Do you ever find yourself up all night, reliving mistakes you’ve made 5, 10, even 20 years ago? Tonight’s one of those nights for me. I’m alternately thinking about social faux pas & mistakes at work, white lies that’ve gotten me into troubles and hearts I’ve broken over the years.

Unlike the grieving widow who blames herself, I think these particular memories haunt me because they were all reasonably preventable. “If I’d just…” I think. But I didn’t. And I don’t have a holiday for atonement, nor a confessional booth. I don’t feel any of that would give me peace of mind; it hasn’t in the past, anyway. But I still aim for perfection, even if I’ll never achieve it.

Maybe I’m upset because I know I haven’t corrected my ways? At least I feel remorse.

Scrawled on an SH-6.

making my pile bigger

cap and diplomaIt’s official. I am now a Ph.D. student candidate at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto (OISE/UT). Big thanks to my advisor, Prof. Clare Brett, Curriculum Teaching & Learning (CTL) Associate Chair Doug McDougall, Knowledge Media Design Institute (KMDI) Director Gale Moore and everyone else in the CTL and KMDI programs. I’ll now be taking the courses I’ve completed the past couple of years and applying them towards a thesis instead of a second masters’ degree.

/me gets her research on

high table

Hogwarts! by Jay Fienberg Tonight was my first High Table at Victoria College, part of the University of Toronto. I was an invited guest of the College’s Humanities Don, a fellow student over at OISE. Interesting facts learned:

  • High Table really is about as close to Hogwarts as you can get – academic gowns, raised platform, enforced dress code, enforced behaviour, etc. Really fun, actually.
  • College food tastes about as bad as it always has, though Yale’s food was a cut above UofT’s Marriott/Sodhexo crud. At least the dons sprang for cheese, wine and dessert!
  • Folks invited to these things really do enjoy talking about anything, any way, any time. And they’re glad to meet new faces.
  • Exactly what I needed was to meet new people in a non-confrontational setting, to explore new thoughts and ideas, and to exchange hopes for the future.
  • I’m more of an academic than I realized…but not as out of touch as many (tonight’s High Table company excluded!)

an atypical manifesto

il manifesto, by

I’ve been a bad blogger. I haven’t been giving back to “the community,” nor have I even found time to read what “the community” is writing. engtech says:

“…blogging is a 10 to 50 hour a week commitment when you include reading and commenting on other blogs. Blogging takes away from other aspects of your life. Are you prepared to make that kind of commitment? Is anyone?

I’ve realized I don’t blog here. I journal. I’m leaving a trace. It’s time to explain my motivation:

An Atypical Manifesto
Continue reading

a week of accomplishments

This week I have:

  • passed my Gearing Up course, certifying me for an M2 motorcycle license (and a substantial insurance discount!)
  • with a substantial dose of doozer’s help, finished constructing the bike shed (photos to follow)
  • completed the remaining fixup required to my 1977 Honda CB750 (photos also to follow)
  • finished off a bunch of interviews
  • got promoted to Officer in Training with my crew in Puzzle Pirates, and received my officer training
  • got out of the house more than last week
  • cooked a lovely meal
  • helped a lovely woman and her 1 year old move into waynemanor
  • spoke with my advisor at OISE/U of T and feel hopeful about advancing into the Ph.D. program there

I feel…..fantastic!

and what about naomi?

An Open Letter to Joan Ganz Cooney, former president, Sesame Workshop (Childrens Television Workshop)

Dear Mrs. Cooney,

What a pleasure it was to receive in the mail today the 4-DVD set of The Best of the Electric Company. It is a joy to see these programs available in purchasable media, and to be assured that the money will help fund future Sesame Workshop programs.

When I took over running the grey-area online archive of Electric Company video and audio clips a few years ago, I knew I was taking a risk. I never intended to threaten Sesame Workshop’s claim to ownership of these works. However, the rich heritage of these programs, and the profound impact they had on multiple generations of American children deserved a wider audience…even if it was just grainy, small online translations of grainy copies of copies of off-the-air broadcasts. It was with no small surprise that I received a C&D letter from Sesame Workshop’s legal department shortly after Cory Doctorow linked to my site from boingboing. The monthly transfer rates from the site after his link (but prior to the Workshop’s letter!) confirmed that there was an incredible market for the material. I’m ever so glad that Sesame Workshop stepped up and reclaimed its heritage for itself! I was especially pleased to see your segments on the second DVD, and to see some (though limited) framing of the content in its original educational context.

Clearly, with a renewed interest in the show, it is everyone’s hope to whom I have spoken that Sesame Workshop renews the show in this millenium. The format and content will most certainly be different, but continuing the mission to help children read through positive cultural references without the heavy-handed moralism of many an educational television program could very well be a breakthrough. I wasn’t ever directly involved in the original production…but I sure would love to be involved in future work, if there’s a place for someone like me.

Again, I salute your efforts on Sesame Street, The Electric Company, 3-2-1 Contact and the myriads of other educational efforts that followed, both on and off screen. As I struggle to educate both children and adults alike, I continue to look to your pioneering work as a source of inspiration. I still think of your statement in the original Parents’ Guide released just as The Electric Company was set to air: “If television’s true potential as a weapon in the fight against reading failure is to be realized, the full range of television techniques and talents must be exercised.” And, just like your 8 year old granddaughter recently said – this show still is “REALLY good.”

Thank you once again for your hard efforts.

