Happy Holidays 2009

25 December 2009

I've been away from blogging for the past two weeks. A combination of three different respiratory infections to battle (one war is still raging), a "make up" Thanksgiving for the one I didn't get to have last month, two nights of dealing with a dying furnace, technical issues with my site that needed time and support to resolve, and other events have kept me away and busier than I would have liked. But there is plenty to share in the next few days.

I hope that your holiday season is restful and rejuvenating and you are enjoying the season. See you tomorrow.


It's All Very Personal

14 November 2009

While lying in bed the other morning, I was thinking about one particular scene in the movie Beetle Juice. Adam and Barbara (newly deceased) have gone for help, because they're rather frustrated with their afterlife. They end up in a waiting room much like you would find in any "live" government office, but filled with quite the cast of characters: a woman who had been sawed in half, an explorer with a shrunken head, etc. The following exchange with the receptionist takes place:
[in the waiting room of the afterlife]
Barbara: Adam, is this what happens when you die?
Receptionist: This is what happens when *you* die.
[points at a gaunt man smoking]
Receptionist: That is what happens when *he* dies.
[points at a woman cut in half on the sofa reading]
Receptionist: And that is what happens when *they* die. It's all very personal.
I mention this only because it is my mother's time to die. Her nine-month battle with brain cancer is at an end. It's been a difficult few days here with family as we keep a round-the-clock vigil and move into other phases.

Grieving, too, is all very personal. As such, I'm not sure what this space will look like in the next week or so as we deal with funeral arrangements and other issues. I have a few half-finished posts in the queue that I will try to shine up and set to auto-post. Please be patient with comment moderation, as my access to the internet may be intermittent and I have a variety of traveling to do.

Life moves on, sometimes in fits and starts and pauses. So will this blog.


I Get Around

02 November 2009

In another month, this blog will be five---old enough to be eligible for kindergarten next fall. And along the journey with this space, I've been fortunate enough to be able to connect in real life with many of the bloggers listed on my sidebar. I've met Ryan, Jim, Hedgetoad, Kirk and one of the bloggers (Luann) from Stories from School---all of whom are based in Washington. I recently met three teachers I've been following for awhile on Twitter (and now work with another educator I first connected with through that network). I've met Hugh (nee RepairKit and now the Thoughtful Teacher) and exchanged snail mail with Kiri8. There have been other encounters where my online life and real life have bumped into one another---no doubt there will be more.

On Sunday, I was able to make two additional connections. I could hardly stand the thought of traveling to DC for work and not find a way to meet some of my favourite educators. The writers of Organized Chaos and Elementary, My Dear, or Far From It were gracious enough to take some time away from family and their schedules to take me to brunch. I've read their blogs for years and have always been impressed with both the passion for education they bring to the edusphere, as well as the compassion they have for the students and families they work with. I have admired their intellectual curiosity and their ability to connect with readers. My heart has been both heavy and joyful at times as they've shared their window into the educational world. And now, after sharing some ricotta pancakes, bacon, and mimosas, as we chatted a mile a minute about a range of topics, I find myself even more enriched from spending some "face time" with them. Thank you both for a wonderful visit (and to OC for her very kind words).

I will be out and about a bit more this year. Some of it is work related and some of it is personal. Here's a quick rundown of my schedule at this point:
  • Within my home territory, I'll be at the annual WSSDA conference later this month, WERA conference in December, and NCCE and WSTA in March. I have presentations on a variety of topics for each of these.
  • In January, I'm headed to the Triangle area of NC (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) for ScienceOnline 2010. I am hoping to also get to Educon 2.2 in Philadelphia, but right now I don't have a funding source. Keeping my fingers crossed.
  • I'll be taking my grading presentation to the ASCD conference during the first weekend in March. If you'll be in San Antonio, let's grab a margarita on the riverwalk and talk some education.
Are you headed to Washington state? I can tell you from experience that we bloggers are a friendly group. We don't bite, bark quietly, and play well with others. If you find yourself getting around, too, drop me a line and let's get together.

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A Quick Aside

01 October 2009

Do you remember me mentioning that I was gaining six hours a week this year? The amount of time cited represented what I save by telecommuting two days per week; however, there are far more benefits than that.

I save 40% on gas, maintenance, and wear and tear on my car...40% on bridge tolls and parking fees. Those are the obvious personal benefits. But I also save 40% on makeup, pantyhose, wear and tear on workclothes/drycleaning costs. In a biennium where there will be no pay raises for state workers, these savings represent a bigger and better benefit than any raise I could have ever had. And the thing is, it doesn't cost the state any more to give it to me.

It's true, I recover that time that I would have spent driving. There are other time benefits. I am not ruled by an alarm clock every work day. This does not mean I can sleep in as late as I want, but when one's "office" is 20 steps from the bed, I can "sleep in" until 6 (I usually have to be up at 4:30) and still easily be to work on time. My work ebbs and flows with the day. I can spend the first few hours of the morning on projects while my mind is most alert and active...and when I'm ready for a mid-morning break, I have a shower and breakfast. There are now three "Fridays" a week, because the evening before a telecommute day, I feel like I can relax and destress. I can actually be wild and stay up until 10 p.m. without fearing I will be dead on my feet the next morning due to lack of sleep.

I'm better focused and more productive on the days when I can sit in my kitchen with the sunlight and fresh air streaming in and can rest my eyes now and then on watching the tide move in and out. The fact is, I probably put in more hours at home than the office simply because I can use the time and space to best suit the needs of the tasks at hand.

I also am getting to reconnect with personal friends and projects. Without the 90-minute drive at the end of the day, I can finish up at 4 p.m. (my scheduled time) and meet someone for a brew at 4:15. I feel like I can be creative again. I'm a real person---not just a worker bee.

So, on one of these "Friday" evenings, as I see the time on the clock is past ten (and I'm okay with that), it just seems right to have a quick aside here to say how much I'm looking forward to spending more time here.

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13 September 2009

It's been a very busy couple of weeks. I started my new job and am very excited about a couple of the projects I'm gearing up to do. For the first time in a long time, I don't feel like I'm trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Stay tuned for details. Here are some other snapshots.

Sprinkled amongst the work have been some other efforts. I did go to visit my mother---making the 18-hour roundtrip one last time while she is still with us. She continues to decline (both physically and mentally), but is not in any pain. In fact, the fantasy world that she continues to build around herself is very much a happy place. When I left the rest home last Sunday, there was this beautiful (double) rainbow waiting for me.

My new job arrangement permits me to telecommute one - two days per week. Friday was the first day doing this. Below is a picture of my new co-worker.

She was quite happy to snuggle behind the laptop...then check now and then to see if I was ready for a coffee break.

And yesterday, my aunt (birthmother's youngest sister) married. It is the only big event with the family I've ever been to. I went primarily because my mother cannot. My aunt (who is only 5 years older than I) has been especially devastated by my mother's illness. So, I went to the wedding not so much for myself, but rather as proxy for my mother. It was a bittersweet day, to be sure. It was also a bit odd---a variation on P.D. Eastman's Are You My Mother? as I tried to determine who I was actually related to. I met two cousins, one of them a blonde version of me, for the very first time. To be an adult adoptee can make one a stranger in a strange land when birthfamily is involved. I get stared at a lot as relatives look to find traces of my mother and others in the family. This is not to say that I am unwelcome or excluded. All evidence to the contrary as I sit with the rest of the bride's family at dinner and am asked to be in family photos. Whether or not I had the benefit of growing up in that environment, the end result is the same: I belong.

