RunLog 7-13-11 – Broke 19:00

I did it, I broke 19:00 minutes for 2.0 miles!  That might not be a big deal to many people out there – I know “big whoop and a yawn”.  To me it means that I am making progress, listen I know that I will never break 18:00 for a 5K again, but my goal is to break 24:00 for a 5K this year and if my knee holds up, I know that I can.
I started out great, hitting 1.0 mile in 9:08, but wilted in the sun on Blake Rd and did the walk run routine 4-5 times.  The sun just seems to completely drain me and I have gotten smart enough that I don’t try to fight it nearly as hard as I used to.  I keep moving and start running again as soon as possible.
It worked good enough to break 19:00, now to just keep plugging away at getting my endurance base up to where I can make the entire 3 mile course without walking.  I predict sometime around late August. But a couple of those hills are a real bear.
The bog warriors attacked in force today.  The were swarming in a cloud around my head and for a long time didn’t land to take a bite.  One did and when I smashed him to a pulp on my neck, the others attacked in force.  I don’t know if this helped with breaking 19:00, but I know that I ran faster to get away from them.
I guess I should have just flicked him away.  Took 3 major welts, but 24 bog warriors were casualties in this engagement.
The bog warrior part of this post is just for fun, but I really don’t like horse flies alias bog warriors.  Who know maybe this will be the basis for a alternative earth view fantasy book, with horseflies having a life of their own and how they defend their kingdoms against the invading giants :).
Let’s have fun today and enjoy life.

 

Those Plans Went Out the Window

Today nothing went as planned, well most things anyway. I had planned to sharpen my chain saw and start cutting firewood after finishing my run and then when I got tired, puttering around the garage with a couple of small projects that I wanted to get crossed off the honey-doo list.

While I was on the way back from my morning run (I run and time the first 2.0 miles of my 3.0 mile course and walk/run the last mile untimed), I decided to stop and see my neighbor, he had offered to let me pick raspberries from his bed and this week raspberries are at their prime around here. He said no problem.

While I was talking with him, his boy came over and asked if I still wanted the manure, that we had talked about bringing over to my place, last weekend. I said sure and he brought three – 6 foot bucket fulls over to our place and said whenever we wanted or need more to just let him know.

These are the reasons for all that wonderful manure. Never thought that I would say those words, I haven’t liked manure of any kind, since I cleaned cow and chicken barns as a teenager. Cleaning 3-4 feet of chicken shit out of a barn in July, then swamping out the cow barn with 60 head of milkers, just was not a pleasant memory, so I have avoided using manure at the house until this year. This year, things are changing (less income) and the manure is needed for the growing things around the yard. So there it sits in the front yard to look at as a reminder to use it.

Yes I will be getting more.

For the next four hours I was picking raspberries and filled up 2 ½ big gulp cups. I am not a fan of picking raspberries (they start with rasp for a reason), but I do love how they taste and things that Mary does with them – muffins, pies, cordials, jams, or jelly. So I endured the thorns, multiple species of spiders and the occasional snake slithering across my foot, to pick the “rasp” berries. Spiders don’t bother me, but I am not fond of snakes, but up here they are harmless, nothing poisonous – they seem to just appear suddenly and make me jump. My arms are a little battle-worn, but not as bad as they will be during blackberry season – those suckers are nasty.

It was well worth the effort, Mary has already made 4 jars of raspberry freezer jam – my favorite with eggs, (I know I am weird, but at least I know it). Tomorrow she has plans for the rest and then Friday or Saturday, I get to do it all over again.

I took over some of our rhubarb cordial over and Mary has plans to make up some raspberry jelly and cordial for the patch owners and some muffins for the son (I have a feeling that one of the muffins might not make it past the door – especially if I can get it fresh out of the oven).

My knee didn’t really like the bending, twisting, up, down and all the contortions that I went through to get at some of those raspberries, so I sat down in my recliner for a about an hour, with about half of that icing my knee. No I didn’t fall asleep and take a nap (yes I came close, but Mary started talking to me and I stopped nodding off), so my opportunity for a nap didn’t bear fruit. 😉

After resting for a bit, I went ahead and mowed the lawn with my push mower (see the knee is getting better, just need to rest it more often than I would like), it is the off-week. Then it started sprinkling which makes using a push mower a real pain in the butt, but it wasn’t raining hard enough to have an excuse to stop. I finished up the lawn and while it doesn’t look as good as the power mower with a bag doing it, I think that it looks just fine.

