Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Clara on Doctor Who

Been a while since I've mused on the popular Time Lord show. And Clara troubles me. The reasons for my concern involve SPOILERS, notably for "Name of the Doctor", "Day of the Doctor" and "Time of the Doctor". So if you haven't seen those and want to avoid being spoiled, then move along!

Alternatively, if you have seen them - or simply want to see why I think Clara has been something of a missed opportunity - read onwards, below the big picture.


Clara has been around for over a year now. "The Snowmen" from Christmas 2012 was her first major appearance, and we're now in 2014. But what do we really know about her?

She seems to exist to leave her life and travel around with the Doctor. In fact, we've seen so little of her present day life, that when she seemed to be celebrating Christmas with family in "Day of the Doctor" my first reaction was "Huh. Where did they come from?"

Now, this itself is not a problem. In my OWN serial, I've kept the pasts of some characters sketchy, as they form themselves in my mind, and I work out how they connect to the plot. Clara's more sketchy present also helps to distinguish her from Amy Pond, and there's something to be said for allowing us to draw our own conclusions as to why Clara was seeking out such adventure.

But then we have "The Name of the Doctor", where we learn why there are multiple copies of Clara existing in the universe. More, being in the Doctor's timestream was treated as the end of that story line. Incorrect. That should have been the BEGINNING. 

Key question: How much awareness does Clara have of her other incarnations?

Picture it. You learn that there are other copies of yourself out there. More, you have the ability to travel through time and space to meet them. Would you have NO desire to look them up? I suppose you might not if you remember being all of them. But wouldn't THAT mean you remember DYING? Wouldn't that knowledge affect you as a person?

Of course, there's a logical reason why Clara wouldn't be able to interact with her other selves. They're all at fixed points along the Doctor's time stream, and he cannot cross his own time stream - so neither can she. No way would the Doctor ever encounter prior selves. Right?


Let me say this up front: I liked the 50th anniversary special. Even thought it was brilliant. (Also brilliant was "The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot" special by Peter Davison, and you REALLY need to see that.) Three of the things I liked from the special in particular:
- The idea of implanting a calculation in a device that can run for thousands of years, yet be on hand when needed. Devilishly implanted early in the narrative, so that it could be extended to the TARDIS calculations. Amuses me that prior incarnations could have been flagged to be at a necessary point in time and space.
- Restoring Gallifrey without wiping out the events of Doctors 9, 10 and 11. I could have done without Doctor 8.5 (nothing against John Hurt, simply didn't feel necessary), but I do not consider this decision to be a cheat at all. The renewed purpose of the Doctor at the very end was delightful.
- Closure as to why Queen Elizabeth thought the Tenth Doctor was her "sworn enemy" in the episode "The Shakespeare Code". Caught that. I'd probably be annoyed with the Doctor too after the events that occurred.

But back to Clara. I didn't have a problem with her at the beginning of the show, and I liked her scenes near the climax, particularly with John Hurt. My serious problem involves her jaunt into the past. What did it accomplish?

She releases the Doctors from an unlocked room, hangs around for plot exposition... and then returns to the present. Making her entire trip COMPLETELY POINTLESS. Much more sensible (to me) would have been her wrecking the vortex manipulator so the Zygons couldn't use it - how did she know how it worked anyway?

But even if you accept that she had to be there... why couldn't it have been one of her OTHER selves? Clara, personal handmaid to the Queen or something. It makes perfect sense -- Doctor Ten IS THERE, and making a blunder with long term ramifications. Would have been nice to see Ten/Clara interaction as part of the loop too.

That said, I can forgive this. It was the 50th anniversary, there was a lot of ground to cover, and multiple Claras might have added an unnecessary level of confusion - particularly to viewers who might not have kept up with the show.

Let's get to the huge missed opportunity.


I have mixed feelings about this special. It was a very good last episode for Matt Smith, incorporating many things from his run in a way that (more or less) made sense. Granted, a few of them you have to squint at, but I'm not going to poke holes in the plot - others have done this. (And may I say, I like the Last Angry Geek's reasoning for Matt Smith's sudden accelerated aging over only 300 years... he keeps his moisturizer in the TARDIS.) But it also did a major disservice.

Clara was window dressing.

Infinite branches.
Be part of those stories, not an observer.
I've read about how the writing on Doctor Who is lacking as far as female characters go, and I tend to agree, but my issue here goes further than that. Regardless of Clara's gender, her role was pointless. Consider: She calls the Doctor because of a turkey (seriously?) and dating issues (oh God seriously?!). She tags along doing nothing, is sent away, tries to come back, and is sent away again. Not integral to the plot except perhaps at the climax.

