Thursday, November 15, 2012

The APS Career Center Program Really is Incredible

The Arlington Career Center gives classes as part of the regular APS experience, it offers Saturday and after school enrichment classes, and it offers summer classes.  The video / TV production program is incredible - they win gold medals at State SkillsUSA competition and compete yearly at SkillsUSA nationals.  The students on their own enter regular contests, like the 72 Hour Film Festival - here are some of their videos.  There are a wealth of other excellent classes at the career center including how to fly a plain, cooking, and auto mechanics. If you have students in APS, this is program you should consider.

For more information, contact the Dept. of School and Community Relations at 703-228-6004
  Career Center Students Earn Accolades in VSBA Video Contest
Arlington Career Center juniors Jeremy Cannon and Evan Horowitz placed second in the first annual student video contest sponsored by the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA). The winners were announced at the Opening General Session of the VSBA Annual Convention on Nov. 14.

Students were asked to create a 30-second video around the theme, “there is no app for that.” The contest gave students the opportunity to create a thought-provoking video individually, in a small group or as a class project. Videos were judged on how well they addressed the topic, the quality of the production of the video, as well as the depth of thought and creativity of the video.

Both Cannon and Horowitz are in Tom O’Day’s TV/Multimedia Production II class at the Career Center.

The contest was open to Virginia public school students in grades K-12.

Rethinking APS Education - Industrial Era Education in an Information Era #arlingtonva

It is a frustrating time to be a technologist and a parent.... watching the train wreck that is our educational system.  Our educational system was developed over 100 years ago, on an assembly line model, designed as a student sorter, and instilling industrial era skills into information era future students.  We are training children in skills that are already obsolete. And we are teaching our children with teachers who continue to refuse to use and teach information technology.  We are spending years educating students that are already being left behind the day that they graduate by the employment market.

Technologist Alex Howard recently interviewed MIT research professor Andrew McAfee about the future of employment and education.

Dont think all this is true?  Go back and watch Watson pummel his opponents in the Jeopardy competition.  Consider that driverless cars are just on the horizon, and the tremendous number of jobs that will be displaced in 10 years when this is mainstream.  Think about how information brokers like travel agents, recommendation companies, news media, and encyclopedias have had their business models utterly disrupted. 

While employment markets have transformed before, humans have always had one thing that could not be replicated: their brains.  That's not nearly as unique as it use to be.  Is this a crisis?  Employment markets have indeed transformed before.  But it is time to seriously reconsider what and how we are educating our youth.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Preview of Yorktown v South County HS Football Regional Championship Rematch Nov. 16

The Yorktown Patriots will play a rematch of the team they lost to in last year's regional championship, the South County Stallions, in the second round of the playoffs at home on november 16. BE THERE!!!

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Trouble with Tribbles, er, Electronic Voting (DRE)....

Freedom to Tinker is a blog started by Ed Felten at Princeton University that examine and critique, in many ways, technical mythologies.  Of relevance, Prof. Felten and his blog has aggressively critiqued electronic voting machines.  Freedom to Tinker has become a very well respected academic blog and has multiple contributors.

The latest post is by Prof. Jeremy Epstein.  He spent election day fielding calls concerning election troubles, and what do you know, the vast majority of them came from Virginia, and a vast majority of those came from electronic voting machines.  To be clear, these were not troubles suggesting voting fraud or voting suppression.  Rather these are troubles suggesting why it is time to end the experiment with electronic voting (DRE or Direct Recording Electronic). 

