Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 in review

2007 sports the second highest number of posts in the history of this blog, but just in case you didn't get enough, i thought i'd share my reflections on the highlights of 2007.

--in early january ross and i took our newly acquired mountain bikes up to austin and went biking at town lake with todd. biking is an awesome activity we got involved in this year. like most fun things, we never get to do it enough, but now that ross doesn't have class on saturdays and the weather is great, we hope to get a lot of biking done in 2008 as well.

--on march 3, 2007 ross and i got married! (duh). i was very pleased with how our wedding went and i thought it was super fun. i do wish i could go back and relax for about 2wks before our wedding so that i could have enjoyed it even more...the stress of getting everything for the wedding together, working long hours at work, looking for a new job, and moving really made the first few months of 2007 a blur. after our wedding, ross and i enjoyed a trip to montego bay, jamaica. i had a blast, but i didn't realize how awesome it was until we got back. whenever i look at pictures and remember the good times, i wish we could go back! and maybe we will? who knows what 2008 holds?

--after we moved to austin in march, we enjoyed the outdoors! we went camping at pace bend with daniel & eveyln, we bought a hobie 14 sailboat and took it out on lake travis, and tried to take it out at corpus christi but had difficulties with the weather. we went fishing on lake travis with charles and also bought patio furniture to enjoy quiet evenings outside. we then bought another sailboat and took it out often for sunsets on lake travis. our outdoor adventures were somewhat more limited than we would have liked as this summer in austin we experienced lots of rain and flooding that was kinda crazy!! we look forward to more camping and sailing in 2008. in fact, ross will spend the first weekend of 2008 deep sea fishing with charles.

--this year was also full of visits from family and friends! ross' parents were our first visitors, followed shortly by my mom and rachel. the rest of my family also made it down, along with lots of visits from friends. jared and rachel came and spent an entire week with us this august. ross and i enjoyed hosting them, playing lots of games and showing them around austin, including a visit to the capitol and a kayaking trip on town lake. we are going to enjoy new years day with m&r and m&b, and also look forward to lots of visits at our new home from friends and family in 2008.

--this summer i was a stay at home wife! for the most part i found stuff to do. i was able to take a trip up to portland and spend some time with some special friends up there. i helped out at our church's vbs. i went to two math teacher conferences, and for 6 weeks i went to teacher certification classes and taught 7th grade math at summer school. also ross and i spent a lot of time together, including the time he took me downtown to a keith urban concert and many evenings getting caught up on the television show House. as i am now a teacher, i will also enjoy having the summer of 2008 off work and i am looking forward to all that this summer will hold. also, we are hoping 2008 will include House, provided this strike ends at some point.

--this fall was filled with...school. i'm in my first year of teaching and i have been putting in some serious time trying to be as prepared as possible to teach these little people. also, ross is in the middle of getting his masters degree in computer science, and this took up his monday nights and saturdays all fall. this spring his classes will be in the evenings and i am learning how to spend less time on my preparations, so we are looking forward to more time together in 2008!

--this fall we also had tickets with my family to the a&m football games. while it wasn't the greatest football season ever, we loved going and hanging out with my family. we also saw some great football games, including a win over texas.

--near the end of 2007 we also got peyton! she is an awesome dog and we really enjoy having her around. she makes us laugh just about every day. today i was carrying blankets through the house to wash them, and she decided she needed to do the same. she ran and found her blanket and began carrying it around all through the house and then proceeded to run around and around the backyard, blanket in tow. we look forward to more fun times with peyton (and minnie!) in 2008.

--on november 12th we purchased our first house! we absolutely love it and are fully moved out of our old place, and fairly moved into our new place. tomorrow our pre-cut shed from lowes arrives, and ross (and me sorta) will have the pleasure of putting it together. we have a lot of work to do, but we are looking forward to enjoying our house in 2008.

2007 was a great year. we will obviously always remember it as the year we got married, and also the year we bought our first house. i can't wait to see the exciting memories we will have of 2008. happy new year!

Friday, December 21, 2007

thats what she said

whoop! i'm now officially on christmas break, as of 2pm today. unfortunately i'll be up taking a certification exam by 7:30am in the morning. ross is also off for the next 2 weeks with me, so we hope to get some good quality time in. this afternoon we took the dog and walked down to one of our neighborhood parks to shoot some hoops. there were lots of people there and everyone wanted to pet peyton and some kiddos asked us to play knockout with them. now ross and his friend mike are out buying christmas presents for their wives, as good husbands should do on dec 21st. i hope they are not too overwhelmed by the mall. i'm really bad about keeping secrets from ross, but i think so far i have him bewildered as to what i got him for christmas, and i'm trying to make it through the next few days without him discovering or guessing it.

several of my students brought me teacher christmas presents and cards. 3 girls went in together to buy me a tin of cookies, which was super sweet, but the "best teacher" bear was probably my favorite. yesterday i gave my students a 20 question survey to see how the semester went. i was relieved to see most of my kids say that i was "really nice" and "fair". when asked what one thing they would change for next semester, i was surprised to see about half the kids put either the desks or new decorations. i told them today that i would consider these changes- they are not too hard to change! their least favorite thing about my class was overwhelmingly not enough chances to talk, homework, and too much work. with the exception of possibly a little more talking, i don't think these are going anywhere!

here's some of MY faves:

What do you like the most about this math class?
mrs. hytnen
nothing
well, the teacher is cool
sometimes she doesnt give us homework
the group activities and of course ms. hytnen
the activities we do
projects
how she helps us understand
i like most is my teacher
it is so fun
everything
its my last class almost
we learn new things
it helps your brain

What do you like the most about Mrs. Hytnen?
she gets mean and she's nice when she's nice
her personality
she's kinda nice
she is cool!!!
she's kinda fun
very nice
she helps me get good grades
everything
she's cool (sort of)
she's happy
she is nice and she know what she's talking about when she teaches us
she understands when i have a problem
her happy attitude
that she is a fun teacher that can crack jokes! (2 stars)
she's thoughtfull and generouse
how she's patient with the class and hardly ever yells
she is a good teacher
she's fun to talk with
her jokes
she's nice...sort of :)
she is funny
she is nice, cool, helpful, and i guess fair
she likes football and gives good explanation
nice you are ok
thumbs up and when we talk about our weekends
everything
that she is smart
i think she my favorite
she talks about her family
that she respects me
that she is nice and she teach so so good
well, i know one thing, she is better than ms. (other teacher's name)

What would you like to see Mrs. Hytnen do differently next semester?
i don't know
nothing
wher her contacts more
be cooler with us
change lesson to fun
nothin much
not as much work
more group activities and less presure
give us really challenging work
i think she needs to do the same next semestre
get a little nicer
be more specific
i like to see more math games
go outside to see math problems
be more strick, give more work
yes a little
i don't know what do you think?
make hard, but not to hard problems
more projects
teach a little bit hearder stuff
i would like her to give us candy when we make an A
the way she teaches
teach us new stuff like algebra
funner stuff
more chalengly stuff
i will like her to teach us more

and so i shall. teach them more. but i will enjoy these 2 weeks first!

Monday, December 10, 2007

its about time

on saturday, ross took his final final of this semester of grad school, and we are both elated! he has been going to class on saturdays from 9am-2pm and also on monday nights. and we missed our weekends. now we can actually do things we enjoy such as sailing, biking, sleeping in, playing playstation, etc. sadly i have a UIL competition all day this saturday, beginning at 6.30am (go math team!!), and a certification test the following saturday beginning at 7.30am. But seriously, we will soon be enjoying unhindered weekends.

unhindered weekends like this one. ross had a good friend over friday night and grilled out fajitas. they watched the spurs and played video games and we put up our christmas tree. saturday ross and i got more of our stuff moved into the house, and then some friends of his came into town from seattle. ross and carlos played chess practically non-stop all weekend, and we all enjoyed a most relaxing time. and so we had our first overnight guests. tomorrow night we are hosting our first party in the new home, and more overnight guests are due shortly.

and finally, what you've all been dying to see: pictures of our new house! we still have a lot of work to do, but here's a peek.

you can see pics here as well:

Friday, November 30, 2007

Cleaning up your rusty ol' PC

Lately a lot of people have been asking for advice on fixing this problem or that on their machine. It runs too slow or the firewalls confuses them or they have a lot of pop-ups etc. Turns out there is an easy solution to all of these things - don't use MS Windows!! No just kidding ( though not really ) - but regular maintenance of your computer will do wonders for fixing and preventing those problems. So I thought I would give you a list of things you can do to help keep your computer running lean.

