Friday, February 29, 2008

Vengeance Teaser Trailer

My teenage cousin – you know the one I go to all the metal concerts with – is working on a movie. So far he's shot it, needs to reshoot some stuff, and has finished the trailer. He hopes to go to film school someday so he is always honing his celluloid skills. As with any pissed off teenagers, it's full of blood and guns and fighting and lots of the f-word.

How Long Is Yours?

I have been reading my mathematics textbook, “Elementary and Middle School Mathematics: Teaching Developments” sixth edition by J. Van De Walle, and I stumbled onto a statistic that made my jaw drop.

The textbook quoted a study (Kenny & Kouba, 1997) where “only 24 percent of fourth-grade students and 62 percent of eighth-grade students could give the correct measure of an object not aligned with the end of the ruler.” (Update: originally I typed that they "could not" give the correct measure. The stat is right now.)

Sixty-two percent of eighth graders could not measure the crayon above if the crayon sits in the middle of the ruler. That is because we teach mathematics incorrectly and we have for decades. We focus on learning the procedure and take no time to help children develop the concepts. In this case, we need to explore, not the hash marks on the ruler, but the space between them. In other words, what is it that a ruler actually does and means? Then we can teach the appropriate rules on using a ruler.

I would think boys would be especially interested in learning how to use a ruler properly. They do tend to like to measure thingy-dingys. Maybe that’s the problem. They want to see a thin 3-inch crayon as a fat 6-inch marker.

(In the interest of disclosure you should know this post is using secondary sourcing. I pulled the stats from my textbook and not the original study.)

Kenney, P.A., & Kouba, V.L. (1997). What do students know about measurement? In P.A. Kenney & E. Silver (Eds.), Results from the sixth mathematics assessment of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (pp. 141-163). Reston, VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

Kindergarten Student Suspended for … Mohawk

His mohawk is so distracting to the educational process that it simply cannot be tolerated, according to the school district. Thanks to The Early Show for the story. The mother has been warned before. Based on my observation of the haircut, pictured here, it appears to be all of 2-3 inches at the most.

I’ve been in all kinds of schools – middle class schools, Title I schools (low income) and schools in between. I’ve seen kids elementary school children with mohawks, ear piercings and colored hair. The business of school goes calmly by with no problems.

Says the principal: “Ruda's hair became a disruption more recently when Ruda arrived freshly shorn.

There is either more going on here and the school is using his “disrupting” haircut as a way to rid themselves of a troubling parent, or the school is just being too invasive in their desire to force cultural beliefs onto students and families.

Sometimes, elementary schools can tend to be a bit of a microcosm of religious conservatism at least as far as the administrations and teachers are concerned. Remember, I said sometimes. Think back to the craft fair holiday vests and denim jumpsuits of many elementary teachers. Sometimes, elementary schools can have blinders on about the particular cultural standards and beliefs they feel should be represented by all families with children.

Where the Mom messed up is that she should gone to the superintendent and then the school board, rather than rushing to the media. That’s just bad form.

The Rubber Room

New York City has a school system where there are more students (1,100,000) than the total population of some states. As with any Juggernaut, there are problems – big problems – that seem to have no solution in site.

When teachers in NY are accused of some kind of wrongdoing, they are sent to “The Rubber Room,” a holding cell of sorts where they have no duties, no goals, no nothing. They sit, draw their pay, and wait until there is an investigation and adjudication, which can reportedly take months. Total cost for the off-capus site is in excess of $25 million.

Five Boroughs Productions is creating a documentary about the issue called … you guessed it … The Rubber Room. Watch the trailer. It looks very interesting.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Roaming the Red Rug at the Blogaronis

Red Carpet my behind. We are nowhere near as fancy as all that. More like Red Rugs if you ask me. With all that, I will host the event because of Larry’s [ahem] scheduling snafu. I’m sensing a smear campaign in his absence. That’ll teach him to duck out on us.

Don’t expect the paparazzi and forget about valet parking. You will have to drive your own butt to the Blogaroni’s, park your own clunker, and waddle yourselves to the meeting room. So help me, if anyone wears a tie ….

By the way, this is at Panera, so bloggers can bring their progeny as their ain't no moonshine.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Walter and Jeff Dunham # 1

While I'm linking YouTube videos, why not liven the place up a bit with some funnies. A classmate of mine pointed me to these clips by ventriloquist Jeff Dunham.

Democrats, Not Republicans, Fought Civil Rights Legislation, Started the KKK

It was Frances Rice, chair of the National Black Republican Association who said it, according to NewsMax. Those evil Democrats, you know the ones who preach tolerance and acceptance, apparently want African Americans oppressed and poor.

“The Democratic Party has built its power base on the backs of poor blacks, and they want to keep blacks poor, angry, and voting for Democrats,” said Rice. The Dems, she maintains, “fought to keep blacks in slavery, started the Ku Klux Klan to terrorize blacks, and fought civil rights legislation.”