Moreover, she was given STUPID dialogue. You can't have her snapping her fingers to control the TARDIS doors in one show, then have her wondering why the Doctor can't do his "regeneration" thing in the next. She should KNOW this is his last regeneration. Granted, you have to explain this to the audience, but here's a much better way:
CLARA: You get twelve regenerations, yeah? So even if we include your War incarnation, don't you have one body left? Why have I never seen it?
DOCTOR: Vanity issues last time around. It counts, much to my surprise. So what you see is what you get.

But the thing that really annoys me, to the point of making this post is... why was Clara never reincarnated on Trenzalore? An incarnation of her was needed in the Dalek Asylum, but not here, during the Doctor's loneliest years?

It would have been amazing to see that. To see the Doctor face-to-face with the person he's trying to send away, and yet not her. To put a recognizable face into this town under siege that we don't really care about. And to have someone travel back to get Clara who isn't a friggin' Dalek-bot. (Seriously? Did Tasha Lem find a "cure", as she did for aging, or do we let Daleks pilot the TARDIS now?) Because a scene with two Claras could have been great.

CLARA: You're... me.
XMAS CLARA: No. I'm a splinter, an echo. My purpose was to come for you. The original. You're the one he wants right now.
CLARA: I don't understand. I don't remember doing this.
XMAS CLARA: I don't fully understand it either. But Tasha explained the situation to me once I was old enough. She showed me how to fly the TARDIS. Come back with me. He needs you.
CLARA: But if you're already there, and I come... what of you? What becomes of you?
XMAS CLARA: I go back to my family. Make a souffle. (smiles) I'm sure it sounds terribly boring. After all, when I was young, I wanted to go out and explore the universe. But after years of the universe constantly dropping in on our little town with hostile intent, I've decided I can do with a bit of peace for a while.
CLARA: ...
XMAS CLARA: Does that not make sense to you?
CLARA: I suppose it does. I'm just not sure I'd feel the same way. It's unsettling.
XMAS CLARA: Best not to dwell on it. Come along. He needs you.

In short, this whole "multiple Clara" thing needs to be dealt with, and soon. Make it clear what she knows, and either explain why she CANNOT meet herself (which has it's own psychological ramifications) or DEAL with a meeting somehow. And I don't mean meeting herself in a Clara and the TARDIS way. (Though if you haven't seen that, it's worth a laugh.)

To conclude, if the new Series currently being filmed is all about Peter Capaldi, and ONLY him... it will bother me. Will it bother you?

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Why a Spiraled Curriculum

A "spiraled curriculum" involves going through ALL course material at the start of the course - in a limited way. Then again, but more in depth, then (perhaps) yet again for mastery. All of this, done in the same amount of time as regular "linear" teaching. Perhaps you know these concepts by other terms; either way, it's a good idea.

I'm not there yet.

When you spiral, there is no end.

Credit for my awareness goes to Bruce McLaurin (@BDMcLaurin), and if you only want the quick version, read session 2 in my OAME 2013 Day 3 post. A more in depth version is below, where I'll also explain how I'm starting to approach it in my Grade 11U course.


The traditional way to approach a course (I'll use mathematics in specific, but this could work in general) is to break it down into units. Like an essay: Tell them what you're going to say, say it, then tell them what you said. Let me highlight a few reasons why that doesn't work so well in present day.

1) Semesters. In most schools (in Ontario at least), students no longer take the same subject year-round. They take a course from Sept-Jan, then other subjects from Feb-June. So it's possible to finish your math course in January 2013, then not have math again until February 2014. No wonder students forget things. As such, constantly bringing a topic back over four months is better than doing one full week and moving on.

How can there be anything be more important
than doing math after school?!
2) Cramming. It may simply be my perception, but students seem to be doing a lot more cramming these days. Some of it is self-inflicted, due to online games and constant texting, but there's also part time jobs (to pay for post secondary), more extra curricular activities than ever (for things that didn't exist 20 years ago like "Anime Club" and "Free the Children") and time spent on fundraising events (because cutting taxes takes precedence over funding education). Meaning if there's a test tomorrow, the student crams, perhaps even does well, then the knowledge is GONE - until the exam, which involves more cramming. But if the topic cycles back more often, there's a reason to invest time over multiple evenings.

3) Unit Evasion. Similar to cramming, there's often that one unit (say, Trigonometry) that a person can't wait to be done with. In a traditional procedural curriculum, once you're past the Trig, an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality can take hold. Perhaps the student won't even study that topic for the exam, figuring as long as they do really well elsewhere, the lack of Trig won't matter. Until next year! However, if the topic is constantly spiraling back, there's more incentive to actually (if grudgingly) understand, and remember.

Thus I'm on board with the cycling idea. A couple of teachers in my school are even implementing it in Grade 10, with success as far as I can tell. (I believe they started by looking at all graphs, be they lines or parabolas, and after handling visual patterns, cycled around again to focus in depth on the algebraic forms. I could be wrong.)

