Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Teabonics - a set on Flickr

Please, if you are going to make a sign and carry it in public check your spelling and your grammar. If you are not sure, ask someone around you who might know. Of course hanging with this crew of supposed conservatives, who were totally silent through the entire Bush debacle for some reason, might make if difficult to actually find a literate person to ask...

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Should have just stayed in bed

My day so far.

Got out of bed at 4:10 am, stumbling about in the dark I stubbed the little toe on my left foot, it's still barking at me. :-P

Got rained on getting to the car to drive to BART, then missed my train.

Checked my bank account via Blackberry while on the train and saw that there were two $45 withdrawals for BART this morning on my auto-load ticket, I thought that was sort of odd and figured I would call them later.

Got to SF and my EZ Rider (auto-loading BART ticket) would not let me out of the gate.  I talked to the station agent and they checked my card and said it is inactive.  Though when I checked on their web site they say my card IS active. 

I went and bought coffee for Ellard and me at Starbucks, brought it to my desk and turned it upside down dumping the entire cup onto the desk and the floor.

Called BART EZ Rider customer service and got told to leave a message... they have never called back.

Maybe I should have just stayed in bed today :'(

Eat a live toad the first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

More from the BBQ

BBQ at the Yurt

Our friends Cindy and Mike happen to live in a Yurt up on a hill just out of Livermore and they invited a bunch of people over yesterday for a barbecue. It was a perfect day. There was very little wind unlike the rest of the week when it was sort of cool and breezy and even sprinkled a bit. It was sunny and warm, maybe in the low 70's. Here are some pictures I took with my phone. The trail pictures are when some of us walked up to the pond to look at wildflowers along the way. We had a great time and the food was abundant and yummy as well.

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1st Street

While we were getting moved in to our new apartment Nicki came over to help out, along with her kids Kaylee and Ryan. We walked over to 1st Street and had lunch at the 1st Street Ale House. It was a nice sunny warm northern California March day so we ate on the sidewalk. I like it here :-)

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Playing the Harmonica

Serenity has one of these, I wonder if she'll end up in Carnegie Hall? 8-)

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Our New Apartment

The only room that is "finished" is mine so here are photos of my bedroom :-)

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On moving

We are now officially living in Livermore California. This is a very nice town and we have a primo location in it from which we can walk pretty much anywhere. Today we are still in the process of unpacking our "stuff" that is sitting about in big piles in the apartment.

A great deal of our "stuff" is still sitting in what is now officially "Mike's Garage" back in Pleasanton. We may end up needing a storage locker at one of the local storage places, at least for extra bikes and camping gear. Or maybe we could get rid of some "stuff." What I've learned from this move so far:

1. Going up to the 2nd floor via stairs more than 100 times in one day makes my legs tired.

2. We have way more "stuff" than we really need.

3. Cost estimates from movers mean exactly nothing.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

When Less is More: The Case for Teaching Less Math in Schools | Psychology Today

Think of it. Today whenever we hear that children aren't learning much of what is taught in school the hue and cry from the educational establishment is that we must therefore teach more of it! If two hundred hours of instruction on subject X does no good, well, let's try four hundred hours. If children aren't learning what is taught to them in first grade, then let's start teaching it in kindergarten. And if they aren't learning it in kindergarten, that could only mean that we need to start them in pre-kindergarten! But Benezet had the opposite opinion. If kids aren't learning much math in the early grades despite considerable time and effort devoted to it, then why waste time and effort on it?

Benezet followed his outrageous suggestion with an outrageous experiment. He asked the principals and teachers in some of the schools located in the poorest parts of Manchester to drop the third R from the early grades. They would not teach arithmetic--no adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing. He chose schools in the poorest neighborhoods because he knew that if he tried this in the wealthier neighborhoods, where parents were high school or college graduates, the parents would rebel. As a compromise, to appease the principals who were not willing to go as far as he wished, Benezet decided on a plan in which arithmetic would be introduced in sixth grade.

As part of the plan, he asked the teachers of the earlier grades to devote some of the time that they would normally spend on arithmetic to the new third R--recitation. By "recitation" he meant, "speaking the English language." He did "not mean giving back, verbatim, the words of the teacher or the textbook." The children would be asked to talk about topics that interested them--experiences they had had, movies they had seen, or anything that would lead to genuine, lively communication and discussion. This, he thought, would improve their abilities to reason and communicate logically. He also asked the teachers to give their pupils some practice in measuring and counting things, to assure that they would have some practical experience with numbers.

In order to evaluate the experiment, Benezet arranged for a graduate student from Boston University to come up and test the Manchester children at various times in the sixth grade. The results were remarkable. At the beginning of their sixth grade year, the children in the experimental classes, who had not been taught any arithmetic, performed much better than those in the traditional classes on story problems that could be solved by common sense and a general understanding of numbers and measurement. Of course, at the beginning of sixth grade, those in the experimental classes performed worse on the standard school arithmetic tests, where the problems were set up in the usual school manner and could be solved simply by applying the rote-learned algorithms. But by the end of sixth grade those in the experimental classes had completely caught up on this and were still way ahead of the others on story problems.

