Sarah Sings “What Is This Feeling” from Wicked

Sarah and Amber did a great job singing in tonight’s church talent show!

I shared this on Periscope, and both Nana and Trudy were able to tune in and watch it live! but since Periscope videos are only available for 24 hours, I have my account set to auto-archive to I also posted a slightly edited version of the video to YouTube. I wrote a little more about the technical details of how I did this on my main blog.

Alexander did a great job running sound for the entire talent show tonight. His knowledge and skills about sound engineering continue to grow under the patient mentorship of Tom Bowles.

Howard Zinn Book Review

Here is a book review I did for my AP US History class on Howards Zinn’s A Peoples History of the United States.


Zinn Book Review

Howard Zinn’s book, A People’s History of the United States, tells a story of United States history not often heard in textbooks. While a very interesting read, you must read it objectively as many of Zinn’s views are extremely liberal. The book provides many troubling topics that make you think and consider the truth about what we have always heard in school.

From my reading, it seemed Zinn mainly wanted to focus on the struggles between capitalism, the United States people and the world. He states his purpose is to inform people of the untold, and often unwanted, history of oppression, racism and class struggles. This being said, the book is less a history of the United States and more about “A People’s Struggle Against the United States.” I think the book does not include a full history, but it includes the history that Zinn wanted told. He wanted this history told because it was not the history he learned while in school and is still not in many textbooks today (Zinn 687).

I do not believe Zinn states an explicit thesis, but he does state that the purpose of the book and what he wants to accomplish with it. That is, as I previously stated, to provide a full story of the United States told by the people who were oppressed by capitalism and the government. He says he wanted to do this because it is the history he never know about but may be more than that. Zinn grew up in an Irish-American, working-class family in New York. Later he worked in a shipyard for three years. Growing up in the northeast part of the United States, as well as being an immigrant, gave him a predisposition to tell of the oppression there more than in other places. Zinn states this and how he ignored struggles of the large number of Latinos in California for justice and the fight for gay and lesbian rights in the United States (Zinn 687).

This book presents a more extreme view of history than what I have grown up hearing. My father graduated from the Air Force Academy and enjoys discussing the history of the US and the world. From him I have acquired a distaste of oil companies and imperialist wars as in Iraq and Afghanistan. This book supported much of what I have heard before, but looking at it critically I believe the book has portrays things out of balance. Zinn criticizes how Samuel Morison, who wrote a biography of Columbus, focuses briefly on the bad aspects like genocide but then goes on to talk a lot more about the good side of Columbus’s endeavors (Zinn 8). Ironically, Zinn points out this fault in Morison’s text, but writes in the same style about capitalism in his own book. Overall, this book has helped me in understanding better the history of the United States but at times it seemed too subjective and out of balance.

The book, for the most part, includes secondary sources that are other historians’ collections of facts. However, it does include an occasional primary source (Wineburg 2). In addition, Zinn includes many statistics of people who were involved in strikes, riots or other protests. It is hard to accept some of what Zinn writes because in some cases he does not always use multiple sources. For example, when supporting chapter 16, about views of distaste among African Americans for WWII, he only cites three pieces of evidence that all came from a single secondary source (Wineburg 3). That being said, there are a lot of other examples of good documents being used. Zinn not only shares the facts but his interpretation of them and makes you question them. This is good although Zinn tries to instill in you a viewpoint that is anti-capitalist by doing this and seems to cherry pick the facts.

This way of asking questions first then giving you the facts later is used often by Zinn. In this way it is almost more of a narrative of the story with facts thrown in to make it seem more like a history. While working well to make his points, this practice of using either-or questions deviates from standard “professional historical writing” (Wineburg 3). When Zinn was writing on how Roosevelt lied during WWII, he accused him but did not explain specifically what Roosevelt said (Zinn 411). Zinn’s tone throughout this chapter more ambiguous and less definitive. This is different from when a history book will interpret the facts clearly and tell them to you. Zinn tries to lead you to a conclusion but its like he doesn’t want to commit himself to that conclusion in the book. Overall, Zinn writes in a way that advocates his points well but you have to be careful to still read it objectively because Zinn is very subjective.

I enjoyed reading this book even though it could be a bit dry and did not have the same kind of “hook” as a fiction book might. From previously being in debate it was fun to read because in most debates we would be arguing something that encompassed capitalism or over militarization of our government. It was funny because I even recognized some of the authors Zinn referenced from reading their evidence in debate rounds. The main difference was that in a debate round everyone knows you can find an author that says exactly what you want, hence many arguments ends in global nuclear war even though most debaters really do not believe that would ever happen. When reading some of these same authors in Zinn’s history book, it makes me realize that Zinn can do this same thing that we did in debate and that he is presenting the best sources that support his positions. Even though he presents this information as if it is the only true explanation of what happened, that is not the case. His desire to persuade you gets in the way of objectively portraying the facts. Throughout the book he gives the view that the United States has no redeeming qualities. I know that while we certainly have some big problems that we have a lot of good things happening in our country.

