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Steve Jobs – The Real Big Apple October 6, 2011

Posted by alwaysjan in Food for Thought, Personal.
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On Facebook, my “religion” is listed as “Apple – I bleed in six colors” I wasn’t always a “Mac person.” In the 1980s in NYC, I flailed away on a huge blah gray IBM trying to remember the alpha-numeric code that made it all happen – and not a lot happened at that time. The computer seemed like a glorified calculator and one step up from the IBM Selectric typewriter that allowed you to retype over misspelled words with that magic white correction tape. Now THAT was innovation!

When my neighbor showed me her new Apple computer with all of the excitement of a mother with her newborn, I was clueless. It was one of those early all-in-one chunk models, and I so didn’t get what this “computer for the rest of us” was all about. (To learn about the history of Apple – the logo, what a dogcow is, and lots of other weird facts, go to TAM (The Apple Museum).

But my husband, a film editor, quickly took to the the Mac. As I write this, I believe there are seven Apple computers under my roof. Add to those three iPhones and three iPods and you have my iHome (and to my thinking) a little bit of iHeaven.

I got fed up with the ancient PCs at my school – they were basically boat anchors with a cord. I instituted an Apple-only computer policy in my classroom as Apples will go the distance. Yes, we’ve got some funky bright blue and green ones donated, but I was able to upgrade the memory on these mules. They hum along even though they’re 100 plus in dog years. There’s no right click-left click in my room – that’s like goose-stepping to my artistic ears.

One of my favorite posts that I read on The Critical Thinker was Apple as a Religion, which was taken from The Varieties of Religious Experience: How Apple Stays Divine. I’d sing in the choir, but those who know me, know that when I sing, dogs howl.

It was only last weekend that I was  thinking of writing a post about Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos. I remember thinking that if Steve Jobs HAD died, I’d put his picture on my ofrenda (alter). Then it occurred to me that if Steve Jobs were to die soon, one of my students could play him at the History Wax Museum for Open House. Now, I feel like the person who didn’t forward the chain letter, and so that’s why JFK was shot.

As the news was breaking earlier today, I came across the Gizmodo. Way cool. The ad people encouraged Jobs to do the voice over, but in the commercial that aired, Jobs opted for a voiceover by Richard Dreyfuss, so this is the version that didn’t air.

Steve Jobs was a true visionary, and he sure accomplished a hell of a lot for a guy who didn’t drink coffee.

As American as Apple Pie – Grand Rapids LipDub May 28, 2011

Posted by alwaysjan in Food for Thought, Music.
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My husband forwarded to me a link to Indiewire, an independent film site, with the message, “You’ve GOT to watch this!” (Click the Indiewire link to watch the Grand Rapids LipDub.)

After Newsweek listed Grand Rapids, Michigan as one of America’s 10 “Dying Cities,” independent filmmaker Scott Erickson decided to showcase his hometown in a one-take, 10-minute video to the tune of Don McLean’s iconic song American Pie.

When I told my brother, who lives in Michigan, about the video, his initial response was, “It can’t be Grand Rapids-that’s one of our favorite places to go. Are you sure they weren’t talking about Detroit?” He informed me that Grand Rapids is GR to Michiganders.

Maybe it’s because I can vividly recall the dingy bar I was standing in drinking 3.2% beer when I first heard the song American Pie, but I dare say, I got a little misty eyed watching this video.

At a time when funding for the arts is being cut from our schools, I’ve become all the more convinced that it is the arts that elevate our spirits while also bringing people together.

Psst! If it’s been awhile since you’ve heard the song, you, like me, will be trying to decipher the lyrics. But, it’s already been done for you on Understanding American Pie. The site takes you through the song verse by verse. Whoa! I think it gave me flashbacks.

I rate this video GR, for GREAT.  Enjoy!

Why Can’t We Be Friends? March 6, 2011

Posted by alwaysjan in Food for Thought.
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How could I have missed Jimmy Kimmel’s call to make Nov. 17 National UnFriend Day on Facebook?  Oh that’s right, I was in the middle of Parent-Teacher Conferences. That’s two weeks when I’m looking to bring people on board, not cull the herd. But last night after a few glasses of red wine, I started deleting some of my “friends.”

So far no gunshots have been fired at my house, but most of those I “unfriended” (is that the correct nettiquette?) don’t even know where I live. That tells you something right there.

Like many people, I signed onto Facebook early on when it was literally the new kid on the block.  The “friending” began. I wrote about the downside of this in Being Facebook Friends with Stephan Pastis – Rats!

Fast forward four years. It occurred to me that I wouldn’t recognize some of my “friends” on the street. That’s not good. I’d even stooped to hiding others, so I didn’t have to read incessant updates about every aspect of their life. (Jimmy Kimmel provides a great example of this.) Hiding may be a kinder way since the “friend” doesn’t know that you’ve exiled them to Never Again Land, but isn’t honesty usually the best policy? Was that a gunshot I just heard?

