Illusions and Reality

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” -Albert Einstein

Capital Steps and Wolf Trap Memorial Day Concert and Fireworks 31 May 2010

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President's Own Marine Band

It has been a great Memorial Day weekend.  I started off my weekend on Friday night seeing the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and having dinner at Busboy and Poets with Margie.  The movie was great and helped set the

Margie and Heather chilling on the hill at Wolf Trap

mood for my upcoming Scandinavian trip – although it was set in Sweden and I am going to Norway.  Saturday night I went to see the Capital Steps with a group of fellow Fellows.  They are a musical, satirical comedy troupe with a political bent.  It was a great show and they were definitely equal opportunity satirizers, subjecting people all along the political spectrum to their unique blend of musical satire.  Then last night, it was a return to the Wolf Trap Memorial Day Concert and Fireworks that I first attended last year when I was in town looking for an apartment – I can hardly believe that it has been a year since then and that my great Einstein Fellowship adventure has only two months left.  The concert was a mix of American and patriotic music performed by the President’s Own Marine Band.  This was followed by a spectacular fireworks show.  I went with my friends Margie and Heather and we enjoyed a tasty picnic on the lawn.  Watching the fireworks fill the sky over our heads while lying on the hill was amazing!!


Wilson Center on the Hill

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Einstein Fellows and Kent Hughes of the Wilson Center

On May 21, I was very honored to serve as a panelist for the Wilson Center on the Hill’s discussion, “America’s Top Teachers Focus on Learning and Legislation”.  Along with three other Einstein Fellows, I discussed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the America Competes Act.  We offered our perspectives on how these pieces of legislation would affect the wide range of schools; public, private, urban, rural, and all grade levels.  It was an extremely rewarding experience to be able to share my perspectives on education to an audience of my fellow Fellows, congressional staffers, and people representing various organizations that are working to help improve education.

Click here to watch the video of our panel.


Goddard Space Center 17 May 2010

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Last week was an exciting week.  I began the week with a visit to Greensboro to see friends and share some polar science with the kids at B’nai Shalom.  I tried out several different lessons with all the classes at B’nai

Mock-up of Hubble that was used to practice for the recent repair mission.

Shalom from the PreK to the 7th Grade.  I also took a set of Extreme Cold Weather Gear for the kids to try on, which they loved!!  In addition to visiting school, I also hung out with lots of good friends and visited some of my favorite Greensboro spots – Natty Greene’s and the Lindley Park Filling Station.

Space Shuttle Atlantis launches - view from NASCOM Communication Center

On Friday, the Fellows had a field trip to Goddard Space Center in Maryland.  We started our day by taking the certification class so that we could be certified to handle lunar and meteorite samples.  So now I can request a sample disk that has pieces of moon rock and soil to do presentations at schools.  After lunch we got a tour of the center, which is huge!  We saw the communication room where communications are routed between the shuttle, the International Space Station, and various NASA centers.  We also saw the the control room for the Hubble Space Telescope.  A real highlight of the day was standing outside of NASCOM (the communications center) watching the launch of Atlantis on the screens while the sound was pumped live through the speakers in the hall for us.  I would say it was second only to actually getting to see the launch live in Florida.

After the launch we went over to another building where satellites are tested, assembled, and packaged for the trip to the launch pad.  The world’s largest Class 10000 clean room is in that building as well as equipment used to put components through extensive testing.  The testing facility includes a giant sound test chamber, a vibration chamber, thermovacuum chambers, and a giant centrifuge.  All of these things are used to test satellites in all of the conditions that they will experience during launch and while they are in space.


One Day, Twelve Countries 3 May 2010

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Didgeridoo Player at the Ausrtalian Embassy

Yesterday I went on the Around the World Embassy Tour for the Non-EU countries. Next weekend will be the EU countries open houses and I plan to go to some of those as well. There were almost thirty different embassies that opened their doors and welcomed guests with food, music, cultural presentations, and more.  I made it to twelve different embassies in the five hours that I was downtown.  We started off in Namibia where we saw arts and crafts as well as a slide show featuring beautiful scenes from around the country.  Next it was on to Rwanda were there were more crafts, including some really beautiful baskets and jewelry.  They also treated us to Rwandan coffee – delicious!  The next stop was Botswana where we were treated to tastes of pounded goat meat and a dish that included black-eyed peas and corn.  They were also showing clips from the HBO series, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency based on the book series which is set in Botswana.  After these three African countries we set off for Australia.  The line for Australia was long, but they handed out samples of Vegemite to us while we waited.  Once inside we were greeted by a didgeridoo player, members of the Australian armed forces and were offered samples of Australian wine, cheese, and lamb.  They also had a display of Australian reptiles on loan from the Baltimore Aquarium.  Around the corner from Australia was Kazakhstan, which was one of the most beautiful embassies.  There were ornate carved wood doorways and displays of golden artifacts from the fourth and fifth centuries BC.

After leaving Kazakhstan we hopped on the shuttle bus up Connecticut Ave to near the University of the District of Columbia.  In this area of the city are several embassies in newer buildings.  The first one we went to was Pakistan where we bought some delicious Pakistani food – chicken kabobs with pita, and enjoyed listening to some live music.  Although the embassy was in a new building they had included references to Islamic architectural motifs throughout.  After Pakistan, we headed next door to Nigeria where there was more music and a nice display of arts and crafts.  At this point time was running short so we headed to the last group of embassies that were open in this area: Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Bahrain.  It was a fantastic day and a uniquely DC experience.

Front Door of the Embassy of Pakistan

Crafts at the Embassy of Botswana


ASCD Essential Questions Institute in Tucson 2 May 2010

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Sunset with Saguaro and Ocotillo

I spent most of last week in Tucson attending an ASCD Institute on Essential Questions with Grant Wiggins.  In a word the institute was amazing.  Not only does Grant Wiggins have great ideas about education, which anyone who has read his books knows, he is a fantastic presenter.  I came away from the institute with an improved understanding of the principles behind essential questions and Understanding by Design, as well as a little insight about how these same ideas can be included in school reform.

Beyond the institute, I had a chance to visit some of my favorite Tucson sites, eat some delicious Mexican food at La Fuente and El Charro Cafe, and have a few delicious

Lizard at the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum

margaritas, including a VERY pink prickly pear margarita at El Charro.  I was also lucky enough to be in Tucson when there was a full moon and got to venture out to the Saguaro National Parkvisitors’ center for their special full moon program which included watching the full moon rise over the Tucson Mountains.

Desert View with Blooming Ocotillo

More pictures from Tucson.