Today, I plan to get out and enjoy some sunshine...catch up on my reading...and hopefully get a few new posts added to the blog queue. Perhaps the random snapshots that have been making up my days can be stitched together to make sense of a bigger picture.

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Class of 2013 Mindset List

23 August 2009

Every year, Beloit College in Wisconsin puts together a list for its faculty. The list "provides a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college. It is the creation of Beloit’s Keefer Professor of the Humanities Tom McBride and Emeritus Public Affairs Director Ron Nief. It is used around the world as the school year begins, as a reminder of the rapidly changing frame of reference for this new generation."

I've blogged about a couple of the lists in the past (Classes of 2009 and 2010), but this year's version is special for me. Those entering college this year were born the year I started my career: 1991. So, as I look at this list, I see a time capsule of my life in education. You can find the entire Class of 2013 version here, but a sample is below:

  • They have never used a card catalog to find a book.
  • Salsa has always outsold ketchup.
  • Earvin "Magic" Johnson has always been HIV-positive.
  • Text has always been hyper.
  • Babies have always had a Social Security Number.
  • They have never had to “shake down” an oral thermometer.
  • American students have always lived anxiously with high-stakes educational testing.
  • Except for the present incumbent, the President has never inhaled.
  • State abbreviations in addresses have never had periods.
  • The European Union has always existed.
  • McDonald's has always been serving Happy Meals in China.
  • Condoms have always been advertised on television.
  • Their folks could always reach for a Zoloft.
  • Women have always outnumbered men in college.
  • We have always watched wars, coups, and police arrests unfold on television in real time.
  • Elizabeth Taylor has always reeked of White Diamonds.
  • There has always been a Planet Hollywood.
My sense of time is different now than when I was in the classroom. There is no beginning/end to the school year for me---no winter/spring break...no summer holiday. Starting a new job on September 1 is about as close as I'll get to ringing in Year 19 of my career. In the meantime, it's fun for me to look at this list and think about not only how the world has changed since I started down this road, but how I have, too.

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Summertime Blues

12 July 2009

When I was a classroom teacher, July was always a prized month---the only month of the year that I didn't have to go to work. This is not to say that school was ever far from my mind...or that I didn't attend workshops, take classes, or think about the upcoming year. But how I spent my time was my decision.

And this July? Other than the state holiday on the third of July, I work the whole month (including two Sundays). It's an odd frame of mind to be in. All the teachers I run across are giving up vacation time---and are starting to look refreshed and rejuvenated from time off. Me? I look like something the cat dragged in after nearly 11 months on the job and only two official vacation days in that time period.

However, my mind is taking time to wander and wonder. I finally had a breakthrough in how I want to organize my book on grading. I'm ready to write (if I only had the time). I've made some decisions about which direction to move my career and some even more difficult personal decisions. I've enjoyed my yard---doing lots of gardening and making plans for the future of my little home.

I have to admit that I miss the "old" July---so full of "want to's" and not "have to's." But right now, there ain't no cure for the summertime blues.


Calendar Girl

11 June 2009

As a teacher, I always looked forward to May and June. The end of the school year and the change to summer weather and pasttimes was a favourite time of year. This year, however, I have looked at those months on the calendar and cringed. With the change in job came nearly 6 straight weeks of being on the road.

I am not, by nature, very adventurous. I prefer being home vs. being anywhere else. The thought of having to make arrangements for pets, yard, bills, etc. for well over a month while I lived out of a suitcase elsewhere has made for a tense spring. I could see my nomadic existence looming and feel my blood pressure rise. But I am home for the duration now. And here is a wrap-up of major events...

I started out with the issue shown at the right. Not 30 minutes after I had arrived at my destination, a chatty guy on a cell phone in a large company pickup truck hit my car. Mind you, my car was parked and he was going very slowly, but nearly $1000 of damage was done. No one was hurt; however, this event did create a challenge as it was only the start of my trip. A rather ominous beginning. That week was full of low points. I'm glad I endured it first...and perhaps it is best that this is the half of the job I was RIFed from.

I also discovered some new artists during my travels. Two samples added to my collection are shown below. On the left is a print by Geoffrey Harris. I truly fell in love with his work. Lots of colourful and beautiful paintings of robots and old mechanical toys. I wish I could fill my house with his work. And on the right is a photograph by Leah Cavanah. She takes her pictures using two cameras---one is held up to the viewfinder of the other in order to take the photo. The pictures have a rather ethereal sense both in colour and composition.

I was able to pick up a couple of other trinkets along the way. They will be pleasant reminders of this incredible journey. I prefer them to battle scars for the endurance test I've just completed.

Now that I'm home again for a few days, I will be catching up on the mail...the chores (the person hired to tend my yard didn't...sigh...)...reconnecting with friends...and figuring out what my next steps are. I've missed the blooming of my peonies and lilacs this year. I just now purchased my vegetables to plant. I feel like an alien in my own house, trying to remember what day the trash can goes to the curb and where I store various kitchen tools. Six weeks is a long time to be gone.

My summer calendar is already filling up, but at least I will no longer be under a wandering star.



23 May 2009

This week there were different contractors to work with...and they were delightful. I have to say that I haven't laughed as much in the last several months as I did this past week. It was nice to have a collaborative and supportive environment---it reestablished my belief that there really are people working on the fringes of the educational world who actually make their decisions on what is best for kids. And it shed a very pale and unflattering light on the other environment in which I often work. The very same environment that reached out to me by phone this week to blithely remark that I'm being RIF'ed from it.

I suppose I should be upset, if not by the news than from the graceful way in which this whole event the past few months was handled. Instead, I'm rather ambivalent.

There are no easy truths here. What I can say is that I'll miss about a couple of programs I will not be moving forward with. I'm sad that teachers and kids aren't going to have someone reminding other leaders that we serve them---not the other way around. What's left will likely drive science education to very selfish ends. I find that heartbreaking. However, I am also a bit relieved that I don't have to be dragged down with it. No more waking up in the morning and wondering if I can call in sick rather than have to deal with certain individuals one. more. time. I will be free to speak my mind on any number of topics I have had to mute this year. This can only help teachers and schools make better informed choices. I can once again do what's best for kids, not best for someone else.

So, it is a time of opportunity. I have half a job after June 30 (and full benefits). It looks like I can expand that half into a whole either through the department who still owns half of me...or through another department which has some interests in another area of my skillset. I might also be able to work full-time for a completely different department, moving away from science and into data use and educational technology. Or, perhaps I keep my half-position and beat the bushes for consulting and/or contract work. Maybe now is the time to hit the road with the standards-based grading show.

I am looking for balance at this point---work that fires my passion and time for my home, friends, and self. This is not much different than what other educators are continually seeking. And I am more fortunate than many these days---losing all of their job and benefits. I have choices and options at this crossroads.

