A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Yoda: "Do or do not. There is no try."

For me, working out is a matter of life and death. When Dr. Prinz gave me the news a few months ago that my blood tests indicated that I have developed diabetes, the decision to get serious about working out on a daily basis and start tracking calories became a "no-brainer." I wasn't born with diabetes, I had to eat too much, eat too much junk food, and get out of shape to develop the condition.

Working out and keeping my energy level up is a professional requirement as a teacher. When I feel great, I give myself an opportunity to perform at my best. When a sugar and sleep deprivation crash hits, it's tough.

Reversing diabetes will not be so simple. So far, I have dropped 15 pounds this summer, but I have hit a plateau with my weight. My strength and flexibility is improving rapidly, but there seems to be some nerve damage in my left forefinger - I can't feel the fingertip. Could the nerve damage be diabetes related? Or, is it a matter for a chiropractor? Not sure!

Last night, at the gym, I hit the top of my targets in 11 of 13 exercises. It felt amazing!

Last night, feeling a little too good about myself after an awesome day, I celebrated by sneaking some of Joe's Hot Spicy Hot Cheetoes, then I ate a chocolate Klondike ice cream sandwich, then I did not get to bed on time. For lunch, I had a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, minus half a bun, and minus any fries.Today, I paid for my dietary indiscretion with extreme lethargy.

For Joe, working out is a matter of mediocrity or greatness, but not so much a matter of life or death. Last Saturday, Joe's new hitting coach, Chuck Hoyle evaluated his swing on using film and computer. Turns out, Joe's swing, according to Chuck's evaluation of the film, is beautiful. However, Joe does not have an athlete's body. Shocker!

According to Chuck, if Joe becomes dedicated "right now," he has the talent to go places in the game. Joe left ready to hit the gym, ready to become a gym rat. Tonight, reality hit. Offered the chance, the first thing Joe did was mention a bruise. Then he said, he would try. I pulled out the Yoda video.

Argh! Somebody Moved My Cheese

Since Google is preparing to pull the rug out from under people to roll out the new Blogger and herd people over to Google +, I updated to "Simple." In the process, I lost editorial control over my sidebar. Somebody moved my cheese! Argh!

I want to be able to feature blog posts. Is that too much to ask? Based on what I learned, there must be a way to customize the template to allow me to control my featured posts, so I will want to figure that out. Any ideas?

Coming: Dog Walks Through Green Springs Garden

Welcome to Green Spring Gardens
This morning, after dropping Joe off at Science Camp at Thomas Jefferson High School Science Camp, Mabel and I took a short walk around Green Springs Gardens and we will be walking it daily this week and next. I will be carrying a camera. Also, I will be learning about these beautiful gardens and asking questions about the many programs offered there.

Google Plus

Change is disruptive. That is a tautology, a Yogi Berra-ism. Google Plus is a highly disruptive technology, and it frightens me, but then again, I love roller coasters.

The first thing I noticed was a subtle change to my blogger account. Gone were the buttons such as sign in from the top bar, so I hovered over and noticed "blocked" verbiage. Had I violated some copyright law? Had someone hacked into my account? Not one to simply accept a happening as "truth," I went to my Google Account and found that it was possible to enter through a "back door." So my blog hadn't been blocked? The new door was through the pull down menus. I could still check my stats. Phew!

Google wanted me to try out G+ and I had a little time this morning, so I ventured in. Whoa! Google wanted me to share my Picassa albums! Google wanted me to share my face! Sharing my face with the public is something I prefer to avoid, even though I am a public person. What ever happened to privacy?

Paranoid about facial recognition, paranoid about robots, paranoid about government and non-government snooping, paranoid about leaving behind a trail of bread crumbs for an intelligent seek and destroy machine intent on silencing me, I shared my Facebook pic. The machine didn't like my half share share and queried: "That's not a face. Are you sure?" Just the point! The propensity for being vague is an evolved trait! A prim Victorian Brit might have have wondered, "What ever happened to manners?"

The lure of Google+ is incredible power to quickly hook up with people and communicate. The danger of Google+ is the possibility of randomness, and an erosion of privacy. Whatever happened to privacy?

The sharing of Picassa albums can be disabled. There are ways to limit how profiles are shared? I was slow to add family and friends. Scary!

Does Google want to revoke my Poetic License? Am I being a Luddite?

