Friday, December 18, 2009

Course final reflections

The description for this course is as follows:


"This course emphasizes techniques for improving instruction and learning through the application of the research on effective schools and on models of instruction. Topics include leadership related to curriculum, instruction, supervision, and theories and methods for adult learning and professional development. The principal as the leader of learning involves such tasks as teacher evaluation, supervision, mentoring, and effective communication."


 

This description does not appear to be significantly related to the course offered. As such, I had no idea that this course dealt with instructional technology. The course description makes no mention of the sole focus on technology of this course. In fact, the course description sounds as if it is describing a different course entirely. The description
does sound like a course in which I would be interested. However, once the course began it became obvious that my knowledge of technology and its use in education was more limited than I had thought. I discovered that I had a fair amount to learn about intellectual property, and about uses of technology to increase students' learning.


 

Once the course began, I began to see that I especially could learn a lot about creative uses of technology to increase student learning. While the course materials mentioned several means of doing so, especially areas such as project-based learning, I still am starving for more concrete examples of ways this is used, especially in math classes. Generalities do point in a direction, but until you give someone an example, it is difficult to envision their use. I still do not understand how to develop a project which will help students learn advanced mathematical concepts when they do not even know what mathematical concepts they may need in order to work on the project. Telling a student, for example, to develop a plan involving advanced use of force and motion without having first taught him vectors, would seem to work only to frustrate the student. On the other hand, how then is it different to teach a student the concepts of vectors and give him a web site or PowerPoint to develop on the project, versus having him create an actual model? Why is the former better than the latter?

The material in this course will, however, help me in my current job in that it has opened my eyes and made me more aware of concepts such as project-based learning, and about the wealth of intellectual property. I am much more sensitive now as I create work for my current job, whether it is a presentation about the course selection process, a lesson for my students, or the curriculum for a course. Additionally, I also am much more sensitive to the use of copyrighted material in class. Today was the last class day before winter break, and several teachers showed movies. In the past, they would not have even made a blip on my radar, but today it gave me great pause.

The assignments in the course did help me learn the material. However, I already had a blog, which I simply adapted for the course. I also use Facebook, Twitter, have a web page for the course, and text and e-mail so much that I had to go to unlimited text messages on my own cell phone. While my age puts me in the generation of "digital immigrants," I am fairly fluent. I even have been known to translate something for a "native," today even explaining to a student what a pdf file is.

I do think that blogs and blogging can indeed be helpful for education. However, the most recent set of readings also pointed out the pitfalls inherent in blogs. To begin with, there are inherent concerns about the suitability of anything students might post in such a forum. How to keep the focused, for example, on the course material? How to keep them from plagiarizing or cheating in the forum? Additionally, there are even more significant concerns, which had not occurred to me before, related to students' privacy. Is inviting students to participate in a teacher-created blog which is not sponsored by the school district a dangerous step to take? It would appear to be so, particularly without the wealth of recommended permissions, including those of the students' parents and the school's administration.

However, a blog would seem to be an extremely effective way to simply communicate information to parents. I am still uncertain about the advantages of a blog versus a traditional teacher webpage with a calendar or log of notes and assignments. The blog might have more room for a more narrative style of information, but this may not outweigh the ease of posting on a district's own web site. In my district, for example, teachers have web sites on which they can post course information, including homework, and can put a link for parents or students to e-mail them with questions. Certainly part of that web page could become something moderately close to a formal blog, while still remaining under the safe umbrella of the school district's purview. On the other hand, for a teacher at my school to create her own blog would require her using a service such as Blogger, which would take her outside the control and protection of the school district, and I am not certain that I would recommend her doing so at this time.

Blogs certainly would be extremely helpful for communicating course information both to students and to parents. Additionally, a school's administrator could use it as a less formal, more comfortable way of communicating with parents and the community at large, touting students' successes and upcoming events such as ball games and musicals. The administrator also could commend outstanding teachers, and even discuss in a conversational tone the impact of recent school news, such as a recent snow day at school.

I have enjoyed and learned a lot from this course. The course professors are the first with whom I have had direct communication throughout this entire program, although my January course will be my penultimate one. I appreciate the time and effort they have put into this, and the learning I have had from them.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Technology Action Plan

Introduction:



Technology in Pearland ISD is ubiquitous, and growing. The district recently "tweeted" one high school's actions in a state football semi-finals football game. Podcasts tell the community of news in the district. An online survey last week gathered input regarding a proposed magnet school in the district. An online program allows teachers to update grades and lesson plans 24/7, and allows parents to access their students' grades in real time. However, as good as all that sounds, the district's implementation of technology to aid student learning is still somewhat weak. This action plan will help to address that weakness and raise students' learning and success to an even higher level. In developing this plan, I interviewed instructional technology specialists, administrators, teachers, and students. I studied the district's improvement plan, and its technology improvement plan. I also analyzed our STaR chart data for the last several years, and observed teacher uses of technology day-to-day in their classes.



