The College, Career, and Civic Life Framework

September 19th, 2013 by Brian No comments »

The new framework for Social Studies instruction includes a focus on evaluating sources and taking informed actions during a study of civics, history, geography, and economics. I’m intrigued.

Here’s a quote from the intro:


The Book of Blood by H.P. Newquist

September 12th, 2013 by Brian No comments »

For the record, I am glad that I am not a doctor. When you are in the operating room, you do not want your medical professional squealing in fright at the insides of the human body. The Book of Blood is not a gross-out book, at least not intentionally.

But it’s blood! They’re talking about blood! [this is where I faint]

Until the past century, large gaps of time passed between breakthroughs in the study of blood. Part of that is because humans need blood and are usually pretty opinionated about parting with it. The Book of Blood traces the history of the study of blood, from Herophilus and Ibn al-Nafis to Karl Landsteiner and the oligosaccharide polymer. I had heard of Herophilus before but not the other two and that’s what I appreciate about the book. It branches into parts of scientific history that I was not familiar with. I also knew that there were different types of blood, but I didn’t realize what the differences between A and B and positive and negative were (it’s about the presence or absence of certain polymers).

The science is there. The history is there. It makes for a great nonfiction read.

Even a simple sentence like:

“In times when the body is sick or injured and is losing blood, the spleen can squeeze some of its stored-up reserves back into the body so that the proper amount is still flowing through the arteries and veins.”

grips the reader’s attention.

Squeeze? [this is where I scream and faint again]

Ripper by Stefan Petrucha

August 27th, 2013 by Brian No comments »

Set in the 1890’s in New York, Ripper follows a young boy, a young girl, and a bully-turned-friend (yes, the three-part party has been done before, but go with it) as they try to track down Jack the Ripper. The first well-known serial killer committed his murders in London, but the book theorizes that Jack made his way to the United States to cause trouble. The book is full of historical references but they do not seem like an encyclopedia entry that jars the narrative. The short chapters in Ripper benefit the pacing; the action occurs in tiny snippets. I like that. Where the pacing struggled, though, was in the scope of the mystery. Having figured it out pretty early on, I wanted more intrigue but had to settle for Ripper being more of an adventure book instead of a mystery.

Teddy Roosevelt is becoming more and more popular in fictional works and he’s fun in this one. What I appreciated was that Petrucha gave him flaws. For a historical figure who lived such a boisterous life, flaws like impatience develop him as a supporting character.

The discussion of nature versus nurture – What is it driving Jack the Ripper to kill? – is intriguing and gives some secondary motivation to Carver, the young protagonist. While I would have liked more development for Carver’s foils, the young girl and the former bully, Ripper is still an enjoyable read and worth having a copy on the shelf.


August 27th, 2013 by Brian No comments »

When I do my library orientation or teach a technology lesson, I sometimes want to record what I’m doing so that an absent student can follow along. Check out Screencast-O-Matic. It lets you record 15 minutes of footage, add your voice, and download the video as a file to your computer – for free. The trade-off is that it puts a watermark in the corner of your video. Normally screen capture tools put a watermark in the center of the video, which sometimes can confuse the person that you’re trying to help. Screencast-O-Matic seems to be a pretty viable solution. It does require you to run a Java applet – something that makes me nervous – but I haven’t seen anything too questionable. The fact that I can start recording straight from the homepage without requiring a login is a bonus.

The Score Cut-offs for AIMS

August 16th, 2013 by Brian No comments »

If you’re doing targeted interventions based on AIMS results, here are the scale scores.

Billboard Grabs Water from the Air

August 9th, 2013 by Brian No comments »

The University of Engineering and Technology of Peru set up a billboard in Lima that pulls water out of the 90% humidity air, filters it, and then sends it to cannisters where people can fill up buckets like they would at a well. In a city like Lima – where there’s 9 million people and not a lot of rainfall – it may very well be a life-saving technology.

Fixed Camera Stand for Tourists

July 25th, 2013 by Brian No comments »

It was one thing to hand a disposable camera off to a random stranger to take your picture on a vacation, but with phones and tablets being the number one vacation camera right now, it’s a little much to hand over your device to someone who could just bolt while you’re still posing (imagine the amount of data – even contact info alone – carried on devices).

Check out the Sunpoles on Enoshima (in Japan). Put your camera or smartphone on the pedestal and set the timer. Now you also have a bit more control over the photo and don’t have to rely on someone trying to fit your feet in the photo even though you’re really tall (not that I’ve experienced that, right?).

