Monday, December 29, 2014

Gallant Starting Preschool

Next week Gallant starts preschool.  He will be in Ms. Ali's class, the same preschool classroom his big brother once attended.

I am excited for him.  The dark, cold Winter mornings will be much more fun for him in a room full of other kids his age.  And he will have more options for the art projects and music he loves.

Although my family never used it, I might as well mention the resource Family Connections of Lane and Douglas Counties.  This office, on the LCC main campus, helps families sort through child care and preschool options.  It also has a Little Library for kids' books.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Bamboo Feed Reader

Just a quick note: I am really enjoying the Bamboo Feed Reader for Firefox.

Years ago I tried Google Reader, but at the time it did not include images and thus was not as nice as individually visiting blogs and forums.  I stopped thinking about RSS.

Something the other day made me think about RSS feeds, and I quickly found something great.  Yay!

Space Monkeys and Meatballs

Gallant has been enjoying having me home more during Winter Break from my LCC math teaching.

And I have been enjoying his company too.  His imagination is growing rapidly, largely due to overhearing the type of pretending his older brother does.

The other day he and I were playing a game he invented.  He was holding his InnoTab and pretending the headphone jack shot out ropes and vines.  We got in a pretend spaceship to travel to the Jungle World, where we needed to rescue the good monkeys.  They were up in the trees: he would shoot them, and I would pretend to catch them as they fell and then carry them back to our spaceship.  We had to work fast or the bad monkeys would arrive and get the good monkeys!

It sounds very random.  But "vine whip" is an entangling Pokemon attack he knows from the stories his big brother's makes up.  And Smiley also uses the vocabulary of "worlds", often starting one of his stories by explaining something like "This is a world like Chima but it also has Pokemon in it, and all the buildings are made out of ice."  So I can trace the seeds of most of Gallant's concepts.

But I am not sure what made Gallant recently think about meatballs.  We have not eaten any in a long time.  Perhaps they appeared in an episode of the Curious George cartoons.

Earlier this month, he picked up a toy helicopter and started flying it around.  "It's dropping meatballs," he shared.


What was especially odd was that he did not make his "laugh with me" giggle he usually uses when trying to be funny.

Then nothing about meatballs for more than a week.

Then, yesterday, he was playing with legos, and for the first time was using one of those old school lego-minifigure astronaut air tanks.  When I was a boy I always pretended they were jet-packs.  So I asked him, "Is that a jet-pack?"  He replied, "No, it is a backpack of meatballs."

Really?  Some things I will never understand.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Variety of Germs

Well, the goal of blogging a post per day in November obviously failed.

The Willamette Valley was once known as the "valley of sickness", although the historical record is quite confused.

However, the end of 2014 was certainly a time of poor health for folks here in Eugene.

We know from talking with pediatricians, that November had at least two cold viruses, a stomach bug that took days to get over, fifth disease, and parainfluenza.  Our family experienced all but the last of those.

In December, the city added another cold virus and a one-day stomach bug.

Perhaps I will try again in January.  It was nice to blog regularly.

Also today I figured out the new way to link my blog with Google+ (I still use HootBar to manually put a link on Twitter/Facebook without ever visiting them).

My New Weight Gain Program

(Just a small post to test whether I have successfully connected my blog to Google+.)

For many of my small Chanukah presents, my wife gave me some pieces of toffee.  Specifically, Trader Joe's English Toffee with Nuts.

Wrapping them five or six at a time was a kindness.  I could eat three or four, and share one with each boy.

The toffee has 200 calories per three-piece serving.  There are 23 servings per tin.  That's 4,600 calories if she instead gave me the entire thing as a present!

By the way, for $8.99 that works out to 511 calories per dollar.  That's the same as Tilamook Monterey Jack or canned black beans at Costco.

Now what should I do with the rest of the tin's toffees?  Chanukah is over and although they are delicious I do not really want to keep eating them.

For those who are curious, the cheapest calories I have shopped for at Costco were Quaker oats (2,460 calories per dollar), peanut butter (1,906 calories per dollar), and brown rice (1,483 calories per dollar).

Thursday, December 11, 2014

FTE and Headcount trends

The Math Division dean passed along this chart with FTE and headcount trends for Oregon Community Colleges.

The recession is definitely ending.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Nate the Great, Twice Missing

Smiley has been sick quite a bit during the past eleven days.

I went to the local library and got him three compilations of Nate the Great books on CD.  There are now on his "story player" and he listens to them in the afternoon when his little brother naps, and he also needs to rest but cannot manage to fall asleep.

Oddly, our library has volumes 1, 3, and 4, but not volume 2.

A mystery!

Both boys love mysteries.  I am currently in the middle of reading them on my Kindle Paperwhite a library loan e-book that is a Ron Roy mystery for kids named Detective Camp.

Gallant now gets very excited whenever I misplace something.   "It is a mystery!" he proclaims.  "No," I think to myself, "I just left something downstairs."  But I do not want to deflate his enthusiasm.