There are 5 basic types of applications you just have to have to keep a Windows machines running safely. My philosophy on software is simple: Do one thing, do it well, do it fast and do it free.
  • Anti-virus: http://www.free-av.com/ . Let me just say this to you - do NOT use norton, do NOT use McAfee. The truth is that ALL virus scanning programs subscribe to the same list of virus definitions provided by CERT. Norton and McAfee are just a lot of slow bloated, unmanageable junk sitting on what should be a lean clean inoculating machine.
  • Malware protection: Spybot S&D and HijackThis. Spybot is a first rate malware remover. Hijack this is particularly strong against a kind of software known as a root kit. In SpyBot, you can detect spyware, innoculate against a lot of infections and you can even use it lock your registry so unknown programs won't be able to make modifications without your knowledge. If you use Internet Explorer (and believe me you really, really should NOT be using internet explorer), it also has a toolbar protector.
  • Firewall: Comodo. Let me tell you a secret - the MS Windows firewall is incredibly weak and really is the lowest quality firewall you can use and still have it work. Now to be honest I don't use Comodo much because my router has a firewall built in. I suspect most of you have a router so hopefully this will be a moot point.
  • Junk removal/Integrity Checking: CCleaner. This program keeps your system free of cruft and ensures your registry integrity. Basically your registry is a huge hierarchal database of things your programs want to know about (and thing your programs want to hide from you). The bigger it is and the more useless junk that is in it, the longer it takes to search for information and so the longer it takes to load applications. CCleaner also comes with a program uninstaller.
  • Startup Control: StartupCPL. There are at least 6 different places programs can stick information to ensure they start when you log into windows - it's not just your startup folder in your start menu. StartupCPL will place a new icon called startup in your control panel which gives you the ability to easily turn on and off any applications that are trying to start themselves. You know that little set of icons on the bottom right of your screen near the time? Those are things that probably started themselves when you logged in. Your office applications, your antivirus, your printer, your audio rack...a lot of things you don't necessarily need to have running. The more of them there are the slower your computer will run. Look you just don't need to have a quick open for Microsoft office on all the time unless you're working in an office incessantly opening documents. Turn them off!
Now that you have these 5/6 programs installed I should mention a caveat. Since Spybot comes with a registry protector I didn't mention an independent program for doing it. If you choose not to use it then you should use some other registry locker. Now if you use a registry locker and you try to use CCleaner to remove entries from your registry, CCleaner will fail. You will need to temporarily turn off the locker so CCleaner can do some work on it OR just keep clicking yes when it asks you if you really want this change to occur.

Ok I want to give you a few more tips for safe / useful computing. There are probably another half dozen programs I'm going to strongly recommend to you but before I do that I want to try to convince you of something. You should never ever use Internet Explorer. Warning: I'm about to rant about why I think you should not use Microsoft products. If you want to skip the rant then take these two bullet points from it and then skip the next paragraph.
  • Internet Explorer is deeply insecure
  • MS Products are not meant for usability as much as for claiming market share and so they aren't very user friendly.
Without sounding too conspiratorial, here are a few reasons. First of all, the customer is Microsoft's worst enemy. Corporate partnerships are it's best friend. In general this means Microsoft isn't designing software for you. In fact they hate you - which is why so many of their new products have digital rights management built into it. I don't want to get into the the "how bad is piracy discussion" here but in the end the result is that MS products are not designed for usability. Most importantly, Microsoft has historically developed short sighted products and built a lot of gloss on top of them as time goes on. What this means for example is that when Internet Explorer was created, it was created only to hamper Netscape and claim market share. Security was an after thought. As the years go on, they add more and more gloss but are unable to fix the security flaws because of inherent problems without starting over and breaking a lot of things that depend on their current brokeness to run. A dirty little secret about MS is that since Windows 95, the architecture of Windows hasn't changed much. 12 years later they can't start from scratch anymore but they also can't fix the security problems because it would break so many older applications. Look, the bottom line is Microsoft is not good for the health of your PC. End of rant.

Ok so what should you use? For most people Firefox is perfect. What's fantastic about this app is the ability to extend the functionality in exactly the way you choose. For example, I have configured my Firefox to never ever show me an online advertisement. You can question the ethics of that decision - it's a pretty big debate frankly - but the real point is, Firefox will allow me to do such things. It also have it set to put the weather and tempature on the bottom of my browser, not run any javascript until I ok it, give me definitions by clicking on the word and so forth. Firefox is far more secure, far more flexible and free. Guess what - you're not going to get toolbar hijacked using Firefox the way you do with Internet Explorer either. Trust me on this - make the switch.

My friend Todd suggested I recommend some faster, leaner browsers to you besides Firefox. You may check out Opera or IceWeasel.

Ok, now I want to just recommend some very useful tools to you.

Process Explorer: Do you want to know what all those processes are that run on your PC? You'll love this application for doing just that. Mark Russonovich - the author of this program - was so awesome and had such a deep understanding of how Windows works that Microsoft hired him to teach them about how Windows works. Now that is freaking cool. He's a Tech Fellow at MS now.

EndItAll: This sweet little utility will force shut down any of those pesky applications who just won't do it themselves. Sometimes an app just won't respond or has received protected status from Windows to prevent shutdowns (you know like spyware?). EndItAll doesn't care about such sillyness and will put those processes in the grave where they belong until you are ready to run them again.

KeyPass: This program is a pretty decent password safe. You have one password to enter this program and then it maintains all your other passwords. It'll randomly generate them for you, tell you they're out of date and in some cases will automatically log you into websites. You never actually have to know any of your passwords if this is the only machine you use because you can just copy and paste them. If you ever have logged back onto a site you haven't used in 2 years and wondered what your login info was then you will understand the use of this application.

FoxItReader
: Todd also suggested I recommend this one to you. You know how Adobe Reader is super slow and adobe in general is a lot like Microsoft in terms of how much they loooove their customers? Well this is a very fast and free replacement for Adobe Reader - use it to check out PDFs.
Well I have a lot more to recommend but the more I recommend the less you will use - information overload maybe? If anyone is interested I can also make good recommendations for data backup automation, cryptography, safe hard drive wipes or really just anything.

So in conclusion, install at least the first list of programs and use them. Please install Firefox and at least test it out. Try the next few applications if they suit you. Also, here is a bullet list of tips to remember.
  • Do not run 50 programs on startup or keep them in your system tray. You probably do not actually need Microsoft Office or your Print Manager to run 24/7 in the background. Do you really print 24/7?
  • Do maintain and hopefully lock your registry.
  • Do not pay for commercial versions of these products because they are generally inferior.
  • Do not use Norton or McAfee - they are horrrrrriiibbbbleeee.
  • Care about what is actually running on your machine - it's not as hard as you think to learn about the basic feeding and care of your computer. Think of it more like learning how to change your own oil in the car. No one says you gotta do it - but it's useful to know.
Ross

Sunday, November 25, 2007

thankful

well thanksgiving 2007 is in the books. i have much to be thankful for this year-->


--Jesus! because without Him and the hope He provides, we would be nothing. and seriously, He is pretty awesome.

--my husband ross! this year (well, 9 months of it so far) has been our first and its been amazing. we have endured a lot of changes and enjoyed a lot of activities together. i love living with my best friend. and he can do all the hard chores!

--my fam, the Jo's. and the no-Jo's. thursday afternoon marked what i believe is the 4th(?) turkey bowl featuring the Jo's vs. the no-Jo's. since my name is now officially sharon j h, i was transferred to the no-Jo team. this was especially sad for me because the Jo's made official turkey bowl t-shirts for this year's game and i wanted one. but on the other hand, the no-Jo's were victorious, so give and take i suppose. this year again m&r&l&p threw a huge party and it was a tremendous blast, eating a lot and playing games and watching football with the fam. and i must not neglect to mention that an AGGIE victory over longhorns always makes thanksgiving that much better. two in a row...whoop.