She goes on to say that the Democratic Party is the architect of modern day racism, according to the NewsMax report. You really must read the article for yourself. Click here.

What some nuts will go to just to smear those who disagree with them.

I’d Like to Thank …

There were no big winners during last night’s Academy Awards. No movie take-overs and no real comedy by Jon Stewart. He had his funny moments, and I really like the guy, but nothing memorable. I wonder if the writer’s strike had anything to do with that? I take that back. Jon Stewart did one really memorable thing. Those crazy Academy musicians cut one winner off completely from giving any kind of speech. After the break, Jon Stewart brought her back out on stage and let her give a speech. Good for him and shame on the Oscar director for being such an a-hole.

I really need to see NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. I’ve heard nothing but great things about it. It won both Best Director and Best Picture, so it’s worth a look-see.

Jews: The Synagogue of Satan

While I am writing about crazy preachers, why not show you what this Baptist preacher says about the other religions. He categorizes Judaism as the "Synagogue of Satan." He's none too happy about Catholics either, lumping them into the group of false religions. Amazing as Catholics are ... uh ... Christians too.

This is nothing new to me, as I heard these kinds of sermons all the time when I was growing up. We were taught that Catholicism was a "cult."

Baptist "Pisses" Like a Man

This Baptist preacher is obviously anointed by God. He felt felt the need to preach on the passage: "him that pisseth against the wall." And boy did he preach it. His point: Men need to stand to urinate. No kidding, this is the great message.

(Just so you know, my name is Fat Jack and I am a recovering Baptist.)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

And the Razzie Goes to …

The anti-Oscars (Razzie) have been awarded and the winners, who are really losers, must stink something awful as two movies had a big run. There were other bad pictures out there this year, yet somehow the Razzie’s focused in on Norbit and I Know Who Killed Me. It’s just out and yet somehow I see Cletus the Cable Guy’s new movie, Witless Protection, in the running for a Razzie. That slack-jawed knuckle dragger has enough hair on his back and neck to weave me a wig to make Dee Snider proud.

The ostentatious nonsense known as Hairspray should have been nominated in the GODAWFUL MUSICAL category. All penguin movies should not only get Razzies, but should be banned from theatres and only allowed to go straight to DVD, if they must at all. I’m sure there are more stinkers out there. If Skinny Kitty had anything to say, all fantasy and sci-fi movies would be nominees for Razzies. Feel free to comment about the movies you hated this year. Save us all the pain of spending money on the DVD rental.

Here’s the list of Razzie losers this year:

I Know Who Killed Me

Eddie Murphy, Norbit

Lindsay Lohan, I Know Who Killed Me

Eddie Murphy (as Rasputia), Norbit

Eddie Murphy (as Mr. Wong), Norbit

Lindsay Lohan 
Lindsay Lohan, I Know Who Killed Me.

I Know Who Killed Me
(Rip off of Hostel, Saw and the Patty Duke Show.)

Daddy Day Camp

Chris Siverston, I Know Who Killed Me

I Know Who Killed Me, by Jefry Hammond

I Know Who Killed Me

Friday, February 22, 2008

Girl Scout Cookies are in!

You read it correctly. Girl Scout cookies are in. If you happened to call/email us to place an order then get ready to crunch down on some girl-cookie goodness. If the girl scout does not call you, then you might shoot me an email or call. We had cases of cookies and it is easy to overlook.

Comic Podcast Hits the Local Blogosphere

Some local bloggers and comic book lovers are doing a monthly podcast on the genre. Larry of Simple Thoughts of a Complex Mind, Chris at The Graphic Classroom, and Bryan over on Dad's on a Rant are the trio laying down the hour-long track over at Larry's blog. According to Larry's blog post, Bryan left town before the premiere because of inclement weather. Better luck next time.

We are fans of the medium and glad the three are getting together to podcast. I wonder how many bloggers and blog readers out there are comic fans and how many are also readers of traditional literature? Chime in you bastards. Leave comments. Scream, shout and take a bow.

Fit-Pitching in the Land of the Free and Home of the Power Hungry

Democrats are preparing to do what they do best: self-destruct in the face of success. They just can’t seem to help themselves. The excitement of a possible landslide against Republicans is like a fresh steak and the dogs can’t help but fight over it, rather than share. We left-learning do-gooders get caught up in our own self-serving desire to get the credit for change, I guess.

She would be a good president, Hillary Clinton. I like her. I like them both. I liked all three of the top Democratic contenders. But the fact of the matter is that the person who wins the popular vote should be the nominee. The person with the most delegates should be the nominee. And here’s the thing that everyone else but Hillary seems to know: to circumvent that process is to disenfranchise the excited voters new to the process this year, further the rampant idea that our individual vote does not count, and finally it is to be dishonest. Starting off a campaign by cheating is some kind of bad foreshadowing folks.

