Saturday, May 30, 2009

Impending Doom or am I just paranoid?

Do you ever get that feeling that the work you put into something will backfire? I have this vague foreboding sense that the unit I have spent 2 weeks crafting will not be received so well. Like maybe I have some stuff missing or it isn't clear enough. Let me back up and start from the beginning.

It's March and I start a new class on teaching science and math in elementary schools. The major message is to combine science and math with other topics, aka integrate. The prevailing focus, no matter what our prez has recently said, is on reading and writing. That is where the money is and that is where the focus is. It makes sense to focus here but to ignore science and math is not that great. Of course teachers aren't ignoring math or science. At a lot of schools I have been a Mad Scientist at, the students are familiar with the topics we are discussing and know a lot about them. What these smart teachers are doing is finding ways to make science and math work hand in hand with reading and writing. The message of this class is a good one, these subjects aren't really that far removed from each other if you take the time to think them through. Just because it's a science lesson doesn't mean they can't improve other skills as well.

So our final project is a unit of our own devising. One that incorporates science, math, reading, writing and anything else you can fit in. I, being a bit of a rogue, decided I need a unit that interested me. The thinking behind this idea was that I need motivation to get the unit done on time and maybe even early. The problem was that I failed to explore pre-existing topics for items that might interest me. At first I was thinking of this map to GPS device kind of evolution unit but then I got excited about cameras. My niece, Katie, is a camera enthusiast and I decided to purchase a used 35mm slr camera for her. I ended up doing a lot of research to make his a reality and the more I talked to photograph enthusiasts the more excited I became. I began seeing possibilities for a unit incorporating cameras. We could make pinhole cameras, learn some history, do a cool photo essay project and learn how a camera lens works. I was patting myself on the back while smarter classmates were finding ideas from lesson plan sites. Most of my lessons would be created in my own head without much help from a pre-existing lesson plan. I did glean some ideas for the photo essay project and a lesson plan on Kodak's website inspired my math lesson but the rest was just me. Well me, the internet and several fantastic books.

When it came to write out the lesson I had trouble knowing what to include in the sequence and what to leave out. The result of this being that I am not sure if I met the right balance. I could have supplied too much information or I could have supplied too little. There is no doubt in my mind that I could teach the lessons or properly tell my classmates the ideas and highlights of the unit. The questions and the sense of dread stem from not really knowing if I have hit the required marks of the lesson plan I am turning in. Is it just an outline that would require a lot of research by a teacher or is it overkill on description and possibly too much info to throw at 5th graders? I don't know.

Either way I turned it in. I am not going to spend anymore time on it at this point. I may retouch it later so I could use it again (for my future classes or my actual teaching) but that would be about it.

As far as the unit goes we start with the Camera Obscura which was around for centuries. Some artists used it to sketch scenes and add realism to a painting or drawing. A lot of places had Camera Obscura booths where people could go in and gaze at the view projected upside down in a dark room. In fact there is one of these places still in operation at the Cliff House in San Francisco. It closed before I had a chance to check it out, it closed while we were waiting for a table. Anyway the kids learn about them and how they work and then get to build one for themselves.

Then we discover how we went from the camera obscura to the cameras we see today. One invention leading to a series of successive inventions. We travel from the first photograph to the digital age. We also discuss how cameras have been used and are being used.

Then we talk about the camera lenses. How they work, how they are built, the difference between convex and concave. They get to see the various effects of lenses (28mm, 50mm and the telephoto). I was even thinking of taking apart a damaged lens and allowing them to see the pieces up close and personal. My dad has one and I have one in need of cleaning.

Next we talk about how photos are used. We discuss famous photos and get reactions to them and then give the background behind the photo. We compare the initial reaction to the reaction coupled with knowledge. Then we talk about how people set up shots and the thought behind them. We talk about how the photographer can really control what we focus on and what we see.

Then we use a camera. In this lesson we hunt for objects that are 3 dimensional; ie., the cube, pyramid, sphere. They will take photos of these objects and create a shape book where they identify and define the shape under their picture.

Finally we end with a photo essay project. Students will write about and photograph their neighborhood and ultimately present them to their fellow classmates.

Two things I would add would be a unit on creating pinhole cameras and experience mixing chemicals to develop those pictures captured on the pinhole cameras. I was starting to worry about expense of this unit and decided not to include them. The other thing that prevented me from creating them was I would have needed more research into the development process and I was running out of time. The final reason I did not create the unit was that I only needed 5 lessons and I already had 6. Although in hindsight the lesson on photo development would have been a great science and math lesson. If I was to teach this lesson in a classroom we would definitely build the pinhole camera and we might partner with a photo enthusiast group and see if they would help us learn to develop photos. The community involvement angle may help defray costs a little. Anyway I need to shower and head to the university to present my unit. Wish me luck on the teacher's unit review.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Birthdays and Phones


Well it's that time of year again when I get phone calls. Yep, the rest of the year I make phone calls and on this day every year I get them. So it might seem odd that I have not answered any of them. I am sure you would rather wish me a 'Happy Birthday' over a phone connection but you will have to talk to my answering device. So call if you want and I will talk to you all later. Maybe.