Here is what Prof. Epstein observed:
 Hard to solve problems included:
  • Long lines. In most cases these seemed to be caused by people waiting for machines, not problems with checking voters in, but it’s sometimes hard to tell. These were most pronounced in locations with DREs [Direct Recording Electronic] – if you’ve got paper ballots, you just hand out more pencils. In some cases, pollworkers were turning voters away, telling them to come back later – for whatever reason, they weren’t using the emergency paper ballots that were intended for this case.
  • Machines that won’t boot or crash. In most cases these were DREs, in which case they led to long lines. If it was an optical scan, see below under “easy to solve problems”.
  • Problems with the magnified version of ballots. In Norfolk and Virginia Beach, there were repeated reports that the magnified version only showed Romney on the first screen, and to get other presidential candidates the voter had to advance to a separate screen. I was quite surprised by this – I guess Logic and Accuracy (L&A) testing performed before the election doesn’t include the magnified versions in those localities?
  • Ballot setup problems – in particular, in Covington VA, the DRE offered a choice of Obama as the Republican nominee or Romney as the Democratic nominee. After coverage on the local TV station, the locality shut off the DREs and went to paper ballots, which had the candidates associated with the proper parties. The part that scared me was a quote from the local election official that “All votes that were cast Tuesday morning will be counted properly.” I don’t know what “properly” means in a case like this. (See,0,5763810.story) Again, shouldn’t this be found by L&A testing?
  • Ballot setup problems – reports from across the state that people weren’t getting the presidential race, and it was going straight to the Senate race. These are unfortunately hard to reproduce. When I asked voters about the confirmation screen, they generally said there hadn’t been one.
  • Ballot display problems – several reports that the ballot was displaying party name but not candidate name. It’s possible, of course, but hard to reproduce. Only on DREs, of course.
  • Pollworker errors in helping voters. We got a few reports that voters complained of problems (e.g., “no presidential race”) and called over a pollworker, who pushed the “cast vote” (or equivalent), and then refused to let them vote again. (Which was, unfortunately, probably the right answer.)
Easy to solve problems included:
  • Voters confused why ballots were being put into the side pocket of the scanner and concerned that the ballots wouldn’t be counted (obviously because the scanner wasn’t working, and they would be counted by hand or machine at the end of the day).
  • Not enough paper ballots for the number of voters. This was especially true in places that had DREs, but the DREs didn’t work (or the lines were long), so they were using the “emergency” ballots. In Virginia, the chief pollworker in a precinct can make photocopies of the ballot with minimal approvals. Unfortunately, this wasn’t well understood by pollworkers who didn’t take advantage of it.
  • Using markers instead of pens or pencils. This can be a problem if the marker bleeds through on a double-sided ballot, as the scanner may pick up the reverse-side mark as intentional.
  • An optical scan machine bouncing ballots as overvoted (too many votes for one or more candidates) when voters insist they hadn’t. Hard to say if this was a calibration issue, a smudge on a reader, or an actual voter mistake. In any case, the solution is simple – just hand count the ballots.
Epstein says:
"Moving to optical scan will solve the vast majority, but given tight budgets, it’s going to be a while in Virginia."
I saw some optical scanning machines at my place of voting and was thrilled.   There are more problems with electronic voting than just what was experienced tuesday - but what was experienced tuesday demonstrates the vulnerabilities of this type of voting.  The litany of articles at Freedom to Tinker critiquing the problems with electronic voting can by found under the tag Voting Machines.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Yorktown High School Students Complete in 72 Hour Film Festival

Once again this year, PUNisher Productions, a team of Yorktown High School students who take video classes at the Arlington Career Center, competed in the 72 Hour Film Festival.  This year was a bit different.  They had 72 hours to make a film - from someone else's script.  The scripts were part of the 72 Hour Script Festival held this past Spring.  The PUNishers picked a script from the genre of Evil Car movies.  Below is the PUNishers submission to the contest:

Are There CABI Stations Coming to N Arlington? Arlington Wants Your Input.

Have you noticed those red CABI bikes that are, well, everywhere?  Capital Bikeshare has been an amazing success.  Sponsored by Arlington County and the District of Columbia, CABI now has 175+ stations spread across Arlington, Washington, D.C, and Alexandria, with 1670+ bicycles.  You acquire an annual membership (or a day, three day, or month membership), and then you can borrow a bicycle for 30 minutes at a time, for as many 30 minutes as you want, over and over again, for free.  Borrow the bike for more than 30 minutes? Then there is a small fee, which gets bigger the longer you have borrowed the bike.  The system is designed for short trips - as an additional public transportation option.