In sum, Benezet showed that kids who received just one year of arithmetic, in sixth grade, performed at least as well on standard calculations and much better on story problems than kids who had received several years of arithmetic training. This was all the more remarkable because of the fact that those who received just one year of training were from the poorest neighborhoods--the neighborhoods that had previously produced the poorest test results. Why have almost no educators heard of this experiment? Why isn't Benezet now considered to be one of the geniuses of public education? I wonder. [Note: Benezet's work was brought to my attention in a comment that Tammy added to my Feb. 24 post. Thanks, Tammy.]

For decades since Benezet's time, educators have debated about the best ways to teach mathematics in schools. There was the new math, the new new math, and so on. Nothing has worked. There are lots of reasons for this, one of which is that the people who teach in elementary schools are not mathematicians. Most of them are math phobic, just like most people in the larger culture. They, after all, are themselves products of the school system, and one thing the school system does well is to generate a lasting fear and loathing of mathematics in most people who pass through it. No matter what textbooks or worksheets or lesson plans the higher-ups devise for them, the teachers teach math by rote, in the only way they can, and they just pray that no smart-alec student asks them a question such as "Why do we do it that way?" or "What good is this?" The students, of course, pick up on their teachers' fear, and they learn not to ask or even to think about such questions. They learn to be dumb. They learn, as Benezet would have put it, that a math-schooled mind is a chloroformed mind.

In an article published in 2005, Patricia Clark Kenschaft, a professor of mathematics at Montclair State University, described her experiences of going into elementary schools and talking with teachers about math. In one visit to a K-6 elementary school in New Jersey she discovered that not a single teacher, out of the fifty that she met with, knew how to find the area of a rectangle.[2] They taught multiplication, but none of them knew that multiplication is used to find the area of a rectangle.  Their most common guess was that you add the length and the width to get the area. Their excuse for not knowing was that they did not need to teach about areas of rectangles; that came later in the curriculum. But the fact that they couldn't figure out that multiplication is used to find the area was evidence to Kenschaft that they didn't really know what multiplication is or what it is for. She also found that although the teachers knew and taught the algorithm for multiplying one two-digit number by another, none of them could explain why that algorithm works.

The school that Kenschaft visited happened to be in a very poor district, with mostly African American kids, so at first she figured that the worst teachers must have been assigned to that school, and she theorized that this was why African Americans do even more poorly than white Americans on math tests. But then she went into some schools in wealthy districts, with mostly white kids, and found that the mathematics knowledge of teachers there was equally pathetic. She concluded that nobody could be learning much math in school and, "It appears that the higher scores of the affluent districts are not due to superior teaching but to the supplementary informal ‘home schooling' of children." [Note: A reference to  Kenschaft's article was provided to me by Sue VanHattum, who writes a great blog called "Math Mamma Writes."]

Awesome. I know I'd have been way better off if they had not forced me to do math when I was a kid. I didn't understand it, I didn't understand why I should care and I hated my teachers and myself as a result. Then in college, when I wanted to learn it, I started out with a symbolic logic class that suddenly made the reason for all the other math clear to me and from then on I got straight A's in all my math classes. It was all because I wanted it then I think.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Moving information

For those who missed it here is the link to the description of our new apartment. 

Our new address is:

1713 Mill Springs Common Apt 209
Livermore, CA 94550

All of our phone numbers and email addresses remain the same.  Our actual physical move is on Tuesday the 23rd, though I've been over there the last two days fighting with the DSL trying to get the internet to work before we move in.  I will be meeting an AT&T tech person tomorrow morning between 8 and noon.  Then, it's back to Pleasanton for Serenity's birthday... busy week.  I'm glad I'm on vacation next week so we can get all this done.

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So then, we are still in the process of moving to Livermore

View Larger Map

right now and very busy so posts are going to be erratic or nonexistent for a little while here.  I spent yesterday chasing down a UPS package from at&t that had gone sideways in the system because it was sent to the new house and there was no one there to accept it and they noticed the apartment was empty.  I finally managed to locate it at the UPS Hub in San Ramon and used that as an excuse to go to Papa Murphy's in San Ramon last night and bring home some take-and-bake Gourmet Vegetarian Pizza, yum :-)

Tomorrow is Serenity's 9th birthday!  I can't believe it, time is just flying by so incredibly fast.  She was just 5 when she arrived here to stay with me.  I thank God every day for her and Lora being here, it's just the greatest thing ever as far as I'm concerned.  Woo Hoo!  God is good :-D !  Due to the move going on we are just going to have a small gathering of some of her friends, nothing fancy at all.  I'll post pictures to the family blog site after, maybe before we actually move I'll get a second to do that.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

More on why I was so late today...

BART train splits in two in Transbay Tube

Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writer

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

(03-16) 09:58 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- A BART train split in two this morning as it was traveling west through the Transbay Tube, causing long delays through the morning commute.

The nine-car train, bound for San Francisco International Airport from Pittsburg-Bay Point, was just east of San Francisco's Embarcadero Station when two cars came uncoupled at 6:23 a.m., said BART spokesman Linton Johnson.