It's going to take some getting used to the new Google. The circle concept seems brilliant, but so far, I'm but a pebble without a ripple. Nobody in any circles. Not sure what to do! Not sure how it works! Awesome!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dog Walk Encounter: USGS Biologists Monitor the Health of our Local Stream

USGS Accotink Stream Monitoring Data

National Context

How Stream Quality is Measured

On the way home from dropping off Joe at Bill Brown's Baseball Camp at George Mason University, Mabel and I walked the Accotink trail off of Danbury Forest Drive. Mabel pressed forward excitedly, because we hadn't walked this stretch of the the trail in a while. Out destination was a place just past the trail's overpass at Braddock Road. where I periodically collect gratitude stones.

I have always been curious about the corrugated cylinder with a solar cell located there. Today, blocking our entrance to my stone collecting site, there were two pick up trucks, a red dual-wheel chevy with a camper top, and a smaller truck, with a young man wearing a white USGS tee-shirt. I engaged him in conversation and learned that the cylinder measures the height of the stream. The solar cell is used to power a transmitter that sends data to a satellite uplink. The young scientist and his lab partner were collecting and processing water quality samples to be sent to a lab for analysis.

I reflected about how much I learn and the interesting people Mabel and I meet on our dog walks and how I need to start carrying a camera.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Liberator, William Lloyd Garrison

The Liberator, 1st Edition
William Lloyd Garrison

Last night, I was discussing with my sister Dawn the relaunching of the website for the Center for Economic and Social Justice (CESJ), a herculean task, made overwhelming by the unwelcome appearance of an old foe -- colon cancer. Another old foe -- perfectionism -- has also reared its ugly head, leading to delays in the re-framing of this vital communication tool, which enjoys a world-wide audience. As a teacher, I see perfectionism as the enemy of the good, the root cause of "a Nation at Risk," the outsourcing of American jobs, and the collective funk our Nation has fallen into. I made a case for good old fashioned American pragmatism, largely in jest.

The cancer has brought an added sense of urgency to my dad's mission. Dad first responded enthusiastically to The Capitalist Manifesto in the early 1960's, which led him to connect Senator Russell Long, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and Louis O. Kelso, leading to the passage of laws that made the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) a reality. Dad has made it his life's mission to spread a vision of economic justice founded on principles of justice articulated by Louis O. Kelso and Mortimer Adler, and later enhanced after Fr. William Ferree began making his monthly pilgrimage to our home from the University of Dayton, driven by William Schirra during the early 1980's, while I was attending Georgetown University. This humble collaboration led to the founding of CESJ and audiences of my Dad with President Reagan and the Pope. While I attended Georgetown University, our home was often filled with luminaries like Father Andrew Morlion, who had been the go between President John F. Kennedy and Premier Kruschev during the Cuban Missile Crisis. At one celebration, I sat next to Lawrence Kohlberg for an entire dinner, and Dr. Kohlberg invited me to a "Conference on School Climate and Governance" at Harvard University, attended by educators from inner city schools. I stayed at Kohlberg's home, and was greeted by Larry and Anne Gilligan.

Feelings have been a little raw lately with the reappearance of the cancer. I have always dealt with stress by laughing, highlighting things to be thankful about, and getting into character. I always manage to turn serious matters into a joke. When I am at my funniest, that is when I am most effective in communicating serious messages.

I quipped, "What ever happened to the 'Happy Revolution'? " Like an orator, I declared: "CESJ has lost its sense of humor. You need to embrace imperfection. You need more wine and cheese parties. Social justice, by its nature, is a messy affair." I recommended, largely tongue-in-cheek, that in the relaunch of the website, CESJ should relaunch with an inspirational editorial written in the tone of William Lloyd Garrison from the first edition of The Liberator, a classic piece of writing channeled four score years later in Letters from a Birmingham Jail, by Martin Luther King.

Once, I was substitute teaching for a Special Education Teacher and the students had an activity which involved a reading William Lloyd Garrison's First Edition of The Liberator and small group responses. Students were reading round-robin, with no expression, which felt to a trained ear like fingers across the chalkboard. I stepped in: "You've got it all wrong." To model the proper tone, I read aloud the way Garrison had intended, paused, and asked students to continue on their own. The entire class protested and begged me to continue. With faux modesty I continued.

While Dad slept on the Peter Danko chair, Dawn, Mom, and I, with great humor, discussed a project with a realistic chance of guaranteed funding. The money is waiting -- the proposal just needs to be written. If CESJ builds it, the money will flow. Dad awoke from his slumber to the sound of hope! Hope is, indeed, the greatest medicine.

As I walked out the door, I shared a final joke: "You need to include section on your website dedicated to comedy: call it Poetic Justice."

