Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Mindful travel article
















As promised, here's the link to my article on mindful travel over at Elephant Journal. Read, enjoy, and leave your comments! :-)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Just plain funny


























Students in my block 2 epistemology class will appreciate this.

Almost time

Another Christmas holiday has come and gone; I leave to return to Colorado tomorrow, and in just a few days I'll be home.

Aside from the 14 hour delay in Chicago (!), the trip has been relatively uneventful. It's always good to see my family, but I do miss home.

I was actually better able to stick to my resolution of no factory farmed meat better than I thought I would be able to. Amtrak actually offers vegetarian options on its menu, so it was pretty easy, and the meals I ate during my Chicago layover were vegetarian also. The only issue I did have was with the free hot dog they gave us for lunch to make up for the delay; they didn't have any other options at that point, and I was intensely hungry.

At any rate, today is laundry day and the day to make sure the mp3 players, games, and whatnot are fully charged and ready to go for tomorrow. I've also been working on an article about mindful traveling for Elephant Journal. I'll be sure to post up the link to it here when I'm done.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The next step

I've figured out a way to take the class discussions to the next level. When we get back, I'm going to ask the students in my epistemology class to take out their phones at the beginning of the discussion and turn them on. At that point, I will ask them to text one person not in the building and ask them the question of the day; the responses will go on the live blog and be used as a discussion point. I can't wait!!

Better and better

Today's class discussion was amazing. The students and I are getting the hang of coveritlive, which helps for sure; in addition, we had two other teachers in the room with us, a third teacher joined us via coveritlive, and a student that was absent from school logged in and participated from home. (Prompting another student to ask: "Is he getting participation points for this?" Me: "Ummm.... yes, actually, why not? He's here, sort of." Student: "Sweet! I may never have to come to class again!" Me: "No, no... you still have to be here if you want full points!") :-)

I called the absent student and talked with him a bit about the experience of being "on the other end" as it were. He said he liked it, but also knew that he was missing out on what we were saying, knowing that we were only posting summaries of what was actually being discussed, which led us to an exploration of the idea of being able to add a live broadcast in which I would simultaneously record and broadcast class discussions in addition to the live blogging... the only thing missing would be the images (which I could actually take care of via my laptop's webcam, and post the video later). The possibilities and implications of this are just staggering. I would encourage reading today's discussion, posted here; the podcast is posted here. (Dec. 19)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Coveritlive reflections

Today was another enjoyable day using coveritlive.This site has some interesting implications to it for the classroom, not the least of which being the ability to capture class discussions as well as being able to engage others outside the classroom to be a part of the conversation. I am considering setting up another blog specifically for the block 2 class and running a coveritlive session for every class discussion. It's a class of (mostly) highly engaged juniors and seniors, and being able to connect outside the walls would be a highly purposeful and useful activity for them.

(Update) I've now created the blog for the Epistemology class. The link to it is right here.

What is the goal of education? (part 2)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

So freaking cool!


Today was easily one of the coolest days to be a teacher, ever. In my 2nd block epistemology class, we had a conversation around the goal of education. I really wanted others involved in it, so I sent out an invitation to the rest of the staff inviting anyone that had that period free to join in. One of my colleagues couldn't make it, so asked me to use coveritlive.com, which I had totally forgotten about. I signed up and set up a conversation in less than two minutes, then we went live. I had one of the students transcribing things for us while I was recording for podcast, and two faculty members and one guest joined us online. It was so great and so much fun; yes, I totally and completely geeked out. The transcript of the coveritlive conversation is below; yeah, it looks like it's in Latin, but once you click on it, it goes to English. The only downside is that the right side of it doesn't show up, so you can't see the comments by the others who joined us... I'm going to see if I can fix that for tomorrow. If you want to hear the podcast, it's here (the December 17th podcast). Chances are I'm going to make this a decently regular part of the class now; it was a great way to involve others outside the room. In fact, we didn't finish the conversation, so we plan to continue it tomorrow. Join us here at 8:45 (Mountain Time) if you'd like to be a part.

What is the goal of education?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Busy weekend!!


This was definitely one of the busiest weeks/weekends I've had in a while. The Colorado State Thespian Conference was fun, and I had the unique opportunity to get to meet some students I hadn't met before, and to spend some time with some students that I've wanted to get to know better. Apparently sleep at these things is optional since I didn't get much of it at all. I made up for it today though, by sleeping for 12 straight hours, which is pretty remarkable for me. I did manage to get a few book reviews and even a top 20 gift book suggestion list up on Elephant Journal as well, which earned me some (well deserved) harassment from Ms. Phillis over the fact that I never quite seem to stop working. I do... just not for very long and not very often.

Two more weeks until December vacation... wowzers. My goal is to actually go a few days without any sort of contact with the world, not including the time spent on the train. I'd like to take some time just for me... I've noticed that when I do that, the world spins just fine, thank you very much, and so I plan to give the world a break from me again.

But for now, I've got to get ready for another week. Blog topics to post, presentations to finish grading... a teacher's work is never done!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Random collection of thoughts

Hard to believe that the second trimester has already started; one third of the year has already come and gone. Yeesh.

Tried out texthemob last week, with mixed results. Turns out quite a few of the kids have Cricket, and so weren't able to send a text to the site, so they had to go to the internet on their phones before they could register their vote. Good to know for future reference.

One of the great disadvantages of blogging is the guilt associated when one doesn't regularly update said blog. For some reason I've decided that I needed to update this blog on a weekly basis. Don't ask me why. I have no idea. At any rate, here I am again, wondering what I could possibly write about this time.

Really, though, setting aside a time to write on a regular basis is said to be a good thing, though sometimes it feels a bit like taking cod liver oil; not that I ever did, but from what I'm told, I'm lucky to have escaped that little fate.

So here we are towards the end of November with one marking period behind me and what have I learned? Well, getting students to embrace technology is a bit more difficult than I'd originally anticipated, for one. I figured I'd offer them the chance to blog and such and off they'd run. Not so. I had more students than I thought I would completely bypass blogging for the entire term, for a variety of reasons, and though I was given a wide range of whys and wherefores, I think part of it simply came down to a lack of confidence in their own writing ability combined with a self-consciousness that the world would see them and even see through them; a fear shared not only by many students, but many adults as well.

That's a lot of what writing is, really. The laying bare of the soul. Even the most mundane entry says something about the writer, and it is for this reason most people seem to fear putting their thoughts down anywhere, let alone on a public forum like a blog.

So how will I combat this with my students? I'm not sure, really. A few of my students read my blog, and so they get to see my writing, warts and all, but there must be another way to encourage them to step beyond their boundaries, their comfort zones, and step into the world of writing. I'm not sure what those strategies are yet, but I'm open to suggestions.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Very funny

Said by one of my students after repeated difficulty logging in to her Google docs account: "That's it. I'm just going to become Amish. I'm serious."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

And just like that, the world changed

Tonight was the most intense and emotional election I've ever experienced; it was one of the most intense and emotional nights of my life. Tonight the citizens of the United States shed shadows of its past and embraced a black man as their President. I made sure that Kyle watched it... watched history being made.

