Bill MacKenty

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News and information related to yours truly.

A lot of writing lately

Posted in Blogging Computer Science Personal Writing on 02 - May 2024 at 09:38 PM (one month ago) 377 views.

I've been doing a ton of writing for an interesting project. I can't wait to share it with you. I've also been developing setting for a far-future science fiction...

So. Much. Writing. I can't wait to share a project I'm working on. It should be ready by next February, and I am very hopeful it will be impactful and important.

In addition to mega-secret project alpha, I've also been developing a far-future science fiction setting lately. Most of the content is here. The idea is to create a universe in the year 7019 - far enough in the future to think and imagine and play with ideas related to who we might become. I'm folding in a space trading game I started working on a while ago (link here) but I haven't started to assign values or abstracted the ideas yet. I am hoping for a book, a computer role playing game, and a table top role playing game.

I start with vague ideas about who we are and cycle out to think about 100 years, 300 years, 1000 years. It's a really fun exercise. I have been thinking about history, and how we have changed (and haven't changed). It's helpful to extrapolate our past into our future.

Of course I have species, planets, events, factions, etc... What I really want to capture is the variety within a setting. It's challenging because the broader the scope, that harder it is to understand what that scope means. I think most science fiction is rather one dimensional - star trek focuses tightly on a bridge and a top-down command structure. Although star trek references a big universe, it only portrays a narrow window of it most of the time. My favorite types of stories are when there is a switching between micro and macro. Tom Clancy's book, Red Storm Rising did this beautifully.

Lots more to say, but I'm thinking a lot about the future these days.

Sabbatical update 2

Posted in Blogging Personal Teaching Diary Update on 01 - December 2023 at 06:58 AM (6 months ago) 518 views.

More people should do this...

Deep Dive into AI and Machine Learning

My fascination with AI and machine learning has only grown during this period. I've been thoroughly engaged in understanding complex concepts such as Manhattan distance, greedy algorithms, and the minimax strategy. My sabbatical has also been an opportunity to learn about knowledge graphs, uncertainty in data, optimization techniques, and neural networks. These areas are fundamental to understanding how AI and machine learning systems learn and make decisions. This knowledge will be invaluable in my teaching and ongoing professional development. It's been refreshing to delve into these areas, and I'm always eager to discuss and exchange ideas with anyone interested.

I'm starting to design an ASW-exclusive Local Large Language Model (LLM) designed specifically for our students' needs. This initiative aims to harness the power of AI in education, offering a revolutionary approach to learning support. The idea is to develop a local LLM that is fine-tuned and optimized to understand and cater to the unique educational requirements of our students at ASW. This model will not be a generic AI tool, but a specialized, school-specific system that comprehends the nuances of our curriculum and the common challenges faced by our students. It will be a local system (not internet connected) and meet all the current legal guidelines being proposed in the EU for using AI in education. The diagram has been helpful to guide my thinking about what an educational LLM should consider:

Work with the IB and Travel to The Hague

Part of my sabbatical has been dedicated to contributing to the International Baccalaureate (IB) organization. Recently, I returned from a productive visit to The Hague, where I collaborated on several initiatives related to the new IB computer science curriculum. This opportunity has allowed me to apply my expertise in an international context and contribute to shaping global education standards. I learn so much about the IB in these visits, and they always enrich my understanding of computer science.

Personal Time with My Chocolate Labrador

On a personal note, my chocolate labrador (Obi-Wan MackObi) , who is now 5 months and a healthy 23 kilograms, has been a constant and joyful companion. Taking care of him has brought much-needed balance and happiness to my days. He is just starting his teenage years now, and that's He likes to eat things.

Innovative Educational Endeavors

One of my key projects has been the development of virtual mini-courses for students. These courses are designed to empower students by offering them the flexibility to choose what and when they learn within the course structure. This initiative aims to enhance the learning experience and adapt to the evolving educational landscape. Students will be able to choose how they want to proceed in the course, and multiple pathways will help facilitate interest in different areas of computing. I'm currently offering 4 languages (PHP, Python, Javascript and Rust) and 4 pathways (business, biology/science, computer science and software engineering). At some point I may ask to split these into different courses, but I am quite excited to design, develop and trial these pathways.

"Date Night with Your Mac" Presentation

Looking ahead, I am preparing for the "Date Night with Your Mac" presentation in January. This event will focus on the practical, nuanced and discerning use of Large Language Models (LLMs) in education. Additionally, I plan to explore some practical legal aspects related to technology use in the classroom. One of the main points I will be making is the way we can use LLM's to reduce the amount of time we spend doing administrative tasks.

As I continue on this sabbatical journey, I am grateful for the time to grow, learn, and contribute to the field of education and AI. I look forward to bringing back a wealth of knowledge and experiences to share with my colleagues and students. I miss you all very much.

Sabbatical update 1

Posted in Personal Teaching Diary on 31 - August 2023 at 03:05 PM (9 months ago) 758 views.

I'm currently on sabbatical and have been deeply immersed in professional development and research. I intend to post these updates about once a month, sharing interesting learnings.

Connections and collaborations

The ACM is the Association of Computing Machinery. It’s the world's largest educational and scientific computing society.

I’ve been reading, parsing and communicating with members of SIGCSE - the ACM’s special interest group for computer science education. This learning has been deeply satisfying. I look forward to summarizing and presenting “best practices of K-12 computing education”. Needless to say, ChatGPT, AI, and large language models have captured the attention of this community.

Core learning tools

Moving on to the classroom tools, I've been focusing on making Git and Visual Studio Code (VSCode) more accessible for our students. VScode is a code editor and Git is the industry standard version control system that helps keep track of changes in code amongst many people. With the new materials I’ve developed, I'm confident our students will be committing and pushing code like they were born to do it - and be better prepared to work with modern tools in University and the real-world. I should also mention Git is a superb platform to use as a portfolio of student work and learning.

Modernizing PHP

In my continued quest for modernization, I've dived into the world of PHP Object-Oriented Programming (OOP), MVC (model-view-controller) architecture, and strictly typed PHP. This will enable our students to be more industry-ready and familiar with modern development practices ( all of which are transferable between languages). PHP has been in the top 10 of all programming languages for more than a decade, and is still used by about 78% of all websites in the world. I first learned PHP 20 years ago, so this is a welcome and refreshing upskill. Next up: javascript, rust, and python.

Working with the IB

As for my collaboration with the International Baccalaureate (IB), I'm still deeply involved in fine-tuning the new computer science curriculum. While I can't spill all the beans just yet, I'm eagerly awaiting the day I can share these substantial updates with you.

Obi-Wan MacKobi

A personal update. We’ve added a new member to our household: Obi-Wan, a 9-week-old chocolate Labrador. He’s both a delight and a handful, keeping me active when I’m not buried in research or code. He’s snoring at my feet as I write this; a little bundle of love.

The future

The next big chunk of learning for me is machine learning, artificial intelligence, and building a large language model that can run locally at my school (does not need an internet connection to work). The discussions I’ve seen at every level of the IB, ACM, and in the popular press has reinforced in me the need to capture and use this technology effectively for our benefit. Lot’s more to say about this.

Project management tools

Posted in Blogging Personal Teaching Diary Writing on 10 - April 2023 at 08:35 AM (one year ago) 875 views.

What a mess. Pricing models are all wrong. Trello seems to have the most common sense...

The best advice I've heard about project management tools is they should help you manage your projects, and stay out of the way for everything else. I'm sure there is some witty corollary here...That is, the extent to which a project management system is useful is directly linked to how well it does that one job it should do.

I investigated several project management tools, first opting for locally hosted, open-source projects (my preferred solutions for most problems). I got open project working, but the UI felt sludgy / kludgy. I then joined and love the UI / ease-of-use but their pricing model doesn't accommodate 1 single user. There is a minimum for three person teams - which is expensive.

I settled on Trello. Which has everything I want and a pricing model I like.

My project management plan for my sabbatical is on Trello.

Customers will only buy your product if they believe that the value they’re receiving is greater than the price they’re paying; otherwise, why would they pay?

Warren Buffett

on postfix…

Posted in Blogging Personal on 24 - February 2023 at 11:05 AM (one year ago) 1009 views.

Setting up a dedicated email server, capable of sending and receiving email on behalf of other domains is not easy for those not accustomed to such matters...

I've been wrestling with postifx, MX records, DMARC and other such nonsense lately. Oh, the pull to simply pay someone to do the work for me is great! However I am determined to setup a dedicated email server for all my various domains. This learning is not easy and requires effort. I meet failure often, in fact we are becoming rather good friends over this whole thing.You know, THAT kind of friend.

