Friday, April 27, 2007
Happy Birthday WTCS
Just got back from a celebration at the kids school. This year was the 75th anniversary of the White Township Consolidated School. It's called the "Consolidated" school because prior to 1931 there were seven one room school houses scattered all through White Township.
Students from the school were divided into groups and each group worked on a presentation about the differences in education from 1931 to 2006/7.
One group talked about changes in how math was taught. Another group put on a "what if" play about a bunch of students who go on a "field trip" (think Magic School bus) to one of the one room schools. Still another just showed a chronology of all the advances in science since then.
#posted by Rob Roschewsk @ 9:08 PM
The new home for all things PABUT!!
If you're reading you'll notice I'm using a different ISP for hosting this blog. I registered the domain pabut.org ... and here it is!
Update all your bookmarks and RSS readers.
#posted by Rob Roschewsk @ 9:03 PM
Happy First Birthday SaveTheInternet!
UPDATE: Today Ed Whitacre announced his retirement effective June 3rd.
#posted by Rob Roschewsk @ 8:11 AM
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
How did we lose our Greatness?
I'm sorry I wasn't paying attention, or maybe I just wasn't old enough to realize it happened, but can someone tell me when the United States of America lost it's greatness?? No point dwelling on when can someone explain how??
This would be the same United States of America that:
- Defeated the British in a revolutionary war, a war in which they were out gunned and out manned.
- managed to hold itself together through a bloody civil war and come out stronger
- Developed and used one of the most powerful weapons ever conceived (OK, OK, not a moral high point but it still was a technological marvel at the time ... just work with me here)
- Sent 2 men to walk on the surface of the moon in 1969 .... a time when there was no Internet, cell phones, satellite TV, ipods, DVRs. Computers took up large rooms and didn't have the processing power of my wrist watch.
Now it seems ... collectively we couldn’t solve a crossword puzzle.
We are faced with a global climate crisis coupled with an impending energy crisis. Yet it seems the people that need to be interested aren't nor do they even seem capable of handling the job. Compared to some of the technological challenges from the past we have VASTLY superior technical resources compared to when we set foot on the moon and compared to that the climate-energy problem looks like a walk in the park.
I'm a big believer in economics (and greed). The Manhattan Project surely made a bunch of Military contractors rich ... and Executives in the Aerospace industry were lighting cigars with $100 bills during the space race. There is plenty of money to be made with GREEN products and alternative fuels. There are lots of independent entrepreneurs trying ... and making some money ... but you will never see any traction till our Chief Executive sets and audacious goal.
A suggested goal:
In 10 years, prohibit the sale or import of any petroleum fueled land
transportation. This prohibition shall include all passenger cars, buses,
trucks, rail locomotives, inland waterway vessels. Air transportation and ocean
going vessels are exempt.
It has all the makings of a good goal, it’s measured, time bound, specific and I feel, attainable.
Lets see if there is anyone with the guts to do it.
#posted by Rob Roschewsk @ 8:11 PM
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
HOWTO: JPEG to ASCII ART
I Was playing around with converting pictures of the kids to ASCII art ... you know the kind of pictures we used to make back in the stone age when all we had were text printers ....
Sorry, but you'll need to use Linux :)
First use djpeg to decode the jpeg to ppm format image file .... then use ppmtopgm, then pgmtopbm and finally pbmtoascii. pbmtoascii takes a size parameter of -1x2 or -2x4 meaning to map the character to a 1x2 or 2x4 pixel box. Obviously 1x2 gives better resolution but bigger pictures. This can all be accomplished with the single line:
/usr/bin/djpeg file.jpg | /usr/bin/ppmtopgm | /usr/bin/pgmtopbm | /usr/bin/pbmtoascii -2x4 > file.txt
Odds are the file will be huge ... start with a small file .... just a couple hundred pixels square ... a 400 X 600 pixel image will create a text file 200 columns by 150 lines long
Once you have your text file you may find you need to split it vertically to print. Use the "cut" comand to split into two files:
cat file.txt | cut -b-100 > file-left.txt
cat file.txt | cut -b101- > file-right.txt
this will create two files, each 100 columns wide ... you could split it as many times as you want, just change the rang on the "b" parameter, ( i.e. -b-66, -b67-133, -b-200 )
Then print the files on your favorite printer and tape the pages together.
Here is my avatar in ascii art format.
#posted by Rob Roschewsk @ 10:00 PM
Monday, April 23, 2007
I went to a school board meeting this evening .... the school administrator was put on the spot and asked a question that required a numeric answer. The answer could have been an integer less than ten and it would have been acceptable. However the answer was "About two."
In past experience, I've had:
about a half tank of gas
about a cup of milk
about a dozen apples
about 100 nails
about 10 feet of rope
I've never had about two of anything .... it's such a small number it never warranted "about."
Was it about two because there was really only one and you didn't want to admit it .... or was it even less than one! Was it three?? How could you not keep track of three things?
