Archive for the 'General' Category

Microsoft Offers Deals to College Students

September 20th, 2009 | Category: General, Higher Education

Click here to find out about the $29.99 deal on Windows 7

Click the picture for the $29.99 deal on Windows 7

College students can get Windows 7 Home Premium for only $29.99 by going here.  The Office Ultimate Steal is also still available for students at $59.95 for Office Ultimate 2007.

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Technology Saves Lives

September 18th, 2009 | Category: Academic Skills, General, Technology

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

I like old cars and I hate to see an irreplaceable ‘59 Chevy destroyed.  It does illustrate what may seem counter-intuitive to some, though.  Crumple zones make cars safe.  Good, solid, stiff metal simply transfers the impact to the passenger compartment.

As you may have learned in high school physics, the time of a collision is very import to the force of the impact.  Intelligent engineering makes cars much safer with crumple zones and airbags which ’slow down’ the negative acceleration. Crumple zones are explained here. The money quote from that article is this:

Cutting the deceleration in half cuts the force in half. Therefore, changing the deceleration time from .2 seconds to .8 seconds will result in a 75 percent reduction in total force.

I have been hectoring my kids about this for years. There is a good physics discussion here.  If you read and truly understand the equation, you will never ride a motorcycle again.

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Remembering 9/11

September 11th, 2009 | Category: General, Technical Education Awareness

There is a great guest column in the Waco Trib today written by one of our Automotive students who was working at the Pentagon on 9/11.  Let’s all pause and remember on this day.

BTW - A lot of people would find it hard to understand why a retired Colonel would want to study Automotive Technology.  I don’t.  There are a lot of intangible rewards in working with your hands.  Also, it’s something he has always wanted to do!

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Time to Catch Up

May 23rd, 2009 | Category: General

It has been busy and I have been remiss in blogging. Stay tuned.

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Chinese Technical Educators Come to Texas

April 17th, 2009 | Category: General, Higher Education, Technical Education Awareness


We had a delightful visit this week from a group of vice presidents from Chinese technical colleges. In the picture above (from left to right): our translator from George Mason University, Hua Jian of Wuxi Institute of Technology, Elton Stuckly - President of TSTC Waco, Dr. Zhang Huibo of Ningbo Polytechnic, and Tian Nai Lin of Chengde Petroleum College.

Our guests were brought to us by Dr. Al Pollard of McClennan Community College. They were keenly interested in all things technical and asked excellent and insightful questions. They also took a lot of pictures and video.


Our tour included an engines class in our Toyota lab. TSTC Waco was recently given an award by Toyota as one of the top programs in the country.


Jerry Davis of Instrumentation, Computerized Controls, and Robotics explains how the Delta V HMI (Human Machine Interface) controls the actions of TSTC’s state of the art digital process control trainer. The trainer was built by TSTC instructors with generous donations from our industry partners.


Case Jones and his students demonstrate the importance of motion capture to gaming and simulation design to our vistors.


Our guests enjoyed using the games written by our Game Programming students. We are proud of the fact that our students wrote the gaming engine.


As you can see, the game is a lot of fun!


Student projects in the High Performance Computing lab. After learning the principles on these, they move up to the real thing.

We visited a lot of other areas of campus, including Industrial Systems, Welding, Laser/Electro-optics, and Mechanical Engineering. Our visitors also had the opportunity to eat the meal prepared by our Culinary Arts students.

It was a great day and it is always fascinating to meet people from a different part of the world - especially if they are in the same business.

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The Secret to Raising Smart Kids

March 27th, 2009 | Category: General, Research

… Is to not tell them that they are smart, according to a study written up in Scientific American. Here is a nice counterpoint to the book by Charles Murray that I reviewed earlier:

Many people assume that superior intelligence or ability is a key to success. But more than three decades of research shows that an overemphasis on intellect or talent-and the implication that such traits are innate and fixed-leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unmotivated to learn.

The point is less that intelligence is unimportant, than the idea that over-reliance on intelligence and innate ability tends to demotivate. Hard work DOES make a difference. Read the whole thing.

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Election Day Philosophical Fun

November 04th, 2008 | Category: General

OK. This is completely unrelated, but after this long election season we all need a laugh. I’d like to dedicate this post to my Philosophy prof at Howard Payne University. Dr. Wallace Roark.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

You need to have REALLY liked the subject to enjoy the video. If you didn’t then just celebrate it as the end of the campaign commercial season.


Zoundry Raven on Linux - The Proof

October 08th, 2008 | Category: Geek Stuff, General

I now have the Zoundry Raven blog editor running on the Ubuntu 8.04. laptop. I realize that almost no one cares, but I enjoyed it enough to mention it anyway.