However, in each unsuccessful attempt I learn something new, and my goal of owning the system remains clear. I really understand how works, I really see how messages are routed. I learn the guts of /var/log/mail.log I'm learning, and if you don't mind me saying, I love it. 

The English language . . . becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.

George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language”

DEIJ - part one

Posted in Personal on 25 - January 2023 at 06:01 PM (one year ago) 1232 views.

Describe diversity...

Obligatory chatGPT reference: 

Diversity refers to the variety of differences among individuals within a group or population. This can include differences in race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies. Diversity can also include differences in personal experiences, values, and perspectives. The goal of diversity is to create an inclusive environment that recognizes, respects, and leverages these differences to create a more equitable and equitable society.

Within this lay extraordinary scope. I've always thought to measure & evaluate each person equally, irregardless of their gender, sexuxal orientation, race, SES, age, etc... The truth is I've met truly beautiful human beings from every corner of life, and the obverse is also true. 

I believe to know someone, that is, who someone is takes time. That careful measure and often conversation and time are required to know someone. That the enemy of truth is haste. That a glimpse does give us perspective. That when I rush to judgement, when I hurry to act I often err. This is why the slow work movement appeals to me so; as a seeker of truth, it takes time.

There can be parts of someone I love and parts I don't care for. That nuance, discernment and careful thinking can find a person.

What could be more diverse than all of us?

Multiple versions of PHP on the same web server

Posted in Linux Personal on 18 - January 2023 at 06:42 AM (one year ago) 935 views.

looks like a job for PHP-FPM...

For better or worse I administer my own web server / web-services. I actually quite enjoy this, but I'm not a professional, which means sometimes I learn things the hard way, and sometimes I make mistakes. I recently installed an invoicing system, which needed PHP 8.1+. Most of my web applications run on 7.4, specifically mediawiki. I would prefer it if everything was on 8.1 and I'm slowly getting there. 

I learned about a nifty new tech PHP-FPM, which enables (among other things) multiple versions of PHP on a per-site basis. Which is cool. The end goal is to (of course) use only one version of PHP but for now I am enjoying the tinkering. 


Posted in Personal Twitter on 08 - January 2023 at 09:56 AM (one year ago) 1518 views.

I've decided to take part in #dungeon23, a distracting and fun project to build a little bit of a dungeon everyday. But I've decided to approach it a bit differently...

As I am a fan of procedurally generated content (and making procedurally generated content), I've decided to build different systems and eventually combine them so people can have rich, varied and different dungeons and settings. The link to the github repository is here. I'm following a basic schedule here:

• Sunday — Settlement description, a village or a town. Could also be a bandit camp if that strikes your fancy

• Monday — Environment description. Think the local weather, geology, flora and fauna

• Tuesday — More in-depth settlement description

• Wednesday — Culture description of something fun or interesting about the local people. Something to make them stand out

• Thursday — NPC description, someone important or interesting on the island

• Friday — Faction description of either a new or existing faction. Be sure to make ties between factions and peoples

• Saturday — A rumour about something from the past week

setting up a podcast

Posted in Personal on 27 - December 2022 at 11:41 AM (one year ago) 895 views.

Is a lot of work. But...

In the myriad choices and sea of information we are forced to clarify greatly our goals, objectives and ideas. This process of clarification is truly wonderful. 

Merry Christmas!

Posted in Personal on 25 - December 2022 at 06:04 AM (one year ago) 926 views.

On coming together and being in connection...

Celebrating Christmas, giving and getting gifts, connecting with family, listening to music, eating food, and appreciating the holiday season. The best I can do is to describe the area around Christmas; the outline of a shape that has none. The coming together. 

just trying to make it to vacation…

Posted in Blogging Personal on 15 - December 2022 at 05:38 AM (one year ago) 595 views.

With two days left until christmas vacation, we are all trying to get to the end of the week with grace, humour, and high-energy

Sadly, I have little of all of it. Many of my students are sick, and my energy levels are quite low. Ugh. 

Sabbatical learning - part 2

Posted in Blogging Personal Writing on 03 - December 2022 at 04:46 AM (one year ago) 449 views.

How to best set the stage for new learning?

Part 1 here. With a sabbatical scheduled for next year, I am excited and anticipating some good work to be completed. Being able to coalesce many years of experience to renew learning engagements and refresh my understanding strikes me as a golden time. 

I am not only going to work on "professional Bill" but I will also attend to "personal Bill", where I intend to:

  1. focus on exercise, diet and mindfulness
  2. focus on my garden and backyard - long neglected
  3. focus on hobbies 
  4. focus on friends

I will be reaching out to friends who have taken sabbaticals to learn from them; what they did well, what they didn't do well. I don't intend my learning to stop, but this might be the last time I have for long-term break until I retire.

I can't wait!

As I prepare for my sabbatical I am building mountains of curiosities and interests. "I wonder how XYZ" works. Why is XYZ like that". These types of wonderings prime the pump for engagement and interest in the work ahead. 

Coming together and eating

Posted in Personal on 27 - November 2022 at 10:10 AM (one year ago) 396 views.

So simple, so profound and so togethering. How eating together brings us together...

When I was earning my superintendents license in NYC my supervising administrator instilled a simple truth:  feed your people. This resonated and resonates with me as a highly effective means of creating bonds, trust and connection. We just had Thanksgiving yesterday and I was struck how simple it is; good food, relaxed atmosphere, and people ...just connect... There is quite a bit more to leadership, but feeding people carries with it a physical and metaphorical benefit I really love. 

I think there is a certain vulnerability and assurance when we eat - something so basic - I don't know why food doesn't figure more prominently in our day-to-day meetings.  

Letting go / picking up

Posted in Blogging News Personal on 02 - November 2022 at 04:49 AM (one year ago) 410 views.

Sometimes we need to let things go to make room for new ideas.

I have made a list of projects I am letting go. I'm doing this so I have have space / room for new projects and ideas I want to work on. I have feelings of nostalgia and genuine loss as I let go of these older projects, but I am also feeling excited about working on projects I feel have value and interest for me. 

So, without any further ado, I'm letting of of the following projects: 

  1. balanced gaming (a site where I wanted to engender a conversation about balanced gaming for schools, parents and students).
  2. modern command (a text-based game simulating the command of a modern nation-state, powered by the pennMUSH server).
  3. interactive fiction

I'm picking up: 

  1. writing
  2. bushcraft
  3. drawing


Posted in Personal on 27 - February 2015 at 09:56 PM (9 years ago) 356 views.

Oh man. Leonard Nimoy is gone. What a loss, what a great loss.

Sublime - is just so…good…

Posted in Blogging Personal Teaching Diary on 06 - February 2015 at 06:37 PM (9 years ago) 396 views.

Well. I haven't been this enamored with a piece of software in a long time. Sublime - a text editor - has won my heart. The last time I got this happy about text editing was back in the day with UltraEdit. Someone put some love into this software.

Don’t use excel for important work

Posted in Blogging Educational Tech Personal on 28 - May 2014 at 08:14 AM (10 years ago) 359 views.

Computer Science professor Daniel Lemire talks about why folks shouldn't use excel for important work.

Lemire states, "They [spreadsheets] are at their best when errors are of little consequence or when problems are simple.". He also writes (and I agree) "Spreadsheets make code review difficult. The code is hidden away in dozens if not hundreds of little cells… If you are not reviewing your code carefully… and if you make it difficult for others to review it, how do expect it to be reliable". When I get a spreadsheet from my business office, I spend more time understanding the formulas than I do the business problem.

I agree with Prof. Lemire's points, but I also see a language problem in changing. In short: people use spreadsheets because they are easy and accessible AND they lack computational thinking skills to build (write) a program in a more organized, coherent way. Probably, people "know" excel and there is a cost to learning and mastering something new.

In schools, I see excel spreadsheets being used to run virtually all parts of an organization (HR, accounting, purchasing, etc..). I think people use spreadsheets because they are easy and well supported, AND they do not know how to program.

I think Prof. Lemire's point is well said, and his post moves me to do more to help kids learn about programming and computational thinking.

Expression Engine 2.8 is out!

Posted in Blogging Personal Teaching Diary on 03 - March 2014 at 10:48 AM (10 years ago) 304 views.

Expression Engine 2.8 is out. Really cool feature set that will save time and make it easier to develop great web-apps for schools.

My latest use of Expression Engine is for a professional development request system. Works like a charm!

Membership in Computer Science Teacher Association

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership Personal Teaching Diary on 24 - February 2014 at 09:13 AM (10 years ago) 394 views.

As I was learning about computer science curricula in the K-12 sphere, I discovered the Computer Science Teacher Association. I've joined, and I am learning a great deal about the value of their membership. I'm currently reviewing their suggested K-12 Computer Science standards, and learning more about computational thinking. I'm looking forward to learning more about how this organization can help me understand how best to plan, implment and assess computer science curricula in the K-12 world.