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Be Yourself

10 May 2009


I've got money in my pocket
I like the color of my hair
I've got a friend who loves me
Got a house, I've got a car
I've got a good mother
And her voice is what keeps me here

Feet on ground
Heart in hand
Facing forward
Be yourself

I've never wanted anything
No I've, no I've, I've never wanted anything
So bad...
So bad

Cardboard masks of all the people I've been
Thrown out with all the rusted, tangled, dented, goddamned miseries.

You could say I'm hard to hold.
But if you knew me, you'd know
I've got a good father
And his strength is what makes me cry

Feet on ground
Heart in hand
Facing forward
Be yourself

I've never wanted anything
No I've, no I've, I've never wanted anything
So bad...
So bad

I've got money in my pockets
I like the color of my hair
I've got a friend who loves me
Got a house, I've got a car
I've got a good mother
And her voice is what keeps me here

Feet on ground
Heart in hand
Facing forward
Be yourself

Heart in hand
Feet on ground
Facing forward
Be yourself
Just be yourself
Just be yourself

Feet on ground
Heart in hand
Feet on ground
Heart in hand

---Jann Arden; Good Mother; Living Under June; 1994

Happy Mothers' Day to one and all.


Clearing Out the Cobwebs

06 May 2009

Although this is a personal blog, I don't put a lot of my personal life here. It is typically a place for my thoughts and ideas about what's happening out in the Edusphere and a bit about my working life. But things have been rather quiet around these parts as aspects of my personal life are demanding more of my time.

Some of you know that in February, my mother was diagnosed with brain cancer. The tumor is about the size of a baseball. Its location did not make surgery a possibility. Chemotherapy was attempted, but left her so immune compromised that she can never have any more chemo. Radiation is also suspended unless her bone marrow becomes functional again and health improves. In the meantime, the tumor will continue to grow and take away her brain function.

In between dealing with this situation on a mainly long-distance basis (I have just made a trip to visit and will do so again next month, if she is with us), trying to keep up at work, and wrapping up my doctoral study, I haven't had a lot of headspace leftover for the blog. However, that hasn't kept me from marking things in Google Reader to comment upon or ended my interactions with teachers around grading practices and other things. It's just slowed them down. I hope you'll stick around.


Spring Fever

27 March 2009

Seems like it's been awhile since we've had some fun around here. All grading and no playing makes for a very dull blog indeed. So hows about I share some of my current favourite toys?

Kicking things off is my new Acer Aspire One. For those of you who haven't seen one of these before, it's a teeny-tiny laptop: about the size of a thin hardback book, but a lot lighter. Yes, the keyboard is small---but I'm not finding that to be much of a problem. Typing is a simple adjustment. The greatest problem has been remembering where special keys (e.g. del, pgdn, arrows...) are, and even that isn't too much of a headache. I have also been surprised to discover just how much I rely on my touchpad for navigation---and how little I rely on a keyboard at all. This little toy will accompany me on trips from now on. It easily slips in my purse and allows me to leave my regular laptop safe and sound at home. I love it!

I have been doing my presentation on grading practices and student motivation for almost a year now---which means that I am going to retire it from the circuit soon. It doesn't mean I won't support school/district requests to work with them, just that now that I've hit the area conferences, I probably need something new in my repertoire for that crowd. I have to say that the biggest response I get is about record-keeping strategies---especially using Excel for this purpose. So, I hope to expand that piece into a full session on information visualization for the classroom. The newest version of Sparklines is sure to be a crowdpleaser. I may actually spend my Friday night playing with this.

Speaking of presentations, I'm always looking for unusual ideas and images to capture the imagination or use as transitions between sessions. From my most recent YouTube meanderings, I recommend Extreme Sheep LED Art and Humans! I'm also liking this tiltshift approach to video (you can make your own tiltshift photos here) as shown in this Mardi Gras parade.

Need a game to keep you amused? Adam Savage from the Mythbusters recommended Balldroppings. I admit the name of the game seems slightly risque, but it's quite family friendly.

Or perhaps you need some new digital tools? How about Contxts where you can create a mobile business card? Thinkature, Blellow, and Mixed Ink supply you with some interesting new ways to collaborate on-line. If your travel and meeting budgets are now as extinct as the Dodo due to budget cuts, have a look at these as alternatives. And if, like me, you're trying to be more visual in your approach, you may want to have a look at Lovely Charts and Exploratree for ideas and support.

It's the weekend, and for many out there, Spring Break. Even if I don't have time off, I plan to get out for a bit (weather permitting). Michael Perry said that "Seed catalogs are responsible for more unfulfilled fantasies than Enron and Playboy combined." He's probably right---as this is the time of year when I begin longing to dig around in the dirt and see things come to life again. It's time for Nature to pull out her frocks and sandals. When you're done checking out the links above, I hope you'll join me in the garden.


Take a Breath

16 February 2009

With my current schedule, I don't get a lot of opportunity for a personal life. It's all Science Goddess, all the time (with a tiny bit of "doctoral candidate" thrown in as "hobby"). This means that I have come to greatly appreciate three-day weekends---far more than I did as a classroom teacher. It also means that I am enjoying my time with friends more, not just because those visits are rare these days, but it is nice to be with people who don't see me as The Big Cheese. I don't have to watch every word I say or spend the time engaged in various diplomatic negotiations.

So today, I get to take a time out and reconnect with a variety of friends and former colleagues. I have a coffee date with my favourite first grade teachers...and a lunch date with my number one science teacher...and have a plan to wrap up some other projects in the afternoon. Life will be tidied up a bit before Tuesday gets here to make things messy again.

Enjoy your President's Day, Family Day, or other holiday!


Take Your Pick

14 February 2009

There are two holidays that I typically dreaded as a classroom teacher: Halloween and Valentine's Day. Both fueled sugar frenzies in students, although the effects of Halloween were most noticeable the day after and Valentine's in secondary schools involves far more drama than it should. I never had trouble getting secondary teachers to volunteer for all-day meetings or staff development on February 14. Last year's experience in an elementary school, however, was a sweet trip (literally and figuratively) down memory lane. I thought about it a lot while I was in the office yesterday, wishing I was hanging with some kinders.

Perhaps you have your own love-hate relationship with the pink beast that shows up on this date each year. I've rounded up my favourite confections from around the 'net. Take your pick of the litter. Happy Valentine's Day!

The ever clever XKCD shared a Sierpinski valentine:

Perhaps you know a certain someone who might like something from the Periodic Table of Sentiments?Or maybe Darwin (there are others featuring Carl Sagan, Mme. Curie, Einstein, and Newton) for that special valentine scientist in your life?

For good old-fashioned snark, head on over to Some E-cards:


Obligatory Post

31 December 2008

If you use the Gregorian calendar year, then today marks the end of 2008. As I write this, nearly half the planet is already into 2009. I hope that all is well on the other side. The rest of us will find out soon enough.

By this same calendar, it's Wednesday. I haven't reminded readers of the Carnival of Education for awhile, but this periodic addition to the Edusphere is now in its 204th incarnation over at Bellringers. Go visit your favourites from 2008 and perhaps find some new blogs to read for 2009.