Sniderman received an email from the Hillary camp, suggesting that the Superdelegates are the only persons who are capable of determining who is best for the United States.

“It's important that we respect the independent judgment of automatic (Super) delegates, who have the responsibility of casting a vote for the candidate they believe is best qualified to be president.”

Nice spin but I do not think most voters will fall for it. Americans have a sense of decency and fairness. Usurping the vote of an excited electorate by using smoky back room deals is politics as usual and most of us find it disgusting. In fact, these Big Boss decisions on our behalf are the reasons many people do not vote. Those same Big Bosses who vote against the people will likely find themselves out of job during the next election. I suspect they are figuring that out.

Rest assured that both candidates are courting the Super-Ds. Both Hillary and Barack wants to win. No doubt about it. Think back to the stealing of the presidency by George W. back in 2000. He won alright, but only thorugh back door politics and it set the stage for a horrible presidency and I am not prepared to allow the same thing to happen now.

We would not be talking about back door elections at all if delegates, superdelegates and the electoral college were not in place to begin with. These are antiquated policies. Each person in the US should have his or her vote count, and count equally, with every other person’s vote. Period. I really do not think that the Superdelegates are any smarter than any of us and I certainly do not think they are more honest or upstanding. Rich maybe, but not more ethical.

Here is how it stands as of today, according to

Barack – 1,319 Delegates, 161 Superdelegates
Clinton – 1,250 Delegates, 234 Superdelegates

Regardless of who wins, the win needs to be above board and in the hands of the voters. I may have voted for Barack, but I like them both. If one of them wins by cheating, I will be very offended and hold that against them.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

No Reason to Call Off School

Looks like Springfield Public Schools made the right decision not to cancel school today. I left the university at 3 pm and the roads were fine, just fine – wet and slushy, but drivable. I thought for sure, would have bet a paycheck, that the district would close by 1:30 at the latest. In fact, I was a bit perplexed that they did not close school, but by the time I left MSU I knew they made a good call.

Plenty of folks were mad enough, but that is the way it always goes. Last time Ridder ended early the sensationalist media whores were video taping every toothless fool with a Marlboro hanging out his mouth about how inconvenienced they were that they had to leave work and get their kid. “Screw safety, I’m at work” mentality really upsets me. There’s no pleasing the public.

Finger Licking Good

Experience tells me that when someone says “it’s not about the money” you can count on the fact that it is, indeed, all about the money. Same for sex. Especially for sex. “It’s not about the sex” criticisms are all about sex – dirty, sticky, sweaty, naughty sex.

I don’t care who Bill Clinton slept with and I don’t care who John McCain may (or many not) have slept with. Who gives a piddley-damn about the sexual indiscretions of politicians? Haven’t we learned by now that there is no such thing as a Christian politicians?

Huckabee. Romney. I’m looking at you two.

Maybe Congress will feel the need to overstep their bounds and hold hearings on the subject of Sen. McCain’s sexual history. They can drag his behind in to the chambers and grill him at length about how often he pulls his pud and diddles the hottest lobbiest. He could point his finger at the camera and denounce his cigar smoking, and we could feel self-righteous in our condemnation of the old guy. The Republicans could rid themselves of The Maverick once and for all.

Judas Priest!

Unless he is nailing underage kids, or those he has direct power over, then forget about it. The puritanical religious zealots and sensationalistic media whores can salivate, shake, masturbate, then whip themselves bloody over the guilt of their own chicken choking. I’ve had enough.

80 Years of Oscar

Thank heavens the writer’s strike is over so Jon Stewart can do his thing at the Academy Awards. School, as you already know, gets in the way of my movie watching. As long as JUNO has been in the theaters, I still have not had the chance to see it. Terrible, ain’t it?

My brother-in-law ranted and raved about NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, which is another one I really wanted to see. We did manage to see SWEENEY TODD and it was wonderful. We loved it. I wanted to see PERSEPOLIS, as it is based on a graphic novel, but alas, I did not. Other than that, there was not a whole lot that really enthused me about the nominations this year. Here is a list of the nominated films we saw:
  • Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
  • Ratatouille
  • The Bourne Ultimatum
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
  • Enchanted
  • Transformers
It’s a pathetic showing, don’t you think? I should have seen more artistic and important movies. Of course my daughter thinks her movies are important. She loved ENCHANTED. Me, not so much. A bit too girly for my taste.

I’m having chili, salad and a beer, then sitting down to view the whole ordeal. We are having just a couple of friends over – nothing like we used to do. We don’t have the money for a big blow out. The few coming are teachers and I’m sure we will talk shop, much to the chagrin of the spouses. Should be fun, just the same.

The goal now is to get all the homework done on Friday and Saturday so I can rest and relax on Sunday. I am going to make a spicy vegetarian chili this year. I’ve never made it before and I’m just making it up as I go, using my meat chili recipe as the base. I hope it’s good. If everyone eats salad instead, then I will know to go back to the drawing board.