But we do have a real mystery in the house.  Ironically, Smiley has lost one of the library's hardback Nate the Great books.  For a month I have been renewing it.  But eventually we will need to find it or pay a fine.

The Ur-Quan are Back

I was playing Hearthstone, but now it is not working with my version of Ubuntu or wine.  So I needed something else to play at night when the boys are tired but earned watching a game before their bedtime story.

A few days ago I downloaded The Ur-Quan Masters, a free re-make of Star Control II.

The boys love it.  But then, who would not love silly and cowardly Fwiffo?

When I was an undergraduate I played this game for many, many hours.  There was so much to explore and do!

One of my friends even played through the game an extra time to record all of the music to cassette tape.  This was back in the days when our computers had Sound Blaster cards, and recording sound files to your hard drive was a distant dream.  I still have my copy of his cassette tape in a box of old tapes.

Now I have less free time, so I am relying on a walkthrough for mining and other efficiency issues.

(I was amused to see that GameFaqs has a speed guide that claims to complete the game in only nine in-game months.  Maybe I will try that some day.)

I also found some maps that are more readable than the in-game Star Map.

One map is spoiler free.

The other map has spoilers.  I use it when Smiley becomes fearful that we might be going too deep into enemy-controlled space.

This morning little Gallant called to me before breakfast, "Daddy, we have to go!  We have to go somewhere in our solar system!"

Gallant pretends to use an old calculator as a spaceship control dashboard.  He calls it "Playing Blast Off".  He types a countdown from 9 to 1, then presses the equal key while saying "Blast off!"  This makes another copy of the digits appear, which he finds quite satisfying.

The calculator also has four arrow keys.

He uses these to excitedly steer our imaginary spaceship after it blasts off.  Despite the frantic pace, I feel completely safe while he is piloting.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Days 2014-11-18

Gallant had a new cold and his nose was running like a faucet.  My day largely involved helping him blow his nose, then going to wash my hands.  Not conducive to baking.

Website Pages Worked On
For math geometry concepts I made a polygon area page useful for both Math 20 and when I volunteer at Edgewood Elementary School

Air Quality
146 pm (no wood stove!)

Things I Did for My Wife
We were both exhausted and went to bed soon after the kids did.  No time to really spoil each other.

Things My Wife Did for Me
see above

Cute Things a Son Said
Gallant: This is my walking stick.  [He is holding a tower of marble run cylindrical pieces, topped with a single marble run trough since Grandpa's walking sticks are shaped like that on top.]  It is a transformer walking stick.  If you push this button it turns into something else.  Like a race car.  Or an airplane.

Red Air Quality Today

Today is the first day this fall that the LRAPA air quality measurements were in the red zone.

LRAPA is being generous and still declaring "Burning cautioned". When the shift to "Burning prohibited" they start using satellite imaging to locate houses with smoke coming from the chimneys, and issuing fines to people.

Last year Eugene/Springfield has only six red days.  (Oakridge had seven.)

The wood stove prohibitions keep the number of red days low.  Too many and the Environmental Protection Agency starts interfering.

There have clearly been many people unaware of (or ignoring) the rules during the past few days.

Rain is predicted tomorrow.

I wonder if anyone will be fined before the rain clears the air.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Smiley's pattern

One advantage of being a math teacher is having pattern blocks at home.

A few days ago Smiley made a fancy pattern, and photographed it himself.

Days 2014-11-17

In the morning I made both tropical pancakes and egg baby, a good start to having breakfasts for the week.  In the egg baby recipe I replaced some of the skim milk with canned pumpkin, which meant it did not make its fancy custard layer but did have an autumn theme.

After lunch Gallant and I made more of those brownies (the GF Krusteaz brownie mix from Costco with extra chocolate and walnuts)

Website Pages Worked On
Nine Powers sample adventure Caves of Chaos, but the new work is not online yet.

Air Quality
126 pm (no wood stove)

Things I Did for My Wife
it is a Monday, another swing dancing night!

Things My Wife Did for Me
it is a Monday, another swing dancing night!

Cute Things a Son Said
Me: [through a closed door] Do you need any help?
Smiley: No.  I am fine.
Me: Are you sure?
Smiley: Well, you might want to help me clean up in here.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Days 2014-11-16

my wife used some of our loaf bread recipe without the eggs and honey as pizza crust, then set aside the remainder to rise a few days

Website Pages Worked On
Nine Powers design
Math measurement homework
Math geometry homework

Air Quality
101 pm (no wood stove)

Things I Did for My Wife
helped her a little with her garden chore
traded massages after the boys went to bed

Things My Wife Did for Me
let me sleep in until 10am
traded massages after the boys went to bed

Cute Things a Son Said
Gallant: I am reading Winnie the Spanish!  It is my kind of Spanish.  You do not know these words.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Days 2014-11-13

breakfast bread

Website Pages Worked On
that breakfast bread recipe

Air Quality
30 pm (wood stove ok)

Things I Did for My Wife
put boys to bed while she went to an evening yoga class

Things My Wife Did for Me
nothing to blog about

Cute Things a Son Said
Gallant: [looking at the elevator] G!
Me: G is for "ground floor"
Gallant: And "Gallant".