Is anonymity bad?

Posted in Blogging Personal on 14 - February 2014 at 12:49 PM (10 years ago) 325 views.

Interesting article written by Chris Poole about the merits of anonymity online. I remember when anonymity was the de-facto identity on the internet, and I've watched it change slowly with facebook. As a teacher, I've watched students exhibit truly exemplary behavior online, and I've also seen horrible behavior. Like in real life, just amplified.

I believe anonymity is the great "freeing mechanism" of the internet, one of the truly great things about "online". Gender, age, culture, and socioeconomic status all fall-away as barriers to participation in a free exchange of ideas. At it's heart, I think that is what the internet is; a venacular of idea. In an anonymous forum, the strength of an idea alone carries weight. Of course expressing the idea is important, but without the garbage that traditionally encumbers us.

So I see evidence how being anonymous online can be hurtful. I also see how it be very helpful. A few quick examples:

1. Stack exchange. Basically anonymous. The best ideas and responses to questions are voted to the top of the list.
2. Slashdot. Basically anonymous. Comments are moderated, but in a weird way.
3. Google Moderator. Not very anonymous, but has the same basic idea of voting for an idea.
4. Reddit. Anonymous. The thing about Reddit is the question being asked. So on the front page, the basic question is "what will create the most clicks?". But on subreddits, like /r/linux, answers to questions are voted on, with the best rising to the top.

There are obvious flaws with anon-think (see the Wisdom of Crowds). But that we should shun anonymity, or treat it pejoratively strikes me as myopic.

Just finished Code Academy Intro to PHP

Posted in Educational Tech Personal Teaching Diary on 02 - February 2014 at 06:59 PM (10 years ago) 326 views.

I just finished the CodeAcademy PHP introduction. Not bad, I have to say. I've been dabbling in PHP for many years, and I learned some new things, which is cool. I finished in about two days (total time, probably 6 hours).

I found the learning environment to be good. A few user interface quibbles, but overall, the teaching and assessment was spot-on. I liked the feedback when an answer was incorrect. I found the scope and sequence to be good. I think a more robust summative assessment would of been nice. I also think some different types of assessment would of been neat (look at this code, where is the error).

Amazing, the last time I formally learned about PHP, I used a book, and manually typed in the code. This was much different.

iDiots: a clever commentary on what we may become

Posted in Mindfulness Personal on 20 - November 2013 at 07:08 AM (10 years ago) 297 views.

Without much further comment:

Reform ECPA: Tell the Government to Get a Warrant

Posted in Linux Personal on 15 - November 2013 at 07:16 AM (10 years ago) 309 views.

Hey readers!

I've just signed this petition, and I urge you to, as well.

Americans are deeply concerned about NSA surveillance.

But the NSA’s not the only problem. An outdated law says the IRS and hundreds of other agencies can read our communications without a warrant.

That law, known as the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), was written over 25 years ago, before the services we use today even existed.

Right now, several bills in Congress would fix this by updating ECPA to require a warrant, but regulatory bodies are blocking reform in order to gain new powers of warrantless access.

We call on the Obama Administration to support ECPA reform and to reject any special rules that would force online service providers to disclose our email without a warrant.

My idea of a good social experience for teachers

Posted in Personal Teaching Diary on 26 - February 2013 at 09:06 AM (11 years ago) 291 views.

This is a proposal I sent to our school social committee. I'm not sure what they will think about it!

I would like to have the first annual ASW Dungeons and Dragons game. The purpose of this game is to have fun and learn about a foundation of geek identity and culture, Dungeons and Dragons (version 4e). I imagine each game will take about 2 hours, with 5 to 6 players. I have already created the characters and settings, so gameplay should be fast. There is a a small bit of reading prior to each game, and ideally each player would watch one of the lord of the rings movies prior to playing.

The game would be classic D&D, "the hero's hack and slash to save the world kind-of-story". Players would choose a classic class such as fighters, barbarians, rogues, clerics, magic-users, wizards, archers, etc.. Players will have a chance to play the following races: human, elven, dwarven, goliath, and perhaps a dragon-born. They will in turn fight the classic monsters, including orcs, dire-wolves, skeletons, spiders, and perhaps even a beholder. I was thinking about the following dates:

Thursday, March 21 2013, from 1600 to 1800 in the board room
Thursday, March 28 2013, from 1600 to 1800 in the board room

Light snacks and drinks would be served (as is traditional for D&D games). I will handle all logistics, registration, total cost for one game would be less than 50 PLN for snacks.

Anyway, I know this is pretty far over on the "weird" scale, but it does strike me as a potentially fun and social experience for our community. I would especially welcome people who have never played Dungeons and Dragons before. My request is for you to think about this proposal and get back to me with your reaction. If enough of you think this should be a "go" I would ask that you talk it up with your various divisions.

The 10 moms doctrine

Posted in Blogging Educational Tech Design Personal Teaching Diary on 29 - July 2011 at 03:59 AM (12 years ago) 346 views.

If you ask 10 different moms what they would do in a given scenario, you will get 10 different answers. Especially related to computer use, filtering, and behavioral standards. Last year our school had a strong parent technology partnership program (I intend to build on it this year). One of our activities was to present a scenario and ask parents what they would do (this was led by the indomitable Nick Kwan). One of the questions was "what would you do if you walked into your child's workspace and they quickly minimized a window?". The answers ranged from "nothing" to "take the computer away for a week".

Our school has a one to one laptop program. The school owns the laptops and the students take the computers home with them. We use open dns for filtering. The students have admin access to their laptops (which is a topic for another blog post - I love it).

We got several (well-placed) criticisms last year which stated students were coming home with laptops, and parents had no way to control this device. I considered this complaint fair, because there really are a wide range of parental attitudes and beliefs to technology use. I tend to be fairly liberal and open about tech use, but many parents are not - they are conservative and very careful about technology use. Is it fair to send kids home with no way for parents to control their device? Of course we talk about social contracts, and talking with your child, and trust - but some parents have strong beliefs that a computer should be locked down (the 10 moms doctrine).

The obvious choice is to install filtering software and teach parents how to use it (or teach them to use open dns). It's an option. If parents want to activate filtering, we tell them how to do it. If they don't want to activate filtering, then they don't. We are clear that there is to be no filtering during school time, only at home (from 3:00pm to 7:00am). We also talk about parenting advice and tips and offer parents a venue to discuss technology issues and share solutions to problems with each other. We talk about the technical weakness of filtering, that filtering alone can't solve many problems, and that at the end of the day, there has to be some kind of involvement with parents and their child's technology.

tl;dr: people have different values, ed tech should do what they can to respect and support those values.

More on learning HTML 5

Posted in Personal Teaching Diary on 27 - July 2011 at 05:32 AM (12 years ago) 309 views.

I have encountered a wonderful resource for learning HTML 5, Dive into HTML 5 by Mark Pilgrim. Not sure which adjectives to use, so I’ll just use the always-helpful-but-not-really-because-it-is-overused, “awesome”. 

Everything about this online book is great - I even (finally) got educated about unicode and character sets.  His links for further reading are great. I’ve spent about 4 hours just reading and digesting - I’ll certainly come back to this as I learn more and start implementing an HTML 5 site.

Becoming familiar with HTML 5

Posted in Blogging Educational Tech Personal Teaching Diary on 24 - July 2011 at 07:29 AM (12 years ago) 330 views.

With some vacation time left, I'm spending a few hours getting up to snuff on HTML 5. For a rank newbie, I find the w3 schools to be a good primer. I've never been much a javascript programmer, but it looks like that sexy canvas element uses it. I doubt I'll take the time to learn javascript, but it looks like I am going to need to sink my teeth into it.

I follow many people, including Rick Ellis, who said something like 'think of every website as an application'. I like this idea - the idea of static, "brochure-ware" is a dead end. Especially for schools, I believe the web is (and should be) a full suite of applications to serve the community. It seems like HTML 5 very much understands this idea.

I love the built in form authentication elements in HTML 5, the local storage, and the whole "the web is the application" idea. I hope major browsers don't screw up the implementation.

I'm sure I'll build a "test school" webpage with HTML 5 and my favorite CMS, Expression Engine to learn HTML 5.

Domains, hosts, and more!

Posted in Blogging News Personal on 11 - February 2011 at 05:01 AM (13 years ago) 345 views.

As my 3 regular readers (hi mom!) pointed out, my site was down for a few days due to an expired domain name. That’s fixed, but it’s time for some changes. has been around since 2003 and I’ve switched hosts, domain name providers, etc.,  many times. I’m consolidating my domain registries in linode. This will actually save me a little bit of money every year, and I am in love with linode (come on, a guy can pay $300 bucks a year for a backed-up, multi-continent IP failover solution?! SHWEET!).I spend a little more time doing system administration at the command line,. but I don’t mind that.