Starting from Columbus to the 21st century, A People’s History of the United States gives an account of the struggles many people faced at the hands of the government and capitalists. It does not tell, however, of the hardships people faced going west. It instead focuses on their troubles with income and rights. In chapter 11, Zinn goes more into the strikes of the Industrial Age and even implies that we were close to another revolution with as many protests among the low-income population. Zinn goes on to tell about how the US entering the World Wars had more to do with large corporations and politicians figuring out that getting behind a war effort was a good way to increase imperialism and to avoid economic trouble and class struggles at home. So as the US came into WWI we came out of the Great Depression. After the war however more strikes were continuing to take place. Large unions as well as the communist political party were causing trouble for the US government to deal with. Even though the large corporations and politicians knew how war could help the country, it could not last forever as seen in Vietnam when due to anti-war efforts they had to end the war. Overall the book gives a good picture of what is not often included in most history books.

I am glad to have read A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. It has led me to become more enlightened about many more things, like the darker side of Columbus and the amount of strikes that took place before WWII. While some parts may have been stretched, in most cases I believe it proved to be true to its point: To tell of the suffering and hard times people have had at the hands of capitalists and the government. This book provides many questions but also a different outlook upon our history worth reading.


Works Cited

1. Zinn, Howard A People’s History of the United States. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2003. Print.

2. Wineburg, Sam “Undue Certainty: Where Howard Zinn’s A People’s History Falls Short.” Rev. of A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn. American Educator Summer 2013. Online.

Alexander’s Cake Model of the Cell (narrated food)

Alexander made a model of an animal cell for his 9th grade biology class this weekend. I asked him to take a photo of it, and (although he protested) he recorded a short AudioBoo describing his project and some of the cell parts. This media reflection is therefore an example of “narrated food,” as opposed to “narrated art.” :-)

Alexander's Cake Model of the Cell

Minecraft Music Video Parodies

This week as I was looking through my minecraft youtube videos, as I often do, I found these really awesome videos made by a youtuber named . He has spent a lot of time on these as well as bringing in to do the Parodies and some of the animating. They are some of the best videos I have seen not only for the amazing animating but it’s also the extremely creative lyrics that are packed with minecraft references, some that everyone should get but even a few more hidden ones that only real mincrafters would recognize that make them so great. My favorite one is actually called “Revenge” that is a parody of the song DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love by Usher which is actually a song I hadn’t heard before but that makes it even better for me in some ways, but I really love it for its awesome lyrics. The next best for me is called “Fallen Kingdom” which is a parody off of Coldplay’s Viva la Vida. Even though this video has good lyrics too, the visual effects are really what makes this one great. Another cool thing that this youtuber did was make a behind the scenes video for how he and his team made both of them. I found all of these really neat and hope you do too!

Draft Design for a Complex Machine to Generate Electricity from Water Power

Alexander is designing a “complex machine” for his 8th grade science class. He recorded a short AudioBoo today and described his design, which I photographed and embedded below. Please share comments and feedback.

Complex Machine Design

I shared the “Sweeping Down the Plains” STEM project from K20-ALT with him this week for ideas and inspiration. See Video Part 2 on the project page, starting at the 4:46 point to see the design for an electrical generator/dynamo using a wind generator design. The Google Doc lesson plan includes the supplies used for their project. This extremely clever design uses a CD, neodymium magnets from, a wooden skewer like those used on a BBQ grill, a suction cup, and other inexpensive items. Hat tip to Adam Zodrow for sharing this amazing project with me a few weeks ago. See this post and podcast on Oklahoma EDUshare for more info about this project and K20-ALT.

I’m thinking Alex’s greatest challenge will be building the water wheel, gears, and the dynamo. This is going to be a great opportunity for problem solving, engineering, design and tinkering!

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Character Essay

Strolling through the open doorway of the classroom, he made his way to the back. Weaving in and out of desks, he only stopped to pick up a random pencil someone earlier had left, not even noticing that it was pink. even while slouching with his backpack slung lazily behind one arm he would stand out from the crowd.