I remember what I did when at 9:00 p.m. MST, NBC news announced that Barack Obama was the 44th President of the United States... I cried. I cried simple tears of joy that our country could look past the color of a man's skin to other possibilities, not just for a few, but for anyone and everyone in this country, regardless of race, gender, age, or other typical barriers to the highest office in our land.

I was also impressed with Sen. John McCain's speech. He continues to be a man worthy of respect and worthy of admiration. It was a long campaign, and I thank him for the many years of service he has given this country.

Congratulations, President-elect Obama and Vice-President-elect Biden. Thank you for helping lead the United States into the 21st century and out of the dark days of our past.

The big day!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

November!!!

Hard to believe that it's November already. The last farmers' market of the year was yesterday, so I did a little stocking up, said goodbye to the farmers and told them that I would see them come April. It's a little sad, but I'm sure farmers are looking forward to a little bit of a rest. It's going to be quite strange this Saturday, though, when I don't get up at the crack of dawn to be in Boulder for my scone and coffee at the market before getting my produce picked out and bought. For the first time in a long time I can take my time getting out of bed and getting my groceries for the week.

Term 1 is over in 12 days. Last week I got confirmation that I'm going to be in the IB Academy, which is really exciting. I am a huge believer in the IB program and what it can do for our students, so to be a part of the IB Academy at ACHS is amazing and great. A group of my students have chosen to be in an IB-influenced class starting term 2. Once we obtain authorization, they will be officially designated an IB English class, so that will be cool as well, but in the meantime I plan to get them well acquainted with various IB concepts like the Areas of Interaction, Learner Profile, the Personal Project, and the like. I can't wait!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Compassionate Eating: My life as a locavore


As I mentioned in my review of The Compassionate Carnivore, I enjoy a good steak. Now that’s not to say that every meal I eat has to contain some sort of meat product, and in fact, about a year ago I moved to cut back on the amount of meat my family and I eat to one meat meal a day (with smaller portions of meat) with two or three total vegetarian days each week. Last April, I made the decision to get our beef and chicken exclusively from a small, local farms (i.e., the farmers’ market) instead of King Soopers or Costco (or even Whole Foods), deciding that I was no longer going to opt-in to supporting the factory farm model of meat production. The Compassionate Carnivore has strengthened my resolve to the extent that now, when I go out to eat, if I can’t be sure of the source of the meat, I’m going to eat vegetarian. I really just can’t bring myself to eat factory farmed meat anymore. (Of course, thanks to my determination to avoid high fructose corn syrup, GMO’s and trans fats, my options are even fewer, but that’s a whole ‘nother conversation.) Fortunately I don’t have to. Within the past month I’ve found local and humane sources for beef, chicken, pork, lamb, and bison; even my eggs and milk come meet the standard of humane and local. The addition of meat to my locavore ways has been a recent and welcome addition to my diet. For the past few years, the only time I’ve purchased non-local produce has been when the farmers’ market has been closed for the season, or if I happen to get a particular craving for bananas, oranges, or some similar food that can’t be grown locally. There have even been increasing numbers of meals at my house that are 100% local; last week I made a stir fry that consisted 100% of ingredients from my local farmers’ market, and I washed it all down with raw milk from Windsor Dairy. (It was pretty tasty if I do say so myself.) Has this new and improved locavore lifestyle been a lot of work and effort? Oh yes, definitely. Making sure I could eat locally year round meant tracking down a farmer who offered a winter CSA as well as a steady meat supply. I’ve been able to set up a year round supply of meat, and I’m able to get fresh, local veggies for nine of 12 months; the only time I may end up having to rely on frozen or grocery store produce will be January-March, which isn’t so bad, and since things like bananas are in season then, I’m still able to eat seasonally if not locally. It also means that on those days when it’s pouring down rain (or snow), I still find my way to the market to get my groceries; as I told one farmer on a particularly cold and rainy Saturday a few weeks ago, “My determination to eat locally and support local farms overrides my common sense that tells me to hit a nice, dry, warm supermarket.” The result? My food tastes better and because it is more nutrient dense, I’m eating less (dieters take note!), and in many ways I feel a lot better. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I know my food is also safer, and not subject to the whims of an ineffective FDA. One of my students recently asked me if the difference in taste and my health was simply psychological. Is that possible? Yes, but in the long run, does it matter if it’s “merely” psychological, or if it’s psychosomatic? The end result is the same, really, and as I’ve said before, living mindfully may not be convenient, but it is worth it. (With no argument from my kids… they are beginning to understand the issues more with every recall of food, toys, and other products.)

For the rest of this article, go here.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Almost 12 full months of local food!

As I've mentioned in two previous posts, I've really been making a concerted effort to eat locally produced food instead of heading to the supermarket, regardless of which market it is. With the Boulder Farmers' Market coming to an end on November 1, I've been working hard to set things up for the months of November-March, and I've been successful in getting my meat and dairy set up, but my concern became veggies and fruit. Thanks to the Abbondanza farm, I now have the opportunity to continue eating local until the end of December. That means that I may end up only having to hit the grocery stores for produce during the months of January, February, and March (since I didn't get quite as much canned as I wanted to... bleah!)... not bad.

So what does this have to do with teaching? Well, one of the topics of the climbing team curriculum is food and nutrition. We typically spend a week talking about what we put in our bodies and why it is important, and the importance and advantages of eating locally produced food is a part of that conversation. Teaching our children to eat well or at least setting that example is important for any educator, regardless of subject area. Our students watch and listen to us more closely than we give them credit for sometimes, and so it is important to send that consistent, healthful message. With rising rates of obesity, cancer, and other illnesses, combined with rising fuel prices and the FDA's inability to protect our food supply, especially imported foods, eating locally produced food truly is a national issue, or perhaps it should be.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

YES!!!

Well, it took some searching, but I've found a source for humanely and sustainably raised lamb, pork, and chicken. At first, I was going to go with Larga Vista Ranch outside of Pueblo for my pork, but cost was a bit of a factor; I'd have to buy 40 pounds of pork at a time, which would be fine and would be a good supply for a few months, but at $7/pound on average, that's $280 I'd have to pop down all at one shot. Ouch. After a bit more searching around, though, I found a place in Erie, just a short drive from home, where I can get my lamb, chicken, and pork (beef and bison is taken care of already, and while I'd love to go through Wisdom Natural Poultry for my chicken, it would mean taking a Tuesday off from time to time to get it, something I really don't want to do). I'm pretty excited about it, and I'm looking forward to stopping by there this weekend.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The more I know

If you've been following my "Currently Reading" sidebar, then you know that I've been reading The Compassionate Carnivore by Catherine Friend. I'm not going to say much about the book since I'm going to post a review of it on Elephant Journal, but I will say that this book has definitely had an impact on me. I've been really changing my food choices, especially when it comes to where I go out to eat, and now this book has increased the challenge. At this point, my choices when I go out are to ask the waitstaff what they know about the source of the meat (unless I already know), or go vegetarian. I actually don't have a problem with the latter option, particularly since two out of my three meals each day is vegetarian, but it's getting so that my options to go out and enjoy a meal are getting increasingly, frustratingly limited. If I combine the "no factory-farmed meat" with the "no high fructose corn syrup or trans fats" decision, then my decision becomes even more difficult. It's interesting.