Supposedly, Jon Stewart only had two weeks to prepare for the fun festivities. Yeah, right. Does anyone else really believe that? Writer’s strike or no, I suspect he’s been working on his material for a while. I look forward to his performance. He’s a funny guy. Here is a list of the

Official Oscar website
Download a printable ballot

Monday, February 18, 2008

Blogger's Meeting Scheduled

We are having a meeting of the Springfield Blogger's Association. That's right kids, it is back on! We will doll out the Blogaroni Awards and just hang like we've always done. Time, dates and location has changed.

Blogger's Meeting
Thursday, February 28
7:30 pm
Panera Bread (National, near MSU)
Room reserved

I miss seeing everyone and I think it would be great for us to get back together.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Education at Work: The Ladybird Beetle

The Ladybug Land

My daughter and I have been studying the ladybug (Coleomegilla maculata) for a science project at my school. I am in the midst of learning how to teach science to students. That is to say, that my professors want me to be able to help the students discover science, rather than just sit through lectures, fill our worksheets, label drawings and take tests. The hope is that students actually learn science through investigation – inquiry – which helps them internalize and remember the information for years to come.

A look at the pupal stage (left) and the larva stage (right).
The larva is preparing to pupate.

So rather than just see pictures of ladybugs, we have a Ladybug Land full of adults. They were not always adults. When they arrived, I have a host of little ladybug larvae running around. Because of the cold, most of them died in transport. Six larva made it to pupa stage, but only five adults emerged. We have studied their lifecycle, ran a light/dark experiment, collected data, made inferences and predictions, and documented our results.

Ladybugs mating (we think).

It’s been a lot of fun. I kept them on my desk, where I do my homework and blogging, so I would be sure to pay attention to them. Indeed, I logged almost three times the journal entries that were necessary. Because of it, I have witnessed them turning from larva to pupa and then witnessed the emergence from pupa to adult. It has been very cool, very rewarding, and very worthwhile. We were especially interested in their mating habits. We saw, what we believe to be, their mating ritual. It lasted for days – the dirty little rascals can flat “do it.”

Another pic of them "doing it".

The written report was 21 pages long and includes daily entries, KWL chart, data tables, observations, inferences, measurements, predictions, photos, and research. I worked on it along the way and it still took me hours to prepare. It was a lot of work, but in the end I think it was worth it. We learned a lot about ladybugs and science education.

By the way, that macro setting on my little digital camera came in very handy when taking pictures of these little "ladies". (There are both male and female ladybugs.)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Daddy-Daughter Date on Valentine's Day

Skinny Kitty was out of town on Valentine’s Day, so that left the daughter and I to our own devices. I picked her up from school and we scooted home quick-quick, let the dog out, then headed to the Springfield 8 to see The Spiderwick Chronicles. This movie was based on the very popular series of children’s books by the same name.

She was hungry after school and we didn’t have time to get her a snack, so we picked her up a kid’s pack (popcorn, snack and drink) for cheap at the concession stand. It wasn’t until after they made hers that I remembered they offer a healthy kid’s snack (popcorn, granola and a juice). We will opt for that next time.

She jumped at the monsters and beasties, covered her eyes, and did that very cute kid thing of looking through the fingers of her hand. She was a bit scared but loved it at the same time. As the credits rolled, she exclaimed that she wanted to buy it on DVD. I guess that is a ringing endorsement. It really was a good kid’s movie.

Biblical Message is About Justice, Especially for the Poor

That is what comic creator Anjinbayo Akinsiku, known as Siku, wanted to get across to readers when he created THE MANGA BIBLE: FROM GENESIS TO REVELATION. You can read all about it in this story from the New York Times.

I have written about this graphic novel before – here and here. It made its way into my hands a few weeks ago and is being reviewed by three pastors that I know and trust. I cannot wait to read it myself and get feedback from those that are more scholarly than I when it comes to the Bible.

Speaking of Biblical graphic novels, JMG Comics is releasing a series called MECHA MANGA BIBLE HEROES, where Biblical stories are set in the future with sci-fi flare. Unlike traditional manga (pronounced "mahn-ga" not "main-ga") this will be in color. That is the right move. Scoop has the story here, including some art. The story states:
All the characters, themes, and stories from the Bible will remain the same, but in a science fiction setting with aliens, robots, and futuristic technology. “Just like modernized versions of Shakespeare’s plays, by taking a solid, meaningful story and translating its elements as faithfully as possible into a new setting, we hope to bring out some of the more amazing details that might get missed by today’s readers,” co-writer Tom Hall explained.

Comics are a great way to help bring young people to The Bible. It makes the stories relevant. Now how will the stories change, setting them in the future? Who knows. But it might just help students relate as many youngsters see Bible stories as very old and irrelevant to their lives.

