Two Honest Hours

Last post I told you about a new composer to watch, Fourteen year old Ronan Kelleher. Here’s his second composition played in the concert hall as part of the University of Alabama’s fall Spectrum concert. (The piece only runs about 3 or 4 minutes, not two hours.) This isn’t available yet in the usual music marketplaces (iTunes, Amazon, etc.) but watch for it soon.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

Why am I putting this on this blog? So we don’t lose it. It’s the Joy of Cooking recipe with a couple of changes David made. It’s good to double it.

Preheat 375 degrees

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet unless you want milk chocolate or dark chocolate)

bake about 10 minutes

Web Colors and Icons Explained

I am frequently asked to explain my job as a professional Front-End Software Engineer/UI/UX Developer/Designer. If my listeners are still with me and are extremely polite, they request “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Web Design (But Were Afraid to Ask Because it Might Be Boring) [the Mobile Edition, in 2 minutes or less].” Below is a distillation of two crucial topics, Colors and Icons.

Colors

Have you ever wondered why so many websites use the same colors? The consortium for web standards Colors Committee defines acceptable colors by working closely with browser makers, popular frameworks, and sports drink manufacturers. Just like other technologies and fashions, a color can get discontinued and become unsupported. Once that happens, the color becomes invisible in all browsers.

It’s important to please everyone. One user abhors amber; another loathes lilac. This brings most sites quite logically to the mathematical middle-of-the-road. At Yodlr we engineered the background color to appear Gray within the USA but Grey elsewhere.

I used the colors and shapes of Yodlr’s existing logo as a base. I was able to convince management to shell out the extra money needed for purple, a particularly expensive license because it uses both red and blue and is associated with royalty.

Icons

Creating icons for uncommon buttons is difficult. At Yodlr we needed new icons to show when participants were viewing a presentation and for our “Raise your Hand” feature. Some of the more challenging icons I have created in the past were for “Deodorant”, “Existentialism”, “Hot Pastrami” and “Cold Pastrami”.

A common but little talked about problem with shapes and icons is the dreaded “It Reminds Me Of”, or its acronym IRMO, which I just made up. IRMO occurs when you show someone your work and they say

“It reminds me of

  • a skunk,”
  • “our competitor’s logo,” or
  • an icon already in use that means something completely different.

You can’t argue with IRMO. (No, it looks nothing like a chandelier!) Sometimes you’re looking at your work and realize it resembles private body part/s. Experts agree that Body-part IRMO is more widely-spread than previously thought but generally goes unreported because of the stigma. If you experience Body-part IRMO, experts advise, hide your work and go back to the drawing board.

Morsel Cake Recipe

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 cups sifted flour

2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs
1 small carton sour cream (1 cup/8 oz?)
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips (1/2 package)

bunt cake pan – greased

  1. preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. cream together sugar, butter and flour.
  3. Take out 2 tablespoons of mixture for the top of the cake. Add cinnamon and brown sugar and set aside.
  4. mix all dry ingredients (except cake toppings above)
  5. add and mix wet ingredients
  6. pour in to a greased bunt cake pan
  7. sprinkle topping on top
  8. bake at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes

Dogs and Ibuprofen, Pills in Pockets

There was a woman who walked her dog each day at a dog park.  She kept a pocket full of dog treats and handed them out to each dog that came to greet her.  One day she gave a dog a treat and then realized that it was not a dog biscuit but a super ibuprofen pill she had in the same coat pocket.  The dog had eaten it and although she told the dog’s owner what had happened, neither owner realized the gravity of the situation.

Later, the dog threw up but the owner figured the dog was getting the pill out of her system.  The next day, the owner took the listless dog to the vet who had to keep the dog there for several days on an IV.  Ibuprofen can cause kidney failure and permanent damage in dogs (and people as well).  The dog is doing well now, but might have some permanent damage and will have to have her kidney function tested every year for the rest of her life.

Apparently lots of people carry ibuprofen around in their pockets, and apparently lots of people also carry dog treats in their pockets too.  Even though putting pills and dog treats in the same pocket might sound kind of gross, it seems to be a very common practice.

Hopefully reading this can help prevent accidents for others.

Please Vote!

Adult US Citizens, if you don’t vote you are partially responsible for whatever happens and have no right to complain about anything government does.

There are a variety of issues to vote on, not just the presidential election. Where I live there are proposition measures about union busting, school funding, the death penalty, human trafficking, and genetically engineered foods. You’ve got to care about one of those issues, right? There are government positions to vote on from the president down to the city council.

Employers are legally obliged to give employees time to vote. If you are a parent, take your children to the polls with you. You can model being a good citizen and explain how it works, and they might get a sticker or lolly pop. My ballot this year has two initiatives directly concerning educational funding as well as a school bond measure. It’s part of my responsibility as a parent to vote.