SO, I’ll transfer my domain over, switch hosts, and mirror the database for I’ve already got a mirror of this site setup, so it’s really just a question of transferring domains.  If I do everything right, ahem, your should notice virtually no downtime.

What could possibly go wrong?

(technical) Oh goodness, I’m using PERL.

Posted in Blogging Educational Tech Personal on 29 - January 2011 at 04:32 PM (13 years ago) 295 views.

This is a technical post - geek level 5.

Perl is a programming language. It’s a scripting language, as opposed to a compiled language. I first used perl about 15 years ago, playing with cgi-bin and other curious things. I dropped perl in favor of PHP, and usually use bash for my shell scripting (I haven’t scripted in years, but since I found linode, I’ve been scripting a bit more - I love it)

So I’m in a small tiff with my ISP.  They are horrible (dropped internet connections) , and I need proof. Enter perl, and this especially yummy script.  I hadn’t thought of using http requests, I was just going to write something that pinged, and appended the result to a logfile. This is cleaner, and the variety of hosts is a good thought.


On Gawker and Passwords

Posted in Blogging Educational Tech Security News Personal on 14 - December 2010 at 04:42 AM (13 years ago) 335 views.

Looks like Gawker was hacked. I’m not a “gawker” guy, but I am a lifehacker reader. And, in 2008, I left a comment about my favorite RSS reader. And, after downloading the torrent, I saw my password and email.  I’m sure this will be indexable by google in a few days. I guess they didn’t store the passwords securely. oops.


I’ve been using the interwebs since AOL and 2400 baud modems, and this is the first time I’ve been aware of being compromised. Thankfully, I used my normal stupid web password, and not one of my stronger passwords. However, I will now be searching for my username and changing my password whenever I see it pop up. I’m also using a new easy-to-remember web password.

Of course, the moment lifehacker lets me delete my account, I will. 

MYSQL: changing a field type to longtext

Posted in HOWTO general computing Personal on 03 - December 2010 at 11:33 AM (13 years ago) 299 views.

Note to self:

To change a mysql filedtype from mediumtext to longtext simply type:

ALTER TABLE exp_templates CHANGE template_data template_data longtext;

This will change the field “template_data” in the table “exp_templates” to longtext.

Hope this helps someone.

Poland, here we come

Posted in Personal on 29 - June 2010 at 04:06 PM (about 14 years ago) 288 views.

Our entire home was packed up and shipped off yesterday! We are staying at a neighbors house and then we are off! I expect to be in Poland around July 11th.

Look forward to blogging again, especially from the perspective of a director of technology!


Posted in Personal Teaching Diary on 11 - June 2010 at 05:14 AM (14 years ago) 343 views.


I did it! I passed the New York State Certification tests for School Building Leader and School District Leader (SBL and SDL, respectively). PDF here.

Soon, I’ll be a certified New York State Principal and Superintendent. I am very happy; this was a ton of work (2 years) and many more years preparing. My goal is to be a director of technology (which I’ll be realizing soon at the American School of Warsaw in Poland).  But I suspect I’ll soon be a principal.

I’m enjoying a glass of Jameson Whiskey in celebration.

Expression Engine and Drupal

Posted in Blogging Personal Teaching Diary on 22 - May 2010 at 04:29 PM (14 years ago) 309 views.

I recently had a wonderful meeting with a fellow ed tech geek here in NYC. He was helping me with some issues relating to blackbaud. The conversation was wonderful, he was insanely helpful, and we discussed all sorts of interesting things. He is a Drupal guy. I'm an Expression engine guy. After his enthusiastic recommendation, I started to review Drupal (it's been a while since I've used it). I did a fairly standard google search and was pleasantly surprised to find a thoughtful, well-considered discussion about the relative merits and shortcomings of both systems - very few flame-fests.

I personally find EE's templating much more intuitive and powerful. I also like the way I have very fine control over my individual pages than Drupal. Contrary to some comments, I find EE's support amazing (you are paying for it, after all). I've had to avail myself of their help many times! I'm going to stick with EE. This may be due to the fact that I know EE really well.

I like EE more - with one big reservation. I think I would more participative in the EE community if it wasn't a for-profit company. I know Ellis lab through emails and over 4 years of community interactions. I love what they've done with Code Igniter (open-source). But at the end of the day, if I am investing my free-time into a community, I'd like it to be about something more than helping (a really nice) group of people make money. Is EE a best-of-class product? Yes. Are Ellis labs intentions top-notch? I think so. But the one thing Drupal has over EE is it is open source in the truest form of the idea. I have recently begun digging back into Hspace - a text-based space simulator. As my three faithful readers know, I'm a text-based game aficionado - this is an open source project I would love to commit my (increasingly limited) free time to.

I know (not personally) several people who made careers of supporting the Ellis lab ecosystem. I plan on using EE / CI to be the system that drives my school web-based communication company. I will continue to encourage people to use expression engine, and I will encourage people to take a long look at EE as an excellent choice for web publishing.

I hope this post has added something to the discussion about EE and Drupal. I look forward to your comments.

I’m off facebook

Posted in Blogging News Personal Teaching Diary on 14 - May 2010 at 09:30 PM (14 years ago) 366 views.

I’ve deleted my facebook account. It wasn’t one single event, but several which came together.

1. The intention of facebook went from “connecting” to “profit”. Not sure when this happened, but icky.
2. I hate like - I dont want facebook to know everything (see #1)
3. Funny thing - facebook controls your privacy from everyone except facebook. They are selling gorgeous demographic-based advertising. (see #1 and #2)
4. Facebook says they own my data. So if I write a wall post - it’s theirs. icky.
5. How hard it is to keep my student / personal information walled off. There’ some things I don’t want to know about my kids.

I also already have a pretty well-established web presence, I’m building a bigger web-presence, and I never had trouble with people getting in touch with me.

I’ll miss remembering people’s birthdays, I suppose.

Poland, here I come!

Posted in Educational Tech Leadership News Personal on 31 - March 2010 at 04:04 PM (14 years ago) 333 views.

I'm pleased to announce I have been hired by the American School of Warsaw as the new director of technology. I just finished a week-long meet and greet, and I am mightily impressed. The school is focused, passionate, and forward-thinking in their application of technology and learning. They have a great 1:1 program, and are implementing a bevvy of interesting technologies to support learning.

I am sketching out themes, ideas, categories, and issues. I am also examining my assumptions and understandings of educational technology as I look to first-year challenges. I am thinking about where I want to move the school, partnering with all the different stakeholders to take our school from "good to great".

It is a wonderful moment, one which I savor. I will miss New York City, but I am stoked to get started!

What do you think of virtual private servers?

Posted in Educational Tech Personal on 15 - January 2010 at 04:19 PM (14 years ago) 271 views.

I currently manage and pay for 4 websites and one text-based game. I think I probably pay about $400.00 a year for all of these services combined.

I like these services because someone else takes care of support, security, and patching. I don’t like these services because I lose some flexibility - my data is fragmented amongst 4 services, if I want to rapidly prototype something I have to pay for a new hosting instance, and I can’t use bleeding edge stuff (which I actually enjoy).

In the last year or so, virtual private servers have gained some traction - it looks like a year on a vps server with 512 RAM would cost me $240.00 (and my time). I liked the idea of dedicated servers, but they are way out of my price range. I love the idea of command line access to my own server. yummy. I also want to keep my system administration skills sharp, and this seems like a good way to do it.

None of my 4 sites garner much attention - I get about 400 unique hits a day on this blog, but that is it. I probably have about 40 gigs worth of data on the 4 sites.

I like the idea of consolidating my websites. I can’t self-host because I rent an apartment and don’t have a spare machine. Does anyone out there have experience working with VPS? Drawbacks? Advantages?

I appreciate any feedback, and I would be happy to offer additional details if that would help.

Polish Resume

Posted in Personal on 07 - November 2009 at 01:56 PM (14 years ago) 256 views.

This is my resume in Polish and here’s my resume in English.  My wife tells me the Polish translation is more literal than contextual.

Google chrome for MAC

Posted in Personal on 27 - October 2009 at 02:12 AM (14 years ago) 283 views.

I’ve been using google chrome for mac for a few days, and I am impressed. To be honest, the only thing keeping me from completely switching is the access to web developer toolbar  in Firefox.  It is hands-down the best firefox extension I have ever worked with.

The developer tools in google chrome are sweet - I like to track loading time on webpages to see what is causing delay.  But the firefox extension really takes the cake. 

edit **sigh** Looks like chrome can’t open PDF’s in the browser. Heh. Welcome back, Firefox.




