Google Now and Google Search Tips

Scrolling back through recent posts, I see that it’s been awhile since I’ve shared about nuts and bolts technology which can make life better for educators – inside or outside of the classroom.

So, here’s a quick post about cool and useful ways to utilize Google tools.

First, how often do you use Google Now on your phone, tablet or Chromebook? I don’t look at the “cards” or use the voice activated search (the “OK Google”) as often as I could. But now, having discovered this amazing list of functions, I’ll surely use it with greater frequency.

If you don’t have time to click and view the list, you can take the shortcut the author suggests:

If you’re too lazy to scroll this list, you can also access a list of voice commands on your phone by tapping the mic and saying “show me what you got”.

And, thanks to Time magazine for this list of “11 Google Tricks Which Will Change the Way You Search”

BTW: The Google Image above is not from my Google Now, although I wish I was in San Francisco today!

Merry Christmas – Fear Not! Peace! Hope! Joy!

Yes, this blog has been silent for quite a few days. I fell behind in assessing and publishing my sophomore students’ blog posts (for both their midterm and before it) and vowed to not post on my blog until I completed theirs. I tied the bow on their posts a few minutes ago, so it’s time for my Christmas wishes.

While it’s the season of peace, hope and joy, there’s been a lot of fear going around this year – even during the month of Advent. As a reminder about why a follower of Christ shouldn’t fear, here’s the beginning of Bishop Robert Barron’s reflection for today, Christmas Eve:

The first Christmas homily ever given was spoken on the Judean hills surrounding the little town of Bethlehem: the annunciation of the angel to the shepherds on Christmas night.
The first thing the angel said was “Fear not!” How that phrase echoes up and down the Scriptures! When a being from a higher dimension breaks into our world, he typically says, “Do not be afraid.” Paul Tillich, the great Protestant theologian, commented that fear is the fundamental problem, that fear undergirds most forms of human dysfunction. Because we are afraid, we crouch protectively around ourselves; because we’re afraid, we lash out at each other in violence. If Christmas means that God is with us, that God is one of us, that God has come close, then we no longer have to be afraid.
How can we experience peace during a time of conflict, strife and “terror?” Taking a different view of our home helps me to rest in faith about the peace of creation which was “In the beginning” and to which Christ is returning us.
I feel moved and inspired by the stunning image of the earth rising from the moon which NASA released today (pictured above). Please take a moment to visit the link as there’s more to the image than I could capture above.
As for hope, I’m inspired by this story which was making the rounds on the internet this week. I quote it here in full from Time:
A group of Kenyans traveling by bus refused Islamist terrorists demands that they identify themselves as either Christian or Muslim in an act of defiance that reportedly saved lives.

According to BBC, militants boarded a bus in a small border town and requested the passengers divide themselves up by religion. The passengers refused, the BBC reports eyewitnesses say, telling the terrorists to “kill them together or leave them alone.”

Officials are looking into whether the militant group al-Shabab is responsible for the attack. Two people were reported to have been killed in the attack, but officials say the militants ultimately left after the passengers banded together.

Also today President Obama and Vice President Biden released on Spotify their “Holiday Playlists” While listening to President Obama’s, I discovered this wonderful song of hope by the legendary Stevie Wonder, which was originally released way back in 1967.

Here’s the lyrics, composed during another time of fear, anger and uncertainty:

Someday at Christmas men won’t be boys
Playing with bombs like kids play with toys
One warm December our hearts will see
A world where men are free

Someday at Christmas there’ll be no wars
When we have learned what Christmas is for
When we have found what life’s really worth
There’ll be peace on earth

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime

Someday at Christmas we’ll see a Man
No hungry children, no empty hand
One happy morning people will share
Our world where people care

Someday at Christmas there’ll be no tears
All men are equal and no men have fears
One shinning moment my heart ran away
From our world today

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where men are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmastime

Someday at Christmas man will not fail
Hate will be gone love will prevail
Someday a new world that we can start
With hope in every heart

And for the joy….so much to be joyful for today. But for me (huge listener of Spotify), here’s my top reason — I CAN FINALLY STREAM THE BEATLES!!!

I hope your Advent of waiting was fruitful and rich.