Organization chart: (see below)



In the Pearland Independent School District, policy for all district programs is set by the Board of Trustees, and implemented by the Superintendent, including technology programs and expenditures. The Director of Technology Services reports to the Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education. This does not imply that technology services affect only secondary education, but rather reflects an emphasis by the district to share the responsibility load among the various assistant superintendents. The Director of Technology Services oversees both the hardware and software sides of the district's efforts, supervising the district's Instructional Technology Coordinator, who is responsible for student learning through technology, and the telecommunications, network, and technology specialists who ensure the systems are up and running. This person also oversees the district's Student Information Manager, who is responsible for the implementation of the PEIMS system, as well as the grade book and data management program Skyward. On the other side of the chart is the district's Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. This individual supervises the district's curriculum specialists, who work closely with the instructional technologists to identify and implement programs and products that will enhance students' learning.

The secondary campus principals also report to the Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education. On their campuses, they closely coordinate and work with the Site-Based Decision Making (SBDM) teams to establish and review the campus' educational plans, goals, performance objectives, and major classroom instructional programs. Among other things, the SBDM and principal work together to discuss the effectiveness of current technology, and identify new needs or adjustments to current offerings. On each campus there is a Campus Instructional Technology Specialist (CITS) who works not only to implement technology on that campus, but also to train the teachers in using the available technology. On most campuses, this person works closely with teachers and offers just-in-time training on the use of technology. For example, a teacher might want to implement a lesson about a particular new math concept, or review students before a test, and the CIT will help to set up an interactive clicker activity which will help accomplish that goal, helping the teacher learn how to use it just before the students need it.

Most importantly, however, are the relationships this organization chart does not show. On this chart, departments and divisions appear clearly delineated and compartmentalized. However, this is far from the truth. The CITS work with campus teachers, obviously, but also with the campus SBDM to help to determine needs and to review available resources. The teachers work closely with curriculum and instruction specialists to develop new ways to teach needed concepts. The CITS and Instructional Technology Specialists coordinate closely with the Curriculum specialists and with teachers to determine what technology will help meet their needs. A series of overlapping circles would better depict many of these relationships, than this straightforward progression of rectangles.





Professional Development:



Pearland ISD has a strong emphasis on technology, which can only be accomplished when all of its teachers, curriculum specialists, and even classroom paraprofessionals are best able to diagnose students' educational needs and meet them the best ways possible. Today, meeting those needs can be well accomplished through new technological advances.

First, however, students' needs must be accurately assessed. That happens through the district's myriad data gathering avenues. TAKS test scores are certainly one source of data, but the district also administers TAKS release tests annually, administers End-of Course field tests, TAKS field tests, and students' course grades. Additionally, the district has access to mobility information, socioeconomic status, discipline information, course grade and test performance history, at-risk status, and other demographic information. In order for educators to be able to use this data to help students, they first must be able to delve into its depths for meaningful information. The district has two sources from which such information can be mined. The first is the Skyward program, which tracks PEIMS data and student grades. The Eduphoria suite of programs are a second tool, through which the Aware component allows sorting and management of all quantifiable test data to which it has access. Not only are student's TAKS and release TAKS scores tracked in this system, but these data can be fully disaggregated. Students' full profile of strengths and weaknesses can be easily accessed. Teacher training for this area will consist of an initial, brief, in-person session which will help teachers simply see the types of data and its uses they can access via this system. Additional online tutorials will be made available so that when teachers need or want to access particular types of data, they simply need to access the online training for step-by-step instructions about how to access it, parse it, disaggregate it, and use it.

Secondly, teachers have access to a wealth of technologies which they either are completely unfamiliar with using, or have only a passing awareness of its existence. These technologies are myriad, and include interactive white boards, slates, graphing calculators, clickers, and other tools. Additionally, teachers have access to a wealth of programs that also will help with student learning, from word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation programs, to programs specifically designed to help students with particular subjects such as math. To help here, we will host a technology round-robin training day. Teachers will be allowed to select eight 30-minute sessions during the day, based on their wants and needs, and then rotate into and out of those sessions during that day. After the training day, all of the presentations and training materials will be stored on the district's web server, so that teachers can access them 24/7 either onsite or offsite.

Finally, and most importantly, teachers need the ability to brainstorm ways to leverage these technologies into totally new learning experiences for students. Simply using a new technology to teach an old lesson is no longer enough. Instead, the school's schedule will be adjusted so that every other Thursday morning, classes start an hour late. Students will arrive to school at their normal time, and be supervised in the library and cafeteria by paraprofessionals and administrators. Teachers will convene in subject-area and grad-level teams during alternating sessions. During these times, they will brainstorm and discuss upcoming lessons and topics of study, and seek ways to capitalize on overlaps and needs. Additionally, study teams will research best practices in project-based learning, and share these ideas during these meetings.

In short, this new learning will enable teachers to pinpoint needs, identify the technologies that are available to meet those needs, then have the time and information needed in order to effectively meet those needs and challenge students to new ways of learning.