I had a talk with a recent alumnus about it over the weekend, and he asked me if I ever get overwhelmed by it all and want to just say "forget it." I can't say that I'm not tempted sometimes, but then I realize that my decisions aren't just for me and that I'm not the only one affected by the choices I make, and so my resolve to stick to my choices actually becomes easier for me.

On Saturday I spent time at the farmers' market making sure that my meat supply was going to remain steady over the winter, and with the exception of pork and lamb, I'm pretty much set. I have yet to hear back from the farm where I want to get my pork, so I may end up calling them this week. My lamb will come from a vendor at the farmers' market that wasn't there this past weekend. My beef and chicken are both all set, so that's a nice plus. Seems like a lot of work, I know, but I just can't go back to factory-farmed meat. The only exception would be if I was at someone's house for a meal. For example, this December I will be heading back East for the holidays, and while I am with my family, I am not and will not turn down the food that is being offered; that would just be rude, and to expect them to change for me would be just as inconsiderate, and so my decision will be put on hold. Besides, I'm there to enjoy being together with my family, not to proselytize my lifestyle... my choices may be right for me, but it is not mine to force those decisions on others.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Oh, you have GOT to be kidding me!

So according to the FDA, melamine is safe. Right. This is the same chemical that killed dogs and cats last year and sickened thousands of kids in China just a few months ago. Of course, the FDA, in this 2007 report, admitted that they are not able to live up to their own mission statement, which doesn't make me feel overly good at all.

So why do I shop local and organic? Oh yeah... it's because I like to know my food is safe for my family and I to eat.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A bit of frustration (*rant*)

Had to give a district assessment today. I do understand and appreciate the need for frequent data collection in order to best work with our students, but our students are assessed a good 8-10 times in a school year, not including the informal and formative assessments that take place on a regular basis in my classroom. That's at least one major district or state level assessment per month, which doesn't sound that bad until you realize that this occurs in each and every core class they take, so in reality, the students are formally assessed by the district and/or state approximately 36-40 times in a year. No wonder our students burn out so quickly and get so frustrated with school. One student told me he hates them because they take time away from his time to learn things. A valid point, I think.

I am not opposed to assessment itself. I am opposed to over-assessment. There has got to be a better way than this.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Education in the 21st century, pt. 2

I just posted part two in my series on education in the 21st century to the Elephant Journal website. In case you missed it, here is part one, and there is more to come. Feel free to link to it and pass it along!

"Mr., what's the definition of truth?": Adventures in Epistemology

I think I've mentioned before that I'm teaching an cross-cultural studies/epistemology class this year. It's a junior/senior level class, and I've been borrowing from the IB Theory of Knowledge (TOK) curriculum for supplemental material for the class. This week's blog question asked the students to address whether or not truth is culturally based or if there are some truths that are universal. One of the students read the question, then looked at me and said, "What is the definition of truth?" And so began the class. At first, he stated that he was interested in the literal definition, but then found that the literal definition wasn't helpful and didn't give him the information he was really looking for, and so as a class, we began to discuss the philosophical side of the question. It was an amazing class period: the conversation ranged from culture to politics to semantics to science to religion and so forth. By the end of the class, we still hadn't answered the question, but one student acknowledged that she knew I wasn't going to answer the question, that the whole point of the class was to get them to ask the question and to think about it rather than answer it.

The student that asked the question was a student that I've had for the past two years and was in my IB-influenced class, so I wasn't surprised by the question, but very pleased to see that the seeds I had been planting for two years were beginning to bear fruit. It speaks well of the MYP program and speaks to the importance and urgency of implementing it here if our DP students are to be successful. I am fairly convinced that the encouragement to think differently in his freshman and sophomore years led him to begin the questioning that led him to asking that question in class today. He got bonus points from me for asking it, with the hope that he will ask more, and that other students will pick up on it and begin asking similar questions as well.

This is the realm where I function best, really. While I acknowledge that I do well working with freshmen and sophomores, I also flourish when placed into an environment where I can explore the "deeper" and less "traditional" questions in a class. I guess that's why in the long run, I definitely plan to apply to be in the IB Academy at the new school (this isn't exactly a state secret- I've been saying that since we found out about the Academies), for both MYP and IB TOK.

More importantly, however, it shows that providing a continuum of IB style teaching and learning definitely sets a student up for success within IB. I'm really excited about the implications for IB within the district, especially since the ultimate goal is a K-12 IB program. IB is an amazing program, and we have amazing students, so we're perfect match! :-)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Week of tech reflections

(Cross posted on the Global Learners blog.)

Happy International Day of Peace, everyone! I read an article in the paper reporting on how various factions that have been involved in armed conflict have agreed to not fight at all out of respect for the day, which begs the question, if they can do it for one day, why can't they do it permanently?? *sigh*

We had the laptops in my classroom for the entire week, which should have been great, right? Yeah, well.... *ahem*.

The biggest frustration was students who couldn't remember their passwords for their blogs and/or their school email accounts (even more so the ones who'd forgotten them from the day before). I expected that the first day would be refreshing memories, but we ended up losing two days to that, and even more for some students. Add to that the various technical difficulties, including Google not publishing posts on blogs even though I watched the student write the blog and click "publish now," and it made for a very interesting adventure, to be sure. There were times when I felt like just saying "forget it, let's just use paper and pen or pencil," but then I remembered that for some students, this technology is completely new to them, and as such, require a certain amount of patience from me. Just because this generation has been called "digital natives" doesn't mean all of them were born in the same technological land (figuratively speaking). The digital divide was very prevalent in the room, and I almost blinked and didn't see it.

I think that by and large, the week was a success. Yes, there were some students who in spite of my watching over them and giving and paying as much attention as I could still managed to slip through the cracks, but most of the students took advantage of the opportunity, so I'm pleased.

This week we go back to the "regular" world of not having instant access to all of the technology we need. I have six desktops in my room now so up to six students can blog or work on their essays at a time, though, so I expect we'll still get a lot done; maybe even more since I only need to watch six instead of twenty-six or so.

I've started reading over some of the personal narratives, and there are some really amazing pieces of writing there. There are some structural issues and the like, but last week was about getting the words down; this week is about making them better. I'm looking forward to the finished product, and I am thinking of asking some students about posting their work to the web, and since Google docs has that as an option, it will be really easy to do, and I can put the link on the class webpage... yet another way to make the writing more "real world." (479)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Link and new geekiness

I published an article about the digital classroom on Elephant Journal a couple of days ago that I'm rather proud of, and it's gotten some nice feedback. If you're interested in reading/commenting on it, you can find it here.

