Sunday, December 30, 2007

What's Wrong with this Picture?



Last night at 10:30, I check my email and found a message from a friend in Atlantic City mentioning me that she saw my picture in The Press. I had absolutely no idea of why it would be there. It was too late to call and find out, so I made a flying run to WAWA, to no avail.

This morning on the way to do some shopping, I dropped of our papers at the recycle center. While WAWA didn't have The Press, the dumpster did and the picture about is what I found. So what's wrong with this picture? To be honest, nothing is particularly wrong, but I wanted to write about it, so let's get picky. :-)

I guess I would have to start with the fact that I'm probably breaking copyright laws by publishing it here, but hey, I had no idea that the picture was even being taken. No one interviewed me or asked my permission and if I was in a witness protection program, copyright violations would be the least of my worries. So Press of AC, if you want me to take it down, just let me know. I'll be happy to remove the picture, the link to your site, and be even happier to have something else to blog about.

What else can I say? Well, I remember thinking as I left that Tony was in a particularly cordial mood. Now don't get me wrong. The Barnegat staff is always cordial. It was just that this time it was to the extent that I made particular note of it.

Obviously, he knew the photographer was there, but I didn't. Now I know he wasn't hiding behind a postage stamp and I probably should have seen him. I'm glad it's been years since I was a store detective. It would be hard to live that one down.

Let's move on to the headline and the story. The gist of the story is that the downtown merchants feel that it will reduce foot traffic to their stores and hurt their business. I tend to doubt that is the case. In the 30+ years I've lived in Barnegat, I can count on one hand the number of times we went from the post office to another business downtown. In most cases the business was the reason for our visit downtown and the post office was an afterthought.

The one exception to that was one time when we were at the post office we smelled something good coming from the Hurricane House across the street. Even then we didn't make the 50 foot walk, but we did make it a point to stop there the following week to eat. However, we were disappointed in the food that time and if the post office wasn't there, we would have been better off.

The article doesn't make mention of how residents feel about the move. I can only speak for myself, but since I'm moving to NH, it doesn't really matter much. If I was staying, I would be in favor of the move. As far as I'm concerned, the current location actually makes for traffic problems. Getting in and out is a problem and the parking lot is too small for the amount of traffic it handles. I've been in 3 parking lot fender benders in my 30+ years here and two of them were at the post office.

So to summarize, there is really not much wrong with the picture unless of course, if you feel that this blog entry is what's wrong with it.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Spammers Take a Holiday

Well it looks like spammers take at least one day a year off. On Dec. 25, I received a total of four pieces of spam. That's less than I typically get in an hour. What that means is beyond me. I would think that the vast majority of spam would be an automatic process that doesn't require human initiation.

Is this because spammers have the holiday spirit. Is it because the think any spam coming in on that day would piss off even the most gullible newbie? Who knows? Who cares? Why am I writing this? Why are you reading it?

Nuff said. Happy New Year everyone.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Messing With Political Minds

I'm getting tired of having my meals interrupted by political straw polls or other candidate fun and games. I'm as civic minded as the next guy, but enough is enough. We have a no call list from which politicians have seen fit to make themselves immune. Since I can't stop the calls, I will take them regardless of who they are. However, I will do my utmost to answer the questions in such a manner as to not give any indication of how I will act or feel.

For example, I just got a recorded 1-minute congressional survey. It asked me to press 1 if I was going to vote for a Republican candidate, 2 if I was going to vote for Democrat John Adler, or 3 if I am undecided. I pressed 4.

And so it begins...

To Whom Do You Report the BBB?

So who watches the watch dog? On Oct. 14, I filed an online complaint against Acme Express Oil in Ocean County, NJ. They installed a new oil tank on my property and failed to bleed the lines before they left. Without getting into the details, the problem that transpired was a result of their failure to bleed the line. They refused to stand behind their work and I had to pay for a service call. It was $75. In the scheme of things, that's no big deal, but the way the situation was handled and their refusal to stand behind their work, made it a matter of principle.

