Will Newspapers live on at Google News Archive?

I saw this in my reader this morning — another push by Google to digitize text and archive it for eternity (or at least, until the servers crash). Google News Archive allows you to search old newspapers, and there is even an interesting “timeline option” that allows you to go back in time.

“The News Archive Partner Program provides a way for Google and publishers and repositories to partner together and make historical newspaper archives discoverable online. As part of Google News, the News archive search function provides an easy way to search and explore historical archives. For articles already in digital format, we’ve worked with the hosts of these archives to crawl and index their materials. When materials aren’t easily available in digital format, we have partnered with the copyright holder to scan and present the newspaper in a way that is full-text searchable, fast and easy to navigate,” explains Google.

The search is free, but when I searched my birth date (what was going on in the world the day I was born?), I noticed that the search brought me headlines and the first paragraph, but then, most newspapers charge you to get the rest. There are a few that are completely, free, though.

I’m OK with that — if I want the archives, I have to pay, and if that helps keep newspapers afloat for another year (well, I am not buying that many articles, but you get the idea), than that is a system I can support.

Peace (in the history),

Slice of Life: String Theory and Mr. Annoying

Slice of Life(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

I know there is already a fully-formed theory called String Theory that has to do with theoretical physics and particles of the Universe. But I also have a String Theory and it has do with adolescents (although, I confess, I am not sure if is a boy-thing, or gender-free).

When I was around 12 years old, I remember reading on my bed one night and wanting to turn off the light. The switch on the wall was not more than a five or six feet away, but I didn’t want to get out of bed. I was comfortable. The light seemed far away. I tried to conjure up some magic powers to turn the lights off. That didn’t work. Then, I started thinking: if I could rig up some sort of system that would allow me to lounge on my bed but still turn off the lights, that would be pretty cool.

So, the next day, I found some string and began an elaborate Rube Goldberg-style system of strings that hung from the doorjams, snaked across the walls and dangled down near my hand. It wasn’t perfect. If I pulled too hard, the whole contraption would tumble down into my lap. But it was good enough. Later, I began to work on a similar idea for opening and closing the door (this was more difficult. Opening was easy enough but shutting required some sort of reverse pulley, a concept I could not wrap my brain around.)

I spent more time and energy on the construction of the invention than I would have if I had just got my butt up and turned off the light each night, but as educators, we know that is beside the point, right?

Which brings us to the modern day household. Last week, I walked up to the older boys’ rooms and there was string everywhere. Plus, scissors and some tape, as well.

“What are you doing?”

” Inventing.”

“Inventing what?” (note: the 12 year old is hard to get info out of, these days. and the 10 year old was following his brother’s lead in his own room).

“A way to turn the lights off.”

“Why don’t you just reach over and turn them off,” I said, looking at the short distance between his bed and the light switch. Literally, he could stretch and never leave the bed and still get his light. This kid is lazy, I thought, before the memory of my own efforts suddenly came flooding back.

“At night, when Duke (our dog) is sleeping, I don’t want to wake him up. If I shift too much, he starts moving. Then, he becomes Mr. Annoying.”

All for a dog …

I looked over his design, noticed that my concepts for Bed-to-Light were stronger (the competitive streak comes out), nodded to him to continue on and walked away. He may not play music, but this kid sure got my inventive gene. Too bad that genetic element rarely got me beyond String Theory.

Peace (in the string),

Slice of Life: A Post-Concert Tally

Slice of Life(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

The other week, my school held a Benefit Concert with staff and student musicians. I organized much of it and the payoff was the music itself, being able to jam with a bunch of students and friends, and watching current and former students shine on the stage.

But there was a bigger purpose, too, which was to collect donated books for schools in New Orleans still struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina (which was an idea from one of my students which sparked the idea of a concert in the first place) and to collect coins for our school’s ongoing efforts to support the Pennies for Peace organization.

I finally got the tallies of the donations.

First, we collected about $350 in coins that night from the audience for Pennies for Peace. That’s more than I thought we had, but those coins sure do add up when they are counted (not by hand, thankfully, but by bank machine).

Second, we have about 12 large boxes filled with donated books and a few bags continue to show up at my classroom door from time to time. A student and his mother have been in charge of figuring out what to do next, as they are part of a church organization that regularly ships donations down to New Orleans. But my student surprised me the other day by saying that he and his mom were going to personally deliver the books to the elementary school chosen to receive the books.

“How will you do that?” I wondered.

“We’re going to drive,” he said proudly. “And I am going to take my camera, and flip video, and take pictures of the school.”

I thought to myself, that’s a long trip from Massachusetts to New Orleans, but later, his mom said they were looking forward to an April vacation adventure, and I could only think: that will be a cool learning experience for this student who sparked the idea for a concert, played drums on the stage (and whose self-esteem is now rocketing as a result) and now gets to deliver our school’s donations right to the school itself.

“I can’t wait to see the pictures and hear about it,” I said, and he beamed.

Now, I am thinking: this has all the makings of a cool digital story project for him. Hmmmm.