Evaluation:



Evaluation is a means by which a program's effectiveness can be determined. If this program is successful, we will begin to see teachers accessing the online training more, and more frequently. Hit counters will make it easy to see whether this occurs. Additionally, teachers will begin to mention and use technology more often in their lesson plans. The online lesson planning software has check-boxes on which teachers can indicate what technology they are using, and monitoring this is a simple matter of pulling a report. Additionally, teachers will be using technology in a more innovative fashion, helping students turn from mere consumers of information to creators of knowledge. Monitoring and evaluating this area will occur during administrators' classroom walkthroughs and observations. Additionally, teachers' use of their web pages will increase significantly, as will the value of the information posted on web pages. Rather than a simple teacher biography, the web pages will begin to show items such as homework assignments and links to useful online resources. Teachers also will begin to create class blogs and/or wikis, for students to use in online learning. They also will share lesson plans and ideas via the Eduphoria program. Further and deeper use, disaggregation, and mining will occur much more often, and teachers will use the data to better understand and meet student needs.

From the Curriculum side, curriculum specialists and instructional technologists will team more closely to research, pinpoint, and share innovate means of using technology to help students learn. Most importantly, the curriculum specialists can research innovative lessons and projects that will more effectively help students use technology to reach higher levels of learning.

The technology department also will continue to research innovative learning technologies, focusing on the newest hardware and software available. They will work with the curriculum specialists to again identify helpful uses for the technologies, focusing on student learning rather than on innovation solely for the sake of innovation.

The district also will use technology more, and more creatively, to communicate with parents and other stakeholders. Training for parents and students about the new Skyward grade program will occur each semester. School and district web sites will be enhanced to include a question/comment section, on which parents and other stakeholders can pose questions that will be answered by district personnel. The district will improve its use of the Twitter technology, "tweeting" about district happenings and enlisting parents and other stakeholders to sign up for its Twitter feed. The district also will enhance its own use of administrative technology, including continuing to create and distribute podcasts, provide online audio recordings of board meetings, and utilize the TASB Policy Online portal. Additionally, teachers and administrators will make greater use of other online tools, including scheduling meetings via Microsoft Outlook.

When teachers and administrators attend professional development sessions, exit surveys will occur to measure their perception of the value of the training. Additionally, follow-up surveys annually will ask what trainings they perceived as most valuable, what they are and are not using that they saw in those trainings, and what they would like to learn in the coming year. The district's annual climate survey also will include questions about the perceptions of the effectiveness of technology use and levels of technology comfort throughout the district.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

STaRs At Dawson High School

Week 2 Assignment

Status of the Texas STaR Chart survey and implementation at Pearland ISD's Dawson High School

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Long-range technology planning for Texas schools - do we have the nuts and bolts to make it happen?

Week 2 Assignment


The Texas Long Range Plan for Technology, 2006-2020, has some fairly ambitious goals for technology in Texas schools over the next ten years. One of the easiest-to-define areas in the plan is that of infrastructure. The plan outline envisions that every school in Texas have state-of-the-art infrastructure by 2020, and that the schools and districts maintain that state-of-the-art status constantly. The plan specifies a "high-performance infrastructure to take advantage of new technologies" (p. 35), and talks of ubiquitous high-speed connectivity, safety, security, flexibility, scalability, and reliability. Campuses and districts will integrate voice, video, and data, and be able to host large volumes of digital content, and powerful applications. Teachers and students will have easy access to tools, anywhere, any time, and will work collaboratively with a strong sense of community. Teachers, parents, and administrators also will have anywhere, anytime access to data and information about student success and school operations, and technical support will be readily available. The vision even calls infrastructure "the critical element" in the implementation of this long-range plan (p. 35). 


Statewide, only 6.7 percent of districts in 2007-2008 identified themselves as having achieved this idealistic state, up from 5.2 percent who made the same identification the previous year. Some 57.2 percent, however, said they were at the Advanced Tech state in the most recent data, up from 53.3 percent in the previous year. At my own campus, our infrastructure is progressing, receiving successively higher marks in each of the three most recent years, but we remain in the Advanced Tech stage. In order to make the leap to the final stage, massive capital investments would be required, the district's philosophy regarding firewalls and necessary bandwidth would have to be reworked, and large numbers of additional technical and instructional support experts would have to be hired – all during a time when school funding in Texas, and especially in my own district, is being squeezed more tightly than ever.

