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Friday September 17th, 2010
The Khan Academy
You may have heard bits and pieces of how the internet may change education. Wikipedia is an ever-changing encyclopedia, Web 2.0 allows a vibrant interactive community, Video can replace lectures, the Kindle can replace textbooks, and so on. But nothing very material was taking shape. You would hear about a professor who required their students to buy the course textbook as an eBook. Wonderful, it made for a nice CNN headline but that's about it. I never really thought that would be the "killer app" for education. Now, finally, I have seen something that is material and I believe it to be important. This is not the answer, it is merely the minuscule sparks of what education can become. And what better place to do it than in America, land of the internet, of innovation, and of dismal middle school and high school performance. It's perfect.

So, what is it? It's the Khan Academy. Seems boring. A bunch of videos on algebra, pre-calculus, geometry. Big deal. It is a big deal and here's why. First off, they're complete. It's not just a 10-minute video on algebra. It's eighty 10-minute videos of algebra, it's all of algebra, from the beginning to the end. They're videos, so you can stop, rewind, re-review. If you're good, fast forward over the boring material. It gets even better. If you're stuck or are missing a concept, you can pause and search for the answer on the internet or review one of the videos from a previous series. You don't have to feel embarrassed or risk being laughed at by other students by asking a basic question, and then remain in silence confused for the rest of the lecture. You're a night owl and your brain is sharpest at night, do your studying at night. Morning person? Have at it bright and early. Also, no need to take notes. I could never read my own handwriting anyway.

Ever had a bad teacher? I have! We all have. These videos are good. Very good. Khan is a naturally gifted teacher. Here's why. He always start simple, with the basics. Little atoms of knowledge building up into bigger and more useful concepts. You finish the 10 minute video. Start the next one, again a quick review of the basics and then keep building. His tone is casual. The problems and examples are not formulaic. Here's the best part. If Khan is not for you, if his style doesn't meet your needs or match the way you think, someone else will make the same video on the same topic but with a slightly different teaching style. Find the one that you jive with and watch their videos. You get to pick your teacher!

It has all the benefits of the internet. It's mobile. It can reach any country in as remote of a location as possible as long as internet access is available. It doesn't have biases. No inferior teachers, schools, environment due to your class, sex, race, or religion. Many countries around the world are still segregated. Here's the other amazing part. It's free! To anyone in the world. It's such a beautiful thing! Anyone, anywhere can receive a first-class education.

Yeah, yeah, Khan is not the first person to produce education videos. As a matter of fact, institutions such as MIT produce videos as well. Why is this exciting? Because it is taking off. Not just a little. The Khan Academy is the most-watched online education library on the internet, surpassing MIT and all others. Almost 2000 videos have been created and 40,000 views per day. The website doesn't limit itself to mathematics but has videos on physics, biology, chemistry, history, finance, and test prep courses, with many more topics yet to be created. All this created by a single individual with a family and full-time job (until a year ago). He's starting to get a lot or press release and recently endorsed by Bill Gates. It doesn't hurt to be endorsed by the second wealthiest man in America.

As I said before, this is just the beginning. Five years from now Khan Academy may be dead and the concepts and videos deemed antiquated and primitive. But this is the beginning of something. A change. It may not happen for 20 years but education has to change. The idea of thousands of different teachers across the U.S. presenting essentially the exact same lesson to 25 kids in a classroom is absurd. In general, lectures are simple one-way forms of communication. The problems of interactivity, question answering, discipline and whatnot will need to be resolved. But I am overly excited to finally see something real and tangible that is changing the way we educate ourselves! Superb job Sal! I can't wait to see what happens next.
Saturday September 18th, 2010

Mary Burleson says:

Wade, Thanks for posting this. I had not heard of the Kahn Academy. I've already viewed three or four of his videos. I'm especially interested in his finance explanations. I've always wanted to understand what I'm hearing on the news and now I have a place to go to learn. He is so good. What I've seen so far is easy to understand and best of all I remember it afterwards. I'm spreading the word! Mary B aka Aunt Mary