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Days 2014-11-12


Website Pages Worked On
Math measurement homework
Math geometry homework
Nine Powers sample adventure Caves of Chaos

Air Quality
decreased to 43 pm (hooray we can use the wood stove)

Things I Did for My Wife
she got a nap when she arrived home from work

Things My Wife Did for Me
before bed we soaked in the spa, and exchanged massages on the massage table downstairs in front of the warm and pretty wood stove

Cute Things a Son Said
Gallant: [looking at the jar of TJ's pumpkin butter] Look!  P...P...Pumpkin butter starts with P!  And pumpkin starts with P too!  And Penguin starts with P too!

The Best Pathfinder Spells?


In a chapter about letting Wizards design their own spells, the Paizo staff reveal their picks for the best spells per spell level. 

(Which has no relation to the image below, but I needed something visual for this blog post.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Days 2014-11-11

my wife made brownies (the GF Krusteaz brownie mix from Costco with extra chocolate and walnuts) for a work potluck the next day

Website Pages Worked On
Nine Powers design page and sample adventure Caves of Chaos

Air Quality
52 pm (hooray, we could use the wood stove)

(Hm.  This was only yesterday, but I am drawing a blank on anything especially nice that I did for my wife or she did for me.  Both boys are sick, so we are worn out.)

Cute Things a Son Said
Me: Put on your coat.  It is chilly outside.
Gallant: That is because of all the cold air!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Days 2014-11-10

tropical pancakes

Website Pages Worked On
Nine Powers sample adventure Caves of Chaos

Air Quality
58 pm (day three of three without the wood stove)

Things I Did for My Wife
A friend was going to GM a Pathfinder campaign in two weeks got too busy.  Now I will need to start being GM in two weeks.  Time to finish my Caves of Chaos adventure so my wife will get her new role-playing game group!

Things My Wife Did for Me
Nothing I am allowed to blog about.

Cute Things a Son Said
[The boys are talking in the car.  Smiley wants to tell Gallant a joke.  But know that when going to bed, after their head is on their pillow, they each get one question for me and to say a prayer.]
Smiley: I have a question for you.
Gallant: I do not need a question.
Smiley: It is a funny question.
Gallant: I do not need a question now.  It is day!  I want questions at night.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Days 2014-11-09

none, today was my restful weekend day

Website Pages Worked On
Nine Powers economic rules

Air Quality
58 pm (day two of three days without the wood stove)

Things I Did for My Wife
watched the boys while she went to an "Ankle Yoga" class and Costco

Things My Wife Did for Me
let me have a have restful day, especially the afternoon

Cute Things a Son Said
Smiley: [He prays before going to bed.]  Please, God, make healthy all the sick people I know or daddy knows, or mommy knows, and help the people who live where the water is not clean not get sick, and please protect all the countries from asteroids that crash, and thank you that you help us be good people.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Days 2014-11-08

Today the air quality was poor.  I am adding to this series the air quality from LRAPA.  On days when it is above 50 we are usually prohibited from using our wood stove, which is an expensive bother.

pumpkin bread

Website Pages Worked On
Nine Powers economic rules

Air Quality
66 pm (start of three days without the wood stove)

Things I Did for My Wife
took care of sick Gallants so my wife could have restful day

Things My Wife Did for Me
made a very nice soup for dinner

Cute Things a Son Said
Smiley: [While going to bed.] How much does a comet cost?
Me: I don't know.
Smiley: I will give you an acting-it-out hint.  [He kisses the bed.]
Me: A kiss?
Five kisses!  You get nine points out of ten for being very close.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Days 2014-11-06

gingerbread cookies

Website Pages Worked On
Nine Powers economic rules
also removed needless xanthan gum from gingerbreak cookie recipe

Things I Did for My Wife
took care of sick Gallant from 3:30am through the start of the morning (he slept some, I did not)

Things My Wife Did for Me
watched boys while I napped between dinner and their bedtime

Cute Things a Son Said
Gallant: Let's play hide and go seek!
[He is trying to hide inside his towel after a bath.]

PERS and the 4J School District

I have long wondered what percent of the local 4J school district budget goes to funding retirement plans.

I last blogged about the 4J budget here and here.

At that first link, I had navigated the district's convoluted budget documents as best I could and thought that the district was paying for $3.7 million of "extra" pension expense (beyond the $2 million that is set aside because part of planning salaries is setting aside money for retirement costs).

That was 2.4% of the total budget, or $234 per student.

I recently found, hidden as the last sentence of a newspaper article, the revelation that the district is  actually paying $21 million each year for retirement.  They hide that very well in their budget document!

That was 13.8% of the total budget, or $1,326 per student.  Much bigger!

Looking at the numbers another way, the district spends 60% of its budget on instruction, and 23% of that amount is retirement funding.

The national average for private sector employers to pay for retirement and savings benefits is 3.7 percent of total compensation.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Planetarium Laser Shows

The Science Factory is having its end of the year planetarium laser light shows again!

Legolas is slain!

