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Alaska Wittig Family Blog
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Lots of Legos, and their role in renewing a career.

Anybody who follows my online persona knows that a good deal of my offline time is spent playing with Legos.  True enough, and even more so recently because I was asked to coach two teams from Auke Bay Elementary School in the upcoming First Lego League (FLL) competition.


Auke Bay is where Sheryl works, and she is friends with Amy Jo Meiner, the extended learning teacher who is in charge of the FLL teams, although it was probably my web postings of Lego models and robots that probably got Amy Jo to ask for my assistance.  At any rate, I was asked, and accepted, and was then told that if I submitted my paperwork for being a substitute teacher I could get paid for a few of my otherwise volunteered days.  And why not?


I began coaching the kids a couple of weeks ago.  Good kids, bright kids, young kids.  Actually, the tasks involved in the FLL robotic challenge are rather steep for grade school and would be better tackled at the middle school level, after a few more mathematical concepts get introduced in their curriculum.  It puts the elementary kids at something of a disadvantage, but I'm a firm believer in scaffolding.


So every day I come to school I bring a different robot, or a variation on one, assembled and/or programmed to show some engineering function or demonstrate the usefulness of various sensors.  I haven't actually programmed my robots to do any of the tasks expected in the competition, but I am showing them the mechanics of how machine and program work together to provide a result.  Will they catch on and apply what I'm showing them to their own efforts?  In time?  It will be fun to watch.


And for the next two days, I'll get paid for it as the school district's newest substitute teacher!

Monday, October 17, 2011
A Lonely Blog

Over two years.  That's a long time for a collection of writing to lay dormant, and if this were a writing project it would probably be classified as a dead one, but since there isn't a directed plot line the blog is inherently harder to kill.


The demise of this blog came with our "new" computer, and the "free" mobile me account that came with it.  Sheryl decided to move the blog to the new location, and laboriously copied and moved every entry over, so the new site has all that appeared on this old one.


But there was a problem.  I [Michael] created this blog, and as long as it lived here it was mine.  Then it moved.  It was no longer "my" creation.  A few months later Facebook came along, and all blogging stopped.


And now I've almost stopped booking my face, meaning that I've stepped back from Facebook.  In their relentless pursuit of getting the most people to spend the greatest amount of time on Facebook, the new layers of features added to improve my experience instead became confusing to me.  Why should I subscribe to my friends?  Why do so many of my friends want me to unsubscribe them?  I was also struck by the new ticker, in which I knew at a glace how much time my fb friends were spending there.  Of course, everybody could tell at a glance when and how often I commented to anybody too.


Now, standing back just a little, I know how much time I was spending on Facebook.  Too much, although the same thing could be said of my browsing on many websites.  While it may be true that CNN covers the USA best, the BBC in Europe, and Al-Jazeera in the Middle East, that doesn't necessarily mean that I have to check all three sites three times a day.  Besides news, the ability to stream video on demand draws time and attention.


But throughout this progression of events, this website sat patiently.  Why not?  We never stopped paying the ten dollars a month because we never went to the trouble to figure out how to transfer the wittigfamily.com name over to the new site.  Maybe this is a better solution.


So, some catching up to do, some forward looking to ponder, and all in good time.  But not this late at night.



Posted at 12:01 AM YDT
Updated: Tuesday, October 18, 2011 8:00 AM YDT
Monday, May 31, 2010
Watch This Space

A year ago I [Michael] got busy and quit writing in the blog.  Then Sheryl bought a new computer along with a place for a new blog.  That's fine...  if it gets used.


Unfortunately, nobody (including myself) has any real idea how to find our new blog. These days, there are no new entries on either blog. But that may change...


Watch this space. 

Saturday, September 5, 2009
Moving the Blog . . .

We are slowly, but surely, moving our website & blog over to our me.com space, which is why you haven't seen an update to THIS blog since the beginning of the summer!

Here is our new URL:


 (I would make the above a hyperlink, but this lousy Tripod/Lycos blog tool isn't cooperating). 

Posted at 6:34 PM YDT
Monday, June 22, 2009
Mosquito Season

Our mosquito season began on June 5 this year, the same day as it did last year.  I [Michael] use the 5th because Becky's birthday is on June 4, and I don't want to discourage people from coming to Becky's birthday party.  In truth the mosquitoes appear in April, and their numbers slowly build through the spring, but for the last two years they haven't really acquired their taste for blood until early June.  I didn't have to start using bug spray until after the party this year.

Until then, our little acre of forest is a paradise.  Our lot straddles the terminal moraine of the Mendenhall Glacier, a pile of sand and small rocks (and a few larger ones as well) left behind when the glacier began retreating from here about four hundred years ago.  There are trees now, hundreds on our property alone,  predominantly spruce and hemlock with some alder and cottonwood (I think) thrown in, several of which are more than a century old.  We have many blueberry bushes below the trees, and a layer of moss that covers over the slight ridgeline our house straddles.  There are two creeks on the property, both of which tend to go almost dry this time of year, and a lovely variety of small plants pushing up all along the banks.  It's all lovely.

Like last year, we hosted Becky's party in our back yard.  Also like last year, we were greeted with warm and sunny weather.  This year's bunch of kids was much more active than last year and were a treat to watch.  They took full advantage of the swings and the woods, running, playing, pretending, investigating, and doing all the other things kids just out of Kindergarten might do.  The kids were busy enough with each other that the adults even had a chance to socialize!  A good time was had by all.

Becky lost her long hair again.  I was keeping up with it during the school year, brushing it out and tying it up every day, but once summer set in I didn't.  Her hair soon became quite an annoyance, and she quickly agreed that she wanted it short if short meant no more tangled hair.  Sheryl was so eager to stop fussing with it she even allowed me to cut it!

We had a wonderfully dry spring with many sunny days and very little rain, allowing me to get much of the foundation insulation done.  The day after Becky's party I dismantled most of the rear deck and began trenching along the north wall.  Most recently I built a small landing for one of our back doors and finished the surround for the crawlspace entry; the next task is to remove the rest of the old deck and complete the below grade work along the north wall, which I hope to have done before my dad gets here in July.

Throughout the dig I have been pleased to find very few rocks and about the easiest digging I have ever done.  This is especially pleasing because I'm not young (48 today) and I really do want my projects to go as easily as possible. Fortunately, our house apparently rests on top glacial deposits rather than on the bedrock our nearby river had to carve through.

Despite their numbers, the mosquitoes have been almost a non-issue.  When I go out in the morning I'll dose myself with a little Off (it smells better to me than their competitors), and even when I'm out for hours, sweating hard from digging, I'm not getting any bites.  The mosquitoes are certainly there, and it's a little unnerving at times when I start to look at how many are flying nearby, but the bug spray does its stuff, allowing me to do mine.

Sheryl is administering a summer camp program for the next two weeks.  My dad gets here when that concludes and we all go to Anchorage together (to visit Sheryl's family and attend her 30th high school reunion), I come back here with my dad to meet my brother and spend some quality time together working on my insulation project, my dad goes home and my brother goes to Anchorage with me, and we all come home.  But wait, there's more!  After that, I fly to Austin for my 30th high school reunion (even though I graduated in Oakland) and to see my mom and my oldest daughter. Then Sheryl will need to get ready for her new teaching assignment.

The rest of the summer will be busy.

Posted at 9:35 AM YDT
Updated: Monday, June 22, 2009 10:11 AM YDT

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