Monday September 27th, 2010

Wade says:

Khan Academy was one of the five winners of Google’s Project 10^100. Nice little $2 million check. http://www.project10tothe100.com/

Sunday October 03rd, 2010

Rich Franck says:

My brother is a 5th grade teacher. He said he has heard of Khan Academy, but he likes this one better:


Saturday March 05th, 2011

Wade says:

"It's the start of a revolution"
- Bill Gates

Gates Notes

Monday March 14th, 2011

Wade says:

Another video worth watching:
Sal on TED

Sunday August 08th, 2010
Shut the Front Door
My parents are coming at the end of the month so I'm getting the guest bedroom set up. I just bought a queen Martha Stewart Gardenia Cushion Firm mattress for the guest bedroom, which is probably better than my mattress on my bed. Maybe I'll start sleeping in the guest bedroom. Yesterday I ran 10.5 miles with the Club Oly group and later went to a sushi party with my friends Carlos, Bruce, Race, Alex, Stephanie, Cody, and Erica. Friday night I met Sara, Michelle, and Race at Hearthfire and enjoyed a porter out on the deck watching the sun set over Budd Inlet. Thursday I did Body Pump at the Valley, Wednesday ran 5 miles around Capitol Lake followed by watching an episode of Breaking Bad. I had a good week at work, testing the new DS-5 Debugger on the gator daemon and adding an Annotation feature to Streamline, which is the new name for the analysis tool. I did some reading about the Tesla Model S and am thinking that's my next car. That just about sums up an average week here in Olympia.

Last weekend I went to Jakes in downtown Olympia and to Mt. Rainier where we probably saw a googol avalanche lilies along with a hoary marmot. Recently, I went to the Gorge near George to see Kings of Leon. Yes, there's a city in Washington named George. For July 4th I saw the Spazmatics and Afrodisiacs at Red Wind with Jeremy, and now can't wait to see Mr. Pink whenever they play closer to Olympia. Also, I went to the beach with Stephanie, Travis, and Kirby. The beaches here, IMO, suck. Everyone seems to like them well enough so I'm probably just spoiled from South Beach and Ft. Lauderdale Beach, but I just can't seem to give high praise to a beach when it's misty, without sun, and 60 degrees. It's consistently about 15 degrees colder at the beach than in Olympia. Nonetheless, I enjoyed going to the beach and was glad I brought my jacket.

At the house, I have finally bought most everything one could want. I actually bought a bed so I'm sleeping off the ground, upgraded my 27" tv for a 55" samsung, bought a nice sectional and relegated the futon to an upstairs bedroom, and have decked out the bonus room with a dart board and ping-pong table. I'm living like a king now. Deer stroll through my yard every day. I've named the male deer Rogers (since he's the buck), the female deer is Wilma, and I have yet to name the two fawns. Cheese and Rice! I'm so domesticated. As Sam used to always say, "big deal".

I've been on a documentary kick lately and have seen Taxi to the Dark Side, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Encounters at the End of the World, An Unreasonable Man, The King of Kong, When We Were Kings, A Walk to Beautiful, More than a Game, Murder on a Sunday Morning, all of which are worth watching, of course provided the topic interests you. The King of Kong is a documentary about breaking the world record in Donkey Kong, so, although I loved it, I could see where others would question spending 90 minutes watching someone control an animated sprite jumping over flaming barrels. Good stuff.