Memo to self get bagger for push mower – this goes to Evernote.

I had planned for a totally different kind of day one that involved cutting down trees and splitting wood, but when things are ready to be harvested and opportunities are available for free shit, you just have to be flexible and go with the flow. This is what I like best about this semi-retirement gig of mine so far – I am not bound by a schedule and if I want to change what I had planned, I just do it to meet the needs of the moment. Next year I know that I am going to start cutting firewood as soon as the ground firms up in the spring – maybe a little before, so I am not cutting and splitting it in July/August.

By the way, I am officially part of the red neck crowd now, four hours of standing in the sun turned my neck a nice shade of red. It sometimes feels that to move forward you have to go backwards – it seems as though I am doing many things now that I thought I would never be doing again.

Progress is funny isn’t it.

 

RunLog 7-12-11 – Muggy and Overcast

I started out really slowly today and then picked it up a little at the bottom of the hill. Freakin horseflies and mosquitoes wanted to carry me into the woods and do wonderful things (in their opinion) to my body, however, I was very unwilling.  I killed quite a few of what I call the bog warriors and their allies.  They just seemed to keep coming not matter how many I slapped or stepped on after I knocked them to the ground.  It was a battle royale and they definitely were winning.
All this caused me to run faster, if awkwardly as I was swinging and waving my hat at my tormentors.  The few trucks that went by must have thought that I was totally crazy.  Maybe I was for going down towards the bog on an overcast day, after a night of rain.  I know that it was a tough, tough run – besides the bugs, it was hot, humid and already in the mid 80s.
I have never done well in high temps or high humidity, even when I lived in Washington, DC and ran everyday at noon time – year round.  But I finished faster than I have before on this course (this year).  While I was out there fighting my tormentors, I thought how much I liked the idea of running 2 and walking back in the last mile.  This is usually my 3.0 mile course and mostly down hill going out, with a couple of small hills to get up that just about kill me right now.
This will be a great run in late August through when the snow flies, hopefully the knee will allow me to get up to that 3.0 mile point, it sure is not ready yet, but is still making progress.  Now to just get rid of those darn bog warriors.

Google’s Picasa – Reviewed

Just about all of us, load personal pictures and images on our computers. For many years, I have been searching for a photo management tool that is intuitive, will allow me to do minor editing, resize the image, easy file management and has syncable cloud storage.  I have been searching for this elusive program since I started putting photos on my computers.  

Finally, I believe that I have found a program that meets my needs quite nicely.  Picasa might be re-branded fairly soon as Google Photo as part of their Google + initiative – but there has not been any official word from Google yet. Either way I have been using Picasa exclusively since I re-imaged my MacBook Pro laptop back on June 25th, no I didn’t re-install iPhoto 11 and haven’t missed it a bit.  Picasa is working quite well for me.

Product Name:PicasaTm
Company Name: Google Inc.
Type: Web Application and Desktop software
Website: http://picasa.google.com/features.html

Company Product Description

Below are screenshots of Picasa

Picasa Desktop version

Picasa Web Application

How much does Picasa cost? It is a free download and up to 1 GB is free online storage (there are rumors that this may change as Google + becomes open.  I opted for the additional 20 GB online storage.

Is this the first time reviewing this product?I have never reviewed Picasa in depth on my blog, I have mentioned it a couple of times.

Is Picasa easy to use?For the most part, yes.  There are some things that make me scratch my head, but most of what you do in the desktop version is pretty intuitive and I have gotten used to some of those head scratchers and work around them.

What I like

Picasa is free and upgrades to your storage limits are easy and very reasonably priced.

That you can easily upload photos to the Picasa web application.

You can share your photo albums with others if you want to.

I really like that there is a cloud based application, that I can use to back up your photos in a place where they are not likely to be lost, if your laptop crashes, burns, breaks and all those other things that can happen to a hard drive without warning.  I have a feeling that Google is a lot better about backing things up than I am.  Having these photos stored in the cloud also means that I can access my Picasa web application from any computer, device or location, where I have web access.

I like that Picasa integrates easily with Picnik, so that if I need to do a little more editing than the stock editor i.e. resizing or some special effects, it is available. Right now, it is more of a link to a separate web application versus a integrated piece of the tool.

