Purge/Binge & Some Ephemera

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I’m purging my RSS feeds again. The last time I did it completely was 2008. It has been far too long.  Currently I’m sitting at 248 feeds and have been using Google Reader since 2007- roughly 6 years and 203,731 items read. That’s about 93 items a day, every day for 6 years.

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Clearly, I read most things from 6:00 PM until 11:00 PM.  Getting an iPhone has evened some of the reading time out some.

And with that self indulgent surface level data done with, here’s some strange Internet ephemera.

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That is a terrifying glimpse into someone’s house built in 1724 that happens to be full of partially dismembered mannequins.  My wife found this one.

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Both of the clips above are just two recent examples of things continuing to move after people have died.  Package deliveries are pretty common (and hopefully positive) but the second endorsement by a man who passed away earlier in the week felt pretty unpleasant.



Sadly, I collect screenshots of odd wireless network names.


I don’t know why edtech is fascinated with bananas but it is.  I took this shot at ISTE.


This is from my hometown.  It’s pretty much sums up how things went in high school.

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Hawking. The world is strange.

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So if a teacher on a social network stumbles across something like this, what do they do?

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The best review for a digital voice recorder you’re likely to see.

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Ah. I am sorry for you.

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The first “under construction” Facebook site post I’ve seen.

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Jimmy’s charge was “sanitary facilities.”  What in god’s name did he do?

Guest Post

Hello Ms. Rivas,

I would be interested in a post that details why allowing random people who solicit you via email to guest post on your blog is a terrible idea.



On Feb 24, 2012, at 5:38 AM, Katheryn Rivas wrote:

Hi Tom,

I hope this email finds you well. I only recently started reading your blog, I am a freelance writer, regularly write for USELESSCRAP.com. I was wondering if you would be interested in publishing a guest post on your blog.

Here are some samples:

  • spammygarbage.com
  • spammygarbage.net
  • spammygarbage.org
  • spammygarbage.us

I could write on any topic you wish, or I can simply come up with a post that I believe would supplement your blog. I just need a link to my homepage (http://www.onlineuniversities.com/) on my anchor text in the author by-line. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this; please let me know if this is something you might be interested in.


Katheryn Rivas

My Phone Coughs Politely

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I’m a bit old school when it comes to phones. I habitually leave my phone on vibrate. I never notice that it vibrates. This occasionally makes people mad. I do this mainly because I’m absent minded and don’t want to be that guy with the annoying phone going off.

The solution came to me the other day.

I needed a ring that doesn’t sound like a ring, something that’d be a normal sound in most places1. I can make custom ringtones for the iPhone in Garageband.

My phone now coughs politely2.

In case anyone else wants to sound vaguely sick, but maintain politeness, here is my cough ringtone as a m4a and as a m4r ringtone.

1 The mosquito ringtone would not work for me because it’s noticeable to kids. I want something unobtrusive to everyone.

2 My guitar still gently weeps. I’m unaware what other objects I own do.

“Small People” Limited Time Offer

As an English or foreign language teacher I’d be all over the “small people” quote by BP Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg. It’s not going to be useful much longer so act now.


  • Should this comment make people mad?
  • What did he mean?
  • What should he have said?

It’s a beautiful entry to arguing about word choice, synonyms and nuance. In this case, one word really mattered quite a bit.

It might be fun things like have students reword famous quotes/sayings using synonyms to make them offensive or otherwise rob them of power.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
“A chopped up house, will fall down.”

Minnesota’s “Land of 10,000 lakes”
“Our state has a lot of standing water”

After you get them written, you could have them post them in some way and students could try to figure out what the original quote was.

Another bonus was I found that I could search MSNBC video by certain keywords- in this case, small people. It highlights those words in a transcript and shows the points in the time line where the words occur with colored dots for the video. A really nice way to quickly get where you want.

Mega Shark Infographic

I don’t know what it is about posters lately but this is simply awesome. It’s from the movie Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus1.

Mega Shark Infographic
Mega Shark Infographic

Pitching this WCYDWT style would be awesome.

Any crazy physics teachers out there willing to give this a shot? I was utterly bored by physics both times2 I took it but I’d have spent a happy week trying to figure stuff like this out.

