Monday, October 29, 2007

Microsoft Embracing the New 'Net

I try to save blog posts for after hours, but these links are worthy of notice. The parent Sharepoint blog is certainly worth a subscription for those of us considering its usage.

Microsoft and Facebook expand partnership

Microsoft Sharepoint Usage for Social Networking and "Communities of Practice"

Say whatever you'd like about Microsoft, but they will not remain a sleeping giant for long. The development teams are far from asleep. Apple appears content on grabbing short term revenue here and there. Sun hangs their hat on what is left of Java. Microsoft is very in touch with Web2.0. I love the way Photo Gallery now lets you upload directly to Flickr.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Social Networking Sites

It occurred to me last night why social networking sites are so popular with teens. Like the way we're trained to click here and there on the web itself, the key may not be in what SNS adds, but instead the key may be with its lack of penalty. Studies by Deborah Yurgelun-Todd at the McLean Hospital Neuroimaging Center are showing that adolescent brains are not fully developed to interpret emotion from visual cues, which could mean that the online experience for them is just as good as face to face.

Adults tend to rely on the gestures and sounds associated with a response as much as the actual words. This makes it more work for us to convey emotion via e-mail, text messaging, IM, and SNS than in a face to face meeting.

The latest generation will likely be better at expressing emotion online than most currrent adults, but their natural development should steer the ship toward a healthy combination of online and face to face interaction.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Cyber Security

SANS is a trusted source for security related material. While you may not care about the nitty gritty details of computer hacks and security incidents, you can certainly benefit from the daily tips offered there. See their Security Awareness Tip of the Day at

Solaris Patching
If you happen to be a Solaris admin, you should probably run "pca" (Patch Check Advanced) at least once to see if your systems are as well patched as you think. The patch utility is a single perl script which does more than a boatload of different Sun products...and better.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

4H Camp Day Three

Breakfast on the third day once again featured biscuits, bacon, grits, and eggs. When the total food waste for 110 plus was weighed, we had only 2.5 pounds!

Our morning lesson was Orienteering. I have used a compass before, but learning the parts of a compass and how to navigate was much fun. When we began navigating my son was completely lost. His compass wasn't working at all. The Instructor traded her compass and it still didn't work. We joked about his natural magnetism before she realized that he had purchased a stuffed eagle at the souvenoir shop and it was wrapped around his wrist. That eagle had magnets in the wings for clipping it onto things. His compass worked much better once the eagle wasn't near. We played some games using the compass for navigation and concluded our final lesson.

After a quick lunch, I checked my son out of school so he could ride home with me. He slept about an hour and a half on the way home. Even though he got a good night's sleep that night, he obviously benefitted from a forced nap the next day too. It was an exciting 3 days to say the least. I am incredibly grateful for teachers and a Principal who see the value in this experience and are willing to put their necks on the line to make it happen. There are no 3 days anywhere in grade school that will compare to these. Thank You to my Dearest Principal, Teachers, Camp Educators and others who made this trip possible.

4H Camp Day Two

The plan for day two was to have the boys get ready by 7am and we'd take a hike or something to pass the time before our 7:50 Flag Raising. One of the chaperones had to tell his kids to go back to bed at 4, since they were up showering and getting ready. The lack of a clock has both good and bad points. As I wandered out of my room at around 6:30, putting on my pants as I went, one of the boys noticed the belt in my hand. He screamed, "He's taking off his belt! Get back in your rooms!" Figuring that was my best opportunity to get things back in line I said "5 seconds...1,2." They were already in place. All I could do was laugh to myself.

The AL 4H Center serves great meals. Breakfast offered grits, eggs, bacon, and biscuits. We ate as much as we could eat, then weighed our scraps as before. The tally was 8.5 pounds and my table was one of those with nothing at all on the waste plate. A little competition goes a long way.

It was a chilly morning and our first lesson was Lake Ecology. We studied types of bugs and critters then waded into the lake up to our knees digging for anything that moves. We didn't find a whole bunch other than mud, but the snails (and some kind of penny thing I forget) were the type which live in good water. We were happy that the water was good, since leeches live in polluted water according to the "environmental indicators."

Our Principal shared with me during lunch that a man had approached her and asked "Do you let the kids take the canoes into that lake?" She responded in the affirmative and told him that our school even owns canoes which we use for regular trips. He looked rather puzzled and then asked, "Is this a private school?" She laughed "No, Sir," and thought again just how great our opportunities really are. The schools in our system are all good, but I'm very glad we live in the neighborhood where we do.

Our lunch waste from chicken strips and tater tots was up a little at 12 pounds or so, but still much improved from the initial 16.5 pounds.

After lunch we proved to our Instructor just how many nautical terms we already knew, then added parts of an oar to our vocabulary. We loaded up 3 per canoe and went out onto Lay Lake. It's pretty hard to handle a canoe in a strong crosswind, but we all managed to get out and back without assistance from the motorboat.

Our second afternoon session was rock climbing. The center has a new climbing wall with 3 levels of difficulty. The kids helped one another a ton with encouragement and pointing out where and how to move up. Climbing that wall is quite a workout.

Supper was excellent and our waste was down to 2 pounds. Yet another skit enforced the message not to waste food.

For sports night my tribe went to the putt-putt course first. Some of the boys went together and some paired up with girls for the course. It was very cute to watch. They all knew exactly what the best way to do every hole was, and were quick to share their excellence. It was nice to watch them encourage one another again though.