It will be a quiet evening here, chez Science Goddess. I had a wonderful time out with friends last night---an early celebration of sorts. Tonight, I'm staying home...and if I feel really wild, I may get a Costco pizza and/or open one of the splits of champagne I've been saving for my graduation party. I am off until Monday.

2008 was not too bad of a year. I learned a lot about grading, had my most favourite job ever (elementary instructional coach), started to be a creator and producer of knowledge to share (presentations on grading practices), and more. I met a ton of new people--both on-line and in the real world. I am grateful for all of my friends, as well as being able to have money in the bank, a roof over my head, and food in the pantry. I may not be wealthy in a material sense, but I feel rich in ways that maen more to me.

As for the upcoming calendar year? I haven't given it a lot of thought. I hope to put my dissertation to bed this spring. I'd like to finish up the book proposal I was asked to write and get the best practices in grading website and Ning up and running. I want to be healthy and spend more time with friends (I am thinking about working 4-day 10-hour work weeks in order to get back my personal life.). I want to find a project or two at work that I can be passionate, rather than bureaucratic, about. Perhaps I can translate these things into some semblance of goals and action.

Best wishes to all of you in the coming year. See you on the next page of the calendar.


Happy Holidays!

25 December 2008

I hope that all of you are enjoying the holiday season---whatever that may mean for you in terms of creed or style of celebration. We are still snowy here, but things appear to be melting a bit. I've been able to get out of the house twice in the last 8 days...I'm actually looking forward to being able to go back to work on Monday. How sick is that?

I did get some wonderful gifts this year. I must have been a very good girl. Blogger, however, is getting coal in its stocking from me---having borked their ftp publishing the last several days. By sheer luck, I'm able to post again. Many out there cannot.

If, like me, you're starting to get a bit stir crazy and are ready to call it a Christmas, might I suggest the following links for a bit of comic relief?
  • The Saturday Bulletin has had quite the Christmas series going (see example at the beginning of the post---it's not PC, but I still giggle every time). Some are naughty, others shed light on Santa's recruiting methods, and one is brave enough to put into words what we were all thinking about string pulltoys. Guaranteed classy, indeed.
  • I also recommend The Weepies. Be sure to shake the snow globe.
  • If you have too much snow (and who doesn't these days?), take a look at these very cool snow prints. I may have to try something like this next time we get a snowfall. Like later today. Or perhaps show your pets this video of a dog joyfully playing in 4.5' of snow to encourage similar participation.
I am going to spend the rest of the day putting away paraphernalia, snacking, and cleaning house. Tonight, I'm snuggling down with the Bogeyfest on TCM and some pinot noir.

Best wishes to all of you for safe travels, happy families, and turkey/ham leftovers. Eat sugar cookies until you can eat no more. Get your Guitar Hero on. Take naps and watch wee ones play with toys. 2009 will be here soon enough.


It Just Keeps Going and Going

21 December 2008

The picture on the left shows the scene on the mat by my front door this morning. Can you tell I left a bit of food out last night?

We had about 5 inches of new snow overnight, and it has continued to snow all day today (so far). This has really been the energizer bunny of storms. I notice that the Hedgetoad, who lives west of here, is also having her own weather saga. The governor is asking people to stay off the roads today---what that means for tomorrow remains to be seen. However, at least one of us who is snowbound here appears to be wondering if I will ever go back to the office.

I do have several exciting projects to work on. No, really. I'm supporting a few islands of teachers who are trying to implement best practices in grading---and I have some presentations coming up and some data manipulations I want to share. I am sure to steal some of Bill Ferriter's pivot table ideas to add to my bag of tricks. I am cogitating on ways to help these various islands of practice connect. They are sprinkled all over the state and are lonely in their own ways. Perhaps a Ning for them? I'm also working on my book proposal. I finished up my outline and have chunked out the introductory chapter. If I can finish that piece and write another sample chapter, I will be ready to test the publishing waters to see if I can snake a deal for the rest of the book. And there is always dissertation drama. I also have new things to think about as my job responsibilities start to lean more toward the area of assessment. Frankly, I'd rather work from home (and am more productive without the myriad of distractions offered by the agency) than make the long trek to the office. If the weather continues like this, I may just get my wish for Monday and Tuesday.

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And Now for Something Completely Different

19 December 2008

Houseboundiness continues here. Every school district in the four counties I traverse to/from work is closed, so my laptop, sofa, and I will soldier on with various tasks. Up to another foot of snow is due on Sunday. It appears that I may not be able to leave the house until spring thaw. Since I'm out of links to share (and cabin fever is starting to set in), I thought I'd share my Top 5 holiday movies. To be fair, most of these are just movies set during December/January---not necessarily a lot to do with Christmas itself...but they are the ones that I like to watch this time of year.

Number Five: Holiday

This is probably the least well-known of the Cary Grant-Katharine Hepburn pairings. Bringing Up Baby and The Philadelphia Story deservedly get more attention, but this is still a little jewel of a film. For once, Hepburn doesn't play strong---she's a bit demure and stubborn in a quiet way. Perhaps even passive aggressive. She tries to resist adoring her sister's fiance (Grant) who has being introduced to the family over the holidays, but we can all see that Grant's and Hepburn's characters belong together. Eventually, they do, too.

Number Four:
The Man Who Came to Dinner

Monty Woolley chews up the scenery as Sheridan Whiteside, the man who not only comes to dinner, but won't go away. His larger than life world takes over the home he invades and those he interacts with. Hart and Kaufman's script is full of pre-WWII pop culture references and zingers that truly bite and leave a mark. Bette Davis plays one of her most understated roles while Ann Sheridan (the Oomph Girl herself) vamps it up.

Number Three: The Year Without a Santa Claus

It might not be Rankin-Bass's Magnum Opus, but it has the most cherished place in my grinchlike heart nonetheless. And, for the record, I'm a total Snow Miser groupie (even considering present circumstances).

Number Two: Christmas in Connecticut

I am not a big fan of Barbara Stanwyck, but there's just something about this film that sparkles. It's slapstick without being over the top...character development is strong...and the plot tiptoes along the line to being absurd without completely crossing over. Pure Hollywood. Like other films on this list, it's not so much about Christmas as it is a romcom set in the holiday season. Go watch. Giggle as Babs tries to flip a pancake for the first time, is clueless about changing a diaper, and falls for Dennis Morgan. I dare you to resist the urge to pinch S.Z. Sakall's cheeks through your tv screen. Reginald Gardner (who also starred in #4) makes an appearance as the man we all know Barb shouldn't marry, but who turns out to be a nice guy anyway.

Number One (with a bullet): A Christmas Story

What other choice could there be? Ralphie's passion for an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, the ubiquitous Bumpus hounds, Scut Farkus, the pink bunny suit, leg lamp, triple-dog dares, Lifebuoy soap, and all the rest provide much needed perspective and comic relief to the season.

Let's hope that tomorrow brings a break to the ugly weather...or who knows what I'll be posting here. :)


Get Thee to a Voting Booth

04 November 2008

Or Post Office.