There is some hope, that economies and efficiencies may be achievable, however, to help with these challenges. Verizon Business cites its top technology infrastructure trends for 2010, many of which will benefit schools:

  1. Enterprise Social Networking. As Texas moves toward a vision of a more collaborative and collegial culture among its students and its teachers, this trend will help move us in that direction.
  2. Cloud Computing. A movement toward webs of networked computers, paired with offsite resources to take over some computing tasks, may help with the need for increased computing power and bandwidth in a way that does not significantly increase costs to districts.
  3. 360 security – As network and cloud security becomes more advanced, secure, and dynamic, this improved ability will help schools and districts increase and maintain the safety and security of their own data and systems.
  4. A move from telework to telepresence, and seeing is believing - While teachers have never been able to telecommute, a move toward telepresence and the advent of more effective software and systems for videoconferencing in business will translate easily to more, and more effective, distance education for schools.
  5. Increased wireless applications – as more wireless opportunities are developed, this will help schools serve students in more dynamic settings, as the computers and experiments can leave the classroom and travel to less traditional settings on- and even off-campus.
Can this ambitious plan come to fruition? Possibly. Trends in the business world will help education, but financial and philosophical challenges also must be overcome before the reality will be seen in our classrooms.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Technology TEKS for little ones

Week 1 Assignment

In order for children to read well, they must begin learning their ABCs at a young age. In order to become fluent in mathematics, they must begin counting early. And in order for them to become proficient with technology, they also must begin practicing with it at a young age.

In Texas, there are technology outcomes specified for the end of a child's kindergarten year. These include the children's ability to open and navigate through learning-type software programs. In this area, children follow direction as they listen to and work with storybooks, multimedia encyclopedias, and other tools. They also can name basic computer input devices, including a mouse, keyboard, recorder for voice or sound, touch screen, and CD-ROM. They can move and double-click the mouse to work with programs, and can use proper terminology to describe what they are doing on the computer. Children at this age also can operate touch screens and voice and sound recorders, such as CDs. They can insert and play CDs, and use touch screens and voice and sound recordings properly. The children also can use software applications to create and express their own ideas, including creating writings and drawings with software. Finally, children will recognize tht information is accessible through the use of technology, and will learn via this medium.

As these TEKS are followed, the children are well placed for achieving the subsequent technology TEKS through elementary, middle, and high school. These TEKS map to the four key areas of the more advanced TEKS. These early childhood TEKS address primarily the Foundation area of the fully developed technology TEKS, which has students understanding and complying with laws and policies, understanding and using hardware and software, and inputting data. The younger children implement this area by moving a computer's mouse, learning the names of computer components, creating a picture, and knowing how to play a CD. As they become older, they will learn the more advanced steps of these basic areas, including creating multimedia presentations, and using the internet to research a topic.The basic skills the children learn at this young age will be woven through their future technology efforts, including their work acquiring information, solving problems, and communicating solutions.

A long-range plan for technology

Week 1 Assignment

The State of Texas has a long-range plan for technology in its schools. First published in 1988, the plan has undergone several revisions, as technology has continued to morph an develop, and is now in the version adopted in 2006. I was not aware the state's plan existed, but it certainly makes sense that it does, especially in today's constantly changing world of technology. Danish physicist Niels Bohr, who died in 1962, noted decades ago that "Technology has advanced more in the last thirty years than in the previous two thousand. The exponential increase in advancement will only continue." These light-speed advances in technology continue through today. Even country musician Brad Paisley sings  how, in his youth, he longed to be able to watch television while on long car trips, and for a Pac Man game he could play at home - both of which he can easily do now.

The implications here for Texas educators are students are myriad. In order to prepare Texas' students to survive and even to thrive in such an environment, a host of services must be in place. Technology in education has several advantages. It can be delivered just-in-time, when ever a student or teacher needs it and from any location. Distance learning, e-classes, and online courses abound. Additionally, technology offers the flexibility for students to learn in a manner that suits their interests, needs, and learning styles - fully customized for Johnny versus Jane. It drives students to be more engaged in their learning, which ultimately results in higher-order thinking and greater success for each of them. Finally, technology allows students to have access to a wealth of information their classroom teachers could only have dreamed of. To expect one individual to be a font of knowledge about everything related to, say, biology, is impossible. However, for that individual to guide her students, point them in a direction, and help them to develop the questions and find the answers for themselves, is invaluable. In this setting, students can collaborate and work collegially as they formulate real-world situations and find solutions for them, extending their learning far beyond the traditional.

For such systems to be delivered, however, first, Texas educators must themselves be well versed in these new technologies. They must not only be comfortable using them to analyze student achievement data, check e-mail, conduct research, and develop presentations. They also must be fluent in using these technologies appropriately and flexibly to help each student learn at his or her own pace and individual learning style.  Texas' teachers say that they perceive themselves to be fairly comfortable with technology, and that they have a desire to learn more about how to use it.

Second, school administrators must expect that such technology be integrated and fully utilized ubiquitously. Every day, every class, every subject - technology's integration into the learning process should be as normal and expected as hearing a teacher's voice. Administrators also must provide the support for these systems. All educators must receive professional development when they need it, in a fashion that allows them to integrate their leanings into their own classrooms immediately and effectively.

Third, the technology infrastructure must be in place to provide the information and technology required by this ambitious vision. Huge bandwidth, dependable hardware, compatible software, integrated media, secure and accurate data, and just-in-time technical support are vital to this implementation.

