The Briar Patch and Flight Simulator Analogy for Kids’ Test Prep

This post was first published at my teaching blog. I feel it’s a topic parents and ​some of those not reading over there might be interested in.

The fear and reverence of Common Core is all around. It permeates education. Kids who are gifted and self-starters will likely welcome the opportunity to answer high level thinking questions on a computer screen. They also will not mind the copying, pasting, bulleting, and other technical aspects of the tests. But for the rest, it’s going to come as a shock. Some kids will just give up and type nonsense into the answer boxes. Others will flutter the screens as they learn to select text and not much more. What can we do for these students? I have a suggestion.<!–more–>

Just like flight students work in a simulator to decrease the affect of flying, so we should put kids in a simulated session of the Common Core test. For us here in California it is called the “Smarter Balanced” or SBAC practice test. It’s totally free and akin to the released questions the cde used to offer on their site. Continue reading

One Reason I Don’t Record in the Studio So Much

14306176998_1bba9583ef_oI am proud of myself that I have saved almost every song I’ve written and recorded. Listening to them brigs back memories of the various times in my life. I haven’t recorded as much in my 40’s as the decades before. There’s a reason for that. I am a comfortable guy. By that I mean I like my day to be smooth and go in a routine. Another way to say it might be that I’m lazy. I have a garage “studio” that currently is about 43 degrees. Hardly the environment for a “comfortable guy.” I use an age-old version of Cooleditpro to do multitracking and my best mic is a $70 usb one my dad gave me for my 39th birthday. My drum kit is a keyboard I bought at Target on a whim in 2005 I think. I still can’t believe my wife let me buy it. We were really struggling in those few years. I had this idea I could use it for bass and drum sounds. It was $200.

Another place I record is at my lifelong friend’s house: Eric. Recently we got together and recorded my Peace Like a River tune. It came out well but I really don’t want to release it on my page yet. I included it here just for my die hard friends old and new to be kind and not criticize please ;) It is really hard to get a decent track. There is way more involved than just songwriting. Lately it’s been more fun to go catch a movie with Eric than to slave over one of my songs. I always know the next take will be better but when you run out of time and energy, the best of what you did is the one that remains. I have a collection of those that has grown since I was 14. You can check it out on Reverb Nation. The next time you hear an awesome recording by any artist, give them props because it’s one of the hardest things on earth to produce. In fact, give respect even to the marginal recordings you hear, like mine for example … please ;)

Casino Royale Review

Thanks to Jared for this editorial.

There have been a lot of headlines lately regarding the upcoming release of a new James Bond movie that will apparently be called ‘Spectre.’ There are enough Bond fans around the world that such releases have always been exciting, but it’s fair to say that Daniel Craig has raised the character and surrounding franchise to new heights—and it all began with his first turn as Bond, in 2006’s Casino Royale. So in celebration of the announcement of Spectre, here’s a look back at one of the best films in Bond’s illustrious history.

Casino Royale was in many ways a movie about new beginnings and essentially sought not only to replace Pierce Brosnan’s Bond with Daniel Craig, but to reset the franchise as a whole. To be fair, Brosnan offered an entertaining take on the character, and it’s not entirely his fault that by the time Die Another Day came along, Bond was at his most absurd. But with Craig on board, Casino Royale director Martin Campbell created a grittier and more personal character. With the movie setting up Bond’s first mission as a 00 agent, we got a chance to see a more flawed James Bond—one who blows up an embassy, squabbles with Q (instead of just teasing her), and takes a number of cuts, hits, and even shots of poison along the way.

The plot of Casino Royale isn’t the most exciting we’ve seen in the franchise. Basically, there’s a financially motivated terrorist named Le Chiffre who must be stopped and creatively bankrupted so that MI6 can prevent the attacks he seeks to engineer and track down the people he’s working for. It offers its share of intrigue largely because Craig and Mads Mikkelsen (who plays Le Chiffre) are fantastic, but where Casino Royale really excels is in the side plots and little things that help to develop a new Bond persona. Continue reading

Blog Safari 12-15-2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABlog Safari is my speedlinking series where I feature other peoples’ recent blog posts that I read and really like. Their links are below.