Or City Hall Drop-off Box.

Or wherever you vote.

Yes, it's (finally) Election Day 2008, and while I don't vote (I'm Canadian), I do encourage those who have such privileges to exercise them. I'll be watching several races closely, for my own personal and professional reasons, and will be anxious to get home from work, pop some corn, and settle in with the news programs and Twitter.

May the best candidates win (click to embiggen).


Searching for the Muse

01 November 2008

Here it is, November, and I'm still trying to get my poop in a pile. The new job is not conducive to blogging, for several reasons...but I hope to massage this space into something that works well for everyone. I'm still looking for the right muse.

By far, the worst aspect of my new job is the amount of time I spend on the road. I have quite the commute, but with the economy as it is...and housing market not so rosy...well, it doesn't make a lot of sense at this particular time to move (even with the price of gas). At the same time, I'm also finding it nice to have physical space away from the office and closer to my familiar "old" life.

When I first started this job, I was warned about the E.F. Hutton aspect to things. And during the week, I'm very mindful of that. But when I get out to lunch with my friends or exchange some playful text messages with people I used to work with, or even just grab a late night bite to eat at my favourite hangout, I am very glad that I don't live where I work. It keeps me from becoming my job. At least I hope so.

At the same time, having 2.5 hours of windshield time everyday creates a whole different sort of "tired." By the time I navigate my way through the rush hour maze to get home, I'm not finding a whole lot of mental energy is left available for blogging.

Meanwhile, the kinds of things I run across would be wonderful to write about---trust me, I'm enmeshed in all manner of tall tales with this job...but, the information is often privileged. I have to really pick and choose the specifics of the projects I share here. There is also an awful lot of Kool-Aid I'm asked to drink: the special interest groups all have their own concoction. I have to tell you that I'm not much of a Kool-Aid fan. It goes against my "Every Kid. Every Day." philosophy and my frustration with adults who are only looking out for their own interests. The Kool-Aid sellers are specialized around a particular cause or approach (hence the cult-like Jonestown reference). And, man, are they are out to tempt me with their wares.

I find this a rather curious position to be in. I am not someone who is able to give special favours to anyone else...and the fact is, I wouldn't even if I could. If anything, the presence of so many special interest groups where science education is concerned is a sure sign of Darwinian forces at work. Their diversity is astounding...as is their competitive nature. Playing favourites would seem to be a very dangerous kind of game.

But, oh, the Kool-Aid I'm asked to sample.

The days have a variety of roles for me to fulfill. Sometimes, I'm just an appendage, representing someone else at a meeting or sitting in with a process. There are other times when I feel like the person in the parade with the trash can and shovel who has to clean up after the elephants---the result of promises made by others and not kept translates to me trying to make things pretty again. I don't know that I'm "old," but I am "experienced," and this translates to different things in the office---especially when it comes to mentoring young women who are starting out with their various careers. It's not a role I've had before. And amongst all of this, there are a few flashes of brilliance here or there---the times I get to work alongside teachers in schools or really dig into the kinds of work that will make change happen in this state.

In the past few years, many good people have left my former district. I have yet to find a single one who has any regrets. Sure, you miss certain individuals, but to get a different view and see that there are educational arenas out there which are not dysfunctional (and in denial about what/who created that) is a relief in that you know you made the right choice. Whatever sacrifices and changes to your life the decision had, no matter the ripple effect, the current situation is the best of all possible worlds. At least for the present.

Perhaps somewhere in developing that happy state of mind, the Muse to blog will return.


An Awfully Big Adventure

14 August 2008

By the time Blogger posts this for me, I'll be far far away from my little house and the quiet life I've lived over the past few weeks. It's the first day of school for me, in a sense: My first day of my new career.

I don't remember my first day of school as a k-12 student---not for any grade level. All I remember from my first day of college was the huge crush of people, after I went from a town of 5000 people to a campus with 50,000. My first day as a teacher? Positively amnesic about it, although for some reason, I do remember the dress that I wore (navy blue, sailor style...with a white belt). I suppose firsts should carry some significance. Maybe this next one will.

There are some advantages to being the n00b. It's never okay to be stupid, but it is acceptable to be ignorant for the first few months. One can say "No." far more easily while learning the ropes. There will be any number of odd situations and trials by fire that will make for great stories later. I will have to expect the unexpected and be ready to jump into all sorts of things I would never have anticipated as a classroom teacher. Federal grants? Standards revision? Presenting to legislators? Working with science coaches across the state? Developing k-12 training materials? All part of what may well be on my plate...the makings of an awfully big adventure.



11 August 2008

I've wandered lots of "Back to School" aisles recently. And even with my fetish for office supplies, I have managed to resist most of my urges. This year, I don't need to stock up on glue sticks or colored pencils. I won't need a cute lesson planning notebook or a box of green pens. The fact is, I don't even have a solid job description yet. I won't see my office space until my third day on the job---so I haven't a clue what I should take to my new place. My professional library? Artwork for a wall? Files? It feels odd to show up to a new job with nothing more than the clothes on my back.

And yet, the start of another school year brings out my nesting instincts. While other teachers are busy setting up their classrooms, I can only anticipate what might lie ahead for me.

I replaced my 9-year old car. I have a new lunch box, haircut, and have tried to stock up on toiletries and other home sundries so that I can just focus on the new job for awhile. I have a couple of bags of stationery goodies to stock my new workspace. I bought some blank CDs and have been loading them with songs and audiobooks for my new extensive commute. I've made oodles of phone calls to deal with different accounts/issues and had many more pleasant visits with friends. I've run errands to take care of all those little things I've been putting off---like getting a bag repaired. I cancelled my Netflix (for now) and reordered my favourite pencils. My computer has all of its updates installed. Ive had lunch at some of the places I like best, knowing it may be some time before I get to enjoy them again. Laundry and dishes are done. Miscellaneous filing and household chores are complete, too.

At first, I worried that starting work on Thursday would be too soon...that I would need more transition time. But with all of the nesting I've been doing, I think I'm actually ready to fly.


The Blog, It Is A'Changin'

06 August 2008

Sometimes when I toodle around the edusphere, I feel positively ancient. My little corner of this on-line world is not quite four years old and it has seen a lot of change in that time---not just in my own life as a professional, but in the community in general. I am delighted to find new writers...and grieve the fallen bloggers among us. Oh, how I miss Graycie and Mr. Lawrence. Ms. Frizzle has moved on to new career adventures. I hope you all are well and happy.

I am certainly not ready to hang up my blogging shoes, but I have to admit that my focus has really had some major adjustments. I went from being in the classroom 80% of the time...to 20% of the time...to none of the time...to half time. I've tackled elementary science, new to the profession teachers, an EdD, and delving into grading/motivation. I've learned how to make learning meaningful for adults as well as first graders. I got to both attend and present at conferences. As someone who is more interested in the journey than the destination, this has been a wonderful time in my life.