I pretty much followed the directions here, but it didn’t work until I updated Wine to 1.1.5. I still like Zoundry Raven by the way. If you blog and haven’t tried it, go here.


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Blog Technical Note - Zoundry Raven

October 06th, 2008 | Category: Geek Stuff, General

Web-based editors all have irritating limitations and desktop applications still have advantages. I have recently installed Zoundry Raven after a little research and I like it quite a lot. It is only available for Windows, but there apparently is a way to make it work in Linux under Wine.

If you have a blog, give it a Zoundry a look.

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Site Link Note

October 03rd, 2008 | Category: General, Instructional Technology

The FSC/MEC Blog Class Fall 08 has given me a link on the blogroll (FSC apparently stands for Fitchburg State College).  It took a few moments of digging to find a link to the Merrimack Education Center.  My best wishes to the educators learning about using blogs as teaching tools!

Since the blog seems to be ad hoc, I won’t be adding it to my blogroll, but I did want to acknowledge the link.  I also wanted to note what a wonderful and ‘organic’ thing the Internet is.  You never know where the connections will happen next.

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Model T Technology after 100 Years

September 29th, 2008 | Category: General, Technology

1908 Ford Model T ad from Oct. 1, 1908 Life magazine

1908 Ford Model T ad from Oct. 1, 1908 Life magazine

The Ford Model T is 100 years old.  Popular Mechanics has an interesting piece on the top ten tech innovations included in the car.  You may be surprised.  I certainly didn’t know that the flivver “pioneered the use of a removable cylinder head, and cylinders that were cast integrally with the engine block.”

If you’re into automotive tech or just technology in general, I think that you will find it interesting.  Too many things about the 1908 models are still very familiar in 2008.  The shift in the energy market is about to change that for good.

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Hurricane Ike Damage!

September 13th, 2008 | Category: General

Several pieces of corrugated steel came loose on the north side of my storage shed.  Although the winds are constant, the gusts are only about 30-40 miles per hour.  I discovered when I climbed the ladder that the top plate of the wall was rotten from moisture.  Ike has calmed down considerably, but still found a weakness of which I was not aware.  The storm also had our power off for a couple of hours.

The roof is tacked back down and the power is back on (I’m blogging!).  I have some rebuilding to do when the rain stops, though.  Our prayers and best wishes go out to those who were closer to the coast and suffered the full force of the storm.

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Off to Amarillo

July 19th, 2008 | Category: Environmental Tech, General

I am in Amarillo for a family gathering.  My daughter and I had planned to attend a night time hike at Palo Duro Canyon State Park last night, but it was canceled due to heavy rain.  Tonight we will return to the canyon to see a show in the ampitheater there.  We hope that will not be rained out.

Palo Duro is the second largest canyon in the U.S., although I believe it is a pretty distant second.  It is still a beautiful and awe-inspiring place:

Palo Duro Canyon

One thought that I had as we drove here (420 miles) that is related to T. Boone Pickens’ plan to add more wind turbines to west Texas - There is still PLENTY of room and wind!

Related to that, the Texas Public Utility Commission has voted to build nearly $5 billion worth of transmission lines from west Texas to urban areas in the east of the state.  The plan will increase capacity from the current 5000 MW to 18,000 MW.  This is half of what was requested, but Pickens’ 4000 MW farm should have it made.


If you want to see more of the canyon, you can view this video I found on YouTube.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

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10 Days???

July 10th, 2008 | Category: General

I know - I have never been that long without a blog post.  I will be starting again soon.


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Just for Fun!

June 19th, 2008 | Category: General, Technology

My daughter ran across this at a recent conference. I remember the commercial from 2000 Superbowl. See if it doesn’t remind you of your job.

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Great stuff from the dawn of computerized graphics for TV commercials. It was even more amazing at the time.

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June 14th, 2008 | Category: Environmental Tech, General

My daughter “The Escribitionist” has a great post at her blog on companies that hide ‘bad environmental behavior’ behind a green front created by ads and PR.

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A Competitor to the Flip Ultra

June 04th, 2008 | Category: Geek Stuff, General, Technology

Popular Mechanics reviews the Creative Vado pocket video camera.

I still love my Flip Ultra.

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U-505: Childhood Memories vs. Today

May 17th, 2008 | Category: General, Technology

While we were in Chicago visiting the Museum of Science and Industry, we stopped in on the U-505 exhibit. The U-505 is the German submarine captured by the U.S. Navy in 1944 (Wikipedia article here). It has been at the museum since 1956. We lived in the Chicago area when I was in grade school. I remember visiting U-505. It was outside and was already deteriorating to some extent in the early 1970’s. Now it has been restored and is kept in a covered and climate controlled room below ground level. The video below shows the sub and some of its artifacts. Inside photography was again banned. The tour is very worthwhile. The sub seemed cramped when I was an elementary kid. Looking at it as a rotund adult, I can hardly imagine 59 men living in these quarters for up to 90 days.