As a side note: I know that I offer a lot of criticism of Christians. I happen to think that tall persons of faith, regardless of the religion, must constantly re-examine their lives and philosophies to make sure they are in line with that religion. So I challenge a lot of Christian dogma, as that is my religion.


(What the Crap?)

Raelyn Campbell is suing Best Buy for $54 million because they lost her laptop. They gave her the runaround for months, allegedly. Apparently, she took some money from them, twice. She accepted a little over $1,000 and a $500 gift card after months of complaints. She also received $2,500 although she maintains Best Buy transferred the $2,500 back on her credit card without her knowledge. According to the report, NBC’s Bob Sullivan says that hundreds of people have emailed with similar complaints regarding stores such as Best Buy.

She is upset for two reasons: 1) She had lots of personal information, including IRS tax forms, on the computer and she is concerned about stolen identity. 2) She is mad that they never expressed concern for her possibly compromised identity and that they did not address the issue quickly. She maintains they are required by law to notify her that her identity could have possibly been compromised, which she alleges they did not do.

“The money is not the issue. It’s getting them to address the problems,” she said.

$54 million is a lot of money for it not to be about the money. She never offered on the news report to give the money to charity. Me thinks it might be about the money. With that said, I would be pretty angry if a company took my computer in for repairs and it just lost it and then gave me the runaround for three months. Three months! Where is customer service? Best Buy has never been known for their customer service.

I bought a Mac and I use my local dealer, Database Systems, if I have problems. They have great customer service! They would never let this happen. Ever. Even if they lost it, Database would do something about it and they would do it quickly.

NBC comments to this story has moved to another page because of the vast volume.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

An Angel, of Course

The 7-year-old did a great job in college today. My math instructor even let her participate in a classroom activity with geoboards. I think we counted seven people on campus who had their children with them. Two of those were faculty. It’s just a part of life I guess.

I suppose the professors do not have to agree. They can refuse to allow us to bring our children to class. Fortunately, my instructors were happy to oblige and my daughter repaid their kindness by being very well mannered.

What's Your Reading Level?

They know. They know. My daughter certainly knows. Children are keenly aware of the successes and failures of other students in their class. That was evident today when my daughter filled out her Valentine’s Day cards for her classmates.

She sat down with her mother, and get this, she categorized the Shrek Valentines based on reading difficulty. There were seven different designs and she quickly assessed them from hardest to easiest to read. She then went down the list of children and assigned them a card based on their reading level. She knew each child’s reading level, which is based on a color.

“Well, so-and-so is in the yellow group,” she said. “He reads …” [shakes hand].

Now this is not an indictment of her teacher or the teacher’s methods; she has a good teacher and she has learned a lot from her teacher. But it is a learning opportunity for me to understand that children are very aware of one another’s strengths and weaknesses. They think about those weaknesses. In many cases, those challenges are used against the child. In this case, my daughter considered each child and wanted them to be able to read her Valentine.

So how do I use this information? I don’t know if there is any way to prevent students from knowing other students’ reading abilities. Reading is, after all, top priority in elementary school. A lot of time is spent on it. I am inclined to think that children should be placed in heterogeneous groupings to prevent categorizing them as poor, average or good readers. It could be that the teacher uses heterogeneous groupings at times. It’s not really about my daughter’s classroom as much as it is about mine and my philosophy of teaching.

My wife recalls a classroom where there were three reading groups: 1, 2 and 3. I, too, remember homogeneous reading groups. We kept a chart above the chalkboard and I can remember sitting there and wondering how those girls – those damned smart girls – were able to read so many books so fast. It boggled my mind. There was no way I could read that fast or that well. It was disheartening. I felt stupid. I’m still not a fast reader, but I do it a lot and I do it for fun. Alas, it has not always been that way.

I am proud of my daughter for considering other children. I am disturbed by the fact that she knows their abilities so readily. Much to ponder.

Deputy Dumps Man with Disability Out of Wheelchair

That headline is not hyperbole. The Deputy Sheriff wheeled the man onto the station and told him to stand. He informed her that he was a paraplegic and could not stand. She upended the wheelchair and dumped him into the floor, then she frisked him.

You can see the story on the Today Show. Check out the video. I know law enforcement is a tough job, but come on. The deputy has been placed on leave without pay pending investigation.

Obviously, she did not believe him. Believing persons with disabilities are faking is a major stereotype and quite problematic. I've seen it before when I ran an agency for persons with disabilities. You really need to check out the video.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Election Night News

A Republican friend of mine, a non-blogger who reads my blog, were talking about the political news coverage. On Super Tuesday, CNN cut into McCain's speech to broadcast Obama's speech. We both noticed it and talked about it. We got a laugh out of it and we both wondered about if it was a biased slight or just life in the world of broadcast journalism.

I don't usually buy into the biased liberal media garbage. I've worked in the media and I think the msm is only concerned about the bottom line.