But change is coming again---good change for me. After twelve years in one spot, I have tendered my resignation. The school district is going down paths that I cannot follow. It has been noted by many that "all of the good ones are leaving." I've seen the people I respect the most already make their way to greener pastures, and it is now my turn. It makes me sad that we are having to abandon something we love and the students we've cared for to leadership (both administrative and union) which has no interest in doing the right thing, let alone the integrity to carry it through. The supe is fond of saying that "You're either on the bus, or you're not." which is oddly reminiscent of others I can't identify with. I've made my choice, as have many others I know. My friends who have already emigrated remark at how much more enlightened other districts and programs are. They have not found Utopia, only relief. This used to be an amazing place to work. Perhaps it will be again, someday. I hate to think of exactly how derelict it will become in the meantime...but I can do no more here.

As for me, I have a new job and a wonderful future. I have a very big job working with the state---a job I'm not sure that any mere mortal can actually do and do well. But I will try. And starting next week, I will launch myself into all sorts of new experiences and start growing as a professional in ways that I would never have anticipated when I started my career. This old dog is going to have to learn all kinds of new tricks.

I'm not sure what this will mean for this space. I do plan to continue blogging, but there will be a lot about my work that I won't be able to share. (My hunch is that it would make for very dry reading, anyway.) Now that I will be away from a school, I think it's more important than ever that I stay connected to the conversations happening around the edusphere. I need to keep tuned into what is happening with teachers---and most importantly, kids. I can't be effective as a leader if I am removed from all of that. My hope is that my transition will be good fodder for talking about how to make large scale change happen...that I can make the legislation to classroom process more transparent (although it's doubtful I will be able to make it be logical)...and that having this role will provide a different kind of perspective and voice in the edusphere. I don't know of any edubloggers who do the kind of work I will be doing.

Hang in there with me. The blog may be a'changin'.

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28 July 2008

I have to share something deeply personal with you. I may be in need of an intervention or some sort of 12-step program. You see, I have an addiction to stationery supplies. I can't go into an Office Depot or a Staples without having to get something. And at this time of year? When Target and Wal-Mart are all decked out with their Back-to-School supplies? My eyes glaze over and my bank account shivers in fear.

I've tried to be good this year...but it's so hard. See, first there were these typewriter key binder clips:

Then, I saw these paper clips with paper tabs. You can write on the tabs and more easily organize the stacks of papers that accumulate on your desk.

There was more, too, like composition notebooks with pretty covers for 50 cents and spiral notebooks for a nickel; but, I'm sure you get the idea. Is anyone else having the same issues at this time of year? Should we form a support group...or just give in to our raging compulsions? :)


Meme for a Summer Friday

25 July 2008

Clix has a meme that she believes is too good to keep to herself. As for me, since my Well of Inspiration has had to be raided for other pursuits recently, I'm glad to have a germ of an idea for a post. You're welcome to use it, too.

When you go to the beach, lake, or pool, are you more likely to lower yourself gradually into cold water or to take a determined plunge and get it over with? I'm more of a "one part at a time" gal, myself, especially when I don't know how deep the water is. Nothing spoils a swim like a broken neck.

How is this like (or unlike) your approach to other tasks or ordeals? Dude, if I'm at the beach or the pool, then it is likely not a task or ordeal. As for those kinds of things, if it's a familiar task (e.g. housework, paying bills), then jumping in is the order of the day. New problems require more caution.

When someone gives you flowers, are you more likely to let them turn completely brown and gross before throwing them out, or to discard them the moment they take on that sick-flower look? I absolutely love having fresh cut flowers. They are both a luxury and a rarity---but there's nothing better to perk me up than to have them in the room. Usually, I keep them until the bitter, gooey end. However, I will toss out individual stems along the way, if they're too yukky.

How is this like (or unlike) your approach to other gifts, purchases, or relationships? Depends. I am rarely sentimental about "stuff" and have routinely regifted items that I didn't like or thrown away small Christmas gifts with the wrapping paper if I know I'll never want something cluttering my space. This is not to say that I don't have some things I absolutely treasure and will always want to have with me.

Think of your favourite movie (or a movie you really like, if you can't think of a favourite). Some people say that the reasons you love your favourite movie are related to what you value in romantic relationships. How is this true or untrue in your case? I'm a real movie hound, so picking a single favourite is not an option. Some movies I like because of the way they're shot, others the story, and still others the acting. I tend to be rather eclectic in my choices. I can find things to appreciate in nearly anyone, but the confluence of just the right factors is a rare thing, indeed.

And now, it's time to open a nice bottle of wine for this Friday evening and see how much inspiration I can find at the bottom of a glass. :) Merry weekend to one and all!

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My Space

13 July 2008

My house would be considered "old" by some. It was built in 1941 and is more or less what you'd expect for a space from that time. It's small (living space <1000 sq. ft + unfinished basement) with short board hardwood floors, coved ceilings, eat-in kitchen, a tiny bathroom, and two very small closets. It sits at the bottom of about a half-acre hill. Out of the nine houses I remember living in over the years, this one is my absolute favourite. It fits me just right.

But as I do things to maintain or improve the property---both inside and out---I can't help but think of the other people who must have loved the house, too.

Someone was really into trees. I have a California Redwood in the back yard. It is a giant of a tree, as you might expect, and must have been planted around the same time as the house was built. My reading about such trees indicates that this one has been mature for some time. It may be the only Redwood in the yard, but it is not the only unusual tree on the property. All the way along the property line are different types of trees: various firs, maples, and more. Who planted them? Why?

Inside the house, there is evidence of changes over time, too. Who built the staircase and created the loft out of the attic space? Materials suggest something within the last two decades. What happened to the old octopus furnace in the basement? Its location on the concrete in the basement is still present. One of the doors to the outside appears to have been the main door at one point---but how did that work with the rest of the house? The configuration now doesn't make sense.

I want HGTV to do a show where they reunite all the owners of a property. What a great opportunity to find out whose grand idea it was to have pink bathroom fixtures (as I had in one place) or to put outlets in the middle of a wall (as I have here). But also, I'd like to see pictures of this place in its various incarnations. There must have been birthday parties, Christmases with small happy children, tears of sorrow, and all manner of memories created here. Someone must have documented all kinds of small moments over the last 67 years. There should be family photo albums or scrapbooks with these pieces of history. Several people out there remember this house differently than I will. Perhaps they came here to have Sunday dinners with grandparents. Maybe they remember walking across the street to the beach. They might even remember who planted what. If I were independently wealthy, I could see writing a book about this---the search for former owners and connecting to the history of a house.

I'm the custodian of this space for now. I am doing some small things to the interior---like paint, updating the bathroom, and (eventually) new carpet for the loft. Outside, I am trying to maintain what was here---including beds of blueberries, strawberries, and hydrangeas---and add a few touches of my own. At some point, I will likely move on and someone else will have their chance to make this home their space.


Serving It Up on Father's Day

15 June 2008

I'm not a dad, but Father's Day makes me think of backyard grilling. And on a day like today where the sun is actually shining and the urge to be outside overrides things like writing final exams or doing the dishes, I wish that I had one of these toys to play with. Prep space, container for charcoal, places to hang the tools, and more---all with a propane starter so that you can have charcoal grilled taste without dealing with lighter fluid and butane lighters. Weber's Performer is a thing of beauty, don't you agree? The only problem is that one needs a sugar daddy in order to afford one of these grills. :)

It is almost summer holiday here. I owe one district five days and another four days of work. Final exams start Tuesday for my high schoolers and Field Day will be happening tomorrow for the elementary crowd. There are end of year parties and last minute details filling up the calendar. And there are some long lazy days stretching out from there. All I need is a grill to keep me company.