For those curious about the flavor of "old school" Dungeons and Dragons, I have found two very funny accounts of that play style.

Misadventures in Randomly Generated Dungeons
(really takes off on pages 15 and 17 when The Fellowship of the Bling enter the Caves of Chaos)

Adventures of Navero
(not as funny, but no need to skip over forum folk commenting about the retelling)

Days 2014-11-05

more tropical pancakes

Website Pages Worked On
Nine Powers economic rules
hobbies index

Things I Did for My Wife
put boys to bed while she spends the evening with a friend

Things My Wife Did for Me
make pizza dinner

Cute Things a Son Said
Contractor rebuilding our front wall: These excavated tree roots are not nearly as bad as I feared.
Gallant: When the wind blows really fast--woosh!--it can knock down a tree in the forest and then we would all be trapped.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Days 2014-11-04

tropical pancakes

Website Pages Worked On
invented a new math game: The Kittens of Tindalos
(for this week's Thursday first grade volunteering)

Things I Did for My Wife
stayed caught up on housework despite being exhausted

Things My Wife Did for Me
very relaxing neck massage before I went to bed

Cute Things a Son Said
Dental Assistant: Those ridges in your molars are very deep.  They can trap food or help plaque grow.  That is why we seal them with this clear stuff.
Smiley: I don't get it.
Me: Are your molars for chewing or tearing?
Smiley: Chewing.
Me: Which teeth are for tearing?
Smiley: These front ones.
Me: Do you need deep ridges for chewing?
Smiley: No.
Me: So the deepness of the ridges is extra.  It does not help you.  It can only cause a problem.
Smiley: So why did God make teeth that way?  Was it part of what happened with the punishment of Adam and Eve?
Dental Assistant: [tries not to laugh noticeably]
Me: What about the days before helpful dentists?  When people lost more teeth.  If your front tearing teeth had cavities and fell out, you might need to do some tearing with molars.
Smiley: I get it.  I am glad we have good dentists now.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Days 2014-11-03

egg baby and pizza dough

Website Pages Worked On
Nine Powers sample NPCs

Things I Did for My Wife
swing dancing with U. O. Swing Night

Things My Wife Did for Me
see above

Cute Things a Son Said
Gallant: I pooped in the toilet!
Me: Hooray!
Gallant: I am good at pooping fast.  Before it gets dark at night.
[This was 1pm, before his nap.]

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Days 2014-11-02

I have been doing a lot of website typing.  That means I am not in the mood for blogging.  A new idea is simply to blog a bit about each day.  Here we go...

(none - we spent most of the day out of town)

Website Pages Worked On
small update to math fractions homework

Things I Did for My Wife
family outing to Newport aquarium, chat in spa after boys in bed

Things My Wife Did for Me
see above

Cute Things a Son Said
Gallant: I am full.
Me: You ate a little dinner.  But not enough to have desert.
Gallant: Actually, I am not full yet.

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Days 2014-11-01

I have been doing a lot of website typing.  That means I am not in the mood for blogging.  A new idea is simply to blog a bit about each day, for November.  Here we go...

gingerbread cookies

Website Pages Worked On
Nine Powers core rules
(added section about a less dominant GM role, partly in response to the essay The Impossible Thing Before Breakfast)

Things I Did for My Wife
went out on a date night, babysitter after boys were asleep

Things My Wife Did for Me
see above

Cute Things a Son Said
Me: Let's wash your hands.  They are very dirty.
Gallant: That's because of all the dirt.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Wilhelm's Grappling Tentacle

Here is another bit of Pathfinder zaniness.

Introducing Wilhelm's Grappling Tentacle.

Imagine an alchemist character with a tentacle who has two levels of Order of the Penitent cavalier.

He has the feats Potion Glutton and Greater Grapple.

Wilhelm's example is level nine and has a +20 Combat Maneuver Bonus.

Each combat turn it can use Potion Glutton to drink a potion of true strike as a swift action, use the tentacle to make an sure-to-succeed attack with the grab ability, watch the high Combat Maneuver Bonus succeed at grappling the foe, and then use Greater Grapple to tie up the foe with a second grapple die roll.

Tie up any monster in one turn!

Oregon Cultural Trust

Oregon has a state Cultural Trust that helps various state non-profits with a focus on the arts, heritage, and humanities.

If you donate to any of the participating charities, you can donate a matching amount to the Cultural Trust that is free to you because the entire matching amount is a state tax credit.

Pretty cool.

LCC Board E-mails

The LCC Board of Education has its own web page, of course.

It is also true that the Lane Education Service District has an issue with website security, which makes it especially easy to find the e-mails of all board members in the district.

The directory for the Oregon Community College Association also has the e-mails.

Bob Ackerman, Tony McCown, Rosie Pryor, Sharon Stiles, Matt Keating, Gary LeClair, Pat Albright

Since their contact information is public record and so easy to find, I'll also archive it here for my own use.

I do not often attend board meetings, but when I do I like to send out a few e-mails afterward.

