Showing posts from January, 2009

Running to the point, Nett point

An evening picnic at Nett point to celebrate a third birthday provided an opportunity for an evening run capped off with a swim and barbecue dinner.

After finishing up marking a batch of papers, I ran to Dausokele bridge about four kilometers out from home. Then I walked up the Paliais side of Nett point, a densely populated area with dogs that are not accustomed to runners. After passing the Mendiola home, last on the road, I continued running the final leg out to the point.

January winds have put a chop on the lagoon. Two small lagoon islands, Lenger on the right, shine in the evening sun. I pulled off my running shoes and dived into the Pacific ocean. Now that is January running that suits me!

Swimming is a survival skill, and that means swimming in currents and waves. Children are scattered from the dock at the point on out towards the east end of the airport runway. One of mine is in farthest group out. Based on the distance to return against the prevailing current, the swimming les…

Social networking sites, faculty, and Micronesian student opinion

As a member of a technical team from 1996 to 2000 one of my tasks was to explore new technologies and to assist the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics in adopting those technologies. When I first connected to the Internet in 1996 a colleague said to me, "There is nothing useful on the Internet, it is an academic waste of time. Gopher has everything you need."

Gopher was pre-Internet system based out of the University of Minnesota that provided on line access via menu commands to academic resources across the nation. Indeed, in 1996 there was nothing of significant academic value on the Internet, Gopher was still the place to be. Nowadays few remember Gopher or its search engines Archie and Veronica. New technology in education is like that, rejected at first as a complete waste of time and then embraced, typically by a new generation of instructors who grew up with the new technology.

Recent studies have shown that 30 percent of Facebook users and 32 percent of MySpa…

Pohnpei Traditional Plants ethnobotanical garden

The ethnobotany class visited the Pohnpei traditional plants garden as an introduction to the unit on the healing plants of Micronesia.

Each term there is a perceptible decay in the plant knowledge of the students. This term appears to have hit a new low in devolution. The loss of plant names and uses was pervasive across the class. In a change from prior terms, the few local plant names that were known by students were plants known by students from Chuuk state. The Pohnpei state students seemed broadly at a loss of ability to name a number of different plants.

The future hopes of retaining ethnobotanical knowledge rest on a thin line of a few students. A deep concern for the culture and traditions and their retention has led to what might be called a "tough love" approach to teaching and learning. This field trip included some educational tough love. As the noted educational theorist Paulo Freire once said while speaking to educators at the University of Illinois, "educa…

Dropping golf balls on the job

While "dropping the ball" usually connotes a failed effort, a missed opportunity, or a lost chance to win, in physical science golf ball dropping can produce remarkably accurate estimates of the acceleration of gravity.

The golf balls are dropped from heights ranging from 50 cm to 300 cm. The drop time for each height is measured five times, and then the average of the five drops is calculated.

Done right, the science laboratory is all about working effectively as a team and discussing results. Learning happens.

The one dropping has to time to eliminate reaction time errors. The data is first graphed as time versus distance, producing a parabola. As the students only know how to run a linear regression using the LINEST function in Calc, the students square the time and then make a separate plot of the time squared against the distance dropped. With careful measurements, this produces a straight line the slope of which is one-half g.

The laboratory guide also inclu…

Social networking sites and the student affairs mission

As I recently noted in my blog, FaceBook is considered "the dark side" that wastes student's time. As a student affairs and support services person, however, if 83% of your students are "hanging out" in one place, then that is where you want to be. A study of 453 colleges found that over half now use social media in their admissions strategies. Colleges are increasingly turning to these technologies to engage with student and provide support services. The Student Affairs Collaborative blog provides a guide to using FaceBook as a part of the student affairs mission. As noted by Diverse Education, "...colleges and universities have started thinking about how to harness the connective power of SNS to further engage students in academic life."