That Picasa images can quickly be added to your blog post by using the Insert Image tool.

What I don’t like:

Sometimes pasting the Picasa URL into a non-Google tools doesn’t work.

When updating my blogger theme (some of the custom images, like the RSS feed button image), when I attempt to host them on Picasa – the URL links do not work, which caused me to use an alternative photo web host account to customize the images in my blog theme.

That re-organizing your Albums on Picasa web is time consuming and a pain in the butt.  I just don’t bother trying to do any re-organizing my photos online with Picasa.

The reality is that

Picasa has become my photo management tool of choice.  It supplanted iPhoto 11, when I used them both for the past three months, it worked the way I do.  I found cumbersome and seemed to bog down my MBP when it was running, the connection to the cloud through Mobile Me was much too expensive for my budget, plus I didn’t want to put my photos on Facebook or Flikr, when I already have lots of room on Google for them.  Picasa is easy to use, does many things automatically and integrates well with my Blogger blog.  I have plenty of storage space for my photos and I can share these with the people that I want to.
Picasa integrates pretty seamlessly with Google +, but you might want to go through and double-check to make sure all of your privacy setting are what you want vs what you though you had them set at when you uploaded them to the web. I noticed that some of my albums were set to public, as part of the move to Google +, or maybe I didn’t correctly label them in the first place. In either case it is better go in and check to see that your photo albums go to the correct circles in Google +, to protect you and those people in your photos privacy.
Recommendation
Overall, Picasa has met my personal photo management needs quite nicely. Better integration with Picnik needs to happen, but that really is a minor point and improvements on being able to utlize the URL more easily would be nice.  Other than those things, I am very happy with using Picasa as my primary personal photo management tool and like how it integrates easily into Google +.

FCC Disclaimer:  I have not received any compensation for writing this review of Google’s Picasa, they are simply my thoughts on a product that I use.

RunLog 7-11-11 – A Running/Walking Run

After a day of no running yesterday, baling hay and walking 5.0 miles doesn’t count :), today I felt pretty tight and sore.  Mainly from the picking, chucking and moving hay bales around for a while yesterday.  Although it doesn’t hurt to walk, it was more uncomfortable than it has been to run today.  The knee was a little sore, so I thought that I would just run easy and not go too hard.
Instead I went through the first mile in 9:16 faster than I have been going this year and then wilted once I hit the Blake road.  All the trees and shade went away and I was in the full sun and 88 degree for the next mile.  I didn’t try to be a hero, I stopped and walked 3 times and then started back up again.  It was just too damn hot for me, but my time was the same as the other day.  I just have to remember that in the heat time and distance don’t mean a whole lot, safety is the most important thing.
I felt pretty good walking back in the last mile and even jogged a couple hundred yards on a flat part.
Then I had lunch with a friend at Big G’s in Winslow and overate, but was still fairly healthy by having a large Mathieu Fitness Sandwich with Cajun Chicken, green peppers, onions, munster cheese and lavash bread, along with an OJ and a Chocolate milk.  A little too much of a good thing, but not the old fries or chips routine which I would have done in the past.  Now just have to work on the portion sizes.

 

RunLog 7-10-11 – Baling Hay

Today was a DNR in the log book, but I sure didn’t just sit on my butt all day, today I helped the neighbor down the road get his hay inside.  I haven’t bailed hay since the 1970’s.
I had forgotten how hard, dirty (yes dirty) and how tired being out in the hot sun working is.I have gotten soft, spending most of the last 30-40 years doing administrative type jobs – those office jobs where you don’t usually break too much of a sweat and have some fun and good discussions while you are doing it.
I know that I am tired tonight, but the best part of it all is that my knee isn’t bothering me, some slight swelling but that is it.  That is after all the twisting, turning, bending to pick up 30-40 pound hay bales and tossing them up on the wagon, then offloading and putting them on the elevator to the hay loft.
Overall, it was a great workout – yes I will be sore in the morning, but I was able to help out a neighbor and followed through when I said that I would help him out.  That was to me the most important part – that I kept my word.
Harold

With All Due Respect – Redone

I have been going through my old blog posts to create a favorite list in the Navigation bar for my new theme. While going through them I re-read my “ With All Due Respect” from January 24, 2010 and believe that I what I wrote then is still pertinent.

As part of my leaving the teaching profession for semi-retirement, I thought it was a good time to update and re-publish this post.

