Nobody told me it could be like this…

I don’t know what your take on the Blu-Ray players is, but mine has always been…what’s the point?  I mean DVDs work perfectly fine.  They are definitely a step above VHS because of the whole no rewinding thing, and they take up less space in the entertainment cabinet, so I see no reason to change-over to Blu-Ray. 

UNTIL…our DVD went kaput.  Then there was a choice.  Do I plunk down money for another DVD player, OR move with the times and get a Blu-Ray?? Decisions, Decisions.  And with my birthday coming up in just a month, I knew that this new gadget would be attached to the celebration, so I decided it had better be one HECK of a gadget!!

Thus began my search.  After a while I realized that for the most part, a Blu-Ray is a Blu-Ray is a Blu-Ray. 

LG bluray UNTIL…I found it.  A Blu-Ray that was most definitely NOT just a Blu-Ray.  This Blu-Ray had network access.  Which means it connects to your home network, and lets you watch YouTube, Netflix Instant Watch, and even new releases via CinemaNow.  Oh-ho-ho-ho!!  Now that was a Blu-Ray worthy of my last year in my 30’s!!

With one flick of my remote-hovering thumb I have basically TV-on-demand – – especially with YouTube offering more and more network shows, and Netflix having plenty of reruns of stuff I’ve been meaning to catch up on.

This is the way TV was meant to be.  What you want, when you want it.  Sometimes, a techie just can’t resist the temptations and seducements of the “next big thing.” 

I mean have you seen those refrigerators with the internet screen built right into the door?????


Video Game School – – the wave of the future??

One school in New York City is on its way toward a revolution.  This experiment in education is called “Quest for Learning”, and the idea behind is is using gaming literacy to teach to today’s video game generation.  If everything goes according to schedule, the 6th-12th grade school will open in Fall 2009.

There is a lot in the description of what is involved in gaming literacy, that I can’t comprehend, even after a second or third read of the overview.  But the gist seems to be that kids work collaboratively to solve problems, brainstorm solutions, and think out of the box to create innovative ideas (much like those who work on today’s most popular video games).

This idea has already been fueling video game creation camps at different university campuses for several summers now.  More and more preteens and teens are heading to these technological camps instead of heading out to the great outdoors to learn how to pitch tents and sing campfire songs.  I guess it only makes sense that the camps would give way to an entire school built around the premise of gaming design. 

(I just can’t tell you how many memories the PacMan song on that video brought back!!!)

And in an era where school life and real life (and all its technological advances) probably seem more polarized than ever, it might be that video game schools are one way to keep a percentage of students engaged in their education.  More and more kids are feeling the uselessness of pencil pushing to learn names, dates, and facts when they already have picked up (on their own) several foreign languages (HTML, Java, CSS), shorthand (texting), and advanced math skills (I’ve seen the math my son uses to program a simple Flash game, and it ain’t 2+2!).  Knowledge is at the fingertips, literally, of those kids who use the computer for hours each day, and can instantly download information in a few seconds flat.

So the vocational schools of yesterday may soon give way to a new generation of vocational learning – – learning of the techie kind.  If you want to find out more about the Quest for Learning initiative, check out their web site.

So what do you think?  Is this going too far with technology?  Would you allow your kids to attend a school like this one?

WISH it worked for me Wednesday

I love the Works For Me posts over at, but since not much ever works correctly around the Topsy-Techie household, I thought I would talk about what I WISHED worked…

Case in point: Using my son’s Wii Remote as an All-Purpose Remote Tool    

Thanks to a blogging buddy’s Teaching and Learning Spanish blog, I discovered some really neat uses for the Wii Remote today.  This one is particularly cool for teachers and homeschoolers:

So I got to thinking that with my Wii remote, my bad-self techie skills, a couple infrared dots, and some duct tape, I ought to be able to save the planet.  Now don’t get me wrong…the Wii remote in our house isn’t gathering dust, or anything, but surely it could be put to better uses than just helping H-T defeat jungle monsters in the latest Lego Indiana Jones game.  My ultimate goals for the Wii remote would be to:

  • Virtually clean the toilet bowls.  I’m thinking that a couple of infrared dots where the Tidybowl man hangs out ought to do it.  Then I would just swish that remote in a circular pattern, and voila!  Sparkly johnnies!
  • Virtually retrieve the mail – – especially on rainy days.  One dot on the front door of the mailbox, and one on the flag, and I should be good to go.  Although those Wii remotes can be pretty sensitive sometimes.  I would hate to overshoot and pick up my bachelor neighbor’s girlie mags by mistake.  That one might need some tweaking.
  • Virtually water the plants – – .  I love, love, love, my houseplants, but I tend to forget about them when they aren’t making a lot of noise.  Squeaky wheel and all. I mean I never forget to water the dogs, you know, cause they sorta make this moaning, whiny sound when they get dangerously dehydrated.  But the plants?  Well, I’m sure they whine and moan too, but non-advanced human that I am, I can’t usually pick up on it.  So my ideal Wii remote gadget would include a timer, and a virtual waterstream from my sink to the plants, because I also can’t be bothered most days to find the watering can.  Do you think infrared dots do any damage to live plants?  Gosh, I hope not.
  • Virtually write my blog while I am away.  Yep, Topsy-Techie will be traveling to Nevada tomorrow, and won’t be back till next week, so I could really use that Wii remote to digitally post for me while I’m away.  What’s that you say?  My blogging software already lets me schedule my posts while I’m gone??  Hmph. That is not nearly as cool. 

