Saturday, October 20, 2007

Moodling Around

It seems forever ago that we were golfing and drinking beer in the summer (see my last post). After a heavy duty September I've finally been able to start sleeping again and not waking up at all hours with a million things going on in my head.

Part of my workload in September involved creating an online guitar course. I decided I would give Moodle a try and have been very impressed. Moodle is an online course management system that is easy to use, flexible, adaptable and open source (free). Contrast to WebCT which is complicated, very inflexible and difficult to figure out, not to mention quite costly.

It's hard to compare the two; they're not really on the same level. In Moodle, in addition to all the course material, I've uploaded images, audio and video files. Uploading files is straightforward and intuitive, unlike WebCT. The grade book looks fairly easy, although I'm still learning that part.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Two great things about the US

1. Cheap golf
2. Cheap beer

1: Between $80-100 for 2 with a cart.
2: $2 from the beer cart.

Also I chipped in on the 17th hole for a birdie.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Visualizing Data

Teaching statistics and data analysis to students tends to be filled with thrills and excitement. NOT! The Gapminder makes global data visually interesting (although exciting is in the eye of the beholder) and would be a great tool for use in grades 6/7 math/social studies. The tool itself has a great many features (change x, y axis; zoom; speed; opacity of countries not selected, etc) but the data comparisons raise many questions. Why does the birth rate go down as income goes up? Does military budget have anything to do with population size? It wouldn't be long before students were asking their own questions and creating hypotheses.

This was developed by a Swedish organzation and bought recently by Google: "Gapminder’s Trendalyzer software unveils the beauty of statistics by converting boring numbers into enjoyable interactive animations. We believe that Google’s acquisition of Trendalyzer will speed up the achievement of this noble goal." Also see Hans Roslings TED presentations 2006 and 2007.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Summer Reading '07

With recommendations from friends, best seller lists and all my library holds coming in at once I've got my work cut out for me this summer. Actually I've already finished The Secret Life of Bees (a great read), Mindless Eating (good research-based advice) and In the Name of Honor (compelling story but must have lost something in the translation from French). Next up Beach Road, Sweetness in the Belly, My Life on a Plate, The Birth House, Princess Masako, and Bridget Jones Diary if I get to the library to pick it up in time. And you thought all I did in the summer was golf!
Aren't libraries just the greatest invention ever? Anyone have other reading suggestions?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I Never Thought I'd be Cheering for the Water Buffalo

Mix together a hundred water buffalo, one baby water buffalo, a pride of lions and a few crocodiles and you have yourself quite a battle. One day I hope to go on a safari.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Rockin' Out

I think the salesman in the 30th Ave. Pawn Shop was a bit surprised when I informed him the guitar I was looking for was not the nylon string classical along the wall but one of those electric ones. I've been thinking about getting an electric guitar for awhile. From the way things are going at work it appears I might have a few more online guitar students in the future. Many of these students want the electric version of the course (same as the non-electric version but with electricity) so I figured it was time to get on the band wagon.

This one is sort of a hybrid - it was an old body with a new neck attached and set by a local luthier. Knowing nothing about electric guitars (and only the 2nd time I'd been in a pawn shop) I had to take Ferdinand (the salesman and, I assume, owner) at his word. It was late Sat. afternoon and it was obvious from his breath that he'd already started his weekend. He tried to sell me a $90 beginner guitar with a short neck, then went all the way up to the $700 beauties.

Somewhere in the middle ($250 INCLUDING tax, cord, and a crazy little gadget than works as an amplifier using a 9v battery) I walked away with my guitar. Drove over to WalMart and bought a $50 Silvertone Smart IIIs amp that turned out was only $30 when I went to the till. Bargains galore.

I like the warm sound, the funky, retro look (red strings!), and the ease of playing power chords on an electric as opposed to nylon string classical. Watch for me at the next rock concert!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Doing my Part

This is called putting yourself out there. Making public an idea that pre-blogging would have been kept a carefully guarded secret. Well, not so secret, but definitely carefully kept. However, there's no commitment like a public commitment so here goes.

The price of gas: $1.259 or 125.9c (what's with the .9!! - do they really thing we're fooled by the .9 thing now that we're into those kind of numbers?); kilometers I put on my car driving to/from/between work: 90% of total (or pull some other number out of the air); number of days per week I might be able to do without a car at work: 2.