Bob Ackerman

Tony McCown

Rosie Pryor

Sharon Stiles

Matt Keating

Gary LeClair

Pat Albright

Rival Tooth Brushing Ideologies

A while ago Nathen wrote a blog post about how his dentists' instructions for optimal tooth brushing has changed over the years.

As someone who has taught tooth brushing both as a parent and in the preschool classroom, I can sympathize.

There are actually several different "schools" of tooth brushing technique.  You can read about some.  They have names like the Bass Method, Stillman Method, and Chartes Method.

Why don't dentists agree which is best?  No one follows them rigorously enough for an experimental study.

It was tried once.  Dentists were the subjects.

The only meaningful conclusion was that even dentists do not use any method properly and faithfully.


Murlocks always make the same gargling noise.

Except they do not.  Notice the three buffs: Blarghghl, Mlarggragllabl!, and Mrghlglhhal.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Angry Lorewalker Cho

A funny Hearthstone video showed two players sharing Divine Spirit cards to raise the health of a Lorewalker Cho to ridiculous amounts.

Then, of course, Inner Fire set its attack to the same number, and the game had a dramatic over.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

First Grade Common Core Mathematics

Tomorrow I meet with the first grade teachers at Smiley's school to do some planning about my volunteer help, which will mostly be helping teach mathematics.

I found a web page with the first grade mathematics common core standards that includes example problems.  They are new to me, since last year I worked with kindergarten, fourth, and fifth graders.

Someone also made the cute version, from which I stole the image above.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Very Generic Hearthstone Daily Quests

This looks like a promising, fun time once Gallant starts his nap.


For those who do not play Hearthstone, I will explain too much.

Each day you  get a new, random daily quest.  You can have three.  Also, each day you can discard one daily quest to replace it with a different random one.

I try to be efficient, and swap out quests that reward 40 gold for using specified heroes to obtain quests that can be obtained with any hero.  That way every third day I can (hopefully) play a few games that fulfill requirements of two if not three quests.

Over the past few days I got lucky.  Today I can play with any hero, and be working on fulfilling all three quests simultaneously.

Moreover, that central quest is the only daily quest for which games played by challenging a friend count.  That is extra fun compared to playing against random opponents.

Comparing the S&P 500 Index Funds

Slightly interesting...

What is the difference between SPDR, IVV, and VOO?

Investopedia explains how these three S&P 500 Index Funds differ.

Monday, September 08, 2014

New to Hearthstone

After recently visiting my friend who works at Blizzard, I have started playing Hearthstone.  My wife likes it too.

Challenge me to a game! My alias is davidvs#1835.

The game is free and very fun. It installed well on Ubuntu using PlayOnLinux.  But I did need to repeat the install process a second time, since the first attempt exited after installing the software.

Replacing Spacing Out Paragraphs in Geany

My text editor of choice is Geany.

I use it all the time to edit my website pages.

This blog post is merely a note to myself to use the regular expression \n\n to replace spaced out paragraphs.

I am now working on converting my Math 25 Workbook into web pages.  The first step for each chapter is to add the HTML paragraph mark code.  So I do:
Find: \n\n
Replace: </p>\n\n<p>
For the entire document.  Then I only need to manually fix the first open paragraph, and the last close paragraph.

An Underemployment chart

This is interesting.

Most of the statistics I see about such things measure which majors or degrees earn the most on average.

But the Washington Post reports a survey from PayScale that asks a slightly different question.

Mathematics is 10th on the "least underemployed majors" list.  With a mathematics degree you can do many things!

I am surprised that the very least underemployed is civil and environmental engineering.  But not too surprised.  I have a brother-in-law who does civil structural engineering who gets job offers all the time.

Pathfinder's Stuff That is New to Me

The Pathfinder RPG now has an Advanced Class Guide.

The list of character class guides will need many additions!

As usual, the explosion of new feats, spells, and archetypes means the League of the One Trick Pony will be gaining many new members.

New Classes and Archetypes

But I am more interested in what new well-rounded character concepts are available.

Note: I have not played Pathfinder in about a year, so there are a few other Paizo publications besides the Advanced Class Guide among the links below of possibilities that are new to me.  Please do not fuss.  This is what is new to me, not what is all new stuff.

The Unlettered Occultist Arcanist finally allows a character to excel a both healing and standard-action summoning.  (Here are two summoning guides.)  The feat Evolved Summon Monster allows adding tiny "evolutions" such as pounce, reach, bypassing DR/magic, a pair of claw attacks, or 1d6 bleed damage.

The Wild Child Brawler allows a "cleaned up monk" to have an animal companion.

A neutrally aligned Hex Channeler Gravewalker Witch with the Healing Patron and traits Student of Philosophy and Pragmatic Activator resembles a super-Cleric.  Heal your friends!  Take control of undead!  Be diplomatic and charming!  Cast both arcane and divine spells!  Use magic items superbly!  And at tenth level she can start using a flavorful version of the Druid's wildshape ability.

Student of Philosophy and Pragmatic Activator really helped that Witch.  There are yet more traits that move skills to Intelligence: Clever Wordplay, Precise Treatment, and Bruising Intellect.