I've also found a new and cool way to get info to my students without paper. I found an excerpt from a book that I wanted to use with my students, and so I asked the publisher of the book if I could copy it to use. I got permission, scanned it, and saved it as a pdf to a flash drive... but then couldn't decide what to do with it. I wanted them to read it tomorrow in class, but then there was the whole digital vs paper thing that has become something of a block for me now. I ended up emailing them the excerpt. (Yeah, I know.... obvious solution. I really do need to apply Occam's Razor much more often than I do.) Nonetheless, I am still rather pleased with the idea that each of the students in the class already has the excerpt waiting for them in their inboxes. Tomorrow in class, I am going to have them log into their email accounts and read the excerpt. We have the laptop cart tomorrow, so each can use their own, but this still wouldn't be that much of an issue if I have them do this same task in their Learning Teams of three, one team per computer; the principle is the same.

I definitely want to use this as often as possible. Best part is that a student can't claim to have lost the handout or leave it in class... all they need to do is log in at home and there it is! I can and will still print it out for students without internet access, unless they have a flash drive and a computer at home, in which case they can simply load it onto their flash drive, again saving paper.

I so love this whole technology thing. :-)



Oh! Speaking of technology, it's possible to search the 'net and be eco-friendly at the same time! I recently came across Ecoogler, a search engine that uses Yahoo technology and for every 10,000 searches done, they will plant a tree in the Amazon rainforest. To date, they've planted 2,290 trees and counting. So.... bookmark 'em and use it frequently! (Click on their logo or the link to get to their site.)
(414)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Group work thoughts

Started group work in the freshmen classes this week. Now, group work was never really my strength, so it's a little scary for me to do that. The groups worked well, overall. Sixth block seized on it and used the time well, so they get huge amounts of credit for doing so well with it. It is going to take some time to perfect it, but I am pleased with how well things by and large went. I've always been something of a control freak, so doing this is a huge stretch for me. There are some definite kinks for me to work out, especially with the more unmotivated students, so it wasn't a cake walk, but I am encouraged by what I saw and by how the students handled it.

I still have some work to do with the students and blogging. Some have set up the blogs but have yet to actually do the blogging, which is somewhat disappointing. I am going to try to get the laptop cart in my room this week so I can reinforce things, and will rely on the learning teams to help each other out with this. If I have the students working in learning teams so often, then in theory I'd only need something like 7 or 8 laptops in my room; one per team. I'm thinking that perhaps I could go through donorschoose.org or something like that to get the laptops donated to my classroom. That would be super sweet, and it's certainly worth a shot. (256)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Global learning... at least into a district next door

I was talking with my son's best friend last night about an assignment he has for one of his classes in which he is being asked to make a collage using pictures and quotes. I offered to help him out with finding what he needed online, and he replied, "I can't... I'm supposed to use magazines." I asked him how much technology they were using in his school, and turns out that they aren't using much, which is particularly frustrating for him since he hears me talking about what my students are doing in my class and what my son is doing in his classes, and basically he wants in on the action, so to speak. Furthering his desire is his intent to attend CSU after graduation, and so between the higher use of technology in our district and our partnership with CSU, which has taken serious steps towards going green, including having students hand in all work electronically, he is considering transferring to ACHS in his sophomore or junior year.

He also talked with me about becoming more tech-savvy in regards to his schoolwork, so I've agreed to tutor him in the use of technology, ranging from Power Point to blogging to Google Docs. His first "assignment" was to get his teachers' email addresses and talk with them about handing in his work electronically. He was wondering how he'd be able to "make his mark" at his high school... he may have just found it. :-)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Woohoo!

I've been able to accomplish one of my goals: my reluctant colleague has just set up a blog and has started blogging for her classes. I'm pretty excited for her, and for her students. The next step is to get her to create a webpage for her class, which she wants to do as soon as we can find the time. Yay!

Technological thought for the day

All the best technology in the world doesn't mean doodly if the batteries aren't charged.

I made this oh-so-profound discovery during my 2nd block class today as I was getting set up to record the class for podcasting. I picked up the receiver to turn it on, and lo, it had been on all weekend. Oops. "Okay, everyone, today's class will not be podcast later... the battery is dead."

Lesson learned: always make sure the batteries are fully charged, or at least have a back up battery or two to fall back on (something I didn't have).

Monday, September 1, 2008

Goals met (at least partially) and Smart Board reflections



Got up early this morning and really wanted to go on a bike ride, so I pumped up the Cannondale, got in the saddle and off I went. It was an absolutely perfect morning for a bike ride. I headed north and found myself on highway 7 before long, then I headed west. Next thing I knew, I saw a sign that said "Lafayette 6; Boulder 17." I smiled and decided to make the trip to Lafayette. It didn't take me anywhere near as long as I thought it might; an hour or so after I left my house, and I was in Old Town Lafayette. I hung out for a while, then made the trip back for a total of 28 miles in roughly two hours. I was pretty psyched, and it's most of the way towards my goal of riding my bike to Boulder. Since I was roughly 10 miles from Boulder, I definitely know that it's within my reach to finish it out to Boulder. I have to admit that I was glad I turned myself around, even though I was tempted to finish it out to Boulder. I like to finish out the last half-mile or so to my house on a dead sprint, but that just wasn't going to happen today. About five seconds into the sprint, my legs gave me a very firm "Nope, not gonna happen, buddy" response, and I decided instead to do a nice, easy warm down ride instead. Heh.

I've been using the Smart Board quite a lot now, and it's been working out fantastically. We were working on the 11-sentence paragraph in class last week, and what could have been dry and boring ended up being a lot of fun. We spent some time filling out the graphic organizer together on the Smart Board, and I had 100% engagement for 100% of the time in all of my classes; not bad for a Friday afternoon before a long weekend.

I think I've actually perfected the podcasting, too. I recorded each of my classes on Friday, and I'll be uploading and linking them on my class website later on today. (I also plan to upload and link the Power Point presentations I used, though I will likely upload them as .pdf files since not everyone may have Power Point or even Microsoft Word, but Adobe Acrobat Reader is free.) Initially I was going to do all sorts of editing of the podcasts and only upload the "best," but the principal encouraged me to just upload them as they are and let the students fast forward through them as they need to.

Of course, there are some definite implications around doing that, not the least of which is that my classroom walls are definitely going to disappear and there will be full transparency, particularly since not only my students can listen to the podcasts, but their parents can as well. I told my students not to worry... I know how brilliant they are, and now their parents can hear it as well. :-) I do plan on emailing the link to as many parents as I have email addresses for, and while it seems a little scary to open myself up like this, I don't see it as a bad thing at all. I'm really excited about it.