One caveat is necessary, however. The vision document notes that "The value of educational technology in schools is dependent on the learning experiences that are brought about by teachers and students" (p. 18). In other words, technology is only so many fancy flashing lights, cool toys, and fun games unless teachers and students work together to make meaningful. That is the most important key to ensuring that technology in Texas education works to help students learn. As a potential campus administrator myself, it is incumbent on me to keep this idea in mind. Technology as toys is useless. Technology as a suite of fully utilized learning tools, on the other hand, is priceless.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Technology Skills Inventories – or, how much do I know? And – do I know as much as I think I know?

Week 1 Assignment

The Texas Education Agency  and the State Educational Technology Directors Association each have developed instruments for determining the levels of technological literacy and proficiency among educators. The two are, in total, some 29 pages and 113 items long. As a tool for self-diagnosis, they are very thorough. The TEA tool was created by Patty Lanclos in Spring Branch, Texas. It measures how closely individuals perceive they are in alignment specifically with the eighth-grade technology applications TEKS by having them respond “yes,” or “no” to each item. The SETDA instrument is published by the national organization, which is headquartered in Glen Burnie, MD.


On the TEA tool, I ranked as fairly tech-savvy. I am comfortable with most media, and fairly knowledgeable with many programs. However, I do not appear to be as knowledgeable about machine operations. For example, I do not know tell how much RAM a computer has installed. I also am not certain how to interface analog and digital media, do not understand the difference in various graphic file formats, and do not use collaborative software. I also do not design multimedia presentations, use telecommunications tools for publishing. Largely, I do not use or require my students to create multimedia or technology projects, nor do I use or set procedures, timelines, or rubrics for such projects. However, I am fairly proficient, even adept, at using most of the technologies available to me, including interactive software, classroom feedback systems, and various input devices including interactive white boards and classroom tablets.


As for the SETDA tool, it identified myriad weaknesses and gaps in my knowledge and use of technology. Neither myself nor my school gathers or uses data to determine how well (if at all) technology is helping our students to learn. Additionally, I use very little student-directed technology. My students do not create projects, communicate with others, or even use tutorial software. There are some programs I do use, such as Geometer’s Sketchpad, which allow the students to manipulate and learn about dynamic mathematical concepts. Additionally, teacher collaboration about technology is fairly limited at my school.


Finally, I also completed a non-assigned assessment, the “Rubric for Administrative Technology Use.” On this instrument as well, I ranked as moderately adept, but not extremely so. While I am fairly well versed and comfortable with many technologies, I am not fluent enough to lead their implementation.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Works Cited

Works cited within this blog:

Bitz, G., Johnson, M. J., Barry, R., Cubero, A., Huneycutt, H. J., Miller,M. . . . and Wilcox, P. (2009). Trends in Technology; 2009 Review; Digital Disruptions. AGA CPAG Research Series, 21. Retrieved from http://www.agacgfm.org/research/downloads/CPAG21.pdf

Bohr, Niels (n.d.) In SaidWhat?. Retrieved from http://www.saidwhat.co.uk/quotes/favourite/niels_bohr/technology_has_advanced_more_in_the_7111

Cain, Bonnie (2009, April 22). Texas School Funding Crisis; Presentation to the Pearland ISD Board of Trustees [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from http://www.pearlandisd.org/files/filesystem/Funding_presentation.ppt

Equity Center (2009, January 22). Equity Center Draft Report; Issue Brief: Achieving an Efficient Public School Funding System. Retrieved from http://www.pearlandisd.org/files/filesystem/Efficient_School_Funding.pdf

Johnson, Doug (2002). Rubric for Administrative Technology Use. Retrieved from http://www.doug-johnson.com/dougwri/rubric-for-administrative-technology-use.html

Lanclos, Patsy (n.d.). Technology Applications Inventory. Retrieved from http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/technology/techapp/assess/teksurv.pdf

Paisley, Brad (2009). Welcome to the Future. In Cowboy Lyrics. Retrieved from http://www.cowboylyrics.com/lyrics/paisley-brad/welcome-to-the-future-27652.html

State Educational Technology Directors Association – Profiiling Educaitonal Technology Integration, in partnership with Metiri Group (2004). SETDA Teacher Survey. Retrieved from http://www.setda-peti.org/FinalDocs/SETDA-TeachSURVEY2.doc

Texas Education Agency (n.d.). Information about the TA TEKS. Retrieved from http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/technology/techapp/teks/framewrk/index.htm

Texas Education Agency, School Technology and Readiness (2006). School Technology and Readiness; a Teacher Tool for Planning and Self-Assessment, Aligned with the Long-Range Plan for Technology, 2006-2020. Retrieved from http://starchart.esc12.net/docs/TxCSC.pdf

Texas Education Agency (2006, December). Long-Range Plan for Technology, 2006-2020; A Report to the 80th Texas Legislature from the Texas Education Agency. Retrieved from http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/technology/lrpt/LRPTCompleteDec06.pdf

Texas Education Agency (2008, September 15). Campus Statewide Summary by Key Area. Retrieved from http://starchart.esc12.net/docs/campusSWSummarybyKA20072008.pdf

Verizon Business (2009, November 12). Verizon Business Identifies Top Technology Trends That Will Support Business Expansion as Economy Recovers; Global IT Solutions Leader Ready to Help Customers Worldwide Take Advantage of Pent-Up Growth Opportunities in 2010. Retrieved from http://www.verizonbusiness.com/about/news/displaynews.xml?newsid=25412&mode=vzlong
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Thursday, November 19, 2009

We re-join this blog. ..

