Monday, August 29, 2005

Setting up class

One of the biggest hurdles in getting ready for the year is always setting up the computers. With 15 in my room, it's like setting up a small lab. I'm pretty good with all the wires by now, but this year's big challenge was working around a new heater, which changed the location of 8 of the computers. Four hours later, I had replaced a table, sawed off 8 table legs (and part of the chalkboard tray), and was ready to start hooking up wires. A couple of pictures, both sides of my classroom:

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 6:51 PM   1 Comments

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Tictech is back

The technology part of what I do is quickly springing to life. I just activated Tictech, on Yahoo Groups. Was going to wait until the start of next week, but there was this great IMac giveaway message that I had pending approval... I guess I posted it on the weekend to reward those who are really into their school tech program, always hitting their email, etc. I did put myself in the running for a couple, but bowed out. I was just looking for a couple of machines for us to learn on - we have nary a Mac in our school. Anyway, half an hour after the posting, the IMacs were spoken for. I did make list messages available to the public (before, only list members could read them on yahoogroups). My primary reason was to enable an rss feed for the millions who are using aggregators like Bloglines or MyYahoo.

Biggest moment of yesterday's birding trip to the ocean was the spotting of three lapland longspurs at Midway Beach near Grayland. Besides being lifers for us, these guys are just not that easy to see in WA. Very cool birds - they are "tundra nesters", so they are spending the winter here, where it's balmy :) Worst tech moment of the day was when I discovered the batteries in my camera were dead - head-banging time, as I thought about bringing extras along, but decided not to worry about it.

Most inspiring moment of the trip to the coast was arriving at Bottle Beach 3 1/2 hours before high tide, and sitting back on the sand with scope and binocs, while thousands of migrating shorebirds were brought imperceptibly closer - started out probably 200 yards away, and over a two hour period closed to within 25 yards away - when everybody spooked and flew away. Very cool!

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 4:28 PM   1 Comments

Friday, August 26, 2005

Getting out of Dodge

One last chance to get in a day away. With all of next week spoken for in meetings and classroom setup, Janeanne and I head out once again to the WA coast to catch a bit more of the shorebird migration. Aside from the snowy plover, pickings were mighty slim two weeks ago. I think we were just rushing the season. Maybe I'll get a chance to do some rough digiscoping... We will hit Bottle Beach a couple of hours before high tide.

This morning my desktop did something strange and disturbing. Outlook starts and then exits immediately. Have done the usual reboot and so on. Am now running a system scan. Beyond that, I'm hitting the web this evening for help.

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 9:06 AM   0 Comments

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Air update, moving on...

I just posted an update to Arbor Heights Air, the little (hopefully temporary) blog I started to help keep folks informed in a more immediate way of the progress cleaning up my school this summer. I am really ready to move on from this mess.

So many exciting tech ideas swirling around in my head - and so much prep necessary to get them in motion.... But first, I have my class list now, so it's time to set up student blog accounts on Blogmeister

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 7:36 AM   0 Comments

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Air news from back east

Well, the news finally is good regarding the air quality at Arbor Heights. I just updated the little blog with the latest parent update - and sent it out via email to all staff. I think I've had more communication with folks in Seattle since I've been out here on the east coast...

Meanwhile, this little laptop is slowing down to a crawl - trying to do too much, and I'm real impatient with the dail up/aol access - trying not to tie up mom and dad's phone....

Anyway, here'a a picture of me, brother Dave, Dad and Mom having turkey dinner (!) the other night. It's great to be here. Janeanne's comment on looking at this pic was, "where's the green food?" Wish I could say it was out of the picture :)

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 5:51 AM   0 Comments

Monday, August 15, 2005

Air and heading east

The Arbor Heights Air blog was suprisingly easy to set up. It will probably just have a short life, as I hope the issues around the air quality will be resolved soon. I did manage to get the rss feed set up on the original web page, so I won't have to do as much ftp stuff. Anyway, no comments to the site so far, not that I really expected any, but I do hope some people will find it helpful.

Well, I'm about to head back to CT, but have a few extra minutes here at home, due to a flight delay - yikes, not a good start.

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 8:58 AM   0 Comments

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Snowy plover

Janeanne and I just got back from a day trip to the Washington coast. Our target bird was the snowy plover, an endangered species, one we've been after for a couple of years. Today we did see him, at Midway Beach (they nest there) - scared up by a couple of kids setting off firecrackers (shame on them, but thanks!), he landed just a few yards away, and I was even able to snap a quick picture of they guy - an adult male in breeding plumage. What a handsome fellow!