RANT ALERT

With all due respect to:

  • the President of the United States and his staff
  • the Congress and their staffs
  • the State Governors and their staffs (Maine for me)
  • the State Boards of Education (Maine for me)
  • the Teacher preparatory programs at the University/College levels
  • the Educational Consultants
  • the Corporations who sell educational products
  • and everyone else who thinks that they have latest answer to the problems in our classrooms
JUST SHUT UP!

and start listening to educators, who are currently in the classroom.

What do you really know about what really happens in the public, charter or private classrooms when you are not there?

NOT AS MUCH AS YOU THINK!

When was the last time most of the above people were actually in public school or any classrooms for more than a few minutes or hours and at best a day or two?

Then usually it was in a carefully selected and “prepared” classroom or school.   Most of these visits are what I classify as dog and pony shows and/or photo ops, especially when the “bigwigs” are involved. They get to see everyone on their best behavior, with everything all cleaned up.

These people don’t get to see what is really going on in that school or classroom that they spend a few minutes or an hour in – it is a totally artificial atmosphere, where everyone is on pins and needles and the “students” that are likely to be an issue, have it suggested to them or their parents the day before, that they might want to stay home that day or are taken to a different place during those V.I.P. visits. Woe be the teacher or school administrator that doesn’t have a neat as a pin classroom or “allows” misbehaving students during this visit – it will be “noted”.

After all we don’t want to embarrass ourselves when powerful or influential people visit a school, it would be wrong to actually show them the warts and the reality of how things are in our schools.I know that it is unreasonable for high profile leaders to actually be in one place for any amount of time, most of them rely on their staff for information on educational policy proposals.But I wonder how many of these staffers provide honest and accurate appraisals of what schools need in today’s world, not how it was when they were teaching. Do have a pie in the sky theory of how they think things should work or are they influenced by a certain dogma be it political, educational or corporate.

How often are the real needs of today’s students ignored in the interest of political talking points, yearning for the way they think it used to be, how it was in their school or someone with a particular agenda advising their political boss a certain way?Far too often it seems, in the political and corporate world of standards and standard assessments.
Who is this post directed at?Most of this post is directed at those staffers, consultants, and others who advise and influence the elected officials who vote on these laws, regulations and rules that affect education, but don’t have the background to make an informed decision without their staff’s or “others” input.In order for those staffers to provide pertinent information to the leadership, in my opinion they first must have experience in the areas they are advising people on, i.e. relevant educational experience in today’s world. If they don’t, how can they realistically provide accurate or pertinent advice on education to their bosses?

What would a staffing analysis reveal on how long it has been since:

  • Political staffers who’s job is Education policy;
  • Department of Education personnel at the Federal and State levels;
  • University/College professors and all the others who provide input to K-12 education policy;
  • Consultants
  • Corporate Advisors

actually taught in the K-12 classroom.

I believe that that data (we in a data driven educational model – right?) would be very enlightening to many of us who actually do care about education and give it more than lip service. This information might just show how out of touch many of those policy advisors are with what the real impact that their policies and proposals are having in the K-12 classrooms of today.

Today’s educational environment is not how it was when many advisors/consultants were last in the classroom 5-10 to even 20 years ago, there is a different demographic/cohort of students, home environment and tools available in and out of the classroom, which have changed significantly in that short time. Are their recommendations and advise based upon a different set of issues, data points or as a result of some “study” that was designed to provide a data point for further study or are they giving their advice based upon what is happening in today’s classroom.  I have a feeling that far too many are basing their advice on how things were and data that is questionable at best.
NOT A NEW IDEA, BUT A GOOD ONE
I would love to see a requirement that every other year Department of Education (Federal & State), University/College teacher preparation program professors, consultants, etc., be required to teach (not just observe or “study”) for at least two weeks in their education specialty in a so-called poorly performing K-12 school/classroom. This could be a win-win for the public servants/advisors/consultants who need current experience in the classroom and for the schools who need extra experienced help in many of their more difficult classrooms.  It might also open a few eyes to the reality of what public and other schools are becoming in our drive to be driven by data.This opportunity would be not just be them observing and making suggestions – which is quite easy to do and is not very experiential. It should be a practicum in teaching where they would do everything that is required of a teacher in today’s classroom for that period.