Posted in Personal on 20 - September 2009 at 09:19 PM (14 years ago) 257 views.

I am in Poland for a wedding. A Polish wedding is a Wedding with a capital W. The ceremony is traditional, with priests doing priest stuff. But come the reception, an entirely different thing emerges.

Hot dishes are served until around 2:30am, and the band took a break at 5:00am! The reception was a true, veritable feast - wonderful food, drink, games, dancing, hearty singing - genuine expressions of happiness and joy. It was not a debauchery sort of thing - just a massive feast celebrating a wedding. I think the reception went on for 10 hours.  We slept, and then went to the bride’s home for more food and drink!!

We had the reception in a beautiful hotel.  Our four month old daughter was with us, and we decided to rent a room so she could sleep. My wife and I decided we would take turns watching her. As things turned out, I spent most of the time in the hotel room (by my choice) My wife is Polish, and we were at a wedding for her family - so it kind of made sense.

As I was sitting up in the room, listening to people laughing and the music thumping, and imagining all the food and drink, I started to feel a little self-pity.  I wanted to go down and be part of the party.

And then I had this realization that this is part of being a parent. I just watched my little girl sleep, and I listened to the music.  My wonderful wife brought up yummy food and drink for me every once in a while. It’s self-sacrifice in part, and putting my kid’s needs in front of my own. I’m not writing this to show what a great hero I am - it’s just a record of the first time “parenting” kind of hit me.

Balanced Gaming

Posted in Educational Tech Games in education News Personal on 01 - September 2009 at 05:06 PM (14 years ago) 312 views.

Hello there!

I’ve started a consulting business called Balanced Gaming.  Balanced Gaming is targeted towards three groups:

1. Gamers - I’d like to talk to you about how to enjoy computer games in the context of a balanced life. Click here to learn more.
2. Parents - I can help you understand how to guide, support, and evaluate computer games and media use for your kids. Click here to learn more.
3. Schools - Computer and video games are powerful learning tools - when used correctly.  I can help you understand how games work in education. Click here to learn more.

If you’d like to connect with me, and learn a little more, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

I would appreciate your help is spreading the word about this.

d&d community site

Posted in Personal on 28 - August 2009 at 04:40 PM (14 years ago) 276 views.

As a self-respecting geek, I feel it my duty to inform the internet that Wizards of the Coast has completely overhauled their community site for Dungeons and Dragons.

My impressions? I love it. But if, for some unfathomable reason, Wizards of the Coast is reading this, PLEASE let me link my D&D blog to other social networking sites.  So I post to twitter, It goes to facebook. Why not my d&d blog? I doubt I will regularly publish in my D&D blog, but if I can link my normal blog with my D&D community site, that would be really cool.


Excuse me, Bermuda? Please pay close attention to me!!!

Posted in Personal on 18 - August 2009 at 04:51 PM (14 years ago) 293 views.

This is from the weather channel - an AUTHORITATIVE SOURCE, so everyone should pay close attention.

“Residents and visitors in Bermuda should pay close attention to the progress of Bill.” The link is here and PDF of article is here.

I would like Bermuda to know some things about me:

1. I’ve been living in New York City for three years
2. I have a 3 month old daughter who I love very much
3. My wife was born in Poland, and I’m trying to learn Polish, but it’s going slowly
4. I love coffee
5. Chocolate, too.
6. I’m trying to lose some weight and exercise more
7. I love what I do; educational technology is really fun
8. My goal is to be a director of technology
9. I’m studying school administration at Hunter College


my daughter is teething and our school’s wiring closet - related events?

Posted in Personal on 06 - August 2009 at 05:45 PM (14 years ago) 236 views.

I’m sure these two pictures are somehow related.



Greatest email in the history of the internet

Posted in Blogging Personal Twitter on 21 - July 2009 at 05:02 PM (14 years ago) 300 views.

Ok, to be technical, it was a twit from twitter, but still…

Do you still have the schematics of StarTrek ships? I’m looking for a Romulan Warbird I can knit.

For those who don’t know, I maintain the internet’s only repository of Star Trek freighter schematics. Other sites have ship schematics, but I only keep freighter schematics.

I will ask the sender of this email for a picture of the knitting project and post it here. Until then, thank you so much for the most wonderful email I have ever gotten, and I will buy you a beer next time we meet.

um, WoW?

Posted in Personal on 20 - July 2009 at 08:36 PM (14 years ago) 263 views.

ok… I know I’m a bit late to this party - but World of Warcraft? Yawn.


I played a dwarven warrior, a gnome mage, and a human paladin - all up to level 6 on the trial version. Graphically, wow doesn’t hold a candle to Eve Online, and the gameplay? click, click, click, click….

Of course, I glimpsed some fun - I like the class trainers, the different skills and abilities, and it looks like there’s tons of equipment. But for me? Meh.

The Sin of the Episcopal Church

Posted in Personal on 14 - July 2009 at 06:59 PM (14 years ago) 298 views.

To my three regular readers, I am sorry for this highly tangential post. I’ve been meaning to write this for a long time. I’ll return to regular ed-tech stuff tomorrow.

I am a cradle Episcopal Christian. I was raised at St. Andrews church on Martha’s Vineyard, where I served as an altar boy. I am now a proud member of St. Mary’s in Time Square. I love my church, and my faith. I love the tradition, scripture, and culture of discernment in the episcopal faith.  I consider myself a faithful Christian.

As you may know the Episcopal Church ordained an openly gay man as a bishop. This caused a shitstorm in the Anglican Communion including some diocseses leaving the American Episcopal Church and affiliating themselves with bishops in more conservative diocseses. The Anglican communion wrote a formal report called the Windsor Report. I read some of it, and basically, the Anglican Communion said You really, really really should of talked to us about this first.  Today, the New York Times reports my church is ending a moratorium on potentially doing this again.

I think the sin the American Episcopal church committed is by not fully considering themselves as part of the larger Anglican Communion. I believe this is a uniquely American error. The Episcopal Church broke with the Anglican Church shortly after the War of American Independence, but the Episcopal Church is not independent. We identify ourselves as members of the Anglican Church. We seek communion with our Christian brothers and sisters.  I think being in communion means talking, considering, empathizing, and compromising.

I don’t think Jesus would turn away people who are homosexual. I reject the idea of a “fundamentalist understanding” of the bible that being homosexual is wrong or a disease. I think as a Christian, I am admonished to love my neighbor as myself - and I don’t think gay folks are somehow an exception to this rule. Being a devout Christian is about being devout - no matter who you are.

My point? My church needs to do a better job of reaching out to our fellow Anglicans. Maybe this schism is inevitable - I think everyone flipped out when we elevated a woman to the priesthood, now it is simply accepted. But we are not just “the episcopal church” - we are part of a much larger communion with whom we must consider and love.

Summer in educational technology

Posted in Educational Tech Personal on 23 - June 2009 at 05:54 PM (about 15 years ago) 273 views.

Summer time!

Pretty normal summer plan:

1. Setup a new server. Finally, we will be able to do network image installs on our laptops.
2. Update and add some new professional development materials.
3. Get ready for our school transition to powerschool.
4. Arrange faculty best practices section for our website.
5. Move the elementary school website to a content management system .

6. Continue to learn code igniter.
7. Do relaxing fun stuff with my new family.
8. Prepare an after-school course for text based games.
9. Blog frequently and often about issues of earth-shattering importance.
10. Update, advertise, and build balanced gaming, my consulting business.

no, really. Use linux.

Posted in Personal on 22 - June 2009 at 08:56 PM (about 15 years ago) 213 views.

My half-brothers (ages 16 and 18) have had bad luck with their laptops. The laptops are regularly infected with crap, they don’t work the way they need to, and down time is greater than uptime.

So about a month ago, I installed ubuntu on them and now everything works like a charm.

Their songs? check.
Games? check. (using wine).
Website browsing? check.
Word processing? check.

Everything works as it should - I love linux.


zomg, I am so tired my current favorite word, and the new thing I’m learning

Posted in Personal on 14 - May 2009 at 04:44 PM (15 years ago) 248 views.


She didn’t sleep at all last night. Mommy fed her, she got sleepy, daddy put her in crib, she made cute little cooing sounds for about 15 minutes and then cried.  That pattern continued until 6:30 this morning. I am going to turn into a zombie.

My current favorite word is instantiate - kind of rolls off the tongue, no?

Finally, I am learning code igniter.


In d&d 4e, can a dwarf throw-assist an elf over a wererat, and as the elf is flying overhead, shoot

Posted in Personal on 14 - April 2009 at 04:31 PM (15 years ago) 289 views.

In d&d 4e, can a 5th level dwarven fighter throw-assist an elf over a wererat, and as the elf is flying overhead, shoot?