Well Skinny Kitty and I were watching the election results tonight and guess what happened? Obama was giving his speech. CNN cut him off early to broadcast McCain's speech. So there we have it. I just thought it was interesting. Makes me feel good that they slight both sides. I have to admit that I wondered about it.

So far Obama is ahead in delegates and super delegates, but not by much. That makes Fat Jack a happy man. Whoever wins, it should be fair and square. None of this super delegate crap, where the nominee is decided in smokey back rooms. Down with the electoral college and super delegates. Maybe we should not have delegates either. I don't know about that one, but I know I do not like the will of the people being usurped by big political bosses.

Taking the Kid To College

The youngin' is out of school on Wednesday, according to the school closing list at KY3. So she's going to college with me. That should be an interesting day, eh? I have class from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

I have emailed my professors and asked them if it was okay. I've heard back from one, but not the other, but I do not think she will mind. They are education classes – our methods classes. That is, those classes that teach us how to teach math, science, communication arts, social studies. So maybe we can learn from her and see just how elementary students learn and think.

I'm taking plenty of things for her to do while we are in class.
  • Books
  • Comics
  • iPod
  • Portable DVD player
That should give her plenty of things to do while we are in school. And yes, we will have headphones for the the iPod and DVD player. I'm excited about it. I hope that we can use some of our techniques with her. She loves to perform so she won't mind being up in front of college students. Besides, she is cute as a button.

I am thankful that my professors are open to the idea of bringing my child to class. They will not tolerate interruptions and distractions, nor should they. But I don't think that will be a problem. She has been raised with manners.

The Big Birthday Round Up

What a fantastic birthday I’ve had! The snow days have given me extra time with the girls, but I didn’t necessarily need it. I had so much fun this weekend. Here is a listing of some of the highlights:

We went to Springfield’s retro arcade, 1984, and it was so much fun. There were tons of kids there and it was very busy. Daughter enjoyed playing Golden Axe. The wife enjoyed the game, 1984, and Frogger. I really liked Centipede, Space Invaders and Joust. I suck at Donkey Kong. Suck.

The Pimple
The daughter got up Sunday morning and was so excited. She had a big, whitehead pimple on her nose. She jumped up and down, squealed, and proclaimed “I’m a teenager now!” Not hardly as she is only 7-years-old, but she was happy about it. We’ll see how happy she is to have pimples when she is 13.

Sushi, Octopus and Lobster
We celebrated my birthday with my family by going to Steak and Ale. I had surf and turf and my daughter, who is notorious for not trying new foods, actually ate a bite of lobster. She loved it. That evening we hung out with our friends at Umi, a quaint sushi stop here in town. We really enjoy that restaurant, but can’t eat sushi very often as we are on a budget. It was a big table, 9 of us, so we ordered some sushi. One thing the waiter brought us were three baby octopus. We conned the kids, two boys (twins) and my daughter, into eating them. I ate one and they ate the rest. I can’t believe that my daughter ate a octopus, head, brain, tentacles and all. That is not like her. She was so excited to have eating the brain. It was really pretty good; it was just rubbery. She also tried some chicken teriyaki sushi. I know, it’s not real sushi, but it was the only thing that she would try, except for the cucumber role. She opted for the teriyaki roll. She ate several pieces.

We have been so busy that we have not had time to watch any movies. We are going to try to watch FLICKA as a family tonight, but who knows if we will get to it.

Today we have played games: Simpsons Clue and Memory. She kicks her Mom’s butt every time they play Memory. Soph is good at it.

I’ve read some comics. I got to read Jeff Smith’s new take on SHAZAM! I also read USAGI YOJIMBO by Stan Sakai. Both are good. USAGI YOJIMBO is fantastic! Think of it as a Akira Kurosawa film in comic format. It’s great – lots of samurai culture, sword play in feudal Japan.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Show-Me Film Festival is This Weekend

We've blogged about it before and we will do it again (in this post and future posts). Springfield has its own film festival and we are happy to promote it. Good film, like good literature, is a must for any well rounded individual.

Click here for a calendar of this weekends flicks. You can click on the film for more information.

Special passes are available:
$40 Weekend Pass - every film, every event (45% savings)
$25 Film Maker Pass - all of Saturday's events (40% savings)
You can buy them online or at The Coffee Ethic at 124 Park Central Square.

Special events for film buffs include:

  • SATO48 Workshop Saturday morning at 11 am at the Gillioz - want to shoot a 5 min short!
  • Documentary Film Making Panel Saturday afternoon at 3:45 pm at the Moxie - meet three experienced local Doc film makers
  • Film Maker Celebration Saturday night at 9:30 pm at Nonna's - come meet the film makers and network with film buffs over appetizers and cash bar. $10 at the door but included as part of both passes!
  • Awards Ceremony Sunday afternoon at 1pm at The Moxie - we are giving out $1000 cash prizes this year to a Short film, a Documentary and a Feature film that are part of the competition. Free.
I've always wanted to go, but life seems to get in the way. This year, like last year, is school. College tends to do that to a person.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Ethical Blogging

I have been having a great conversation with another blogger. The issue centers on journalistic ethics. Specificially, do citizen journalists (bloggers) have an ethical duty to make themselves known when they are covering an event? This blogger and I differ on our opinions, but I will not tell you how. I think this is a vital issue, as us citizen journalists do not have the education and the professional training that professional journalists have. We need to know what is ethical and what is not.