But CABI's offerings have been limited.  In Arlington, it has been overlayed in areas already rich with public transportation options: The Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, and Crystal City.  Arlington has developed a plan for expanding CABI - and wants your input.

Below is a Google Map of Arlington's expansion plans:

Green bikes are stations that already exist; red pins are part of the 2013 expansion; and yellow and purple pins need approvals.

To get feedback on the expansion plans, Arlington is 
  • meeting with Civic Associations, 
  • meeting with the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee, 
  • accepting feedback at, and 
  • accepting suggestions on the Crowdsourcing Map
Below is the list of Civic Association meetings.  Bike Arlington also has posted on its website the criteria for CABI station location selections.

Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee Meeting - 11/5/12 @ 7pm @ 2100 Clarendon Blvd
Arlington Pedestrian Advisory Committee Meeting - 9/12/12 @ 7pm @ 2100 Clarendon Blvd
Alcova Heights - 9/20/12 @ 7pm @ Arlington Baptist Church (714 S. Monroe St.)
Arlington Heights - 8/14/12 @ 7pm @ Patrick Henry Elementary (701 S. Highland St.)
Arlington Ridge - TBD
Barcroft - 9/6/12 @ 7:30pm @ Community House (800 S. Buchanan St.)
Buckingham - 11/19/12 @ 7:30pm @ Location TBD
Cherrydale - 11/14/12 @ 7:30pm @ Cherrydale Fire Dept. (3900 Lee Hwy.)
Columbia Heights - 10/8/12 @ 7pm @ Walter Reed Community Center (2909 16th St. S.)
Douglas Park - 9/18/12 @ 7:30pm @ Location TBD
Fairlington - 10/10/12 @ 7pm @ Fairlington Community Center (3308 S. Staff St.)
Foxcroft Heights - 9/10/12 @ 7:30pm @ Sheraton (900 S. Orme St.)
Long Branch Creek - 9/5/12 @ 7:30 @ Clubhouse at the Park at Arlington Ridge (1800 S. 26th St.)
Lyon Park - 11/14/12 @ 7:30pm @ Lyon Park Community Center (414 N. Fillmore St.)
Nauck - 10/1/12 @7:30pm @ Drew Elementary (3500 23rd St. S.)
Nauck Revitalization Organization - 9/12/12 @5:30pm @ Our Lady Queen of Peace Church (2700 19th St. S.)
Penrose - TBD

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Please dont place leaves in Plastic Bags!

Walking through Lee Heights today, I witnessed multiple yard contractors stuffing leaves into plastic bags and putting them on the curb.

PLEASE dont do that.  Leaves placed in plastic bags are "garbage," will be picked up by our trash trucks, and will be dumped into land fill.  Locked in a plastic bag, the leaves cannot become part of the earth again.

Arlington will pick up the leaves and mulch them.  Please rake your leaves to the curb (your hired contractors can do this).  You can either rake the leaves into big piles, or stuff them into paper bags (the county will provide you with free bags to use).  The leaves do not go into land fill; the leaves rot and compost; and the leaves become healthy nutritious soil again. 

And if your contractor stuff all the leaves in plastic bags, its not too late.  Just rip them open and dump the leaves right there on the curb.  The county will vacuum them up.

This is information from Arlington County about the leaf mulch pickup program:

Leaf Collection Process

Arlington County collects about 50,000 cubic yards of leaves every year. Long before the first leaf falls, staff analyzes historic data, tree types and density, weather forecasts, state forestry forecasts, and resident feedback to develop the leaf collection schedule. This helps better allocate collection resources and serve neighborhoods when fallen leaves are heaviest.

