Monthly Archives: August 2006

Interesting Podcast

I just listened to a very interesting podcast of a presentation from this years Pop!Tech Conference by Susan Blackmore on Memes called The Future of Ideas. Here is the description of the talk from the IT conversations site

Memetics is an intellectually rich but controversial field which seeks to explain how our minds and cultures are designed by natural selection acting on replicating information, just as organisms evolve by natural selection acting on genes. Sue Blackmore, one of the field’s leading thinkers, skillfully unfolds the major arguments for a meme’s-eye view of the world, and explores the implications for humanity. Are our brains best seen as machines invented by and for propagation of selfish memes?

It’s definitely worth a listen. Another podcast that you should check out is The Show with Ze Frank. Ze Frank does a daily 2 minute video podcast. Each day he talks about a different idea and has some very good insights. Finally don’t forget the MewzikCast. Show #13 went up this past weekend, featuring podsafe music from Sophia Ramos, Planet of Women, George Thorogood, and Sunspot.

Ypsilanti School Calendar 2

The Ypsi School District has put up their Calendar for the 2006-7 school year. The district website only has it as a pdf file. I added all the dates from the calendar to a Google Calendar and made it publicly accessible. If you are using any calendar program that can read .ics calendar files like Apple iCal, Evolution, Mozilla Calendar, or others you can subscribe to the calendar by putting this address in the field for the remote calendar to subscribe to in your calendar program . If you already use Google Calendar you can just click this button to add the school calendar to your calendar . If you prefer to just see a quick web-view of the calendar you can just click on this link to see the calendar in your browser. If you like you can also subscribe to an RSS feed of the calendar here 2006-7 YPSD Calendar Feed

If you haven’t tried out Google Calendar you should definitely check it out. It’s free and has some really nice features and is easy to use. You can manage multiple calendars such as work, home, school, etc. You can also set sharing preferences for each of your calendars and subscribe to public calendars. For sharing you can set each calendar to private, share with specific users or make it public like I did with this calendar. If you use gmail and you get a message with a date in it, you can click on the message and quickly add it your calendar. If an event includes a location, when you click on the event in the calendar it will include a link to the google map showing the location. You can import calendars from iCal or any other program that can generate .ics calendar files. The only downside is that you can’t manage your calendar offline and sync it to GCal. But apparently they are working on this. I would like to be able to sync my palm treo to my google calendar.

If you have any additional school events you’d like added to the calendar, just send me a message with the info using the contact form at the top of the page and I’ll put it in.

MACs for Sale

Jules got a new MacBook last so we have two older Macs available for sale. Before I put them up on Ebay I’ll let you guys have a crack at them. The first is a PowerMac G4. Here are the specs:powermac g4
– 800 MHz G4 processor
– 1.5 GB RAM
– 80 GB Hard-Drive
– Dual ATI Radeon 8500 video cards (you can drive up to 3 monitors simultaneously
– 2 USB 1.1 + 4 USB 2.0 ports
– 4 Firewire Ports
– 4x DVD-R/W burner- 10/100 Mbit/s Ethernet
– Zip Drive
– ATA/133 Hard drive controller (to support additional drives over 128 GB)
– bluetooth adapter included (you can sync a bluetooth phone with iCal and Addressbook)
– includes OSX 10.4 Tiger and iLife ’04 (OS 9.1 also included if you want it)

This machine runs well and is good for video editiing. It has built in sound and networking. Video editing is a breeze with iMovie and iDvd. I’m asking $450 for this one.

We also have a 14″ iBook G3/600. 14
– 600 MHz G3 processor
– 1.5 GB RAM
– 20 GB Hard-Drive
– ATI video
– 2 USB 1.1 ports
– 1 Firewire Ports
– CD-RW/DVD combo drive
– 10/100 Mbit/s Ethernet
– built-in 56kbps modem
– Built-in Airport Wi-fi card
– 14″ 1024×768 Lcd display

– includes OSX 10.4 Tiger and iLife ’04

This one is a good general purpose laptop for writing, web-surfing (anywhere you can get wifi), photo editing and even some light video editing. I’m asking $400 for this one. Leave a comment or e-mail if you’re interested.

The ibook is gone now. But I still have powermac if anyone is interested.

Bill Maher is an idiot

We just watched the first 10 minutes of Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO. Why does Maher get paid for doing this show. In the first part of the show, he interviews first Spike Lee and then Elvis Costello. During the course of these interviews he very clearly demonstrates how ignorant he is. He asked a question of Spike Lee regarding a recent Bob Herbert column about Juan Williams’ new book. The question was short and incomplete. Spike asked him to elaborate on what the question meant. Maher stumbled and repeated the question with explanation. He obviously didn’t write the question or even read the column. He had no idea what the question was about. Then he embarrassed himself further in the Costello interview, by asking more stupid questions. He followed these brilliant demonstrations, by having the arrogant prick Christopher Hitchens on his panel. I’ve had enough of this crap, so I’m getting ready for bed.