Here is a scenario. Please, leave feedback so that we citizen journalists can learn and become better bloggers.

(UPDATE 6:39 a.m.: This is a fake scenario. I thought the word "scenario" would give that away. This never happened between Larry and I. I made it up to discuss a larger issue of ethics and blogging. Please don't spam my great friend Larry. He is innocent!)

Rep. Charlie Dennis (Republican) is hosting a town hall meeting at Scramblers restaurant. He wants to get in touch with his constituents. Fat Jack, a left-learning citizen journalist, goes to the event 30 minutes early, sets up his laptop and hangs out. Finally, Rep. Dennison shows up with some other folks and sits down. Fat Jack begins typing.

Does Fat Jack have an ethical obligation to go to Rep. Dennison and introduce himself as a blogger who is covering the event?

Fat Jack decides not to introduce himself. He wants to see if they will introduce themselves to him. Rep. Dennison, nor his compatriots, do not introduce themselves to me, although I am sitting right there. I type away and cover the entire event, logging conversations between individuals.

Fat Jack decides that because Rep. Dennison did not introduce himself, that Fat Jack is not obligated to do the same. Is this an ethical assumption? Should Fat Jack still run the article on his blog?

Fat Jack’s friend, Larry Litle of Simple Thoughts of a Complex Mind, shows up at the event. He does greet Rep. Dennison and makes it known that Fat Jack is a blogger that is covering this event for Fat Jack’s Erratic Rants. Fat Jack is disappointed that now he will not get any “juicy tidbits” because everyone knows who he is. The article is written and posted on Fat Jack’s blog.

Has Fat Jack unknowingly been unethical in his approach to covering a public event, held in a restaurant? If not, then defend your answer. If so, then what could Fat Jack have done to be more ethical.

In this case, Fat Jack used to be a professional reporter, although he was not trained as a reporter. Just for reference, due to his lack of experience and journalistic education, he made several ethical mistakes as a reporter. He learned from them, but not before he was embarrassed. He was within his rights, but he could have done a lot better.

You may choose to use the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics to help you with the above scenario.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Competing Philosophies

I just figured out there is dissent in the world of education. I knew that already, but I was not aware of the prevalence within my own college. We are getting immersed in the constructivist philosophy, where children are exposed to experiences and learn to think for themselves, rather than just being told what to learn and how to learn it. They learn by doing, thinking, reasoning and making connections with the larger world. While the general education department accepts this reasoning, the special education department does not. They are behaviorists, and thus they lean more toward the idea that the teacher opens up the child’s head and dumps in all information that the child needs. There is no thinking involved as much as there is drills and memorization.

Now, understand that there are folks all over this spectrum and I have oversimplified the arguments for the sake of explanation to people who are not educators.

I am a constructivist. I think children should think and reason, not just memorize and practice drills. Although once they understand the bigger picture – the concepts and connections – then some drills are certainly appropriate. But the conceptual understanding must come first.

The argument for direct instruction (that is, the dumping of information into a child’s brain) is that struggling learners, those in special education, cannot learn conceptually. It is simply too abstract for them. They can only learn by memorizing the rules and practicing the drills. Maybe I am too ideological, but I believe that all children can learn the big picture, make connections, and think rationally, based on their previous knowledge. Now the learning may not progress at the same level as other children, but I believe that struggling student can do this. Some children with severe disabilities may need other services, of course, but I am open to their learning opportunities too.

But I wonder: Will my philosophy be dashed once I actually get into a real classroom and am really faced with the learning opportunities of struggling, or will I be able to implement the constructivist philosophy with all the children in my classroom? I am pretty optimistic that the special education department is simply mistaken in their assessment that struggling learners can only be taught with direct instruction.

The Birthday Party Begins

It’s my birthday weekend and I have all kinds of things planned, including some movie watching. BLACK SNAKE MOAN, THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS, and FLICKA are all waiting patiently at home. I also have a Blockbuster coupon just waiting to be used.

FLICKA of course, is the family movie. It is the only thing I could find that looked interesting. BLACK SNAKE MOAN is just for me. The wife won’t care much for it. Will Smith’s flick just looked good.

On Saturday we are going to 1984, Springfield’s only retro arcade. For 5 bones, a feller can play video games from 4-11 pm. How cool is that? I’ll let you know how it goes. If you want to celebrate with us, then you are welcome to go too. Free invite. Other than that, I am reading comics and shopping for some comic book T-shirts, eating our with family for Sunday lunch, and going out with our friends on Sunday to eat sushi on Sunday eve.