Either way, I'm still wrapping my head around this. It's hard because I'm excessively organized, mentally putting things into their individual strands, but here's my first kick at the can.


Quick background: The Grade 11 3U course ("Functions", University level) consists of four strands, and typically 8 units. Those are...
Strand 1-Functions (Functions, Parabolas, Rationals);
Strand 2-Exponentials;
Strand 3-Discrete Math (Sequences, Finance);
Strand 4-Trigonometry (Periodic, Triangles).

If you think a teacher always teaches the same course, in the same way, with the same lessons, in the same order, welcome to a reality check

I've played around quite a bit with the order. Strands used to go 1,2,4,3; Discrete was crammed in towards the end over less than 2 weeks, and the Summative was Financial. Parabolas were typically done last within Strand 1 - in theory a return to the familiar of Grade 10, yet always somehow a bloodbath.

Last year I think I finally found my rhythm. Parabolas, Functions, Rationals, Exponentials, Sequences, Triangles, Periodic, Finance. Thanks to a colleague, the Summative also tested Graphing while the Exam tested everything else. But that's still strand-by-strand, using relative weight depending on volume of material.

This past semester, I didn't do that.

I didn't spiral either, but my units went as follows: Parabolas, Functions, Exponentials, Rationals, Periodic, Sequences, Triangles, Finance. In other words, I would leave a STRAND, then cycle back to that STRAND later.

What worked:
- Periodic functions before triangles makes SO MUCH SENSE, I don't know why I didn't try it sooner. (Actually I do - Periodic usually goes better, thus do the challenging stuff first.) This time though, when I got to triangles, I could relate solutions back to the graphs.
- Sequences needs exponential knowledge (for geometric patterns), so I liked using that unit to split Trigonometry.
- I even touched on Exponential and Sinusoidal curves in the Functions unit. I'd do that again. Refinements are needed though, since they come back, whereas functions like Root do not.

What didn't:
- I gave a task after/in Periodic functions that touched on all functions to that point. Then realized I had no idea how to record it, since it bridged THREE strands. I ended up giving THREE marks on the one assignment, per each strand, which took me a month to work through and felt painful. Advice welcome.
- The fact that it's not true cycling, only juggling the order. I also have no real way to compare this order to my prior ones.

So there it is. If you see good way to do this that I don't, or think there's merit here, feel free to let me know in the comments! Similarly, if you DON'T think there's merit, that could be a good discussion too. And I should get back to marking Summatives now. >.<

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Return of TMC Indecision

Do I go to Twitter Math Camp, or not? Wait, haven't I written this post before? Aha, but new year, new problems - and probably not the ones you think.

For those who need the context, Twitter Math Camp is a cross border gathering of math educators. It started in 2012. I went last year, and sort of live-blogged about it. The question is whether I go back, and this time the question doesn't arise due to any sort of scheduling conflict. No, this time it's all personal.

Let's break it down with the TOP 5 REASONS I MAY NOT ATTEND TMC14.

5. It takes someone else's spot.

It's a certainty that there will be more people wanting to go than the facility can accommodate, given the growth from year 1 to 2. If I'm on the list, that means someone else isn't. And there's a very good chance that the other person is more deserving, seeing as...

4. My teaching skills are not unique.

I have something of a reputation in my school for singing math. That's so commonplace in a group like TMC, that even though I presented Musical Math there (to one person), I was overlooked by an entire songwriting group until I said, "Uh, maybe I can help?" I suppose I also draw characters, but Justin Aion and Ben Orlin have that covered. Beyond that, as far as teaching goes, I'm a white male. There will be no shortage of those. To condense this argument to a few tweets:
Thoughts at the last TMC
Then as far as technology goes...

3. I'm limited to my laptop.

Those earlier concerns were new, this one's old. I teach on a smartboard, yet my cell phone is 12 years old with an antenna. Come to think, I'm not sure I've ever actually sent a text. So given the choice of my non-unique skills (I'll hazard teaching or otherwise), versus those of someone you can actually get AHOLD of, it should be no contest. Particularly when you consider how...

2. I'm introverted.

I may be a unique individual, even if my individual skills are common. But I'm an individual who sits back and observes unless I really feel strongly about something. (Et cetera - for the long version, read my post here.) Maybe you can spot me in two pictures from the entirety of TMC last year. And while this makes me a good candidate to sit back and write the chronicle - that IS what I did that last year. Don't feel like doing it again. Besides, there will be other introverts there, so see Reason 5.

And then there's the real kicker against attending TMC14...

1. This very post will make it awkward.

"Hey look, it's that guy who wrote the post about not coming. Why is he here?"
"Should we try to cheer up the technophobe introvert by the wall?"
"Oh, let's ask the guy who talks about being invisible if he wants to be in the picture."