May your days of Christmas (the season continues until January 10th) be blessed and full of much faith, peace, hope and joy!

Thanksgiving Reading?

Back in the day when the best way to watch movies at home was to schlep to the video store, I worked in one of those now nearly extinct stores. The busiest days of the year for rentals were the day before Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. Apparently, turkey and a movie (as you fall asleep on the couch) was a special, annual treat.

Now, with so many ways to stream movies, TV and more entertainment whenever and wherever you want, I wonder if turkey then a watching a movie from your love seat is still part of many people’s plans. Might the ubiquitous RedBox machines see lines and shortages today?

While my family and I are planning on the special treat of going out to a movie tomorrow after dinner, I’m not looking forward to watching anything over the long weekend. Rather, I have some books ready to be read during these holidays I’m not grading or preparing for class.

If you’re like me, here’s some lists which may help guide your selections:

50 Super Smart Books for Everyone on Your List

We Read All 20 National Book Award Nominees for 2015 – Here’s What We Thought

Top 10 Books: The Girard Option of Interdisciplinary Influence

100 Novels All Kids Should Read Before Leaving High School

(Here’s the Top Ten from this list)

1 Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell (free eBook, Audiobook & study resources)

2 To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (free eBook)

3 Animal Farm, by George Orwell (free eBook)

4 Lord Of The Flies, by William Golding (Amazon)

5 Of Mice And Men, by John Steinbeck (Amazon)

6 The Harry Potter series, by J K Rowling (Amazon)

7 A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens (free eBook)

8 The Catcher In The Rye, by J D Salinger (Amazon)

9 Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens (free eBook)

10 Pride And Prejudice, by Jane Austen (free eBook)

OR: The 100 Best Novels Written in English

Here are the Best Books from 2015 So Far (in August)

Black Girls Matter: A YA Reading List

All the Most Thrilling Science Fiction and Fantasy Books Coming this Fall

You Must Read These Five Books Which Will Totally Transform Your Classroom

And if you read any of these books, will you be able to talk about it with colleagues via an on-line book club?

Regardless of what you read, will you choose it by its cover? If so, here’s some fascinating research on that very topic.

Or maybe you’d like to read this short story composed entirely of 5,000 “tag lines” from movies.

Would this be fiction or non? If the former, reading it can actually transform the functioning of your brain.

Maybe you’d like to read not an ebook on your tablet, but an interactive, digital book. Here’s 10 of the best of this emerging genre.

Or perhaps you’ll tell stories at the dinner table. Research shows that it makes kids voracious readers!

And after dinner, maybe watch a TED Talk or two:

10 of Our Favorite Literary TED Talks from 2015

Finally, perhaps the weather will be nice and you’ll take a walk, bring your smart phone and stream free audio books or listen to any of these 25 Outstanding Podcasts for Readers

 

 

Stuff You Should Know – Winter 2015-2016 Predictions

Hi, my name is Rick and I’m a weather junkie. And I’m embarrassed to say exactly how many weather apps I have on my iPad and smartphone

Yet, for your perusal and edification, here’s one of the best infographics I’ve seen which shows a prediction for this winter’s weather. I’ll try to find another one in April 2016 which shows how the winter actually was. It will surely be interesting to see.

Stuff You Should Know: The European Refugee Crisis and Syria Explained in Just 6 Minutes

I’m starting a new feature which I’ve been thinking about launching for a while. The name comes from an excellent little book by the highly esteemed John L. Allen Jr. – “The Catholic Church: What Everyone Needs to Know.”  Typically any book with the subtitle “everyone needs to know” should be taken with a measure of suspicion – who is this author and why does he think I need to know this? Of course John L. Allen Jr. is an expert on today’s Catholic Church and thus I’ll trust his judgement.

So here I am posting about what I think you should know. Pretty presumptuous, right? Perhaps.

But hear me out. I’m a fellow teacher to readers, many of whom I imagine are teachers, connected to the world of education and/or people of faith. I peruse the web daily to learn and discover information, links, and resources which inform both my teaching and my life of faith. So, what I’m sharing in this category are only the items which I think are most valuable for my personal and professional life. Perhaps you’ll find them valuable too.

