Monday, June 29, 2009

Summer Camp

What should the camping experience be like for our youth today? It's an interesting question because around the world the answers are varied. In some countries it seems the Church sponsored camps are still gender divided, so the issue of two piece bathing suits or sneaking out of cabins isn't a problem. The relics are plentiful in other places and the miracle stories are around every corner. What about where you live?

If you're involved in camping or retreat experiences, here's a link to the Pan-Orthodox Summer Camp Association website dedicated to sharing resources, activities, games etc that might come in handy for Orthodox Vacation Bible School Programs, for example, on the local or district level.

All in all, I'm a product of Orthodox Camping programs...and although they couldn't safeguard me from sins in my youth, I think God still worked through those experiences to nurture my faith and set aflame a desire to learn more. But I'd more conservatively say that today, I have tougher expectations from a camp. First and foremost, it must be a holy experience. What ranks important to you?

I've found that some camps do the "spirituality" better than others, so investigate before sending off your kids...and if you are looking for referrals, let's chat.

Don't forget to visit the Children's Corner at Potamitis Publishing online for excellent printable activities to enhance your summer learning. All of the above images are wonderful samples of what you can find there. Our SCRIBD Orthodox Education group online also has a Camp Song Book to get you started as well as other lessons to download for free.

Historians and Facebook

About one year after their creation, I thought I'd share the membership numbers for the Facebook groups for the AHA, OAH, and H-Net Editors.

AHA: 69
OAH: 46
H-Net: 37

These numbers have been achieved almost entirely by word of mouth/blog, and with no deliberate attempts to advertise. Consider the following groups--the result of sustained attempts to spread the word:

HNN: 426
Cliopatria: 46
Progressive Historians: 147

Since the (unpromoted) numbers for the OAH are the same as those for a (n excellent) history blog, it's pretty clear that the OAH and the AHA are missing out by not extending content to this platform. 70 people have joined a content-free group just to show their identities! If anyone out there from the AHA or OAH is reading this, the time is now.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Animal Planet: The Monsters Among Us

This creature has confessed to one of most horrific crimes that any person could do: The murder of her own child:
A 23-year-old woman suffocated her son and then buried his body beneath the sand of a playground, police in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said Thursday.

Police arrested Tiffany Toribio about 4 a.m., just hours after they said they wanted to speak to her about her missing 3-year-old son, Ty.

Family members had contacted authorities, saying her son matched the description of a boy found Friday at an Albuquerque playground.

Police Chief Ray Schultz said she confessed to killing the boy soon after being apprehended.

"She placed her hand over her son's mouth and nose and suffocated him. She had second thoughts about what she did. She performed CPR on her son, brought him back to life and then decided to go forward with that original act she had started to commit," Schultz said.

"What makes this story especially sad is, when asked the reason why she took Ty's life, Tiffany said that she did not want him to grow up with no one caring about him, the same way that she had grown up where nobody had cared about her."

An emotional Schultz added that Toribio has tried to kill herself since her arrest. She was being held in isolation at a detention facility and kept under observation, he said.

He added, "As you can see, this case has been very emotional for everybody in the department."

Toribio was charged with first-degree murder and an array of other charges, including abuse of a child under 12 that caused death.

The discovery of the body at Alvarado Park on Friday shocked the community, which dubbed the boy "Baby Justice" and "Baby Angel" as they rallied around his case.

Police released a composite image of the boy Tuesday, hoping to garner more leads in the case. They weren't able to release a photo of the boy because his body was so disfigured by the sand's heat.

Schultz said that after killing her son, Toribio dug a hole under gym equipment at the playground, moved the body and buried him in the shallow grave.

"Since that time, she's been walking the streets of the city of Albuquerque," he said.

The boy was wearing Arizona brand clothing, size 3T: nylon black running pants with red stripes, a red shirt with a monster truck on it and black, gray and lime green Skechers sneakers.

Toribio did not comment Thursday morning after her arrest as she was put in a police car.

Schultz said there had been no reports of child abuse filed against Toribio. But he said family members indicated that she did not express the typical love of a mother for her child.

"She did not show the normal relationship that you would see with a mother, son," he said.

This week, police had gone to residences where she had lived previously, but she wasn't there, Schultz said. Police had gone there after family members expressed concern because "they did not like the way Ty was being treated," the police chief said.

Tips to Increase Ranking and Website Traffic

It is worth cataloguing the basic principles to be enforced to increase website traffic and search engine rankings.