I can hear the howling now – “but we don’t have time for that”, “it would be beneath us”, etc. – howl away and then shut-up. In my opinion you need to have been in a classroom recently, to properly advise or teach people about our current educational system, not just some theory or pet idea that may or may not work in reality.While they are teaching, have the regular classroom teacher(s)/administrators observe and critique them in action and have those observations become part of their annual evaluation where they work. This would cause some hackles to rise wouldn’t it?
This would also be a not so gentle reminder to those advisors/staffers or professors of the unique difficulties or challenges and also the rewards of teaching in the K-12 classroom.  I don’t believe that a career bureaucrat or consultant has all the answers, just based only on data that has been collected or their visits to schools or classrooms (after all teaching motivated or at least semi-motivated adults is vastly difference than teaching student who have little to no choice anymore about being in school and what they are learning while there.
By now you know that I do not believe that a one or two day seminar for staff or administrators or a classroom observation/visit doesn’t cut it for finding out first hand what is happening in a school. I believe that you would find out so much more after that first week, your newness wears off,  the glitz is gone and the intimidation factor of “who” you are, isn’t as big a factor – you have become just another struggling teacher. A reality check so to speak.I do have a great deal of respect for the hard work, knowledge and dedication that many politicians, DOE staff (Federal & State) and preparatory program professors and educational consultants have. Most of you work very hard and believe you think you are doing the right things when you suggest or implement many of these changes.

However, if you do not have recent experience in the classroom, how do you know what you are proposing is the correct or right solution for all classrooms or students in today’s world?

Quite simply you don’t.

If you disagree in those back room meetings where the decisions are really made do you speak up or do you go along with what your boss wants and ensure that the statistics back up that position.  I wonder?Teachers and local Administrators all know that there are problems in the classroom and education in general. Most are working our butts off to try to fix them as best we can at the local levels. While at the same time, continue to teach our students the best that we can, given the limitations there are in time, money and personnel.However, in my opinion many of the regulations and laws and regulations have been passed recently or that “leadership” are thinking about passing are not and will not do what is expected in our classrooms – improve them.

They have become part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Your solutions are meant to satisfy the “big” picture, they are a macro view of education, from a centralized government perspective, where data and tracking have become more important than the individual students that they are supposed to represent. Trends and data points are different than individuals.

These trends and data points do not take into account the micro view at the school or classroom level and the difficulties that schools have in figuring out how to implement those required changes, so they cause the least amount of damage to our students. Those general standards or test results do not take into account the individual abilities/needs and motivations of student – they are simply data points and generalized/standardized expectations of what the “perfect” student should be able to do.
Do you think about the negative effects of those policy decisions and loose sleep over whether you are doing the right thing or are those issues dismissed as necessary to “school improvement” or reform.  Do you justify to yourself that you are doing the right things, but don’t try to think about what the negative impact is to those implementing your policies in the classrooms or the possible affect on the students that don’t or can’t meet your standards or assessment expectations in today’s classroom. Is the attitude you have of “Just Do it” and don’t bother me with unpleasant “details” that are actually student’s futures.Well out here we do think about how your decisions affect our students and schools every day and too damn many sleepless nights.  Those decisions you have championed affect us daily because we are attempting to implement the laws, rules and regulations, your policy makers have implemented and that you have championed, whether we agree with them or not. We don’t get to pick and choose what ones we will follow – we have to do them all in order to keep our jobs as teachers.

Have they made a difference?
Increased control of education at the Federal or State levels or Centralized control from my point of view has not made education any better in the classroom, where most K-12 education happens. State or Federal educational standards have not made our students any smarter, standardized testing has not made our students better students,. I wonder how many students will remember 10, 20, 30 years from now how they performed on some standardized test or that they achieved a certain Common Core Standard.What are you doing to make education a fun and memorable experience, instead of promoting drudgery and more and more assessment.

These educational policies may have sounded good initially,  had great intentions, but are they working? Have they actually made a difference in the students education? Are our students better prepared for their lives after they leave high school.

I don’t believe so and I haven’t seen that any of these standards or assessment reforms have made much of a difference in what our students actually learn or don’t learn.

They have simply taken funds away from the classroom or schools and put them in the hands of others, in the guise of accountability and making education “better”.  Unfortunately, none of these reforms have made education any better at the classroom level than it was 20 years ago, it simply provides data to “prove” how things aren’t improving. Very ironic isn’t it?