Image: Biodegradable leaf bags.Biodegradable Bag Collection

Oct. 29, 2012 - Jan. 11, 2013 (Monday - Friday including holidays, except Christmas and New Year's Day)
Leaf bags are collected on the next business day after your regular trash collection day. If your trash is collected Friday, your last leaf bag will be collection Monday, January 7.
How to Prepare for Recycling
  • Remove dirt, stones, litter and other debris from leaves
  • Place only leaves in biodegradable paper leaf bags (bags will be made into mulch with leaves)
  • Close bags by folding top down
  • Place bags at the curb, one day after your trash day by 6:30 a.m.
  • Do not use plastic bags!
Paper leaf bags are available at most hardware stores including Home Depot and Lowes. Please use any bags left over from the spring yard waste collection. Free bags are also available beginning Oct. 15, 2012 at the following locations (while supplies last):
Aurora Hills Center, 735 18th St. S. - (703) 228-5715Lubber Run Center, 300 N. Park Dr, (703) 228-4712
Courthouse Plaza Information Desk, 2100 Clarendon Blvd., (703) 228-3000, Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.Madison Center, 3829 N. Stafford St., (703) 228-5310
Lee Center, 5722 Lee Hwy., (703) 228-0552Solid Waste Bureau, 4300 29th St. S., (703) 228-6570, Monday - Friday, 7 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Long Branch Nature Center, 625 S. Carlin Springs Rd., (703) 228-6535Thomas Jefferson Center, 3501 2nd St. S., (703) 228-5920

Vacuum Collection

Nov. 12 - Dec. 21, 2012 (Monday - Saturday including holidays, except Thanksgiving)
There will be two passes for civic association. Don't know which civic association you are in? View the civic association maps >>
Image: Sample leaf collection neighborhood sign.Schedule Information
  • View the Leaf Collection Schedule >>
  • Sign-up for Arlington Leaf Schedule listserv email updates >>
  • Look for neighborhood signs posted 3-7 days before each pass: First pass in November (bright yellow), second pass in December (orange)
  • Call (703) 228-6565 for recorded schedule by civic association, ex. Barcroft
  • Watch Comcast Cable 74 or Verizon Channel 40
  • Missed a collection? Bag your leaves for the next weekly bag collection or wait for the second vacuum pass.
Image: Leaf vacuum truck.How to Prepare for Vacuuming
  • Rake leaves to curb (residents with contract lawn services should plan to have their leaves raked before scheduled vacuum pickup)
  • Pile leaves away from storm drains and water meter covers, low wires, and parked cars
  • Remove stones, litter, branches or other debris to prevent equipment damage and worker injuries
  • Don't place leaves in plastic bags or County trash carts
  • Never park your car on leaf piles - it's a fire hazard!


Did you know you can compost leaves? Composted leaves make nutrient-rich mulch for flowerbeds and trees come spring. Follow these tips to start composting leaves >>

Thursday, November 1, 2012

NVRPA Announces Improvements to W&OD

NVRPA press release: (Tip of the Hat to NVRPA for a fantastic trail, and making it safer!)

