Thanks Mike!

Thanks Mike!


Tech, MyRamblings, MyLife, Kids

by Maria on 28 Feb 2013 - 01:38  

I thought about waiting another couple of weeks before posting, so it wouldn't be so obvious that I have been seriously delinquent with posting, but heh, life happens. And lots of life has happened. For starters, my son was born last April. Insert requisite photo here:

Attach:bash.jpg Δ

So, for a while I chose sleep over blogging. So goes it.

Another life that happened is that my boss moved to Columbia University in NY. We decided not to follow him, so I have been slowly beginning the job hunt process. I'm nervous and excited. Looking forward to the new challenge. I've learned so much working for Mike. It has given me a sampling of all kinds of stuff, and allowed me to recognize what I am truly interested in, programming, while giving me a broad base of skills that complement coding.

Mike, thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to work in your lab. It has been a great adventure. I was given freedom to build what I thought was needed. A diverse and awesome team to work with. Guidance when it was needed. Fun and interesting projects to work on. I loved making movies for your talks. Creating movies that were a truly accurate representation of the lab experiments was challenging and intriguing. Working in neuroscience, I practiced the scientific method. As a system administrator, I gained awesome problem solving and troubleshooting skills. Working on projects while being responsible for the day to day running of the servers and being a consultant to others in the lab (and in the neuroscience community in general) taught me organizational skills and improved my communication. Not to mention the value of good documentation and testing, testing, testing. And, of course, a greater appreciation of soccer and jazz.

As this job ends, I have also decided to combine my tech writing and my blog writing more, instead of having a separate part of my website for "work", which often just ended up being "anything tech I ran into and found interesting or hard to figure out and wanted to document". I was reluctant to write tech stuff in my blog, because that is often a work in progress, and I was trying not to edit my blog entries (much), once they were written. But, heh, this is my blog, so I can make the rules, and I'd rather start using the blog for tech stuff as well as life ramblings so that I can take advantage of keywords and stuff. So, there you go, some blog entries are going to evolve over time as I learn.

And, for some inspiration:

To me, coding is writing stuff that makes computers come to life. In the Wizard of Oz the wizard is seen as a fraud, creating smoke and mirrors to hide that he is an ordinary man, but I like to think of it as being the ordinary person that is proud to be the wizard that by just writing "stuff" makes wondrous things happen.

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More Education


MyRamblings, Kids by maria on 16 Mar 2011 - 03:45  

Just watched a couple more TED Talks regarding education, and they wonderfully reinforce what I've been thinking about, and wrote about in yesterday's Blog Post. The first one is by Sugata Mitra, and he speaks about his "hole in the wall" experiments, where he shows that you can set a computer in front of a group of kids, who have never seen a computer before, and who don't know English, and they will teach themselves how to use it, and often start to teach themselves English as well. His website is and there is some interesting stuff there. Again, fuel kids curiosity, allow them to make mistakes, and they will learn. His most recent Ted Talk is pretty amusing, and he has some amazing stories of children teaching themselves.

The second TED Talk I watched was by Sir Ken Robinson. Actually, I watched two by him. He is a wonderfully entertaining speaker, and I recommend watching both talks. His first talk ties in very well with my post yesterday. He believes that we stifle creativity when we teach kids to always be correct. When we are very young, we are not afraid of being wrong. We say the darndest things. As we get older, we learn in school that different is often wrong, and that there is a single correct answer for all important questions. And, as wrong becomes more stigmatized, we become more afraid of being wrong, and less creative. The talk on creativity and the more recent TED Talk, Bring on the learning revolution! also criticize our current educational system for essentially educating for just a single sort of vocation, and a single sort of learning, and a single sort of individual. His idea is to have a less linear system, but I wish he had spoken a bit more about what that would look like. It did made me think about how I would like to change how progression in school works. I don't believe it is useful to have grades which are sorted by age. I would be very interested to see a school where children move to a new grade when they want to, and feel they are ready, and the teacher agrees. I wonder what that would look like? I would love to see a school try that. Anyone know of a school that has tried that? To facilitate that, I would make school more of a continuum, with a shorter break in the summer, so that there wasn't a specific time that was set aside for changing grades. In yet a different TED talk, Seth Priebatsch explains the power of games, and discusses how this might be used in education. Instead of having a traditional grading system, students could level up when they master a concept. Brilliant.

UPDATE: Check out the animated version of Sir Ken Robinson's Changing Education Paradigms. So well done.
Sir Ken Robinson

If you're not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original. ~Sir Ken Robinson

Okay, one more. This talk by Salman Kahn has a couple of innovations for education that are pretty brilliant. It combines the ideas of self-pace learning, kids learning together, and using technology to make education more human and personal to present a beautiful idea of what a classroom can look like. His great insite is to give kids videos of lectures so they can follow the lecture at their own pace, and then doing the homework in the classroom, so they can get personal help from the teacher, or another student who is already proficient in that area. I remember thinking how brilliant it was to have lectures on line when one of my math class professors started doing it. Not only could I then sleep in and miss the lecture, but I could pause and rewind my professor as I tried to parse what he was telling me. One thing that was very interesting about this talk, was some data he presented on how kids learn. Sometimes kids get stuck on a concept, and seem to be stagnating. If you let the kids continue to work on it, get help from other kids and/or the teacher, they will eventually figure it out. And once they do figure it out, they will then jump through more concepts at an much higher pace, giving a progression that looks like someone who is slow or a troubled learner at first, but then suddenly is performing like a gifted child, until they get stuck again. So in a traditional school, depending on what teacher they had what time, they may get labeled as brilliant or slow, and we all know what happens when kids receive labels...