Happy Father's Day to you dads out there.


Trivial Pursuit

14 June 2008

I wish I'd had one of these buttons with me this morning. I took the elementary endorsement test for Washington...and "That was easy." One of the people there was taking a test for the sixth time. I'm hoping that she just suffers from poor test-taking skills, because if she doesn't know the content well enough to pass one of these tests...well, she probably shouldn't be trying to impart anything to kids.

I did the science and math questions first (natch). During the social studies part of the test, I realized that taking this test was a lot like playing Trivial Pursuit. What is the Rosetta Stone? Which countries did the Truman Doctrine support? All that was missing were some little plastic wedge shapes for completion of each part of the test.

I take my other test---the Texas version---next week. I should have all my results and paperwork done in a month...and then I'll be "highly qualified' to teach small people. I'm not particularly interested in having my own classroom, but the endorsement will make me more marketable for coaching jobs and other positions. It's a trivial pursuit for now, but it will be sure to play a role in much larger events later.

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The Unofficial Start to Summer

25 May 2008

There are still 19 more school days. So, while many of my edublogger cohorts are out on summer holiday, I have four more weeks of pencils, books, and teachers' dirty looks. I'm not worried. Come late July/early August when others are headed back to the classroom, I'll still be sleeping in and having days in the sun. Nanner-nanner.

The weather has been unusually cooperative this weekend. The forecast was not so rosy. We were to have the ubiquitous showers of western Washington, but Mother Nature has graciously exercised her prerogative and changed her mind. It's been absolutely perfect: sunny, low 70's for temps, light breeze.

I've been out in the yard a lot these past two days. This place has a lot of yard and managing it is an endeavor worthy of Sisyphus. I don't mind, though, because unlike the majority of tasks associated with much of my job, weeding, mulching, and trimming produces visible results. Teaching does not fulfill the eye as much as my freshly tended lavender bed. I have yet to decide what to do, if anything, about the 'possum path. There is a huge opossum which uses my driveway and a portion of my side yard as a thoroughfare. I can see the trail through the 2-foot tall grass growing in buffer between my yard and the neighbors. I don't mind the activity and he (?) doesn't seem to mind me when we've been in the same space at the same time. So, we'll see.

I have heirloom tomato plants to get into a vegetable bed. There are flowers to plant and blackberry bushes to beat back. I'm hoping that the weather holds for one more day so that I can get a few more tasks done. It's much nicer to pretend that its summer than to work on lesson plans. I can hardly wait until summer vacation is officially here.


A-B-Cs for Me

03 May 2008

I just bought this set of "Nerdy Baby Cards" on Etsy. (click on image to enlarge) I was driven to it by seeing the same set of letter/sound cards in every room of the school...including the office. I totally get why they're there, but I have to say that these cards are more my style.

Etsy is a dangerous site. I've been able to resist the Molecular Muse, but just barely. I don't know if I will be able to resist the charms of The Builder's Studio for much longer.

I'll content myself with these letter cards for now. I'm going to have to find a very special place in my workspace (a corner of a classroom/storeroom) for these. As a trained secondary science teacher moving into an elementary school world, these should help ease the transition.

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Detour Down Memory Lane

28 April 2008

Back in the early days of accessing the internet from home (when AOL seemed like a great option), I belonged to a group of science teachers organized through LabNet. I wish I had a link to share, but in the intervening years (this was almost 15 years ago), the traces of our work seems to have disappeared. It was hosted by TERC, which is still an active entity. The databases, idea sharing, bulletin boards, and other vestiges are all gone.

This blurry photo is one of the last reminders of LabNet that I have:

I know it doesn't look like much. It represents The Pringles Challenge. The idea here is that my students were paired with those at another school across the country to exchange a single Pringles potato chip. The goal was to have it arrive at its destination in one piece while using the lightest smallest packaging possible. The whole thing was a blast. I can't say that my kids did a particularly stellar job with their ideas, but the internet had opened up a whole new world of possibility for me---and for my junior high charges in the wilds of New Mexico. (It's hard to realize that most of these kids will be turning 30 in the next year or so.)

LabNet may have become extinct, but it appears that The Pringles Challenge is alive and well. I can't wait to play again.

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27 April 2008

You know that moment right before you understand something...when you have all of the puzzle pieces in front of you, but the clarity isn't quite there yet? I'm having one of those fuzzy times, perched on the edge of being able to say "I get it." Bear with me here, as I'm not going to be very articulate about all of this, but perhaps by sharing my thinking at this point, some gentle comments from the edusphere at large can help me finally put it all together.

What I want to talk about here is the whole idea of Classroom 2.0 (and by extension, Web 2.0). I think that I haven't been sure what this would "look like" within a school setting. It's not because I don't understand the value of a Personal Learning Network, but because the physical environment I work within doesn't match the virtual environment I have. I can blog, text, tweet, ning, wiki, and more to my heart's content as a teacher. I cannot, however, share those things with my students because we are set up to take away their cell phones and block their internet access.

Here are some pieces of seen as of late which seem significant:

  • Stephanie over at Change Agency blogged about Shift Happens---Now What? The post is about how buying more hardware for classrooms isn't the answer. We have to help the adults within our schools reach their own "A-ha" moments with the power of social networking first.
  • As Tracy points out over on LeaderTalk, the answer is not Blackboard or Moodle. They are filter friendly, which makes the Mordacs of the world happy, but they are nothing more than glorified word processing programs. They are islands cut off from interaction with the rest of the on-line world...no different or better than a physical classroom. In using those programs, we are fooling ourselves by using 21st century tools via 20th century methods. (Stephanie also chimes in with an I Read Blocked Blogs idea.)
  • It is not only the way we communicate with text that is changing...but with data, too. Flowing Data had a great post on rolling out your own on-line maps and data visualization while Bioephemera shared Is this a better graph? What a mind-blowing way to deal with data. It is interactive and animated. Information about location, size, time, and more are all neatly contained.

  • And the coup de grace was this speech on Gin, Television, and Social Surplus found at Here Comes Everybody. Whoa. It's not a short read, but I can't be encouraging enough that you make the time to do so. The idea here is that we are emerging from a media hangover where we have been consumers for a long time (primarily through tv) and we are now discovering that we are also able to be media producers. What will happen with the "surplus" of hours that were spent consuming...and now may be focused on producing?

Did you ever see that episode of Gilligan's Island where they almost get off the island and then Gilligan messes up and then they don't? I saw that one. I saw that one a lot when I was growing up. And every half-hour that I watched that was a half an hour I wasn't posting at my blog or editing Wikipedia or contributing to a mailing list. Now I had an ironclad excuse for not doing those things, which is none of those things existed then. I was forced into the channel of media the way it was because it was the only option. Now it's not, and that's the big surprise. However lousy it is to sit in your basement and pretend to be an elf, I can tell you from personal experience it's worse to sit in your basement and try to figure if Ginger or Mary Ann is cuter.