Photo by John Sypal

Okay, that’s pretty funny

July 18th, 2013 by Brian 1 comment »

One of my assignments today was to take the Keirsey Temperament Sorter. I post my results because those that know me well will find these results intriguing:

Your Keirsey Temperament Sorter Results indicates that your personality type is that of the:

Idealist Teacher

Idealists (NF), as a temperament, are passionately concerned with personal growth and development. Idealists strive to discover who they are and how they can become their best possible self — always this quest for self-knowledge and self-improvement drives their imagination. And they want to help others make the journey. Idealists are naturally drawn to working with people, and whether in education or counseling, in social services or personnel work, in journalism or the ministry, they are gifted at helping others find their way in life, often inspiring them to grow as individuals and to fulfill their potentials.

Idealists are sure that friendly cooperation is the best way for people to achieve their goals. Conflict and confrontation upset them because they seem to put up angry barriers between people. Idealists dream of creating harmonious, even caring personal relations, and they have a unique talent for helping people get along with each other and work together for the good of all. Such interpersonal harmony might be a romantic ideal, but then Idealists are incurable romantics who prefer to focus on what might be, rather than what is. The real, practical world is only a starting place for Idealists; they believe that life is filled with possibilities waiting to be realized, rich with meanings calling out to be understood. This idea of a mystical or spiritual dimension to life, the “not visible” or the “not yet” that can only be known through intuition or by a leap of faith, is far more important to Idealists than the world of material things.

Highly ethical in their actions, Idealists hold themselves to a strict standard of personal integrity. They must be true to themselves and to others, and they can be quite hard on themselves when they are dishonest, or when they are false or insincere. More often, however, Idealists are the very soul of kindness. Particularly in their personal relationships, Idealists are without question filled with love and good will. They believe in giving of themselves to help others; they cherish a few warm, sensitive friendships; they strive for a special rapport with their children; and in marriage they wish to find a “soulmate,” someone with whom they can bond emotionally and spiritually, sharing their deepest feelings and their complex inner worlds.

Idealists are relatively rare, making up no more than 15 to 20 percent of the population. But their ability to inspire people with their enthusiasm and their idealism has given them influence far beyond their numbers.

Teachers (ENFJ) are highly motivational and can influence others around them with great ease. They are people-oriented and focused on maintaining high spirits within their group. They work well with personnel and their enthusiasm is truly inspiring to others. Teachers can be very creative in finding ways for people to participate on teams and are likely to arrange social functions to bring people together. They tend to be expressive and intuitive and are more likely to make “people” their highest priority over tasks or projects.

It’s almost as good as shelving the Mystery section backwards

July 15th, 2013 by Brian No comments »

Check out what one book store is doing to illustrate the axiom “Don’t judge a book by its cover”:
By the keywords on the wrapping paper, I would say the book is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (one of my all-time favorites).

It helps that there’s a promise of quality no matter which book you pick up. (I’ll forgive them the unnecessary apostrophe in its.)

Insignia by S.J. Kincaid

July 3rd, 2013 by Brian No comments »

Before she became a writer, S.J. Kincaid interned with a politician in Washington, D.C. and you know that had to influence Insignia, her debut novel. It’s set in a future where corporations have more power than nations and war has become so distant and sanitized that teens are the ones fighting the battles via drones. The threat of a neutron bomb and mutually assured destruction keeps warfare civil.

Tom is recruited a la The Last Starfighter to train in the Pentagon (now a spire like something out of Ender’s Game) and escape his troubled home situation. It’s a fun adventure and, on the surface, is a lighthearted sci-fi story with enjoyable character interactions. I found myself laughing out loud multiple times and that’s rare for me.

But there’s another layer to Insignia, one that challenges what modern warfare really means and what the whole point is. Behind the scenes are employees of megacorporations trying to woo combatants to fight for them. Imagine if the U.S. Army was sponsored by Wal-Mart (with Wal-Mart’s two million employees) and the Navy was run by McDonald’s (where every fish in the sea contained genetically engineered McFish DNA). The great thing, though, is that it’s not preachy and addresses it in an accessible manner.

The tech is pretty cool, too. Each character is introduced with name, rank, and IP address popping up in Tom’s vision. Computer programming takes center stage for a bit, but it either produces humorous or dangerous results, so I don’t think a non-programmer audience will be bogged down by it. I like to code, though, so I may be biased. (Really, the programming action reminded me of the wizard duels in Harry Potter.)

While many parts reminded me of other stories, Insignia‘s a brilliant combination of those different elements told through Kincaid’s honest voice. It’s definitely worth a read and a copy or two on the shelf.