Sunday, July 12, 2009

House Cleaning

The one good thing about having bad eyesight is that one can blame the grime on the floor on eyesight or lack thereof instead of on one’s own laziness. Which is not to imply that I was lazy, or deliberately missed the piece of grime in question…

To give you some perspective, we are doing house cleaning, and all throughout the house is heard the noisy sound of a vacuum cleaner sucking in symphony with the swiffing (I know that’s not a word) noise of the Swiffer Sweeper. One can hear the sounds of toilets being flushed, bubbling with cleaner, and of mirrors being scrubbed with disinfecting rubbing alcohol—an oddity that I indulge.

However much I despise house cleaning, it is pleasurable to look upon a spotless, shining room and contrast that with the filthy image before. Of course, that is soon spoiled by somebody pointing out a stray hair missed there or a smashed piece of gum kicked there. And so the cleaning begins again…

Friday, July 10, 2009

My Great American Road Trip

NBC has recently launched a new reality TV show called "Great American Road Trip." I had a concern about the show--who knows what "reality" is any more on TV? Even if you film every single passing hour, you will probably still edit it down to the most "exciting" bits--which will perhaps not present an accurate view of the subject. For instance, if I filmed the entirety of my recent road trip and shared it with you, you would see much film of my sister and I sleeping; staring at each other meaninglessly; sitting silently; eating cookies at rest stops; and my dad talking about basalt formations and ancient geologic stuff (which would probably be interesting to some people but probably not to all of my audience). Thus what we see on TV is not all there is to see.

Instead of criticizing a road trip on television, however, I should probably talk about my own, which was recently concluded. After my mom and I returned from DC, we packed our bags--actually, we just reviewed the bags we had already packed--and set off. My sister Adrianna was attending piano camp in Eastern Washington, so we drove there to see her concert. From there we drove on, on a steep and winding byway filled with occasionally invisible swarming bugs, to Missoula, Montana. A note on the bugs: we still have (available for viewing, as soon as I take a picture) at least a hundred smashed bugs on our car hood. We thought that it was rain, but we then figured out that, in the words of our dad, we had been "comitting mass insecticide." All I can say is that it was not purposeful, and that the bugs shouldn't have been on a desolate road late in the afternoon anyway. We occasionally saw roadkill, and my sister, who, in my opinion, is rather too squeamish about dead animals, gave a high-pitched yip every time she saw any dead animal--including those on our front window.

We stayed at the La Quinta Inn in Missoula (which I would recommend, as it has a nice pool and a continental (or, as I like to claim, "confidential") breakfast. Adrianna and I went swimming. She lounged around in the hot tub, and I shouted that she was too lazy and then proceeded to splash cold water on her, to which she responded by throwing hot water at me. This went on, until we finally decided to explore a novel form of fun in the water--bringing chairs into the shallow end! Actually, the chairs were fine--we had conveniently chosen the ones made of plastic. And then we set off for Bozeman, where we would be staying. The goal of our trip was to see Yellowstone National Park (which we, miraculously, accomplished).

At this point I would like to talk about a few highlights of the trip:

-The Bozeman Hot Springs

The Bozeman Hot Springs were intensely relaxing. I say intense because I was constantly going from the main pool to the steam room to the sauna to the ice-cold pool to the hot tub back to the cold pool and then to the main pool to do rapid swimming and then hopping out again to complete the cycle. That sentence, by the way, is probably a run-on, and was meant to be read rapidly in order to display the hurriedness of my actions. The entire complex has 19 pools--18 of them indoors, and one outside. Inside, it did smell slightly of sulfur, but otherwise it was a very enjoyable experience indeed. And I would have to get used to sulfur for my next trip--

-Yellowstone National Park

We saw quite a wide variety of things at Yellowstone. We started, of course, with Old Faithful. We were quite lucky and we saw it just a few minutes after we had started watching. Then, we saw a geyser called Giantess erupt. Giantess apparently had not erupted since much earlier in the year, and so it was rather special that we were able to see it. We saw it erupt from the boardwalk, another interesting feature--the raised wooden pathway to keep people from stepping on thermally active and dangerous ground. There was a geyser that was quite active--I am not sure if it was Giantess or something else--and many people on the boardwalk were actually splashed by the water coming down. My sister insisted on "joining the fun." To fully enjoy a large erupting geyser, I think that one must have a generous tolerance of sulfur--which, I am afraid, I lack--and so I felt more than a little sick as a giant sulfurous steam cloud passed over us. Both my sister and I got wet, but surprisingly, the geyser's water was cold, apparently because it had gone through the air. We also saw the Artist's Paint Pots, some mud pots, fumaroles, the Mammoth Hot Springs, an infant geyser, bison and buffalo, and too many other things to remember.