I was told that I could expect notice of action within 3 weeks. A month went by and I heard nothing. On Nov. 22, I sent an inquiry about the situation, but heard nothing.

About an hour ago, I called the BBB, stated my situation and gave my information. The young lady dug up the file and looked into it. Unable to give me an answer, she said, "Let me see who handled this." and put me on hold.

After about 5 minutes of sitting on hold listening to tips about avoiding getting robbed or ripped off during holiday shopping, Nancy came on the line.

Like another verse of Alice's Restaurant, I repeated my story. Eventually, Nancy said that they had sent a reply. I informed her that I never received it and asked if they could send it again, to which she replied that she would.

I asked if she could send it right out, but she couldn't. I asked when I could expect it. She said not until at least next week, because they just got a new computer system and she was trying to figure it out. At this point I just pictured her giving a wink, wink, nod, nod to the person next to her.

It seems a bit strange that they could locate my complaint and the fact that they sent a reply (wink, wink, nod, nod), but couldn't send the response until at least next week because they have a new computer system.

Before hanging up, I asked who had handled my original complain. It was non other than Nancy.

I'll wait until next week and follow up with another call and post the results here. Anyone want to take any bets?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Four Days in Hammond, IN

I just finished 8 presentations in 2 days at two schools in Hammond, IN. I got to talk to students, teachers, and parents. I love it when I get to talk to all three groups. Regardless of whether they agree or disagree with all or part of what I have to say, it get's them all on the same page and discussions can take place based on common ground. You can read about the presentations at NWI or 3DWiredSafety blog, but this post is just about the trip and the people I met along the way.

Normally I would fly out of Philadelphia, but for this trip I drove to MA and dropped off my wife to visit our new grandson and flew out of Logan. My daughter who lives in MA told me that they avoid Logan like the plague and fly out of RI whenever they can. However, I figured it was a Monday and the middle of the day. How bad could it be?

It started with a one-hour bus ride from Newburypot to Logan on the C&J Trailways line. It was a new bus, comfortable seats, tv programming, music, and even an AC outlet for laptops or whatever you might want to plug in. Next time I'll have to bring my laptop or a microwave.

I glanced up at the screen and saw a show with a woman who looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn't place her. I plugged in my headset and listened for a while. It was comedy. I could best describe it as I Love Lucy with a brain. When the credits rolled, I saw that I was watching Life with Elizabeth with Betty White, a show I don't remember. But then again, that was 1963 and it was my sophomore year in college. I don't remember much about those years.

We arrived at Logan with not traffic problems and I braced myself for what might be coming next. When I walked into the terminal, there was noone ahead of me at check-in and only three people ahead of me at the security check-in. I stopped at the book store, got the last copy of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Largest Mercenary Army, sat down and read until my flight boarded on time.

Everything was going smoothly until the doors closed. About 30 seconds later the pilot announced that due to high winds at O'Hare, they were going to keep us on the ground for an hourl. Sooooo close, but Murphy had to step in and enforce his law. I guess I really can't complain. It probably would have been the same situation regardless of what airport I used.

It seems that there is an unwritten law that when I take a trip I MUST forget something. It's never anything critical, but it's something that I would use. In this case, I was going to rent a car and I thought I packed my GPS. Unfortunately, I just peeked into my bag before I left and what I thought was my GPS was actually my digital camera. So it was going to cost me $8.95 a day to rent one.

It was 30 miles from O'Hare to my motel and it only took an hour in Chicago traffic. The Ramda was nothing to write home about, but it was clean and the people were friendly. There was a decent restaurant just outside their door with about the most efficient wait staff I've come across. The only place where I got more attention was on our 25th anniversary when I took Jill to NYC and wen't first class all the way. We went to Maxwell Plum, which was still open then. We had our own personal waiter and unending attention. After dinner, I reached to pour Jill a second cup of coffee and the waiter almost dived to the table to intercept me. That's a bit TOO much attention.

