Junior Achievement Volunteering at Northview Elementary Jennings

Today I had opportunity being a Junior Achievement Volunteer at Northview Elementary School (Jennings). This is the first time I volunteer for JA, also my first time really being a teaching position at school. Almost 18 years I did some brief teaching (Abaqus finite element analysis) for some civil engineering graduate students. More recently I started volunteer for Math Facts Scholars at my daughter’s school, but this is mostly testing and some one on one tutoring.

Back to topic, JA is a program teaching kids about community, business, jobs, work readiness and entrepreneurship. It reminds me of this Warren Buffett SMC program this evening after I came back from the school, and cooled down a bit. The day went by fast, and we (my partner, myself and classroom teacher) did the best we can, considering all the factors: the classroom is a bit crowded, 28 kids for 2nd grade. I also started appreciating the hard work of teacher, in the beginning of afternoon session, because I felt my knee is really sore, and I just feel like to sit down. It’s also very interesting to see the teacher got many tricks (gestures, rhythms, and routines) to help calm down the kids. Also there are bright and hard working kids everywhere, despite the fact they may not have the latest and greatest facility or equipment. For example, I noticed they have Windows, and small Dell laptop (chromebooks?). While in many area private school and the public school my daughter goes, they have macs.

For me this is quite an eye opening moment for me, as I listened to the morning announcement in the broadcast, from pledge of the allegiance, to birthday annoucement.

PS, I was quite nervous before the event, as I said earlier I did not have much teaching or public speaking experience. One thing I try to remind myself: as Woody Allen said, 80% of the work is to show up. So just show up and we should be mostly fine. Also, I try to set my expectation low, as long as I have impact one student, I will be happy. It seems from the students response, I wildly beat this low expectation: as I was leaving, students gave me hugs and high fives.

Also, it’s interesting some of them were very curious about China, they asked me questions on China. I never have similar experience like that in my daughter’s school, probably because I never got to talk, and they have many Chinese kids in school (not as curious).

Worst flu in recent memory

So here in Missouri, around February, is also the worst of the flu season. This year is the worst for a long time. I knew I got it at the New Year’s eve, and about 4 weeks later, I am not fully recovered. The problem was I had to work in the Saturday night/Sunday morning after new year (Feb 4/5 weekend), though it did not made my situation worse, it did not made my life any easier either. My two daughters also got it. They were off school in the week of Feb 6 for 3 and 4 days, respectively. I had to work from home, and did some juggernaut, and tried stay in the game. I did get flu shot, but my girls did not. I had some fever on Feb 3 and 17. My old daughter got fever again this week, started Sunday night/Monday morning. My wife think one reason was we did not dry her hair after swimming. Oh well, this is the worst flu season I have seen for a while. I heard many school kids and teachers got sick, naturally due to their environment. Work place may work better if we can issue a work from home memorandum.

My coworker also mentioned the V8 and advil to fight this off. Not sure whether this is effective or not, as I am not a V8 fan (tomato juice).

Asian restaurant near O’fallon MO area

So far I went to 3, listed below.

The rice bowl (Korean): yelp. Address below:
7895 Mexico Rd
St. Peters, MO 63376

Thai Kitchen: yelp
3899 Veterans Memorial Pkwy
Saint Peters, MO 63376

KiTARO Bistro of Japan: (website, yelp)
4551 Hwy K
O’Fallon, MO 63368

I will add more as I find more :-)

Also, some new Chinese restaurants I recently visited:
Cate Zone
Chef Ma’s Chinese gourmet
Corner 17

Transition to first grade

Serenity started 1st grade this fall. Same school. I have some ideas on first grade, mostly around the homework, “more serious school” vs. the kindergarten which has more play time. I learned from fellow parents last year when they talked about it after MFS (I volunteered there).

Seeing is believing. Serenity now has been in 1st grade for over a month. Some impressions:
1) More work, either schoolwork or the work we gave her.

2) More seriousness, definitely, she got a tardy slip (her first) because we were late in the morning, we were probably late for 2 or 3 minutes (but still late, no excuse here), as I saw we were the only car in the car pool lane which is the only time like this.

3) More pressure, or expectations, besides on time, they were expected to listen more carefully when the teacher talks, and follow directions quickly, etc.

Those are my initial impressions, after a bit over a month school.

Exchange Euro into US dollar

I have a need to exchange some euro into US dollars. I did some research online as I recall previously I did not have very good experience on this. Saw a few articles (such as this MSN one, and this independentTraveller one). They are relevant but not totally applicable, I think they are more geared toward international travelers. Anyway, I compared 3 banks in St. Louis area, Bank of America (BoA), Regions, and US bank. On April 4 Friday, the rate I got was 1.2943, 1.27xx, and 1.18xx. The rate at US bank was a bit low, which is contrary to the results from the previous MSN article:

“…Among the 15 largest U.S. banks, the exchange rates ranged from 1.3000 at Citibank to 1.4400 at U.S. Bank…”

I eventually went to back to the BoA I checked out in the morning. And finished transaction.

PS, the previous experience I mentioned was due to the fee charged. They usually waive fees once the balance is over certain amount. This is true in most places including China.

Feel bad for Blackberry (formerly Research in Motion)

The BBM for Android and iPhone app collapsed (see TechCrunch article).

Feel bad for those guys. Note my first smart phone is a Blackberry.

It appears they got some serious problem with the scale of BBM on Android
and iPhone app rollout. It’s possible the talent guys already left the boat.
..basically they put half baked stuff out there.

How it all got started?

A few years ago, when I was a Java developer with a focus on JSF front end, one of my task is the paging of many pages of data, using Richfaces. Like many open source framework, Richfaces is a powerful tool, but it has its flaws (or limitations) if we don’t implement it carefully.

Here is one question I had at the time, and I answered by myself.

Of course, the real pain is when I tried to add and delete an entry (a row), and which causes the total number of pages to change, it just could not get the page number right :-(

I have left the client since, but I have not got away with the data grid and data table. The very first iOS project I worked at my next employer involves mimic the Excel spreadsheet on iPad, the data grid is the center piece of all this because it will be used to input data, replacing the paper process. The other piece is to hook up with database (via web service) so that we eliminate the paper process completely.

Preschool days

Did not want to go in the morning (most days), did not want to leave in the afternoon (sometimes). Positives: she started to call some teachers by name, and some friends by name. She talked quite a bit in English, continuing make progress on language.

Kindermusik, sit on teachers’ lap. A nice overlap for her as this class is only class she goes this whole semester (with the transition from toddler to preschool).

Change job
The tuition goes up again. I need to make more money to support my family. I plan to start new job on April 1 (yes April fool’s day, but hopefully new job works out for me and my family).

A bit emotional lately as a net friend passed away recently, reminds me of an old friend’s husband passed away years ago at similar age. We all need to balance our life and work at this age.