Sunday, May 31, 2015

Speaking at Graduation

Graduation is one of those times where you feel genuinely lucky to be a high school teacher.  I am sure that there are perks to being involved with elementary and middle school age groups, but for me, high school is the pinnacle of achievement.  I know that there are plenty of coming-of-age ceremonies, but high school graduation truly takes the proverbial cake.  

I was lucky enough to have known many of the graduating seniors for their entire high school career.  Like every single year, a part of you cheers when they graduate, and a part of you is brokenhearted that they are leaving.  This year was a bit different as I am leaving the school with them.  

I wish I could express in the written word just how powerful the emotions can run when you are leaving a place that truly feels like home.  

I always thought that I liked these kids until they decided that they wanted to have me speak at graduation.  I have dodged speaking at graduation for many years now, and they were not going to take no for an answer.  In the past i have used such tactics as blackmail, extortion, and bribery to make sure that I was taken off of any potential speaking list.  Last year I was able to convince a few kids to change their votes.  I lost by two votes.  It was great.

There was no getting out of it this year.  

Without further adieu, here is my speech.  Yup, my wife video-taped it.  Thanks... not...

Well, I tried.  What more can I say?  With graduating seniors like this, you would be hard-pressed to say no.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Day Jesus Appeared in my Work Printer

Everyone who has been around for some period of time, or is familiar with any sort of religious conspiracy theory has heard of the Shroud of Turin.  For those of you who were either born under a rock or value your sanity enough to not have spent time looking into this historical hoax, here is a bit of information.

The day started just like any other normal work day - cup of coffee, pretending to work hard while just working down the hours, etc.  (In case my boss reads this... that was sarcasm...)

So, I was just going about my business, and saw that I had a printer jam.  The printer screen told me that I needed to open up the back to remove a piece of paper.  With the technology at my school, breakdowns like this are quite normal.  With coffee in one hand and a sense of curiosity in the other, I opened the back.  Little did I know that this would be the moment that changed my life.

This was staring back at me...

That is not a Photoshop, that is the back of my Xerox printer. 
Holy crap, are you kidding me?  For reference, here is the Shroud of Turin:

I honestly think mine is better.  Look carefully at both of those pictures.  I hate to say this, as I am not the most religious person around, but I think Jesus visiting my printer with His holy face.  

So, I did what any normal person would do in this situation, I went to the source.  I figured between both God and Xerox, someone could give me an answer.  Not knowing how to contact either one of these entities, I searched for them on Facebook.  

Sadly, God never responded to me...

Xerox also decided against responding...

So, in an effort to shame God into a response, I skipped his private line and just went straight to his Facebook wall.  

Again, I got no response from God.  I am sure he was off solving lots of problems in the world.  I am pretty sure that is why ISIS was defeated, women were empowered, and all world hunger ended last week Friday.  

Oddly enough, the only response I got was from this guy... 

Well, at least we know who actually answers our questions...  

Note: This all did happen, and can be verified by checking the various Facebook pages.  There were also a lot of students who saw the image inside the back of the printer who can verify this actually did happen, and is not Photoshop.  

Saturday, May 23, 2015

How to get rid of a free table on Craigslist.

At first I tried a simple "come get this free table" sort of ad. I mean, what is not to love, right?

No one wanted it. What the hell? It is free?!?

So then, I got bored, and I got creative. I figured people did not just want a table, they wanted a talking piece. That wanted that table that you can build a room around, not the object that just takes up space. 

So I posted this:

"A table that has served King and Queens, Rulers and Despots, Commoners and Knaves - Now available to you, for free!
You might be thinking, what is the catch?  Such a rare find, in Hilo of all places?  There is no catch, this table is just awaiting a new home and a new life.  For the past few years it has graced our carriage entrance, seeing such notable visitors as the guy next door, pizza delivery people, and the occasional dinner party.  Now, the table that is most noted for inspiring such works of art as "The Last Supper" and "Guernica" can be yours, for free!  
Think about the history that can grace your carport or servants hall, and all you need to get this historical piece is a truck and some sort of servant to help to elevate it to your mobile platform.  If you do not have a truck, I am sure that log rollers or some other form of transportation will work. 
If you want to be the envy of Hilo, with all your neighbors asking you if that is the table they saw in such movies as "The Godfather," "Seven Samurai," and "Apocalypse Now," then don't hesitate and email me now! (Please note: the table did sustain some damage during both the Russian Revolution and when it participated in the moon landing as a place to stage the camera for that now famous selfie).  I am sure you understand that re-entry to the earths atmosphere can be a bit harsh on wood.
Email me and arrange for a time to snag this piece of history and elevate your carport to proportions that you never thought possible."