Hammond used to be hopping back it the days of steel and rails, but now it has gone the way of many similar cities. It has downsized and adapted to the new times. No traffic problem, not much crime, but enough of the inner city problems so that I wouldn't classify it as a sleepy hamlet.

I gave presentations to 4th-8th graders, teachers and parents at St. Stanislas School and well as similar talks to 7th-12th graders, parents, and teachers at Bishop Noll Academy. Both schools had great student bodies and staff members. It was a hectic two days. They were tiring, but painless and trouble free.

The trip home was uneventful except for two things. At O'Hare my belt set off the medal detector. At Logan, I had asked if I should take it off. They said no and it went through fine. So I didn't ask at O'Hare. Had that been Phila., it would have meant a full pat down and probably a full bag check. Not so at O'Hare, probably because the line was short. They just made me take it off and go through again.

When I arrived at Logan, I did and OJ through the airport (that was a sprint, not a murder) to try to make my bus, but I just missed my bus by about two minutes and had to wait another hour. Now I'm here in MA and chilling with my daughter and grandson who is just waking up. Enough with the blog...

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Murphy's Law and the 1 Cent Tripod

Last month I became a grandfather for the first time. We traveled from NJ to MA for a 10-day visit. Of course I took my camcorder and tripod. During our stay there were a lot of visitor many of who had babies and stored their gear in our room. When I arrived back home, I realized that I was missing my tripod.

I called to my daughter. Maybe it was still at her house. Nope. Both of my nieces, one of whom has twins were there. Maybe it got bundled in their things. Nope. The tripod was missing.

We joked that it might be with the spare key to her house which I also managed to lose.

It's now a month later. Neither item made an appearance and we are getting ready for another visit. That reminded me that I'm still missing my tripod and that it's time to replace it. So off I went to eBay where I find a tripod auction with bidding starting at one cent and it was ending in 22 minutes.

The first thing I noticed is that the shipping is $15.55, which means the seller has built the price the tripod into the shipping costs. Still, a $15 tripod isn't bad. I decided to see if I could win it for a penny. Lo and behold, that's exactly what happened.

Later that day as Jill and I went shopping, I told her that I figured the tripod would definitely surface, because I had just purchased a new one. No sooner had the words left my mouth I opened the trunk to put some packages in. I moved a blanket sitting there and.... Well, you guessed it. The tripod was there.

Anyone out there want a tripod. It's yours for free. All you have to do is pay $15.55 shipping.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Turkish TV, Tea and Coffee

Today I did a 9 minute Internet safety segment on EBRU TV, a Turkish owned and operated satillite TV station in Somerset. It was a trip!

Merideth Parker, the host of Daily Connections was articulate, inquisitive, friendly and charming. When the interview airs, it will be available on the web. I'll write a little bit about it in my 3DWiredSafety blog and post a link here to the program when it airs on the web in about 2 weeks. For this post, I want to tell you about my experiences at the station.

As Educational Technology Director for WiredSafety, I get a pay check of $0.00 for the charity work that I do, but I do get the cool title and a few perks, one of which is appearing on TV shows.

I've been on all of the major stations, but I always enjoy visiting smaller stations. This company is a relatively new satellite start up. They've been broadcasting for about a year and have their studios in Somerset, NJ. When I walked into the offices, there were no security guards, sign in sheets or bureaucracy. It was refreshingly unlike the major stations, which understandably have such procedures.

Oscar greeted me and directed me and another guest to the "green room" and pointed us to the cafeteria where we could have coffee, tea, cookies, and other goodies. It was there that I found another distinct departure from the major studios. In the coffee room there was a considerably more emphasis on tea. There was a large tea making unit, on the top of which sat carafes of Turkish tea. Below it was a hot water spout for diluting the concentrated tea. I probably should have asked what proportions are best, but I didn't and for my first cup of Turkish tea and used about 1/4 water. In retrospect, I probably should have gone about 50-50. The resulting tea was about the color of my usual morning coffee. I figure it will be 2-3 days before I get any sleep. LOL

The show is taped in unedited 9 minute segments in a very comfortable and relaxed atmosphere. Guests are followed by a cooking segment done by Arzu. In yesterday's segments she showed viewers how to make Turkish coffee and baklavah. The crew and guests get to chow down on her cooking between shooting segments. They offered me the coffee, but considering I was already walking about 2 inches off the ground, I passed and just had some of the heavenly baklavah.