Some blogs that I like to follow: Orca Watcher (Nature in the NW), Linus' Blog (Creator of Linux), The Molly (From Buzz Out Loud), Robert Love (UF grad specializing in Linux-related technology). Also, Joel on Software is worth checking out for software engineers and David Thorne has another hilarious email exchange over Missy.
Sunday June 20th, 2010
My Nuts Are Being Gassed
I don't quite remember how or when, but I recently found out that my almonds are being gassed with propylene oxide thanks to the Almond Board of California. Due to two salmonella outbreaks in 2001 and 2004, a law was passed requiring all raw almonds sold by U.S. farmers to be 'pasteurized' effective September 1, 2007. There are alternatives to propylene oxide in order to 'pasteurize' almonds, including oil roasting and steam heating, but now the raw almonds are no longer raw, plus these alternatives are more expensive than using propylene oxide. Furthermore, the root cause of the salmonella outbreak was never found or understood. So, instead of having the machinery cleaned properly and the production process reviewed, almond production can now be unclean because the almonds will be gassed anyway. But here's the thing that is really irksome, there is no notification or labeling required to inform the consumer! Consumer's rights are completely ignored. The almonds that are labeled "raw" have been gassed with propylene oxide, a chemical mostly used for making plastics and a known carcinogen!

So let me back up as I have a couple questions. Why are almonds the only food fumigated with propylene oxide? Why continue to allow fumigated almonds to be labeled "raw"? Why do exported almonds not have to be fumigated with propylene oxide? That last question I can answer quite easily: because other countries will not import gassed almonds! Due to the known toxicity of the chemical it is banned in Canada, Mexico, and the European Union. Oh, and here are more oddities. Organic farmers are not immune to this law, their almonds must also be pasteurized. Truly raw almonds can still be purchased in the United States, but only imported from other countries or directly from the grower at a farmer's market. Really? What kind of stupid law is this? Why have so many caveats and loopholes?

The equipment to sterilize almonds is expensive. A propylene oxide chamber costs over $500,000 and a roasting line can cost as much as two million dollars. Not a big expense to the large almond manufacturers, but quite expensive to local, organic farmers. This lopsided law is devastating the small and organic farmers economically so they've petitioned a lawsuit to overturn the almond pasteurization ruling. As far as understanding why propylene oxide is used on almonds and no other food, I could not find any information.

So, what are the proponents of pasteurization saying? According to the Almond Board of California, propylene oxide is safe because the almonds after being gassed contain only 1/2500 of the amount considered to be potentially dangerous. Also, since the gassed almonds are able to sprout, the FDA has deemed that the essential characteristics of the almond are unchanged, thus it is acceptable to continue to label the almond as raw.

Here's my problem. Instead of fixing the problem of unclean machinery and mishandling of almonds, these poor practices are now condoned. Second, there is no way for consumers to know what has happened to their food or to have an option on what to purchase. Could you please stop making decisions for me without notifying me of what's going on!
Friday May 28th, 2010
Sell in May and Go Away?
Which direction is the stock market headed? With the recent pullback, are stocks cheap and is it a good time to buy? Or is this the beginning of another bear market? It's been a crazy month. Actually, it's been a crazy year. The stock market has had one of its strongest bull markets of all time, nearly doubling in value since March of 2009. The market topped out on April 23 and has since dropped about 12%, which is a strong pullback during a bull cycle, but nothing out of the ordinary. The general rule of thumb is that once the market has dropped over 20% it is then considered a bear market. Thus, the market as of right now is in a corrective phase within a larger bull market. It could also be the start of sideways action in the market, neither bull nor bear. However, as I have cash on the sidelines I'm trying to understand if this is just a pullback and a buying opportunity or the beginning of a stronger down trend.

Bullish signs: The all-important 200-day moving average is still rising, RSI is indicating the market is oversold (although less so after today), Chinese stock market had a follow-through day, leading stocks showed some chutzpah today, Gary K started buying today, and the FUD on which the market has been going down, is in the end, just FUD.

Bearish signs: The global markets are in a down trend, sentiment is bullish, bad volume patterns, high volatility, most leading socks have fallen, today's big turn-around day was accompanied by anemic volume, a follow-through day has not occurred in the U.S. markets.