Tonight, we open presents. The daughter cannot wait for me to open my gifts on my actual birthday (Sunday). I love that kind of excitement and it is just fine with me. I’m excited to open them too.

If you want to know my age, I’ll make you add it up. I was born in 1973.

Some Kind of Mad

Holy Crap! What is in the water to cause all these shootings in the last 48 hours? It takes some serious mental illness issues to just walk into a school and stab/shoot your soon-to-be ex-wife. For the love of Pete, what does it do to 11-year-old children to see a man walk into their room and stab/shoot their teacher?

Thank you President George Bush and Gov. Matt Blunt for cutting those unnecessary services that help treat and provide support for persons with mental illness. It was the right thing to do. All those people with mental illness didn’t really need it. Brittany is just a faker. Michael Layne was just weak. I’m sure Christ is quite pleased that we have cut those services just so we can have lower taxes. Lower taxes, you know, is all part of the greater Biblical plan. It’s right there in the book of … of … oh it’s not there at all. So much for family values. Screw the poor and call it Christ. Good for us. Good for us. At least I am getting that rebate check soon.

Skinny Kitty would like to remind everyone that mental illness is a real illness just like diabetes or cancer, it is treatable in most cases, and that most persons with mental illness are not dangerous. She points us all to The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) for more information.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

School teachers and Mac addicts rejoice! Software for You.

Planbook is Mac software for the teacher. Not a grade book, but a plan book in digital form – also published on the web – and boy does it look cool. Administrator want to see what your planning for the next week? No problem. You’ve got it all on Planbook. Students lost a handout? They can go to the website and download it themselves. Parents want to know what you are working on? It’s all on the website. Did a student miss a day? They can … you guessed it … check the website.

Features include:

  1. Attach files and web links to lessons- no more hunting in file cabinets to find the worksheet, test or other document you used in class. Double click and your files open in the correct application.
  2. Publish your planbook directly to the web or to a local folder on your hard drive. Once you publish your plan book to a website, students, parents, teachers and administrators can access the parts of your plan book you want them to see from their web browser. No more “what’d we do yesterday” or “did my son/daughter have homework” questions from parents and students. Built in FTP upload allows you to post your lessons on the internet in seconds!
  3. Quickly and easily create individualized, printable reports for students and administrators who want and need them.
  4. Search your plan book. Can’t remember when you taught projectile motion? Search and find the lessons you want in seconds.
  5. View and print weekly lesson plans for personal use, administrator review or posting in class.

It costs $30 per teacher, or $100 for 10 teachers. There are other site license discounts as well. Check the website for sample web pages, themes and to download.

If you teach and use a Mac, then check out this program. I haven’t used it yet, but I will.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

My Blogaroni Vote is In, Is Yours?

You have just 12 days left to submit your vote for the annual Blogaroni Awards (due Februrary 15). We just sent ours to Larry at Simple Thoughts of a Complex Mind, who has once again spearheaded the event. Many thanks to him for that. We have elected to not vote for ourselves, although we are truly magnificent in our blogging ability. Bask in glory that is Fat Jack. Bask I say! But somehow voting for our own blog just seems arrogant. There are so many great local blogs out there, and I mean that sincerely.

We would like to suggest that we have a blogger meet-up to disseminate the awards and get the monthly meetings going again. Would any of you fancy schmancy bloggers like to meet and hang out once a month for an hour or two? We used to meet on a Tuesday eve 6 p.m. at Patton Alley Pub but that could change if it worked out better for everyone.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Nuthin But Movies

I have bronchitis. It sucks big time. I hate not being to breathe, but at least I have cough medicine that lets me sleep better at night. I haven't done much today except watch movies and rest. I watched THE BOURNE IDENTITY which is just what I thought it would be. It was exciting. The only problem I had was in the end, Jason goes to the top secret training facility in NY. There, he meets the guy who turned Bourne into the killing machine he is. It is an illegal program, yet all Bourne has to do is jump out the window and escape? Too convenient. If it is top secret, then there would not be a window to the outside. Other than that, I enjoyed it.

We also watched Hong Kong Phooey. That was a lot of fun. My daughter seemed to really enjoy it. That theme song cracks me up!

Boo Hooers are Not News

The whiners were on the news last night complaining about the big surprise: Springfield Public Schools closed due to weather. They were inconvenienced. They were surprised. They were angry. They were a big bunch of whiners.

Honestly, how could one be surprised that the school closed early with the snow coming down like it was? Really? They had no idea? I am amazed how stupid people are. Remember last year when people complained that the district did not close school due to snow. There’s no pleasing some people.

Why, on God’s white earth, did the newsmakers feel that was a story? It’s snow for goodness sake. Schools close. “Think of the children” and all of that. Whiny-baby parents are not news. For the love of Pete!