--my new house! ross and i were very blessed to move into our first house this month. i know you are probably anxious for pictures, which we hope to post very soon. we are still in the process of moving in and getting everything where it should be. i come home every day and think, wow, i have a super awesome house. ross and i have definitely enjoyed this long weekend. last night i cooked dinner and ross lit a fire in the fireplace as it was quite chilly outside! this afternoon ross and i put our huge kitchen to good use as we worked together to make some chili to enjoy later for dinner.

--my job. i must say that i wish i had a few more days off before returning to school, but i feel blessed to have a decent job that i am enjoying. the principal and other teachers are nice, the students are great. it has been a lifelong dream of mine to be a teacher, and i am very excited to get this opportunity to try it out and see where i would like to go from there. also, i am thankful for the safe journeys i have had to and from work so far this year.

--my church. ross and i have been attending services at austin christian fellowship since this summer and we have enjoyed being a part. we have also been going to a small group during the week for about the same length of time. we are also doing a little bit of volunteering there, and hope to continue to be involved at this church.

--my pets! i have never really had a real pet before, and now i have a frog, a cat, and a dog! they do present their challenges, but they are fun to play with, and i have really enjoyed taking peyton for walks in the evening and having her follow me around all the time. peyton and minnie are always good for a laugh!

--my car! it has served me well the past 2 years. and it belongs to us, not the bank. and it has a sunroof.

--did i mention the aggies beat the longhorns?

--there are more. but i must now ponder how i am to teach little children about ratios and proportions this week.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

And so now the hard part begins...

You probably all know by now that Sharon and I closed on the house Tuesday and even got our earnest money back from the title company. I am thankful we had a good agent and were working with USAA. We went through two other agents before settling on John and it was well worth switching to him I believe. USAA made things extremely quick and easy for us as well. Unfortunately, our sellers are not very honest people and have done everything possible to annoy me from refusing to pay my agent to stealing the fridge out of the kitchen the day of closing. Good riddance - it was filthy anyway. Also, while I'm complaining, during closing they promised they had installed the new drains in our tubs. That was a complete face to face lie. I suspected as much what with the lack of eye contact and barely acknowledging my presence and so forth. I removed the tub stopper upon getting back to the house and saw the drain was fully of ... pennies. Also, they installed a stand up shower but forgot the rubber strip at the bottom of the door...that one that prevents the water from pouring out on to your floor. Oh well. Despite the trouble with them, we are still excited about the house! All the stuff to do around the house are relatively easy and my agent said he'd bring his tools by and help out. Go figure. Moving in is going slow but we expect to be done no later than the weekend. I suppose you want pictures - well...I have none! Here's one of the pets to tide you over.






Aww.....









Ross Hytnen

Sunday, November 11, 2007

final countdown

sunday evenings i usually count down my last few hours of weekend freedom before the school week starts back up. this weekend is extra special because i am counting down our last weekend before we move into our new house! ross and i are going to close on tuesday, and we are so excited! the whole process has gone very quickly and very smoothly. i put in some evening work on the front end of the process, but ross has been awesome, handling all the details during the day while i'm at school. i think he's really ready for this to be over! ross and i both took tuesday off of work, and we are going to close at 10:30am. more on that on tuesday!

we enjoyed a relaxing weekend, spending lots of time with each other. saturday night we went out to the new mall, the hill country galleria, at 71 and 620 intersection. there's a brand new barnes & noble that we hung out at. then we walked around the stores before going to see the movie "dan in real life" with steve carell....LOVED it. so funny, and just an overall great time. after the movie we went back to b&n for more book browsing.

ross is experiencing crunch time with research papers and presentations and exams for school. while he was at class on saturday morning, i took peyton for a long walk at the park. we had bought an anti-pull harness at wal-mart with vague hopes that it would keep her from choking herself in her enthusiasm at the park. i was blown away! it worked like a charm. i usually can only walk with her for about 1 mile before my arm falls off. however, on saturday we were able to go for a peaceful 3 miles. ross and i took her together tonight and we decided we definitely could be on an infomercial for this product...amazing!

after class, ross called peyton and me to join him for sub sandwiches and an afternoon sail! he brought along a life vest for peyton which is so cute/hilarious, look for pictures soon. she loved being on the boat i think, though it made her somewhat nervous. it was a gorgeous day and we enjoyed a long afternoon just relaxing on the lake. at least i did. i guess ross was working relatively hard sailing us where we needed to go. but we all had a great time.

this is the last week of the 2nd 6weeks of my semester! tomorrow the students have the day off, and i have a staff development day at a ranch near san marcos. tuesday i took a personal day, so i had to arrange for a sub. so, a short week for me this week, and then a super short week next week before thanksgiving!

p.s. why is walmart playing christmas carols? isn't it still november??

p.p.s. i propose that as aggravating as it is when the computer crashes and you lose your work, it is even more aggravating when you lose an evening's work due to you personally in an act of stupidity overwriting your finished work with a previous version.

p.p.p.s. i have been watching the colts/chargers game tonight while working on the laptop and i do believe it was quite possibly the strangest football game i have ever seen!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Basic Diagram of House



I'm not an architect, but I did my best to sketch up some basic blueprints of the house. It's not 100% accurate (some stuff will be off by a foot or two I suppose) but the main features to keep in mind are that the curving wall of the kitchen is actually a counter / bar and as you enter the house and pass the coat closet the wall rounds to the left rather than forming a 90 degree turn as in the diagram.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Update on House Shopping

Just an FYI,
The seller agreed to our offer entirely - including the new furniture they staged it with. Barring the inspector reporting some minor catastrophe, our closing date will be Nov 29 or before.

Ross

Sunday, October 28, 2007

things that have made me smile this week

the principal announcing over the intercom that all students should be changing their underwear daily and keeping themselves as clean as possible.

realizing that should we ever have a teenager that we wished would not be sitting too close to their significant other, we can just send peyton into the room. any time 2 people are sitting remotely close to each other she bounds in between, wanting any potential kissing action for herself.

coming home from taking peyton to the park on friday night to discover a fire in our firebowl and tulips and dinner waiting for me on the porch

the number of students who ask if i'm going to dress up for halloween. one student suggested i dress up as a witch, so i responded 'well that wouldn't really be a costume then would it?' the other students thought this was quite funny but the humor was lost on that particular student.

deciding with ross to make an offer on our (potentially) very first house of our own!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Challenge: Simplicity and Depth (Corrected)

Note: The corrected text is listed below in bold in the crane wife story.

As an avid chessplayer, I have to admit that sometimes the most beautiful creations in chess come from the most unexpected, quietest and simplest moves. That's their charm - impressive depth and power with little raw material. Recognizing them as such requires a skill all it's own.

Over the last month I have seen a small outpouring of people writing extremely short stories that still attempt to be a viable tale. The universe of possibilities that some of the stories open up with a handful of words distinctly reminds me of the subtle nature of "the quiet move" in chess.

Here are three examples I came across:
The first is an old Japanese tale called the crane wife. An old man once found a wounded crane on his doorstep. He took the crane in and nursed it back to health. Some time later the man met a woman and fell in love and married. They were poor so the woman offered to weave silk clothing to sell to make money, but he could never look in at her while she created the clothes. As time grew on, the womans health worsened but blinded by greed, the man demanded more clothing to be weaved. Wanting badly to know what she did to the silk to make these clothes so desirable, he looked in on her one day and was surprised to see a crane plucking feathers from her own body to weave into the loom. She flew away and never returned.

(If you like the story, listen to the Decemberists sing a folk rock version of this song called Crane Wife 3).

So six sentences and I count at least five morals to the story. That's amazing. The story is also closed and complete and emotionally provocative. In fact your gender will probably seriously color how you feel about the story. Compassion, love, greed, selflessness, betrayal, tragedy, shame, sorrow maybe? - WOW! Talk about dynamite in small packages...

Contrast that with this story supposedly written by Hemingway (who according the story also said it was his best work). "For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn."