Because even if you WOULDN'T say those things, that's the stuff that will now be playing in the back of my mind. So this post may be it's own self-fulfiling prophecy, in that by posting it, I won't be coming. Yet I don't feel I could go WITHOUT throwing these mental blocks out to the masses - to do so would be like I was hiding my true feelings.

I also wonder just a bit if anyone else feels the same.

Now, as far as arguments FOR going to TMC, there is, of course, the Professional Development itself. Lots of learning. There's also the new location. And finally, there's the chance to see people (again) in person -- though here I don't feel the same thrill as others. Perhaps it's the introversion, though I also suspect I'd be a disappointment, as I'm far more interesting online.

Those Pros don't currently outweigh the Cons. But I'll continue to think it over. Just like last year.

"Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose."

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Writing at the Intersection

If you write for two audiences, you will not get both of them. Stick around, I'm going to apply this argument to writing a blog.

The origins for this post lie in a remark by Robert J Sawyer at CanCon 2013. As I stated back in that recap, Robert "said his first story was a Mystery/SciFi crossover, as he'd hoped to get the union of people who liked one genre or the other. Instead, he got the intersection - only people who liked both."

Only the platypus is interested.

I write in the intersection. This is bad for business.


If you are reading this right now, odds are good it's because you were intrigued by the title, or by a tweet - not because you actually follow my blog. This may be because you don't follow blogs. (I know I don't. I do track a couple, but even then I miss posts.) Still, maybe you do use a reader, in which case, you likely follow blogs that mean something specific for you.

Perhaps you include blogs about education. Or jewelry. Or depression. Or statistics. Whatever enjoy reading about! But you read them at separate times. I argue you're much less likely to read a single blog at the intersection.

Corollary: Crossovers have limited appeal

I previously had a post called "Why Do You Blog?", which led (in the comments) to the acknowledgement that my blog lacks focus. My posts are primarily information for me - that you might find helpful. My theme, in essence, is me. Which shrinks my scope considerably. If you want an audience, you should avoid making my mistake.

Meaning if you're an educator, you probably don't care for the posts where I talk about writing. If you're a writer, you probably don't care for the posts where I go on about teaching. In both cases, you really have no incentive to subscribe. It's only if you like both teaching AND writing that you're liable to tune in.

On the one hand, I've found that's a potentially large audience. On the other, it's an audience with very little spare time. I also divert into things like time travel, shrinking the scope down even more. All things considered, I'd be better off picking ONE theme, and sticking to it. Except (1) that's not me, and (2) there's more to it.


The other thing you will need before you subscribe to a blog is some sort of personal connection. Which doesn't mean that you know the other person, it's more that you're interested in their methods. I'm starting to suspect that's why my web serial is a constant source of fail, at least as far as reader engagement goes. I may have finally answered my question (from back in this post) as to why "personified math" is not interesting.

It's not real.

It's not a description of things happening in the classroom. It's not insightful regarding mathematical truths. It's not something you can use tomorrow. Those facts eliminate teachers. (Or at least puts my story behind pretty much every single other math blog, podcast, and other initiative out there.) But even though my serial is not real, it's not quite fantasy either, as some understanding of math is required to get the jokes. Which eliminates the majority of people who read fantasy serials.

My serial is designed for people who like fantasy math. But "fantasy" and "math" are DISJOINT SETS. While you might follow a blog about either one, you have no reason to follow a blog doing both simultaneously. There's no incentive for this intersection.

Well, unless you count me as incentive. Leading to the simple conclusion that the only thing that can interlink "fantasy" and "math" is a known author.

And I'm no Robert J Sawyer.

Timing is also important. Picture seeing this diagram 20 years ago.

I am, however, a pretty decent guy, whose writing apparently doesn't suck. Which is not enough to overcome the "intersection" problem - heck, I doubt it would be enough for me, in your shoes - and is why I can never find my audience. After all, there's tons of "decent guys who don't suck at writing" out there. Why keep an eye on me? Why not just go read xkcd comics?


The way I see it, if a blog is not going to have a specific theme, and is not going to write strictly about real (or strictly about fantasy) events, there needs to be something else. Now... I haven't worked out exactly what that is yet. Still, in the grand tradition of trying and failing, I think I can knock a few things off the list for you. Feel free to disagree with me.

1. A regular schedule will not make you stand out. I blogged twice per week for a full year. Impressive to people in retrospect, but only in retrospect. Regular updates are at best uninteresting, and at worst, routine. Heck, there's webcomics I follow which update haphazardly at best, but I go back because somewhere along the way, I became invested in the characters or drawing style. A schedule may be good for people who are already on board - it's no help in generating interest.

Well, that looks weird. Next!
2. Drawing will not make you stand out. Remember, we're assuming you don't have a specific theme. If your theme is "Bad Drawings", and within that theme you make creative drawings, that's to your benefit. If you have no theme and you make creative drawings, you're deviantART on a blog. Again, the drawing itself will not generate interest. (Though I still maintain you should Draw your Story.)