I asked this simple question on the d&d forums  (if the forum link becomes dead, you can read a text transcript here).

75 replies later, the answer seems to be yes. As I suspected, people play d&d for different reasons - some are more “simulationist” while others are kind of “cinematic” in their approach to role playing. Read the thread, it’s really a kick.

Emotional Intelligence and being a Director of Technology

Posted in Educational Tech Personal on 30 - August 2008 at 05:26 PM (15 years ago) 245 views.

I’ve begun a two year program for administration and supervision at Hunter College in New York City.

The course is essentially for mid-level educational professionals who want to move forward and work as school principals and superintendents.  The course ends in New York State certification in Administrative and Supervisory in New York. The focus on the course is improving instructional quality through effective supervision.

My objective is to work as a director of technology - and I decided this course would be a good choice towards that goal. Many of the help wanted ads for director of technology mention administration certification is required.

One of the the main thrusts of the ADSUP program is the identification and building of emotional intelligence (E.I.).

According to an article in one of my text books (Smart School Leaders - Leading with Emotional Intelligence), written by Daniel Goleman, emotional intelligence at work comprises five components:

1. Self-awareness
2. Self-regulation
3. Motivation
4. Empathy
5. Social skills

So, my initial reaction to emotional intelligence was “oh no….hippy stuff”. I saw E.I. as a “soft skill” and I wondered about the real impact on organizational leadership.  I’ve started asking around and consulting with friends and colleagues, and I’ve started to see the value in E.I. Many of them nod their heads and say stuff like “yea, you gotta know your tech, but E.I. helps manage the intersection between technology and humans”.  I’ll blog more about this as I go on, but for now, I’m thinking more about E.I.

I’ve always been a pleasant guy - smiling, approachable and generally nice. I guess I’ve been calling it “being nice” but I can see how it could also be called emotional intelligence.

Certified in New York!

Posted in Personal on 17 - June 2008 at 12:25 AM (16 years ago) 221 views.

I’m happy to report that I am now certified as an Educational Technology Specialist in the State of New York!!!  It wasn’t that difficult to get my certification moved from Massachusetts to New York, and I need to take 2 more test to remove the conditional status of the certificate. I’m really happy! 

New animation on the horizon

Posted in Personal on 17 - April 2008 at 10:21 PM (16 years ago) 238 views.

The creative and brilliant artwork of these guys is fantastic. I strongly encourage you to check out this preview animation and bookmark the site. I know I’ll be paying attention!!

RSS links for text-based games

Posted in Personal Text-based gaming on 04 - April 2008 at 04:22 PM (16 years ago) 274 views.

These are the RSS links I regularly review to keep abreast of events in the text-based-gaming community.    I am a text-based gaming aficionado here’s my meager page to more links and information about text-based games


To understand Poland, you’ve got to understand Russia

Posted in Personal on 02 - April 2008 at 05:37 AM (16 years ago) 254 views.

For those who don’t know, my wife is Polish.  Eastern Europe has always been a bit of an enigma to me; and truth be told, my grandfather and father bought into the “red scare” thing, which impacted my ideas about Russia and Eastern Europe.

So my relationship to Eastern Europe (and specifically Poland)  has been one of misinformation, stereotypes, and simple ignorance.  I have been trying to cure myself of this ignorance, and have been attempting to understand the “slavic heart”. I have visited Poland 5 times now, taken a full year of Polish language classes, interviewed several people from Poland (including a doctor of sociology), and embarked on an ambitious reading campaign, including:


...and more…

It wasn’t until I picked up Natasha’s Dance by Orlando Figes where I had a series of “aha” moments. Moments of clarity and “so THAT’S why they do that in Poland”.

Of course, as my wife is quick to point out, Poland is not Russia. However, I see the influence, and this book was delightful to read - especially for someone who is not well versed in the arts. I heartily recommend this book to anyone with a faint interest in Russian culture and history. The book is so readable, and easy to move around inside my mind; it really is a wonderful book.

I can’t say I now have a commanding understanding of Polish sociology and culture; but I have a much deeper understanding of the nebulous slavic heart, which perhaps can only be described through art, opera, and poetry.


Latest resume

Posted in Personal on 08 - March 2008 at 04:58 AM (16 years ago) 222 views.

I’ve made no secret that I want to be a director of technology. I really think I have something to bring to the table for a school who wants to get the most out of technology in education.  I also have plenty of common sense, and I really love technology and education here’s my resume

Happy IWD!

Posted in Personal on 06 - March 2008 at 10:35 PM (16 years ago) 251 views.


Happy International Women’s Day!.  My wife tells me when she was growing up in Poland, she was given lipstick, soap, and nylon stockings.

Thanks, Gary

Posted in Personal on 05 - March 2008 at 01:53 AM (16 years ago) 254 views.


Thanks for the memories, Gary

Off the Grid

Posted in Personal on 21 - December 2007 at 04:14 AM (16 years ago) 218 views.

As Christmas approaches, I am traveling to Poland with my wonderful wife.  During this time, I’ll be completely off the grid. No cell phone, email, web access and barely any TV.

If I wanted to, I could - buy a cell phone, visit an internet cafe, and stay in touch. However, I have come to deeply value this time; there is something so refreshing about being still, quiet and alone from the interweb.

See you all in 2 weeks.

Can Eve Online be played casually?

Posted in Games in education Personal on 02 - December 2007 at 10:26 PM (16 years ago) 262 views.

This is the second in a series of blog posts  which focus on eve-online. The last question I focused on was could eve-online be educational?  The answer: maybe, but probably not.

Now I’d like to focus on casual gaming (also see here for casual game).  The question: can eve online be played casually?

Eve is, of course, a MMORPG. These games have traditionally catered to hardcore gamers, and demand from players a large investment in time.  That is, the longer you play, the more quickly you ascend and become more “powerful” in the game world. Some games become quite difficult for new gamers as the older, more powerful players have a monopoly on the best items, skills, and power (this is actually a criticism of Eve which I do not agree with). Another common experience of MMORPG’s is the “really fun” stuff is reserved for the more seasoned players (who are often pushing on the limits of the game world!). Adding to this interesting situation is the idea of guilds (or companies) in eve-speak. any missions in Ev simply cannot be won playing solo - it must be a team effort; this adds to the time sink that eve can become (although this is mitigated by Eve’s single-server solution).

The question is then, can I play Eve for a hour a day, or maybe an hour every 2 days, and still have fun?

My answer is yes. Eve is absolutely playable as a casual game, a few hours a week, and remains a fun, dynamic game. Among the more interesting aspects of Eve’s “casuability” are:

1) The skill system, which moves in real-time; it doesn’t matter if I am logged in or not, my avatar continues to gain in skills and “place” in the game. This is especially important as playing more doesn’t make your skills progress any faster.
2) The PvE game in Eve is rich. There are hundreds of agent missions, where I can login, take a mission, go have fun, and then logoff. The missions are cumulative; the more I do, the more I “stand” in an organization.
3) Eve is a single-sharded game. This means the game isn’t segmented into separate servers. Instead, the game is one giant virtual world; there is always someone on to help, or play with.
4) The storyline is not one. There aren’t epic quests one must complete; Eve is more of a sandbox which is fun to play in - you can really do your own thing (mine, produce stuff, fight, etc…)
5) Moving isn’t slow - jumping from one system to another system is pretty fast, so if I want to meet some friends, I can do so without having to wait for a long time.
6) For me, Eve works brilliantly on OS X, so I can play at home for an hour or so, and still have time for fun, exercise, and life.

There is huge PvP aspect of Eve, but I haven’t played it. My sense is it doesn’t lend itself to casual gaming (since the other people who play PvP seem to play in groups!).

I think Eve is a great game, and is quite enjoyable as a casual experience. When starting Eve for the first time, I suggest setting aside 2 full hours to fully play the tutorial (it’s good, and it is supposed to get better with a new release).

Back from Thanksgiving!

Posted in Personal on 24 - November 2007 at 09:27 PM (16 years ago) 217 views.

wow….what a great thanksgiving. It remains one of my favorite holidays, and I enjoyed eating and sharing time with family. I was especially relaxed.

Hi Jimmy!!!! 😊

comments now working!

Posted in Personal on 27 - August 2007 at 04:54 PM (16 years ago) 218 views.

I noticed someone tried to leave a comment about the blogging story and my capacha’s aren’t working!  I’ve removed them for now - I think the permissions on the image directory are off. You should be able to leave a comment now.

A perfect vacation

Posted in Personal on 05 - August 2007 at 08:36 PM (16 years ago) 252 views.


My wife and I are back from Brattleboro and we had a brilliant time (pictures here).