I've gotten most of the students logged on and blogging already, and that has been a fantastic experience so far. The students have the option of blogging or reading during independent reading time, and it's not unusual to have a line of students four to six deep waiting to blog. So far I only have two desktops in my room, though I'm trying to get more put in. If you go to the class website, I've linked to the students' blogs there, so anyone interested can read and comment on their blogs. There is still some tweaking to do around the blogs, but they've gotten started, so the biggest part is done. I'm planning on working with my reluctant colleague after professional development this week and want to have her up and blogging as well.

I hit upon a bit of a flash as well around sub plans. What I hope to do on days when I know I'm going to be out is to upload my lessons as Power Points and record what I want to say in advance, along with a notesheet for my students to fill out and email back to me, then email links to the Power Point and podcast to my students, along with the notesheet to fill out. Then, on the day(s) when I know I'm going to be out, I simply reserve the computer lab for my students, the sub takes them down there, where they then log in, and can watch the presentation, listen to the podcast, and do the work there. Chances are I'll let them work collaboratively, but certainly any student that wants to work alone could... I guess it will depend on the nature of the assignment. I can even check in on them while I'm wherever I am and address issues/questions as needed. They really CAN have class 24/7! Of course, making sure I have access will be an issue, but I think it's one I can resolve (I hope).

The implications for all of this on my teaching is mind boggling. How on earth did I get anything done in the classroom before?? ;-)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Super-nerd Extraordinaire

I took the big leap today and incorporated not only my Smart Board, but also the podcasting into my lessons today. A few of the students had a few laughs at my self-professed nerd-dom, and there was a brief discussion as to whether I was a nerd or a geek, but since I took ownership of both titles, it worked out great. (ha ha!)

The goal of using the technology is that if a student is absent or needs to revisit the class for whatever reason, they will be able to go to the class website and from there watch the PowerPoint notes for the day and listen to the corresponding podcast. That way a student that is absent for any reason whatsoever can easily stay caught up with the work in class. I think it could also be a great way for parents or anyone else interested in what is going on in class to check it out at their leisure- the walls of my classroom are disappearing for sure!

I'm also hoping that other teachers will check it out and share their thoughts and ideas with me. This new technology represents an amazing potential for (literal) global collaboration... can you tell I'm excited?

I felt a little nervous about using the technology, and I've realized that from a practical point of view, I am likely to only use one of the recordings of my freshmen classes, rather than all four- I simply won't have time to edit and upload five different recordings (four freshmen classes and one junior/senior class). The best of the day will be the one that gets featured. At least, that's the thought for now... perhaps I'll just post the entries "as is" since a listener could just as easily fast-forward through; we'll see, I guess.

Hm. Yes. Well, then. I just gave a listen to one of the podcasts and realized that I had forgotten to switch the Audacity software setting from the computer's microphone to the wireless mic I was wearing. As a result, there is a ridiculous amount of background noise. Woops. I'm sure errors like these will at least lessen somewhat once I get used to using the equipment and no longer have any real anxiety about using it.

Still.. an exciting day in the room for sure!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Speaking of class blogs

As with my 9th grade classes, my Jr./Sr. level Epistemology class is also writing weekly blogs, and I do plan on keeping up with them and addressing the question of the week for them as well. Here goes. Should a knower’s personal point of view be considered an asset in the pursuit of knowledge, or an obstacle to be overcome?

A few of the students have tried for the whole "It depends" approach, but I don't want to waffle like that. I do think that a personal point of view deeply affects the pursuit of knowledge, whether one wants it to or not. The question comes down to how conscious of that effect the knower is, and once conscious of the effect, the issue then becomes whether or not that knower chooses to do anything about it. In Embracing Mind: The Common Ground of Science and Spirituality, B. Alan Wallace remarks that "Believing shapes seeing." (p. 69) I see this played out in the day to day life of many people, whether they know it or not. It's called bias, and when pursuing knowledge, it's a risk that the puruser needs to be conscious of and ready to respond when it rears its head, for good or bad.

We see this issue come about particularly when one is trying to make a point, regardless of subject area or interest. We all have a natural tendency to filter out what we don't like or disputes our already established point of view or theory, and to accept that which reinforces that which we think we already know and can reinforce our personal hypotheses.

This plays itself out in the work place and in society at large as well. There are repeated instances of organizations ignoring research or information that may prove detrimental to that organization and seeking out, or in some cases funding, research or information that will shore up that company's party line. Woe be to the employee that speaks up or out of turn.

There's an adage, "As ye seek, so shall ye find." This is the essence of a knower's personal point of view influencing the pursuit of knowledge. And while it seems that perhaps I consider that point of view to be a liability in pursuing Truth, at the same time, I do feel that awareness of that point of view can serve a knower quite well, driving that person further into depths of search that an unaware seeker of truth may ignore.

Part of this relates also to the source of knowledge. What good is it to be aware of your own personal point of view if you are not aware of the points of view of the sources of your information? Certainly there are those who relay information in a clear, unbiased manner... or are there? I would like to think so, and yet, there is plenty of room for doubt.

This almost seems like the age-old dilemma of whether or not we merely perceive reality or if in fact we actually construct it. On the level of Newtonian physics, it would appear that the former is true. However, once one enters the realm of quantum physics, all bets are off. In that context, one's point of view certainly becomes an obstacle, one that at least for now, seems to be insurmountable.

Yet if we do, indeed, construct our reality, is this a bad thing? If action follows thought, and if we truly decide to put our thoughts towards change and peace, then perhaps a little reconstruction is in order.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Goals for the year

I'm going to be giving my students weekly blog topics to write about, and I will be writing my own entries along with them... after all, that's only fair, really.

This week's question is: What are your goals for this year both as a student and in general? Well, since I'm not a student this year, I will instead address my goals from a professional point of view as well as a more personal one.

Professionally, I have several goals, really. First, I want to become much more adept at the use of technology in my classroom. I am working on a few lessons involving the Smart Board in my room, but I haven't actually used it yet, and I feel a little guilty about that. I haven't nailed the podcast thing yet, which is fairly disappointing, but I'm working on putting up a podcast/PowerPoint for my students on how to get their blogs set up, and my goal for that is to have it done by the end of the week. I'm thinking of recording tomorrow's lesson on the 11 sentence paragraph as well, so that should also be available soon. I would also like to attend an IB Extended Essay training this year, so that I can be fully up and running for everything I'm going to be teaching once we are an official IB World School.

On the coaching side, my goal is to continue to build and strengthen the program. We had a great veterans' meeting yesterday, and the students continue to push themselves even higher than previous students have. I'm very encouraged by what I'm seeing, and I think this year promises to be an amazing year for the team.

Of course, there is also the book club for the students and faculty that I want to start up, and I need to get the cycling program moving again as well.

Personally... hmm. This one's always a little tougher in some ways. First, I want to become more adept at cooking Tibetan and Vietnamese foods. I've cooked a few things from the Tibetan cookbook I picked up, but I haven't hit up the Vietnamese one yet; I need to get moving on that.

