smart tech. Three keys for Smart products: software, ability to touch the board, pens. Smart allows you to use ANYTHING in place of a Smart pen - not proprietary.

Heather Lamb has been hired to provide content-area training for teachers. She is also helping schools form groups of teachers to work on content and training. Smart is hosting content creation seminars - 100 teachers create lessons (3-days) that are correlated with state standards. All the lessons will be posted to a smart content web site. Free for teachers. 10 rooms needed for set-up. Lunch is provided. Every participant gets a wristband USB drive. Can be held at a school building with rooms/boards.

Smart Seed program gets products into the schools on a trial basis. After the trial, the schools can either keep the equipment at a reduced cost or can send the equipment back to Smart at no cost.

Smart Exchange web site: exchange.smarttech.com - ideas, lessons, etc. Free for sign-up and login. There is also a student side of things. There are standards-based lessons that are reviewed and approved (copyright tested), then there is a user group that can upload any lessons. People can rate the lessons. Teachers can customize the lessons as needed based on the lesson they downloaded.

Notebook SE (Student Edition) is on a flashdrive. Can be downloaded from their web site.

So, there ya go... Hope you learned something. :-)