3. A story arc will not make you stand out. This is the hardest one for me to wrap my head around. I am really good at creating arcs, be they for a story, or a unit I'm teaching. They're also a staple of TV shows these days. Yet my web serial comments all refer to the given entry, never to the larger context. Even on this blog, my week of "Day in the Life" posts? Biggest hit counts were for Days 1 and 5. Four days at Twitter Math Camp? Days 1 and 3. No, there seems to be little interest in following an arc - only a theme.

So, where does this leave us?

Well, hopefully it leaves you with a few thoughts for your own blogging, and a desire to drop back to my blog again sometime. It leaves me frustrated, but (as yet) unwilling to alter my writing style. After all, surely there are other ways to stand out and build an audience. I'll let you know if I discover one.

With thanks to:
- A comment made by Scott Delahunt on my web serial blog, when I cut it back to running only weekly. It reminded me of Robert's quote.
- Tammy and Audrey, for the Sunshine Award nomination. It led to a perusal of many, MANY blogs when tracing the origins.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

ETC: Sunshine Award Responses

I thought about breaking this up into a few posts. But no, let's just do this thing.

I was nominated for the Sunshine Award last weekend by two of my tweeps: Tammy Neil and Audrey McLaren. I then blogged about the history of this award, and have decided to keep the current format. That being:
-Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
-Share 11 random facts about yourself.
-Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger created for you.
-List 11 bloggers: they should be bloggers you believe deserve some recognition and a little blogging love! Post 11 questions for them and let them know of their nomination.

As far as acknowledgements go, I have no idea. Kind of humbled. I've stopped by Tammy and Audrey's blogs in the past, but the Sunshine aspect caught me off guard. Tammy shares my interest in Dr Who and her current word is 'acceleration', while Audrey is a fellow Canadian, flipping her class collaboratively. Check them out.


Good stuff out of the way first, with blogs you should check out. If I nominate you, by NO means should you feel obligated to participate, or to answer my random nonsense. Just smile as you back away slowly. That said:
1) The Chaos Beast. Scott Delahunt is currently publishing a story in serial format along with commentary about his writing.
2) The one, the only, Pegraelian. Andrea Milne has self-published a Young Adult novel and blogs about a variety of topics.
3) Sonal Champsee. Sonal has published, taken courses, given courses, and is just someone you want in your corner.
4) SlamDunkMath. Alex Overwijk is doing some jaw-dropping stuff with the Ontario Curriculum.
5) The Pai Intersect. Jimmy Pai's posts make me think, be it about mathematics or beliefs in general.
6) (x, why?) Chris Burke's blog primarily features his math web comic, but has other noteworthy articles too.
7) The Reflective Educator. David Wees always seems to have great ideas. I should be reading his blog more often.
8) What Would Neil deGrasse Tyson Do? A science teacher! Located her blog via the "Explore MTBoS" missions and have stopped back a few times since.
9) Drawing on Math. Tina Cardone's blog is the first educator blog where I commented, and she always seems to have lots of initiatives on the go.

Keen observers will notice that's only 9. I have thought of a few others, but I know they already received nominations elsewhere, and I prefer to widen the net rather than create recursion. Meaning if I missed that you've been previously nominated, feel free to ignore me -- while if you HAVEN'T, feel free to be #10 or #11!

Now, the questions, which after AGONIZING thought (seriously, I don't tend to ask random questions) are as follows:
#1: Animation or Live Action?
#2: Handwritten or Electronic?
#3: Fiction or Non-fiction?
#4: Parabola or Circle?
#5: Introversion or Extraversion?
#6: How you see your alignment. (Good/Evil/Lawful/Chaotic: see image below)
#7: A regret you would NOT undo if given the chance.
#8: Favourite leisure activity.
#9: Favourite TV show. (Current or not.)
#10: Favourite time travel story. (Book, movie, whatever.)
#11: This space left blank. Option: Pose a question back to me.

Alignments, for those who don't understand question 6

You can choose the context. If you DO respond on your blog, I encourage you to post a comment back here with a link so that I don't miss it. But that's as optional as everything else. Now, on to the boring stuff:


1. I always sit through the credits in the movie theatre. People put time and effort into the production, the least I can do is watch for five minutes and maybe learn something.
2. I don't like beer or sports. I leave that stuff for my wife.
3. I also don't like coffee, and I'm proud of the fact that I got a degree in Computer Science without touching the stuff.
4. I went to University to major in Pure Math. I transitioned into Computer Science after second year, when I realized Pure Math was a bit too Pure for me.
5. I used to self harm. This is in part why I had the Parabola do something similar in my web serial.
6. I was once interviewed on CBC Undercurrents (TV show) for my interest in anime. I did not meet Wendy Mesley.
7. I have been to "Anime North" in Toronto every year since it's inception in 1997. That's 17 years straight.
8. I appear briefly in the Alex Lacasse music video "Like This, Like That"; he attended the high school where I taught.
9. I roleplay both genders online. Back when "BuffyMUX" was active, I played both Giles, and Alison Vunderlande (an original character who was Angel's secretary in LA).
10. I am utterly hopeless at remembering recurring dates. I can remember my wife's birthday, and sometimes my own, and if I'm lucky, our anniversary. Beyond that, fuhgeddaboutdit.
11. I was interested in time travel before seeing "Back to the Future" and "Doctor Who", which is why they're tops as far as my movie and TV show go.