School Coffee Chat 12

Last night I went to the first in what will hopefully be an ongoing series of coffee chats about the Ypsilanti Schools. The meeting was held at Bombadill’s and hosted by Richard Weigel. Richard came on board with the Ypsi Schools as Executive Director of Educational Services. Among other things he is responsible for curriculum and teacher training in the Ypsilanti Public Schools. About twenty people including various parents and three members of the school board (Amy Doyle, Floyd Brumfield and David Bates). Several issues were discussed over the two hour conversation. Richard seems to have a lot of good ideas, and seems to be implementing some good things. I am definitely looking forward to using the new EdLine system this year. It is being rolled out this fall for middle and high school students. All the parents will be given account information for the system, where we will be able to login and check up on attendance, homework assignments, grades etc. This will be very helpful in allowing me to check up on what my kids are supposed to be doing. That was definitely an issue last year. It is hard to be able keep up with what the kids are supposed to be doing, when the teachers have upward of 100 students to keep track of. This will hopefully allow the teachers to communicate information to the parents and students in an efficient manner.

Two big issues that came up were curriculum and grouping of students. On the subject of curriculum, they are currently reworking how it is defined and how students are evaluated against the curriculum. The plan is to have a clearer description of what the goals and expectations are for each subject at each level. By clarifying what the goals are the teachers can get help in planning different activities to target the skill and capabilities of students. In conjunction with that will be better defined ways of evaluating whether students know what they need to know at each level. The implication is that there will be more flexibility in moving students when they have demonstrated proficiency at a particular level. I think that this would be a very good thing and might help to overcome the other big issue that came up. This has to do with grouping and distribution of students.

Although Mr. Weigel denied that it was official policy, the reality in the classroom is that students are assigned to classes in such a way that there is a mix of students at different levels of capability and achievement. The idea behind this is that the higher achieving achieving students help set a good example for the struggling students and can help bring them along. In principle this may be a good idea. The problem with this is that the reality is a lot tougher. In an environment where you have a particularly wide range of students, unless the teachers are really prepared to facilitate, the students help each other, it just doesn’t work. There is also the issue of behavior. The top students are expected to provide and example for the behaviorally challenged students. When you are talking about elementary age children, this idea puts a lot of pressure on the higher achieving students. They are expected to help the other students but at the same time the teachers still end up having to focus on the behavior problems. While the teachers are doing this, the more adept students aren’t getting challenged and as a result are getting dragged down through boredom and frustration. At the same time I suspect (and this purely conjecture on my part, I have no evidence to back it up) I think it may also be frustrating to the struggling students to see other kids have a relatively effortless time with work and this can also be counter-productive. I think that students can help each other. But I also think that the kids should probably distributed with a somewhat narrower range in each individual classroom. I understand the desire and the rationale to have widest distribution in each classroom, but I don’t think the reality works. Many of the parents in attendance last night expressed basically the same concern, Richard heard us and took copious notes. Where it goes from here remains to be seen but at least we are talking and someone from the administration is listening and acknowledging the concerns.

Finally at the ending of the meeting I spoke to Richard after asked me if I knew much about podcasting since I was recording the discussion so Jules could hear it. I told him about Max’s podcast We talked a bit about my ideas for providing the teachers with training on free and open-source software tools that they can use. He was very enthusiastic and wants to move forward with that. I definitely want to do whatever I can to help the schools improve and I urge everyone in the community to contribute whatever skills they have to the cause.

Don’t Let the Door Hit You In The Ass Frank

One of the more useless and corrupt republican governors in the country saw his political career slam into a brick wall yesterday. Frank Murkowski was a US Senator when he was elected governor four years ago. He resigned his senate seat and since he was now the governor he had the privilege to appoint someone else to serve out his term. Who did he select? Why his daughter of course! Things went downhill from there. Murkowski’s family happens to own a chunk of land on the island that will be connected to the mainland by the infamous bridge to nowhere. But enough about that. Yesterday they held the primary for this fall’s election. Murkowski faced not one but two challengers in the republican primary. As the sitting governor, he would typically be expected to have an advantage. However, he finished third among the three candidates from his own party! He got only 19% of the vote from his party. See Frank! Now if they can just boot his daughter and Ted (it’s a series of tubes!) Stephens out of the senate the world would be a better place.