It's also a goal of mine to be able to keep up not just with this blog, but also with the Elephant Journal blog entries and reviews that I've been doing. I really enjoy doing the reviews and working with the magazine, though I haven't published an article in a while... I would like to get at least one more article in print in addition to the online reviews and blogs.

In general, though, I want to continue to learn about as much as I can about as many different topics as I can. I really love to learn new things, and I see learning as a celebration of life and what it has to offer. I haven't picked out my next book yet, but as I certainly have plenty to choose from, I don't see that as a problem... except knowing which one to choose, of course!

Oh yeah... another personal goal: I really want to get more consistent with both my meditation and yoga practices. Both of these really help to keep me centered, and I can always feel it when I start to drift. I didn't do a great job of that this summer, and so I need to put more effort into that.

Wow... I have several goals, which isn't a bad thing, I don't think. Of course, these will continue to grow and change as some get met and new ones develop, but I think that's a good start.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Nothing accomplished yet... or did we?

First day of the first full week of school. I took my classes to the library today to get their blogs set up. It took quite a bit longer than I thought it would... the whole period, actually. Most of the students, except for first block, got their blogs set up. First block got caught by time. I figured most of them were familiar with blogging, so we'd breeze through it, and I had them read independently for the first bit of class. Bad idea. By the time we got down there and got things going, we didn't have anywhere near the amount of time I thought we'd have. Looks like I'll be working with them in the classroom tomorrow since I'm not sure how much library time I'll be able to get this week. Perhaps while I'm working with a few students, the rest can work on the district pre-writing assessment, and I can kill two birds with one stone. The first blog entries are due by the end of class this Friday, so I've really got to get moving on it.

I learned a few things today. First, don't assume that every student is a "digital native." There are far fewer of them than one might think, at least when it comes to things like blogging. Secondly, it is going to take some time to explain to the students how the blog is to be used. I had a few students that wanted to push the limits around the school acceptability. I had to remind them more than once that this wasn't MySpace, that it was for classwork, not play.

Speaking of MySpace, it truly is the bane of my existence as a teacher. So many of them just wanted to log into that or to YouTube and play... and not just the freshmen, either. My juniors were just as bad. For many of them, the internet is a place of entertainment, and that's about as far as it goes. It's a bit surprising in some respects. Not as many view it as a source of information as I might have expected, but then again, unless someone has taught them that, how else might they have known it? It's going to be a very interesting year. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

And we're off!

Freshman day today. I think it's going to be a good year. It's a little strange, though. It's weird getting back into the swing of things with freshmen. We had some planning time during the department meeting today, and I had a few of those "Oh yeah! I have to teach them that, don't I?" moments, especially around the 11-sentence paragraph and the five paragraph essay... with having sophomores last year, I'd forgotten that I had to teach that material again. Woops... ha ha!

I'm already proud of one achievement. One of my colleagues was initially dead set against blogging with her students, and after talking with her, I have been able to get her to at least think about doing it, and has agreed to let me sit down and show her. I'm really excited to show her how to do it: I really enjoy this type of thing, and she's a good teacher, so I'm looking forward to giving her one more tool to use with her students.

First full day tomorrow. I didn't get through everything today, so I have that to do already, plus the things I wanted to do tomorrow.

In another "Oh wow" moment. I was talking with one of my classes about how fast high school flies, and did a quick demonstration on the board. We figured out that a high school student only actually has about 720 school days in his or her high school career. We subtracted one day for the day that we were finishing up, leaving them with 719 days left. A few of the students had a "Wow, that's not a lot of time, and we've already lost a day" reaction. (And so did I.)

Something like that only increases my sense of urgency. Only 720 days, and then they are done. It's absolutely amazing that we get as far as we do considering how little time we have.

Time to plan for tomorrow.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Savory Spice Shop hits Boulder

Back in 2004, I was strolling down Platte St. in Denver when I came across a newly opened spice shop. I love to cook, and I'm always on the lookout for cool new things around cooking, so I went in. The owners, Mike and Janet, were both there and made me feel right at home in the shop. I browsed around and felt very comfortable asking questions about what I was seeing on the shelves. They had a lot of spices I'd never seen before, and there were quite a few homemade spice blends as well. I left the store after buying several new spices, and decided that I'd found my new, exclusive supplier of herbs and spices. The fact that their prices are comparably priced to even the big supermarket chains was a plus, but their spices were the freshest and highest quality I'd ever seen. After I moved, I found myself going to Boulder more often than Denver with one exception: my regular pilgrimages to Savory Spice Shop to restock my spice shelf. I seemed to always find some new blend as well, so it was always worth the trip. Not too long ago, I was there talking with Dan, one of the employees, who told me that Mike and Janet were looking to expand to Boulder (they had previously expanded and added a Littleton store), and I got super psyched. On Friday I stopped in to the new Boulder store at 2041 Broadway. It's a great store, and they've even added a line of organic spices. The space is bright and comfortable, just like the Denver store, and it has that same warmth to which I'd grown accustomed. Dan is the owner of the Boulder store, and he's doing a great job. The store was hopping, so it seems that Savory Spice Shop Boulder is going to be a hit. If you are looking for spices and live in the Denver/Littleton/Boulder area, you should check them out... and tell them that Todd sent you. ;-)

On an unrelated topic, I grow increasingly frustrated with the lack of the world's response to China's repression of its own citizens as well as Tibetans and its support of the military junta in Burma and the support it lends to the corrupt government in Sudan. For years people thought there was nothing to be done about apartheid in South Africa. It wasn't until American citizens got serious and started leading boycotts against companies that were doing business in South Africa that the rest of the world started taking notice. I can remember news headlines about how much Coca-Cola lost in revenues after people stopped buying Coke until they pulled out of South Africa. So when are we going to do the same to companies that do business in China? It's beyond time for us to stop putting bumper stickers on our cars with the latest slogan and pretending we've done all we can. It's time to actually do things... to paraphrase Gandhi, it's time for us to be the change we want to see in the world.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Candle4Tibet reflections


The light protest went really, really well. Aaron was all kinds of excited to be a part of it, even more so when Channel 4 News showed up; not that he wanted to be on t.v., but more that he knew that what he was doing was actually being noticed, that it wasn't just for the sake of a few tourists that happened to be walking by.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to take part in the Sad Smoky Mountains campaign like I wanted to. I called the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks to talk about it, and was told that, while they understood the situation and empathized, at the same time, they couldn't grant me permission to light the flares due to the fire ban on the mountain. I was disappointed, to be sure, but I get it, and so it goes.

I did get a Tibetan flag and had it up today outside of my house before 1:00, just before the Olympics officially kicked off. Not only am I not going to watch the Olympics, I am going to make it a point to fly the Tibetan flag every day of the Olympics. Raising the flag of Tibet - even owning one - is illegal in Tibet and can be punished with imprisonment. I am also going to contact the Tibetan Association of Colorado to see what, if anything, they will be doing during the DNC and how I can be involved.