In the articles cited above issues of the propriety and privacy are often discussed. This issue will ultimately be moot. If today 83% of our students have a social networking presence, then in fifteen years 83% of ou…

Computing on the dark side

I suppose I am working on what many of my colleagues currently perceive to be the "dark side." I argue that education never met a technology that it did not like. The Gutenberg press is said to have led to textbooks and the very concept of public education. Radio quickly led to education programs via radio. Television led to educational programming including PBS. Videotapes returned control to the teacher on what was shown when. Computers brought software and programs, networks have provided whole new ways to communicate with students.

Given the results of the survey I ran, clearly my students are in cyberspace. 83% use a social networking site, typically MySpace or Bebo. The collegiate market stateside is, however, clearly on FaceBook. When Blackboard sought to partner, they partnered with FaceBook. FaceBook is also being used a student service and support tool, When news media market leader CNN sought an inauguration day partner, they too chose FaceBook. Anecdotally, articl…

Where Micronesian college students are found in cyberspace

This term I have been seeking new ways to connect to my increasingly tech-savvy and tech-equipped students. This note looks at the ways in which the students have chosen to interact using technology. The study is an informal study consisting of a convenience sample of students in MS 150 Statistics. The study seeks to provide preliminary information on the ways and cyberspace places that our students choose to connect to their world.

Questions asked

1. If you have a cell phone, about how many text messages do you send per day?
2. Do you Twitter? []
3. Do you blog? []
4. Do you have a MySpace, FaceBook, Bebo, or other social networking Site? If yes, which one?

The questions appeared on quiz three given in the A204 computer laboratory on 23 January 2009. The students were working at Internet connected computers. The web addresses were provided so that students who did not understand questions two and three could access the site to cl…

Balls, plants, and flowers

The physical science students run a basic laboratory in which a ball is rolled. The ramp provides a mechanism for rolling the ball at a repeatable speed. The typical version of this experiment involves timing the ball to fixed distances from the bottom of the ramp. The laboratory leads to a linear regression.

The problem I have with the traditional method is that this makes distance the independent variable and time the dependent variable. The correct graph would be distance versus time, the slope of which is the pace not the speed. Physics typically graphs time versus distance, thus the slope is the speed.

While many instructors simply time to fixed distances and then graph the dependent variable on the x-axis, this does not work well when Calc or Microsoft Excel are the graphing tools. These packages cannot support multiple x-axes. Since we also roll the ball from half-way up the ramp, there is a need to have distances for pre-specified times.

The students use their sand…

Inaugural lunch

I took Shrue out for our own inaugural lunch at a restaurant with what I consider a better view than that from the statuary room. Continental 956 can be made out climbing out picture center.

While I may occasionally feel a twang of homesickness for the four seasons, winters like the current one remind me that one can always visit the four seasons, but on one need not necessarily live there.

Yesterday when I went out the door on my evening run I knew Shrue was headed to Yoshie. Two blocks out I found a red rubber band in my shoe. It had fallen into the shoe at home, but I did not feel it for the first 600 meters. So I ran down around the back way to Yoshie, put the rubber band on her side view mirror, and then took off from home a little over two kilometers away.

I deemed the run a "race the rubber band" run. I sought to beat the rubber band home. Fortunately Shrue lingered long enough at Yoshie for me to "beat the rubber band home."

Teeth cleaning

Four years since my last dental teeth cleaning I finally got around to slotting an appointment. The process is complex. Appointment slots open once a month on the first business day of the month. When the slots are full for that month, then no more appointments can be made for that month. Thus the process involves two visits to the dental clinic.

Having gone too long a time between cleanings, I felt sure I would be riddled with decay. Turns out that my teeth are the only thing on my aging frame that are holding their own. The hygienist gave me a clean bill of dental health - no cavities. I owe a debt of gratitude to Florence for having passed along strong enamel. Now my previously coffee stained teeth gleam in the tropical sunshine. Cleaning up the halitotic plaque will also be appreciated by my students.


The attempt to add flowers on campus, a rather pathetically insufficient effort on my part thus far, has had its first bloom in the area behind the south faculty building. The concept back there is to have small bushy plants that produce the types of flowers favored by students for placing behind their ear - jasmine, tahitian gardenia, and other small fragrant flowers. The collection is meager at best, but at least the jasmine has bloomed.