Looking at it from a technical perspective, the submarine is an amazing technological achievement. It is hard for someone today to imagine it being designed and built without computer aided design or CNC machine tools (which I suppose is why people who can’t imagine building large structures without diesel fuel look to UFOs to explain the pyramids!). War is a fight for national survival and often leads to incredible technical achievements. That doesn’t make it a good thing, but the accomplishments can still be appreciated.

You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video

There are a lot of great tools available at the museum and online to help students understand the science and technology both of the submarine and of the ships and planes which hunted it.

UPDATE:  I found some interior shots of the submarine as well as exterior shots from the outdoor days here.

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Technical Students - Social Concerns

Technical college students can be just as involved, or more, in social and charitable concerns as students pursuing arts and philosophy degrees. Service learning is an important part of any college experience. Here is a video of Texas State Technical College Waco Phi Theta Kappa students and advisers. They were sponsoring Pangea Day here on campus.

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The Alpha Omega Omega chapter of Phi Theta Kappa at TSTC Waco has been a very busy and involved group for several years. If you link to their information on the Phi Theta Kappa website (HERE), you will see that the chapter is the recipient of many awards.

The Pangea Day for Waco was also mentioned in local media (HERE).


Higher Ed: The Next Market Bubble

I agree with everything in this article from Inside Higher Ed. It is very much worth reading the whole thing. We are going to need a completely new way for funding and organizing post-secondary education in this country. Our system of technical colleges is already moving in the direction of greater efficiency in equipping students with truly marketable skills. This society can no longer afford the ‘college experience’ as it currently exists for these reasons:

  1. It does not serve the students
  2. It does not meet the needs of the economy
  3. It wastes huge amounts of taxpayer money
  4. It leaves higher ed customers under a heavy load of debt

Right now, public post-secondary technical education already represents an exceptional deal. When you remember that five of the top first year earnings degrees were the AAS variety (see here), you realize that ROI is much better from a technical college degree.

Read the article. Like all bubbles, this one will leave winners and losers when it pops.

UPDATE: I can’t agree with everything I read in this post. Connecting career choice solely with IQ is ridiculous. I’ve known too many Ph.D types that weren’t very smart, and a lot of technicians that were brilliant. I think it has more to do with choice than IQ.

I do agree with this bit, though:

Many go to University who ought to have learned their career skills in high school — or at least in junior college. It is not necessary for all the citizens of a republic to have gone to university and learned French Narrative Theory. One need not know know anything at all about Foucault or Deconstruction to be a good citizen, vote in elections, pay taxes; and indeed I put it to you that being without debt is probably preferable to knowing French Narrative Theory.

Don’t just sit there - make a comment!

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TSTC Tornado* Cleans Up

May 04th, 2008 | Category: General, Technical Education Awareness

The TSTC Waco State SkillsUSA Medal Winners

I am compelled to brag on TSTC Waco’s SkillsUSA team. Our group at the state Skills competition accomplished the following:

40 gold medals 25 silver medals and 14 bronze medals out of 84 contests. From the 40 gold medalists, 28 students qualified for nationals.

The whole story and a complete list of TSTC Waco winners can be found here.

I hope to be bragging again after the Nationals in Kansas City. We’ve had to scramble to find the money to send such a large group.

*The Tornado is the TSTC Waco mascot. If you will look here, you will find out that we do have a sense of irony.


Here is the lil’ fella. I don’t think he has a name.

TSTC Waco Mascot

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Thoughts on Digital Natives

April 12th, 2008 | Category: General, Technology

My post on Generation Yes had me thinking about the term, ‘digital natives.’ I have been to a number of conferences that focused on the emergence of ‘digital natives’ in our schools. I was told that my students born after the invention of the PC and Internet view them as ‘appliances like a refrigerator or microwave oven.’ We elderly types are ‘digital immigrants’ and are struggling like our Ellis Island ancestors to learn the language and adapt to the modern society we have moved into since leaving the old world.

There is a great deal of truth in this latest version of “There are only two kinds of people in the world …” Like all binary categorizations of humanity it is also the gross oversimplification of a complex reality. We shouldn’t forget that immigrants often succeed brilliantly in new lands whereas natives frequently take their birthright for granted. It is hard to really appreciate something that you have never lived without. I can’t forget the history and civics teacher at my high school who was an émigré from Poland. He appreciated freedom and was a far more passionate patriot than the indigenous teachers and students. Consequently, he could recite the Constitution and understood the inner workings of our government.

