Search this site
Other stuff

All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

My latest books:


        Available now

       Available Now

Available now 

My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

 The Blue Skunk Page on Facebook


EdTech Update





An analog week ahead


Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior can be a scary place...

  • Wolves
  • Moose
  • Leeches
  • Unpredictable weather

and perhaps most frightening of all

  • No cell phone service

Starting Saturday, 5 outdoor club members and I will be hiking Isle Royale from its northeastern most point to its most southeastern point. The beginning and end points of this 45 mile hike have a few amenities - ranger stations, a lodge, potable drinking water, and stores. But for the majority of the hike across the spine of this large island on the Greenstone Trail, one must to carry what one will need - period.

My pack without water will weigh about 32 pounds. Ultra-light back packers will scoff at such a load. But for those of us who wish to enjoy time in the campsites and sleep snugly and don't need to cover more than a dozen miles in a day and want hot coffee in the mornings, the camp chair and the cushy sleeping pad and the gas stove are worth the few extra pounds.

One thing I will not be carrying will be my cell phone. Instead I will have a digtial camera with an extra battery, a real-live compass/thermometer, a wrist watch, and a paper map of the park.

What I have not yet decided on is whether to bring a print book or my Kindle as leisure reading material. The print book is light and keeps the analog spirit of the trip. But what will I do if I finish the book before the hike is over? What if the battery of my headlamp dies? Can I read the smallish print of a paperback with my cheaters? On the other hand, my Kindle may also run out its battery life. Might it get wet and short out?

The horror of not having something to read is greater by far than that of no Internet by far. 

Wish us good weather. And long battery life.


What will your grandchildren see and experience?


The photo above was taken during an Alaskan cruise in August of 2019. It is a vivid example of the gorgeous, unspoiled scenery of the Tongass National Forest as seen from Misty Fjord. I was moved by the beauty and serenity of the area during the week we spent slowly drifting through the area on the small ship, by kayak, and on inflatable skiffs. When we took hikes ashore, we were on our best ecological behavior, leaving not trace of our being there.

While I try to stay away from politics on this blog and social media in general (well, maybe life in general), I could not help but react to the following story: Trump pushes to allow new logging in Alaska's Tongass National Forest, Washington Post, August 27, 2019. This is just one of what is reported to be many reversals of environmental rules that the current administration has implemented. More than tariffs or North Korean bluster or self-serving tax policy changes, the potential impact on the environment has a concerning long-term impact on the country (and world).

When it comes to politics, I try to apply the "grandpa" filter in determining my reaction to a program, proposal, court-ruling, or law. In other words, how will my grandchildren's world be better or worse in 20 years for the decisions being made today.

Our society's need for instant gratification needs to be counter-balanced by long-term thinking. Is it nice to have a tax reduction today? Of course - more trips, more ice cream, more shopping for clothes we don't really need. But what if that tax reduction results in a national debt that will be born during my grandsons' working years? Low gas tax vs. crumbling infrastructure. Underfunded schools vs educated workforce. We show our love of future generations by looking into the future.

Put on on your grandparent glasses the next time you read the newspaper or look at your newsfeed. Maybe by doing so, our grandchildren can experience the Alaskan wilderness and the good life as well.


Junk food for the body and the brain


Junk food
1food that is high in calories but low in nutritional content
2something that is appealing or enjoyable but of little or no real value
Each time I visit the grocery store I am astounded by the percentage of space given to items that I would define as "junk food." Candy, chips, soda, doughnuts, etc. take up what looks ten times the space that is allocated to the produce section at my local Cubs. I suppose walking to get to eggs, frozen veggies, and whole wheat bread down past the Fritos and Twinkies and Coca Cola is healthy in its own way, but the empty calorie food sirens seem to call from every aisle. And adding to their voices are now the devious "processed food" spirits with their promises of easy preparation with a hidden high fat/salt content.

I am certainly not immune to the temptations of junk food. The occasional bag of Chex Mix or Drumsticks ice cream bars or Archway molasses cookies winds up in my cart. As do pot pies, frozen pizzas, and "healthy" frozen dinners. Unless I have company, the microwave and Marie Callendar cook my meals.

The consequence of my dietary laziness is an extra 15-20 pounds on my aging body. And I am not the only one: there is an appalling obesity rate of nearly 40% of us living in the US.

What worries me even more is living in a society that indulges in "junk" information. Just as nutritionally lacking foods displace floor space in the supermarket, so it seems social media and cable television have pushed newspapers and magazines into a small dusty corner of our reading lives. Slick, formulaic thrillers instead of thoughtful novels and well-researched non-fiction crowd the storefront tables of Barnes & Noble.

As I look at my newspapers and newsfeeds, I try to identify stories as "junk" or "nutritious." A lot of junk info is easy to spot - anything that has Kardashian or weight loss or best vacation destination or tweet in the title is garbage with little need to read. I personally catalog stories about the environment, the economy, history, or social justice as worth further study.

Just as there is are processed foods, there is also increasingly "processed" information. While every secondary source has some inherent bias, politicized mass and social media is increasing the slant, left and right. And just as I am lured into eating those HealthyChoice dinners, so am I drawn into Huffington Post interpretations of current events.
The chart below comes from Teaching in the Age of Trump by Andrea Rinard (Medium July 13, 2018)*. The article is a must read for all educators and the chart should be discussed by all students.

Do we give enough attention to our brains' nutritional needs? Have even the more educated among us come to simply rely on processed information? And do we teach information discrimination to our students?

*Via Larry Cuban's blog