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Travel light

Travel light in life. Take only what you need: a loving family, good friends, simple pleasures, someone to love, and someone to love you; something to eat, enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink for thirst is a dangerous thing. —Unknown.



 I've had my ASUS Eee PC 701 now for about 24 hours. So far so good. I am using it to create this blog entry. (May help me be brief.)

There is a lot to like about this little sub-2lb, flash-driven computer. Wireless (worked on both home and secure school networks), good open source software (opened Word, Excel, PDF, AVI files), bright screen, excellent track pad with tap to click and scrolling built in, and easy-to-use graphic interface. Hooked up fine to external monitor. Skype works great. Built-in speakers (pretty cheesy,  but fine for voice), internal microphone and even camera. Also inputs for mic and headphones. Nice. External USB mouse worked by just plugging it in.

Still getting used to the very small keyboard (typing slowly helps), smaller screen, managing files. Couldn't get my big honking PowerPoint files to open. Can't figure out yet which new version of Skype to download and how to do so. Some of this will take some time. Not sure what software is available for this flavor of Linux.

I am really planning to use this as sort of a dumb terminal to the Internet when I travel. It really struck me how  little one needs a computer hard drive with Google Docs,, web-based mail and calendaring, RSS feed reads, etc. I am going to see if I can't use to do presentations too. My working docs I can also carry and run off a flash drive that the Eee recognized just fine.

If this puppy were half the price ($200 instead of $400), it would make a great 1:1 student machine.  Battery lasted a long time today and with a flash memory instead of a mechanical hard drive, I hope it will take some bumps.

I weighed my regular computer bag/back pack this morning: 17.8 pounds (without a book in it) and this only carrying the little Mac 12" PowerBook. The Eee will fit in my suit coat pocket and weighs less than the hardback book I'm reading.

Get yourself one for Christmas! Travel light in life.


Arm the teachers

Our local paper last Sunday printed a letter to the editor from a local citizen demanding armed security guards in our schools. He wrote:

Sometimes I see a police presence at school events but they don’t carry guns. What are they going to do against a shooter? Nothing. ... We need a viable defense of our children and that includes armed security.  ... I want armed security in the halls and at the entrances before someone simply walks in with a gun and starts shooting. Don’t even get started on cost or image arguments. ... I want my taxes used for this first, then whatever else.

I, for one, am proud to live in a community that so highly prizes its children that it is willing to go to these lengths to protect them. But personally, I would go one better. A single police officer can only be in one place at one time. I would suggest we mandate that the entire teaching staff carry loaded side-arms.

dharry.jpgI don't mean any wimpy pea-shooters, either. I want my English 9 teacher to have the same fire power that Dirty Harry might have - "a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world." The principal ought to at least have a RPG or two somewhere handy.

I can envision genuine educational advantages too;

  • When giving a quiz, the social studies teacher could point his gun at a cheater and say, "You've got to ask yourself a question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?"
  • The kindergarten teacher could always fire a few round in the air just to get the class's attention.
  • The PE teacher really could get reluctant students to "dance."

I suppose the left-wing, pinko sissies will come up with a bunch of lame excuses why loaded teachers are "wrong" or "bad." But if you ask me, nothing says caring about kids like packing heat. 

Or we could read the research that tells us that violent acts in American schools declined between 1991 and 1999 despite all headlines to the contrary. Schools are statistically one of the safest places in the community.

Schools are safer than individual homes and neighborhoods. Children are more likely to encounter serious violent crime away from school than at school. Multiple sources suggest that students are approximately three times safer in school than away from school (Elliott, Hamburg, and Williams, 1998; Kaufman et al., 1999; Snyder & Sickmund, 1999). There is less than a one in a million chance of a student experiencing a school-related violent death. Furthermore, the vast majority of school-related injuries are not violence-related and the majority of school crime is nonviolent theft (U.S. Department of Education, 1999a). 

 Or at least get data that paint an accurate picture of the scope of school violence before going off half-cocked.


Rush Little Baby

My friend Cecelia Solomon, a library media specialist in Florida, sent me a link to this fascinating article that appeared in the Boston Globe about a month ago:

For parents of pre-schoolers, early childhood specialists, and (in my case) holiday gift-buyers for pre-school grandchildren, this is a good read. Basic conclusion - kids who read later can surpass those who read (or try to read) very early. There are much better means of creating smart kids than engaging in formal reading programs in pre-school.

My conversation with my daughter about Christmas gifts for the grands went something like this:

Me: I was thinking about getting Paul (age 6) a hand-held video game for Christmas. What do you think?

Carrie: Uh, Paul plays computer games with his dad on the PC. Maybe we don't need to encourage more of this right now.

Me: I was thinking about getting Miles (age 2) a Webkinz stuffed animal that comes with an online life.

Carrie: Uh, let's maybe wait a couple years for that. Here's a list of ideas on the ToysRUs website "wishlist" that I would know the boys would like...

Me: How about BB guns or Nerf rockets or other projectile devices.

Carrie: Dad, you already know the answer to THAT one! 

I am happy with the advice and direction. My grandsons have two caring, competent parents who make excellent decisions about what is best for them. While I am fascinated by these electronic gizmos and learning toys and such, I also give great credence to the Alliance for Childhood's old reports Fools Gold and TechTonic. Do we know enough about technology and tots to be pushing it at children? (Especially those that carry my genetic code?)

I suspect I am like a lot of parental-types, torn between the need for kids to be "tech-savvy" and the need for kids to have healthy non-tech activities and play. Where is the balance?

thankmyself.jpgAs a side note, my daughter was a pretty good reader when she entered kindergarten, picking up the skill simply from being read aloud to. Once walking by a car with a bumpersticker that read "If you can read this, thank a teacher," she pointed to it, sniffed and proclaimed, "I thank myself!"