-Museum of the Rockies

I was very glad to be able to visit a museum during this trip--vacations feel more proper to me when I've seen a museum. Museum of the Rockies was a very interesting museum; it contained lots of interesting things regarding dinosaurs, and also the history of the Earth. But my favorite was the living farm. It had chickens and a wide variety of vegetables, and a two-story historically furnished house. One is able to go throughout the house and touch most things (luckily for me!) Also, you can try on clothes in a certain room, and write on slates, play with rag dolls, etc.

-Gingko Petrified Forest

We were driving back home and noticed a state park sign for "Gingko Petrified Forest State Park." My dad figured that we would probably not come that way again, and so we entered the park. Not only did it offer beautiful, scenic views, it also had an interesting interpretive center about the history of the gingko petrified forest, and an explanatory video called "Trees of Stone" about how the trees were petrifid.

-Eating in General

Some of the culinary highlights of my vacation were: eating ice cream at Yellowstone (I particularly enjoyed the raspberry flavor); eating ice cream at the Big Dipper ice cream parlor in Missoula; eating delicious pizza and "pesto lodgepoles" in Bozeman; and finally, eating at The Noodle Boat Thai restaurant in Issaquah before we finally drove back home.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this epic description. I hope that, with all the dividing, uniting, low points and high points of any extended trip in a car, I have painted an accurate picture of my Great American Road Trip.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Summary Outline of Traveling-Wisconsin, New York, and Washington DC

Honestly, I didn't feel up to writing a full-length essay at 9:13 Eastern Standard Time at night, so I decided to make an informal outline--to prepare for a future essay--instead. Prewriting, right?

1. Wisconsin
a. Saw (driving by) Dairyland Greyhound Racetrack. I have never seen a
dog track. I'm not entirely sure these are humane, so I just wanted to
clarify that I'm not endorsing dog racing! I also saw the Keno Drive-in Theater--I've never seen a drive-in theater before, either.
b. I presented using a Promethean Activboard to teachers from the Kenosha Unified School District at Mahone Middle School in Kenosha. I'd like to thank the incredibly hard-working Mary Salani (KUSD) and the endlessly resourceful Dagmar Ladle (Promethean) for their help in making the keynote, and the following breakout session, a success. I presented on "A Kid's Eye View of an Activclassroom" and "Activideas for Activstudents," the latter about differentiating teaching in a gifted classroom.
c. My first brush with wild Wisconsin weather! There was a tornado in Kenosha; it missed us by a few miles (thankfully) but we saw wild winds and torrential rains--well, that was, before we got evacuated from our hotel rooms to the hallway. It was the first time I had seen a black-greenish sky, and it was truly the definition of ominous.

2. New York
a. We flew into LaGuardia and took the bus (hurrah public transportation) and the subway to our hotel.
b. I appeared on Fox News and Friends. I was part of the "Pint-Sized Prodigy Pundit Pit." The other "pundits" were Jonathan Krohn, who shouted and gesticulated wildly during the whole of the event, and the far less paroxysmal Moshe Kai Cavalin, an eleven-year-old college graduate.

3. Washington D.C.
a. We saw quite a few museums. My favorite by far was the Newseum, a museum about news--and a very new museum as well! I believe the museum was around for a while, but that it moved to a new building in DC quite recently. It features huge glass elevators, newspapers delivered daily to the entrance area, and many interesting exhibits about journalism including an excellent "4D" video.
b. We also saw the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History. I most enjoyed an exhibit called "The Secret Life of Ants." To roughly quote one of the information tablets--"There have been million of ant deaths in turf wars in the suburbs of San Diego." It really makes looking at ants different! However, we did visit DC in high tourist season and as a result the museum was crowded and stuffy.
c. NECC! NECC! The very reason for my visit! The National Educational Computing Conference, or NECC as it's commonly called, is an annual conference taking place in locations across the country (it will be in Denver in 2010). I presented for Promethean, the renowned interactive whiteboard company. I spoke about using the Activboard in the classroom to excite kids. My audience included teachers, technology coordinators, and administrators from all corners of the globe. I really enjoyed working with the enthusiastic people at Promethean. GO BIG ORANGE!

From DC!

Hello everyone! I am currently in Washington DC (but I will be heading to Yellowstone soon.) I appeared on a TV talk show, "Let's Talk Live." Below is the video--I pasted in the embed code and I hope it works.