Needless to say, I got some amazing responses...

" we have just escaped the mainland and had to leave all our valuables behind to escape the crazy rat race of the bay area. We would be honored to show such a worthy table of this caliber to our friends and family. It  would be the perfect table to show our dogs playing poker. please reply if still available and we'll arrange a horse and carriage to pick it up during tomorrows sun."


"may i be as so bold to his/her grace to ask if this fine object of noble and fine historic master piece be still made available?
if so may your humble servant and subject bring his carriage to remove it from the lavish castle in which it has welcome the noble men and woman of this great nation;
I humbly await your instruction"

The first email of course had to win. So this was my response:

"As you mentioned the key words of "dogs playing poker," I have chosen you, out of many responses, to pass on this table. Like Excalibur or the hammer of Thor,  you have been deemed worthy. 
With great power comes great responsibility. 
Please confer with your servants and establish a good time to meet on the morrow (or even tonight if you are in town), and we will transfer the Table."

Needless to say, I now know how to successfully move free stuff.

Step 1: Write a quirky or deranged advertisement.
Step 2: Only respond to the people who are as crazy as yourself.
Step 3: Write back a message that is just as insane.
Step 4: Hope they don't steal your internal organs.

Good luck! Make me proud with your use of this knowledge.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Green Sands Hike, Hawaii Island

There is an amazing beauty when one finds anomalies in nature. Before moving to Hawaii, sand was white. After moving to the Big Island of Hawaii my previously monochromatic color wheel started to include black sand as well. For many people, this is where their adventure ends, they have integrated the elusive second color to their ebony and ivory routine. They have seen white sand and black sand - yup, pretty much it. For you people who have never expanded to new sand colors, green is where it is at. Trust me. Green sand is awesome.

The hike itself is hot. Like surface of the damn sun hot. Many people do not know that a huge portion of the Big Island of Hawaii is a desert. Yes, cactus and all. I know, I blew your mind. You're welcome.

After walking through a few miles of desert, you start seeing what look like patches of moss by the ocean, only wait... It is sand! 

That is a bit of white sand in there for color reference. How cool is that? These little patches are awesome secrets. Everyone heads out to "Green Sands" which is more black than green and misses these little patches of almost pure olivine. 

As compared to this:

Both a cool, but don't be a chump. Walk the coastal road, experience the dunes and eroded roads, get a sunburn, and feel the gritty sand in every nook and cranny on your now parched and windblown body.

This might be the Internets first picture of a green sandcastle. Again, you are welcome.

Enjoy your hike, just watch out for sandworms!

Just kidding, watch out for centipedes. They are just as bad! 

"sallamaka al-lahu wa-nasaraka" as the Fremen would say...

In retrospect, I should have written something in Dothraki as well... 

Living on an Active Volcano

There is a real sense of living life when one is living on an active volcano.  Without going into too much detail, much of the past year of my life has been inundated with lava, the volcano, and other aspects of living with an extremely slow moving, yet ever present force of nature. 

There is a sheer beauty that comes with seeing lava.  There have only been a few times in my life where I have actually been awestruck with the magnitude and power of the natural world - seeing a boiling and bubbling lake of molten rock has to top the list.  The colors, the smells, the amazing power of silence as a crowd does nothing more than take in the sight and attempt to capture the moment on cameras that are worth more than I make in a month.  

It is one of those moments where the power of silence says more than any accolades could or would.

I first had the opportunity to take an open-door flight over the the active lava crater about a year ago and was utterly impressed with the power and amazing show from a few hundred feet up.  

This experience, however beautiful, was no preparation for seeing the lava slowly filling the crater at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  While I have seen videos that were shot near Pahoa, Hawaii during the recent lava flow, this was a thing of pure beauty.

Truly unlike anything I have ever seen before.  If you ever have the chance and great timing to safely see an active force of nature, you would be a fool to miss out on creating that new life experience.  

Zip Lining in Hawaii is Awesome

Zip Lining had been on my list of things that I needed to try, and on one random Saturday, I got the invite to try it for free.  Pretty hard to say no to trying such an amazing thing for free.  Now, as it was a promotional thing for the company that my wife worked for at the time, I wont put what company actually gave away the free passes, but let's just say, they were amazing.  If anyone really would like to know where I went zip lining, comment and I will email you the location and the company contact.