Sharing the wealth - a friend's novel about Manzanar


Reading, for me, has always been about having conversations.Yesterday, mom called and asked me to come over to pick up an issue of Scientific American about how to build a better teacher. I love Scientific American  because of a lifelong fascination of science that began with my earliest visits to Cherrydale Library, which at the time seemed cavernous.

The lure of a Scientific American was actually a mother's ploy. Mom needed me.

Dad's recovery from an 8 hour surgery, in which two lobes of a lung were removed, has become a test of his will to live and the limits of my mother's patience. For a second time, Mom is dragging Dad back from the brink. Once again, she his primary caregiver, his drill sergeant. She commands him to get up, to walk upon the hour, and eat. Eating is the price of life, a barometer of his health. When he does not want to eat, she obsesses.

I listened to the play-by-play of how the surgeon peeled away the tumor from major arteries. Hours earlier, Mom and Dad had watched the movie of the surgery with the surgeon. The removal of diseased lymph nodes, I learned, only delays the inevitable.

Naturally, I shifted the conversation to how to celebrate life, how to adopt an attitude of gratitude, how to cultivate joy, just as Norman Cousins long ago drove cancer away from his body with a marathon of belly laughter.

I dictated my first publication, The Story of Nature, to somebody who was almost certainly a graduate student or volunteer working for Mrs. Brown, my second second grade teacher at Taylor Elementary School. After a conversation with the Principal, Mom had me pulled me out of my first second grade class, where my teacher had attempted, but was unable to force me to sit quietly behind a desk. To this day, I strongly dislike sitting behind a desk.

The Story of Nature is hilarious in its seriousness. My mom preserved it. Echos of How Man Began, Jane Goodall picture books from Cherrydale library, images of the T-Rex from the Smithsonian, John Wayne movies, and the the Lincoln book from the bookcase in my bedroom reverberate. My facts were confused, lacked the depth of of field of a developed historical perspective, but my voice as a 2nd grader rings out, clear, conversational, and confident.

When I started blogging, my main goal was to simply hold conversations. Often it seems like I am talking to myself. Frequently, I check my stats. Yesterday, I noticed a "hit" from an old blogging friend's blog. I learned that Ms. K. P. Kellenborn has published a novel that deals with the Internment of Japanese Americans at Manzanar, which I will be ordering and must review so that I can share her conversation with others, especially my mom, a wonderful story teller.

The misconception, "I hate reading," never crossed the mind of the 2nd grader who wrote The Story of Nature. My life likely would have taken a different path if my mom had not had me moved to Mrs. Brown's class, where I played with other children who loved to read. Mrs. Brown gave me space to muse incorrectly without too much correction. I can still recite "Stopping By The Woods On a Snowy Evening" from memory.  Great teachers like Mrs. Brown have a talent for making pleasant memories stick.

Tonight, as I ride my eliptical and stationary bike, I will enjoy reading Scientific American, while in motion. Meanwhile, I will be doing professional reading, which might otherwise bore me to tears.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

My Favorite Posts added to the sidebar

Recent Posts By Label Gadget For Blogger | Spice Up Your Blog

This morning, it occurred to me that the standard off the shelf Blogger widgets did not allow me to decide for myself which posts I wanted to feature so I did a little research. I found step-by-step instructions and the code for creating a MY FAVORITE POSTS section on the sidebar. Now, I have greater editorial control over which posts I want to feature!

Check the sidebar and find MY FAVORITE POSTS beneath the Archive. The procedures provided by http://www.spiceupyourblog.com/ worked beautifully!

Any label can be a featured category. For example, labeled sections might include READING, MATH, DIFFERENTIATION, PROJECTS, etc. Since labels can be included in any post, using there is no limit to a bloggers ability to feature specific content. At least, so I think. I will explore this. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Thomas Boswell - Great Baseball Writer


As a long suffering Washington sports fan, Thomas Boswell's daily pronouncements that the glory days have finally arrived in DC, inspire me want to broadcast my enthusiasm for great sports writing to disaffected readers like my 14 year old son. Joe has never had a reason to fall in love with the sports page of the Washington Post. After years of false hopes raised by shysters heralding DC's latest offseason acquisitions like Albert Haynesworth and Donovan McNabb, or Deion and Bruce before them, having only witnessing his dad screaming at the television on Sundays for his entire life, not celebrating victories with random people on the street, Joe would rather play Halo than watch sports, let alone feast his psyche upon a well written sports article.