Previous readers. . . be patient. I'm putting the blog on "hold" while completing an assignment for graduate school. The next five weeks will be filled with blogged assignments, and I've put all of the personal items as 'drafts,' so as not to confuse the folks grading my school work. Check back after the first of the year for more of the real me.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Six weeks - oops!

Oops - didn't mean to stay off for this long. Graduate school keeps ya busy!

As I was bored this evening and channel hopping, I stopped on QVC for a minute. Can I just say - Oh My God. Who knew the levels of inanity to which the world has fallen.

Look - buy this item and it will save your life, whiten your teeth, fix your personal finances, help you lose weight, be taller and more beautiful, boost your IQ, and find you true love. What is it, you ask?

Don't look now - there's more! Its retail value is $58, and our normal price is $38.50. But look - today you can get it for just $35.12, plus $7.22 shipping and handling. It's wonderful, amazing, and people from all over the country are calling in to rave about how fabulous it is.

What is "it," you ask? A fan. A stinking room fan. And these people are oozing delight and excitement.

See, here it is.

I'm worried about the future of America!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Breaking news!

The economic crisis might be making some people sad. No - really!! In fact, it might even be making some of them depressed. They might even cry. I know. It's hard to believe. Some people are really worried about the emotional impact the economy might be having, and have set up methods to identify and help these poor souls. Warning signs might include persistent sadness, crying, excessive anger, anxiety, increased drinking, and difficulty paying attention or being focused.

Who are these generous souls poised to help those emotionally impacted by the economy? US! Yep - as in both "us", and as in "U.S." Your tax dollars at work.

The federal Substances and Mental Health Services Administration or SAMHSA has set up a new web site, complete with a guide offering practical advice on how to deal with the effects of financial difficulties on physical and mental health.

I'm a pretty compassionate soul, and I certainly do not wish anyone ill. However, I wonder if our tax dollars were used for similar purposes when our grandparents were struggling with the Great Depression. Or - did they find their boot straps and PULL.

Yes, a safety net is a good thing. But so is a dose of old-fashioned gumption. We need both right now, and I'm not seeing much of the latter.

Monday, March 30, 2009

They guarantee you'll have a ball!

So, seems the Rotary Club in Oakdale Calif. has an annual fund-raising dinner for themselves and the Oakland County Museum. It's $50 a plate, for a sit-down dinner. The Rotarians are frying up 400 pounds of their main course, and serving them to about 450 people. Last year, the dinner raised about $28,000.

Why do I care? Because the entree is Rocky Mountain Oysters. Yep - bull's testicles. In fact, the event is the annual Testicle Festival. According to the Rotarians, everyone is guaranteed to "have a ball."

Wonder how much airfare to Oakdale runs.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Yet more people with waaaaay too much time on their hands!

My Little Ponies as action heroes and movie stars? Check out the photos here. And another favorite in the group. I would never have thought of dressing up a cute little pony like Jack Sparrow. Oh - wait - that's CAPTAIN Jack Sparrow.. . which makes all the difference! I'm not sure which is more sad: the creative genius bored enough to come up with this concept, or the insane folks who pay more than $500 each for the little things! (And yes - that's really five-hundred-dollars. I didn't put an extra zero on the end!)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Ms. Hogg was amazing!

Had a cousin in town this week - my favorite one on my Dad's side. That's saying a lot, since there are 13 first cousins on that side of the family (six more on mom's side, for a total of 19 in all!) My aunt came too. Their trip was scheduled to coincide with Spring Break, which gave us a nice amount of time to hang out and play. In our goal to find something to do with cousin, his mom and my mother, who is 85, while avoiding the rain, not paying too much for something that would require hours to experience, doing something fun, and not overtiring the grandmas in our group, we touched upon Bayou Bend. The estate of Texas legend Ima Hogg, Bayou Bend is an impressive site. I can't believe that in the 40+ years I've lived in the Houston area, I'd never been there. I'm going to add it to my list of favorite places to take out of town guests!

The house is really impressive. Built in the late 1920s, Miss Hogg filled it with historic American furniture representing all eras in American history. My favorites were the ones that looked the most like Greek and Roman culture, like the Federalist style. And I loved the Texas room - of course! If you want to see photos of the rooms, including a 360-degree panoramic view of some of them, are here.

Equally impressive, however, were the acres of gardens. I'm not usually a fan of going to look at flowers, but this collection was amazing. The manicured hedges, gorgeous samples. .. the wisteria, for instance, smelled amazing.

Think I'll go back, and even plan a visit to coincide with what's blooming at the time!

Oh - and no, she did not have a sister named Ura.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Baaah-Studs!