We stayed at 40 Putney Road Bed and Breakfast, which is by far the most pleasant and charming inn I have ever enjoyed. Tim and Amy have a perfect setting, and their energy and hospitality were nothing short of perfect.  Amy cooked the most delicious breakfasts every morning, and Tim’s encyclopedic knowledge of beers, wines and the sort made for fantastic evenings at their pub. They were both friendly and genuinely welcoming.  If anyone is planning on visiting Vermont, I heartily recommend this B&B.

We hiked, swam, canoed, biked, shopped, and ate all over Brattleboro.  It was a wonderful trip, and although we are happy to be home, I miss Vermont.


Posted in Personal on 27 - July 2007 at 03:52 PM (16 years ago) 265 views.


My wife and I are heading to Brattleboro, Vermont for a nice vacation.

I can’t wait to get there, and just chill out. I’m going to be cell-phone-less and email-less for about a week, so if you send an email, I assure you, I’ll get back to you!

Linux certification

Posted in Linux Personal on 25 - July 2007 at 06:44 AM (16 years ago) 322 views.

In my ongoing effort to better prepare myself to be a director of technology, I’m embarking on a Linux certification course.

I looked into some programs here in NYC, and the price was disgusting ($4000.00) So after some googling, I found this lil gem! The good folks at IBM have provided us with very yummy training for the LPI exams.  I’ll tell you how I do on the 101 exam, but for now, I’m pretty excited!

PS: my primary machine at home has been running Ubuntu fro almost one year, and I love it.

J.K Rowling

Posted in Personal on 21 - July 2007 at 09:17 PM (16 years ago) 210 views.

Thank you so much, Mrs. Rowling, for the best thing…I finished your book today (I read it in 8 hours, non-stop), and perhaps you are our Tolkien? Just know how thankful I am for you, and I am so proud of you.

Design changes finished

Posted in Personal on 06 - July 2007 at 08:50 PM (about 17 years ago) 229 views.

Hello everyone!

I’ve finished the changes to my blog; I’m happy with the results - there are still some little things to take care of, but the heavy lifting is done.  Here are the changes:

1) Removed the forums - nice feature, but no one was using them
2) Removed the wiki for the same reason
3) Upgraded to expression engine 1.6.0
4) Removed member area from sidebar - this blog is becoming slightly more didactic which makes sense as there is little community participation*
5) Added new sub-categories - look for more…I’d like to increase the number of categories by 20
6) Added a new section: text-based games - this has been a long time passion of mine, and I see no reason not to share it!
7) Changed the the CSS so it is uber-simple (go ahead and look)
8) Changed my Star Trek gallery a bit - I might troll around and look for some new images.
9) Changed the ed-tech section - the HOWTO’s are no longer paginated, and the latest 25 ed-tech entries are visible
10) Changed the title of each story to smaller boldfacing - it looked wonky in Internet explorer (which renders more nicely than current version firefox, btw)
11) Ensured the site still validates.

* I am considering starting a new community-based site which would focus on educational technology with a focus on games in education - I need to think about it a little more.


Thoughts and Prayers…

Posted in Personal on 17 - April 2007 at 08:22 PM (17 years ago) 222 views.


My thoughts and prayers are with the students, staff, family and friends of the Virgina Tech community.  As a long-time educator, I feel numb with grief, and hope they folks down there know they are not alone.


Posted in Personal on 15 - April 2007 at 05:19 PM (17 years ago) 233 views.

I love learning new things.

My wife is Polish, and was talking about the experience of many immigrants as being a “liminality”.  She says she learned it from a minority literature lecture.  Here’s the wiki page on it, and here’s the take on it.

Call to Boycott Circuit City

Posted in Personal on 04 - April 2007 at 05:47 PM (17 years ago) 226 views.

The last time I dipped my toe in politics, I offended a nice reader. I generally shy away from political things, as I want to really focus on educational technology. But this story really offended me.

The American company Circuit City has decided to fire 3400 employees - the highest paid sales clerks and most experienced staff!.  They have kindly offered to hire these hard-working staff back, ten weeks from the date of firing, at far lower wages.

I wonder what would happen if they paid these workers more, and people started seeing there was better service at Circuit City? Maybe this would help their bottom line!!

So work hard, and get fired?

Here’s my list of participating discussions / efforts to move this effort forward….

Stu Bykofsky on the whole thing… thread
Google groups weighs in
Slashdot discussion on the matter


Cantankerous Consultant thread

A trouble ticket success story: part 1

Posted in Educational Tech Personal on 01 - March 2007 at 07:23 PM (17 years ago) 234 views.

(This post is written for those with a passing interest and familiarity with Expression Engine, an outstanding CMS/blogging tool)

Our school needed a trouble ticket system.  My original question was posted here: After some tinkering, we have a working system, and with over 100 tickets, the system is an outstanding success. Our office is more organized, and we have been able to respond to technical issues far more efficiently than before.  We have also identified large areas of our school with serious issues (like an entire lab full of computers with no anti-virus).  We have solid data which will guide our budgeting and planning processes in the future.  The system is being so well received, it is now being considered to replace our building-and-grounds paper-based job system. Quite an accomplishment!

To be fair, the ticket system enabled us to look more systemically at our technical issues and our technical support process - this was as much a technical achievement as it was a process achievement. That being said, let’s get down to brass tacks.

We created a weblog called help_desk and assigned the following custom fields:


We then setup the following categories - these related to the department making the request:

HCES (this is an elementary school)
HCHS (this is a high school)

We have a single-user sign on, for the entire school. This way, we don’t need to be concerned about lost passwords and usernames (although we use EE to power our entire school website, and eventually every staff member will have their own username/password we haven’t really reached this point yet).

We have a “teacher zone” on our school website, and the help-desk link is only visible if someone logs on (using
if group_id == ‘1’ OR group_id ==‘7’ )

We use the stand alone entry forms (SAEF) for users to enter help-tickets,  and stand alone edit form’s (SAEF)  (with the help of SolSpace’s EXCEPTIONAL form helper plugin) to edit the forms.

It’s a very clean, very simple system.  We have three statuses open, closed and urgent, and use simple queries to count the entries with each status and/or category.  At a glance, we can see how many computer problems, internet issues, printer problems, etc…

Classic text-based games

Posted in Personal on 09 - February 2007 at 08:26 PM (17 years ago) 222 views.

Courtesy of digg, comes this great site!

I’m a long time fan of text-based games, and I love the memories of these games!

We are coming for you….

Posted in Personal on 21 - January 2007 at 04:05 AM (17 years ago) 224 views.


Happy New Year!

Posted in Personal on 03 - January 2007 at 02:51 AM (17 years ago) 205 views.

Bit late, but Happy New Year!


Light on the horizon!

Posted in Personal on 14 - December 2006 at 07:57 AM (17 years ago) 211 views.


I am happy to report I’ve finished a huge project at work, and I have some more time to blog and talk about things which are relevant to technology in education and games in education. I do thank you all for your attention and patience!



Recharging my blogging batteries

Posted in Personal on 17 - November 2006 at 05:22 PM (17 years ago) 207 views.


Hello folks!

It’s been a while since my last post, and judging from my current energy levels and work projects, it may be a few more weeks before I can regularly blog again.

I look forward to a re energized discussion on games in education and the life of an aspiring technical director in New York City.



The nightmare that is learning Polish…

Posted in Personal on 26 - October 2006 at 06:25 AM (17 years ago) 212 views.


So I’m taking a class at a local university and learning Polish.  I probably know about 200 words, and I’m learning a great deal about grammar, and vocabulary, The instructor is very good, and the class is moving along at a good pace for new Polish speakers. I’d say I’m getting about 50% of the material, and my Polish is getting much better.

..until that is, I encountered this sentence in my textbook… (this is an actual quote)

“Adjectives referring to masculine inanimate and neuter nouns take in the accusative the same forms as in the nominative.  Masculine adjectives referring to animate nouns take in the accusative the -ego ending, and female adjectives, the ending -q. ...Note that the singular -i- appears between the stems ending in K, G, and ending -ego. The -i- marks palatalization of K and G.”

I’m a pretty smart guy, but these Polish declensions are kicking my ass!

Who changes the NOUN and ADJECTIVE depending on the verb (and it’s gender) in the sentence ?!

Ooof.  I’ll keep trying to learn, but I just had to vent a little.

Sept 11 2006

Posted in Personal on 11 - September 2006 at 05:39 PM (17 years ago) 221 views.



Some nice press attention

Posted in Blogging Educational Tech Personal on 07 - September 2006 at 06:48 PM (17 years ago) 258 views.


I recently had the opportunity to write an article for the School Library Journal (PDF here) concerning games and education.  The editors at School Library Journal were really quite delightful.

...and then a few days ago, the Boston Globe called with a few questions about blogging in the classroom (see my articles here).  The Globe article is here (PDF here).