We played a bit more basketball, then took a break before Astronomy class. The staff had a tarp spread out in the middle of a large field where the kids sat or lay down for Astronomy. It was a perfectly clear night and slightly cool. Shortly after our Instructor started teaching a bright falling star streaked across the sky. She explained to us about what falling stars really are and that we should be experiencing showers for the next few weeks. Stars change colors with their age as they burn up. The color changes from blue to yellow to red to dark as they burn out. Stars appear to twinkle but planets generally do not. We listened to stories about constellations as she pointed them out with a lazer pointer in the night sky. It didn't touch the stars obvioiusly, but the beam was visible enough to point out stars of interest. It was a beautiful night and was enjoyed by kids and adults alike. A few took advantage of the stillness for an extra nap.

Once back at the boys' dorm, we again prepared for the night and wrote in daily journals. It was easier to get the boys to sleep this night, since it had been a very long day and the adrenaline rush was long since past. As we waited for the boys to fall asleep I had a nice visit with my roommate who had married a lady from my home town. It really is a small world.

4H Camp Day One

My son's elementary school is the one (out of five in our school system) which has managed to twist the Superintendant's arm into letting us (110 or so 4th graders plus teachers and chaperones) go to the 4H Center for 3 days of school. It's an educational experience that I wish every child could have. In fact, it's a shame that every adult doesn't get to go as a chaperone.

When we arrived the excitement was high. Boys ran wild looking for their rooms, and girls wandered their way too. The buildings were obviously not fragile, since these rooms see kids just like ours almost every day.

While the kids were in an Orientation session, the teachers and parents met with leaders from the 4H Center to determine rules for our group. Things like "one snack per child" were confirmed and they asked us about meal prayer. Neither the staff nor the teachers are allowed to lead a prayer. Parents or students apparently do have that legal option. A parent immediately volunteered and there were no objections by the rest of us. I'm sure there were non-Christians in the student body, but the pre-meal prayer was very comfortable for most of us. With administrative tasks out of the way we settled into education.

They divided us up into tribes so we'd have manageable class sizes. We were dubbed the Chickasaw tribe, which started with Ornithology. Our tribe had a Korean boy who had just moved to the US a few months ago. Watching the other boys help him out was nothing short of incredible. We learned what allows birds to fly and what types of beaks different birds have, and various other things. We each got our own binoculars and went in search of a bird. 2 o'clock in the afternoon with screaming kids all around doesn't make the best condition for bird watching, but our Instructor barged on, undeterred. They had built a "bird blind" for viewing a group of feeders nestled in a low corner. As we entered the structure this group of 18 kids got so quiet you could've heard a pin drop. It was fascinating to see them pointing out birds to one another. We visited the raptor cages to see injured birds they are caring for at the center. The great horned owl didn't seem too impressed by our presence. His expression suggested we'd best leave before he ripped out of his cage.

Our second class was called Team Initiatives. The class was about teamwork, and featured games similar to those you might see in leadership classes for adults. The group was given a task and had to come up with ways to solve the problem. There's always a leader in a bunch, and this group was no different. These tasks require input from several people to solve, however. They did an excellent job of listening to one another's ideas and trying different ways to solve a problem. If you doubt the ability of 4th graders to work together, you should have been there to see it. Our Instructor for the course had them eating out of her hand. They learned teamwork, integrity, strategy, and persistence...and had a great time doing it.

Meals at the Center are served family dining style. The kids set the table and brought food to the table. Bowls were passed and each person served themselves. At the end of the meal the waste from our plates was collected as solids and liquids, then weighed. We had a total of 16.5 pounds of waste from our first meal (spaghetti). It was explained that wasting food wastes energy, food, and money. Several skits were done at mealtime enforcing this concept.

After a short break we went out in a field for a campfire with more stories, skits, and educational fun. Kids circled 'round the fire while adults roasted marshmellows and made s'mores for all the kids. Yes, that's lots of marshmellows. Our Principal was seated on the ground next to the fire, assembling s'mores until she was club-fisted with melted marshmellow goo. I can't imagine a Principal more dedicated to her students.

After cleaning marshmellows from our paws we assembled for "sports night." My tribe went to volleyball and played boys against girls. I was afraid it'd be ugly, since the boys were seriously outnumbered, and girls tend to be more mature at this age, but the boys won handily...even tho we weren't keeping score. :)

We moved to basketball for a bit and divided the group into 2 even teams. We figured a full court game would wear them out before bed. Turns out they were pretty tired and we had an injury quick with short, tired fuses in abundance. To solve the problem another adult and myself played against the remaining kids. Basketball is a game where the height advantage allowed us to do that.

I shared a bunk bed with a teacher in the boys' dorm. As we were getting ready for bed we had them write in their journals about what they'd seen, done, and learned for the day. During journal time, I witnessed a pair of Korean boys working together. They would communicate in Korean, then the one whose English was better would spell words out in English. It was neat to watch.

It took a while before the lot of them went to sleep and the homesick gave way to exhaustion, but when the last one dropped we did as well. Apparently one of them had a dream that someone had stolen his sleeping bag, but he managed to find one for the rest of the night after waking us at 3:30 in the morning.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Voice Thread

It's an elephant, or so they say. Apparently my idea of using VoiceThread to create a presentation or slideshow is like using a sledgehammer to drive a tack, so grab a hammer if you want to try a new toy. It's blogger. It's slideshare. It's flickr. It's YouTube. It's entertaining...unless you hate to hear your own voice worse than you hate to see your own picture. Get over it. I did.

I created this little thread about making a good password to try it out. See

Hmmm...and they give you a friendly way to include it as an image...

I think it'll put your picture next to the voicethread if you make a comment. Crap. Now they've got my picture and voice.