The sports writing in DC, aside from Dave Sheinan masterpieces, or sometimes insights from the manic Mike Wise, has been lacking in inspiration for years. Dull! Dull! Dull! With the rise of our Washington Nationals, from last to first place, Thomas Boswell has begun to find his muse, and is now climbing into the rarefied air of, dare I say, Shirley Povich.

Young and old readers alike can study a great manager like Mike Rizzo, the anti-Vinnie Cerrato, thanks to daily reports coming out of Nationals park. Rizzo, we are learning, builds not according to an owner's arrogant whims, but according to the collaborative blue-collar brilliance of a first-class player development staff. No longer are DC sports fans watching because they are following a train wreck of a team built upon a foundation of prima donnas, yesterday's champions from other cities, who cynically arrived with the less than noble motivation of picking a naive fan boy's pocket.

Boswell is celebrating a youthful team's resilience, the forging of a team of character, the rise of a team of destiny. Recently, I watched one of Joe's baseball teams unravel, lose 33-0. Recently, I also watched as the Nationals blew a 9-0 lead, only to lose 11-10 to the Braves, which could have been the turning point in the season. The next night, John Lannan, last year's opening day starter, who couldn't crack this team's major league roster, arrived from Triple A Syracuse to save the day, only to be sent back down to Syracuse. The parallel: we can learn a great deal from losing in how to develop a winner. What matters is not the win or loss, but how we respond. Given the fall of Joe Paterno, little Joe might learn from our sports pages that winning isn't everything. From young heroes like Steve Lombardozzi, Joe can learn that the overlooked and undersized can make it to the major leagues, provided they have a big enough heart.

This morning, I dropped little Joe off at Bill Brown's Baseball camp at George Mason University. Surrounded by giants, Joe appeared to feel like a lost puppy, so I hung out for a while until he realized where to go. Tonight, little Joe will read the above Thomas Boswell article and write one reflection about his day's experience.

Had it not been for the Washington Post Sports page, I would never have become the reader or writer I am today. I fell in love with great sports writing at a young age. A true sports fan should never feel alone, especially when his team is winning. If we, as a society, care about whether our boys want to read, we need more inspired sports writers like Thomas Boswell. If we want our boys to open up and slap high fives with people they do not know, that's what celebrating a winning franchise is all about.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Migrant workers in China face competition from robots

Migrant workers in China face competition from robots
Growing up, my father frequently recited Aristotle's prophecy from Politics Book 1 1253B, 322BC about future automation and the changing roles of people in society. Had I been listening more carefully to my dad while working at Allied Plywood, I would have invested in Microsoft and Apple when I was a young professional, and would now be sitting on a hoard of gold.

When I read The Age of the Spiritual Machine by Ray Kurzweill about a decade ago, I was ready to understand Kurzweill's argument that the relationship between people and machines is changing at an accelerating pace. When I reflected upon Kurweill's Law, I was puzzled by conservative mindsets I encountered as a new teacher first entering the profession as a career switcher trying to find my way at the dawn of the Accountability movement.

Sensitive observers of history like Sir Winston Churchill noted that  people often prepare themselves for past wars, for "empires of the mind." Given Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times, I have often wondered why an assembly line mentality remains firmly rooted in our schools, although I too sometimes have fallen into that trap. Knowing I needed to make changes, I became more serious about my studies and learning how to differentiate instruction and make it more engaging, since as a people we are in a race against time.

In The Kinds of Schools We Need, Elliot Eisner reflected:

"It is the awareness of individual children that makes it possible for teachers to encourage the development of nascent but valuable interests and the expression of well-developed talents. (190-191)"
As I reflect upon my mission, to inspire students to want to learn, and show students how to learn  the disciplines and habits of learning, Kurzweill's article and my coming job interview have given me an added sense of urgency to prepare for individualizing instruction.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Livestrong MyPlate and Accountability

Calorie Goal
Calories Consumed
Calories Burned
Net Calories
July 21st, 2012
July 20th, 2012
July 19th, 2012
July 18th, 2012
July 17th, 2012
July 16th, 2012

The past year has been about reflection. What changes do I need to make? What information do I need to learn? What relationships must I improve? How can I improve them? How can I improve my time management? What can I do to improve my health? Accountability in education is something that has become feared, because in many ways it has become a stick to pound on imperfect teachers, but coming from the business world, I understand the benefits of accountability. In order to generate the above summary, I had to log every calorie I ate.

Another area of accountability has been my exercise workouts, which are logged on FitLinxx.