Found via the always awesome Super Punch

1 It’s now on my list to watch. I don’t know why Jim Groom hasn’t dedicated an entire blog to this yet.

2 I took it once in HS and once in college. I didn’t fail people. I only failed classes when I had personality conflicts with teachers.

Snow Days Don’t Stop Assessment

This wouldn’t be worth of mocking except for the fact that it was retweeted time and time again by the Blackboard Twitter fanboy crowd and when I finally read it I couldn’t get the taste of bile out of my mouth. This is the garbage they celebrate as a success.

So the following post is an attempt at purging my system.

Original article here. Italics and footnotes, as always, are mine.


The snow led to more than 300 local closings and delays today — but if a district uses too many snow days, there’s less time to test. No one wants that. One local school figured out a way to have the best of both worlds -students at home *and*1 a full day of testing. Joe Webb says it works through technology -insert dramatic music here.

The kids at Taft Elementary will lose a day of class because they’re at home. McAuley High School has figured out a way to reach out to its students and have them in class at home. At Beechwood Elementary, Miss Burns’ fourth grade class beat the elements and had a school not a snow day. But in 2010 this is truly old school.2

McAuley sophomore Sam Rack kicked it new school3 today at home but taking all her regular classes online. It counts as a school day. Sam Rack has done the math. “I actually like this a lot more because if we have a lot of snow days like last year, we had to take days off of our summer vacation. Please don’t make me go to school a day longer than I have to.

Sam had Blackboard to thank for her new found ability to add and subtract one digit numerals.

Blackboard CEO, Michael Chasen, crowed with excited when informed of this development. “Another 21st century skill down! Bb NG is transforming education!”

It’s part of McAuley’s high-tech teaching push4. The principal notified students and parents yesterday that today was an online day and all work had to be done. At his suggestion, we interviewed him online today via Skype5. He says McAuley uses the popular school software *Blackboard*6 to sort of “home school” on days like today.

“Don’t get carried away though” cautioned Webb, “You still need us. It’s not real home school. I used air quotes. Make sure you put the quotes in the article.”

“Students have to go on Blackboard and each teacher is going to post assignments and they’re doing all kinds of things. You know, like tests, quizzes, some timed quizzes and I bet you’ll see some timed tests. Others are probably reading stuff. It’s really amazing. Thank god for Technology.”

At 1:40 this afternoon, Sam logged in to take an AP European History quiz. She had 20 minutes to get it done. This wasn’t a full day on or off but she did get to sleep in and leave the uniform in the closet7. Plus not have her parents worry about her driving to and from school. “This was kind of a no-brainer for us. We thought this was a way to keep our kids safe and keep moving forward from an educational standpoint. We had to synergize our enterprise CMS to strategerize our learning outcomes towards our state standards. There is a race to the top to be won.

Half the students at McAuley have laptops they’ve purchased through the school. That makes this whole thing possible. The other half weren’t going to graduate anyway. It’s better that they remain laptop-less so that they’re happier with their eventual role in life.

Technology is a great thing…but not everyone has the access. Until that happens…. snowy days will mean no class for most schools.8

1 Apparently the * has become an accepted journalistic punctuation mark. It denotes sparkles or jazz hands- depending on the context.

2 I read this 3 times and it made less sense each time.

3 I did NOT add this. This is real. Other phrases that didn’t make the final edit included bodacious, funky fresh, col’ chilling and maxing n’ relaxing.

4 Several high-tech pulls went terribly wrong.

5 Skype audio failed due to bandwidth issues and the principal refused to accept our phone call because it wasn’t *technologified* enough so the interview was carried out via text chat.

6 I have no idea why BB is in bracketed by asterisks.

7 Imagine the freedom to both wear the clothes you want and get up when you want.

8 And that ladies and gentlemen is a closing line. It’s deep, poignant and leaves you wondering why it didn’t have asterisks sprinkled on it.

Cartoons keep speaking to me


These are not the voices you want reminding you of where education is headed.

Centralized pacing guides, centrally created lesson plans and myriad of other choices are moving teachers into the role of trained chickens with little choice and less say about what happens in their classrooms. Standardization is great for planning and scaling but haven’t we proven over and over again that learning should be individualized?

If we can’t trust teachers to pace their own classes, to make their own lesson plans then there’s a serious problem with the people we’re hiring as teachers. Providing all the processes and structures in the world won’t fix that.