Of all the signals, the 200 day moving average is the most important in determining the overall trend of the market. The minute this indicator starts falling, I will be completely out of the market (including 401k) in an instant. However, in the past, some of the most opportune times to buy have been when the market falls below the rising 200-day moving average. Thus, I will be anxious to buy once a few more bearish signs are no longer valid. Ideally, I'd like to see some sideways action with less volatility for the next two or more weeks, as I feel this correction has just started and it is a bit premature that it would end so quickly. However, the market does its own thing and we just have to follow its signals. Tuesday marked the first day of an attempted rally, so tomorrow could signal a follow through day. I'm not buying into this market yet, as I'd rather be a day late than a day early, so for now, I am waiting for a few more signals to appear.

May: This is one of the peculiarly dangerous months to speculate in stocks. The others are July, January, September, April, November, October, March, June, December, August and February.
Friday July 02nd, 2010

Rich says:

The strategy of staying out of the market from May to the end of October has had a good track record. Also, there is an even stronger 4-year presidential cycle strategy which says that the first two years of the presidency are usually bad, followed by two good years (getting ready for re-election). The presidential strategy predicts that the US market will rise at least 40% from the 2010 low to the 2011 high. On the other hand, 2009 did not follow the strategy (up a whole bunch after the 2008 drop).

Sunday May 16th, 2010
Capital City Half Marathon
It was four years ago that I finished my last 1/2 marathon and it was then that I set my personal best of 1:50:17 at Disney World. Since then I've run several 5k races and the A1A half marathon along Ft. Lauderdale beach, which I did not finish due to an injury. I've been training for the past 8 months to beat my time and I finally did it on a really tough (hilly) course at the Capital City Half Marathon here in Olympia.

This weekend I took it easy in preparation for the race on Sunday morning: watched a movie on Friday night, and slept almost 10 hours, then worked in the yard and planted tomato plants on Saturday, went go-karting with Bruce, Carlos, Mike, and Alex on Saturday evening, came back ate some pasta ravioli with chicken and mushrooms along with a butternut squash pasta sauce. It wasn't quite enough, so I followed the ravioli with some chips and hummus and a brownie, while watching an episode of 30 Rock. That was my pre-race dinner and it seemed to have worked. I slept pretty well, given that I never sleep well before races, ate a protein shake with banana, strawberries, and blueberries in the morning, stretched out my legs for about 20 minutes since I had concerns about my knee and calf, and headed to Sylvester Park in downtown Olympia.

I felt good at the start of the race, the temperature was a bit on the warm side (52 degrees at the start / 58 at the finish), but I became a bit concerned as I hit mile 3 and my pace dropped to 8:30 minutes/mile, I already felt a bit winded, and I hadn't even started the hills. However, the hills came and I powered through them fairly easily and my pace dropped down to about 8 minutes/mile after the hills. It was here, at mile 6, 7, and 8 where I felt the best. Then I started feeling a pain on the bottom of my right foot and weird twitching in my right quad. Oh, no, I'm not going to make it. I'll be on course to setting a personal record and I'm going to get injured again. I just kept on running, hoping it would go away. Even with the pain, my 9th mile was my fastest. Everything felt good, I even felt like I could run faster if it weren't for my foot and quad giving me issues. Then came the dreaded Eastside hill, a constant uphill battle for over a mile, and surprisingly, my legs felt better as I started running uphill. How wonderful! I conquered Eastside still maintaining sub 9 minute miles but by the time things leveled off and started going downhill, my foot and leg were giving me so much pain I couldn't run fast. Even on the downhill, I was only running about 8:30-8:40 min/mile, not much faster than when I was running uphill. I kept telling myself this is only a 12 mile race because the last mile is all downhill, and at a pretty steep pitch. Finally, I hit mile 12 and I started the downhill stretch along Capitol Blvd. I powered through the pain and just leaned forward to let gravity help out as much as possible. I finally crossed the finish line at 1:48:12, over 2 minutes faster than my previous record.