The moral to this story: want to loose credibility, give a non-definitive answer.
#posted by Rob Roschewsk @ 11:52 PM
Saturday, April 21, 2007
#posted by Rob Roschewsk @ 4:10 PM
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Who can you trust?
I'm almost a month behind on my podcasts so you're not going to be getting any scoops from me. I was listening to NPRs Talk of the Nation / Science Friday from March 16th, the discussion was about the HPV Vaccine Gardsil and the rush in some states to make vaccination of all middle and high school girls mandatory. Most notably the executive order by Gov. Rick Perry in Texas.
Don't get this wrong, Gardasil has some fantastic science behind it and it shows great promise at protecting against the human papillomavirus which seems to be the main cause of cervical cancer. It's just I think I've lost any and all hope that our elected representatives do ANYTHING solely for the good of the people. With Rick Perry as the Governor of Texas, who took over from George W. Bush when he was elected President, it's guilt by association and I can't help thinking the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Why would Rick Perry want to make this vaccination mandatory? Is he truly concerned about young women's health? Did he lose a loved one to cervical cancer?? or .... Is he in the pocket of Merck ??? Does he have a convincing staffer who is in the pocket of Merck? Is he buddies with Merck's CEO???
Right now Merck is the only manufacturer of an HPV vaccine. GSK is hot on the trail with it's own vaccine but if Merck can make Gardasil mandatory before GSK can come to market with their they effectively shut them out of the market. So you can see the pressure to get Gardasil mandatory in as many states as possible.
It troubles me to think like this. I hate not being able to trust the people that run our government or large corporations but they haven't given us much to go on. I can't help but always thinking "What's in it for them?" Hell, even the former pastor of my church has been indicted for embezzling close to a million dollars! I have nothing left to GIVE!!
I yearn for a true public servant.
#posted by Rob Roschewsk @ 7:05 PM
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Why did he do that?
We've been trying to down play (conceal) the whole VA Tech shooting this week. Things like this in the news tend to upset Nick a great deal. This is an unusual action from me considering how open we are with the kids and how we want them to be aware of the world around them. Nick is very sensitive and compassionate and he takes a lot of things too seriously. What makes this even weirder is Nick has said he wants to go to VA Tech when he grows up. I have no idea why, I'm sure it's a great school, but it's likely because he saw their basketball team win once ... or he likes their mascot.
As was bound to happen Nick came into the room while Lisa and I had CNN on .. I guess we weren't paying attention but he sat down and started to soak it in. At one point he asked "Why did he do that?" Without thinking too much I quipped "He was sick in the head." Nick took that literally and asked "Was he going to die?? Did he have a brain tumor?" I then had to try to explain in nine year old terms how we didn't know why he did what he did and we'll never know. How do you tell a kid that sometimes people do completely irrational things for no reason and usually without warning?
If he's going to stress about something I'd rather it be whether or not he's going to get a Wii for his birthday.
#posted by Rob Roschewsk @ 9:27 PM
Kids take our phrases so literally, like "sick in the head" -- can't be too careful! :-)
We spent a whole evening playing with a friend's Wii recently (ok, does that sound REALLY weird, or what?), and it's got to be one of the best-designed entertainment devices I've ever seen. I vote for that too.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
I hate conference calls
#posted by Rob Roschewsk @ 9:13 PM
Monday, April 16, 2007
Always wear your seatbelt!!!
Geez... for such a bright man that was pretty dumb!! The Governor of New Jersey, Jon Corzine was in a auto accident on the Garden State Parkway ... ironically on his way to a meeting between Don Imus and the Rutgers Ladies Basketball team. The Governor was pretty banged up, broken ribs, head lacerations, broken leg all likely because he wasn't wearing his seat belt ... in the font seat of the car no less. I'm not going to get into the fact that NJ has mandatory seat belt laws and that the Governor broke that law .... but I don't think he should get off scott free. I wish the Governor a speedy and full recovery ... and when he gets back I think he should do a few Public Service Announcements on why wearing a seat belt is important.
#posted by Rob Roschewsk @ 6:24 PM
Sunday, April 15, 2007
School Budget Woes ….
It’s that time of year again …. Daffodils are in bloom, the fruit trees have been pruned, and another school budget vote is looming on April 17th.
Some of you may know: Lisa and I were very involved with getting the word out about the vote last year. This year … not so much …. as a matter of fact … not at all.
I guess it was the overwhelming feeling of not really accomplishing anything last year. We were very successful and getting the budget passed … but it seemed like a hollow victory.
For those that don’t know the school budget process in New Jersey:
The local school board constructs the budget and submits it to a vote by the residents of the township. First off, in how many other facets of government do you get to vote on a component of your tax dollars??? My feeling is if the population at large can vote on my child’s education … I should be able to vote on the Pentagon’s budget.