Recently I read an article which stated that those who keep a log of what they eat tend to lose more weight than those who do not. I also consumed an audiobook entitled, You are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of Your Life.

I'm starting to log what I read as well as my goals. It's all about accountability to myself, not somebody else.

When my doctor, Dr. Prinz, reported to me that my blood sugar levels indicated the onset of diabetes, he advised me that I needed to lose 30 pounds. I shed the first 10 pounds, from 185 pounds to 175 pounds, mostly with exercise. The other next five pounds did not go away until I started to use Livestrong's My Plate Application, which I had known about, but was not using religiously. The exhortation to exercise mindfulness led me back to MyPlate. 15 more pounds to go. Will I get there? What adjustments will I need to make to my plan?

By the end of next week, I will have listened to an audiobook version of Howard Gardner's Five Minds For the Future, at least once. Two novels by Ernest Hemingway are queued up, as is a series of lectures on Greek stories. By the end of tonight, I will have completed Elliot Eisner's The Kind of Schools We Need. I have another Brian Tracey audiobook to consume. I want to read Mushashi's Five Rings. I downloaded instructions on how to set up a solar power and wind power home generator system. I have a sense of urgency, as if I am in a race against time. As I exercise my body and reduce my calories, I feed my mind. It's all about "self-directed" neuroplasticity.

As I walked Mabel this morning, I saw analogies in my dog walks through history posting with an entire dog walks series, saw business opportunities in establishing a world wide tutoring following through Justice University (Bob Brantley's brainchild), reflected on Jim Rohn's observation that the mind needs a diet of words, and question, "why do the biggest houses all have libraries?"

Jim Rohn said that if you have values, those values will need to be defended. In fact, he argued that the better the garden, the greater will be the assault on that garden, i.e., the more right the values, the greater they must be defended. Elliot Eisner stated that how you were socialized in many ways defines how you perceive the world. My view of the world is different. My grandfather swam to shore. My father befriended Medgar Evars. I read Dante until I couldn't see anymore.

I understand Howard Gardner's criticism of education in my bones. Gardner referred to Winston Churchill's famous line about "empires of the mind," a reference that most people prepare for past wars, not for the future. As I read, it becomes clear to me that what I need to do is mount a stronger defense of the kind of education I believe in. As Randy Whittman told Bradley Beal, we're not paying you to be average. Depending on how things go, perhaps I'll have to retreat to fight another day, in the spiritual sense. It's about accountability to the universe.

Les Brown says that if you want something badly enough, you have to be willing to do it badly -- a tough message from somebody who was born on the floor of an abandoned building, who was labeled educatably mentally retarded. I've taught badly, and I've reflected upon what I'd do differently. It's about being self-aware.

While riding the exercise bike this afternoon, listening to Gardner, I thought about the treasure trove of documents that Max Weissmann sent me about education right before I entered Marymount's PDS program, and how I might convert these documents from text to speech so that I could listen to them. I think I'll do that. Adaptive technology is what I do.

If, as Jim Rohm said, this is my winter, spring should follow as it always does. As my dad always says, "never, never give up," so I won't, I can't. Today, I listened to Gardner reflect upon the conservatism in education, the limited views of science and the uses of knowledge, and a lack of appreciation for artistic ways of thinking, the short-sighted focus on a narrow spectrum of thinking, which parallels what I'm reading in Eisner's essays, and what I read long ago in the writings of Loren Eisley about the history of science and the contributions of Francis Bacon. It's "for the purposes of life!"

The recollection of the Jack London character who refuses to heed the warnings to take shelter crosses my mind, and that to proceed forward might be to invite a disastrous plunge into an icy river. I've got a few hours now, I think I'll plug in some Gardner and attack the disaster that is my cellar. I have boards to toss, order to create, questions to ponder. Why? That's what writers do.

Interactivity: New widgets added

One of the core routines of Responsive Classroom that I enjoy is the interactive daily message. Whenever teachers come across great ideas that can be used in our classes, we tend to take the advice of Huck Finn's father: "it's not stealing if you intend to give it back."

Daily messages can be pithy statements of news. Or, a morning message might include a simple poll. Very few words are used. The key is interactivity. With a SmartBoard, we can include more sophisticated polls or surveys and display the data. To increase interactivity on the site, I am floating the idea of the effectiveness of including polls, so I have embedded poll widgets on this post and in the sidebar, for which I am hoping everybody responds. Experiment time!

