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Showing posts from June, 2011

Creek Hiking

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One of the displays at the Nature Center in McCormicks Creek State Park, a photo by Ben Biddle on Flickr. We spent the day hiking around McCormick's Creek State Park. The first trail we took was #5, a two mile loop through Wolf Cave Nature Preserve that also went by Wolf Cave. The cave was closed because of White-Nose Syndrome threatening bats. It was a wide, well maintained trail but we did cross Little Branch creek several times without bridges.
Then we ate lunch at Canyon Inn out on the glass enclosed porch. We saw several types of birds while we ate, including a big blue jay. After lunch we goofed around at the recreation center, playing volleyball, pool and foosball.
Our last hike was down trail #3 to see the falls. Since it was getting hot in the afternoon sun, we enjoyed taking our shoes off and wading through the creek. Several others wore their bathing suits and were walking right up to the falls. Trail 3 seemed to follow the creek bed so we weren't prepared to take it. …

Trip To See The Dr

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My Lego crazy kid and I trekked up to Chicago for BrickWorld. First display inside the door had Doctor Who visiting Abraham Linclon at his home in Springfield. Pretty sweet!
We did have some trouble locating the Westin hotel. Perhaps the TARDIS could have done a better job. Seems the address on the hotel's website shows up ten miles north on my GPS. Despite the run around, the expo was fabulous. Probably the best part for the boy was getting to hold a life size Halo MA5C. We also scoured tanks, Mecha and pod racers for ideas. I especially liked a cityscape done in micro scale. We also enjoyed several Mindstorm exhibits, including a semifinal round of sumo bots. So despite the long drive, it was well worth the trip. And we've already marked our calendar for next year.

Embedding Excel on the Web

Ever need to know how to embed an Excel spreadsheet on a website? Just follow Microsoft's clear, easy to follow instructions. There are options for tables, filtering content and dynamic user created calculations. I could see this being a great way for students to add lots of data to a web based report. I also like the interactive nature where user input can modify a chart. It could be helpful for testing trends or making projections.
A little HTML is helpful for creating customized web outputs but since it uses iframes, it's pretty easy. Here's a quick temperature conversion calculator I made.

Imagine The Possibilities

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What would you do with ten grand? Go on vacation? Go shopping? The possibilities are almost endless.
This spring, I helped students create a completely original video for the Ford Focus On Schools video competition. The movie was directed and performed by students, even the middle school band recorded the soundtrack.
The school receiving the most votes will receive a check for $10,000. Visit the competition web site to see their work and cast your vote.

Web Contact Pages: Add A Map

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As much as we might like to live digitally, most of us still maintain some type of physical presence in the world. And if we want people to interact with us beyond reading our web posts, some type of contact information is required. But that's no reason the contact page needs to be boring. Here's a quick way to spice it up: add a map! Go to Google maps and locate your physical place in the world. Look for the "Link" option in the top right corner of the map.Clicking on it will give you two options: a single hyperlink to your map and iframe HTML to embed in your site.Copy and paste the embed HTML onto your contact page.As an added bonus, you can customize the look of your map. Simply select "Customize and preview embedded map" located underneath the HTML code. This gives a pop up window where you can select the appropriate size for your map with updated HTML. As an example, here's the Contact Us page for our school.

Running in McCloud

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McCloud Footbridge, a photo by Meditechguru on Flickr. Josiah and I went running at McCloud Nature Park this morning. The weather was cool and we were the only ones there. I saw a deer ahead on the trail but it ran off into the woods. We ran about two miles over two trails: Red-Tail Ridge and Prairie View.

Biking Through Walnut Grove

Fort Harrison 002 a video by Meditechguru on Flickr. As part of a weekend birthday sleepover, we went biking over the trails at Fort Harrison State Park. Starting out by the sledding hill and playground area, the first section traveled through a walnut grove. As you can see from the video, the path was wide and smooth.

We had to push our bikes up a couple hills but going down was fun! We also saw a snake on the trail. One of my friends almost ran over it! The snake was about a foot long and about as big as a marker.

Java Challenge Day 3: Matryoshka Dolls

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Matryoshka dolls, Moscow, a photo by neiljs on Flickr. Very little writing of code today. Instead the authors used the imagery of Russian stacking dolls to explain the layering aspect of Java. Really though, the chapter introduces the concepts of variables, constants, data types and comparisons. And while there are some syntactical nuances to Java, the fundamental ideas are the same throughout programming.

Prairie Trail Run

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Prophetstown State Park, a photo by Meditechguru on Flickr.
Dad and I trekked up to Prophetstown State Park to run the trails. Since we arrived at 10am on a near record setting temperature day, it was a bit hot. We went about two miles around trail one. On the northern section that passes near the creek I encountered soggy ground, enough to get my shoes and socks wet. Surprisingly there was plenty of shade along the route. After the run we stopped by the historic farm. There were more animals around this time (goats, and pigs plus a couple new barn kittens). The garden was growing and the gift shop was open.

Photo Hack Rant

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Vespa, a photo by Meditechguru on Flickr. Received the Boone County Tourism Guide in the mail today and instantly recognized my kid on the cover. I took that shot. And the newspaper publishers decided to take it straight off the web without any attribution.
Now some of my pictures have creative commons licensing but usually I reserve all rights with pictures of the kids. I guess what really burns me up is that there is nothing in the publication to indicate that the pictures were culled from the web. I've used web pictures before, but always look for ones labeled for reuse.
It would have been nice to see an attribution line somewhere acknowledging the photos were not taken by the newspaper staff.

Java Challenge Day 2: OOP

After Day 2 I'm already 60 pages into the book, covering a lot of theory and introducing vocab words. If this was a high school classroom, I'd be spending a lot more time on the concepts. I even had trouble absorbing it all through just the written text. Writing the example code was somewhat helpful, but a new programmer would simply be copying from the book with little idea what each statement does.
This is the unfortunate thing about writing code in a foreign language. People get turned off very quickly with a linear, dry approach. Today was a good reminder of what beginning programmers feel when they realize writing code is a lot harder than plug and play or downloading the latest app.

Taking the 21 Day Java Challenge

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Picked up Sams Teach Yourself Java 2 in 21 Days from Goodwill for $2.50. It's in brand new condition with the data CD still unopened. Suggested retail is $50. That's a bargain I couldn't pass up!

I already have the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) and the Java Developer Kit (JDK) from Oracle installed both at home and at school. Couple that with a previous understanding of Object Oriented Programming (OOP) and the first day was simply review.

And yes, this will be for my own personal enjoyment =)

The Perfect Job For Me

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Picked up Tieger and Barron's book Do What You Are at the library and learned that I'm heading in the right career direction for my personality type. Of course my path has been far from traditional, but I digress (pun intended).

Despite the hefty almost 400 pages, a careful reading at the beginning will knock the reading down considerably. After an introduction to the concept of personality traits, you  decide what type of personality you have. Far from the intensive Myers-Briggs, you must depend on your honest evaluation of yourself. I am one of the 2-3% of Americans who are Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging (an INFJ).

After deciding on a personality type, there is a short chapter explaining how personalities develop with age. After which, the bulk of the book gives detailed explanations of career choices most likely to suit you. I certainly didn't read all of it, just the section that pertained to my type.

For the casual observer, this is a great starting place. I…

Ruby Skye PI

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Are you looking for fun, engaging web resources to offer your kids for the summer? Check out Ruby Skye PI. This webisode series offers a variety of interactions as you follow the adventures of Ruby Sky as she unravels mysteries around her neighborhood.