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MyRamblings, Kids by maria on 15 Mar 2011 - 01:55  

I've been thinking quite a bit about education lately. I read a wonderful editorial about some high school students that designed and ran their own education for a semester. These high school students did some amazing things. They were using techniques that are presented very well by Diana Laufenberg in her TED Talk. What it comes down to is giving students the opportunity to use their voice and to fail. We are living in a world where information is everywhere. We do not need teachers to give students information. We need teachers to help students to filter the information that is everywhere, to teach kids to think critically, and fuel kids curiosity. We need teachers to guide them so that they learn how to ask questions, how to figure out what went wrong, and to learn that, despite what they are taught by standardized tests, in life there is no one right answer. The 3 ways to teach that she advocates are:

  • experiential learning
  • student voice
  • embracing failure

I think she is on to something.

Something else that I have been thinking about is the importance of networking and social interactions in general in the grown up world. Seems like we should be trying to teach kids about the importance of learning how to interact productively with others, especially people that are different from themselves. Some of this is learned by team sports, but short of that, nothing really. Being social is so important at this age, it seems like there should be ways to harness their interest in it to help them become more effective at communication and team work. Social interactions as usually practiced by teenagers if pretty much the opposite of what you want to learn to be effective in the adult world. When you sit down at a table to solve a problem as a group, you just can't tell by looking who at the table may have some key bit of knowledge or insight to share. It is so important to understand and believe that if you want to solve a problem as a group. Giving everyone a voice and listening to what everyone has to say is so key to effective problem solving. And knowing when to shut up. More teenagers need to learn that one. Probably more adults as well. Okay, I'll shut up now. But first, a gratuitous picture of my daughter, since this blog post seems to be lacking a visual.

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Health, Kids, myLife

by maria on 24.01.2010 - 14:21  

The bad news is that my daughter has another migraine. The good news is that I think we have discovered a major trigger. It appears she most often gets migraines when she doesn't get enough sleep. I've thought for years that it is very important for children to get plenty of sleep, and certainly this is the case for Tanika.

Here is a great link about children and sleep:

We have found that we need to put Tanika to bed at 9pm on school nights. She gets up around 6:30, so assuming it takes her 15 min. or so to go to sleep, she sleeps around 9 hours. This seems to be about right for her, as she usually gets up pretty easily on this schedule. I use to think that when she had a big assignment at school that she wasn't going to get finished in time, I should let her stay up to finish it. I'm rethinking this now. Since she is still in Middle school, I think it is probably better that she takes the hit on not having her assignment done, and gets her full sleep instead. And we teach her how to plan out her homework and not wait to the last minute, because school work is important, but school work is going to suffer without sleep, and sleep needs to take top priority, or else she literally suffers. While it is true that the migraines seem to occur when her sleep is seriously deprived (they seem to follow sleepovers most often), I think that even small losses in sleep are bad for her.

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myLife, Kids

by me again on 16.07.2008 - 01:43  

The year I was eleven was a big year for me and my brother. That was the year my grandmother died. The year we missed a couple of months of school. That was also the year my brother and I lived with friends in Rochester, NY for a month or two while our parents got settled in our new home in Steilacoom, WA. That was the year Mt. St. Helens blew. That was the year we moved across the country. Things were never the same after that year, not even remotely. The next ten years were the most difficult of my life. I had a lot of fun, but it was also the school of very hard knocks. So, now my daughter is eleven. And now I wonder, what should I do? She can't really learn from my mistakes, but maybe she can, a little. What do I tell her, what do I not tell her? Should I try to protect her as much as possible while I can? She has already had more knocks than I, at eleven. When is the best time to first encounter the real hard school of knocks? And how can we be best prepared (or prepare our kids)? a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h,i,j,k,l,m,n,o,p,q, Ahrrr!

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Tanika's poem for Ella


myLife, Kids

by maria on 07.04.2008 - 16:16  


I am the hot sun reflecting on a sparkling lake
I am a light bulb in a lone child's mind
I am close, yet so far away
I am the song you're sung to sleep with
I am the child of your dreams and worst nightmares
I am the black cat that loves to play
I am the loneliness of an only child
I am a rainbow, yet I am the moon
I am the money that will come soon
I am the teddy bear you hug so close
I am the traveler, yet I try not to boast
I am the cousin that I loved so dear
I wish
I wish that you were still here
I wish
I wish that you were still near
I hope
I hope you will come back somehow
Goodbye, just for now

by Tanika Mckinley, 11 years old, dedicated to her cousin, Ella Hinds

Tanika's poem for Ella ~ Comments: 4

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