Instead of admitting that these policies have not and are not working, it has become much easier to blame teaching staffs and local administrators as being incompetent or worse – uncaring. After all the problem couldn’t be bad laws, rules, and regulations could it?  It couldn’t be that those who wrote or championed these “education reforms” for whatever the reason, would have to have to admit that their ideas didn’t work and should be changed.

That is very difficult for most people to do, after all “it should have worked, because I believed that it should have worked”.  “They” just didn’t implement or follow through correctly or they are incompetent, because my plan was supposed to work.

 

In order to make it look as though they are successful in these reforms efforts, how many times were the stats cooked, the bar lowered, so that it appeared that schools were meeting the artificial and arbitrary standards that had been set by bad laws. Which in turn made it look as though there was academic improvement, when it was really a mirage, to ensure that you looked good or that your agenda looks to be the correct one – too many times it seems from recent investigations.I didn’t mind trying new things when I was a teacher, but when laws, rules and regulations obviously are not working, then it is time to admit it and move on towards something that will or at least works better.
But that is the problem, no one wants to admit when they are wrong.
IT IS TIME TO MOVE ON
Everyone in education, government and the corporate world needs to stop posturing, grandstanding that they have all the right or correct answers and everyone else is wrong about the proper solutions, to help improve public education in America.
We all need to shut up, do more listening and start discussing openly and freely what actually works, in real classrooms. Not those pie in the sky schools, where all kids are motivated and avid learners at grade level, there are no behavioral issues, the home life is from Paradise Valley and there are not any Special Education students with Individual Education Plans, who we already know do not meet or fit the “standard” student expectations/standards before the next assessment phase begins.Policy makers and administrators need to do this while remembering to actually listen to those who are in the classrooms – today. Not just give them lip service and then ignore us as the “elephant in the room” who should be silent and do what we are told – even when it hurts our students.If you are going to pass laws, rules or regulations – include educators in the back rooms (where these decisions are really made), well before they get to public hearings, which I do not believe have any major impact on most legislation anyway.

I am a bit cynical when it comes to public hearings, which are artificial, are mostly for show and are a joke when it comes to changing policy – they are held to make those who disagree believe that their voice has been heard, by changing some minor facets of a piece of legislation, while the major parts of a bill seem to just keep flowing along. Also for some strange reason teachers usually can’t attend them most of the time, because they are scheduled for when schools are in session and we are teaching our students. Less discourse or disagreement in the record that way I guess.

Local Control?
For a long time before and when I first became a teacher, I was in favor of a National curriculum with students meeting certain standards in order to receive a high school diploma – however after almost 10 years in private and public school classrooms – now I am not. With everything that has happened in the last 10 years in education under NCLB and the standards movement, maybe it is time to return education control back to the local level.Was or is local control a panacea – no. There were places where education was great and there were places where education was horrible, but are things really all that much different in today’s educational world with more and more centralized control? It still seems as though there are pockets of excellence and educational horror shows, with most schools falling somewhere in between.

But under local control the school boards and administrators are closer to schools, the classrooms, often the individual student and know the local educational needs better than some bureaucrat in Washington or a state capitol.

With local control there is at least the opportunity for more pockets of excellence, instead of an overall mediocrity/malaise that we appear to be heading towards in our public schools.

Our present centralized systems seem more interested in accountability, test scores, rhetoric and finding blame, than actual progress in educating individual students, which in my opinion is the actual goal of education.
The reality is
educational and political leadership need to focus on what our individual students need in their classrooms.  Not what certain people and their personal agendas are, what corporations need or who gets the money (which I think is more of the issue than anyone wants to admit).
Those are the thoughts of someone who has taught in private and public schools and recently left the classroom for semi-retirement.  If you would like to contact me for further information, please use the comments below or the Contact Me form in the navigation bar.
Sorry this became so long, but the future of our students/children and grandchildren are at stake and if we continue to allow the current educational reforms to have a stranglehold on educational policies and discussion.  They are the ones that are going to suffer the results of these reforms, not those of us who already have our education.   There have to be more voices at the table than there are presently and a wider range of views beyond Standards, Assessment and the current misnomer of Accountability.
Education should be about the students in the classroom, is that what our present system is focused on?
Harold

RunLog 7-9-11 – Two in a Row

This is the second day that I ran 2.0. It didn’t feel as good as yesterday, but not too bad. I added about 20 seconds when a neighbor invited me to their pig roast this afternoon.  I probably won’t go though – too many food temptations and I really don’t know anyone there.
Getting back to the run, knee was a little bit sorer today, so tomorrow’s run will probably just be a 1.0 deps on how I feel.  I walked another 2.0 with Mary, Katie and Bennie and then iced it after lunch for a little while.