I am not saying that I am ungrateful. I like being alive and I like having people care enough to let me know they remember my birthday. That is all great stuff. I just have elected to not answer or make calls today. It's my birthday and I have decided to lay low and leave my phone off.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Reader Email Time!

Hey folks,
I have had the privilege of receiving some reader email lately and figured I would write a blog where I answer the email publicly. Here is the first email, sent in by Julia:

From: JuliaS334
Subject: I can be your trophy girl!

You have an invite to JuliaS334 personal profile.
Hey there, Lover!
I'm 20 years old and looking for a sugar daddy.
If you make me happy, I'll make you happy too! ;)

Want to say hi?

Julia! Thanks for being a reader! I am so glad that you enjoy my blog. There are a few things I should address with you. First of all I am in no position to be your sugar daddy because I am unemployed and have been so since June 2008. I appreciate the offer though... keep up the good work. Finally, last time I checked love and knowing people have to happen before you can call me "Lover." Either way it sounds like things are going well for you Julia, I am sure your parents are proud!

The second letter comes to us all the way from the United Kingdom!

From: Kelvin Smith
Subject: Vacancy Opening (respond immediately)

Dear Representative,

I hope this email meets you in good health. I feel quite safe dealing with you in this mutual beneficial transaction. Though, this medium Internet has been greatly abused, I choose to reach you through it because it still remains the fastest way to get in touch with people.

I am Mr. Kelvin Smith; an artist married with a wife and 2 lovely kids. I am 40 years old and paint for a living (I have been painting for the past 18 years). I have a vacancy opening available in my studio because I am setting up studios in different parts of the world and will need a Representative to work for me on a part time basis in the US now.

I sell Arts all over the world and have sold to both galleries and private collectors. I always face serious difficulties selling my art works to most of my US clients. This is because most times they offer to pay with either Money orders or checks which are difficult for me to cash here in United Kingdom. I need someone in the states to work as my representative and assist me in processing these payments and I will be willing to pay 10% for every transaction completed.

For this to be possible, I will need you to provide me with your basic personal info such as:

1. Full Name:
2. Contact Address:
3. City:
4. State:
5. Zip Code:
6. Country:
7. Phone Number:

I will never ask you for anything more than that, no bank name, bank account number, credit card, social security number etc. If anyone asks for those on my behalf please do not give out this info. This is to ensure that you will not be the victim of identity theft.

First step in this job is for you to wait at home for checks sent by my clients via regular mail or FedEx to get to you. After you receive the checks you will have to go to the bank to cash them, this will happen of course after the bank clears them. The time it takes for the check to clear depends on your bank.

I need you to be trustworthy and honest with me for I am ready to employ you for 6 months until I am fully established. If you are interested in working for me, kindly send the needed information to my email: I await your reply

Kelvin Smith

Kelvin my art peddling friend! How are you doing? I was excited to hear from you in your recent letter and was amazed that you had time to also read my blog and know that I was looking for a job! Your offer sounds very generous and like something I could do in my spare time! People that say nothing comes for free must be suckers! I mean here you are barely even knowing me and willing to send me a lot of money just to cash checks for you! That is fantastic! You should just send those puppies immediately! I am standing right next to my mailbox in anticipation! I had no idea that the banks in the United Kingdom had such a hard time processing money! Talk about a win for me! I hope you, your beautiful wife and the 2 lovely children have a fantastic year peddling art! Keep reading!

This last letter comes from someone who has a few choice words about my videos and podcasts. You may recognize this person as they are kind of a big deal!

Subject: An upset fan!
From: Rod Blagojovech (

I have to lodge a complaint with you! I am not satisfied by your blog of late. First off I don't get what happened to the very intriguing podcasts. You promised that you would record weekly and I would get to hear your sweet sweet voice! You do like 3 and then leave me hanging! You are a cruel cruel man.

Even more egregious are the videos you keep putting up! First you tell me about the evils of flowers, then you show me the Volvo tractor and your weird tractor like cars. I don't know what to make of this! It was baffling! Since when do you think it is ok to not write blogs and simply make inane videos? Even more distressing is that you never show yourself in these videos and simply tease me with your voice. I could take all the videos as long as you appeared in them. Instead I have to sit outside your window and hope you open them... which of course you never do! Are you a vampire?? The latest videos are baffling to me. You have a cow and a dog talking and a pig playing music??? What evil sorcery is this! How did you get those animals to talk?! My dog never talks and certainly doesn't work at Wendy's!
Former Governor Rod Blagojevich

Wow! Blago! What an honor! It is rare to get a disgraced politicians email! Even for someone as popular as me! I need to first ask you to stop standing outside my windows.... that's creepy. Now that we cleared that up let's get down to business. I am sorry that I have disappointed you by not doing the podcast more often. It was rather time consuming and you are the first person that claimed to like it. Most people never seemed to listen! As far as the videos go I can't say that I will stop doing them or that I will start appearing in them. I like making them and they are not terribly time consuming. This time you are the first person to react negatively to them. As far as talking animals are concerned... they are puppets, not animals. Anyway thanks for reading and keep up the stellar decision making!

