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."


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 .



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!