I also attempted to transplant a Lycopodiella cernua - an effort I estimate has a 95% chance of failing due to the unusual growth habit of this plant - and a Spathoglottis plicata Philippine ground orchid. Both are now on the small grassy knoll to the east of the A classroom building. Conspiracies concerning the origin of the grassy knoll abound. Grassy knolls have had a bad name since 1963.

Sunday wear

After a muddy day in Kitti immersed in the culture of Pohnpei, the kids were back into Sunday wear for Saturday evening's commemoration of "bomb day." The day marks the loss of two Lelu residents when an errant bomb dropped during World War II killed them.

Milly and her cell phone are joined at the ear.

All of the flowers out in the garden.

Harvey Segal

The interview assignment was to interview someone who had done something important during World War II, an odd request in a nation with arguably only a single living World War II veteran and few local elders who date from that era. Harvey is 81 and served on the USS Providence (CL-82). The USS Providence was in the Caribbean headed for Japan when the atomic bombs were dropped and the war came to an abrupt end.

The Providence was redeployed to the Mediterranean where along with two other ships they "showed the flag." The rest of the American fleet was busy shuttling troops home from Europe. Harvey spoke of visiting a number of ports. In Alexandria harbor were British fleet ships. After a few days ashore of captains boasting to other captains, the captain of the Providence opted to take the Providence out of harbor without a pilot and at flank speed. Harvey notes that the ship went hard aground on a reef and it took days of "washing" the boat with the prop wash of ot…

Women with knives and books

College co-eds headed to class with their textbooks is a common site on any college campus. At the College of Micronesia-FSM, these co-eds head to class armed with grass sickles and machetes.

The ethnobotany class worked in the Palikir Ethnobotanical Learning garden at the college. The class toured the garden getting acquainted with the collection and being quizzed on the names of the plants in their own local languages. At other colleges an instructor might only have to cover the Latin binomial, common uses, and a local name in a single language, here there are five major language groups with uses that differ for each group.

When no Pohnpeian could recall the local name for Calophyllum inophyllum, I deliberately suggested rekich. As the Pohnpeians practiced rekich, the Chuukese began laughing. I used this to illustrate the loss of language, of devolution, and the impossibility of recovering a word once lost. Then I covered isou and ituc.

Physical science lab one

Physical science lab one: the slope of soap.

Georgies measures his soap slab above. Arleen masses a slab of Ivory soap below. The green soap is denser than water, the Ivory is less dense than water.

Ethnobotany SVP hike

The SC/SS 115 Ethnobotany students hiked into the muddy, rainy, steamy wet valley of the ferns. This term the hike added Psilotum nudum that I noticed while hiding from my physical science students.

My son, following in the family footsteps?

My prodigal son spends a quiet evening at home practicing the ancient family tradition of...

hairdressing‽ My son, the hairdresser, fully equipped with all the supplies of a modern hair stylist. The red tub is hair gel, my son often slicks his own hair with gel. The blue bottle is cologne. On a Sunday he envelops himself in a cloud of the mist so dense that open flames are a hazard to him. The last time I used cologne was the previous century, maybe this is a skip generation trait. He also has coconut oil, baby oil, and scented skin lotion. Along with hairdressing skills, he is developing into a capable masseuse using Efficascent massage oil.

Aengani Kenye Waguk Mongkeya

Kosrae Congregational Church group two visited Kenye Nipinyuck Waguk Mongkeya. Kenye was born in 1922 and is one of the oldest Kosraeans. The group held service and sang Christmas songs for Kenye.

Josaiah Waguk with Inac Kenye. Josaiah shared her family tree with the gathered group.

Inac Kenye claps along with a marching song. At 87 she remains alert and can see and read without glasses.

This past week I did get a picture of an area I cleaned during the break, opening up the left corner so that it can be seen from the west lot of the gym in Palikir.