Joan Sarah Touzet


Last week I started work towards my second Masters degree, this time in Education at University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE). I am not surprised, though I’m still dismayed, at how little representation there is of math and science curricula in the student population, and even more so at the general lack of competency in basic information system skills amongst today’s teachers.

But, then again, perhaps my happiness about my own ability to stay abreast of information is all for nought. If I’m to believe this report, reading email can lower your IQ worse than smoking cannabis regularly.

The Register’s article also linked to another article, this one focused on how computers are lowering the intelligence level of our children, primarily because they can be so gosh darn fun and distracting. The article makes a point I’ve been making for years and years now:

“The pervasive use of advanced technologies and their low cost have reduced hands-on experiences for children, including the simple but overwhelmingly rewarding experience of taking things apart and putting them back together. Without this, technology becomes a mystery, leading to a perspective that might well be called ‘magic consciousness’,” observe the Alliance for Childhood authors.

We have been able to produce simple enough computing systems that can be disassembled and understood by children since the 1970s; we have easily been at the point of making these affordable to all but the poorest of social strata since the 1990s. And, yet, all we can do as business owners is keep pushing the absolute latest and greatest technologies, completely unqualified, into schools at exorbitant cost – only to have those very same machines resold back to the public years later, for a fraction of the original value. The complaint? The machines turned out to be a major waste of effort, because no one knew exactly how to use them.

At the middle school where I volunteered recently, every classroom had an original iMac (in the fruity colours), and yet they mostly went unused – and I know the Toronto District School Board worked hard to try and make good software available on each of them. Heck, I could make use of an Apple ][+ in every classroom to enrich, but perhaps it’s unfair – I could program them to do what I want. Macs with System 8.5 or 9 can do incredible things; my high school made a point of teaching everyone HyperCard, and instructing folks in doing various presentations with this technology. Logo was another popular computing attempt, one that seems to have lost a lot of momentum after the TI-99/4A dropped off the market (it had a fantastic Logo + sprites implementation).

I’m gonna stop here before I get too frustrated to be coherent.

interdicting your money

The Interdictor/nola-intel project has officially ended, amidst controversy and confusion. So the direcNIC folks were more than they let on — big deal. It doesn’t make their photos or information any less relevant. If you really must read the gossip, go here , but be warned: there’s libel here, and I want no part of it. None of us are saints.

That said, there were *interesting* things on the radio scanners that the media wasn’t covering, and that we had word of **first** on the ‘net. So to those of you who called it “Team Geeky” and don’t think it was worth anything — I recommend you check over the logs (there are more, email if you want links) and see the interesting facts that slipped through the cracks on CNN and FOX. Like the early report about the NOPD shooting Army Corps of Engineers contractors trying to repair the Danziger bridge. Or early reports of rapes in progress at the Astrodome, the Convention Centre or the Superdome. We wanted to help, all we had was a scanner, IRC and a crapload of bandwidth. A lot of good can be done.

Finally, while this is a “PG” or “PG-13” rated website, I personally feel there is nothing wrong with a little pr0n or swearing now and again for adults. And, don’t forget, IRC is not for kiddies. We swear, we cuss, and we paste absolutely crude links that would make a sailor blush. Be above 13 years old at a minimum, regardless of the network, before you sign on. And get your parents’ permission, please. There’s a lot of evil people out there, so you best beware.

gravatars and markdown

All of you LJ folks, I highly recommend getting your Gravatar. These Globally Recognized Avatars can be used anywhere, anytime, on just about any blog or BBS site…except, not yet on LiveJournal. :)

If you have a Gravatar, and use your registered address when you post on An Atypical Life, your 80×80 Gravatar will appear next to your comment, with a link to your LJ or other website. Alternately, you can use the text:


to insert your gravatar directly into the post.

I’ve also activated Markdown for this site, for easier formatting wiki-style. There’s some syntax hints if you need ’em, but Markdown is amazingly intuitive.

pic heaven

While in Tokyo, I shopped at the world famous Akizuki Denshi, a small electronics shop that sells, amongst other things, fabulous kits. On the chart for this weekend: a PIC chip programmer (photo of my kit, assembled, including the 4.0 upgrade) that I’ve been needing for a while, and a JJY clock receiver (Peter Evans’ assembly, photos and translation). There’s one modification to the kit I made: rather than directly choose the polarity of the DC jack via hard-wiring the jumpers on the lower left, I used a bit of a pin header I had left over from the JJY clock receiver kit and some leftover 2-pin jumper blocks from my PC. (It’s unfortunate they didn’t do what Tristate did with their JJY receiver, where a rectifier is used to accept either polarity of DC voltage input. Ah well, it keeps the component count and cost down, I guess.)

Now, I’d wanted the JJY clock receiver to run off of WWVB, the similar station broadcasting out of Colorado, and to set up an NTP stratum 1 server for my house. So I bought a 60kHz ferrite antenna and 2 60kHz crystals to run the thing. I built it up yesterday, and powered it up, only to realize that the signals have some differences in both their encoding and their bit patterns.

So, sooner than I’d been expecting, I built up the PIC programmer so I can reprogram the JJY clock receiver to understand WWVB. Rewriting the code will be my project for this week; it’s reasonably straightforward, but this is my first taste of PIC code. At a glance it looks very 6800-esque, with some reminiscence of 6502 (naturally). I think I’ll enjoy PIC assembly. ^_^

I’ll post a photo of the JJY … er, WWVB receiver once it’s working.