Peace (in the pennies),

Slice of Life: Little Musicians in Speakers

Slice of Life

(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

Wacky idea alert!

My youngest was in the middle seat of the van as the older son controlled the radio buttons (there was a long squabble over pop music or the Star Wars story tape which we have listened to “at least 200 times!” and the one closest to the radio, the oldest, won.) That was followed by a spell of quiet listening, and then the little one asked, “Where is that music coming from?”

My oldest son and I looked at each other.

“The speakers, ” I said. “There are two in the front and two in the back.”


“But, who’s making the music? Who’s playing the music?”

My oldest son explained about how music is recorded and how we listen to the recorded music. I could tell, though, that the little guy had this vision of little musicians in the back of the van, waiting to be told what song to play (or, in his preference, what story to tell) before cranking it out for our entertainment.

And I had this neat idea that that concept of little musicians would make a cool comic or graphic novel — a bunch of Beatles-like players just hanging around, waiting for a song to be chosen, playing the song and then, like those clowns in Waiting for Godot, just hanging around, waiting and talking. All inside the speaker box.

Can’t you see that? I can. I can hear it, too.

This morning, as the cat (again) woke me up early and I lay in bed, I started imagining some of the musicians in the box.  The name of the band might be The Pop Rocks. There might be:

  • Shellbean — the guitar player, who is sort of paranoid about someone opening up the speaker and finding them there. She thinks they are just fakers and will be found out. She loves hard rock — AC/DC and Pearl Jam rock her world — and groans when someone chooses John Mayer (“Music for wimps,” she calls it). Shellbean handles the lead female vocals, but reluctantly.
  • Jeff — the bass player, is sort of lazy and goes with the flow. He enjoys the world of the speaker, because most of the time, he isn’t doing anything at all. He debates philosophy with the rest and dreams of someday finding a Tuba in the speaker. He thinks the appearance of a Tuba would be a sign from God. It’s all about the Tuba.
  • Timtam — the drummer and the leader of the group. Timtam is all about energy and spends much of his time trying to get the group to practice. “We got to be ready!” is his mantra, and he imagines something bigger – brighter lights — for them because his theory is that they are being auditioned for something. He doesn’t know what yet, but something. He loves all music except … he hates Abba. Timtam is the lead male singer.
  • “Fingers” Phineas — the keyboard/synth player and sometimes, guitar, too. Fingers has a driving ambition — he wants to write and perform original songs.  Sometimes, during long stretches of songs, he will get the group to unexpectedly insert one of their originals into the mix of cover songs. Fingers is a bit disappointed that this is where he ended up, give his background. “I’m classically trained!” he cries from time to time.

Peace (in the little people),

Day in a Tabloid Headline

I am running a bit late with Day in a Sentence, which asked for a Day in a Tabloid Headline. But here they are, and I was happy that a few of you took me up on teh offer to use the newspaper generator, which is fun to use.

First, the ones on their own:

  • Teacher sets new record for consecutive days of playing catch-up. — Mr. Mansour
    Teachers learn how to resolve conflict and assist healing using restorative conversations. — Shaun
  • Teachers, students – missing! — Tracy (spring break report)

And here are the newspaper headlines, which I decided to share as a Flickr slideshow, but which means that the names of the contributors get left off, so thanks to: Connie, Aram, Lynn J., Lynne C., and Nancy C. for their submissions here (plus, I added my original and a new one).

Peace (in the daze),

Slice of Life: Have a muffin, Mr. H

Slice of Life

(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

It was rush-time, the end of the hectic day with the closing bell just lingering in the air and desks slamming shut, when I turned around and almost bumped right smack into one my of students. It was the same student whom I talked to yesterday and again this morning about staying organized and on task and all that.  The same student I worry about when he goes off to a charter school next year. The student who needs so much structure and guidance, it worries me to no end and sometimes drives me nutty.

He held his hands up towards me. They were cupped together with something in it, held gently.

“Mr. H, here is a muffin for you,” he said, smiling.

“A …  muffin?” I was keeping an eye on the crowd near the door, and listening for announcements. I tried to shut all that out and concentrate on the moment. It wasn’t easy, given the commotion around me. But I did.

“I had it as an extra for snack and I wanted to give to someone. I want you to have it.”

“Oh,” I said, “thanks,” and took the twisted plastic baggie from his hand that held a small, corn muffin. I held it up to look at it but really, I was looking at him.

“I want to give it to a great teacher and that’s you,” and he smiled again with a light in his eye. “You’re a great teacher.”

I swear, I could have hugged him right then and there. I almost did. Instead, I smiled back at him and looked at the muffin, and patted his shoulder. “Thank you, xxx, I appreciate that. Thank you for the muffin.”

And then, the kids were out the door in a flash and I was left there, in a quiet classroom, looking at this silent muffin, just wondering about the magic that can sometimes unfold at the strangest of times.