My goal is to figure out a consistent way to engage readers and get reader responses. Reading and writing, after all, is all about the conversation, and I will be adding polls and surveys to the blog because I am naturally curious and genuinely interested in learning about what other people think. Moreover, polls and surveys will ultimately become a core part of the routines for the first 10 minutes of my future classes, the most critical period in a class, according to certain neuroscientists I have been reading.

On the top right sidebar today,7/21/2012, (this spot will be reserved for these kinds of polls), is a survey based on yesterday's topic: my "new" ASUS626 audiobook player. Yesterday, at Audrey Moore Recreation Center, I enjoyed both audiobooks and music as I completed 13 Cybex strength stations and 30 minutes of cardio work on a Concept 2 Rower. Without an awesome audioplayer, this experience would have been boring! Boring! Boring! Boring! Often, a poll includes only two possible answers in order to prompt people to get off the fence. Your vote matters. Tee hee!

I added two other widgets at the bottom of the blog: a top 5 reader favorites widget, and a blog stats widget. While I like the reader favorites widget, which displays the top 5 reader favorites for the past 30 days, I'm not sure about the blog stats widget, because it seems like a glorified hit counter -- boring! I will remove the blog stats widget or leave it in a few weeks, depending on reader responses.

What do you think? Should the blog stats widget stay or go?

Should the blog stat counter stay or go?... at AnswerGarden.ch.+

The minimalist survey widget included above is powered by AnswerGarden. What excites me about an AnswerGarden is how it allows readers to post pith responses, just like an interactive whiteboard! Please keep your responses family friendly. Wink!

Widgetbox, which makes AnswerGarden, allows users to make their own custom widgets!

In looking for a way to add an interactive whiteboard feature, I stumbled across a great concept, an online graffiti board, but the tool I found didn't work, so I did not post it and won't name the company yet. Then, I went back and searched online whiteboard, and found Dabbleboard, which is temporarily being worked on, so I haven't been able to test it yet.

The inexpensive interactive whiteboard is here or within reach. Interactivity has never been easier.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

How I converted my ASUS A626 to an Audio Book player

A year or so ago, possibly two, I purchased an ASUS A626 Windows based Personal Data Assistant (PDA), which originally had a Windows Mobile 5.0 Operating System, which I later updated to Windows Mobile 6.5. I think I managed to find it for under $100, because I was patient.

I was desperately seeking a way to sync my Outlook appointments and tasks, because I had trouble remembering schedules, which can be a huge problem when you're teaching. At the time, there were no Samsung Galaxy Android tablets. I didn't want to purchase an expensive cell phone plan. All I wanted to do was sync my Outlook.

Given a weakness with short-term memory, rooted in sleep apnea and a bulldog personality -- I often refused to sleep more than 4 hours when in a time crunch -- I was looking for a mental prosthesis. I wanted to be able to wear my schedule on my hip. I also wanted help with remembering names, another weakness for which I needed to compensate in the classroom.

Since my ASUS A626 functioned okay with Outlook and allowed me to store small lists, despite its many annoying ideosyncrasies, I never considered purchasing a memory card for it originally. Although my PDA had a slot for a memory card, it was not something I felt I needed, so I overlooked the slot.

In fact, I've been ready to give up on this little PDA many times. I purchased a Windows 7 Acer laptop after my Windows XP machine crashed, just after I entered grad school. During my practicum, when I could have really used the organizational help, my ASUS A626 failed me. My Windows 7 Acer laptop computer would not recognize the device.

Later, after completing the PDS program, in June, I found a firmware upgrade to Windows Mobile 6.5, allowing me to sync my PDA with my laptop. Happy days! Windows Mobile 6.5, I soon discovered, is extremely buggy. In fact, the Windows Mobile 6.5 USB sync procedure, has been bypassed completely in Windows Mobile 7.5. When you can't sync, you can't update your calendar. You can't even recharge the battery. Argh!

Eventually, after continuing to toy with the device, I discovered the trick to making it sync: take out the battery; it will reboot most of the time. Sometimes, I need to reboot the laptop. Other times, I have been able to use the WiFi feature. Eventually, I can consistently get my PDA to sync if I am patient.

Sansa Clip media players are cheap, (in both good and bad ways), and I do not plan to buy another one. Every Sansa player I have ever owned has disappointed me. Yesterday, it occurred to me that I might be able to use my ASUS A626 to play audio books. My experiment with the UWater G4 player had been yet another disappointment with media players. The UWater G4 locked up every time I tried to skip over the music files I had loaded. Worse, Fitness Technologies never responded to my request for a refund or to discount a purchase for the UWater G7, which I thought might work better than the G4 since the G7 has a screen. The G7 looks like it has better controls, but my business is not important enough to Fitness Technologies.