 

Changing My Blog’s Theme

Last week I changed my blog theme to the free Rival template.

Blogger Template Style
Name:   Rival
Author: Lasantha Bandara
URL 1:  http://www.premiumbloggertemplates.com/
URL 2:  http://www.bloggertipandtrick.net/
Date:   February 2011

The stock theme

It is a magazine style for the main landing page which is what I have been looking for.  Rival had the right color scheme and presented a clean and crisp appearance that I liked immediately.

However, getting this theme setup to be useable, was quite intimidating initially. There is a lot of work to be done inside of the code and I don’t really know a whole lot about HTML.  What I usually accomplish inside the code is completed by trial and error and being willing to experiment, which usually equals breaking something (i.e. making sure that I have a good backup saved for when I mess something up – which is quite often).

Setup

Like many other themes that have this appearance the Rival template is not your typical upload, change/add/move a widget or two, tweak a few colors and then start using it theme.  There is quite a bit of work to do before Rival meets your needs after you upload it:

Getting the header so it looked right, I still am not completely happy with the image, but it is close enough for the time being.  This took a lot longer than it should have, but is a lot closer to what I want, than it was.

Setting up the Navigation bar, figuring where in the template to add the links and then change things around to meet my needs. I still have a few more things to clean up on this section, but they are very minor.

The slider – which I have since deleted. Originally this took quite a while to properly set this up, get the photos to work correctly and the links in the right places and when I decided to delete the slider. it took a little longer than I expected and quite a bit of experimentation to ensure that I deleted the correct code.  I probably didn’t get everything out that I should have, but got it so it looks right on the page.

My decision to get rid of the slider was based on a couple of things: it took too much space above the fold, I found it distracting and it took away from the clean appearance that I was looking for.

Subscription Widget – I changed the RSS image and had to figure which photo service to use which worked correctly when Picassa and Flikr both didn’t work the way I expected. I ended up using Photobucket to link my images to this theme. Changing the wording and links was pretty easy.

Adding the Google +1 button from My Blogger Tricks, wasn’t hard (when I followed the directions correctly), but getting it to look just right and where I wanted it took some experimentation.

How It Looks Now

After all of the tweaking this is what One Foot In Reality’s landing page looks like now.

The reality is that

I am very happy with the results, I learned a lot and found out that the changes that I thought were intimidating at the start were not that difficult once I started doing the work, just time consuming and that you have to be very precise about where/how you put the changes. This has been the most work that I have invested in modifying any blog theme since I started blogging and gives me a better understanding of why people pay to have someone else do it.  With the amount of time I have invested in this theme I have a feeling that it will stay on my blog for a longer period than themes usually do with me.

While my theme is not minimalistic I think it is clean, loads fairly quickly and looks the way I want it to.  I am also using One Foot In Reality’s landing page as my primary webpage, so my blog is doing double duty. This theme also reflects the direction that I appear to be going with my blog.

Now to go back in and see how much of the extra code I can get rid of as a result of deleting the slider – this should be interesting. 🙂

What do you think?

Do you like it?
Are there any other changes that you can suggest to improve my blog’s appearance or useability for you further?
Thanks
Harold

Runlog 7-8-11Doubled my Distance Today!!!

Today was mid 70’s and low humidity and I was feeling really good, so I decided to try to do 2.0 miles this morning. Yes I know I am pushing it, but sometimes, you just gotta do what you gotta do :).  The course was my usual 3.0 mile run, so when I finished the 2.0, I still had a 1.0 mile walk left to do.
The run itself was uneventful which is what I wanted.  I ran down the hills without any issues and went up the small hills without any problems.  The comfort level was no different than I felt during my 1.0 mile runs and that discomfort is lessening each week. The last 1/2 mile of the run was tough, but that was only because of my poor conditioning.  The 1.o walk after the run was pain-free 🙂
My experiment to run double my distance today was successful.  I was pleasantly surprised that I did as well as I did and happy that I did it.  I even iced my knee afterwards, even though there wasn’t any swelling or anything as a precautionary thing.  Who knows maybe I am starting to smarten up a little.