Try saying it with a British (specifically, Welsh) accent. Then watch this:

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Spring - good news / bad news

The good news about spring: Bluebonnets! Fresh air. Sunshine. Lots of outdoor time with friends. Weather that's neither too hot nor too cold. Longer days. A new beginning. A crisp feeling to life. The equinox-driven need to clean and tidy and get one's own world in order. Green - and lots of it. Little shoots pushing their noses just above the ground, seeking the warmth of the sun. Blue skies and puffy clouds.

The bad news about spring: POLLEN! Achooo!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Feelings. .

I subscribe to a daily e-mail service called Daily OM. This one really resounded with me:

Permission To Feel
Pushing Away Emotions

Throughout our lives, we may experience emotions that disturb or distress us. Often, our first reaction is to push our feelings away. We may say, “I don’t want to think about that right now, I’ll think about it later” and we bury our emotions, deny the validity of our feelings, or distract ourselves with other concerns. But the diverse emotions you experience are neither good nor bad—they are simply a part being human. Choosing not to experience pain, anger, or other intense feelings could cause those feelings to become buried deep into your physical body. There, they may linger unresolved and unable to emerge, even as they affect the way you experience the world. Allowing yourself to experience all of your emotions rather than push the more painful ones away can help you come to terms with your feelings so you can experience them and then move on.

It is possible to bring forth the old feelings you have pushed aside and experience them in a safe and enriching way. It may sound silly to set aside time to feel your old wounds that you haven’t dealt with, but this can be a very beneficial healing experience. Find a safel place and pick a time when you can be alone. Make sure that you feel secure and comfortable in your surroundings. Bring to mind the circumstances that originally triggered the emotions you’ve been pushing away. You may need to revisit these circumstances by reading relevant entries in your journal or using visualization to relive your past. Once you have triggered your long-denied emotions, let yourself feel your feelings, and try not to judge your reactions. Cry or sound your emotions if you need to, and don’t block the flow of your feelings. Allow any thoughts that are connected to your emotions to surface. As you release the feelings you have pushed inside of you, you will find yourself healing from ! the experience associated with these emotions.

When you deal with your feelings directly, they can move through you rather than staying stopped up in your body as emotional blocks that can sometimes turn into disease. Acknowledging your emotions, instead of pushing them away, allows you to stay emotionally healthy and in touch with your feelings.



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What do the flowers know?


Two years ago I planted four packages of bluebonnet seeds in a flower bed in my back yard. You have to plant them in October, you see, for them to sprout in the spring. So. . that year, the bluebonnets bloomed and looked wonderful. Last year - nary a one. I hadn't had time to re-sow the seeds that October, and so I figured the bluebonnet days of my flowerbed were over. Fast forward to two weeks ago. I'm weeding this self-same flower bed and. . there are four crazy bluebonnets! They'd germinated and re-sprouted, without any help from anybody. Just looking at them produces a grin. Silly flowers - don't you know you're not supposed to be there? But they are - and they're beautiful!

Monday, March 16, 2009

We re-join this blog, already in progress. . .

Ok, so I'm not so good at consistency. I'm gonna try to do better! In the mean time, I found this. It came from a friend of a friend of an HPD officer:

URGENT WARNING TO ALL MEN:

Police are warning all men who frequent clubs, parties and local pubs to be alert and stay cautious when offered a drink from any woman. Many females use a date rape drug on the market called ‘Beer’. The drug is found in liquid form and is available anywhere. It comes in bottles, cans, or from taps and in large ‘kegs’. Beer is used by female sexual predators at parties and bars to persuade their male victims to go home and sleep with them. A woman needs only to get a guy to consume a few units of Beer and then simply ask him home for ‘no strings attached’ sex. Men are rendered helpless against this approach. After several beers, men will often succumb to the desires to sleep with horrific looking women whom they would never normally be attracted.
After drinking beer, men often awaken with only hazy memories of exactly what happened to them the night before, often with just a vague feeling that ’something bad’ occurred. At other times these unfortunate men are swindled out of their life’s savings, in a familiar scam known as ‘a relationship’. In extreme cases, the female may even be shrewd enough to entrap the unsuspecting male into a longer term form of servitude and punishment referred to as ‘marriage.’ Men are much more susceptible to this scam after beer is administered and sex is offered by the predatory females. Please; forward this warning to every male you know.
If you fall victim to this ‘Beer’ scam and the women administering it, there are male support groups where you can discuss the details of your shocking encounter with similarly victimized men. For the support group nearest you, just look up ‘Golf Courses’ in the phone book.

If anyone out there should happen to encounter any of these types of predators I would like you to call me immediately. I am in the process of training myself on how to deal with this sort of thing. I believe that after studying many hours of documentary footage entitled, “Chick Flicks” I am uniquely able to get into the mind set of these females. I will drink the “beer” that they offer and then I will engage them in hand-to-hand “no-strings-attached” sex (when I say ‘hand-to-hand’ I don’t mean it literally). If I can save just one man out there by taking on one of these “relationships” myself, then I will feel like a true hero. And if I get free beer out of the deal, so much the better.