I found that I could only load about half a CD worth of music or audio book on my ASUS A626, because of a lack of internal memory. I need to listen to audio books when I work out. Half a CD's worth of audio book was only was getting me through a portion of my daily work out. Not good enough! Yesterday, I noticed my ASUS A626's SD expansion slot. I went to Staples and purchased an 8GB SDHC card for $10. Argh! Foiled again!

I wasted the rest of the day researching old information. How depressing! I downloaded drivers, a process which I worried might give my computer a virus, especially since the publisher of the driver I downloaded was a Chinese company. The files for the drivers were zipped, so I downloaded Winzip. How annoying! After copying the downloaded the unzipped drivers to my PDA, my ASUS A626 still wouldn't recognize the 8G SDHC card. Argh! More money down the drain, more lost time, I worried!

This morning, I started looking at the cost of the smallest Samsung Galaxy mini tablet. The Samsung Galaxy was expensive enough for me to keep trying to make my ASUS work for me. The IPod touch, for me, wasn't an option. My son has an IPod Touch. Joe loves it. Unfortunately, Itunes limits my options, which is why the IPod Touch is just not for me.

This morning, as I reviewed posts about SD versus SDHC flash memory cards and compatibility issues with the ASUS A626 from 2009. One person's comment that only 2GB SD cards would work with the expansion slot driver somehow stuck in the back of my mind. Someone else had bragged that his Patriot 8G card worked, which is what led me to purchase an 8G card, but I wasn't in the mood to research Patriot cards. I was thinking about returning the 8G card, which Staples probably would not have taken back.

I had removed all non-essential files from my ASUS A626 and was getting ready to live with a product that was just okay but not great for playing audio books. My friend Ricky, who has been painting our upstairs this summer, suggested over a cup of coffee that I check to see if any of my cameras has a memory card slot.

I opened up my old red Kodak digital camera and popped out the memory card. It had a 2G SD card. How exciting! I replaced it with the 8G SDHC card. Then I popped the 2G SD card into the ASUS A626's SD slot. Voila! The expansion card was recognized.

This afternoon, I was able to load entire books onto the ASUS A626, as well as music. After dinner, as I burned off 355 calories using a Precor 576 eliptical trainer at the Audrey Moore Recreation Center, I listening to a couple of chapters from The Alchemyst on my "new" audio player. On the way home, I began listening to The Art of Exceptional Living, by Jim Rohn. Inspirational! The Art of Exceptional Living

Having shed 15 pounds since June using a combination of using MyPlate to count calories and FitLinxx to track my fitness, the next 15 pounds will be more tolerable thanks to my "new" audio book player. None of this has been easy, but it will have been worth the trouble!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


In reflecting upon disengaged teenage learners, I never need to look far. Joseph, my 14 year-old son, often tells me with a silly grin that he does not enjoy reading because reading is for nerds! In particular, my son complained this morning, "I don't like thinking books," such as The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho, which is required reading for his 9th grade honors English class. "No," I replied, "you don't like to think."

Every day this summer, I have demanded that Joe start his day by writing down his schedule for the day, write down his goals, and reflect about what has worked and what he needs to change (plus / delta). Otherwise, Joe would blissfully spend his entire day playing violent video games such as Halo or Modern Warfare, or non-violent, but pointless games such as Minecraft. Since I have been "watching the store" all summer, paying close attention, Joe has finished the book and has already done his word work (replacement activities for Halo), but I worry about him becoming too dependent on my watchful eye and not developing his own self-direction skills.While Joe has played tournament baseball, and is enrolled in baseball camps, plus some science camps, otherwise he has a great void of time to fill, none of which would be filled with what I would consider quality activities without direct parental intervention. An idle mind is, indeed, the devil's workshop. Max Weissman was right, ignorance is normal, and thinking isn't. I want Joe to want to become a learner, so I constantly am in search of ways to help engage him.

Today, at my insistence, Joe evaluated his teacher's comprehension questions. He immediately noticed that the questions required him to go beyond the text - nice observation! Joe had been swearing that the book was boring. I had checked out an audiobook version of The Alchemyst, by Michael Scott, the wrong  book and was confused. Joe had forgotten that he disliked reading when he read Harry Potter books. Michael Scott's version, which I am totally enjoying, has a similar action-oriented feel while paying due homage to deeper concepts related to alchemy. How could The Alchemist possibly be boring, I wondered?