Don’t assume you don’t need to vote because all the like-minded people around you will. That’s like not getting a vaccine because you expect others around you to get theirs. When enough people think like that, it won’t work and we’ve seen whooping cough come back as a result.

STAR test Fails in every way

The STAR test and No Child Left Behind are ruining education because they

  • reduce the amount and quality of teaching
  • are expensive
  • stress everyone out
  • are inaccurate and are becoming more so as student resentment grows

If I’m preaching to the choir, you can skip the rest. If you want to read the reasons in more depth, keep reading.

The STAR test is a standardized test in California that along with No Child Left Behind is ruining education. The idea behind the test was to show which schools were doing a good job and to be able to find and improve schools that were not. Instead of improving schools which were doing a bad job of educating students, it has lowered the level of education for all students in elementary through high school.

How has it lowered the level of education? The test results are used in such punitive ways that teachers feel compelled to teach to the test. They sometimes spend months teaching the materials on the test, and multiple-choice test-taking itself. This is to the detriment of other subject matter, such as creative projects. Since the tests are multiple choice, it encourages teaching that “one right answer” mentality, while taking time away from creative assignments. Teachers teach best when they teach the materials they feel passionately about, but the STAR test makes everyone teach to the test. On top of it all, students have to spend time taking the tests, which go an for days, instead of learning.

Complying with No Child Left Behind was supposed to bring money to schools. Instead, it’s much more expensive to comply with then the amount of money it brings from the federal government.  All this testing and administration costs the schools money which could be better spent other ways.

The STAR test is meant to be a test of the schools and teachers. It is not an accurate test, because right off the bat disadvantaged students don’t don’t test as well as advantaged ones.  Each student’s performance is influenced by all the teachers he or she had previously, so an individual teacher’s contribution is hard to measure.  The punitive ways of using the scores encourage teachers to teach the students who start out with the most advantages and probably have smaller class sizes.  The weighting system for students who are mentally disabled or learning English don’t really make sense.

Teachers, administrators, and students have a lot of anxiety because of this test. STAR test are also part of a student’s permanent record and can be used as a basis for course selection or for the Gifted Program.  There isn’t much of a Gifted Program anymore because there is no money for it. There is a great joke about No Child Left Behind football analogy. (This is all over the internet, here’s one version.) Sadly, it’s true. Gifted kids are given no help, and are often bored and start to hate school.

The whole assumption of the test is that it is an accurate and objective test in which all the students try their best. After years of taking these tests, many students resent them. They know that for the most part, their performance won’t affect their academic grades. They don’t have any real motivation to try hard. Last year my eighth grader decided he was going to just fill in random bubbles quickly so he could finish early and read his book.  He didn’t like his school or teacher all that much and didn’t care if it reflected badly on them.  (He probably would have been much happier in a gifted program if there had been one.)  I didn’t have many good arguments for why he should try hard and ended up bribing him to do his best.  Apparently, many other students also have the same idea of filling in random bubbles to finish the test early.

This year his high school tried to combat apathy by telling the students that their STAR scores would be counted as part of their academic grades. This is problematic because the test could have materials on it that their teachers hadn’t taught them, so it isn’t fair to grade students down for it. Another problem is that the scores don’t come out until the middle of the summer, after the grading period is over.  The school said they would adjust the grades after the fact. Then, they said that individual teachers could decide if they wanted to count the STAR tests or not.

This is a huge mess, because using the STAR scores as part of the students grade is a misuse of the test. On the other hand, it’s not fair to judge the school and teachers when the students don’t take the test seriously.  A parent can legally request that their child not be tested. Once again, it hurts the school.

The best solution is for the district and state to refuse to do STAR tests and No Child Left Behind (aka No Child Gets Ahead or No Child Left Untested).

 

Sterioblind – Feb 9-12

If you’re in the San Diego area, check out Sterioblind

http://theatre.ucsd.edu/season/dttW/index.html
http://web.signonsandiego.com/news/2011/feb/06/its-cutting-edge-in-daily-doses/

This short film is my sister’s MFA dance thesis. She explores dance and her attempts at seeing with both eyes at once (stereo vision). Rebecca was born with crossed eyes and has had surgeries to correct the muscles. She is trying to train her brain to register the input from both eyes at once, not just one eye at a time. In order to have depth perception (3d), one needs to register the input from both eyes at once. She has been doing exercises and seems pretty close to a break through. Her thesis is very unusual in that it explores this journey as well as what it means to realize that your perception of the world is more limited then you would like. She shows fascinating parts of dances, which we wish we could see more of, but that’s part of the point. The film mixes expert commentary about vision with the dance scenes.

I hope that my sister will post this film somewhere on the internet where everyone can see it.