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 10:08 PM   0 Comments

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

New blog

Well, after saying this morning that I should probably set up a blog for the air quality problems at Arbor Heights - I decided to just go ahead and do it! "Arbor Heights Air" - how clever! I let the Task Force know, am hoping some will actually read what I have to say. I do intend to keep at least my observations and reflections pretty current. I went to school today, and posted this:

Well, I just set this blog up, so that people can ask questions, make comments, etc. in a more public way. We'll see how it goes.

I did visit Arbor Heights this afternoon, and there is a LOT of activity going on - from the univent heaters being put in, the classrooms sinks (with filters) are now set, hallway water fountains now have new supply pipes, there were people working in many classrooms (including 16, one of the worst) on air/water stuff, there are holes cut in all classroom walls to expose the roof drains, and there was a crew doing soil/water samples, I guess, on the playground, marking white arrows here and there.

Lots of activity and effort, I guess the big question remains - will it all be done in time for school to start? I sure hope so. And I do think it's possible.

The task force meets again this Friday, with an ambitious agenda. Ever hopeful - Mark

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 7:28 PM   0 Comments

School in trouble

This summer has been a hard one on the school. It is still uncertain whether Arbor Heights will open on time. The Mold Task Force has met, but there is so much work yet to be done - and we're still getting new information from toxicoligist Anderson almost on a daily basis. Where was all this information a couple of months ago? I've gotten so frustrated with the lack of information being made public (teachers contact me regularly because I'm on the task force), that I've decided to just go ahead and post updates on the air quality web site when I feel there is more info to share. I only wish it were easier to post - I have to edit the page and do an ftp upload. Maybe there should be a blog on this!! The latest talk is preparing for the school not being able to open - relocating half or all the school somewhere else - yikes! And then of course, there are the unanswered questions of who will be teaching what...

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 9:23 AM   0 Comments

Thursday, August 04, 2005

The Shining Place web site

I finally launched the baby web site for Janeanne's new CD at It's not much more than a few pictures I took during the recording process, but it will look great soon. With Darwin and Rebecca working on the art and layout, it will be stunning. Oh yeah, the music isn't bad either...

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 9:50 PM   0 Comments

Inspiration and plane tickets

Today I got the CD and documentation for 15 copies of Inspiration. So all my classroom computers and my home computer will have it on them. Now I really have to buckle down and study this stuff. I did look at a couple of online tutorials that seem promising. I wonder where the $ will come from to buy copies for all the classrooms at school, like our tech plan stipulates :) It's been SO long since I actually purchased a software program! I installed it on this laptop, and it seems to run just fine, so I imagine the PIII' s in the classroom will be pretty zippy. Must remember to fax in the license agreement.

Then I just made another reservation from Seattle to Hartford. My saved itinerary on Expedia jumped from $403 this morning to $1,400 this evening, so I scurried around and got a good deal ($437) on
Continental. Man, it's unnerving being your own travel agent. Good news is I'm earning frequent flyer miles on the same airline as last time. I know i'll be doing this trip a lot more frequently in the near future, helping out with my folks and my brother...

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 9:30 PM   0 Comments

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Block party

We went to our annual block party tonight, hosted by Wally and Wilma, as always. It was great to see, and actually get a chance to talk with, many of our neighbors. Met a few new ones, as well. Another chance to get a little faster with using the new Cyber-shot.

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 9:19 PM   0 Comments

Monday, August 01, 2005

Good birding

We got back last night, very tired - and tired of being hot - but still pretty excited by the birds and scenery we took in. One of the most beautiful spots was Biscuit Ridge, just outside of Dixie, which is just outside of Walla Walla. Birding highlight for Janeanne and me was the burrowing owl family we saw on Dodson Road, near Ellensburg. Then visiting with Tom, the guy running the show at Hummingbird Heaven (?) - 80 and going strong. It was refreshing to meet somebody like Tom, who basically throws open the doors to his backyard and 30+ hummingbird feeders - to anybody who wants to stop by. Thanks, Tom! Oh yeah, I got 17 lifers on this trip - yikes! Thanks, Marv!

Most disappointing tech moment (actually the ONLY tech moment) was failing to get this laptop connected to the wireless network at the hotal. Think I better reinstall the card software. When we got home and I checked in to email, etc, it looks like I missed absolutely nothing.

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posted by Mark Ahlness @ 10:11 AM   0 Comments