Peace (in the hustle-bustle),


Highlights from the Concert for Change

I finally got time to make a highlight video of last week’s Concert for Change at our school, where we had student and staff musicians put on a live concert to raise coins/money for Pennies for Peace and donated books for schools down in New Orleans. I showed the highlights to my students yesterday, and they loved it (particularly my drummer student, who helped come up with the concert idea and helped organize the event with me). If you make it to the very end, you can see the stage full of students singing the Three Cups of Tea song as a finale.

That’s me, by the way, playing guitar in the first few acts and then bass near the end of the night.

Peace (in the music),

Slice of Life: Frustration Levels

Slice of Life(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

There’s a teacher at my school whom I respect greatly for her love of children and her teaching ability and style (I want to be like her when I grown up), but she often reminds us that, “I refuse to do more work than the student,” which is something she doesn’t quite mean (she does plenty for her students) but which hits at the issue of student responsibility. Yes, I — the teacher — have an obligation to help them learn, but they — the students  — too, have an obligation to learn and grow, too.  One rarely succeeds without the other.

I was reminded of this yesterday when the majority of one of my classes of sixth graders had failed to do a very  simple homework assignment given five days ago, even after having time to work on it in class on the day it was assigned so that I and my student teacher (who actually assigned it) could help them as needed. This followed on the heels of some other work not being turned in by much of the same class when I was away on Friday. Now, this class has a number of students with documented organizational issues, but this was just too much for me to let slide.

I know I have a cold and my head is tired, but I sort of lost it for a bit in class and took them all to task, hard, for not striving for the highest bar instead of the lowest, which some of them seem to be doing already (and spring isn’t even here yet!). I reminded them that parent-teacher conferences are next week, and that our report/progress reports are going on soon, too, but that most of all, they were disappointing me and letting themselves down  with their passive work ethic. I expect more of them, for heaven’s sake,

I don’t know if it got through.Their heads hung low and they were listening, but I don’t really know if my words got through.

In another class, I had to pull a student outside in the hallway and give a similar lecture, one-on-one. It has been a continuous string of excuses for not doing any work and I had had it (he didn’t realize that I had gone through this earlier with an entire class, poor kid). He nodded, and gestured a good game, but we’ll see if he follows through. Then, at the end of the day, after checking all of their planners, I reminded my students of a few things they should have already had packed in their backpacks and I was amazed at how many scrambled back to their desks. They would have come into school tomorrow, empty of the assignments but full of excuses about why they couldn’t do the work because they left stuff at school (and watch, there will be one or two who will have zoned me out and watched the classmates get their things and not have figured out that they, too, were missing something. I just know it. Or is my mood affecting me?)

Honestly, I felt like a frustrated babysitter more than a teacher, yesterday, and I am hopeful to see some changes in the days ahead, otherwise, we are all in for a rough patch of “Mr H. Turns on the Heat.” That’s never pretty to be part of, even for me.

Peace (in the my class, please),

Slice of Life: Something Simple

Slice of Life

(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

You know the saying about the simple things in life being the ones that we most appreciate?

Well, I spent the long weekend in a sunny place with an awful cold that had my nosing running as it were on a marathon. Just perfect for that weekend getaway, right? So, I needed to have tissues with me everywhere I went,and each time, I walked out our hotel door, I would stuff a handful into my pockets and then distribute the “used” ones in trash cans all over the Tampa/St. Pete area.

Let me say, the tissues in hotels must have glass fibers in them.  Or maybe these were the rejects from the sandpaper plant? My nose felt so raw by Sunday that I often had to second-guess myself on whether it was time to use a tissue or not.  And I sort of forgot that not all tissues are created equal.

So, arriving home yesterday, I grabbed a tissue from our box on the counter (after hugging our boys, of course) and it was like a bit of heaven right there on my face.  The softness was a grandeur I may never know again. I would have gladly have been in the most awful commercial right then and there, and been the most jubilant face in the mix. It felt nice.

It’s the simple things …

Peace (in the blowing),

Imaginary Slice of Life, 3: As the Blog Writes

Slice of Life(This is part of the Slice of Life project at Two Writing Teachers)

This is my third day of posting an imaginary Slice of Life, since I am nowhere to be found. In fact, I think my blog is starting to write itself.

I have. And I have to say, the slices that this man writes about are just ridiculous. I mean, who writes about the tiny moments of life? I did agree to take some time the last few days and post this fool Kevin’s links over at Two Writing Teachers blog, which is such a nice blog to hang out with. But really, the Net is for big things, bigger than these words even, and we Blogs are on the verge of taking things over. I mean, have you read the spam I am getting? Those people just love me.  One spammer even asked if I needed help writing my research paper.  Of course, not, sir. I have all the research at my command that I need. Another spammer showers my blog with praise, but I can see that that email address is suspicious and I hear the other Blogs talking about him in the back-channels. (Yes, we blogs back-channel, too).  No sir, you, I do not post.  But I do glow brightly in your praise. Now I suppose this fool Kevin will be returning to his regular writing tomorrow, but for today, I — The Meandering Mind, itself — intend to take full advantage of my time here and make some hyperlinks. Oh, yes, I am going to meander …

Peace (in my mind),
Kevin and his blog, don’t forget the blog