Be thinking of you from Vegas, ya’ll.  I promise that if I hit it big while I’m out there, I’ll split my earnings with everyone who leaves a comment on this post.  So comment away…

The Countdown

One month???

One measly month????

That’s how much time is left of summer vacation.  Makes this geeky homeschool mom want to cry into her Palm Pilot.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I love homeschooling.  It has allowed me to spend nine years of quality time with my children that non-homeschooling moms probably never even knew they missed.  It has allowed me to learn about bunches of stuff I missed the first time around.  And it has strengthened my belief in child-led learning. 

But who are we kidding here?  As much as I love homeschooling, I REALLY love summer break.  And since my oldest will technically be of “working age” next summer, who knows if this might be the last one my boys and I will share together just “hanging.”  And we’ve done lots of that so far.  We’ve hung out at the pool.  We’ve hung out at the mall.  We’ve hung out at the library, the bookstore, the parks, the ice cream parlor, and the coffee shop.  We’ve hung out pretty much every place in town that doesn’t have a ‘NO LOITERING’ placard overtly visible.

We’ve talked about lots of cool subjects together.  There just isn’t anything better than having philosophical discussions with your tween and teen over sherbet Push-Ups.  Lazy summer days seem to somehow loosen our tongues and create discourses on everything from why people get tattoos to what it will be like in the afterlife.  We’ve been known to even start a conversation in the morning, take it up again after lunch, and run it in the ground before bedtime. 

We’ve also found incredibly creative ways to avoid work.  I had at least seventeen house projects scheduled for this summer, and do you know how many we actually accomplished??  Give yourself a pat on the back if you guessed: ZIPPO! I’ve kept up with the laundry and dishes (mostly), and kept the floors from being overtaken by mutant dust bunnies and the bathroom from being overtaken by mutant mold creatures (mostly), but other than that, this has been “the little house that time forgot.” 

Our summer has been filled with plenty of Topsy-Techiness, as well. Uber has discovered he doesn’t have two left feet at his new favorite game “Step Mania.”  H-T has been the official YouTube tester of every sci-fi-related clip – – and, for the record: Yes, they are ALL working!!  I have had loads of fun with R-T’s new Windows Media Center PC, and have learned how to control the computer remote from the comfort of my king size bed.  You’d be amazed what you can find to watch on the computer when you have no satellite service.  Even R-T has become comfortable with his new ‘puter, and has been blogging away on it. 

All in all, it has been a terrific summer vacation so far. I can’t believe there is only one month left!!

Well, I could try to think positively.  You know, cup-half-full, and all that.  Maybe I could look at it as: “Cool.  We’ve got a WHOLE month of summer vacation left!!!”  Unfortunately, when they were giving out the positive-thinking genes in heaven, I was distracted by the blinking lights on St. Peter’s celestial cell phone. 

Stupid calendar.


Just Because It’s Kewl

I’ve mentioned before that Uber goes to an online virtual school, called 3DLearn.  It is a revolutionary idea in education in that students attend via their “avatars”, who appear in the virtual world and can interact with the other students and teachers via their avatars.  The classes are all done online, and written work is uploaded to the teachers daily.  Much of their work, though, is done in the form of 3D Presentations that consist of pictures/text/video that the students create about their subject, and then they present it for their teachers and fellow students to see and comment on.  They also work together on certain projects creating things like interactive games based on the book they are studying, etc.  Needless to say, for a techie, this is school at its most ideal.  Uber adores it, and has made lots of friends at his school who are just as uber-techie as he is!

Anyway, I just wanted to show off a YouTube video presentation of Uber’s middle school.  He is in the video too, but you may not recognize him, because his avatar was having a bad hair day, and had broken out in zits all over his face after a chocolate binge.  (never mind, that was my middle school experience)

Check out how things have changed since you were in junior high…

Where is Nancy Reagan When You Need Her??

My son has become a statistic.  I suppose, looking back, it was practically unavoidable, but I’ll admit, I still didn’t see it coming.  Recent stats say this it is most common in 12-17 year olds.  It happens to over 10 million people per month – – almost 35% of internet users.  The risk is higher in families where other members are already users.  None of these numbers, however, prepared us for the gritty reality.

H-T has discovered YouTube. 

His older brother, of course, was the pusher. Up till now, he had kept his habit to his own corner.  But he could sense the potential in his kid bro — he was primed for the kill.  After all, you can only watch Spongebob reruns on Nickelodeon so many times before the high wears off.  H-T was jonesing for a new fix.

At first, he was simply impressed by the number of video game cut scenes that he could find.  Before long, he had discovered rare dinosaur videos (a longtime passion), and old Sonic the Hedgehog tv episodes.  Mild experimentation had turned into social use, however, when H-T advanced into fan-made anime, clips from sci-fi classics, and blurbs from the Simpsons.

I’m devastated to report, that as of this writing, H-T seems to have lapsed into full-blown YouTube addiction.  All the signs are there.  He has begun to neglect the tv remote.  His video game scores are dropping.  He is withdrawing from his online friends. 

Just Say No to YouTube

So what is a mother to do??  I want my son back, but if I take the tough love approach, do I risk pushing him even further into his dependency – – perhaps into dancing cat videos? I read recently that YouTube is banned in Iran.  What do you think?  Could I find a laptop case that would look good with a burkha?