Pretty cool opportunity to reach out and connect with other teachers and educators.

If you are interested in blogging, or games in the classroom, please contact me!

My first usenet post

Posted in Personal on 29 - June 2006 at 06:27 PM (about 18 years ago) 224 views.

Date: Sat, Mar 5 1994 5:35 pm

My experience with a BS is to get into some type of residential care, if that
is the direction you’d like to go (clinical) .  If you’re more interested in
research, then masters level programs really are an excellent venue for that
avenue of study..

Bill MacKenty

Last day of school

Posted in News Personal on 16 - June 2006 at 06:32 PM (18 years ago) 299 views.

It goes so quickly.

This is the last day of school for me.  I’ll be moving to New York City tomorrow, and I can’t wait to start at Hunter College!

As it stands, I’ll be without internet access at home for a while so it may take some time before I post again.

Out of the Office!

Posted in Personal on 14 - May 2006 at 05:41 AM (18 years ago) 212 views.

Hi all!

I’ll be out of the office from May 14th to May 25th.  Off to Poland to get married!

I’ll be back on Friday the 25th




Posted in Personal on 06 - May 2006 at 05:25 PM (18 years ago) 226 views.

I have accepted a position at Hunter College Campus Schools in New York City.  I will be working as an instructional designer, helping teachers effectively use technology in their classrooms. Hunter College campus school teaches intellectually gifted students, grades K through 12. 

I must be quite frank; I do not know how this bodes for my use of games in the classroom.  If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to encourage teachers to use games in their classroom.  If I’m not so lucky, I won’t. I have every intention of continuing my work to use COTS games in the classroom.  In fact, with this population of students I suspect it may be even more interesting. 

Why move? You may ask.  I had a comfortable, secure job on a beautiful island.  My employers afforded every possible freedom to try new teaching techniques, and explore different pedagogies.  My school disctrict is well funded, we were never for want of anything major.

The thing of it is, my career goal is to be a district technology coordinator for a large size educational community.  As much as I love games in education and support the direction the movement is going, I simply cannot ignore the opportunity for living and working in New York City…it’s going to be great for my long term plans.

From May 14th to May 25th I’ll be in Poland getting married, and then the third weekend in June (the 17th) I’ll be moving to the city; during this time I expect my blogging will become quite quiet.

I simply cannot thank the wonderful readers who frequent this blog enough! Your insightful comments and ideas prove consistently wonderful. 

Very warmly yours,

Bill MacKenty, M.Ed.


Posted in Personal on 17 - April 2006 at 09:17 PM (18 years ago) 234 views.

Hi folks!

On holiday for the next week, so posts might be few and far between. 



Ah, Lem - Do widzenia

Posted in Personal on 28 - March 2006 at 08:27 PM (18 years ago) 210 views.


As an avid science fiction fan I was saddened to learn Stanislaw Lem has died.

His writing was particularly succint.  Very to the point about things, in a beautiful way.

Do widzenia == goodbye in Polish wins eSchool News award!

Posted in Personal on 09 - March 2006 at 05:52 PM (18 years ago) 236 views.


I’m very pleased to announce my blog has won second place in eSchool News first-ever Educational Blog awards!  I won in the class instruction - teacher category.  This is a real honor! here is a pdf (220KB pdf) detailing the event.  Although I would of loved to have earned first place, I am delighted and excited to be recognized!

I’m heading to Florida on March 23rd to accept the award.

Thank you eSchool News!!!!


Posted in Personal on 25 - February 2006 at 12:42 AM (18 years ago) 223 views.

Off for a week for holiday. 

I’ll stay here on Martha’s Vineyard…might blog, might not. 



That’s a LOOOTTTT of bytes!

Posted in Personal on 11 - February 2006 at 07:25 PM (18 years ago) 223 views.

My brother James and I were having an interesting conversation about AI and the C programming language.

In the course of our discussion, we began to discuss larger and larger units of measuring storage and space.  Fortunately, came to the rescue.

Turns out a Yottabyte is a rather large amount of potential storage.  A yottabyte is:

1) 1024 bytes.

Of course, to be more accurate (we are in base 8 here, right?)

2) 1,208,925,819,614,629,174,706,176 bytes

In plain old english, a yottabyte is about 1 septilliion bytes.

Biography of yours truly…

Posted in Personal on 10 - February 2005 at 11:02 PM (19 years ago) 414 views.

A little about me…

I am an instructional designer at Hunter College Campus Schools.  I administrate about 100 OS X laptops for our elementary school, and a high-end graphics and music lab.  I setup and manage a mesh wireless network, and regularly deal with tier 1, 2 and 3 technical issues.  I run and administrate the school website, and write custom PHP to extend the functionality of our site. I recently wrote a building and grounds work order system.  I create and deliver exceptional technology professional development, and constantly look for ways technology can be used to strengthen the instructional process. I also support users in our blackboard environment.  I am the principal implementer for Moodle.  I am a member of building technology task force, and survey and analyze the faculty’s use of technology in their classrooms. I am primary point of contact for a school-wide implementation of smart boards.  I work closely with our programming office, offering assistance from everything to hardware support, to crafting clever SQL queries. 

I tend to lean towards a constructivist educational philosophy. I really don’t like how standardized tests are used in America.

I first realized I was a geek in the 6th grade.  My 6th grade math teacher put me in front of a Texas Instruments 99A and 4 days later I was teaching the class how to program. I took off from there, enjoying a genuine curiosity with technology and computers.  I have used 2400 baud modems, tape drives, and remember when we had to park hard disks.  I absolutely love hacking around in OS X and Linux.

I have worked with kids and helped others my entire life.  I love teaching, and watching a kid “get it” really lights me up.  I am very interested in effective education, educational theory, assessment, and learning.

I deeply believe computers and technology can strengthen, deepen, and broaden our learning. I see my students spending more time evaluating and analyzing information rather than simple memorization and categorization.  I see how my students can really extend their learning with technology.

My interest in computer games began in the heady days of Zork and Infocom, and has continued since. I still enjoy computer games, focusing on text-based multiplayer games (built on the PennMUSH server).  Combining games in education has been a natural and fluid process.  I am committed to “getting it right”,  to use games to create lasting understandings across content areas and disciplines. 

I am married to my wonderful and beautiful wife, Dagmara, and I am still trying to learn Polish.  My full resume can be found here

2004 professional goals

Posted in Personal on 01 - September 2004 at 06:54 PM (19 years ago) 213 views.

2004 Professional Goals:

1. To develop a website for the Edgartown School

Status:  The website is TECHNICALLY complete.  However, it is not PROCEDURALLY complete.  Who will add school lunches? How will teachers add information and assignments?  I am actively developing the second generation of our website. 

2. To create and distribute training materials for OS X

Status: This is an outstanding success.  There is an increasing buzz about the training CD’s I made, and we purchased a program to allow making the training videos easier and easier.

3. To continue to assist and support faculty in integrating technology into their teaching

Status: We witnessed several very positive developments this year; teachers are using the mini-labs, and I’ve seen science, art, and even social studies trying new things with technology.  The tech survey provided us a great opportunity to understand what teachers want. 

4. To bring Open Source software into the school

Status: We are using Linux as a webserver, and are enjoying the benefits of a stable, secure, and very inexpensive operating system.  We’d like to bring another linux server, and use it to help us cache and filter web content (squid)

5. To survey the entire faculty about their feelings and thoughts regarding technology use

Status: This was a landmark event for the year.  I personally met and interviewed over 70% of our faculty & staff and discussed their feelings about technology and education.  The results were intriguing, and I have already begun to address some issues.  I will repeat this survey next year. I think the single most important aspect of this survey was our faculty felt listened to.

6. To develop a website where I can share my thinking around instructional technology in education.

Status: I am pleased with the progress of  The site is far from finished, but I am slowly making progress towards something I hope will serve as an effective means of communication with my students and their parents.

7. To construct an immersive, educational simulation game.

This has been the most fun I’ve all year!  The game is coming along nicely, and has been a genuine stretch for me.  I am happy with the look and feel, and hope to continue working on it over the summer.  I remain convinced educational games can provide an important place in learning and teaching.

Personal Goals:

1. To learn Polish

Status: Dobrie.  My Polish is coming along slowly.  I know about 150 words, and I continue to learn about 5 or 10 more each week.  I meet with a teacher every Wednesday, and listen to Polish music when I can.  I have visited Poland twice, and plan on going next Christmas.  Of course, finding people to talk with is difficult.

2. To learn the programming language PHP (with MYSQL)

Status: There has been very satisfactory progress this year in this area.  This learning continues to hold potential, as our school website runs on a LAMP (Linux, Apache, Mysql and PHP) platform.