From "Teaching Now..."

Q1. What is your favorite subject/grade level? Why?
Mathematics, because it resonates with me. Grade level is harder; maybe Grade 12 because it's just before they make the transition.

Q2. What is your preference cheese or pepperoni?

Q3. What made you want to teach/work with children?
Didn't think I was cut out for other work; I blogged about it here.

Q4. What made you start blogging?
My web serial, personified math. Wanted a place people could comment.

Q5. If you were able to go back through time and give yourself a piece of advice, what would it be?
Don't stress out about dating. Also, apparently the secret to time travel.

Q6. What one movie should NEVER be remade? Why?
Back to the Future. You cannot make that better.

Pictured: My phone. No apps.
Q7. What was the last book you read? Would you recommend it to others?
"The Temporal Element", a collection of time travel short stories. Edited by Martin T. Ingham. If you like time travel, go for it.

Q8. What would your ideal classroom look like?
A setup that would allow learning collaboratively, but testing separately. Saves shoving desks together then moving them apart.

Q9. What is your favorite app? Why?
My phone is 12 years old. What's an app?

Q10. Who is your hero? Why?
... Okay, THIS one's hard. Huh. Maybe Joss Whedon. He has great tenacity, always seems to come up with interesting ideas.

Q11. Who was your favorite teacher? Why?
Mr. Crossley (math teacher); either he was fun, or his class was fun, or both, hard to say. Was sad when I heard he passed away.


From "McSquared"...

Q1. What's the last book you read that had a profound impact on you, personally or professionally - fiction or non-fiction?
... Profound is tough. I mostly read to escape, and rarely find time. ... I'll go with "Time Machines" by Paul J. Nahin. It pulled together fiction with non-fiction and served as an occasional resource when I was writing my huge time travel story in the late 90s.

Q2. What is your number one most-hated-pet-peeve grammar mistake that when you hear it you want to scream? If you can't decide on one, I'd LOVE to hear them all!
Spelling bugs me more, but let's go with misusing prepositions.

Q3. How many careers have you had?
One, teaching.

Q4. Are you the same person face to face as you are online?
I'd say no, I'm more reserved.

Q5. What celebrity are you certain you could be good friends with if you ever had the chance?
I know celebrities like I remember dates, so no idea.

Q6. Everyone says pedagogy first, edtech tool second, but has it ever worked the other way around for you?
If I don't understand something, I can't use it in my teaching, so I'll say no.

Q7. What are your desert island foods, record albums, movies? (That only counts as one question.)
I like to think I'm adaptable, but we'll go with pizza (it can have most of the food groups), Great Big Sea, and the Stargate movies.

Q8. Who/what always makes you laugh?
Unexpected puns.

Q9. Do you spend any time at all playing something - alone or competing with others?
Roleplaying, in many genres. Collaboratively - I hate win/lose games.

Q10. What was the best professional conference session you ever attended, and what made it the best?
Perhaps OAME (Ontario Association of Math Educators) in May 2003. I'd just graduated, and it made me more aware of teacher-centred PD, putting me on the path to one day present myself. May involve rose-coloured glasses, but I still think of it when I drive through Oshawa.

Q11. Have you ever watched or heard of the movie Être et Avoir? If not, what do you consider to be the best movie about teaching?
I have not, nor have I watched lots of teaching movies. Guess I'll go with the stereotypical "Dead Poets Society".


From "Relearning to Teach", directed at Whoever

Q1. Why did you pick your current content area?
Math speaks to me, I want others to understand it too.

Q2. If you could pick any other content area, what would you pick and why?
Possibly theatre. I've always liked acting, but have little idea of how to assess or evaluate it.

Q3. What is one thing that you would like to become expert in doing?
Marketing. Over two years and still no clue how to drum up more interest for my serial.

Q4. If you won $100,000,000, what would you spend it on?
Pay the mortgage, save the rest. I'm bad with finances, would be good to have a buffer like that in my account.

Q5. If you could have one piece of tech that doesn't currently exist, what would it be and why?
Something that would let me slow down time so that I could move faster when I needed, at the expense of having time speed up around me later, at a time of my choosing. Or maybe an electronic gradebook that handles rubrics, whichever's easier.