I was very hesitant at first to take the plunge off of the tower and trust my weight to what looked like two pulleys, some cord, and a steel cable that suspends you out in the middle of nowhere.  The course consisted of over a dozen runs (different places to zip line that took you from one end of the property to another).  These runs started out very easy, so you could leave the tower only a few feet above ground all the way to one of the last and best runs that was over a minute long and took us down a gorge that had a few waterfalls and some amazing scenery.  What an amazing experience.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Trebuchet Project Day 4

If you have been following this blog for the past few weeks, you know that the algebra I class has been working on trebuchets.  These ancient siege weapons are a great tool to help explain how parabolic flight works and are just plain awesome to build.  

Here are the previous entries on this topic.  Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.  This will be the last installment of this series, unless we find some awesome things to launch.

After our initial builds and successful testing of the trebuchet, it was time to just have some fun... you know... in the name of science!

So, in that light, we decided to launch anything and everything that we could find.  This of course ended up meaning that we launched bits of fruit off of the fruit trees on campus, a few students hacky sacks, and a football for good measure.  I also accidentally found out that if you end up putting the football a bit off-center that you could make a great spiral.  The football was especially fun as we had a few kids stand in the field to try to play catch... with a siege engine.  Teaching never has a boring moment. 

That is one sentence I never thought I would write.  Ever.  Kids playing catch with a siege engine.  

I went to graduate school for this.  Talk about money well spent.

Without further tangential writing, here you have it:

The first video is an amazingly good orange launch.  I love how the kids were able to use their cell phones to make the slow motion video.  I love what technology allows us as teachers to do today.  We were able to watch the videos together to try and figure out just how effective our launch angle was and help us adjust anything for a better future launch.  

An ulu is a breadfruit, and this one was particularly rotten.  The kids had seen that the breadfruit tree was full of fruit while we were walking up to the launch site and were asking if we could launch one.  The rotten one on the ground was a great compromise as no one would eat it and it would make an awesome splat.  Check out the video for a very nice fruit explosion at the end.  

Again, with any project of this size, safety comes first, and I am glad to say that with all of the construction, trees getting chopped down, concrete blocks dropping, and swing arms flying, we did not have a single injury.  Another successful project.  

Friday, May 8, 2015

Trebuchet Project Part 3

After a few more days of building and testing, we have finally made a working model of a trebuchet.  The best part of this situation is that the student have had the opportunity to learn more than just math and physics, but have also had the chance to learn a skill that many students do not get to learn in a school setting.  By the time that this unit reached the end of the building phase, many students were lashing logs and tying knots with minimal assistance and were able to think on a much more geometric level in their understanding of strength in construction and how to plan on potential weight issues in building.

As you can see, the final product is all items that we scrounged around campus, and is completely made with only sticks, rope, a block of concrete, and a single nail.  The nail is used in the firing pin, and that is only because we did not want to have to tie on a smaller stick for fear that it would not last as long.  

We had to take a picture with everyone crowding around their finished siege weapon, (just in case it broke on the first shot).  Thankfully it did not, and we were able to fire about ten times on our first day of testing.  The hard part of firing is to try to get the item to release at about a 45 degree angle so we can reach maximum distance.  Of course that takes a good deal of trial and error, but by the last shot, we were able to at least release at an upward trajectory.  We were using a rather light object, and plan to try with heavier projectiles next class, which in theory should release earlier.  

One of the students was charged with the task of taking a slow motion video of the launches so that we could analyze the degree of launch.  The following video is in slow motion and you can see a projectile in the upper left-hand corner of the screen leaving the frame shortly before the end of the video.  

We are still finishing up the trebuchet from the other class, and I will post about that as soon as they are done.  I can honestly say that this class far exceeded my expectations and did a stellar job in the construction and implementation of this project. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Blogging from my Hammock

There are times for work and there are times to relax. In researching blogging and how to create interesting stories, I have found that many people have a muse, some methodology, and a purpose.

 Thankfully I have none of those three issues.

I am lazy, and my blogging should reflect that. Yes, there are typos, curse words, and pictures that could have been photo-shopped. That takes effort. I am only here to bring you my views, not some damn windexed view. My window has dirt, dust, and dead bugs. If you want a polished blog, there are many out there. They actually blog for a living, selling add space, and bringing you features on how to clean better, how to entertain guests, how to make a party favor, etc.

If that is your thing, just go. 

All that being said, I figured I would take people on a tour of one of my favorite writing locations. 

I know, it is a rough life, but someone has to do it. I take that sacrifice upon myself for all. You are welcome.

This hammock, a trusty laptop, cell phone camera, a blogging app on my phone, and a crappy old regular camera is all I need. 

I do not sell add space even though I apparently could make a small amount of money off of it.