Hope you enjoyed reader emails today. Keep writing to me and keep reading the blog!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Musical interlude

Piggy finally gets his solo.

lactose intolerant

I went to Wendy's the other day and was pleased to have a show with dinner. This lady was ordering a burger in front of me and she was crazy! So I felt it was important to recreate it with my new puppets for your enjoyment!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Sorry for falling off the face of the earth.....

I was going strong. I had picked up some steam (talk about an old saying) and I was posting left and right. Then I just stopped. I'm sorry. I have no excuse.

I have had an adventure with vehicles lately. The videos you see on my site, that I actually made, were taken at the Tulip Festival. I stopped in and wandered around for quite a while and took pictures before heading South to meet up with my dad. I dropped my car off at a mechanic he and I like to use down there. Then we headed to his place and hung out with MaryJo, Ricky, the horses, the hens, 2 baby roosters and a bunny. In case you don't know Ricky, and many of you that read the blog don't, he is my nephew. MaryJo's daughter, Anto's son. (I don't think the punctuation or grammar is correct on that last sentence) Anyway we dug a trench for a water line and played some Wii. Then I stole their little blue car and headed to Portland. So far things in Mike's world were fine. Then on Tuesday I went to Clackamas High School to observe a mentor meeting and ran some errands. On the way home I was sitting at a stoplight when the car died. You see, the part I didn't mention was there was a fuse that had been blown before I left and we replaced it. It worked fine. We grabbed some more fuses just in case and that was what blew again. So I was at an intersection, that was all goofy with traffic, because the street had been closed off going one direction because of an accident and because people don't drive very well. So I had a line of cars behind me all honking and pissed while I was changing fuses. The first two I put in popped immediately. Finally the third fuse got the car going and I made it across the street. Only to have that fuse pop. So I pulled over and sat for a few minutes thinking maybe I could milk the last two fuses to get me home if i let the car cool for a bit. It was one of the warmest days we had so far this year, the warmest was the Sunday before this. Well, after several minutes, I put the new fuse in. It actually popped the minute the it was inserted. So I decided to wait a bit longer this time. I grabbed a book and read a couple chapters and tried again. The fuse broke when I turned the key. It was dead, I was stranded. I was also parked on a street that said "No Parking". So I called AAA and nearly 3 hours later got towed home. The mechanic shop was investigating the issue so I was without a car and Ireally needed a car. I ended up having to rent a car. Everything was resolved by Saturday but I had 3 days of rental that I had not planned for. My car was finished and ready to go that week as well but I was not able to get it until this weekend, a week and a half later. I cruised my dad's ride last week waiting to get my car.

My dad went to Eugene, that same crazy Saturday when I got his car back and returned the rental car, and he flew down to visit my Grandpa. He took my car and left it at the airport. The plan was that he would get back Thursday and come for a visit bringing my car up. His flight was goofy. He drove to Eugene. Then got on a plane and headed to Portland and then got on another plane and headed South to California. On the way back they had overbooked and he took the option to stay in Portland for a voucher credit and a refund of his flight to Eugene. So on Saturday we headed South to get my car and I then followed down to his homestead. This time I took pictures and helped put chicken wire on a frame to give the now much bigger baby roosters a separate space from the hens. They had also acquired 3 new baby hens since I had last visited. Ricky and I went exploring a little bit and we watched some Youtube. I came back up to Portland amidst the craziest rainy day ever! It was pouring all day. My friends decided it was to wet to go get a drink (that we had planned to get three days before) and so I sat around playing with camera stuff.

Ebay and I have become friends as I have been searching for 35 mm SLR cameras in working condition. Now I am looking for lenses for these cameras. One of the cameras is going to my niece Katie, who is a photography enthusiast, for her birthday. I never should have started with Ebay... It might just be the devil! I simply can't stop checking it. Although I have seriously slowed my bidding. My advice to new ebayers is to bid on one item at a time. If you bid on 8 cameras you might end up winning 8! I ended up winning 3 but it was close on the other 5. I had actually wanted 2 so I will be figuring out what to do with the third camera later. Once I get the 3rd camera I will be deciding which to give, which to keep and which to try and sell! If you want a 35 mm slr camera I might just be your guy!

In other news, I have recently bought my plane ticket to Phoenix. I will be down May 31st to June 5th. Jessica is graduating high school and Kevin is graduating college this month. So I am heading down to celebrate!

Sorry about not having any funny story about metal detectors and government buildings this time.