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Friday, October 26, 2012

One of the Nation’s Best Trails Gets Safer as it Serves More Users

The W&OD Trail, owned and operated by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA), stretches 45 miles from Shirlington to Purcelleville. With over two million uses a year, and more than 70 at-grade road crossings, this trail is the backbone of cycling, pedestrian, and other non-motorized recreation and transportation in Northern Virginia.
“With ever increasing usage of the trail and so many intersections, safety is always a high priority. This is why we are so pleased to announce efforts at some the of most challenging intersections to improve safety,” stated Paul Gilbert, Executive Director of NVRPA.
Over the years, NVRPA has had a number of engineering studies and analyses conducted, with the safety of its trail users specifically in mind. In March of 2011, the Park Authority commissioned an evaluation of the existing physical and operational conditions at six of the busiest individual roadway crossings across the region. Today, the recommendations created by these evaluations are beginning to be implemented. 
NVRPA has worked extensively to engage its jurisdictional partners such as Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington Counties and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), and is appreciative of their efforts to assist in making this truly regional asset safe.
The crossings identified for evaluation were: Belmont Ridge Road – Ashburn, Loudoun County, Sterling Boulevard – Sterling, Loudoun County, Wiehle Avenue – Reston, Fairfax County, Hunter Mill Road – Vienna, Fairfax County, Lee Highway – Arlington, Arlington County, Columbia Pike – Arlington, Arlington County.  The six intersections were part of studies by Toole Design, a national leader in trail quality evaluation. The report was based on field inventory and observations, sight distance assessment, trail-user intercept surveys, traffic counts, spot speed counts and video behavioral analysis at each trail crossing. 
Highlights of the recommendations and actions that NVRPA and its partners have already implemented or will do so based on NVRPA’s recommendations include:  
Belmont Ridge Road
• Relocate or eliminate parking area on the northwest and northeast corners. This work has been completed.
• Add actuated rectangular rapid flash beacons to alert motorists to the presence of a trail user.
• Trim vegetation to improve sight lines. Work completed by NVRPA and VDOT
• Consider construction of a 12 foot wide crossing island to create a refuge and to traffic calm the crossing.
• Consider in the long term grade separation as the ideal improvement.
Sterling Boulevard
• NVRPA and VDOT are working together to consider reducing the length of the northbound deceleration/left turn lane on Sterling Boulevard to expand median refuge.
• Consider the addition of actuated rectangular rapid flash beacons to alert motorists to the presence of a trail user, based on results from Belmont Ridge Road.
• NVRPA to work with VDOT and Loudoun County to expand the sidewalk network along Sterling Boulevard.
Wiehle Avenue
• NVRPA and Fairfax County to work together to identify short term improvements to include:  improved roadway markings, additional signage and potential lane width improvements.
• Consideration to widen the median refuge.
• Consider alternate signal timing to reduce conflict with trail crossing.
Hunter Mill Road
• NVRPA and VDOT to address vegetation and terrain issues that affect sight line distance.
• Consider replacing advanced trail crossing flashing beacon with Actuated Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons.
Lee Highway (Route 29)
• NVRPA to realign trail approaches to orient better to the crossing for trail users and motorists.
• NVRPA to work with Arlington County to consider adjusting signal timing and phasing.
• NVRPA to work with Arlington County to consider turn lane options, such as relocating or adding additional signage. 
Columbia Pike:
• The trail approaches will be realigned to intersect at a better angle to the roadway.
• NVRPA to work with Arlington County to consider adjusting signal timing and phasing.
These intersection changes will build on the improvements made by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority recently.  Those improvements included curb ramps, rumble strips, advanced warning signs on the roadway, marked crosswalks, warning signs on the trail and thermoplastic pavement markings noting the approaching intersection.  Along with these treatments, extensive work was done to improve sight lines at each crossing. Collectively, these changes made the W&OD Trail a national model for trail safety.
The physical condition of the Trail and the intersections is vitally important, but far more important is the behavior of those on the Trail and those on the roads. The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority is proud to also be a partner with Street Smart, an annual public education, awareness and behavioral change campaign in the Washington, DC, Suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia area. Since its beginning in 2002, the campaign has used radio, newspaper, and transit advertising, public awareness efforts and added law enforcement, to respond to the challenges of pedestrian and cyclist safety.
“Trail safety is a combination of the condition of the trail and the behavior of trail users, and the conditions of the road crossing and behavior of the vehicular traffic,” said NVRPA Board Chairman Brian Knapp.
NVRPA is currently in the process of adding a reflective strip along the entire 45 mile trail. Every year, areas of the trail are re-paved and often expanded, and the Regional Park Authority has a full-time maintenance crew that is constantly working on upkeep of this great regional asset.
“Using non-motorized transportation is fantastic for the environment and a great way to have a healthy lifestyle. We want to see more people using the W&OD Trail and other regional trail networks. We also want all members of the public to stop, yield and follow the traffic rules to keep everyone safe,” Knapp added.