I am a pretty bad writer.

I have no rhyme or reason to what I type or talk about.

I still have fun.  Try it yourself sometime. Just sit down and put that swirling quagmire of thoughts down with ink or pixels and see what comes of it. Who knows, you might be good at it?

Someday, if you work hard, you might get an office as nice as mine...

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Hawaii State Teacher Association Announcement

After burning a few bridges with the Hawaii State Teachers Association earlier this year, I am both pleased and pissed that they were able to negotiate a raise with the state and a one-time bonus.  I had the opportunity to sit down with the president of H.S.T.A. in my classroom earlier in the year, just following the hurricane and during the middle of the lava flow crisis.  Needless to say, when someone asks me to be candid and tell them how I am really feeling, I have no choice to but to do so.  In retrospect, perhaps they should have met with a different teacher...

They probably should not have asked me how I felt about the H.S.T.A. and union response (or blatant lack-thereof) to the crisis that was impacting my students and school.  After they met with a few of us at a charter school, we never heard from them again.  Sometimes it is awesome to live on the outer islands and get treated like second-rate citizens.  The best part of it was the email that was sent by H.S.T.A. sometime after this meeting where they never even mentioned my school nor my students.

It is almost impressive how fast they can forget about and disregard a school and students.

Well, to make matters a bit shorter for this blog post, I just videoed some thoughts after I found out about the raise that teachers would be getting - the year after I leave.  I know I am only 28, but I have never in my life gotten a bonus.  I cannot believe I am going to miss this one by a matter of months.  Way to freaking go H.S.T.A.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Packing and Moving

Packing up everything I own and moving has been one of the most time-consuming things that I have had to do in recent memory. It is both something that I find myself dreading each day and also getting anxious for if nothing is being done.  Simply put, we have years of accumulated things. 

Sometimes I feel like I should just get rid of everything and start over. Sometimes I feel like this is the wrong move and it will ruin everything.  I know it is quite easy to act nonchalant and just chalk it up to the idea of adventure and exploration, but it is a nightmare of emotions and a whirlpool of memories. 

So far we have found trinkets that date back to God-knows-when that take on importance that they never had to begin with. We have also found items that should probably have been thrown out years ago that somehow got a falsely inflated position in our packing boxes.

The house is a nightmare. It looks like how I picture Dresden during the carpet bombing phase of World War Two.  I would not be surprised if I found a family of seven living in a cardboard box tomorrow morning queuing up for bread and coffee when I leave for work. 

It has been fun and exciting along with downright miserable. That being said, it was quite cool to take a picture of all of the running medals that I have gotten over the years. I have not run as much during the past month, and it shows, but it still is a sense of accomplishment and a challenge to get back out there and hit the pavement.

Trebuchet Project Part 1

After a semester of promising that we would study parametric equations by launching items across the field at school, we have finally started out trebuchet project.  After a few hours of discussion and watching some awesome YouTube videos in class, we compiled all of our ideas and hashed out which combinations of ideas would be the most effective for the materials and methods we were going to employ.  

This is the basic idea we have reached:

We decided that we were going to use some of the trees near campus to make the poles and created a "shopping list" of lengths that we would need.  I thought it might be a more fun approach to use some of the old-school methods of building - lashing and other rope-work to make this project a bit more complex and allow them to learn a completely new skill.  

So far it has been a roaring success.  Kids are very excited to spend an hour or so a week working at our "workshop" which is located up near the field above campus, cleaning the fallen trees of their branches, learning to tie better knots and how to lash spars of wood together to create a medieval siege weapon.  

While we will not be building a siege engine that is capable of launching a projectile into a castle, we sure will hope to clear 100 yards with a tennis ball sized item.

Hopefully the next week of construction goes well. 

For those of you who do not know what a trebuchet is, check out the following YouTube video:

Day Two Post Located Here

Trebuchet Project Part 2

After a few long days of work on the trebuchets, we have made some serious progress. Thankfully we have had some really good weather and have been able to make headway while still being able to stick to our main plan. We have also been able to use some great ideas brought to the team by individuals during impromptu brainstorming sessions (aka when we are tired and taking a break). 

So, as you can see, we have the main frame put together. We will be moving on to the arm and counterweight next time, along with securing that arm and a track for the sling later one. In one to two classes depending on our speed, we should have a fully functioning trebuchet. 

We also have decided on a few backup plans just in case the trebuchet does not function all that well. If we are having issues with arm movement, we will be using pulleys instead of just a pure weight dropping style. 

Hopefully we will have pictures of objects in flight in the next post or two.

Day One Post Located Here