The difference here is how many stories he just wrote (in just 6 words!). Every time you try to figure out what happened, you get another story. Did the mother die? Of what did she die? Sickness, accident, homicide? Maybe a miscarriage or tragedy at birth? Maybe she just left or gave the child up for adoption? Maybe I just moved into a house and found some brand spanking new baby shoes. Heck, maybe I just got two for one at the local Walmart. The point is that it's an infinite number of stories out of an ever so tiny number of words.

Here's one more from the annals of the internet supposedly written in a college class in response to an assignment to write a short story involving religion, mystery and tradgedy.

"God, I'm pregnant. Who's the father?" So this one doesn't come close to either of the other two because it's both closed and narrowly focused. It's still part of the class of short stories written in 6 words or less.

So challenge time. What's your 6 word story? If you can't think of one, then whats your 6 sentence story? Here's my quick try at one. Missing my love, people surround me.

Ross Hytnen

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

o no you did NOT

last thursday was not the greatest day for me. having caused a child to burst into tears and continue to bawl for most of 5th period, i was going to seek her out during 6th period to reiterate why said child had been assigned lunch detention. (curious? after refusing 3x to pick up her binder which had spilled its contents all over my classroom floor, and after my suggesting she get busy taking notes, she defiantly wrote on her notes page, 'learned this in 4th grade' to which i responded with a note of my own: going to lunch detention tomorrow. clearly this was not respectful, and you are probably aware of how i feel about respect in my classroom.)

however, i was distracted from my reparation mission with this student because a new student had unexpectedly been enrolled in my 6th period. as i was introducing myself and getting this new student a seat and a warmup page, i was again distracted by 6 more new students arriving to my class.

now, i should explain that my 6th period class had been shrinking the first few weeks of schools as student schedules got ironed out, until only 12 students remained in the class. this is much smaller than my other classes so myself and the students referred to it as our 'cute little tiny class.' these students are some of my lowest students, but since it was so small, i felt like i was able to give them a lot more individual attention. i saw some results from this on the last quiz, as their class average went from my lowest class to my second highest class! i was anxious to see if this trend would continue. however, i digress. 6 more new students.

it seems the reason behind my 'cute little tiny class' was that some spots were being reserved for students who were in the ESL Academy because they just barely moved here from Mexico. fun times! i asked them to introduce themselves to the class, and (after a translation) they introduced themselves...in spanish. fortunately for my non-spanish-speaking-self, most of my students are bilingual. the new students do have a teacher that comes with them 2 x a week, but the other days we are by ourselves. so, feeling rather helpless, the next day i paired up my bilingual students with the non-english speaking students and have them do a lot of translating for me. its not really the best situation as these students, while benefiting from having to explain what they are learning, are having to work extremely hard to help out their classmates. they are being great sports about it and i am most proud. however, these new students with absolutely no warning, were quite the surprise.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

peyton the puppy

ross brought me home a puppy on friday! we'd been thinking of getting a dog for quite some time now and had been scouring craigslist for a couple weeks, checking out some dogs. ross found peyton and went by to meet her after work on friday and brought her home...for free!



she is a collie mixed with something else, and almost 1yr old. we've been having a blast with her so far. our friends b&b came out today with their dog and we all went over to the hamilton greenbelt and wore those puppies out!

minnie (the cat) has been responding fairly well so far, and we hope that the 2 of them can become great friends. mostly peyton will be outside though, and we already have a dog pen and dog run in the yard, that ross is fixing up right now so she has plenty of room to play. peyton is my first dog ever to have and i'm excited! she likes me just fine, but she LOVES ross and follows him around everywhere.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

1/6 (or 6/36) of the way there!

tomorrow marks the end of the 1st 6weeks grading period....sigh of relief! this past week or so has been fast and furious trying to get all those kiddos who didn't turn in homework assignments for about 3 weeks to have a passing grade in my class. lots of before school tutoring, and assigning them to the afterschool tutorial program and a little creativity (the beauty of being able to drop 2 HW grades!!)...and i've got it, mission accomplished. i have a new plan for this 6 weeks that i think will be better for the students and definitely for me in the long run. any student missing 2 assignments will immediately be assigned to after school tutoring program every day (until 6pm) until all assignments are completed. this will help the missing assignments not snowball on me. this of course means i need to be very on top of my game so i KNOW how many assignments they are missing.

we've been doing some preliminary work (prime factorization, GCF, LCM, preteaching vocabulary) and starting tuesday (woohoo for columbus!) we will be full force ahead into our fraction unit for the next month or so. i'm trying to do a really good job of explaining conceptually what we're doing and how everything fits together, and the kids seem to be responding well. for instance, today we were discussing equivalent fractions. i had them shade half a piece of paper and we wrote a fraction (1/2). then without more shading, we folded the paper in half again and came up with 2/4. and so on. these fractions are the same because in relation to the whole, you still have the same 'part of a whole'. or something like that. we also then looked at the patterns and developed a rule that would work for any fraction, which is of course to multiply the numerator and denominator by the same number. the kids were freaking out getting so excited trying to figure out what it was, because i was totally playing along with all their ideas, acting surprised when they didnt work. but the whole class was ecstatic when one kid would finally get it right. i also found it amusing that they would try to stump me (i was showing them that you can use any number you like) with large numbers...like 652. and i would take 1/5 and come up with 652/3260, and they would be genuinely impressed that i could do such math. o brother. these kids have a loooong way to go! and i shall take them there. well, a little way there.

overall, i'm still feeling slightly overwhelmed by this teaching assignment. every school has its own culture that can provide challenges, and ours certainly has its fair share. the getting up early and long drive and getting home late is still hard for me to get used to. also the work required on the weekends is getting a little old. i feel like i've made some good progress building rapport with the kids and i do see glimpses sometimes of solid learning taking place. but it can also be very frustrating when you feel sometimes as if you are talking to a crowd of people but the only person listening is you! and i have of course made a few of my kids burst into tears, which is difficult. i've had a kid yell at me and tell me he doesn't like me and thinks i'm nice to everyone but him and proceed to slam the door to my classroom. i've also had a kid write me a note on her homework that she wants to be a teacher and i am her role model. so its definitely a challenging mix of ups and downs. and i like it.

ross and i decided to take a break from responsibility/work/etc on sunday night and go watch a movie at the theater. we watched 'the kingdom' and it was pretty intense, but we really thought it was a good movie. tonite we also started a new study with our small group written by our church (www.givestressarest.com) that i i think we will enjoy. other than that, we continue to hang out with each other, and try to fit in as many enjoyable activities as possible in the limited time we have. i will admit that i realized with great horror on the way home tonight that i had forgotten our 7month anniversary yesterday! the first 6months of our marriage i had remembered and tried to do a little something special. ross says this means we have graduated to quarterly or yearly celebrations. but i told him thats silly. of course we will continue to celebrate each and every month. to make up for yesterday, i made us some tacos to celebrate 7months and 1 day of being together!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Rethinking the Riddle

I'm gettin reports that everyone is stumped on this one so maybe I'll just tell you the answer and pose a secondary question.

Take the case of 1 person with blue eyes and 199 people with brown eyes. The statement "I see blue eyes" would clearly refer to that 1 person and that 1 person would see no other blues eyes and understand this fact. 1 person with blue eyes will leave that first night.

Take the case of 2 people with blue eyes and 198 people with brown eyes. Each person with blue eyes would see exactly 1 other person with blue eyes. Blue #1 sees Blue #2 and thinks, "If he is the only one with blue eyes then he'll leave tonight." (Btw, blue #2 thinks exactly the same thing) Blue #2 won't leave that night however because he see's Blue #1. Therefore, Blue #1 can now deduce that Blue #2 sees a pair of blue eyes and since Blue #1 only see's one pair of blue eyes, then the second pair must belong to him. Both of them will leave on night 2.

Take the case of 3 people. The third person with blue eyes sees 2 people with blue eyes. Knowing what we just talked about, he expects them to both leave on night 2 if they see no third set of blue eyes. Since they DO see another set of blue eyes they don't leave on night 2 and thefore the third guy can now deduce they were looking at him. 3 people leave on night 3.

And so on...

100 people will leave on the 100th night. People with brown eyes would expect to leave on night 101 if they also had blue eyes. Since everyone left a day earlier, they know they do not have blue eyes.