The new feat Orator also can help an intelligence-based character excel in social situations.

The Psychic Searcher Oracle gains a big bonus to social skills and can use the Empathy ability for an absurdly large bonus to the Sense Motive skill.  He does not really read your mind and predict your future, but it seems that way.  If he has the Lore mystery with the new trait Irrepressible and new feats Noble Scion (War) and Divine Protection, he has incredible saving throw and initiative bonuses.  (Thanks, Andrew.)

An Undine Steam Caster Waves Shaman (or Spirit Guide Oracle) can knock down foes with any water or fire spell.  But the Spirit Guide archetype is more often used with the Lore Spirit to give the Oracle Wizard spells each morning.

An Empiricist Investigator with the Student of Philosophy trait uses Intelligence for every mental skill.  And judging from the picture above, he has good taste in boots, too.

The sixth level Buccaneer Arbiter Bard retains inspire courage while also excelling at subduing foes and/or making extra attacks.  He uses Paired Opportunists (level 2 bonus), Broken Wing Gambit, and Outflank (level 6 bonus).  Once per day he can "nova" using his Knock Out ability while doing typically lethal damage.

The prestige class Evangelist is almost an archetype.  It advances the character's original class abilities as the new class advances in level (with a one-level delay).

Many classes have an archetype with the new Martial Flexability ability.

Sorcerers can now use either Intelligence or Wisdom instead of Charisma.  An Orc Witch can use Constitution as a casting ability score!

Crossblooded Bloodragers can threaten with 25 feet of reach.  Cast the long arm and enlarge person spells.  Have the aberrant and black blood bloodlines for two abilities both named "abnormal reach".

The Soul Warden prestige class turns any spellcaster into an undead-fighting hero.

The Harrow Warden monk, at fifteenth level, can punch someone to polymorph them into a small and harmless creature.  The archetype also stacks with Master of Many Styles.

Barbarians can now multiclass as Monks.

The Fighter archetype Savage Warrior begs to gestalt with Druid.

The recent ruling about early entry to prestige classes provides several nice Eldritch Knight options, described here, and several very quick Mystic Theurge options, described here.  Those two prestige classes are now very nice instead of a debilitating trap.

Other New Options

There is now a feat to reward a character for dramatically kicking in a door.

Some story feats look like a lot of fun.  My favorites are Truth Seeker and Artifact Hunter.  It is easy to imagine a character who uses both of those, with the discovered ancient knowledge including the location of a long-missing artifact.  Automatic checks to notice secret doors is a novel and useful ability.

(The low-level spell and item that detect secret doors are seldom used because they require concentration.  The high-level spell has limited range.)

The human-only feat Racial Heritage now has many more race feats, race traits, and class archetypes to work with.

Barbarians have two new ways to get extra rage rounds.  But they also seldom need this...

A character with the Optimistic Gambler and Community Minded traits has morale bonuses from his or her spells and abilities last an extra d4+2 rounds.

(Barbarians and Bloodragers dance with joy, because most combats do not last more than four rounds, so they only need to spend one round of rage or bloodrage for those morale bonuses.  The Group Leader and a Flagbearer also smile.)

The feat Raging Blood allows anyone to rage!  It can also help when charging, or can add staggering, sickened, or confused to a critical hit.  What a great deal for any character wanting who specializes in critical hits.

Continuing the raging goodness, the teamwork feat Spirit of the Corps might allow any nearby ally to share in the rage/bloodrage!  (But it is clearly meant to instead share the spells wrath, aid, heroism, righteous vigor, and especially the Paladin spells rally point and saddle surge.)

The feat Feral Heart can increase the rage morale bonus to some ability and skill checks (including initiative) from raging by +2.

The feat Experimental Spellcaster can allow a Cleric or Oracle to use the word-equivalent spell of animate dead at third level (two levels early).

Druids could already use wild shape to pounce at level six (including with five attacks as a deinonychus).  The new Pummeling Charge feat means Monks and Brawlers at level eight could effectively charge then full attack.  Other martial characters need to wait to level twelve to get Pummeling Charge.  (Somewhat similar--and perhaps mixable--is the Scout Rogue, who can add sneak attack damage to a charge at level four.)

With two feats any character can have an animal companion.  (Three feats if you count Boon Companion.)

There is a new wolf combat style that allows a ninth level melee character the equivalent of casting bestow curse.  Combine this with the new feat Dirty Trick Master to do a ton of melee debuffing!  The rage power Savage Dirty Trick adds even more for a barbarian!

Want to play with darkness?  A weretiger, tiefling or fetchling can now see in supernatural darkness, as can some barbarians.  (There is also a spell.)  Cast deeper darkness or throw an Alchemist's darkness bomb and attack your foes who are lost in the dark!

The feats Summon Good Monster and Summon Neutral Monster are both strong alone and add more summons with alignment subtypes for the feat Sacred Summons.

There are some stupidly potent spells.  The most ridiculous is emergency force sphere.  Wizards are no longer fearful and fragile!  Also tied for first is a spontaneous caster using paragon surge to get the feat Expanded Arcana, making available any needed utility spell.