Then there were those “friends” who were coerced by some well-intentioned technophile into joining Facebook in the first place. Left to their own devices, they couldn’t figure out how to post their picture or a status update. I think most have forgotten their passwords and haven’t revisited Facebook since I hit the Accept button. They’re in the slow lane on the information highway with their turn signal on – but can’t figure out how to exit. I like to think that by “unfriending” them, I’m just helping speed up the process.

Here’s my new and improved criteria for a mutually beneficial “friendship.”

1)  I would recognize you if I saw you on the street
2)  We’ve shared a significant life experience (Think “trauma bonding”)
3)  You’ve commented on one of my status updates or blog.
4)  You can make me laugh.
5)  We share some DNA, so you are potentially an organ donor.

Actually, my son just informed me that he “unfriends” people almost weekly, and it’s no big deal. It’s not like Mark Zuckerberg shows up at their door with the pink slip. Come to think of it, some of those I planned to “unfriend” weren’t even on my  list of “friends.” Could it be that they “unfriended” me first and I didn’t even notice? Sweet!

The Boys Are Not Alright January 17, 2011

Posted by alwaysjan in Food for Thought, Teaching.
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If women are from Venus and men are from Mars, then girls and boys are light years apart. Nowhere is this more evident than at school. I recently came across a 12-minute video, Gaming to Re-engage Boys in Learning, that features a former third-grade teacher, Ali Carr-Chellman, discussing why so many boys are turned off by school from ages 3-13.  Ms. Carr-Chellman, who now teaches at the Penn State University College of Education and is a game designer, cites three reasons why boys have such a difficult time in school. The statistics cited, “For every 100 girls…” are from The Boys Project.

As a teacher and the mother of two boys, I found this fascinating. This year I applied for and received my first grant that provides funds to add more high-interest books for boys to the classroom library. I wrote about boys’ reading preferences in Boys Book Club.

Just last Friday I told my boys I was going to bring in my son’s old Spawn action figures, so they could play with them during Friday Club.  But first, I needed to confiscate all of their weapons.  There was a collective groan, so when I watched this video, I had to laugh.

WARNING: You might never look at boys the same, and that could be a good thing.

The Right to Smite August 8, 2010

Posted by alwaysjan in Food for Thought.
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Hmmm.  It’s so tempting.  Who’s been naughty?

As a supporter of  “No on Prop. 8,” or as I like to think of it, “No on H8,” no one was happier than me to see the ban on gay marriage in California declared unconstitutional this week by the 9th District  Federal Court.

Having been married for 33 years to the same man, I’m not concerned that gay marriage makes my marriage less than sacred. Geez, I’m surprised in this day in age that anyone wants to make a life-long commitment to each other. People complain that gays are promiscuous, yet when they want to settle down and get married, some people get their undies in a bunch. Talk about a double double standard!

So in the wake of recent uplifting news (Hey, gays can now get married in Argentina and Mexico City!), I received a forward on Facebook entitled a Letter to Dr. Laura (Schlessinger) that had me LOL. Leave it to those snoops at Snopes to get the skinny on this letter, which it turns out has been floating around since 2000.  It’s a hilarious read and “best read as an essay offering a counter to the “homosexuality is wrong because the Bible says so” argument.  It takes the bull by the horns, but explains why you shouldn’t cook the bull.   I strongly suggest you read it, or I might just have to smite you!

Letter to Dr. Laura

Photo Credit:  Free Canuckistan

Keep Calm and Carry On December 28, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Food for Thought.
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When I saw this sign at our friends’ house, I thought it was the perfect sign for the times. Let’s face it, 2009 has been a lousy year for so many, and 2010 seems to be shaping up as more of the same. I had no idea that Keep Calm and Carry On was designed in 1939 by the British government’s Ministry of Information at the beginning of WW II.

“Keep Calm and Carry On”  has since become part of public domain and can be found in various incarnations (posters, mugs, t-shirts) on Amazon and etsy. Our friends’ copy  featured light blue printing on a black board which was propped on their mantle. There’s even a parody urging people to “Panic and Run Away.”

The original poster was intended as a “last case scenario” to be used only should the Nazis succeed in invading Great Britain, in order to stiffen resolve.” according to my uber source for all information – Wikipedia.

Now even Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales, is grubbing for donations which doesn’t bode well. In my neck of the woods, there’s talk of cutting another 82 teachers and increasing class sizes yet again. Here I am half-way through my masters program, and they’re considering freezing column increases, which would put the kabbash on that pay increase I’m working toward. None of it’s good. I’m afraid after seeing The Road and Rec in the same day, a last case scenario seems closer than I’d like to think. But in the meantime – Keep Calm and Carry On.

Taking Technology for Granted – Louis CK September 29, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Food for Thought.
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When I first saw this I cracked up.  It took me a while, but I tracked down this clip. I operate at twitch speed, so I can relate. This is me on an airplane.  Enjoy.

Facebook Alert July 26, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Food for Thought.
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Penny the dog/pig protects her pictures on Facebook.



