Friday, June 24, 2011

Web Stuff Friday: Uber-Geek Edition

So, what have I done with my precation (that's a preliminary vacation used to burn some vacation hours and take care of stuff so we are a bit more ready for the summer)? I hacked my Wii!

Why hack a Wii? Our basement has video game stuff strewn about. Controllers, disks, and various accessories are everywhere. Disks are particularly hard to keep track of and I am constantly worried that a disk will sustain one scratch too many and will go down for the count.

The solution is to take a USB hard drive, connected it to your Wii, then install all your games to the hard drive. The result is that (with the right software) you can run all your Wii games without touching a disk.

How to Back Up and Play Your Wii Games from an External Hard Drive at Lifehacker got me started. Unfortunately, the process didn't quite work for me, so I resorted to...

Softmod ANY Wii, which really got the ball rolling for me. But first, I needed to get access to the inner workings of the Wii, so I went to...

Return of the Jodi, which explains how to use Lego Star Wars Original Trilogy (Jack did the game work to make it happen) to install the Homebrew channel using the Hackmii installer. With Homebrew installed, I went to the Softmod ANY Wii guide and followed the instructions (really closely) to get the system set up. The USBLoader (the software that allows you to install games to and then play them from the USB drive) they suggested didn't work for me, so I went back to the Lifehacker article and installed USBLoader GX, which works like a charm. I even got it installed as a new channel, so our Wii main screen has a channel I can select to view all our games in an interface that looks like the iTunes album cover browser.

Now all our Wii games are on the external hard drive, so the disks are in a case on a shelf, where they will stay forever. Next up: Finish installing new closet doors, clean the van, and maybe even clean the garage.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Web Stuff Friday: Go to Sleep

Go the F*ck to Sleep as narrated by Samuel L. Jackson is so good. I will think about this video tonight when Girl Kid comes out of her bedroom an hour and a half after "bedtime" because she's "thirsty."

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Grantland has me hooked. I stumbled onto Grantland when checking scores at ESPN, which employs Grantland's editor-in-chief Bill Simmons. The articles drew me in.
  • The Greatest Paper that Ever Died is the first article I read. It is LONG, but fascinating. I dimly recall The National (a failed attempt at a national sports newspaper), but this "article" brings it to life in a unique way. It is a series of quotes assembled as a transcription of an oral history of the endeavor. Really, really good and interesting.
  • Space, Time, and DVR Mechanics was eerie. It's like Chuck Klosterman was staring straight into my soul.
  • It's Time for LeBrondown, Part II rings very true.
Check out the articles. It's an online magazine I can really get into. The look is uncluttered. The writing is interesting.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

End of Life Revisited

Discussions about healthcare consistently get me thinking about end of life issues. I have discussed this stuff before. Notably, in The Ugliness of Modern Death, but now I am past some personal situations involving death and so am more capable of thinking about these issues. is not a cheery site, but it is an important one. I recently bought Dr. Byock's Dying Well and really am looking forward to the read. It's morose, but critical.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Education: Will Choice Give Us Smarter but Isolated Kids?

I work for a company that does online education stuff. A coworker recently asked me what I think about what we do from the point of view as a former teacher.

First of all, I am in favor of choice.
  1. I don't think that one particular type of school is best for every student. For instance, some kids have significant learning or social issues that make a brick and mortar classroom environment a bad fit for them.
  2. Choice can lead to some competition. Some schools get so bogged down in just surviving that they lose track of the idea that they are supposed to be educating kids. Most public schools have a monopoly, so they don't have to care about the quality they provide. I understand that most people in public schools are wonderful, caring people who believe that educating children is a calling. My grandfather, mother, aunt, cousin, and I all fall into this group. I am not calling educators lazy or incompetent. All I am saying is that many educators could use a shift of perspective to help focus on what really matters.
On the other hand, a fractured school landscape worries me. I am a public school guy in great part because I believe in heterogeneous social environments that allow students to see different perspectives. We all need to be exposed to diversity. This isn't about having enough black kids or hispanic kids so the class picture looks diverse. This is about having truly diverse perspectives.
  • Rich/poor
  • Christian/Jewish/Muslim/Hindi/Atheist
  • American/Russian/Hispanic/Indian
  • smart/mediocre/struggling (each of these in each academic arena)
Choice is great, but so is heterogeneity.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Music Monday: Ida Maria and Yoav

Ida Maria's voice and energy work. Check her out.
The girl is gettin' it done.

