General Chaos

Great Moments in Education: a 5th graders’ Black History Month “Wax Museum”

Last night, as we were driving back from a day at the Smithsonian, I heard laughing from the back seat. Jonah and Zoe were listening to Jonah’s iPod, and he had found a recording I had made of him while driving home from school 4 years ago. I had Paula plug his iPod into the stereo, and we discovered it was a recording of me interviewing him about his experience with his St. Pius X School Black History Month Presentation (MP3 linked-beware of poppy, crappy audio).

Some background: Apparently, rather than taking a bunch of kids from a mostly-affluent, mostly-caucasian Catholic elementary to Baltimore’s National Great Blacks in Wax Museum, the 5th grade teacher decided to have the students act as the school’s very own “wax museum”. Each of the students was supposed to dress as a particular African-American figure, and stand at their desk in the classroom as students from the other grades filed through. They were then supposed to give a minute presentation when someone pressed their hand with a finger, like they were some animatronic display.

This, as you might imagine, didn’t go very well. One of the students got in trouble for presenting as Ray Charles, and including information on his drug problems. Another (a boy) wanted to be Oprah, but wasn’t allowed to. One student dressed as George Washington Carver brought a basket of peanuts, which visiting students lined up to take (and which triggered an allergic reaction in one student–something that didn’t get reported in this interview). And 8th graders used the exercise as an opportunity to abuse the 5th graders, squeezing their hands hard instead of pressing their “buttons”.

Meanwhile, the 5th grade teacher hung out in the hallway, doing God knows what.

This exercise in insanity lasted more than two hours. When I asked him if he had learned anything, Jonah said, “That I never want to do Black History Month at St. Pius again.”

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General Chaos

Great Moments in Education: a 5th graders' Black History Month "Wax Museum"

Last night, as we were driving back from a day at the Smithsonian, I heard laughing from the back seat. Jonah and Zoe were listening to Jonah’s iPod, and he had found a recording I had made of him while driving home from school 4 years ago. I had Paula plug his iPod into the stereo, and we discovered it was a recording of me interviewing him about his experience with his St. Pius X School Black History Month Presentation (MP3 linked-beware of poppy, crappy audio).

Some background: Apparently, rather than taking a bunch of kids from a mostly-affluent, mostly-caucasian Catholic elementary to Baltimore’s National Great Blacks in Wax Museum, the 5th grade teacher decided to have the students act as the school’s very own “wax museum”. Each of the students was supposed to dress as a particular African-American figure, and stand at their desk in the classroom as students from the other grades filed through. They were then supposed to give a minute presentation when someone pressed their hand with a finger, like they were some animatronic display.

This, as you might imagine, didn’t go very well. One of the students got in trouble for presenting as Ray Charles, and including information on his drug problems. Another (a boy) wanted to be Oprah, but wasn’t allowed to. One student dressed as George Washington Carver brought a basket of peanuts, which visiting students lined up to take (and which triggered an allergic reaction in one student–something that didn’t get reported in this interview). And 8th graders used the exercise as an opportunity to abuse the 5th graders, squeezing their hands hard instead of pressing their “buttons”.

Meanwhile, the 5th grade teacher hung out in the hallway, doing God knows what.

This exercise in insanity lasted more than two hours. When I asked him if he had learned anything, Jonah said, “That I never want to do Black History Month at St. Pius again.”

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Defense Department, tech

Afghan Army and Police get a helo simulator

A bit of propaganda from the Armed Forces Network: a video on the delivery of anMi-17 flight simulator.

The simulator, from Bucharest-based Simultec, is an Mi-17 Full Mission Simulator (FMS). It will give Afghan pilots the ability to train under a wide range of simulated conditions to prepare them for flying counter-narcotics and military operations. Whether this gives them a “technological edge over the bad guys” as the report says or not, it will undoubtedly save the lives of pilots and their trainers. The US bought the $4.5 million system, which was installed at the international airport at Kabul.

The US has been providing training for Afghan Mi-17 pilots for some time. As an old Cold Warrior, the irony of that is not lost on me.

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Cyberdefense and Information Assurance, Defense Department, DISA, tech, Web 2.0 and Social Media

FORGE.mil set for secret code

Update [7/22] I spoke with DISA’s Rob Vietmeyer yesterday. FORGE.mil currently consists of a collaborative software development site; it’s open to use by all of DOD and contractors with NIPRNet (and now SIPRNet) access to create applications that can be openly shared within DOD. The impetus for creating a classified net version of FORGE.mil came from STRATCOM and the Army–STRATCOM has already moved a project onto FORGE on SIPRNet.

Currently, the Navy is hosting the FORGE platform. By October, Vietmeyer said DISA will release a version running on RACE, DISA’s cloud computing platform, hosted out of DISA’s Defense Enterprise Computing Centers (DECCs). That will turn FORGE into a cloud application, distributed across multiple sites.