For dinner last night, I made a Tibetan dish called "momos." Momos are basically steamed dumplings. I decided to make vegetarian ones, and I have to say, they were pretty spiffy. I'm thinking I might make more Tibetan food this week, but I don't want to kill it; Tibetan food is really good and fairly simple, but I don't think Kyle would be impressed with a solid week's worth of Tibetan food.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

New feature; Currently Reading

If you happen to look at the sidebar, you'll see a new item: Currently Reading. I figure as both an English teacher and advisor for the new book club at the school, it was only appropriate for me to post something like this. I plan to use this little section to post up what I'm currently reading (go figure) but also to post running commentary and thoughts on whatever it might be without having to keep reposting the title and whatnot in blog entries. The title of the featured selection will be linked to the home page of the publisher so that anyone interested in learning more about the book or even being able to get a copy of it will be able to simply click on the title and get all the info they need.

I hope you enjoy it!

Monday, August 4, 2008

A little activism now and then

I mentioned the Candle4Tibet event in an earlier entry, and today I found out that the Tibetan community in Boulder (and surrounding area) will be holding an event in support of it on Thursday night. I stopped by the Tibet Gallery to pick up two Tibetan flags, and the owner of the shop, my friend, Tenzin, told me that the members of the Tibetan Association of Colorado were holding the event and that he would call me on Wednesday with all of the details.

I'm going to fly the big flag outside of my house for a week starting on Friday in protest of the Beijing Olympics. I have also chosen to not watch the Olympics as part of my protest. Originally I had planned on taking part in the Sad Smoky Mountains and Skyscrapers event by lighting a red smoke flare on top of Flagstaff Mountain on Friday, but I'd forgotten that I have to be at work at 1:00, so I can't do it. Instead, I'm going to attach the small Tibetan flag to my backpack and keep it there for the week of the Olympics. Once the event is over, the large flag will likely adorn a wall in my house while the small flag may end up on my desk in my classroom. (*Update: Just got an email this morning (Aug. 5), that setting off my smoke flare from 6-8 pm would also be good, so it looks like its back on... woohoo!)

I really hope that the election in November will bring us an administration that will speak up on behalf of the Tibetan people. Both Barack Obama and John McCain have claimed a desire to address the situation; I sincerely hope they will be men of their words and not back away in favor of big business and the almighty dollar that Chinese business brings. Some things are far more important than money.

My third oldest son (Aaron) started college today. I'm really proud of him for following through and taking on the challenge of college. It helped that he's decided he hates his grocery store job, but it's still strange for me to think that I have three adult sons, and one entering high school. Four more years and I'll have an empty house... very strange! I took the boys out to dinner tonight and he stated his desire to participate in the Candle4Tibet event with me. I think he was a bit surprised to see "Activist Dad" swinging into action, and with his love and desire to do something, this was his opportunity for time with me and for a chance to make a statement about an issue. I'm really looking forward to having him there.

Cool video to watch

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Canning report



I am quite happy to report that making one's own peach jam is far, far easier than expected. It was a fairly time consuming process, but it was a lot of fun to do. We started out with Blake peeling peaches while I got everything else ready. (Kyle was assigned photography duty; Blake and I took some photos above, but the majority of pictures are Kyle's.) After Blake peeled them, I pitted the fruit and then zapped it in the food processor for a few seconds before boiling it with pectin and sugar. Once it had cooked for a bit, it was time to put it into the jars. The jars were put into the canner and boiled for a while, then I was able to set them out to cool. I ended up with nine pints of jam, which is pretty awesome. I probably could have pushed it to 10, but instead I used the leftover little bit in pancakes that we had for dinner and as a peach syrup that we'll be having on ice cream for dessert. (Plans to make my own ice cream are also in the works, as I do have an ice cream machine I've yet to use.)

Only downside? Check out the state of my kitchen. Canning, or at least making jam, is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, especially if you have kids. The boys had plenty of questions, and I was able to talk with them about the science behind it all, so it was a learning experience as well as a bonding one. Just be ready for plenty of dishes afterwards.

Final verdict: I will definitely be doing this some more, especially considering how much the boys and I enjoyed it as well as learning a valuable, yet seemingly vanishing, skill.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Sunday's adventure: peach jam














In my increasing desire to eat sustainably and locally year round, I’ve decided to learn how to preserve the food that I buy at my local farmers’ market: I’m going to teach myself how to can food. Having never done this before, I knew I needed help. First, I was off to my favorite independent bookseller and picked up a “how to” book. Then I bought the jars, and this week, I stopped by McGuckin’s Hardware in Boulder for the final purchase of “stuff." Today I bought peaches for my first attempt at this little epic: peach jam.

When I was growing up in rural northern NY state, “run downstairs to the basement and grab me a jar of [X]” was a common statement heard in my grandmother’s house to whoever happened to be in the kitchen at the time. Homemade pickles and jams were a staple of my childhood. She’s a good bit older now, and she stopped canning some years ago, so she’s thrilled that I’m reclaiming a bit of my “heritage.” The interesting thing about all of this is that the older I get, the closer I get to where I came from. Not in a geographic sense, but certainly in the sense that I am eating and living much like I did when I was younger, and not from some burning glow of nostalgia, but simply because it is better for me.

I sat down with the book today and realized that this is going to be a full day project, or close to it. It should be an interesting day. More photos and stories to come! :)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Ouch and a Candle4Tibet

I have FINALLY gotten to go rock climbing! Ironically, the
injury photos that are here aren't from the actual climb. They are from the hike down afterwards. Overall, the day was great. I met up with two recent graduates, a student who moved to the midwest, and one of the members of the climbing team, and together with my son and his best friend, we headed up to Boulder Canyon for a few hours.

The day was perfect. We got there early enough in the morning that it hadn't gotten really hot yet, so that really helped. We knocked out a couple of climbs, and then around noon decided that it was getting hot, so it was time to go. That's when
the fun began.

About halfway down the trail, there is what is called a talus field; basically a big section of rocks. I was the last one over it, and I guess I wasn't paying full attention, because the next thing I knew, down I went. I pitched forward and landed on my knees and right arm. Not a lot of fun. I actually hit my arm hard enough that I thought maybe I'd broken it, so I rolled over on my back and took a few seconds to make sure I was okay. I did a quick scan and realized that nothing was broken, which was a pretty huge relief. I got up and finished the hike down, then we headed home.

I still can't believe that school starts in less than a month. Wow... this summer went by incredibly quickly!! I'm still working on getting podcasts together, and I haven't had much of a chance to experiment with my Smart Board.