Q6. What is you favorite lesson that you have taught/seen?
I like teaching permutations and combinations using fruit.

Q7. If you could fight one historical figure, who would you fight?
Emperor Caligula could have used a punch in the nose, but I don't think I'd be the best person to give it to him.

Q8. What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail? (2 things only)
... Golly. Without the prospect of failure, one loses some sense of accomplishment. And if it involves others, it would be like me imposing my will upon them. Hm. I suppose find the cure for cancer, though that carries it's own baggage with it. Great question.

Q9. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Guess we go with pizza, assuming I can vary up the toppings.

Q10. What makes your favorite book your favorite?
Here's something that describes a few books I really like - subtle foreshadowing. When a throwaway line ends up being significant, or a conclusion that unexpectedly ties things up makes perfect sense in retrospect. Makes me want to read it over again.

Q11. If you could change one physical characteristic about yourself, what would it be?
I sometimes wonder what life would be like if I were a different skin colour.

A FINAL QUESTION back to my nominees, or for whoever reads this: What's the most surprising thing about me that you saw in this post?

Saturday, 11 January 2014

ETC: Sunshine Award Redux

If you have the time, tracing an internet award back into the past can be surprisingly educational. I'm going to relate my journey with this post. If you merely want my final thoughts, skip to the Summary at the bottom. The journey itself starts with the following realization:

There are blogging awards? Apparently so: 14th Annual Weblog Awards.
Awards: Qualitative or Quantitative?


The Sunshine Award was first noticed by me in late December 2013 when Ontario Math Links was nominated. (Have I mentioned I'm a math teacher?) In that post, David discussed the mathematical implications of "a base 11 pyramid scheme" and said he traced back "as far as the beginning of September before I got bored". You can also see his lineage in the post.

This graphic appears in posts from late 2013.
It piqued my curiosity, particularly after it then spread fairly quickly through my blogging tweeps. But I didn't really expect to be nominated, as I'm such a hybrid - I don't only blog and tweet about education. Despite that, a nomination came twice within the span of 24 hours. Yet before posting, I figured I would do a quick search, to see what sort of blogs typically get nominations.

I found a post. From over a year ago. Complete with logo, and different set of rules requirements.

Okay, now I have to track this thing backwards, first to see if I can determine where it changed, and second to see if I can locate the origins. Down into the rabbit hole we go.


Almost immediately, I ran into a glitch. Someone who had been nominated more than once. For that matter, I had two nominees too! So tracking back, which path am I to follow? I elected to try both (not simultaneously). That is, I went back on one path until the trail became difficult, then tried the other. Difficulty came in three flavours:
1) A broken link. This usually meant the prior blogger was no longer active, creating a dead end.
2) No link at all, merely the blogger's name or site. This required a web search to locate said blog, not always successful.
3) A link not to the prior post, only the blog itself. The easiest to overcome, it merely required navigating back in said blog to around the same time period.

This graphic appears in posts Summer 2013
My two nominations (by Tammy Neil and Audrey McLaren) dovetailed back together at Dean Shareski on Dec 10th. You can check out his Ideas and Thoughts award post at that link. You'll see Dean was also nominated twice. (For the curious: Michelle Baldwin's nomination leads down to Tammy, and Tia Henriksen's nomination leads to Audrey.) En route, I found that Dr. Dea Conrad-Curry had also done some research: "I see that the award has been passed around for over a year and through a variety of blogging communities: cooking, teaching, writing, etc."

I'm also going to highlight Lee Kolbert, for what she noted in her Award Post: "In response to a FB post about this meme, Dan Callahan made a really good point. He said, "This seems like a plot to get the bloggers of the world to answer most of their potential credit card/iTunes security questions." While that is certainly not the intent, (as always) be careful about what you post online." True enough.

But we're not even out of December 2013 yet. Back, I say! Back!


I figured out when the rules changed. It's hilarious for reasons that you won't fully understand until the end of this post. It's (inadvertently) due to Stephanie Chavers at Bee Tree Studios. In that linked post, she notes that she was nominated for TWO awards, both the Sunshine Award and the Liebster Award, so she condensed the rules down into one set.

Prior to her post on Aug 16th 2013, the Sunshine rules were:
Include the award’s logo in a post or on your blog. Link to the person who nominated you. Answer 10 questions about yourself. Nominate 10 bloggers. Link your nominees to the post and comment on their blogs, letting them know they have been nominated.

Within Stephanie's post, the rules were given as:
Acknowledge the nominating blogger. Share 11 random facts about yourself. Answer 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you. List 11 bloggers (for Liebster they should have less than 200 followers as best as you can tell based on the info provided!). Post 11 questions for the bloggers that you nominated to answer. Let all of the bloggers know that they’ve been nominated - you cannot nominate the blogger that nominated you.