[health] Focus shifts from obesity to exercise

One of these days I will likely fall over dead from a heart attack while running. I suppose the murmuring in the memorial service will be, "...and he was always running, little good that did him!"

"Notwithstanding all the studies, [Dr. Steven] Blair and other fitness proponents realize there are no guarantees. Heart attack rates inevitably climb with increasing age. Exercise is recommended, but it isn't a cure. There are no cures for heart disease. Blair knows he's just one errant heartbeat away from a newspaper headline: "Fitness expert dies on the run." The first sentence of the story almost always includes the word "ironically," as if Blair and friends believe running will help them live forever. They don't. They know the facts: Everyone dies, and some die while running." - Are Marathons Dangerous?

I often share news about fitness and health, more so after Forbes named the Federated States of Micronesia as the second most obese n…


Bananas are bought not by the finger or hand, but by the bunch.

And then hung by the office window with care.

Col no longer allowed to have width attribute in HTML5

The construction:

<col width="300" />
<col width="70" />
<col width="70" />
<col width="70" />
<col width="70" />
<col width="70" />

is no longer legal HTML5 nor XHTML5 (see attributes table). I needed pixel level width control for the bubble form used in my Gravic Remark Office OMR test. I prefer to have valid pages, so I needed a work-around to the above XHTML code. I knew that the solution lay in using CSS, and I opted to use CSS 3 which let me use an nth-child construction in the bubble.css file to mimic the above HTML 4.01 code:

table {border:thin solid red;width:655px}
td:nth-child(1) { width:300px }
td:nth-child(2) { width:70px }
td:nth-child(3) { width:70px }
td:nth-child(4) { width:70px }
td:nth-child(5) { width:70px }
td:nth-child(6) { width:70px }

The 655px table width is not an oversight. Although the col widths add to 650, some deep and dark part of the wa…

Ethnobotany knife box

With thanks to the fine cabinetry crew at the College of Micronesia-FSM maintenance division, SC/SS 115 Ethnobotany has a secure and good looking lock box for the class machete collection. The machetes are used to whack razor grass in the Palikir Ethnobotanical Learning Garden.

Today marks return to school for everyone in the household, a rainy Monday - cold by local standards. Yesterday marked the last day of the holiday break. I wrapped up 22 days of running out of 23 days - one day off - with a 1:47:12 effort covering 15.1 kilometers out to Palipowe junction and then out to the airport with a lap of Nett Elementary school.

Sunday new clothes

Sunday morning the kids are dressed their best for church, new dresses and shirts for everyone in the new year.

Marking the end of the holiday break, dad busts out his version of Ghanaian nkatia-kwine (groundnut stew) and amoh (rice) balls. No where else on Pohnpei is anyone serving nkatia-kwine, nor mangling the spelling as badly either. Not having the hands of a capable Ghanaian cook, dad heated his hands a little forming the hot rice balls. Ouch.

Aengani Harvey

Kosraen Congregationalist church marching group two visited Professor Emeritus Harvey Segal. Harvey has been active in education and teacher education in Kosrae and Micronesia since 1964. Many of the singers are former students. After singing everyone enjoyed Kosraean soup and pastries while sharing memories with a revered mentor and professor. As noted by a group leader who was in first grade when Harvey organized the second Utwe Elementary school fair, Harvey is a living legend among Kosraens.

Scanner, Ubuntu 8.10, and a MAPP

Today was a day spent on technical matters. Tried to get the new Scantron to work to no avail. The sheets are jamming just behind the scan head. This appears to be the same problem as the old Pearson scanner.

While I prefer fill in the blank tests, there are times when one wants to run a quick affective domain survey. Those are times when an OCM can really shine.

The division of mathematics and natural sciences computer laboratory computers are now running Ubuntu Intrepid Ibis 8.10, the screenshot demos gCalc running on Intrepid.

I also put together the very beginnings of a repository for the manual of procedures and policies. The section I am proposing on campus environment led to this policy wonk effort.