Second, the budget the school board submits is constrained by a mandatory state cap which is tied to the consumer price index. So even if the school board wanted to submit a larger budget … say to increase some activities … they couldn’t. Even if the voters were in favor of it. To compound maters even further, there are expenses beyond the control of the administration that can and have grown well beyond the typical State imposed 4% cap; for example, teachers salaries (they’re unionized don’t forget), energy cost (have been sky rocketing), and more special education children moving into the district. More times than not other line items are cut (classroom supplies, text books, art shows, and spring plays) to fit these items in under the cap.
Third, if the budget fails to pass the issue is sent to the township committee (the local governing body) where they must vote on it. Some years the committee will make a “token cut” to appease the voters, but more than likely since the budget is so lean to start with it is simply approved after a thorough audit.
The budget victory last year which we worked so hard for served only to lighten the work load of the school board and the township committee.
So, I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter how hard I work, and how many budgets get passed I’m not improving the quality of my children’s education at all. I'd much rather spend the time meeting with their teachers or helping them with their homework.
Some things need to change, here are my suggestions:
School budgets should be FREE from any CAPS and they should not be voted on by the residents of the township. The municipal government should be responsible for funding the school budget in concert with the school board. The school board should create the budget and submit it to the municipal government for approval. The municipal government should give it thumbs up or down based on the needs of the school district and the fiscal health of the township. If the tax payers are not happy with how their tax dollars are being spent they can express it at the ballot box when the members of the municipal government come up for election. Since the school budget is the largest component of local tax revenue having a separate school budget vote serves to shield the local government from any fiscal responsibility thereby providing political cover.
The election for school board should be held at the same time as the general election in November. Having an “off-cycle” election makes it vulnerable to a non-representative result due to poor voter turn out. The cost for the off cycle election is also borne by the school district.
This would all need to be changed at the State level. If you happen to have any friends in the State legislature give them a call and have them read this.
If nothing changes the state of education in New Jersey will be will never improve.
#posted by Rob Roschewsk @ 3:39 PM
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Stick a fork in him ... he's done.
#posted by Rob Roschewsk @ 8:33 PM
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Breaking News: The Duke Rape Case
This is a hard one. Probably like a lot of people when I first heard about this incident when it originally happened my initial reaction was .... "dam'd pompous jocks should rot in prison." I know, I know ... what happened to innocent till proven guilty? Be honest wasn't that your first thought too? Doesn't everybody convict and execute people on the basis of the first news report they hear.
Then as the case started to unfold it started looking like these guys didn't do what they were accused of. This sucks on so many levels:
1- Their reputation has now been tarnished ... even if they are vindicated. It reminds me of the old parable: Go to a mountain top and throw a basket of feathers into the wind, then go back the next day and try to collect them all. How many did the wind blow to far and distant places never to be seen again?
2- The next woman that is really attacked is going to have her credibility unnecessarily scrutinized and in-turn re-victimized.
So the accuser and then the over zealous prosecutor not only harmed these three men ... but irreparable damage has been done to women all over. Nice work guys.
#posted by Rob Roschewsk @ 5:37 PM
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Book report: The Varieties of Scientific Experience by Carl Sagan
As if reaching out from the beyond ... Ann Druyan, Carl Sagan's long time partner has edited and released a compilation of his 1985 Gifford lectures. In it Dr. Sagan touches on God from a cosmic point of view, he wants to believe in God but the God of the Bible is just too small. Why would God be bothered with a little planet like earth when he has a whole universe, billions of light years in size, to tinker with. Why would man be made in Gods image?? Why would God need nostrils or a navel???
One of my favorite segments has been:
"And the extinction of the dinosaurs seems to have been caused by an immense collision by an asteroid or a cometary nucleus ... and had that not happened, maybe I would be ten feet tall with green scales and sharp pointy teeth, and you would be similarly tall and green and pointy-toothed. We would both likely consider ourselves extremely attractive. What handsome fellows we are."
The book is a really, really, easy read and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the cosmos, Carl Sagan, or how God can fit into our universe.
#posted by Rob Roschewsk @ 9:26 PM
Monday, April 09, 2007
30 Posts in 30 days !!!!
I'm tired of being the lazy blogger! I am going to commit to making at least one post per day for the next 30 days. My problem seems to be I compose these long drawn out rants in my mind but never find the time to put them down in bits. My new motto is: quantity not quality.
Happy Easter All! Made the pilgrimage to Staten Island (also known as "the rock") yesterday .... boy did traffic REALLY suck. At 2:30 in the afternoon traffic was backed up leading to the Outerbridge Crossing to almost the NJ Parkway. I figured 2:30 in the afternoon was off peak! Wow, was I surprised.
#posted by Rob Roschewsk @ 1:15 PM
I can relate. I have a friend who used to live out in the middle of Long Island. He later moved to Michigan, and we've been out to visit him for many weekends in the years since he moved out there. We actually find the commute to Michigan via plane to be more predictable and easier on our nerves than the drive to Long Island ever was!