Between the tea and the coffee I know what puts the whirl in the Dervishes. Add to that Arzu's cooking and might also explain why everyone in the studio was so chipper, but I really think it was just a very friendly work atmosphere and genuinely nice people.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Digestive System and Bloating (Software)

After writing about my digestive systems program in my previous post, I thought I might make it available to anyone who is curious about what was happening with multimedia in 1990. If you are interested in getting a copy, just drop me an email at awolinsky_at_3dwriting.com (Replace _at_ with @.) and I'll send it to you as an attachment.

Don't worry about it being too big. It's not. You see, this is back in the days when programmers were restrained by the amount of memory and disk space available. They had to write tight, economic code, and Linkway was amazingly compact.

It had to be. We are running on brand new IBM PCs which were boasting an amazing 2 Meg of RAM and no hard drive, though we were networked.

The digestive system program is actually a collection of files that are created as I developed the it. There are 66 separate files. Of the 66, 25 are images, and three are executables. The rest are fonts, texts, runtimes, and batch files.

I'll be sending it to you as a ZIP file. How big do you think that might be? Are you ready for this? The ZIP file is 359 K. No, I didn't make a mistake. It's kilobytes, not megabytes.

Just for the fun of it, I took a screen shot of this blog. Granted I have a 17" monitor, but that single screen shot in BMP format was 2.93 MB. That single picture is more than 8 times the size of the digestive system program's ZIP file.

In case you are wondering how big the unzipped files are, they are 1.08 MB, still almost 3 times smaller than the single screen shot.

Those were the days. :-)

Lesson Plan Lunacy

In a recent 3DWiredSafety blog post, I wrote about a 2nd grader who was suspended for drawing a stick figure holding a gun, and asked that a little common sense be exercised.

Jeff commented, "Since when does common sense have a place in today's schools? We've replaced common sense with mandates, low standards curricula, and zero tolerance policies. Where have you been, Art?"

Jeff is right. Administrative lunacy has been around for a long time, but things are getting worse. His comment caused me to think back on some of the stupidity of bureaucracy and administrative trivia I'm fought over the years. I'd like to relate one particular mandate that I refused to follow throughout my 30 years of teaching and stands as one of the only negative comments on 30 years of evaluations.

My pet peeve is lesson plans. Today, more than ever, lesson plans are required to be in a certain format. It varies from school to school, but there are places for objectives, goals, standards, methods, materials, blah, blah, blah, blah...

Let me start by saying that I spent hours planning my lessons, developing material, testing things BEFORE I go into the classroom, and making sure I give the kids the best education possible. When I had a text for the course, it has a scope and sequence that I would use as a guide to make sure that there weren't gaps, but if I were to take the time to write plans out the way THEY wanted me to, I would have to give up time that I devoted to the kids. I felt the kids were more important than the department chairman or any other bean counter in the state department.

As a result, I would always have plans, often pages long, they they were MY plans for ME to us in a format that I could follow. This didn't please some administrators. The classic example of my attitude and my disdain for ineffective administrators took place back in 1990.

I have elementary certification, K-12 science, and was teaching computer education when there was no certification for it. In this particular case, I was teaching 10th grade science during summer school.

Earlier that year, a $500 grant from the board of education enabled me to develop a hypermedia program to teach the digestive system. The program was written using IBM's Linkway program and 17 years later, it still works on todays Windows machines.

(Before I go on, I want to clear up any misconception that I may be "anti-administrator". There are many great administrators who were key mentors to me. Among them was Judy Wilson, who was Assistant Superintendent at the time and was responsible for the grant program that allowed me to develop the program.)

Back to summer school...