He is Asian, yet he towers above everyone like a skyscraper in a farm town. You can pick him out from his stocky build, tan skin and cropped black, Asian hair. He also has his always present red jacket zipped up all the way so that you rarely see his shirt. It is ripped half way around the right sleeve and has not left his back since we started school even in the hot Oklahoma summer. His light-brown backpack that he’s had since elementary school looks even more beat up.

As he tosses it on the ground next to a desk, his last two colored pencils tumble out. He sits down heavily in the old wooden desk that does not have enough leg room and proceeds to lay his head down with his forearms covering his face still grasping the pink pencil that he had grabbed not a moment ago. He continues to sit like this for awhile until I walk in, only the second person to enter the classroom, and open the heavy door.

Immediately his head popped up, quick as a fly, and grabs a textbook on the desk next to him proceeding to open it to a random page and pretend like he had been reading it the whole entire time. I laugh and joke with him on how he thought I was the teacher while making my way back to him. In response to my joke he just flipped his hair to the side by looking to the side and uttered a very dramatic, “Well.” This was usually his way of responding to my jokes whenever he couldn’t come up with a response.

He has been getting better at putting up more of a fight ever since he joined me in our debate class. That’s another thing we share, love for arguing, and we love to practice whenever we’re together, even if I win most of the time. He’s also been getting better at chess since I started playing him even, when no one at school can repeatedly best me.

But, probably one of the best things I like about him is that he will never back down from a challenge and will never give up no matter what happens. Just recently he went up and challenged our best debater, a senior, to a match. He knew he didn’t have much of a chance but he still stood up there and did his best to prove himself, and he did an awesome job. From all of this I know, that Phu Tran is my best friend.

Playing Minecraft

Alexander discusses his Living in Oak Ridge Project and Glogster EDU

This is a ten minute interview with Alexander this evening about his “Living in Oak Ridge” project for 8th grade English.

Discussing Oak Ridge Glogster Project at Oklahoma City, OK by wfryer

For more background see my post, “Share “timed” comments on Audio Recordings with SoundCloud.”

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The Art of Lego Building

This is an Art History Paper Alexander wrote for his 8th grade art class. (His teacher asked him to hand write it, so dad is typing it for him so we can document it here on Learning Signs.)

Labyrinth, overhead view


The art of Lego building is not known or recognized by most people. Many people will say legos are just something I use to play with as a kid. In all actuality Lego building by adults and kids is fine tuned in the creativity side of things. Of course people building with Lego is only as recent as Lego itself which is fairly new. Lego building is something that requires a lot of skill and practice to do well and something many people have mastered.

Lego building in some ways is a lot like sculpting. When you sculpt something you are chipping or cutting parts away to reveal an object that the artist has in mind. Building in Lego is not as different as it seems. When building with Lego you start with one piece than add another on top of that. In many ways Lego building is a lot easier and you an create a lot more complicated and bigger art work than you can sculpting with clay or rock. There are different sizes, shapes, lengths, textures, detail, color, and the list just goes one and on with all the uses and ability of all the pieces that you have access to. There are also different types of creations you can make. You can build something in mini-scale just meaning in looks smaller or makes something huge into a more buildable scale. You can build in mini-figure scale which means you can use Legos version of a person and use them in your build. Another thing you can build in is just a larger scale which is too big for a mini figure to use. Then you can also had design creations that use different pieces in unusual ways to make designs or pictures.

There are many wonderful but right now I will only mention one. [sic] Katie WAlker is a AFOL – Adult Fan of Lego – and makes wonderfully detailed mosaics. Using small cheese slopes (little angled pieces) and tiles she is able to make intricate designs. This is really something amazing and incredible. You can find more of her work and examples by searching for eilonwy77 on Flickr.

Squares and parallelograms

Creating art is lots of fun and something I love to do. Even though they haven’t been around that long they are still great. Lots of very skilled AFOL’s are still creating amazing creations and art. So next time someone asks you what an awesome new art you can reply Lego building.

Evolution of a pattern, part 5


Technorati Tags: ,


The Fire

This is a poem I wrote for my English class:

The Fire

The Fire

There was a fire ban that year

But the carless campers left

Leaving smoldering remains behind

The fire that ate the forest


Wind whispered wordlessly in the trees

The fire was given new life

Like a new small heartbeat

The fire that ate the forest


The fire lit the dry grass

It was gathering in strength

Like a lion preparing to strike

The fire that ate the forest


The fire now reached the trees

 It was a wild beast let free

Grey smoke billowed up to the sky

The fire that ate the forest


Campers couldn’t escape the wild flames

Sirens soon sounded on dirt roads

People evacuated their homes

The fire that ate the forest


Old oaks fell to their knees

Trees were consumed by flames

The heat was a blacksmith’s forge

The fire that ate the forest


Rescue men were left helpless

The fire covered the forest

Everyone did not escape

The fire that ate the forest


The fire burned bright in the sky

Smoke blocked the stars at night

Flames seemed to laugh evilly

The fire that ate the forest



The fire burned on still

Feasting on what ever it touched

Held back only from a river

The fire that ate the forest


The fire slowly reseeded

Rescue workers were gaining ground

Blessed rain started to fall

The fire that ate the forest


The roars finally abated

Land was left scorched

Flames had licked every tree clean

The fire that ate the forest


New grass began to grow

Trees again grew tall

Animals began to return

The fire that gave life

Alexander’s Spring 2011 Band Concert (UStream Archive)

This evening Alexander performed in his spring band concert. Thanks to Sarah live-streaming the concert from mom’s iPhone, I was able to watch part of it from a truck stop in Tulia, Texas. This is the Ustream archive, which starts with the last piece shared by beginning band. Alexander’s intermediate band portion starts at 7:10 of the recorded video, you may want to forward the recording to that point when watching this.

Yeah for Alexander, accomplished trombone player! Yeah for Sarah, Ustream webcaster!

Technorati Tags:
, , , , , , ,

How I recived extra money from youtube

Back in ’08 or ’09 I made four videos on how to make a couple string videos. I soon forgot about them. After some time went by youtube emailed me and said my videos had became popular and asked if I wanted to put adds on them to make some money. I said yes and signed up for the youtube google ads partnership program on my dad’s account. I then forgot about  it. A couple years went by and we received two checks for $114 and $106. My sister had also posted a video which went viral then had adds put on it while my dad never posted a video that got ads put on it. This is my journey on how I figured out i got about $200 from my forgotten youtube videos. I would also like to say that google adsense does not show exactly where the money is coming from, so I tried my hardest to get it as close to it as I can using the number of views show on the youtube demographics.

I am first going to show you how I get about $100 of the first check. You can see that in this picture my dad had something producing money then stopped. It then picked back up when my sisters video started producing money but my dad put ads on it after the peak and so did produce as much money as it could have. So after her video lost popularity its revenue was brought back down to about $1 and decreasing  then I am almost positive I added ads to my videos in March of 2010 because that is where the money starts to pick up slowly at first and then more as I add adds to my other videos until I had put four videos up with ads. Now, if you add all of my dad’s previous money it adds to $13.42. While if you add my sister’s money before my videos started making money she earns $15.61 and if I give her one dollor per month after that it all adds to $23.61 and that is what she earned for the first check. If you add both of those numbers together it comes to $37.03 and if you subtract that to the original $114.04 we find that I earned approximately $77.01 from the first check. Wow. That is a lot of extra money I picked-up just from the first check.

Now To prove that almost all of the next $106.58 is mine. First I will give my sister her one dollar a month for her now less-popular video. The next check came five months latter so she earns another five dollars which brings her total up to $28.61 in all. Now all the rest of the money should be mine, but if that seems a lot i will show you what makes it true. Now, if you look here than you will see that the income became high for Oct. Nov. and Dec. then drops back down a bit. When you look at the number of views from my videos producing revenue you will see that the most views i have ever gotten were in Oct. Nov. and Dec. then they dropped back down a little bit. This may also be explained by more people are watching my videos so they are getting recommended to other people when they finnish a video like it. I hope this makes it some what clear why I earned more in the last months. You can also see then drop in the las two months better from other videos but I did not want to use up more

space in this post and because this is the video that is producing most of the money. that also leaves me with $178.59 in total in both of the checks. If you are also wondering what I am going to do with this money, I am most likely  to save $100 then buy some legos with some of the other stuff. That is how I found a bunch of unknown youtube money.

My Lego Star Wars Story

I have always been big Lego and Star Wars fans. Personally I have a large collection of figures in battle stances. I have also traded the lego minifigures with my friends. Even though we will trade minifigures from different product lines Star Wars is always the most popular to trade. The Clone Wars TV episodes have really been a lifesaver for Lego. Star Wars was always Legos biggest seller and when the last movie was finished Lego needed something to keep the hipe up. One reason why I think that Lego Star wars has done so well is because it is fun to collect them and get more than one set. It is just like you don’t want two borrows from Harry Potter but you will buy two Star Wars tanks. The clones are more fun if you have twenty instead of three. Just like you don’t want twenty Harry Potters. That is why the Star Wars product line has done so well. This is a picture of legoboy12345678‘s clone army that he has posted a video on you tube. He is also my favorite people to watch moc bases of battles on you tube sense he has so many clones.

1 2 3 6