It was wonderful! I honestly didn't think I was going to beat my time, but I did it, even with my problems. When I finally made it back to my car and took off my shoes, I had a cut on my left foot and a giant blood blister on the bottom of my right foot, which was causing all my problems. I think due to the blister, I started running differently which is why my quad started hurting. Anyway, I'll have pics of the race coming soon, even pics of my feet. =)

Distance 13.1 miles, Time 1:48:12, Average 8:15 min/mile, 1617 calories
Splits: 8:08 8:13 8:30 8:13 8:11 8:08 8:00 8:13 7:48 8:53 8:28 8:41 7:57
(stats courtesy of the Garmin Forerunner 305)

After the run, I met with all my running friends, the weekend crew who all ran the half: Alan, Susan, Melinda, Cory, the Club Oly tue/wed crew: Bill, Tammy, Sara (half), Heike, Gail (half), Paul (full), Julie (full), Angie (full), Debbie (full), Mike, Dave, and the meetup support crew: Stephanie, Cory, Angela, Troy, Alex, and Amy. Thanks all for your support!
Monday May 17th, 2010

Wade says:

Placed 25th out of 66 in my age division, 136th out of 391 for men, and 192nd out of 1095 overall.

Tuesday May 18th, 2010

Sook says:

Great job on the PR!

Friday May 28th, 2010

Wade says:

Thanks Sook! I think my next race will be the Sound to Narrows 12k (7.46 miles).

Friday July 16th, 2010
Sunday April 04th, 2010
iPhone. Rock!
I bought the 3GS iPhone last year. Love it! The phone itself is well worth the price, but AT&Ts monthly data plan is a bit outrageous. It's worth it though. The closest phone competing with the iPhone is the Droid, which is perfect for those not wanting to support Apple or AT&T. The only bad thing about the iPhone is that it becomes a part of your life and you can't imagine living without it. There's life before the iPhone and then there's life after the iPhone. In other Apple news, the iPad came out yesterday and several of my coworkers bought them, which means I'll get to check it out when I go in to work Tuesday (Monday is a holiday for Easter). Sweet.

Work is going well, although we've had some disruption in our little Oly group. The head honcho of the Oly office resigned due to political fights that he just could not overcome despite a superior product. It's a shame that it ended the way it did, but it looks like the rest of the office is safe and should be able to move forward unscathed from the battle wounds suffered by the web team.

What's up with people (people=media+politicians) claiming global warming is not occurring? I usually don't get frustrated with other people's opinions, but when people can twist fact into opinion, I get really annoyed. This graph is a perfect starting point. The anti-global warming media has latched on to scientists stating that the earth has not risen in temperature in the past 10 years and that for 40 years starting around 1940, the earth actually cooled. It's not difficult to discern those facts from the graph, but those are isolated, very narrow views of a graph that is clearly showing an upward trend in temperature. Is 0.7 degrees celsius meaningful? How much of the warming is due to human activities and how much is natural? What can be done to slow down global warming and at what impact? The earth has been warmer in the past than it is today, so why should we be worried? These are more interesting questions worthy of debate.

Along with global warming, another exciting topic is renewable energy. I read an interesting article about gasoline, specifically why our society is addicted to it, and the answer is, not surprisingly, relatively simple. It's powerful, cheap, abundant, and fully integrated into our infrastructure and society. An equal weight of gasoline delivers twice the energy of coal or methanol and over 100 times that of batteries. This is what is meant by "powerful". Furthermore, coal can be converted to oil for a cost of about $50 per barrel. As such, oil and gasoline will be around for many more decades.

Some cool videos to check out: Byron, Mike and Phillip's new chart annotation site, Chartastic, Intel's rock star commercial, Auto Tune Meme (and yes, I bought the I am T-Pain iPhone app), and my favorite Intervention, Allison, split into 5 parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.
Friday July 02nd, 2010

Rich says:

Perhaps I am reading the chart wrong ... but it looks like the temperature went down from 1940 to 1970's, and then went up from 1970's to present.