27 April 2008

I Love the Whole World

I saw this commercial for Discovery channel on Friday. I loved it! Discovery is by far the most watched of our 20 available channels and the song is catchy, the meaning is great and seeing all the different shows represented is cool too. Enjoy.

26 April 2008

This Stuff is Relevant?!?

The title of this article jumped off the page at me and drew me in to read the whole thing. "Making Economics Relevant Again" from the NY Times is a great little article and I brought it in to share with my AP students. Since that class is pretty heavy on macro theory and principles, I think they don't get to see the real-world application of economics as much as my regular econ students do. "Rigor & Relevance" are big buzzwords in our district so this was right on. I gave it to them on Friday, so we'll see what they think of it on Monday. In the meantime, I thought I'd share it with you all! I think it is good that they redirect the media spotlight a little.
"They argue that the new research often consists of cute findings — which inevitably get covered in the press — about trivial subjects, like game shows, violent movies or sports gambling. Economics may be popular again, but there still is no one like a modern-day Milton Friedman or John Maynard Keynes."
I loved Freakonomics, but I do agree that its success opened the door for a raft of other "crazy correlation...or is it causation" type books. So it is good to see these economists getting some recognition for their research. It is just what is needed. Not just by those in poverty situations, but all of us sharing this planet. In a recent TIME cover article, "10 Ideas That Are Changing the World", the #1 item was Common Wealth. That section is written by Jeffrey Sachs and is definitely worth reading.

SmartyPig

I learned about this new banking website via a student paper. A girl in my first period class wrote her current event article about this 'SmartyPig' site. I had never heard of it and it sounded cool so I had to check it out. And it really went well with what we were discussing. We'd just finished looking at the vicious cycle of credit card debt, and how difficult it is to get out of it. It really is pretty cool, allowing you to set up a monthly deduction from your checking account as well as allowing other people to put money into your account. For people whose employer can't or won't split their direct deposit into two accounts, it's a great way to automatically put part of each paycheck directly into savings. (Pay yourself first, as they say!) SmartyPig's accounts are FDIC insured and earn 4.3%, which is better than any savings account at regular banks. On top of that, it is based in Iowa! You can check out their blog to hear of some unique uses of their accounts, like moms using them for allowances! I can't do it justice here, so just watch the short demo video.

23 April 2008

Eddie Izzard

I totally stumbled across this comedian, Eddie Izzard, while messing around on YouTube the other day and I've been enjoying his stand-up routines since. He's British, which just adds to his entertainment value, in my opinion. Here are a couple of my favorites so far, Salutes & Handshakes, Fruit (the pear bit is my fave), Pavlov's Cats, and this Death Star Canteen one that some creative individual has put to some fun stop-image LEGO animation.

21 April 2008

Show Me the Way

No, I'm not talking about the epic ballad by Styx. (although I do love that song, ever since high school youth group) What I'm referring to is the priceless confidence and assurance that you gain when you have to enter into a challenging situation or cross some new and uncharted terrain in your life and, by the grace of God, you have a person who you completely trust who has gone ahead of you and blazed a trail. Not necessarily for you to follow in their exact footsteps, but to show you that, one, the challenge can be overcome and, two, that if you find yourself in need of assistance at some point along the way, they will be there to assuage your fears and be your compass.
What in the heck am I talking about, you are probably wondering? Well, I was reading through student applications to be part of our mentoring program where upperclassmen are paired up with groups of freshmen to answer questions, be role models and ease their transition from middle school to high school. (All part of the 'small learning communities' movement.) I was checking GPA and attendance and reading their brief essay (about a paragraph or so) about why they felt they should be a mentor. I had gotten through about a dozen when I came across one that had completely filled the entire page with their essay...and small print too! I started reading it and was moved by the amount of praise this girl had for her older sister as she explained her own fears and worries as a freshmen. She shared how the older sister served as a critically important lighthouse, showing her the way as she grew into her new school. About halfway through the essay the girl's last name finally clicked with me and I realized that I had taught the older sister last semester and she was indeed a responsible, kind and sharp young woman who wasn't afraid to do her own thing. (Now I'm wondering if I should ask the younger one if she shared her essay with her sister) The younger sister's words instantly made me think about how important it was to me when I was a freshman in high school and I was infinitely fortunate to have an older brother who was a senior. Without him, I am sure I would not have done as well as I did, and it would've been a much less memorable experience. Even though it was at a much smaller high school, it was still vitally important and helpful to have an role model to show me the way.
Many heartfelt thanks.

