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Diplomacy: Destroyer of Friends

Diplomacy or how to lose friendships

Diplomacy is a strategy board-game whereas you try to control supply depots, build armies and navies, and attempt to conquer Europe by controlling 18 depots. It takes place in pre-WW1 Europe with the Seven Great Powers: Ottoman Empire, Russia, England, Germany, Austria-Hungary[affectionately called AH], France, and Italy [I won’t give the nickname used to describe Italy as it is not appropriate].

Diplomacy Current Release
Diplomacy Current Release

What makes Diplomacy different is that in order to win you have to work together, collaborate, coordinate and build-trust with other nations in order for you to achieve. Implicitly, of course, is the notion that your “allies” could easily turn on you, stab you in the back, not support you, and all-around sabotage your actions.

This is way diplomacy is often described as a “friend-destroyer” because you play the game with your friends, use your friendship to build-trust, and then stab your friend in the back.

I was introduced to Diplomacy at a very young age. I recall hanging out in the basement of one of my friends playing the game and enjoying the political elements of it such as: strategy and alliance-building. Now that my friends and I have moved to various cities, we have migrated to diplomacy smart-phone apps such as: Droidippy to play the game.

Some links for Diplomacy Lovers:

Boardgame Geek Diplomacy

Diplomacy Boardgame of the Alpha Nerd: A radio story sponsored by Grantland and broadcast on NPR. Takes place during the Diplomacy World Championship.

Allan Calhamer Inventor

 

 

 

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Crawlspace: 5 Important Considerations

My wife and I purchased a property here in Virginia that came with a crawlspace. Now, for those of you who are not from Virginia, houses here rarely come with basements. The houses are either built on a slab (a concrete pad that serves as the foundation with the frame built off of it) or a crawlspace (a space beneath the house that one must crawl under). Crawlspaces exist because the house has been elevated off the ground through the use of concrete blocks (thus creating a space beneath the house).

Crawlspace
Crawlspace (taken from www.foundationmaster.com
Slab
Slab (taken from How Stuff Works)

Following our purchase my wife and I had to do a lot of work in the crawlspace and from all of our work and research here is what we learned:

 

Continue reading Crawlspace: 5 Important Considerations

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Creative Commons License for Teachers

Creative Commons License for Teachers

Recently a teacher friend of mine asked me for some files related to a class I used to teach. I responded with an ebullient “Yes!”  As a teacher, I am often reminded that I stand on the shoulders of giants and that it makes no sense to re-invent the wheel when so many talented teachers are willing to give you what amounts to their life’s work…for free. I decided to make my work I gave her a Creative Commons License. It allowed her to use the work but could not sell it.

I am firm believer that knowledge should be free and accessible, however I am not naive, and should you give stuff away you should provide a license. This protects you and the recipient from any future misunderstanding regarding your works.

Much like an Open Source License for software, a Creative Commons License is what I use for published works.

 

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For the Love of Olive Oil

Olive Oil

Coming from an Italian background, I’ve always had a soft-spot for Olive Oil. For the longest time I would buy the cheap, store brand such as “Great Value Olive Oil”:

That was until I read an OUTSTANDING book by Tom Mueller called Extra Virgin: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil .

Among many facts learned was this (and it probably goes without saying but who knew?):

Not all olive oil is the same and the lack of a regulatory body (in the US OR Europe) for olive oil means that labels such as 100% Extra Virgin in the US don’t carry much meaning. Suggesting the olive oil you are buying may have been “cut” with anything but to make it cheaper.

On his website Truth in Olive Oil, Tom gives a couple suggestions of quality “real olive oil” brands and that real olive oil when drunk (yes, as in a shot-glass just like you might whiskey) should give you a slight burning sensation in the back of the throat.

Taking his advice, my wife and I have found a good brand that, while costs about 2x more (10 dollars a bottle), is pretty good stuff. You can find it at Wal-Mart, Harris-Teeter and other fine grocery purveyors.