FORGE could potentially provide a platform for the services to create software repositories for government-owned and open-source code. The Navy currently is creating its own repository, called SHARE; SHARE is on SIPRNet because it contains code for C4ISR systems and other combat systems. THe move of FORGE onto SIPR means that it could conceivably become the platform to support SHARE. Vietmeyer says he’s been having regular conversations with the SHARE team, which is trying to create a taxonomy for all of the code in the Navy inventory–something that could be extremely useful for the other services if it gets ported over to a common platform.

The development projects on the SIPR side of FORGE either use classified algorithms that are restricted to government use but are shareable within DOD, or are continuations of unclassified open and community source projects that need access to classified data. A large percentage of them, Vietmeyer says, are C4ISR related. Based on STRATCOM’s recent elevation of cyberwarfare as a mission, it’s possible that development of cyber command and control applications is one of the projects that made STRATCOM eager to have a SIPR version of FORGE.mil.

While FORGE.mil is free right now, and for shared projects only, the upcoming ProjectForge capability will allow DISA customers to pay for a private portal for collaborative software development within the Global Information Grid, advancing DISA’s goal to become a cloud service provider for DOD and related agencies and organizations.

From DISA, release on 7/20:

FORGE.MIL NOW READY FOR CLASSIFIED PROJECTS

Arlington, Va. – The Defense Department’s newest collaborative software development tool is now available for use in a classified development environment. The Defense Information Systems Agency granted Forge.mil Interim Authority to Operate on SIPRNet, the DoD’s classified version of the civilian Internet.

“This was a remaining crucial capability to offer our DoD development community,” said Rob Vietmeyer, Forge.mil Project Director. “With 2200 users, 500 contributors with engaged development and 93 projects on Forge.mil, we’ll now be able to offer even more with this IATO for classified use up to SECRET,” he added.

Forge.mil enables collaborative software development and cross-program sharing of software, system components, and services in support of net-centric operations and warfare. Already in Initial Operational Capability for unclassified use, Forge.mil is a collaborative environment for shared development of open source and DoD community source software. DISA expects four more components of Forge.mil to be launched in future releases: CertificationForge, which will support agile certification; ProjectForge, which will provide private project portals; StandardsForge, which will drive collaborative standards development; and TestForge, which will provide on-demand software testing tools.

Forge.mil is available to the U.S. military, DoD government civilians, and DoD contractors for new and existing projects, enabling the organizations to save money, to improve software development efficiency, and to drive collaborative dynamics that help deliver better software faster to the warfighter. To register or host a project on Forge.mil, visit http://www.disa.mil/forge for more information.
DISA, a Combat Support Agency, engineers and provides command and control capabilities and enterprise infrastructure to continuously operate and assure a global net-centric enterprise in direct support to joint warfighters, National level leaders, and other mission and coalition partners across the full spectrum of operations.

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Uncategorized

FCS RIP…sort of

The Army officially announced the “partial termination” of the Manned Ground Vehicle segment of the Future Combat Systems program. FCS is being restructured into a number of programs under the aegis of th Brigade Combat Team (BCT) Modernization. The New York Times published what amounts to an obituary for FCS today, discussing the uncertainty around the program in the face of Defense Secretary Gates’ view of the future role of the Army.

That said, there’s plenty that’s surviving from FCS. The UAV and robotics programs, the Precision Attack Missile, and some of the other components designated for FCS Spinout 1 are now potentially going to be distributed not just to one or two FCS Brigade Combat Teams, but across all of the Army’s BCTs.

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Defense Department, People

Gates to ask for 22,000 more troops

Secretary of Defense Gates is reportedly preparing to request that the size of the military be increased by 22,000 to ease the burden on deployed troops and allow for better rotation times during the sustained war in Afghanistan.

This has gotten a predictably favorable reaction from some quarters:

Brian Wise, Executive Director of Military Families United, a national military family and national security advocacy organization, released the following statement on the breaking news that Sec. Gates plans to increase the size of the military by 22,000 troops.

“Military Families United welcomes the announcement of the additional 22,000 soldiers to the Army. We believe that best way to reduce the strain on the armed forces and strengthen our national security is to recruit, train and equip a larger force. Our troops and their families need relief from the constant cycles of deployment, and this is a critically important step. By increasing the size of the Army, the Defense Department can reduce the strain on each soldier and their family even as the United States adds additional forces in Afghanistan. Americans know our troops are the best trained and most professional force in the world. If they are provided with the training and resources they deserve, we can be confident they will turn the tide in Afghanistan, as they have done in Iraq.”

And a predictably negative reaction from others:

Barack Obama: Warlord

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