20 April 2008

Dodgeball

I think I am getting known as the staff member who always says 'yes' when asked by students to supervise/chaperon/sponsor activities. Which I am actually OK with. I enjoy our students, they are fun to watch and rarely cause any problems. And I have said 'no' when I really can't do it (I think I did...once...maybe). So at the last minute I was asked to supervise a dodgeball tournament some of our students were hosting. The proceeds were going to charity and I didn't have anything going on Saturday morning, so why not!? It turned out to be a ton of fun. I got there ~8:30 and got the sound system and microphone working in the gym and then just hung out and watched the hilarity ensue. They had a great turn out, like 16 teams or something, including 1 girls team and 1 team from a rival high school. The team names, pre-game warm-ups, and uniforms were hilarious. And I was asked by one of my favorite students to fill in on his team since they were short a person. They waived the 18 year old age limit for me. :) We won one match and lost one match and I think I managed to leave without embarrassing myself or suffering serious injury (although I am a little sore this morning). It was a great time and I left before the championship match so I'll have to wait til tomorrow to see who took home the golden ball.

17 April 2008

Econ in the News

When I get the time to really read what's on the NY Times page, I am never left wanting for interesting articles. And I never have a problem finding some good stuff to bring in to class. It is by far my favorite paper. Here's a few that I enjoyed tonight:
  • "Workers Getting Fewer Hours, Deepening Downturn" - perfect example of the contractionary gap that we are talking about.
  • "Across Globe, Empty Bellies Bring Rising Anger" - Clearly shows the effect of biofuels rising popularity on the food supply, on top of rising oil prices and swelling world population.
  • "Wall Street Winners Get Billion-dollar Paydays" - A good summary of the 'ugly' swollen salaries made by hedge fund managers. Can anyone really earn $3.9 billion in one year?
  • "Maybe Money Does Buy Happiness After All" - This one is great. I enjoy it when we cover GDP, GDP per capita and what the goes unnoticed when we use GDP to measure a country's standard of living. I've read a little about trying to come up with a "Happiness Index" before; it's an interesting topic. Be sure to check out the graphic that goes with this article. Fun to look at. Benin is the second-lowest on the happiness scale, which should be interesting since I've got a student from there!

16 April 2008

Aloha!

Due to the incredibly great weather, today had been declared Hawaiian shirt day for the faculty and staff at my school. I'm always up for any reason to dress up or do a themed celebration, so you know that I was rockin' a sweeeet shirt with palm trees and hula girls this morning. Unfortunately (for them) the participation rate at school was dismally low. I think I saw around 10 people with the shirts. But they were a fun and cool 10 people. :) And the students LOVED the shirts. They got a big kick out of it. I can't believe how many kids told me they loved my shirt. And kids who normally don't say much, too. Plus, it was nice to wear something different for a change! I listened to a little IZ on the way home tonight to top it off.

Attack of the Crutches

The newest accessory at my school this semester seems to be crutches. They are the new black! (I love that saying.) It started during towards the end of basketball season and it just seems to have gotten out of control. We've got boys on crutches, girls on crutches, some using both crutches, some on two crutches and a boot, some using only one crutch. I've also seen a student walking down the hall, carrying their two crutches. I'm watching my step so I don't end up on a pair of them myself!

Parts of Speech

I was watching TV while eating dinner tonight (lovely thick pork chops on grill...gorgeous weather here) and I saw a sign on the show that said, "I'm so adjective. I verb noun." I'd never heard of that little mnemonic device before, but I found it pretty useful and a little funny too! English never was and is still not my strong point, so I'll take the help wherever I can get it!

13 April 2008

To Pass or Not to Pass

That is the question. With the end of the semester only a month away for the seniors, and a few of them with grades dangerously low, I found this article by Nicholas Kristof in the NY Times to be pretty timely. I completely understand the predicament he is describing. What is the benefit of failing a student who has had good attendance and worked hard? My class is only a semester long; am I going to be able to improve an African immigrant's reading and comprehension in that time? Will they be able to read an economic text that is heavy with financial/business vocabulary? In addition, my class is required for graduation, so if they do not pass, they will be looking at summer school in the best scenario, or returning for another semester in the fall or dropping out in the worst case. That's why when determining which students to work with and give the benefit when it comes to grading, I will do whatever I can to help those students that are putting in the effort. I'd rather pass a hard working student who is in class trying everyday instead of a capable student who only turns in half their work.
Oh, and I LOVE the picture at the top of the article. The contrast of the painting (in the Art Institute of Chicago) and the G-Unit sweatshirt is powerful.

12 April 2008

Smoking Ban Heads to Governor

The smoking ban was a hot topic during our Friday current events discussion. The statewide ban has passed the House and Senate and is heading to Gov. Culver for signing this week. It will require restaurants, bars, and businesses to be smoke-free starting on July 1. Several students felt very strongly that it was in infringement on their rights. We talked about that view and also compared it to the right of others to smoke-free air. We also looked at what the trend has been in NYC, California, Chicago, etc. Personally, I am VERY excited and happy to hear this news. I'm all for going out for a drink and not have to leave smelling like an ashtray.