We like Lucini Estate Select Extra Virgin Olive Oil

We typically go through a bottle of the stuff a week! As such I am often reminded of this short clip from the Simpsons:

 

However, good Olive Oil is worth it.

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da Vinici’s Resume

da Vinici’s Resume

Resume as seen here

“My Most Illustrious Lord,

Having now sufficiently seen and considered the achievements of all those who count themselves masters and artificers of instruments of war, and having noted that the invention and performance of the said instruments is in no way different from that in common usage, I shall endeavour, while intending no discredit to anyone else, to make myself understood to Your Excellency for the purpose of unfolding to you my secrets, and thereafter offering them at your complete disposal, and when the time is right bringing into effective operation all those things which are in part briefly listed below:

  1. I have plans for very light, strong and easily portable bridges with which to pursue and, on some occasions, flee the enemy, and others, sturdy and indestructible either by fire or in battle, easy and convenient to lift and place in position. Also means of burning and destroying those of the enemy.
  2. I know how, in the course of the siege of a terrain, to remove water from the moats and how to make an infinite number of bridges, mantlets and scaling ladders and other instruments necessary to such an enterprise.

  3. Also, if one cannot, when besieging a terrain, proceed by bombardment either because of the height of the glacis or the strength of its situation and location, I have methods for destroying every fortress or other stranglehold unless it has been founded upon a rock or so forth.

  4. I have also types of cannon, most convenient and easily portable, with which to hurl small stones almost like a hail-storm; and the smoke from the cannon will instil a great fear in the enemy on account of the grave damage and confusion.

  5. Also, I have means of arriving at a designated spot through mines and secret winding passages constructed completely without noise, even if it should be necessary to pass underneath moats or any river.

  6. Also, I will make covered vehicles, safe and unassailable, which will penetrate the enemy and their artillery, and there is no host of armed men so great that they would not break through it. And behind these the infantry will be able to follow, quite uninjured and unimpeded.

  7. Also, should the need arise, I will make cannon, mortar and light ordnance of very beautiful and functional design that are quite out of the ordinary.

  8. Where the use of cannon is impracticable, I will assemble catapults, mangonels, trebuckets and other instruments of wonderful efficiency not in general use. In short, as the variety of circumstances dictate, I will make an infinite number of items for attack and defence.

  9. And should a sea battle be occasioned, I have examples of many instruments which are highly suitable either in attack or defence, and craft which will resist the fire of all the heaviest cannon and powder and smoke.

  10. In time of peace I believe I can give as complete satisfaction as any other in the field of architecture, and the construction of both public and private buildings, and in conducting water from one place to another.

Also I can execute sculpture in marble, bronze and clay. Likewise in painting, I can do everything possible as well as any other, whosoever he may be.

Moreover, work could be undertaken on the bronze horse which will be to the immortal glory and eternal honour of the auspicious memory of His Lordship your father, and of the illustrious house of Sforza.

And if any of the above-mentioned things seem impossible or impracticable to anyone, I am most readily disposed to demonstrate them in your park or in whatsoever place shall please Your Excellency, to whom I commend myself with all possible humility.”

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Why Teachers Quit: A New Study

New research from the Alliance for Excellent Education on the teaching profession has recently come out. Pretty much says the same stuff that every survey or analysis of the teaching profession says, namely teachers quit for one of three reasons: low Pay, lack of collaboration, lack of administrative support.  One interesting conclusion does jump-out:

“Since the mid-1980s the significant expansion of the teaching workforce has been accompanied by increased turnover among beginning teachers.”

This implies a revolving-door for the teaching profession: more first-year teachers come in, teach for a couple-years, leave, only to be replaced by more first-year teaches. While this may come as a shock, it simply mimics economic conditions:  a decline of middle-class professions (of which teaching is rapidly becoming neither) and an emphasis on short-term gains at the expense of long-term investment.

I was fortunate that I had a solid first-three years with some great mentors. However, the fault-lines of a decade of teaching are getting wider and wider each year with no end in sight.

See also an NPR article that covers some of what has been discussed:

The Teacher Drop-out Crisis