To show Joe how a work of literature fits within a continuum of learning, to help him make connections beyond the text, I began showing Joe how to use Microsoft OneNote while answering his comprehension questions. Projecting 5 plus years into the future, I explained how he could use OneNote's hypertext features to construct knowledge about what he reads cumulatively as well as collaboratively, throughout high school -- the big picture, understandably, went over his head. Joe's need to play Halo tugged away at his attention. His body lurched toward the exit, but I held the cable he needed to play his video games. While setting up the OneNote page where he could take notes for the Myth of Narcissus, I asked Joe what he remembered. I was appalled that Joe did not immediately recognize this classic from his mythology book.

Perplexed, I began to engage with the text and immediately noticed differences in Michael Scott's story and Paulo Coelho's story. After thumbing through the cover and introduction, which trumpeted the fact that Bill Clinton and Julia Roberts had been seen enjoying it, it became evident that Paulo Coelho's book is about serious themes, such as a young person finding his "life's calling." The serious themes, unfortunately, seemed to have immediately turned Joe off as nerdy and preachy. I reminded Joe that his grandfather, who awoke the other day from his seven-hour lung operation ready to champion social and economic justice, has been pursuing the same Kelsonian dream for nearly 50 years -- that's someone with a calling!

Joe grinned as he made the connection that teaching has become my calling. "Ugh! You are just crazy -- beyond crazy!" he exclaimed.

"Why do you care about what people think who you will never see you again after high school?" I replied. Teens who are obviously different, like Joe, like myself at his age, sometimes overcompensate and find themselves doing whatever it takes to avoid being perceived as a nerd. "Nerd" is a powerful and destructive word.

From my Georgetown University days, often spent with my nose in Oxford's English Dictionary, and from my dad, who spent his University of Chicago Law School days with his nose in Black's Law Dictionary, I developed an appreciation for the power of words to shape thoughts and destinies of individuals and nations. The concept of reading as being something for nerds is a difficult mindset to overcome in the classroom.

During my case study, Johnny loved to smile while feeding me that same "I hate reading" misconception -- Johnny loved reading about Hercules, however, after I scaffolded the process and helped broaden his conception of what it means to be literate.

Paulo Coelho's work seems a bit didactic, a quality that frankly is not my preferred style either, but I will read it so that Joe and I can have a conversation about the book. First, I will complete The Kinds of Schools We Need, by Elliot W. Eisner, because it addresses my specific professional needs. Eisner wrote:

To speak of cognition often conjures up a bloodless form of thinking that somehow is disconnected from matters of affect. Nothing could be further from the truth... [F]or the refinement of cognitive skills to be fully developed, it must in some way be emotionalized. (Eisner, p. 8, 1998)
The serious consideration of a life's calling is as worthwhile for a 14 year old, as it is for a 49 year old. I remember when professors told students not to read Book 10 from Boccacio's Decameron, or not to read "The Miller's Tale from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Of course, these became the first books students read, because they were scandalous.

In words of Bill Gates, "Be careful who you call a nerd -- you may be working for one some day!"


Eisner, E. (1998). The kinds of schools we need: Personal essays. Portsmouth: Heinemann

Looking for a good MP3 player for audiobooks

I've been searching for years for a reliable mp3 unit to help me use my workout time efficiently -- they all seem to break. The Uwater G4 unit I received, like the Sansa's I have tired of replacing, is unreliable too. I guess my theory that moisture from my workout was causing the electronics to fail does not hold water. 

Yesterday, I was trying to listen to an audio book and wanted to fast forward through the songs. After I clicked through about 10 clicks, the unit's controls locked up (the button stayed red and I could not turn the unit off, although no sound was being produced). I waited until my mp3 player ran out of power --  very disappointing! Not knowing how to reset the unit, I plugged it back into the computer last night, and added and removed songs using windows media. Today, when I tried to fast forward, the light went blue. Apparently, the control mechanism does not "like" being fast-forwarded.

It appears that the g4 unit just isn't the right unit for me, since my primary focus is audio books, which means I need greater control -- I need to be able to choose chapters and switch over to music fairly seemlessly. Maybe these mp3 players are just inherently unreliable. I don't know how to reset the unit, so I am willing to try to see if that works.

What I would really prefer would be to pay a little more to upgrade to a G7, which appears like it may have better controls. I'm not convinced that the reliability will be any better with the G7, but I can still hope. If I can find a reliable mp3 player, I will promote it until the cows come home on my blog.