We’ve been praying daily in my classes for relief for the continually escalating refugee crisis in Europe. Pope Francis asked us to pray for this as one of his monthly requests (last June) and he’s used particularly strong words to exhort people of faith to hospitably welcome refugees.

Before class prayer yesterday, I showed my students this graph, which I think speaks for itself:

Refugees - 1

Tomorrow, as a companion, I’m going to show the photo at the top of this post.

But today, I showed this excellent video. It covers much ground in about 6 minutes and is a must-see for anyone who wants to understand this crisis. I particularly like how it notes and summarily dispels some key objections that many in Europe and elsewhere are using to block the entrance of refugees. Really, please take 6 minutes and watch this now. It’s that important…

 

The 30 Most Iconic Images in Space Travel History

Last Sunday was the Super Moon with the full lunar eclipse. Here, it was sadly too overcast to see it when it reached the peak at about 10:15 pm. It was a good occasion for me to post a video of the moon moving in front of the earth. 

This Sunday, in addition to being the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, is the anniversary of the first satellite launch in 1957. It was Sputnik, launched by the Soviets, and the opening salvo of the space race.

To remember that historic day, I share this eye-popping article from Time which displays the 30 most iconic images (in their opinion) in space travel history. It’s worth a few minutes of your time to enjoy some famous firsts as well as extraordinary views of the universe we call home.

My three favorites are:

The photo above – The First Photo of the Earth, 1966; On Aug. 23, 1966, the world received its first view of Earth taken by the Lunar Orbiter I from the vicinity of the Moon.

Space Photo 2

Saturn, 1973 Pioneer 11, launched by NASA on 6th April 1973, returned the first close-up pictures of the ringed planet Saturn.

Space Photo 3

Mars Rover Selfie, 2015; NASA’s Mars Curiosity Rover captures a selfie to mark a full Martian year — 687 Earth days — spent exploring the Red Planet.

Washing Dishes Is A Really Great Stress Reliever

OK, it’s Sunday night (ugh!) And of course I worked much this weekend, but didn’t get as much grading, planning, etc done as I wanted to do.

As I was getting ready to head downstairs to do my Sunday night task – folding laundry – and my every night task – washing dishes – I came across an encouraging article about the value of what I’m about to do.

Time Magazine offers a brief, yet insightful article about a study which showed that washing dishes can be a great stress reliever – if you do it mindfully. I like the reading excerpt which the researchers had one group of subjects read:

While washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes. This means that while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact that one is washing the dishes. At first glance, that might seem a little silly. Why put so much stress on a simple thing? But that’s precisely the point. The fact that I am standing there and washing is a wondrous reality. I’m being completely myself, following my breath, conscious of my presence, and conscious of my thoughts and actions. There’s no way I can be tossed around mindlessly like a bottle slapped here and there on the waves.

After the group which read this excerpt, washed dishes and then responded with higher levels of inspiration and lower levels of nervousness, it lead the study authors to conclude:

“It appears that an everyday activity approached with intentionality and awareness may enhance the state of mindfulness,”

I’ve written on this blog previously about the many benefits of mindful meditation. And I have many more articles to share and reflections to offer on what I’ve discovered regarding the benefits of it. But, I can’t share these now — I have dishes to do and laundry to fold!

Happy Labor Day – 18 Numbers That Show Why Americans Need a Break

It’s Labor Day and I hope it’s as bright and sunny where you are as it is here in Central Ohio.

So here I am laboring by assessing student papers today.  Teachers know that a three day weekend means that we either do school work on Sunday (as usual) and enjoy Monday or else enjoy a recreational Sunday afternoon/evening and then use Monday for school work.

Regardless, it’s a day to reflect on work and its meaning and value.  Thanks to the USCCB for the graphic above as well as for distributing this annual statement regarding labor.

Time Magazine (via Money magazine) offers 18 numbers which offer some perspective on where American workers are on this 2015 Labor Day:

———————————————————————-

15% vs. 138% Average pay increase in real wages since 1979 for the bottom 90% vs. top 1% of earners in America, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

11% vs. 20%+ Percentage of American workers in unions in 2014 vs. the 1970s/early 1980s, respectiv

1 Number of countries in the world with an advanced economy that does not require paid vacation for workers. Four weeks vacation is the minimum in many European countries. And the lone country without any federal mandatory paid vacation is the United States of America.