Confused? Good - just mull this over and answer the next part of the riddle. Keep in mind that part of the key here is that blue eyed people see one less set of blue eyes than brown eyed people.

What piece of information is introduced by the statement "I see a person with blue eyes" that was missing before it was said? In other words, everyone knew that other people on the island had blue eyes so why was it important that a third party introduces the sentence?

Ross

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Riddle For You...

I told this riddle to an EE at my work recently and strangely he exploded angrily claiming that this riddle was a lie and impossible to solve or he would have solved it instantly. Yea, fat chance.

This riddle has no secrets or cheesy endings. No tricks, no mirrors, no one telling other islanders the answer. It can be solved completely through reasoned logic. So have at it...

On an island are 201 people. 100 of them have blue eyes. 100 of them have brown eyes. 1, the "leader" as it were, has green eyes. No one knows the color of their own eyes but of course they do know the color of everyone else eyes. For all they know, their eyes could be red. No one can tell an islander his/her eye color.

These people are trapped on the island until they can deduce their own eye color. Everyday, a ship comes by to pick up anyone and everyone who has figured out his/her eye color.

They are all perfect logicians and it can be said that if it could be figured out through logic it will be instantly deduced and therefore you can count on the islanders to act in the most advantageous way (that is, the way most likely to get them off the island).

Exactly 1 time in their entire existence, the leader may say something to the crowd. One day she stands before them and without looking at anyone in particular says, "I see someone with blue eyes."

The question then is who gets to leave the island and when do they get to leave? There are other interesting questions to answer like to specifically note what about the statement provides enough information for someone to escape?

Ok like I said, there are no tricks, no sign language, no showing up on the boat to see if you get kicked off. I'll leave this up here for a few weeks before posting some multiple choice answers as a vote. If you know the answer or figure it out, comment your answer but don't include your reasoning. It's an interesting puzzle in that the same kind of logic you use to proof this riddle forms the foundation of a type of computation called recursion that is fundamental to my discipline.

Ross

Saturday, September 22, 2007

where should we go on vacation?

ross and i both have some time off around christmas time and we have been planning to take our first real vacation post honeymoon. you might be smiling to yourself that my thoughts have already turned to christmas break only 4 weeks into the semester, but really we are just making travel arrangements, don't worry! its an unfortunate time to have vacation because of the weather, travel prices, etc. its also unfortunate we're not exactly sure where we want to go! we have considered going back to jamaica, going on a cruise, or visiting a city somewhere in the US thats on our list of ooo we should go there sometime. we've considered san francisco (but afer thursday are banning all things fran...jk), boston, and currently the frontrunner is hot springs, arkansas. there are obviously lots of factors in our choice, but if you'd like to lend your expert readers guidance/opinion/vicarious wishful thinking about any of these places or another place you think we'd have a blast vacationing at...let us know!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

progress report

well, i have now almost made it through 4 weeks of the school year...1/9 of the way through! so far, so good. my feet are hurting less, though still hurting, and the 6am wake up call is getting somewhat easier.

you may recall that my afternoon classes had a substitute last week while i had a curriculum development meeting. i surprised my last period class by returning early and were they glad to see me! they, being my torturous class, were not behaving all that well (though my other classes were perfect angels and the sub told me their behavior reflected highly on me) so i had to whip them into shape. i had to assign my first 2 lunch detentions because this was the somewhat severe consequence i had set up for any misbehavior for the sub. friday afternoon when that class returned they came in and were sitting there smiling, so glad to have me, their beloved teacher back...they were the most well behaved they have been all year so far. but monday they were back to their usual selves.

i continue to be more strict than i would prefer to be...i insist on the highest level of respect for all people in the classroom. today a young girl raised her hand (as is appropriate for anyone who has a question or comment) and informed me she had a paper cut. in my most sincere tone, i said 'i'm sorry' and continued on. but i did not turn away quickly enough to miss the nasty mocking 'i'm sorry' that she whispered to herself. i calmly asked her to step outside for a conference. i then informed her that the number one rule in our classroom is respect and she had broken it. i asked her, what exactly, she wanted me to do for her paper cut, to which she replied 'nothing'. so i explained to her that since i couldn't do anything for her, i had replied with the most respectful comment possible to let her know i was sorry it had happened to her. her disrespectful response was disappointing and absolutely unacceptable. and besides, i added, it hurt my feelings. and i sent her back inside. if i had it to do again, i might give her a piece of tape to put on it, b/c this is just as effective as a band-aid on a paper cut b/c its the air that makes it so painful. i'm serious. try it out.

i had also informed my students that i didn't want to lend them pencils and pens anymore b/c i didn't want to take the time out of class to track student's names who borrow materials and they were not being returned to me. they knew that my super cool pink, purple, and blue pens had been given to me by my sister and they really enjoyed borrowing them. they started to disappear and i occasionally see a student writing with a suspiciously similar pen in my class, but i refrain from confronting them. this morning between classes 2 girls that i have later in the afternoon came excitedly up to me with one of my purple pens that they had found on the floor of another teacher's classroom and they wanted to make sure i got it back. so kind! i am also starting to feel like somewhat of a celebrity as i walk through the halls as choruses of voices call out to greet me. its silly, i know, but it does make one feel loved. if not by rude secretaries, nurses, teachers etc...at least by 12 year olds.

believe it or not i actually teach math amongst all this classroom management issues. i am finally feeling like we are getting through some important material. progress reports went home today, which has lit a fire under some students hineys. tomorrow and friday the students will be taking a district landmark test that i really hope they are prepared for. then monday morning we start a 7 week unit focusing mainly on FRACTIONS. everyone's fave. i'm looking forward to it actually.

this week i learned an important lesson. last week i introduced rounding of decimals with an elaborate story of how i spent my birthday check from my grandmother when i was in middle school that contained, among other fun things, information about drinking dr. pepper through sour punch candy straws (amazing! by the way). the kids were falling out of their seats excited...literally. after them mentally rounding my prices of my birthday purchases, i showed them the rounding rules and made the connection that these were the same answers. we had a great friday afternoon of rounding. on monday i got a little less enthusiastic about introducing a couple of dry methods of estimation. i read the definitions, did examples and did some guided practice. monday was okay. tuesday i attempted a very similar lesson with a slightly different method of estimation, and i had more distracted/restless/talkative student problems that day than any other day of the year. lesson learned. creative lessons regarding fractions...coming right up.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

School, School, House, Yard, House and Car

well the third week of school is nearing completion and i'm still hangin in there! today i impressed the students by bringing in 'guest checks' that the waiter keeps your tab on and menus to chili's and olive garden that i'd printed off the internet. i let them take turn being the waiter/waitress and calculating the total price for their group's meal. it was a big hit with the number one question being 'are these real??' about the guest checks...which i'd picked up several hundred of at walmart for $3. my favorite question however was 'ms. do you have another job?' i said, 'no, why?' and the girl said 'o i wondered if you brought these from your other job.' no, actually this job keeps me plenty busy.

last nite was open house and i was pleased to see that my classroom procedures had been instilled properly in the students little heads. as i quizzed them in front of their parents about what they do when they initially walk in my classroom, without fail they all promptly responded 'we do our get it started.' and i had prepared a get it started activity for their parents as well. get it started is simply my bellwork, warmup, do now...whatever. i call it get it started simply for the sake of being able to walk in to class each day and say 'ok people. get it started. get it done. no laziness. get it started. get it done. take care of business.' :)

between ross' grad school, my school's open house, grading papers, housework, yardwork, small group, my teacher certification class, and trips to college station...ross and i have been having to carve out some time to hang out and also get some sleep! one evening last week ross called me on the way home from work and we met at our sailboat. ross grilled some dinner on our awesome propane stove and then we just hung out at the marina for awhile on the boat. we fed some ducks that like to hang out at the marina, watched the sunset, and then headed home. also, as of about 10minutes ago we are caught up on House, M.D. just in time for the new season that starts sept 25th.

last weekend i was able to go straight to college station after school on friday and hang out with jennifer and then go to the football game on saturday...yes, the whole game. i announced our victory in all my classes as i had told all my students i was going to the game (alot of them mentioned it to me on their way into class as well), but tried to be fair in that i also mentioned the longhorns victory and the cowboys victory. but not the red raiders. that gets to be a little too generous.