Look Back, Up, Down, In, & Forward

IMGP2779I’m not against prayer I just don’t do it very often. I appreciate the benefit of focus and clarity that comes from it. If you pray, there are a myriad of formulas to use: the Lord’s Prayer “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” and all the Catholic things they do. In other words, you can memorize and recite things like a chant and get to that place of clarity. Meditation without prayer can be tricky especially if you were raised in a Christian home. I actually have felt guilty in the past when trying to meditate without God in the equation. I have religion to thank for that.

IAT_CL1_PX00859When I share that with Christians, many of them say I haven’t found the right church, bible translation, or small home bible study. The small church people are the most worrisome. They claim a building or a parking lot, or other material thing like that can prevent me from knowing God. They are going through the book of FILL IN HERE in 63 days in their living room and wouldn’t I like to come? It’s all so alien to me. I actually liked mega-churches in my 20’s because I felt like no one recognized me. I could blend in. Sometimes I would go in, hear the message and leave without so much as a handshake. Those were days I did feel something like closer to God. People at church have always stressed me out. I don’t know if that’s God’s fault or not. Continue reading

Technology Gone With the Wind

IMG_3072.JPGI used to type my writings on an electronic typewriter. Here is a picture of it. I loved the smell it had coming out of the box. I loved the sounds it made. I recall getting so excited when I found a supply retailer that sold the ribbons 3 for a dollar when Brother sold one for 20. I was about 23 I think and that was my first taste of bargain hunting and finding “wholesalers.” These things are like antiques now. The only ones I could find online, okay I was nostalgic and I went searching, were upwards of 200 bucks! They are obsolete, pure novelty, and no longer manufactured. I’ll never forget how advanced they seemed in 1992. You could plug them into your monitor and watch your typing onscreen. I think it cost me about $75 back then Continue reading

We’ll Conspire as We Sing by the Fire

I’ve always loved that line from Winter Wonderland. It applies so well to my home. We’re here conspiring about how to do computer stuff, college plans, therapy, teaching methods, or review movies. We’re always scheming for good. Conspire on the other had, carries a negative connotation. I’ve often wondered if the writer used it just because it rhymed or if it fit perfectly in meaning. As far as our house is concerned, it was genius. We are co-conspirators in the game of life! This is one reason I love music and songwriters, they craft the blob of life into a beautiful jello mold and make words mean what they want them to. Continue reading

Stay at it, Hone Your Talents

IMG_3130.JPGWriting is a discipline. Just like the muscles must be stretched, so must writing be done regularly with or without inspiration if one seems to be strong at it. As for me, I take great pride in exercising my ability to translate thoughts into words. Tonight my computer is being used as our DVD. I have to use my iPhone as my blogging device. It reminds me I need more thumb typing practice.

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With Kids, it’s Better to Ask Questions than Give Answers

As a teacher I see kids making decisions every day, with mixed success. I spend a large part of my day coaching and making suggestions. Okay, I can be a bit bossy in my line of work. When I see a kid has done a wonderful essay but has been sloppy, I can’t help but recall the teacher I had who told me to be neat. It would serve me well through so many other classes even through college. For that reason, I suppose I do a little of what the psychologists call “projection.” I read my own experiences into those of my students. It’s all meant well but I would like to be less bossy in the future. Maybe this post is a step toward that. Kids always accept advice better when they draw it out of you. For that reason. it’s better to ask questions that give answers. Continue reading

Just Do It

524764_10150810154871117_452054916_nIf you were old enough to be aware in the 80’s, you’ll remember that slogan by Nike. The commercials usually had a busy, hardworking person heading out to the running track or dirt path. They would lace up their Nike shoes and start running. It was one of the best slogans I’ve ever heard. Since I started my minuscule quest to lose 10-15 pounds from my mid section, I have come to realize there is more wisdom in that slogan than I even thought. I tried giving up carbs, which is insane and usually not necessary for people to do, and failed. I was able to deny myself for just so long and them BAM! I’d chow down on the forbidden foods. I tried giving up coffee and found myself so sleepy some mornings that I had to get some from the teacher’s lounge to just open my eyes. What I need to do is taper down off these things.

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