If you search, this graphic is likely the logo
So there you have it. Something that tripped me up here too was that Stephanie had a prior nomination, back in June 2013. I link to it there because she created a fun card for it that time. Speaking of logos, continuing backwards, the white flower (pictured above) is quickly replaced (in April 2013) by the more familiar orange one (pictured right). It's jarring. "Dear Kitty" uses the white version in a post that hooks back to "Jill London", who uses the orange version. Does this mean Kitty created the new one, or did she search for a variant...?

The 10 questions also stabilize rapidly as to be the SAME 10 questions EVERY post. This post at Jade's Jungle is the first I found to feature them. Favourite: 1) Colour; 2) Animal; 3) Number; 4) Non-Alcoholic Drink; 5) Alcoholic Drink; 6) Facebook or Twitter; 7) Passions; 8) Getting or Giving Gifts; 9) Fave City; 10) Fave TV Show. Arcing back a WEE bit further replaces "5", "9" and "10" to be: Fave Pattern; Fave Day of Week; Fave Flower.

And that's it. By April 19th, 2013, everything is completely stable again. Well, okay, occasionally one sees "10-12" bloggers must be nominated, or "You!" as being an 11th option, but the format of the award is basically the exact same from this point backwards. (At least, it is in my chain; in a random search I found a post from early April with a different set of - and I checked this - constantly reoccurring questions.)


Pete Denton blogs about the award February 24th, 2013, received from Kourtney Heintz. I locate Kourtney's post - it dates May 23, 2012. Wait, what?

Another older variant
The snake has eaten it's own tail a few times by now (blogs that send me away, only to have me return for their third nomination), so I'm not sure if this is a time delay, or me missing a huge chunk of blogs. The names check out, so I decide in the end it doesn't matter, and keep going. Then some disheartening news when I reach "Le Artiste Boot"'s post on January 28, 2012: "Awards seem to have no beginning place, just seem to circulate freely, unexpectedly received."

Two years in the past, and I don't seem to be any closer to an origin. A couple links later, a deleted site ending the trail. Not the first time this has happened - I pick up an earlier "two nominee" trail and track it back. I reach a site marked private, this still in May 2012. Now I'm sitting back to think about this.

I achieved my goal of finding when the rules changed. Origin tracking at this point is going to be difficult, and due to the time skip, a lot more effort than I'm willing to put in.

It's time to do an internet search to see what others have turned up.

That Cynking Feeling (@CynkingFeeling):
"Being a nerd, I tried to find this award’s origins, but could only get back to January 2010."

Make Nothing Online by John Metcalf:
"After following the links for the Sunshine Award I reached a dead end at Counting Coconuts in January 2010."

In The Know with Jo (@InTheKnowWithJo):
"I was able to dig as far back as 2008 and then the trail started getting colder due to old and deleted URL’s, so it’s not my fault."

This is the graphic from Jo's site
So, I'm done. Kudos to Jolene Davies. I may have found a post from Dec 2009, but perversely it links back to one from Feb 2010, so I'm not sure what to believe. I guess we go with John's "Counting Coconuts" discovery from Jan 1, 2010.

Here's the funny bit. Jo posits that "the Liebster Blogging Award and the Sunshine award may have been the same award at one time" based on "posts in 2008 that had them intermingled". This is the very SAME Liebster Award that MORPHED the Sunshine Award from '10 questions' into 11 facts AND questions without the logo, courtesy of Stephanie's 2013 post, referenced above.

It's a crazy world, isn't it?


I began this post by saying that tracing an internet award can be surprisingly educational. Here's why. Even though I was mostly focussed on the chain, I would still browse through the posts (and sometimes the blog in order to find the post!). I learned things.

Someone's rendition from
2011 - a popular year
Administrators blog. I had no idea. I forget who - think it was a VP - who wrote something along the lines of "If a teacher is having a bad day, their classes may feel it; if an administrator is having a bad day, the school may feel it". That resonated with me. There was an entire set of blogs I tracked through about Mental Health, and depression, and being bipolar. Some of that was powerful.

There was a blog post where someone referenced doing a "later" post that I never saw, so I left a (hopefully encouraging) comment. There's all manner of creative logos for this award (back when it had them), and here's a post from one such creator. (I noticed the post features rotating questions - in 2012. Change is inevitable.)

I also turned up this post from March 2011 featuring the award - on a blog that isn't even in English. I've only touched the tip of the iceberg! There's a lot of blogs out there.

Meaning, if you've taken the time to read at least part of this post, thank you. My actual post responding to the Sunshine Questions posed for me will be coming shortly. In the meantime, I have a web serial to put together. The personification of math. Feel free to check it out too. If you have the time.

Here's Flora, the Floor function.
Seems an appropriate closing note.