In other news, on August 7th, I would like to encourage everyone reading this to light a candle for Tibet. It's part of a campaign to get 100,000,000 people to light candles the night before the Olympics starts to remind people of what is happening to Tibet and the Tibetan people. It is a nonviolent, global public statement that will help to remind our world leaders that we have not forgotten Tibet. There is also a social network on Ning (which was mentioned during our Global Learners training... see?! I was paying attention!), which I would also encourage people to join. The time to light the candle is 9:00 p.m. local time (whichever time zone that may be). If our world leaders won't do it, someone needs to show them how.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Rested, relaxed... and even more reasons to eat local and organic

It's finally over. The Elevision: Free Tibet ended up being a lot of fun, and I think pretty successful as well. We had something like 400-500 people there, and the event seemed to flow pretty smoothly. I've previously mentioned how great Robert Thurman was; add both Robert Schmidt and James Gimian to the Great People To Meet and Know list. I didn't get a chance to have Bob Schmidt sign anything, but I definitely got James Gimian to sign my copy of The Rules of Victory.

I took yesterday to do nothing. Kyle went to a friend's house, so I had the place to myself. I did yoga, some meditation, read a few chapters of The Unfolding Now by A. H. Almaas, and watched The Simpsons (of course!). I considered either leftovers or going out for dinner, then decided to stay at home and make myself a nice meal, so I grilled a steak,and some onions (sweetened with sucanat, a more natural form of brown sugar), and also grilled some potatoes coated with olive oil and parmesan cheese, then washed it down with some raw milk. VERY tasty!

(The above pic is of Robert Schmidt and me at the Boulder Theater; the one below is of James Gimian and me outside the theater.)

After that, I watched King Corn. If you haven't seen this movie, it's basically about two men who decide to grow an acre of corn and follow it after discovering that they (and subsequently most of us) are primarily made of corn (since "we are what we eat" is quite literally true). I was shocked by several things, and am even more glad that I eat local and organic food, including the meat that I buy and feed my family.

I was quite surprised to find out that most of Europe does not import chicken from the United States since it is rinsed in chlorine in an effort to kill pathogens due to the way we raise and process our chicken.

Considering how often we've had food recalls over the past two years (tomatoes, beef, spinach, etc., etc.), I am more and more grateful to the farmers at the Boulder Farmers Market for what they do... every time there is a recall, I know I can continue eating, secure in knowing that my food is safe. The more I know, the more convinced I am that local and organic is the way to go when choosing food for my family and for me.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

An amazing 24 hours and the countdown has begun!

I think I mentioned that I was going to be attending a teaching and talk by Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche. It was last night; I went and it was outstanding. I really enjoyed the talk, even though I did get incredibly nervous when actually talking with him afterwards.

Tonight I had a chance to meet and chat with Prof. Thurman at the Tattered Cover bookstore. He's amazing. VERY laid back and warm, and his talk was very entertaining: funny as well as full of great information. He talked about quite a few things, but focused on Tibet and his book, of course. I had him sign my copy after the talk, since I figured I'll be so busy tomorrow that I'll forget. (The goal will then be remembering to have James Gimian sign my copy of his book.) Fortunately, I was no where near as nervous meeting him, which was great. I am really glad that I committed to helping out with this event. It's been a HUGE amount of work, but after listening and talking with him tonight, it's been totally worth it. If you are at all on the fence about attending, then get the ticket- it'll be totally worth it.

It's hard to believe that come Thursday morning it will be over. It's going to be a little strange not having to wake up and head off to Boulder; to not have to check my Elephant Journal emails every five minutes... it's going to be odd to be able to kick back and BREATHE!!


Sunday, July 20, 2008

The deep breath before the storm

Some time ago, I mentioned that my raw milk delivery had started. One of the niftiest bonuses of that is access to raw cream. I got my first order of raw cream this past weekend, and got inspired to make some creme brulee. I don't know why I don't make it more often... it's ridiculously easy to make, and hey, I get to play with a blow torch! At any rate, I made it, and it came out the most AMAZING sunlight golden color I've ever seen from a creme brulee. It was beautiful to look at, and the flavor was both delicate and rich at the same time... the perfect match of decadence. Next time, I'm making a double batch. :-)

Tonight is a night of (relative) quiet for me. Tomorrow I have to be sure to post my review of Why the Dalai Lama Matters by Robert Thurman, then I head to the Elephant office to get some work done for Wednesday's event. Waylon (publisher of Elephant) is taking me to sushi for dinner (ROCK!!!) since I'm going to stay for the Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche's teaching later that night. Tuesday, I'm off to the Tattered Cover to touch base with Prof. Thurman, who will be there doing a talk and book signing in Denver, then Wednesday is the Elevision event.

Read an article recently discussing how yoga, meditation, and the like affect a person on the genetic level, which is just really amazing and cool. It couples nicely with another article I read not too long ago discussing a study that was done indicating that a healthy diet and exercise also affects an individual on the genetic level. I KNEW this stuff was good for me... now I find out that it's good for me all the way down to my genes, too. Nifty. All the more reason for me to remain committed to my lifestyle, and to be sure to reinforce it with the kids on the climbing team.

July 20 already. I go back to work in less than a month. Ack!! Where has the time gone?! I still haven't finalized my thoughts on the book club, there's my Smart Board to play with yet, and I have only gone climbing ONCE this whole summer!!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Nifty video and book review link

Just finished reading The Rules of Victory: How to Transform Chaos and Conflict: Strategies from the Art of War by James Gimian and Barry Boyce. GREAT book. I posted a review of it here. The really cool thing is that James Gimian is one of the featured guests at the Elevision event I've been blathering on about for the past few weeks. I'm definitely going to get him to sign it. Today I started reading Light Comes Through by Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche (and I'm also reading Why the Dalai Lama Matters by Prof. Robert Thurman). I'll have reviews of both of those up soon. On Monday, I'll be attending a book talk and signing with Rinpoche, and I'm looking forward to that a great deal. Then of course, there is Amazing Wednesday....

For those of you that have been wondering just what I mean by Elevision, check out this nifty video. Only a few days to go! Wow... has it been almost a month?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Elevision update!


The Elevision: Free Tibet event just keeps getting better and better. Not only is Robert Thurman the guest of honor, but now James Gimian, publisher of Shambhala Sun and Buddhadharma magazines and co-author of The Rules of Victory is also going to be there; and if that wasn't enough, Robert Schmidt from the band, Flogging Molly is going to be there too! In addition to the interview, Schmidt is going to treat us to some music as well, which is super cool. I really can't wait!

I've also decided to step it up on the eco front. I've taken to carrying a travel mug with me so I no longer have to use to-go mugs for my coffee, tea, etc. That's my new rule: no to-go mugs. I either use my travel mug, have it there, or don't have it at all. I already carry a water bottle with me everywhere, so this isn't that much of a step. I bought some To-Go Ware a while back, now I have to find it (so much of my life is still in boxes). Once I do, the rule expands to no using plastic forks, etc and when/if I get any food "to go" it has to go in the To-Go Ware containers. Like I've said before, living mindfully isn't convenient sometimes, but it is worth the effort every single time.