And I'm willing to raise that to a general principle. It's better to do something than to do nothing. Even lolcats, even cute pictures of kittens made even cuter with the addition of cute captions, hold out an invitation to participation. When you see a lolcat, one of the things it says to the viewer is, "If you have some fancy sans-serif fonts on your computer, you can play this game, too." And that's message--I can do that, too--is a big change.

This is something that people in the media world don't understand. Media in the 20th century was run as a single race--consumption. How much can we produce? How much can you consume? Can we produce more and you'll consume more? And the answer to that question has generally been yes. But media is actually a triathlon, it 's three different events. People like to consume, but they also like to produce, and they like to share.

And what's astonished people who were committed to the structure of the previous society, prior to trying to take this surplus and do something interesting, is that they're discovering that when you offer people the opportunity to produce and to share, they'll take you up on that offer. It doesn't mean that we'll never sit around mindlessly watching Scrubs on the couch. It just means we'll do it less.

And this is the other thing about the size of the cognitive surplus we're talking about. It's so large that even a small change could have huge ramifications. Let's say that everything stays 99 percent the same, that people watch 99 percent as much television as they used to, but 1 percent of that is carved out for producing and for sharing. The Internet-connected population watches roughly a trillion hours of TV a year. That's about five times the size of the annual U.S. consumption. One per cent of that is 10,000 Wikipedia projects per year worth of participation.

I think that's going to be a big deal. Don't you?

Yes, I'm starting to realize that it is going to be a very big deal. I'm thinking that the critical mass needed to overcome filtering and harness the power within 2.0 is just around the corner. John Dvorak said that "In all large corporations, there is a pervasive fear that someone, somewhere is having fun with a computer on company time. Networks help alleviate that fear." Maybe it isn't "fun" that corporations (or schools) are afraid of. Maybe they are afraid of the creative power that will be present.

I saw this message the other day: I'm struggling with finding a balance between action/learning by doing/creation and deep thought/innovation/reflection- craving time to think. I understand that. The possibilities to learn, to do, to create, and to think are truly limitless these days. At the moment, I'm in think mode about these things...but it shouldn't be too long before I'm ready to do and create more. Whoa.

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Today Is the First Day...

19 April 2008

blah, blah, blah

Someone asked me what I was going to do this weekend. My answer was something along the lines of working on remembering what it is I like to do. After 2+ years of spending (nearly) every weekend doing grad school work---everything from researching to stats homework to revising 25+ page papers---I'm done with all of that.

I must have had a life before grad school. I can't quite remember where I parked it or exactly what it looked like. So much for putting up a "Missing" poster with an 800 number to call.

I think I'll start my search by doing some spring cleaning. Now seems like a good time to go through things in storage and see what's in the boxes. Maybe it's time to pull out some of those items and put them back into use. Perhaps others can be sent to the dump. I need to see which books from grad school I can list on half.com so others can be as, um, enlightened as I was. Someone sent me some new recipe books for Christmas. Did I like to cook? I guess I should get those out and see what looks appealing. The garden tools have been looking lonely and I saw some seed packets and potting soil. There's also this big "to do" list on the fridge---with things like sanding and repainting the rail on the stairs outside...and turning over the insulation the previous owners conveniently stapled in backwards. I have several bookcases full of novels. I think I used to enjoy reading for pleasure. I am definitely one who takes care of my introvert self.

So, this weekend is all about transitioning from one kind of life to another. As odd as it sounds, I am glad that I no longer have to choose between peer editing and cleaning the basement. In the meantime, if anyone sees my life gathering dust in a corner, shoo away the dust bunnies and send it on over, would you?



08 April 2008

As I stood in the spring rain today and admonished first graders for the 1347th time not to run to the buses, I had fantasies about getting some really cool rain boots for myself. It is not uncommon for at least one child to comment about something I'm wearing while they barely restrain themselves from hurling toward the yellow dawgs waiting to take them home. "I like your dress..." comes across in some sort of Doppler effect as the herd charges past. So, hey, since they're looking, why not make it interesting and keep my tootsies dry at the same time?

I saw these last week. I think they're super cool. They are some serious rain-kickers. I would love them, but I'm afraid that they might terrify the 5-year olds. After all, we need them to slow down, not run faster.
Oddly enough, I have discovered that there is a whole world of fashion wellies out there. Who knew? There are buckles and laces...round toes and cowboy styles. I am most definitely not a shoe person, but I find all of the diversity here rather breathtaking.

I adore the ones on the left, but haven't been able to locate a vendor. The rubber duckies would certainly appeal to the younger crowd, and I find them rather fun, too. There are any number of polka dot versions (a fetish of mine).

So what do you think? A pair of each? :)


Grilled Cheese and Natural Wonders

17 March 2008

If you've ever been to Carlsbad Caverns, then you know that they are not located next to the town of Carlsbad itself. (In fact, there's another "town"---White's City---which is even closer.) I mention this because when I taught in Carlsbad, I had students who were born and raised there and who had never visited the caverns. I'm not so sure that those kids had ever left the city limits, for that matter. I never quite wrapped my mind around the whole thing. How could a parent know that something like the caverns was less than 30 minutes away and not once in 16 years be bothered to drive their child there? I admit that it isn't one of the prettiest drives you'll ever take, but that isn't the point is it? It's what's inside that counts.

Anyway, one of the things we did at the school was take a few kids up to the caverns on job shadow opportunities with the rangers who worked there. We always gave priority to the kids who had never been to the caverns---especially the lifelong residents of the eponymous city. We'd drive two vanloads of kids up there early in the morning and then while they got to play junior ranger, we teachers had the run of the place. There were times when this was a great opportunity to catch up on grading and planning. Keep in mind that these were the olden days of classroom teaching---before computers simplified a lot of things. You young whippersnapper teachers today don't know what it's like to take your mimeograph stencils to write on so you can make those smelly purple copies the next day.

You had three choices for lunch on those days. Choice A was to brown bag it. The second choice was the underground lunchroom. It's ~750 feet below the surface and quite the novelty. In addition to the box lunches packed in wax paper to stave off the ubiquitous dampness, there are all manner of tchotchkes available for purchase. It is a sight to behold should you ever get the chance. Option C is the ground level diner. I always chose "C." It had tables and afforded a chance to sit next to a sunny window (while the air conditioning kept you comfy). It made grading a lot more pleasant and was a visible spot for kids to find me as they moved through their day. The food was standard griddle fare---simply prepared and presented by tourist-weary waitresses. For lunch, I always had a grilled cheese sandwich, stale potato chips, a couple of pickle chips for garnish, and a watered down coke. I know how unappealing that may sound, but on those days, it tasted like a little bit of heaven.

So, on a day like yesterday when there was sunlight streaming in through my windows and I had plenty of work to keep me company, I felt like eating a grilled cheese sandwich again. As I sat by the window with my high-falutin' laptop and internet connection, I couldn't help but think of all those kids we took to the caverns and naturally wonder where they are now.

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