Monthly Archives: October 2007

Because I am so over Halloween,

and if that makes me the grinch, so be it, let me just share three four interesting science things that made my week better. Call them treats if you have to.

1. Chronic chocolate consumption is related to the presence of a different type of bacteria in one’s stomach. It’s unclear what the cause-and-effect relationship might be… but you can now officially blame your cravings on your gut. Does it feel a little weird to be controlled by a micro-organism?

2. From the Best American Science & Nature Writing of 2006 (but you can read it here at Discover where it was originally published), an essay called “Cooking for Eggheads” describes experiments into the best way to cook an egg. Molecular gastronomists have found the exact temperatures at which the various proteins in eggs begin to “cook,” and by carefully controlling cooking temperature, can create eggs with a soft yolk and delicately-gelled white, and many other variations. 212 Fahrenheit is much hotter than necessary to cook all the proteins in the egg, hence our rubbery hard-boiled eggs. The time is coming when we will toss our eggs into the oven for an hour and pull out a true delicacy.

3. If you’re a robotics coach like I am, you might want to show this short but fun video to your team to give them a sense of what the future may hold in household robots.

4. Fine, FINE. One quick nod to the date, but only because I’m having so much fun exploring Discover magazine. What does climate change have to do with real-life zombies (well, sort of)?

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Improving attendance… ideas?

Improving attendance is a new project for me this year, in part because the problems are worse or at least more noticeable this year, in part because it has been identified as something our school needs to work on to keep up with our peer group of schools.  Of course, it’s not just to look good in the peer group that we need to focus on this, it’s because improving attendance should help the kids in multiple ways.  I firmly believe that inertia is a force that can work for you: once a kid gets in the habit of attending school, it becomes easier to attend than to stay home.  Grades improve, success builds on success, friendships become stronger, relationships with teachers improve, and the reasons to attend begin to outweigh the reasons to cut.

Here’s what it looks like so far: most of our kids have missed no school at all or just a day or two in the last two months.  A smaller, middle group has missed several days in the last two months, more than is really appropriate.  And a very small group (<5 students) has missed many days, some attending as little as 50%.  Clearly, a three-pronged approach is in order – reward, recognize, and reinforce the behavior of those who attend regularly; bring on board the families (and the students themselves) in the middle group; intensive focus on underlying problems in the third group.  But, um, how?  We’ve already started zeroing in on the reasons behind the low attendance of the chronic absentees, and oh boy is it going to be an uphill battle getting these kids in school regularly, what with all the health issues and family problems and the lack of a going-to-school-everyday-habit.  And what do we do with the middle group?

If you know of schools that have tried innovative approaches to attendance, or studies of such schools, please let me know!  We need creative ideas!

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It turns out that the Sunday night dread was spot on,

as I woke up this morning with my head pounding, every joint aching, shivering uncontrollably, unable to even imagine eating anything. Spent five minutes searching for a thermometer as having a fever is usually my standard for staying home from school… turned up nothing. Next five minutes shivering in bed listening to the voices battle it out in my head:

You’re just achy because you’re sore from walking so far yesterday.

But a long walk doesn’t make one’s finger joints ache!

Go to school! Otherwise you’ll wake up in two hours feeling fine and wishing you’d gone.

Stay home! You feel like death, not even warmed-over.

In the end, I called in, did NOT wake up two hours later feeling better, and have spent almost all day wrapped in blankets wishing someone would stop driving nails into my head and give me a moment’s peace.

Now I feel a little better and have to motivate to get dressed and head o the supermarket for food and batteries for robotics tomorrow.  It’s the batteries more than the food that will get me out of the house.

Surely November will be a better month than September and October have been?

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It never changes…

the Sunday-night, back-to-work-blues don’t get any easier. I have some strategies for easing them, and enough confidence in and enjoyment of my work to sometimes avoid the feeling altogether, but when they hit, they hit. It’s the cold weather, it’s a persistent feeling that something is missing, it’s the shorter hours of sunshine, it’s the weekend so full that nothing feels finished. It’s world-weariness. It’s Sunday night, and the only solution is to go to bed and wake up new on Monday. Day by day, minute by minute. But when do we get a long weekend?

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Broadway from the northernmost tip of Manhattan to Times Square

Jesus on the GW Bridge, originally uploaded by kellyv27.

 

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patriotism, originally uploaded by kellyv27.

 

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Fort Tryon Park, originally uploaded by kellyv27.

 

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