How about ice magic that takes advantage of some overpowered spells?  Use the Marid or Rime-Blooded bloodline for a Sorcerer or Blood Arcanist.  The new spells snowball, flurry of snowballs, and frost fall are very potent.  Add Rime Spell metamagic.  At sixth level a Rime Spell flurry of snowballs fills a thirty foot cone with 4d6 damage and two rounds of entangling!  That calls out for the Magical Lineage trait to keep it in second-level spell slots.

The ice spell ice slick replaces grease as the best spell to make foes flat-footed.  Your spellcaster can be the sneak attacker's best friend!

Here is a silly example with only slight early entry.  Let's make an extra strange and spooky necromancer Big Bad Evil Guy for sixth level.  Use a Half-Elf with the Drow Magic alternate racial trait who can cast darkness, to qualify for arcane early entry into Mystic Theurge.  Take one level of School Savant Arcanist with the Undead school and then four levels of Blight Druid with the Death domain to put animate dead on its Druid spell list.  Start Mystic Theurge at sixth level.  No one expects the necromancer to spend four hours of the day in the shape of a animal!  At sixth level it can be a Dire Badger able to dig through stone to flee and become a recurring villain.  As with any Mystic Theurge who has animate dead on two spell lists, it will enjoy two "buckets" of caster level for amassing a double-sized horde of minions.  (Personally, I would alter him to be an Arcane Bomber Wizard who drop-kicks the bombs while a Dire Badger.  But that is probably not legit.)

Also, let's count the ways a spellcaster can boost its caster level for the animate dead spell without magical equipment.  Traits: Gifted Adept and Signature Spell.  Feats: Undead Master, Spell Specialization and Theurgy.  Spells: death knell.  That's +10 caster level, available as early as fifth level with the human bonus feat.  And because of the odd wording of animate dead, if (5+10) x 2 = 30 hit dice of undead are animated in one casting they all stay under the control of that fifth level character.  Yes, that exceeds the 5 x 4 = 20 hit dice a fifth level character can normally control using animate dead, but only any undead created with previous castings of the spell become out of control.

Finally, there is a feat named Eldrich Researcher to encourage PCs to design spells.

OCCA Developmental Education Report

One of my LCC Math division colleagues is part of the Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development Developmental Education Redesign.

How is that for a mouthful?  They do have a website that is much friendlier than their name.

Their job is to help students needing remedial math or writings skills succeed at the state's community colleges.  Every few years they present an official report of suggestions.

(Since representatives from all of the community colleges collaborate on the project, these "suggestions" are more accurately "non-binding consensus goals".)

The most recent report was finished in August, and does not yet seem to be on their website.

But if you are curious, here is the section about community college math departments.
Long developmental math sequences are a barrier to success for countless students. Eliminating these sequences and accelerating student enrollment in college-level gateway courses can be achieved through a variety of strategies: redesigning curricula to reduce the number of required courses or the amount of time required to complete them, requiring or rewarding early and sustained attempts at math coursework, modifying pedagogy, incorporating support services to increase course success rates, and training students in college success strategies, among other approaches. Although each institution must adopt practices and policies appropriate to their local context, one strategy that is likely to have a large positive impact is for each campus to establish a separate, more accelerated pathway through developmental math for students in non-STEM degree fields.

Non-STEM students must have access to mathematics experiences appropriate to their chosen career paths. Alternate mathematics pathways will reduce the number of exit points and decrease time to graduation. Therefore, the Developmental Education Redesign Work Group urges each campus and the state of Oregon to consider strongly the following recommendations:

1. Create an alternate non-STEM pathway appropriate for the student population and mission of each college. These pathways would offer courses that prepare students to succeed in a college-level liberal arts mathematics course such as Math 105, Contemporary Math.

2. Change the requirement that “any transferrable 100-level mathematics course that satisfies the Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer (AAOT) degree must have a prerequisite of Intermediate Algebra or a Quantitative Literacy course.” Currently, for a mathematics course to satisfy the Associate of Arts Oregon Transfer (AAOT) degree, it must have a prerequisite of Intermediate Algebra, Math 095. This implies that all degree-seeking students, regardless of degree field, must complete the traditional pre-calculus course sequence before attempting a gateway mathematics course.

3. Agree that Math 105 fulfills the Baccalaureate Core Requirement in Mathematics for all non-STEM four-year degrees at all Oregon public colleges.

4. Convene under the leadership of OCCA mathematics faculty representatives from Oregon two-year and public four-year institutions during the fall to clarify and improve consistency in the outcomes for Math 105 and ensure that Math 105 provides appropriate and sufficient mathematics education for non-STEM students.
Sound helpful to you?

The Imagination Library Comes to Eugene

On Friday, Smiley and Gallant were on television.

The Eugene Library has started participating in the Imagination Library program, a non-profit founded by Dolly Parton to get books to the homes of young children.

When at a Wednesday morning library singing and story time for three-year-olds, a librarian asked if any family would volunteer to help provide background footage for the KEZI report on the program.