The funny thing is, it's so true!!

Friday, January 30, 2009

It's a math thing. . you might understand!


OK - I'm not a big cat fan. But I am a HUGE fan of four-dimensional beings who are willing to co-inhabit our three-dimensional space!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

New favorite web sites

Lolcats.com I don't even LIKE cats much - they make me sneeze - but this site cracks me up! Like the one at the right. Only a huge geek would find this funny. But I do. So I guess that makes me a short little huge geek! Yes - I KNOW it's a cat on a glass table!

Ihasahotdog.com - similar cuteness but involving dogs. Somehow, the cats win for ROFL factor. The doggies are sweet, but the cats somehow have more personality and attitude.

And even . . Obamicon. OK, my Republican friends should even get a giggle out of some of these. My favorite's over on the left. Too funny! Because, of course, even the poor kitties need a bailout. I read just last week that the porn industry was angling for one, so why not the poor puddy tats? Now - if you made a leap there. . it was from your own mind. Not from my fingers through the keyboard. NOPE!

Facebook should be available by prescription only

It's positively addictive! Spent hours on there today and yesterday, hunting down old high school friends. Some of the ones I wanted to find, I couldn't. Others who showed up were some I didn't even remember. I swear I have Swiss Cheese for brains - full of holes.

I even spent a significant amount of time last night AND tonight IMing with a man I truly do NOT remember. Oh - maybe that's because he graduated before I even got to high school?! Great guy (NO - not like that! At all! For any of a number of reasons .. like, I'm not even sure I'm the right gender.)

But hey - it's fun!

Great discovery - the more open you are to making friends. . the more friends you'll make!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It's all about control

Under threat of ugly activity, I spent all day yesterday terrified. Blood pressure through the roof, knot in the stomach, the whole bit.

This morning, perspective set in. I have no control over what anybody else does. Let me repeat that for my own sake: I can't control what another person does. I might do things that I believe are right - but they must be done solely for that reason, not because I believe they will have any influence on another's actions.

So, if the ugly happens - I can't stop it. All I can do is prepare for it before it does, and respond to it once it does. Fortunately I have an excellent net of wonderful friends who love me, and who I can fall back on any time I need.

Love you all!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Un-Christmas

Officially, Christmas ends Jan. 4. The whole 12-days thing refers to the Christmas season - which just STARTS Dec. 25. So. . .I'm still several days overdue to un-Christmas my house. I did get the large decorations out of the yard, but expect a letter from the Homeowner's Association telling me to get the lights out of my bushes. I will. Soon. Really. Absolutely no later than February.

Got most of the inside decorations down and put away. That just leaves the tree. The seven-foot-tall, ornament drenched tree. Taking the ornaments off is the easy part. Jigsawing them just-so into the storage boxes takes some time. Gotta get the big ones in the big spots. If you forget a big one and have no spot for it toward the end, you're stuck in a mess.

That will have to wait until next weekend.

One question: Why does un-Christmasing always take longer than Christmasing? Seems like the decorations almost exploded all over the house by themselves overnight. They're not similarly inclined to take themselves down, however, and I've lost my house elf.

Dobby, where are you when we need you?

Monday, January 5, 2009

What conclusion would you reach?

So. . . .a husband and wife, married 16 years, hit a rough spot. They separate, go through counseling, and reconcile, more deeply in love than ever. After a year and a half back together the following happens:

1) In December, the husband comes home giddy about the "hot" new job candidate he's interviewing, making sure to tell the wife she's a former model.
2) In January, the husband and wife go to a function the former job candidate (now employee) chairs. Afterward, the husband e-mails his best friend about how he'd like to have sex with the woman.
3) In February, after the husband and wife share their Valentine's dinner, the husband calls the woman and spends an hour on the phone with her, giggling and being silly. The wife doesn't hear the entire conversation, but at one point he's holding the phone to the dog's ear, so the woman can talk to the dog.
4) In January - March / April, the husband and the woman spend numerous nights alone at the office until midnight and later.
5) In March, the wife overhears the husband and the woman saying how they love each other.
6) In April, the husband and the woman make a bet involving the NCAA final basketball game. Loser gets to tie the winner to the bed, and must bring whipped cream, restraints, and champagne.
7) The wife, now getting suspicious, starts checking the husband's Blackberry. She finds e-mails between the two of them: "I love you."
8) In April, the husband announces the marriage is over. He's not in love with the wife any more. But no, he's not leaving her for the other woman.
9) It's now September, and neither the husband's divorce, nor the woman's divorce is yet final. However, the two have announced they are getting married.

So, blogospherians - what conclusion would you draw???

Friday, January 2, 2009

2009 just is WEIRD to write!

It'll take me a few days to get used to writing the new year. In the mean time, we look back to 1937. How do you forget you have a car in your garage?

Now, go write 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 2009 fifty times, until it doesn't feel strange any more!

Thursday, January 1, 2009