• Create a site with valuable content, products or services.
• Place primary and secondary keywords within the first 25 words in your page content and spread them evenly throughout the document.
• Research and use the right keywords/phrases to attract your target customers.
• Use your keywords in the right fields and references within your web page. Like Title, META tags, Headers, etc.
• Keep your site design simple so that your customers can navigate easily between web pages, find what they want and buy products and services.
• Submit your web pages i.e. every web page and not just the home page, to the most popular search engines and directory services. Hire someone to do so, if required. Be sure this is a manual submission. Do not engage an automated submission service.
• Keep track of changes in search engine algorithms and processes and accordingly modify your web pages so your search engine ranking remains high. Use online tools and utilities to keep track of how your website is doing.
• Monitor your competitors and the top ranked websites to see what they are doing right in the way of design, navigation, content, keywords, etc.
• Use reports and logs from your web hosting company to see where your traffic is coming from. Analyze your visitor location and their incoming sources whether search engines or links from other sites and the keywords they used to find you.
• Make your customer visit easy and give them plenty of ways to remember you in the form of newsletters, free reports, reduction coupons etc.
• Demonstrate your industry and product or service expertise by writing and submitting articles for your website or for article banks so you are perceived as an expert in your field.
• When selling products online, use simple payment and shipment methods to make your customer’s experience fast and easy.
• When not sure, hire professionals. Though it may seem costly, but it is a lot less expensive than spending your money on a website which no one visits.
• Don’t look at your website as a static brochure. Treat it as a dynamic, ever-changing sales tool and location, just like your real store to which your customers with the same seriousness.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The future of La Salle Schools?

Well written letter in the Star by Dr. Goh Cheng Teik on the future of La Salle schools in Malaysia. I think his suggestion of handing back the administration of these schools to the 'brothers' is interesting but I'm not sure if there are enough 'brothers' around to administer these schools. I'll reproduce the letter in full below. (BTW, I was from La Salle PJ, primary and secondary, until Form 3)

Thursday June 18, 2009
Hand back ‘Saint’ schools to the La Salle Brothers

YOUR report “An end of an era for La Sallians” (The Star, May 1) stirred deep emotions in the hearts of those who had studied at the 50 La Salle schools in the country. The exit of Bro Paul Ho, the last Brother Director from St Xavier’s Institution does look like the end of an era.

But Old Xaverians and Old Lasallians do pray that Bro Paul’s retirement would not be the end of the involvement of Christian Brothers in Malaysian schools. At the recent Yayasan La Salle Board meeting on June 6, former UPM Vice Chancellor Tan Sri Syed Jalaluddin, an Old Xaverian, made a passionate plea for the Christian Brothers to stay engaged in Malaysia. The meeting was chaired by Tan Sri Kamarulzaman Shariff, another Old Xaverian and a former Mayor of Kuala Lumpur, who mandated Syed Jalaluddin to sketch out a road map for the coming years.

Old Lasallians like Syed Jalaluddin and Kamarulzaman value what the Brothers have done and wish that they can do more. Unfortunately, the congregation of La Salle Brothers worldwide has shrunk. F

ewer and fewer youths in the modern world are prepared to embrace the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience for the sake of educating children from impoverished families. The Brothers have to conserve their manpower and deploy their resources smartly.

The present thinking is that Old La Sallians who have friends in high places should convince the Government to hand back two schools, St John’s Institution and St. Xavier’s Institution, to the La Salle Brothers to manage and administer. At the same time, the Government should convert both schools from being sekolah bantuan modal into sekolah-sekolah bantuan penoh.

Schools like St John’s and St Xavier’s have shown that they have withstood the test of time. After all, St John’s has produced Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, the present Prime Minister; Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, Home Minister; Datuk Sri Nazir Tun Razak, the banker and younger brother of Najib and Raja Nazrin Shah, the Raja Muda of Perak.

St Xavier’s has produced Karpal Singh, the opposition leader; Tun Hamid Omar, the former Lord President; Tan Sri Nor Nor Mohamed Yakcop, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.

Both schools can be depended upon to make proper use of the financial resources and enhanced powers given to them. They should be challenged - at the right moment - to bring back the academic and extra-curricular excellence that they had enjoyed in the past. These include competency in the English language, both written and spoken.

I believe making St John’s and St Xavier’s fully-aided schools and mandating the La Salle Brothers and the respective boards of governors to administer them is the answer. Taking both schools private sounds great in theory but in practice, funds would have to be raised all the time. Fees have to be charged and revised upward regularly.

Those students who cannot pay would have to be barred from attending classes. The La Salle Brothers would not be comfortable with a fee-based regime. Their philosophy is to provide education to those who need it, not only to those who can pay for it.

Syed Jalaluddin’s mission is delicate and important. As someone who had studied in a La Salle school and who had worked as a Vice Chancellor of a public university, he can bridge the communication gap between the La Salle Brothers and the politicians and civil servants.

He can get a dialogue going. For all you know, he may find an ally in the person of the PM since Najib is an Old Lasallian.

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