It was 8 weeks into the course. Anyone who as ever taught summer school, knows what that means. I decided that I wanted to do some action research into the effectiveness of multimedia education. I told the kids that for the last two weeks we were going to study the digestive system, but that I wasn't going to teach them. They were going to learn it themselves. I told them that they were going to have a pretest and a post test and that their grades would have little to do with the results.

Some were puzzled, some were angry, some were asleep, and all thought that I had lost it. I then took them to the lab and showed them how to use the program. I had created it to meet all learning styles. If a student wanted to do nothing but read about it, they could click through page after page. If they were visually oriented, they could click on various parts of the digestive system and find out about them. They could use hyperlinks in the text to move around as they saw fit. They could use any combination graphics and text that they wanted. There was a built in text editor where they could copy and paste text and write notes and save them. They absolutely loved it and for the first week every single student was totally engaged.

I had already had my observation, but I wanted my department chairman to see what these kids were doing. I invited him to visit. He came in for about 15 minutes and said he had to leave to observe another teacher. I asked him what he thought and his reply was, "It's very nice but it isn't the 10th grade curriculum."

"Bill, (not his real name)" I said, "It's the 10 grade curriculum that got them here. In the past week, they've done more reading and writing of science than they have done for the entire year."

Partly to his credit, he said, "Well I guess I can justify that."

To which I replied, "You don't have to justify anything. If anyone has a problem with that, you can send them to me."

"By the way, where are your lesson plans?" was his retort.

I simply reached into my pocket and handed him a floppy disk.

Needless to say, he didn't even know how to turn on a computer. Holding the disk out he muttered, "What do you want me to do with this?"

I just smiled and said, "You really don't want me to tell you that, do you?"

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Diet is Moving

I didn't want this blog to be dominated by the food reviews of our diet, so I created a Diet Food Review blog and moved them there.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Joey Bishop and the Sands Die on the Same Night

It's ironic that Joey Bishop, the last surviving member of the "Rat Pack" and perpetual star of the Sands Las Vegas show should die on the same day that the Sands Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City was imploded.

Speaking of the Rat Pack, I'd like to comment on a possible error in the Asbury Park Press. In their front page article they stated that "...a public address system blared Sinatra crooning Bye Bye Birdie."

video
While it's possible that the article is accurate, because it was referencing Governor Cozine's pushing the plunger on the podium, but the ten of thousands on the boardwalk near Bally's never heard that tune. Instead, we were treated to the voice of Bobby Martin singing to the thousands of strangers in the night.

While the Governor and the Sands got the spotlight, the hard work of Bobby Martin seems to be overlooked. Those of us who waited for hours before the implosion appreciate his efforts.

Implosion of the Sands Hotel and Casino


The implosion was set for 9:30 PM. Jill and I debated on when we should leave to get at good seat. When it comes to that kind of decision making we usually miss the target. Since the weather was nice, we decided to get there early. So armed with my video iPod and a few hours of TV shows, we headed down the Parkway at a little after 6:00. If we arrived much later, we would have missed our mark.

I wanted to park at Bally's, the closest casino parking lot. As is stood, the first open spot was on the roof. By the time we made our way down to the boardwalk with our folding chairs, it was around 7:00 and the crowd had just begun to form. We could have gotten about a 3rd row spot at the very best viewing area, but opted to take a front row seat in the second best spot. As time passed, the crowd grew and the boardwalk was packed as far as the eye could see, even standing on my chair.

At 9:30, there was an 8 minute fireworks display which culminated with the implosion. As you watch this 2 minute video, you'll hear a loud bang, see the camera shutter and shake as Jill grabbed me in a reflex reaction, along with some verbal commentary. When you hear me say, "Grab the chair." you'll hear a chain reaction of smaller blasts and 9.6 seconds after the first blast, gravity begins to do it's thing .

video

The Press of Atlantic City describes the entire implosion scenario and provides a series of artist renderings that shows how the implosion should go (1) (2) (3). It went off like clock work!