yesterday we had quite the rainstorm starting about 5.30am and continuing through 6.30am when i left the house. about 7am (halfway to work) my windshield wiper broke off my car. always fun! i got to school on time (7.59am) but was soaking wet. i got great leverage out of my story in all my classes, and that night at open house a lot of parents asked me about it so i guess word got out. i told them that i drove the rest of the way with only one windshield wiper because i knew they would be so disappointed if i wasn't there. they laughed. tomorrow they get their first sub (the afternoon classes only though) as i'll be across the street developing some math curriculum with a consultant and other teachers from the district. we'll see if they're still laughing when i return.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

i'm sure that my 6th graders are elated that i have not yet subjected them to my lesson plan on respect/social norms in the classroom. the lesson plan i created for my certification class this summer that involves, among other things, the playing of a certain song performed by aretha franklin. i have, however, consistently reinforced that in my class, i will be respected, classmates will be respected, you will respect yourself and the school property. and you will respect very well. if not, you will have a small chat with me outside the classroom or i will glare impatiently at you until you start respecting or your classmates inform you that i'm waiting for you to be respectful. in my class, respecting the person speaking (whoever it may be)involves not rummaging through personal belongings, not even holding a writing utensil (unless instructed to take down notes), and certainly not talking, and looking at the individual speaking. i realize this is slightly extreme as most are capable of multi-tasking, but i hate repeating myself. plus i just enjoy enforcing my will upon these poor students. just kidding.

so today i busted out the new textbooks and the base 10 blocks. manipulatives are so cool. i hated them as a student b/c i didn't need them to help me understand the concepts so i found them boring. i tried to preemptively combat this feeling in my pre-AP class by explaining that solving a problem in one's head or on paper and modeling a problem with blocks are 2 separate skills and they need to be able to show that they have both these skills. most of my classes did well, and they had no difficulty with my long speech about maturity and not throwing blocks, not chewing on blocks, not hitting people with blocks, not building tall towers with the blocks, working together and sharing the blocks,etc.

then came last period. this is a TAKS prep class i teach to help out some kiddos that didn't pass the test last year. i don't know if its b/c its last period or if its because this is their 2nd math class of the day which i'm sure they find annoying, but this is a rough class. today i gave them a chance to work with the blocks. we had some issues, blocks were everywhere...not cool. so i stopped the class about 20min in, waited for respect, and then said, "i'm really sorry. i think there's been some mistake. i was supposed to have a 6th grade class this period. somehow things got messed up and i have a 3rd grade class. let's line up at the door because its time for my 6th graders to come to class and learn something." and so they did. everyone lined up at the door. when class begins i greet my kids at the door with a little knuckle smash and hows it goin. so they all stood in line, got their knuckle smash and hows it goin, and had a seat. i then began class like i normally do, adding, "the weirdest thing happened earlier. some 3rd graders were in my class and i didn't like it very much. i'm so glad i have my 6th graders back!" the kids played right along, and were like "really? thats so weeeird!!" i hope that they were playing along anyways, and not really that lost.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

labor days

well i finished off my first week as a teacher last week.

deep breath.

it went very well. i was very pleased with the students attitudes and academic performance. i was shocked at the amount of paperwork and thought and preparation that goes into a class day. this led to very long days. long hours i mean. the days themselves fly by, it feels like a huge whirlwind, kids coming & going, papers EVERYWHERE, and i wonder how kids learn anything in a 54 min class period.

i would say the hardest parts about last week were getting up at 6am, which was quite difficult for me. also, going to bed early so i don't pass out from fatigue was hard for me. and standing all day i also found difficult...my feet hurt so badly!

the best parts about last week were coming home 2 nights to find my husband had cooked dinner on the grill and had it ready when i walked in. also, i enjoyed tripping up almost 100% of my students with the following statements during 2 Truths & 1 Lie Activity on the first day-

1. I was born in Texas
2. I have 5 siblings.
3. I have been white water rafting on the Nile River in Africa.

100% of my students guessed incorrectly which statement was false all day long, until the very last period. I guess word got out because 100% of my students in the last period got it right. Other favorite parts of last week were beginning to learn the students names and see them smile when I could remember, and having students come to my class to be greeted by me and then run out because they didn't actually have me this class period, they just wanted to say hi.

It was super awesome to have the long labor day weekend. Ross and I were able to meet up with my family on Saturday for a barbecue and the A&M football game. We were then able to join up with some of Ross' family for an all day birthday bash barbecue on Sunday. There was some serious food going on there! Shrimp kabobs, jalapeno poppers, various other side dishes for lunch. Then the fun continued on into the evening when we had prime rib and other sides for dinner, before topping off everything with 4 different types of cake to choose from! We had a great time. Monday we spent catching up on things. Ross ran errands and did some work on the boat. I spent most all of the day grading papers, writing lesson plans, and generally getting organized. I'm hoping this week I will have to spend less time in the evenings preparing because I have my lesson plans done for the whole week already. Which will give us more time to finish up House, Season 3 on DVD before the new season starts at the end of the month!!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

say what?

i'm feeling teacherish. i got my key to my portable building classroom today. and checked out an overhead. and activated my school email account. i was slightly disheartened at the status of my room - chalkboards instead of whiteboards, long tables instead of desks - but hope that these and some other issues will be resolved as next week progresses.

i was trying to get a lot of rules and procedures documents planned out, but learned there's a lot of schoolwide policies being implemented this year about keeping an organized binder and all teams of teachers having similar rules. so i'm putting that on hold until inservice next week.

so i am now brainstorming just exactly how i'm going to decorate my classroom. my school mascot is cardinals. my team name is raptors. i have 2 small bulletin boards. one idea i've had is put up some quotes/sayings/inspirational thoughts or pictures around my classroom.

i was wondering if you, my dedicated reader, have any favorite quotes that you would love to see me put up in my classroom?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

let's do this

my last 2 weeks of summer/5 month work hiatus flew by. the last week of july i was able to help out at our church's vbs in the mornings. i had a blast doing this, and was glad to have a great group of about thirty 5th and 6th graders. at first i was alarmed at the size of the class, but when i realized this is what i will be facing during the school year, i decided i had better get used to it. many fellow leaders gave me praise for my apparent ability in working with this age group. this made me feel good, and my experience built up my confidence that i will be able to handle my classes this fall. i am ready to be a teacher.

that weekend my parents came to visit and delivered my little brother and my youngest sister. ross and i were going to host j & r for the week and we had a blast with them. the evenings were consumed with card games, barbeques on the front porch, sailing trips, video games, and visits to barnes and noble. during the day i did my best to show them around austin- we went swimming at barton springs pool, visited the capitol, kayaked on townlake, jared went golfing at a pga tour course down the road, rachel and i went to a movie, we went to the mall, and took a day trip to san antonio. i think i kept them fairly well entertained and we had a blast with them. the week culminated with a weekend trip to college station to hang out with the family. however. this experience reminded me that i am NOT ready to be a parent.

my last day of summer was spent kayaking again on town lake with matt and ross. tuesday my new teacher orientation for my district started up, followed by inservice next week, followed by school starting on august 28th. i have been working like crazy this week to get everything prepared, wondering what it was exactly that i was doing all summer that took precedence over getting everything ready for my class. but, i am most definitely looking forward to beginning this new career, and hope that it will allow me to make a difference in the lives of each of my 100+ 6th graders that i will have in math this year. :)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Captain's Log: August 1, 2007

Disaster at "sea".

You may not know this, but Sharon and I have purchased a 21' Bayliner Buccaneer on the cheap. We keep it moored at Anderson Mill Marina. It's a type of boat known as a sloop; basically a cabin cruiser. Unfortunately, we are going to sell the hobie to pay for new boat. Actually we'll profit on the deal since the hobie will fetch a better price.

We took our first sail with the former owner to get to know the boat better.

However, I will tell you about our initial solo sail as it proved much more interesting.

8:30 PM
My first mate, Sharon, and I decided to go on a little sunset cruise in our newly acquired bayliner. The trip started out ordinarily enough with us moving out under power until we got to the main channel. It turns out there simply wasn't enough wind to get anywhere. We allowed ourselves to drift peacefully in the main channel while we watchd the sun disappear behind the hills.