That is my essential point: Growing up in close familiarity with a political or technological reality simply means that you are used to having it around. It does not mean that you appreciate it or are even particularly adept at navigating within it. Refrigerators are considerably easier to operate than computers. They generally only require that we plug them in. I have had many ‘digital native’ students come to me knowing how to easily navigate social networks while being incapable of refining an Internet search enough to find useful information.

To conclude, we need to think seriously about the fact that our students regard pervasive networks of useful technology as normal. We should consider all of the ways this might impact education and student development. We must consider how we will provide easy access to information and services 24/7, which is what they have come to expect. We should not in any case assume that they really know how to use that technology to the best advantage.


Does He Hate His Job That Much?

April 09th, 2008 | Category: General

My older daughter, blogging as The Escribitionist, has posted an article on one of our computer networking teachers at TSTC Waco. He has an electrical engineering degree from Texas A&M as well as some sort of death wish. He seems to really enjoy activities like motorcycle racing, sky diving, and hockey.

Blogging is much safer!

UPDATE: Yes - she is a much better writer than I am.


Woolly Thinking and Education

In Terry Gilliam’s 1981 geek fest movie, Time Bandits, the megalomaniacal character named Evil rhapsodized about his plans for the world after he gained power. He finished his monologue by announcing that he would create a “rushing wind which will cover the face of the earth and wipe clean the scourge of woolly thinking once and for all.” Although the movie ends with Evil being defeated, I confess that I also desire for that wind to blow a certain kind of woolly thinking away forever.

I refer to the epidemic of woolly thinking among American adults about the priorities of young people. Adults who should know better believe that high school students are “having the best time of their lives” and should be allowed to have fun. After all, this is their last chance for amusement before the hard work in college begins, followed by “the real world.” Opposing this woolly thinking is the political and educational establishment’s campaign to “make the senior year meaningful again.”

Although actually using the ultimate high school year to learn is a worthy goal, the schools are not culpable for this faulty logic. It is a cultural malady caused by affluence, immature parents trying to vicariously relive their youths through their children, and an inadequate understanding of simple economics. Adults know, or should know, that one can never fully reclaim a wasted year. Every moment of time is precious, especially the prime years for learning and growing. Students should be focused on building a great future. Instead, they come out of our high schools academically unprepared and clueless about the future. If the wind blows them toward college, they idle along in general studies or psychology programs, hoping to avoid any really difficult math.

When my younger daughter was a high school sophomore, she decided to take enough dual credit courses to graduate a year early. Respected adults were concerned that she was throwing away all of the wonderful experiences of her senior year. It was “the best time of her life” and she would be missing it to get some early college credit. What a waste! She did graduate early and will be a junior at the University of North Texas when most of her peers are just beginning their remedial classes at the local community college. What was more valuable in the long run – a second junior/senior prom or a two-year head start on a college education? How many of us now look back on the senior year in high school as “the best time of our lives?” Is it possible that parents are trying to buy a second chance at that experience through their children?

The lack of economic understanding exhibited by this attitude is staggering in the calamitous effect it has on both our children and the economy of the country. Marketable skills drive the ability of any individual to make a living – not a degree alone. Many affluent parents seem to think that as long as their children get a four-year degree from a well-known university that a good job is automatic. They might be shocked to see young people with those bachelor’s degrees coming to a two-year technical school to get marketable skills, but I have seen it many times. Young people with no salable talents wind up as overeducated baristas who are struggling to pay enormous student loans.

Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” We would blush to quote something so corny to our teenagers these days. They wouldn’t know what overalls were, anyway. But something like that, more modern and relevant, needs to be heard. A few people will get lucky and prosper by accident. For the rest of us, opportunity requires work and work creates opportunity. Everything else is just playing the lotto - and if counting on winning the lotto doesn’t seem like woolly thinking, that cleansing wind needs to blow your direction.

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Non-Traditional CTE Students & Equity

March 31st, 2008 | Category: General, Non-Traditional

I arrived in Galveston yesterday to attend a conference on “Closing the Gaps for Students Pursuing High Skilled Non-Traditional Occupations.” I’ve blogged a couple of times before (here and here) about this subject. Actually, I whined more than blogged because I must admit that I don’t know how to attract more women into welding and more men into dental assisting. I am here trying to fix that.

The trainer, Mimi Lufkin, is with the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity. So far it has been pretty informative. Of course I came in with a base of complete ignorance and nowhere to go but up!

UPDATE: Too see what Mimi does when she is not doing her work as Executive Director of NAPE - check out this link.  Yes - that is really her.

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