Of course it took about 15 minutes to make it the half block from our seat to the car and another 40 minutes to make it out of the garage which was bumper to bumper for seven floor, but all in all, it was well worth it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Raising a Daughter Leaves a Trail of Parts

Shortly after my daughter got her driver's license we got that call with a trembling voice on the other end. It seems a telephone pole jumped out and bit our Oldsmobile as she passed a stopped car on the right. There were pieces on the highway.

Eventually we got her a old 1967 MGB that was the love of her driving life and the never ending project for me. Talk about a trail of parts. Over the lifespan of the car she went through three (or was it four) engines and parts all over the garage, driveway, Parkway and who knows where.

She's grown up now and has given us our first grandchild, but she's still leaving a trail of parts. Today we got another call, but it wasn't a car part that fell off. Our grandson's umbilical cord fell off.

It's calls like that which make all of the other calls worthwhile. :-)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

TLR&R Background

I guess this should really have been the first post, but since the incident described previously was the inspiration for starting this blog, I guess this as good a place as any to give you some background.

In 1996, there as a very destructive board of education in our town and I was a teacher in the district. In an effort to change the makeup of the board, I started a web site to get the word out to the public about their nefarious dealings and non-educational agenda. The site was called Truth, Lies, Rumors, and Rumbles.

I knew that the site by itself would do little, but knew that the Internet was just becoming big news in the print world. My hope was that the press would pick up on it and get the word out. The press coverage and impact of the site was beyond my most optimistic expectations, but that's a whole different story and ancient history.

Since then, I've retired and volunteer as the Educational Technology Director of WiredSafety.org. I'm bundling all of my past and present experiences into the future postings here and I felt that resurrecting the old name would be appropriate.

My goal then was to educate the public about the dealings of the school district and board of education. My goal with WiredSafety is to educate people about how to create and maintain safe, responsible, online community, and my goal here is to mix all of that with observations and education on any topic.

Take care,
Art

King of the Bad Rugs

Today while sitting at Micky D's, I tried valiantly, but unsuccessfully to avoid staring at the head seated facing away from me in the next booth. I was sorely tempted to use my cell phone to take a picture, but as an Internet safety expert, I would not subject anyone to that kind of global exposure. In fact, I would be a hypocrite if I even showed close friends and family.

However, I don't feel that there is any harm in giving a written description of what I saw. In fact, it might even do some good if by chance the wearer of this rug reads this post and takes an honest look at himself in the mirror. It's obvious that he didn't notice the succession of employees causally strolling by is booth.

I've walked the face of this planet for more than sixty years, and have seen my share of bad wigs, but this one stands out so much that if I were to assign a scoring criteria, with high numbers as ugliness quotient, this one would score more than the sum of the next ten.

First picture a man in his late 60's or early 70's. He is bald on the top with very straight hair on the sides and back just about long enough to put in a 1 inch ponytail. The color is about 60% brown and 40% gray.

Now let's talk about the adornment of that bald patch on the top of his head. There is no way that he paid good money for what is there. It might have been a garage sale or road kill, but for the sake of speaking, let's say he went to a fictitious web site and followed these instructions.

Preparing your real hair:
1) Take one ounce of Dep and mix it with an equal amount of 40 weight motor oil.
2) Spread half of the mixture through your hair
3) Comb back the sides into a ducktail in the back.

Making your wig:
1) Find a French poodle with brown hair at least three shades darker than your hair. 2) Clip the poodle and glue the hair to an oval piece of heavy canvas large enough to cover your bald spot.
3) Spread the other half of the Dep and oil mixture through the poodle hair.
4) Let it almost dry. Then place it in the driveway and run over it repeatedly with your car do as to flatten all curls into what looks like a collection of flat, dry, cinnamon buns.

Wearing your wig:
1) Carefully place your now rigid rug on the top of your head making no attempt to blend it with your natural hair.
2) Be sure that it is placed so that when someone sees you in profile, there is at least a half inch gap between the wig and the front third of your scalp.

Enjoy your new wig!