It wasn't until we decided to go in that things go a little hairy....

10:30 PM
If you don't know this, a lake at night is a very black place. Houses and docks and trees easily disappear in the outlines of hills around you and even the buoys can be difficult to spot. This is why it's a very good idea to make sure you have GPS with you when sailing a lake with as many coves and dead ends as Lake Travis has. Unfortunately we didn't have ours with us because going out was a last minute decision when coming home from a softball game.

We thought we would be able to get away with not having this vital piece of equipment because the entrance to our cave is marked with a flashing red buoy that we supposed would be easy to spot in the black pitch that coats the lake at night. We were wrong. During our relaxing drift, we had moved much further than we supposed. In fact we drifted into the mouth of another cove which also came equipped with a flashing red buoy. Oops.

We did have plenty of fuel however and happily motored on for nearly two miles before realizing this can't be the cove of choice. We met some other midnight skippers who apprised us of our location and after consulting our map, we set course for home.

And here .... here it gets really lousy.

11:00 PM
The motor stalled on our way out of the cove. When I reached down to start it up again it literally flipped up side down, remaining attached to the motor mount by a miracle (which probably actually was tension from the fuel line helping to support it). It had shutoff so I reached down to grab the motor and wrapped my arms around it just before it's second clamp came loose. Sharon held my waist as I heaved our hapless motor aboard.

11:30 AM
I wasn't sure what had happened and realized that another piece of equipment I would invest in would be a million candlelight 12v spotlight. Our cabin lights just weren't cutting it. Unwilling to risk dropping the motor 60 feet down into the depths of the lake in some vain attempt to reattach it to the mount I had little choice but to call my brother Charles.

While we're waiting for Charles, let me tell you a little something about drifting through total darkness. It's kind of peaceful for one thing but at the same time there is a deep sense of irony. I set sail ill-prepared to solve problems in low light conditions. Yet all around were the lights from various shops and houses along the shores. So everything you need is within sight of you; you're not lost, you just can't reach it. And in fact, if we hadn't had a cell phone, we wouldn't have reached it for a very, very long time. Now it is a lake, which means you're still relatively safe and have a high chance of drifting to the shore. Unfortunately, not all the shores are useful since you can't always get out anyway. Also, my boat has a fixed keel, meaning that drifting ashore may be interpreted as running aground. That's not a good thing.

1:00 AM
Charles is a typical man. By which I mean men have an inner desire to be heroic and be the "one to call" in times of trouble. So despite the late hour, he was in pretty high spirits. He knew the cove we were in and was able to spot our cabin light. After the obligatory, "Did somebody order a pizza?", he towed us to the safe waters of Anderson Mill Marina.

2:30 AM
We finally moored and secured the ship.

Cap'n Ross

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Yay - I'm important?

I stumbled across something worthy of laughter this afternoon. A few years ago, I wrote a paper ridiculing various wireless router protocols, proposing an attacking method and even a couple of solutions. The paper wasn't fluff, but it wasn't a paper either. It was an undergrad class in research that prompted the article. Actually it was a power point presentation accompanied by a program I wrote to demonstrate statistical methods of cracking simple XOR encryption. This was turned into a paper (by me) and submitted to the Association of Computer Machinery Journal on my behalf (and of course with credit shared with my professor) without my knowledge. The content was cut to a 1/3 of the original size and i believe some grammatical changes were made but it was definitely my paper and sported my name (and Mario's ;). It seems however, that this article has been making the rounds.

Six months after publication, I was invited to present it at a University conference which I took as nothing more than a paper mill for people needing to be published. I declined. Shortly after that, I was asked over email for a brief technical interview regarding the contents of the original article. I initially declined the interview but strangely, after being insulted for declining decided to answer his questions. Today I found this http://www.dadblogit.com/articles/wifi.pdf. If you look on page 9, source 8, that would be me.

OK, it's not lost on me that this is also an undergrad research paper, but give me a break. So the lesson learned is be careful what you read and what you believe because academics are even willing to quote me in an undergrad paper that's over 2 years old and believe me, I don't know nothing 'bout nothing.

Ross Hytnen

Friday, July 20, 2007

the republic of texas

ross drives to work on the capital of texas highway. which i find acceptable, especially because we live in austin. on my way to work i pass the republic of texas parkway. which i find less acceptable. i mean, seriously? i guess as a child i did not think it odd that we spent several entire years studying texas history. i think most texan children know texas history much better than national history, and lets not even think of international history. i remember one time in college literally arguing with a dead-serioius fellow aggie about whether texas or the u.s. would win if texas withdrew from the u.s. and waged war. again, seriously? i think my texan eyes were opened during my summers in the northwest. where were the oregon flags? why were the highway signs not in the shapes of little oregons? haha. texas is cool. case in point:

appropriately sized american flag on I35:


inappropriately sized texas flag 1/2 of a mile earlier on I35. where is the american flag? long live the republic ;)

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Flood Waters and Grand Openings

Sharon's busy serenading me with a well worn guitar so I will once again have the honor of sharing our weeks adventures with you. This week I'm offering you a brief photo essay rather than a journal entry.

With the never ending rain, you of course know that Lake Travis is close to the brink. Here is a photo of the rather rare opening of four floodgates at Mansfield Dam to counter the surge.


Charles and I have found that there are catfish hiding in the bushes and trees that provide some cover from the lively currents. (8 lbs)



Sharon and I have opened a new cafe we call "Hytnen's on the Bend". (Yea we stole the name, so what?) The patio is a little wet from installing a water mister in the rafters that is supposed to have a cooling effect. I'm dubious of its claim of 30 degrees but even 10 would be a pleasure. As you can see, we have foose ball and chess table available for patrons (and free wi-fi!).



On Sunday nights, we even have live music...



We found some cute coconut cups that go well with our little home made Jamaica.


Here I am being superfluous.


That's me, pretending to play chess as an advertisement for our new establishment.


This is me actually playing chess, about the time I met Sharon. A photographer took photos of each game in progress and gave a hard copy to the winner of each individual game. I still remember every move of this game two years ago, but I can't remember where I leave my keys from day to day.


And so until next time, I hope you enjoyed the photos and we can't wait to start receiving visitors to Hytnen's on the Bend!

Ross Hytnen
(So as not to confuse Cynthia)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

urban cowboys

last night we began our soggy 4th of july celebration by enjoying some free tickets to a keith urban concert, courtesy of one of ross' co-workers.


the concert was downtown at the frank erwin center on the UT (t.u.) campus.

we both were impressed by keith's guitar skills, but were slightly weirded out by his 4, yes, count them FOUR backup guitarists and their tight pants. they had some songs that were pretty close to rock, which they performed on the big stage, and then moved to a small center stage for a more 'intimate country style'. ross isn't really a country music lover, but he was a good sport and wore his boots for the occasion.

i do like country music, not really keith's music, but i did enjoy hearing his guitar skills and the few hit songs of his that i do like.