Yoav (song: Beautiful Lie)
Cool song that inspired a couple remixes:Robert Sansixto mix and KeeMo's Terrace Mix ... but I like the original best. Yoav is yet another artist using on-the-fly sampling to create interesting music.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Web Stuff Friday: Scat and Underground

S&*t You Should Know is hilarious. The language is quite colorful, but the posts are informative and hilarious.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Everyone should read every entry, either to learn something or to learn how to teach others the idea.

Urban Explorations is incredible. Check out the photo gallery and the videos. Undercity New York is cool and reminded me of Man on Wire, which was an impressive documentary.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

New Math Education Wars: The Wrath of Khan

With their tutorial videos, Khan Academy has made a big splash in the education world. Having Bill Gates sing your praises in a TED Talk is a sure way to get a lot of attention.

Over at Action-Reaction, Frank Noschese has an article Khan Academy: My Final Remarks. I agree with many of his points. Here is a quote from near the end of the post:
Khan Academy is just one tool in a teacher’s arsenal. (If it’s the only tool, that is a HUGE problem.) Khan Academy can be useful for some kids as vehicle (build skills) to help them get to better places (solving complex problems).
On his Quantum Progress blog, John Burk also chimed in with Project Euler vs Khan Academy: The Future of Online Learning. I agree that Project Euler is really, really good, but that is a topic for another post.

Back in 2007 (before I ever heard of Khan Academy), I started developing instructional videos that are somewhat similar to Khan’s work. I think they are great tools, but they are not the be-all and end-all of online education. When placed in the context of a complete course, they can be helpful tools. We need to continue to innovate, but just shouldn't get too carried away by the latest educational fad and think it will solve all our problems. Good teaching isn't about amazing lectures. It's about feedback and engagement and connections.

At their best, instructional videos are pretty sentences. Quality education is a set of engrossing interactive stories.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Brain Calisthenics: Using Perceptual Learning

A friend sent me a link to a New York Times article Brain Calisthenics for Abstract Ideas. The idea is that "playing" with a concept can yield big educational gains. A strictly top-down approach to education (here's the formula, now apply it) is not necessarily the best way to work. This perceptual approach seeks to leverage our ability to build intuition through experience.

Here are some of the games the article references.

Basic Math

Measurements and Graphing: Match the equation to the graph and learn to perceive basic measurement concepts.

Positive and Negative Feedback

Extreme Ball: Time a fan to blow and push a ball attached to rubber bands.

Extreme Population: Help your city reach a population of one million citizens.

Stabilize Ball: Time a fan to blow and stabilize a ball attached to rubber bands.

Stabilize Population: Help your city's population stabilize at 500,000 citizens.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

DaVinci's Resume

Back in 1482, a job-hunting Leonardo DaVinci sent a letter to the Duke of Milan. This letter got into the hands of a guy at The Ladders (a job search site) and it made the rounds recently as DaVinci's resume.

DaVinci's resume is interesting, but I prefer a geek's take on the DaVinci resume.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Music Monday: Emily Wells

Emily Wells is pretty amazing. She seems to be using the same type of technology as tUnE yArDs (Real Live Flesh), but the feel is very different.

solo: Symphony 1
a trio with Joey Reina and Sam Halterman: Symphony 6 and Symphony 9

Friday, June 3, 2011

Web Stuff Friday: Larry Miller

Larry Miller's The Five Levels of Drinking is one of the greatest comedy bits of all time. It always brings back memories of my 20's. My friends were such drunks! One of my favorite lines from the bit:
If you're nineteen and you stay up all night, it's a victory. It's like you beat the night.... If you're over thirty, man, that sun is like God's flashlight.
It's from him that I got the expression "It's like the difference between shooting a bullet and throwing it." Larry Miller is so great.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Amazing Time-Lapse Videos of the Sky

A couple time-lapse videos of the sky have taken my breath away.

The Mountain was filmed at El Teide, Spain´s highest mountain.
The mountain and the sky are amazing.

In this video, the sky plays opposite the telescopes. As in the other video, the sky is incredible, but I like watching the telescopes do their things.