A fail-safe mechanism automatically stopped both sections of the train immediately. The five-car section was moved out of the way at 6:55 a.m. by the operator, but because the rear four-car section no longer had an operator, another employee had to be brought in, Johnson said.

The shorter section of the train was finally moved west out of the tube at 7:10 a.m.

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Giant Crane heading to the Bay Bridge

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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Long Commute

My 40 minute train ride turned out to be 2 hours long today. First the train ahead of us got stuck in the trans-bay tube for some reason. We sat behind it in the tube for about 20 minutes or so before they gave up and backed us up and back out of the tunnel to West Oakland. Announcements on the public address system advised us to "seek alternate transportation" to the city. Being in West Oakland there was no alternate transportation! So I waited. And waited. And waited. Finally they got the two sections of the broken train out of the tunnel in front of us and we headed into the city. About 1/2 way through the tube the brakes on OUR train locked up, filling the car with foul smelling burnt brake smoke and bringing us to a halt yet again. Eventually the brakes were fixed and we made it into San Francisco.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Rainy Day Cookie Baking

It's cold and rainy outside, what better way to feel all warm and comfy than family and friends baking some cookies?

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Moving Time Again :-(

Well, since Mike and Maryann are getting married soon, Lora and I have been searching for a new place to live, this is complicated by the fact that we have a large dog and most places don't accept dogs over 25 or 35 pounds. That was why we were excited by the idea of living out in the woods a few weeks ago. It seems God didn't think that was such a great idea. O:-)

In the course of our search we found that there is a large apartment complex in the very heart of Livermore called Mill Springs Park that will accept our pets and it's within our budget and it's very nice. We are getting a two bedroom two bathroom place there. It has a small deck, a wood burning fireplace, central heat and air conditioning. It's also one of the newer complexes in the area having been built in 1990 and refurbished in 2000. Of course it has a swimming pool, hot tub, fitness room and club room as well. We will be signing our lease tomorrow morning and the movers will be here on March 23rd in the morning. Once we move in and get organized I'll take some pictures.

One of the best things about this place is the location. It is within a couple of blocks of the 1st Street section of Livermore, a traditional American style "main street" sort of place, lots of nice restaurants and shops there. It is a block from Safeway, about 3 blocks from Trader Joe's.

Here is the location:

View Larger Map

Here is a video of the place:

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

iTom: Free Music From Tom Smith: 047: Everything Is Dangerous

047: Everything Is Dangerous

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. And all the other stuff.

I actually had a song, "Be Afraid", written last week. But it was... preachy. Too preachy. If-you-want-to-send-a-message-use-Western-Union preachy. Wasn't what I wanted.

And then I saw this news story, and I knew I'd found my hook. I mean, apparently I must've been vacationing in the Alps when pet turtles were outlawed back in 1975, but I surely remember all of the kids who got salmonella playing with our adorable little buddies. Oh, wait, I don't remember a single one because I never knew a kid who got sick playing with a turtle. Neither did I know a kid who was made prone to violence from watching Road Runner cartoons, but that's neither here nor there.

As Lois McMaster Bujold says, you can't make your kids safe -- you can only teach them how to be safe, and hope for the best. Or, as Leslie puts it, you can't bubble-wrap the world.Listen
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Words and Music © 2007 by Tom Smith
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Your kid can get salmonella from his new pet turtle,
Buckle your seat belt or through the windshield you will hurtle,
You can choke on anything not bigger than your head,
Everything is dangerous, so how come you're not dead?

You might poke your eye out with any given toy,
You might die from allergies to peanuts, wheat, or soy,
All these deadly circumstances we cannot improve,
Everything is dangerous, so please try not to move.

Terrorists are everywhere, in every school and mall,
And it might be better if you don't touch cheese at all.

All the other drivers are insane and they've got guns,
Don't pick up hitchhikers, even if they're dressed as nuns,
Your date has GHB, he hopes tomorrow you'll forget him,
Everything is dangerous, so go ahead and wet 'em.

Dihydrogen monoxide will surely spell your doom,
It might just be easier if you don't leave the room.

Make sure that your sunscreen is at least SPF 30,
Don't eat food in restaurants, the chef's hands might be dirty,
Gay men want your body and they can't control their urges,
Monks have secret messages they're chanting in their dirges.

Magnetic waves from in your cell phone just might fry your brain,
There's a flying spaghetti monster in your beef chow mein,
Paris Hilton might explode, I saw it on Fox News,
Everything is dangerous, including Starburst chews.

Keep yourself hydrated or you'll pass out from the heat,
Watch out for a wormhole openin' up beneath your feet,
Motorcyclists with tattoos just got out of the joint,
Homeless people have diseases, so don't stare and point.

From the moment that you're born until the day you die,
Everything might kill you, and a lot of things will try,
So you've got two choices, and they're easy to compare,
Everything is dangerous, or everything's just there.
Everything is dangerous, so suck it up, mon frere.

posted by filkertom @ 7:19 AM

Woo Hoo! That's a keeper ;-)
Oh, we are moving to a new apartment soon, it's in downtown Livermore, more info later.

HT to Free Range Kids for that one.

Posted via web from The Angry Gnome