Monday, July 02, 2007

summer CAMT

wednesday night i headed off to san antonio with 2 other teachers for what i suppose is my first business trip. yes, we were headed off to one of the largest math teacher conferences in the country, about 8000 teachers strong, at the convention center on the san antonio riverwalk. this was a last minute request from our principal so the nicer hotels on the riverwalk were basically booked so we stayed at the ramada limited not too far away. sometimes limited means rare, expensive, and valuable because there aren't very many of them. this was that other type of limited.

the conference consisted of 1 hr conference sessions all day thursday, all day friday, and saturday morning. there were hundreds to choose from. some were more popular than others. thanks to the fire marshall, the conference for the advancement of mathematics teaching (CAMT) was extremely interesting. once all the seats in the room were full, no other teachers were allowed into the room, they would need to find a different conference. no big deal, right? wrong. the conference periods had a 15 minute break between. but everyone was in such a big hurry to get to the next conference, they would begin leaving early. the conference leaders knew this, so their conferences started becoming shorter and shorter, so their attendees could get to the next session. they would then wait in hordes outside the classroom and start rushing in as soon as the doors opened. this means if you happened to go to a session that merely let out on time, or if you happened to need a drink or restroom break, you were definitely not making it to a popular session. unless you did the ever popular, sneak up on the side and work your way through the crowd of people that have been waiting twice as long as you have. rumor has it one lady got removed from CAMT because she could not control her anger towards these people. perhaps you think you would cleverly attend the session before the popular one held in the same room? no problem, they've already thought of that. everyone must leave the room between conferences to make it fair. this means if the one you wanted to go to was in the same room as you were already in, no chance of you getting back in the door because so many people are already waiting. it was crazy!!! i went to boring conferences to avoid the madness. i mean seriously...its a math conference?

despite all of that, the funniest part was actually the materials, or lack thereof. most conference leaders would hand out a CD or some handouts that were pretty useful to bring back for your classroom. but a lot of leaders did not have enough handouts. people would get downright nasty, demanding teachers from the same school share, or those that came in a little late did not deserve one, or storming out of the room when they didn't get a handout. my personal favorite moment of the conference was when a lady sitting next to me did not get a handout and seemed very upset. another lady nearby gave her one, and shared with another teacher from her school. the lady promptly got up and left. she just wanted the handout, not the lecture. even funnier was how angry the ladies at my table got about this, and spent the next 45 min talking badly about her.

all in all, i learned a few things, got some interesting ideas. also i got to meet up with friends from usaa at the riverwalk 2 of the 3 nights, and had a great time. CAMT 2007 is in the books.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

our un-vacation

it all started last week when i took a look at our summer schedule and realized that our 'oo we need to take the sailboat down to corpus' weekend excursion needed to happen this weekend or it would most likely not happen at all. so we made plans to take our summer vacation down to corpus. friday night we gathered up all the camping gear, hooked up the sailboat, and we were off! the chances of rain in the forecast kept us slightly subdued, but we were naively hopeful that we would escape any bad weather. i mean seriously, other than in west texas, what is the percentage of time that weather forecasts are correct? (i exclude west texas because although these weathermen also mess up the important forecasts, their percentages are boosted because most days the 'its gonna be hot and dry' works out pretty well for them)

friday night we got into town and dropped off the boat at ross' parents property and said hi to james, ross' cousin who lives next door. we then checked in to a hampton inn nearby. ross bargained our rate down by about $30 dollars (though it was still painfully high) and we tried to open our door. the lady reprogrammed our keys no less than 3 times but to no avail. i don't know whether to blame her or the door. but it worked out well. because she gave us another room, a room that was a higher rate than the discounted rate we just paid. it was a suite with a king size bed. the best bed that either of us have ever slept on. we took note of the mattress brand and had a pleasant evening. this, it would turn out, would be the highlight of the trip for me.

the next morning we hit up h-e-b to load up our cooler as we intended to camp on the beach. we then drove out to padre island and it was drizzling some as we drove. it seemed to be letting up as we got closer, yet every time we would mention 'hey the rain stopped', it would simply begin to rain again. we got out to the beach and sat in the car watching the rain. this was fun. james met us out there and then we checked out the boat ramp. we unhooked the boat, but then it started raining harder. forgive me for saying this in TEXAS in JUNE, but it was sooo cold with the wind and the rain, that we had to abort our sailing AND camping mission.





determined not to let our vacation be ruined (we DID just drive all the way down here!), we decided to go to the texas state aquarium in corpus. this was pretty fun, and we could get a good visual on the lexington from the aquarium as well, but did not go on board.






it was no longer raining but more rain was in the forecast and darkness was approaching in a few hours, so we made the joint decision not to go back out to the beach, though the sunny skies left us feeling very torn as to what to do. we set up our awesome propane stove at a park along the waterfront and had our picnic dinner there. we saw a regatta of sunfish sailboats, which was cool, but also kind of rubbing it in our faces a little bit. afterwards, we went to half price books that ross used to hang out at, and some of his old chess buddies were even there, so he got a couple games in. then we went to barnes and noble (we love bookstores :) ) for awhile. then we went and saw a movie. this wasn't quite the day we had planned, but it turned out to be fun in spite of the rain and change of plans.


so saturday night we hadn't planned to stay in a hotel, we'd planned to stay on the beach. so we tried to scout out a cheaper hotel, though the spring air avalon suite mattress back at the hampton was very tempting. so the next day we woke up and the sun was shining! we were glad we'd stuck it out, as we had considered driving back to austin the evening before. we loaded up and drove to the beach. The ramp was packed, the skies were clear, and we were stoked! We got the boat rigged up, put her in the water, raised the sail, and.....all the fishermen started coming in. A storm was coming in from the south. We could see the clouds. ross asked a guy we'd been talking to, how long, 1 hour? the guy said 20 minutes. as he said this, it began to rain. then, it began to pour. we frantically tried to pack up the boat while about 30 other boaters did the same. we could not have been wetter if we'd just gone and jumped in the ocean. so, basically, we got as close to sailing as possible, without actually untying from the dock.




and then we drove 200 miles home. soaking wet. and that was our summer vacation: sailing in corpus.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Quick Update

Since Sharon has been so busy learning to be a teacher, she has forgotten to post! Ergo, it only seem right to sneak into her account again to post on her behalf. Unfortunately for you, it's been a pretty boring week.

Well, her birthday has come and gone and so we shall start there. My gift was a necklace with an alexandrite gemstone, her birthstone, and if she ever picks it out, a "teacher bag" that she's been wanting. We went to eat at "The Y Bar and Grill" in Oak Hill. The Y is amazingly well designed with some unique architecture and an outdoor eating area overlooking the woods. An outdoor eating area featuring trees with funny faces actually. Apparently someone thought it would be funny to glue disguise masks on a few trees in the woods. We sat outside and started with some crab stuffed mushrooms and listened to a local musician. Not much else to tell I'm afraid.

Yesterday however, we experienced our first real wind of the summer ( that is, wind not accompanied by a storm ). It turns out that sailing season in Austin is every season except summer, which features 0-5 mph winds on a regular basis. Bummer. We got some 15-20 mph winds yesterday so we left work early and went to the lake. My hiking stick broke off my rudder ( a long pole attached to the rudder ) and so it was a little annoying because being forced to ride in the back of the boat makes it impossible to distribute your weight for maximum performance. Sharon took her turn at the helm too - she's not going to admit it but she kinda likes it. We got some new gear to make sailing better for us; namely a dry bag so we can safely stow gear on the trampoline. We stayed out until sunset before coming in. Here's a shot that even came out good on a phone camera.
It also turns out that Sharon doesn't like waiting forever for me to rig and derig the boat so she has demanded that I find a simpler, faster way to do it. She'd so be a manager had she stayed at USAA ;) But OK, so I did some thinking and she was right - it was worth it. I probably whittled 20 minutes off of our rig and derig time. Now the hiking stick is fixed, some other questionable hardware replaced and we are set to maybe hit the beaches in Port Aransas with it this weekend. If you are interested you can see plenty of videos of people "cat surfing" on youtube.

Ross Hytnen

Sunday, June 10, 2007

fishin' excursion

now, try not to be jealous that we live about 5 minutes from one of the best lakes in texas, attend a church with saturday night services, and live down the road from charles who not only has a fishing boat but is willing to come pick us up early in the morning to go out for some good ol' fashioned fishing.
you probably know that ross has gone fishing several times over the last 3 months we've been here. this weekend i agreed to tag along to see what the fun was all about. the 6.30am wake up call doesn't seem as early after getting up at 6am for the past 2 weeks, which helps. the lake was smooth as glass and it was a gorgeous morning.


the last time i went fishing it was i guess well over a decade ago, when a much younger sharon went out in 'the bass boat' with dad, pawpaw, matt, and a trusty ol' snoopy fishing pole and bobber. this was a trolling fishing trip and the guys let me reel in the first fish...a striper. we caught 4-5 bass, but all of the fish we threw back because they were just under sized. plus we have a lot of fish filets in the freezer that still need to be grilled up. fish fry anyone? come on over.

we also got to observe a sailboat race as we went by one of the marinas, which was pretty cool, and get an up close look at mansfield dam. and when we got back, there was still plenty of day left! all in all....pretty fun, i must say.