47 Number of hours the average employee in the U.S. works each week; nearly 40% of employees report working 50 or more hours per week.

33% Percentage increase risk of stroke among employees who work 55 or more hours per week, compared to those with a 35- to 40-hour week.

15 Number of minutes some Amazon employees were given within which to respond to a pager message—even on weekends or during vacations—or risk getting in trouble with the manager.

 

12% Rise in the number of employees since 2007 who voluntarily choose part-time work and a limited, more flexible work schedule rather than traditional full-time employment.

8% Percentage of workers who say they get extra time off during the summer, in the form of “summer Fridays” or other extended vacation opportunities.

5.6% The official unemployment rate in July, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

42% The “real” unemployment rate according to Donald Trump, who has pointed out that 93 million Americans, or 42% of the working-age population, don’t have jobs. Trump’s numbers include many groups who simply aren’t in the market for a job, including teenagers, stay-at-home parents, and retired senior citizens.

62, 64 Average retirement age for American women and men, respectively, as of 2013. Over the past five decades, the average age of retirement has remained mostly flat for men but has been rising for women, from 55 in the mid-1960s. At least part of the increase can be attributed to the fact that women are more likely to have better career options and more invested in their work lives in modern times.

25% Percentage of Americans age 65 and over who were in the workforce as of 2013, a 3% increase compared to 2010. During this same time frame, there was a 2% drop in the Americans ages 18 to 29 in the workforce.

59% Percentage of American workers who say they are “somewhat” or “very” confident they will enjoy a comfortable retirement.

$63,000, $1 Million The value of the typical American’s retirement savings account, versus the amount that the typical worker believes he or she will need for retirement, respectively.

 

6 Must Have Back to School Apps

You’ve likely noticed that I like sharing lists of educational apps and websites.  There’s been these types of lists from the early days of this blog and I’ll be posting some new ones soon.  Most of these come from blogs and publications geared specifically to educators.

When general publications, such as the venerable Time Magazine, list “must have” educational apps, I’m especially interested.  Lists like this one give valuable insight into what the “media taste makers” deem as important.

Here’s what Time thinks American parents and students need for Back to School 2015:

Brainscape

DuoLingo

EasyBib

iHomework

Khan Academy

Here Comes the Bus

Note: I’ve not hyperlinked these apps as the Time article does this for iOS and Android versions.

The last app made my eyebrows rise as it sounds like a great pacifier for over anxious parents like me who wonder “where’s the bus?”

Here’s their promotional video:

Returning with Flat Francis

Wow – it’s been a while since any of the three of us have posted here.  Things got crazy busy with the wrap up of the school year and all that entailed.  Then came instructing at Summer Gym – seven eight and a half hour days, which fulfill one of two semesters of Physical Education required for high school graduation in Ohio.  It was a lucrative, exhausting, and frequently fun way to spend my first fourteen weekdays of summer.  Rachel and I worked together one of the days to teach our students how to play Pickleball!

Then it was off to an enjoyable vacation in Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountain Nat’l Park.  A favorite attraction (in a location with no shortage of them) was the tram up to Ober Gatlinburg.

2015-06-29 11.22.27

And then it was the Fourth of July and a chance to march in a local parade with my daughter’s dance studio:

2015-07-04 12.59.27

Since Pope Francis has been in the headlines recently with the release of the groundbreaking encyclical Laudato Si, I thought I’d share another way to participate this summer in the Francis Phenomenon BBC. FYI – In case you’ve not yet read enough about the encyclical, Time Magazine has a solid, brief summary and the always interesting Atlantic has a thoughtful, secular perspective.

This summer, be sure to take Flat Francis with you:

flatfrancis

 

Inspired by the Flat Stanley phenomenon, Catholic Extension has launched a website and Twitter handle to which people can post photos of Flat Francis.  These photos will be given to Pope Francis in advance of his fall trip to the U.S. so he can see people and places beyond the East Coast.

Some notable people (and mascots) have already posted:

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And here’s my contribution, from the day we took the Summer Gym students to canoe on the Hocking River:

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