I received the following ALERT from two friends on Facebook today.

“ALERT:  Facebook has agreed to let third party advertisers use your posted pictures without your permission.  To prevent this,  click on “Settings” up at the top where you see the “Logout” link. Select “Privacy.”  Then select “News Feed and Wall.”  Next, select the tab that reads “Facebook Ads.” In the drop down box, select “No One.” Then save your changes. Help your friends…cut and paste this into your status.”

I googled this as I’m not prone to hysteria and found everything you need to know in a July 24 article from  The Los Angeles Times.

If anything, it’s a cautionary tale about reading the fine print.  I’ve already done the reset.  My worst fear is having MY face on one of those on-line ads where the windshield wiper sweeps away all the the wrinkles (that is unless I’m the “After.”)  >wink<

The Digital Natives Are Restless July 22, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Food for Thought, Techology.
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American Gothic

When I arrived at my friend Cathy’s house in Kansas City, the first order of business was to log onto their wifi account. Cathy had a password written down, but it wasn’t working, so she called her 23-year-old son. Matt rattled it off over the phone. Twenty plus letters and numbers. “This isn’t a password – it’s the nuclear launch code,” Cathy mused. Once I was back on-line, my DT’s (Digital Tremors) subsided. Whew.

That got me thinking about how everything has changed due to technology. On the flight back to the Midwest, the plane couldn’t take off. “There are still electronic devices on in rows 15, 32, and 34,”  the flight attendant announced. So we waited. Another announcement. Finally, we taxied.

I give my parents, who are in their 80s, a pass on technology. My dad bought a computer years ago and has so many security programs installed to prevent identity theft that every time you press a key a security alert pops up about possible suspicious activity. Talk about killing the creative muse.

Both my parents have cell phones, but I don’t bother to call them because they’re usually turned off. And my parents never figured out how to retrieve messages. I have to admit that it wasn’t until we ditched our landline, that I was forced to figure out all of those features on my cell phone. And I’m still figuring out how to shoot an independent film on it.

While I was visiting my parents, my brother was there along with his daughter, Allison, and her friend, Jeff, both who just graduated from college. For them technology is second nature. Missed the last episode of True Blood? Jeff downloaded it for me and emailed it to my Dropbox so I could watch it on my computer.

Jeff carried his iPhone with him and set it on the table during meals. Sitting at Runza Hut, we got talking about whether the exquisite and highly addictive Runza (a doughy mound filled with ground beef and cabbage) was of Polish or German origin. Jeff googled it. Turned out it’s German/Russian. So there! Meanwhile, my phone kept dinging. “I keep hearing something,” my mother said looking around. It was yet another incoming text message on my phone. Sometimes technology can be too much of a good thing.

Because my parents Wifi connection was spotty, I was worried I’d have to cruise the neighborhood hoping to piggyback on someone else’s wireless. Jeff informed me this is called War Driving. I googled the Urban Dictionary just to make sure. Who knew?

My parents were most impressed with how you can go to Google Maps and see a 360-degree street view of your home. And all of this on an iPhone! When my mother asked how we could look inside the houses, I bit my tongue. Then my dad asked how much an IHOP costs. There’s a learning curve here and at this late stage in their lives, it’s a steep a hill to climb. No, make that a mountain.

Last summer, I read an interesting article called Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants by Marc Prensky that explains how those who’ve grown up with technology, the digital natives, actually think and process information differently than the rest of us. Whether you teach kids, have one, or were ever one yourself, it’s a fascinating read.

Did You Know? February 13, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Food for Thought.
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I’ve created a new “Food for Thought” category just for this video.  Way cool! This video has not only added a new term, “B.G.” to my vocabulary, but it explains why I’ve been inundated with “friend” requests from Facebook. Enjoy.  

Do Schools Kill Creativity? January 31, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Food for Thought, Teaching.
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Do you have 18 minutes?  That’s how long the speakers at TED  “Ideas Worth Sharing” have to give the talk of their lives. TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) was started in 1984 to bring together the best minds in these fields, but has since expanded its vision.  I first viewed this link on The Critical Thinker, which you’ll find on my blogroll (Thanks Mark!).

This 18-minute talk by Sir Ken Robinson is a joy to watch.  It’s a laugh out loud stand-up comedy routine that raises serious questions about how we educate children.  Okay, I don’t really believe that all those kids with ADHD ricocheting around classrooms will grow up to be dancers, but I could be wrong.  Actually, I’d love to be wrong.  

I teach at a school where there’s an “emphasis on the arts” (though no funding for them).  Yet ultimately, it all comes down to The Test and that ever elusive API score.  I wouldn’t say I’m drowning in data, but my new computer password is “Data Hari.”  

As educators,  we’re always looking for answers when sometimes what we need to do is stop and rethink the questions.  Ken Robinson raises some very interesting ones.  Do you have 18 minutes?

To view some of the other amazing people who’ve spoken at TED, click on this link.    TED