The idea: see if I can make it to work and back sans car at least 1 day per week. How? Get a ride with Ross or other work colleague who drives close by/walk. Why? It seems like the right thing to do. Or as Scott would say "Why not"? When? Starting soon. I think.

More on OLPC

Pictures, specs and descriptions of the One Laptop Per Child initiative I blogged about recently: http://www.bloglines.com/blog/Toolman?id=144

The GUI looks very interesting - and as he describes - it took him a while to get used to the 'simplicity'. The name of the GUI is currently called Sugar.
This is a phenomenal project - I'm not sure if it will change the world but if it lives up to its potential it definitely will change the way we compute.

And then there are the videos.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Balloon Inflation - the video

Up, Up and Away

Hasn't everyone always wanted to go for a Hot Air Balloon ride? There's something kind of romantic about it . However, if I'd known about the "hour after sunrise" (6:3o!) that we had to start I might not have been so eager to purchase this at last year's dream auction.

Here's some pictures for you to vicariously enjoy our trip.
First out of the truck comes the wicker basket. That's supposed to hold all of us?

Balloon starts inflating with the help of a fan (and Ross).

After a gentle liftoff we get a bird's-eye view of Vernon. Google Earth was never this good.

Right over the entire length of Swan Lake.


Remember the gentle liftoff. Not quite the same for the landing. We touched down behind a locked gate in an industrial area and the balloon had to be carried over a gulley or two to a safe, convenient spot for dismantling. At one point, Ross was piloting the balloon as the operator had to get out to help guide it and it seemed a bit out of control for a moment or two. After I got out, they brought the balloon onto its side and Ross just stepped out of the basket.Champagne, strawberries, mini-muffins finished off with a ritual to the sun. A great way to start the day. I guess.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Statistics in Art

Statistics can often be mundane and it's often a challenge to make teaching them interesting and exciting.

Here are some graphical images inspired by statistics that make a comment on some aspect of today's (US) society.

"Each image portrays a specific quantity of something: fifteen million sheets of office paper (five minutes of paper use); 106,000 aluminum cans (thirty seconds of can consumption) and so on."

Chris Jordan is the artist.

Make a call anywhere in the world - happy mother's day

I started using Skype about a year and a half ago but it seems like so many more people are using Skype these days. Now Skype has just announced:

"This Mother's Day, call any phone, anywhere in the world for free."


How can you beat that? And you don't have to just call your mom you can call anyone!

[Although I'm sure mom would appreciate the call.]

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I'm not sure why but they remind me of Scott

I'm not sure why but some of these pictures definitely make me think my son Scott. Some of them are a little freaky and most pretty outlandish.

Take a look for yourself and let me know what YOU think: Pictures of Geek Culture.

One Laptop One Child

Since first hearing about it a few years ago I have been interested in the $100 laptop concept as well as one-to-one learning. This is when we will truly see changes in the way students are educated using technology. We're making baby steps toward it now but the availability of the laptop will make using it a non-issue. It will be a given.

Now you can view this Google Tech Talk which describes the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) movement and the XO (formerly $100?) computer. The interesting thing about OLPC is its focus on education and learning not technology. I've been pushing this concept forever, but it seems that no matter what, the discussion in this district always comes back to hardware, software, standardization. Learning is often a secondary topic in educational technology. Watch the video - it's an amazing sounding device.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Five month posting drought

And all I've got is other interesting stuff.

1. ASLSP - How slow is slow? Would you believe 639 years? That's how long it will take to perform John Cage's piece called As Slow As Possible. I suppose it could be slower but at 1 note change every year that's how long it will take. You can even 'sponsor' a year with a donation but do it quickly as many years are already not available. Next opening is 2017 (as of this writing). If you go to the web site you can even hear a recording of the current tone. And you thought Stairway to Heaven was long!

2. History of the Bunny Ears - you've done it, I've done it, as a teacher I've told people not to do it - but where did it come from and why do we think it's fun (funny) to do? Although it gives a bit of history at this web site, I don't remember doing it as a kid. Do you have any pictures of you or other kids doing it in the 50s or 60s?

Exploring Haida Gwaii

Haida Gwaii (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) proved to be quite a contrast to my recent trip to Croatia. The number of touris...