Smiley and Gallant were happy to help.  We were a terrible choice demographically, as our home is already overflowing with books.  But the reported only cared that cute kids are cute kids.

LCC Enrollment Plunge?

LCC posts its annual enrollment statistics on its website.

On my blog I tend to instead share when a Fall term has notably higher or lower enrollment than the Fall term of the preceding year.

I mentioned that enrollment went up 20% in Fall 2009 (compared to Fall 2008) as the recession got worse and more adults needed career-related education because they or their spouse were dealing with job loss or instability.  The above chart showed that actually only became a 2.4% increase for the 2009 academic year.

I mentioned that enrollment down 10% in Fall 2013 (compared to Fall 2012) when new and wise restrictions kept students from using Federal financial aid without a long-term plan.  That became a -9.6% decrease for the 2013 academic year.

A recent e-mail to LCC staff from Adrienne Mitchell shared that enrollment is currently down about 20% for Fall 2014.  The term does not begin until the end of September, so that number may still change.  I wonder if the decrease will really be that large for either the upcoming term or the overall year.

Smoky Weekend

There are currently two large wildfires burning near enough to make the Willamette Valley smoky.

Summary news from kval and InciWeb.

Air quality measurements from LRAPA.  As I type the local air quality is at "61 moderate".  Yesterday's high got to "101 high" so the boys played inside most of the day.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Smiley Has a Cough and Size

For the past three weeks, Smiley had a cough that would appear sometimes when he tried to go to bed and always when trying to fall back asleep if he woke early in the morning.

We visited a nurse.  He has a small amount of fluid in his right lung lower lobe: walking pneumonia.  Probably viral, given his young age.

He did get measured.  Now he weighs 40.8 pounds and is 44.9 inches tall.  (Since April he has lost a pound and grown an inch.)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Tai Chi and the Jiu-Jitsu Chess Drill

I was looking online for how others do the Chen Style 18 Step Short Form.

(That is the form I learned from John Huang and still enjoy practicing.)

I also found silly videos about how to use Tai Chi in combat.

Of course, Tai Chi does have actual historic fighting applications.  Here is an video with some examples.  But most American practitioners do not study it in that manner.

I like doing some Chen-style Tai Chi because I like the feedback from slowly doing the movements to feel how I am making very slight but still noticeable improvements.

In Jiu-Jisu, an equivalent slow, attentive, and studious practice that focuses on one motion at a time requires a partner.  It is named the Chess Drill.

1-Handed Rener vs. Purple, Brown & Black Belt

Here is a fun video.

At the end of a seminar in Vancouver, Rener Gracie decided to roll with some of the participants.  But he was nursing a shoulder injury and tied his right arm under his belt.  A one-handed master spars thrice with a purple, brown, and black belt.

Three Exercise Milestones

Yesterday I could do six chin-ups, for the first time ever.

At the end of May I finally finished my web page about exercise and stretching (for beginners) entitled Meet Your Muscles.

And I have completed every Gracie Combatives class twice, making me eligible for the weekend Reflex Development practice.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Updated Sector Investment Web Page

Two days ago I mentioned re-balancing my sector investments.  I did not do enough research, but there were two reasons to get something done.

First, it was months overdue.  I can always re-balance (without fees) in a month, when I have more time to do better research.  Any June improvement to how well my IRA fits the current situation was worth doing.

Second, my father was visiting this week and he knows much more about the economy that I do.  My web page about sector investing is nearly two years old.  He helped me update it, mostly to be more readable but also with some new information.

Photos from Grandparents

My father and stepmother are visiting us this week, to see Smiley's kindergarten graduation.

They took some time last night to put three photo albums online.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Sector Investing in Mid-June

In April I should have re-balanced my sector ETFs according to my usual plan.

But I was too busy, so it is happening mid-June.

Which sectors did I favor this time?

The graphs show that Energy and Consumer Staples have been doing the best during the past three months.  Since part of sector investment theory is that "chasing gains" is possible with sectors, since they wiggle less erratically than stocks, then those two are good picks.  (I just need to do better about monitoring my picks more frequently than every six months!)

There is also the Forward P/E difference tool.

Forward P/E Difference = ( Forward P/E − 15-year Avg. P/E ) ÷ 15-year Avg. P/E

It also likes the Energy and Consumer Staples sectors.  And it suggests Materials and especially Utilities are two other good picks.  But the Forward P/E difference is less reliable guidance, so I weight those less so far as how much to invest in them.

Since I am not comfortable investing in only four sectors, I also added Industrials, which has the next-best Forward P/E difference of the sectors that have been doing okay lately.  I weight it least.

The Fidelity ETFs I use have no cost to buy or sell as long as I hold them at least one month.  I only had two sectors that were good picks from both recent behavior and the Forward P/E difference.  So I should check in again a month and see how these choices are doing, and meanwhile try to do better about reading some financial news about the sectors.

UPDATE: If you read my web page about sector investing, you can see it describes seven tools to analyze the current status of the sectors.  I only used five, and only blogged about two.  Too busy to be more informative.  Sorry!