Filling in Bubbles

I proctored the ACT test this morning for 5 hours as a way to pick up some extra money. It was fun to be on the other side of things. I got to be the person reading, word for word, from the booklet and telling the test takers, "Stop and place your pencils on your desks. Put your answer form inside the test booklet with your printed name facing up." It really is a long, intense morning for those kids. They were wiped out by the time we finished. As I was sitting there, watching them fill in their circles, I was thinking about when I took my ACT. Even though it was a long time ago, my memory of that day is crystal clear.
I remember getting up early and homebase cooking breakfast so I'd have plenty of 'brain food'. I took the test at IWCC in Clarinda, and it was in April or May of my junior year. The thing I remember the most is the feeling of release and relief upon walking out the doors after completing it. It was the first step toward being a senior and also sort of the first step towards picking a college. After the test I stopped at Howard's Sporting Goods in Shen and bought a hat that I had had my eye on for a while. It was a navy Arizona Wildcats hat. It was my first fitted hat, I think. I still have that hat, but I finally had to pass it on to caboose as it was about a size too small for my head (it must have gotten bigger with all the knowledge I've put in it!). After that a bunch of us met at Godfather's for pizza buffet, video games and air hockey. It was gorgeous weather and it was one of my favorite days of high school.

10 April 2008

Kid Activities!

This post is directed to the youngsters in Omaha. One of my favorite blogs, Marytree, has started a new page where they have 'Kidmade Challenges' where kids can do an activity and then send it in. I wish I was still at the Y, it would be perfect craft-time fun!

08 April 2008

End of the Madness

Another crazy tournament came to a close last night and I didn't even watch the final. I wasn't that excited about either of the teams (or any of the final four actually) so I skipped it. You can do like I did and check out this year's "One Shining Moment" on YouTube. There are some sick dunks on it this year. That Kansas one on the out of bounds play is ridiculous.
Anyways, caboose unseated me as reigning champion of the family pool this year. Congrats to him; he picked Kansas to win it all and came out the champ by quite a bit...
1 caboose
2 kt
3 homebase
4 me
5 stoppable
6 emily
7 the brig
8 NTW

06 April 2008

Cross-curricular Lesson!

I'm putting together a project that I am going to be finishing up the year with. My students are going to have to find a song that they think relates to economics. We've covered a lot of topics and there are a lot of things they could draw connections to. The lyrics can directly reference something we've talked about or the student can analyze the lyrics and provide their interpretation. Then on the last day, they'll have a chance to present their thoughts (which they will have summarized into a one page paper) and share their song with the class (if it is a clean version). I'm trying to come up with two or three examples of my own to go over when I explain the assignment with the classes. I've got a playlist of possibilities started but I would LOVE to hear whatever suggestions anyone's got!

Hat Trick!

In addition to the great weather on Friday, I had seen in the paper that Gateway Market was throwing a little celebration for their one year anniversary. They had live music, $2 wine & microbrews and, most importantly...free cupcakes! So a group of us went there and had a good time; the cupcakes were worth it! Later in the evening, during a game of darts (which I hadn't played in ~6 months) I threw my first ever hat trick. Three darts, three bulls-eyes. I had to look up the term for it. :) I was pretty ecstatic when it happened. It isn't that big of a deal for actual dart players, but for a hack like me, it's a big deal!

03 April 2008

Obama Hits the Lanes

I heard a mention of this yesterday and thought I needed to share this write-up & video of Barack stopping in to a bowling alley. I'm glad that I'm not the only one who seems to be getting a little tired of waiting for the Pennsylvania primary to get here. At least he's enjoying himself, I also like that he was cool with putting on the shoes and giving it a shot, even though actually bowling was not in the plans. A 37 is not too impressive, but the White House does have a bowling alley in the basement so he can brush up once he gets there. (Check out that wallpaper in the 1970's picture!!)

Ahern to Step Down

Bertie Ahern, in a surprise move, has announced that he will be stepping down after 11 years as Ireland's Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and as head of the Fianna Fail party. There is a big investigation into public corruption coming up that he states he is not involved with but that he did not want to have it be a big distraction and always be in the news if he was trying to lead the country. He's been a member of parliament for 31 years and played a sizable role in the peace process. Check out the full story here or here.

02 April 2008

April Fool's!

I am aware that my natural tendency to accept everything at face value and believe most things that are told to me can lead to me being a bit gullible. So on April Fool's Day, as I was getting dressed in the morning, I reminded myself what day it was and steeled my reserve to not fall for any student pranks. I lasted until the start of second period. A girl who is in the National Guard or Army Reserve or something can in for class and started telling me about how she had gotten a letter the day before updating her battalion's plans. They would now be shipping out for Iraq directly after completing their training over the summer. I immediately was eating up the whole story and was empathizing with her and asking her how she felt about it, blah, blah, blah. Then she drops the "April Fool's!" on me. Much laughter ensued and I just had to shake my head at myself. Maybe next year I'll do better.