I need to go to BGA (Board Gamers Anonymous)

So, I was at a friend's house a few weeks ago, and after we played the usual Texas Hold 'em, he busted out a copy of this game:

If you've never played Ultimate Werewolf, I know what you're thinking.  Really?  A game about werewolves?  I promise, it's amazing.  My friends and I played until 1:30 AM.   It's a simple card game that goes fast and includes some fun arguing and strategy.  

Ultimate Werewolf opened the floodgates.  So far, over the past few weeks I've bought these games on Amazon (in addition to the Werewolf game of course):


In addition, I've backed these seven games on Kickstarter [so far].  I've put them in order of how excited I am to receive these when they're released:

  1. U-Boot
  2. Nemesis
  3. Xia: Embers of a Forsaken Star
  4. Pandorum
  5. Tank Chess
  6. Deja-Vu: Fragments of Memory
  7. Warpgate

Several of the games I've bought  are space-related since a friend and I are working on our own game involving exoplanets and the future.   I started a board game club at school.  I bought an IKEA shelving unit to house all these games at school.  My Chemistry kids are designing a chemistry-themed board game.  [I'll talk more about this in a separate blog when it's completed.]  I'm listening to the Board Game Design Lab Podcast.  I'm constantly on the Board Game Geek website, known as the site for all serious board gamers.   I'm heading to the GenCon Gaming Conference in August.  I'm starting a board game night at my house.  You get the picture.  It's a bit out of hand.  

Are you into board games or maybe even designing a game too?  Do you have any games you love to play?  It'd be great to hear from you in the comments.  Thanks for reading! 


The Joy and Solace of the Piano

My mom started teaching me on the piano when I was five.  I had a few different teachers after that, eventually landing with a professional teacher who had me enter competitions.  Other than egging the house of a girl that dumped me [mom didn't know about that...sorry mom], the most rebellious thing I did as a teenager was refuse to practice extensively.  I know, I was a real rebel.  

After I stopped taking lessons and went off to college I barely played.  But then I finally got the bug again, practicing some Mozart and Chopin.  Chopin was one of my favorites, with his blazing Waltzes and powerful Polonaises.  It didn't hurt that he was Polish too.  I knew though that my passion for playing the piano wouldn't really stick unless I figured out how to play music by ear.  

At first, it was challenging to figure out songs.  But then, it all started to click, once I understood the common chord progressions of songs and how to figure out very quickly what key a song was in.  It's a very gratifying thing when you figure out that you can listen to a song and almost instantly play it.  Journalist and Science writer Malcolm Gladwell says that you need 10,000 hours of deliberate practice at anything to become "world-class" at it.  I imagine I crossed that barrier at some point, as I get frustrated when I can't figure out a song now.  Yes, that still happens.

I'm very excited to be giving my first piano lessons starting this Sunday.  When you find real joy and solace in playing an instrument, it's natural to want others to enjoy listening to you and to share your talent with others.  Although I listen to heavier music too, not long ago I discovered Icelandic composer Olafur Arnalds.  Here's my favorite song of his to play on the piano: 

Ashley and I are going to see him in Chicago in June at the tail end of our trip to Poland and Germany and it's going to be a perfect end to our travels.  

I'm very excited to be giving my first piano lessons starting this Sunday.  When you find real joy and solace in playing an instrument, it's natural to want people to enjoy listening to you, to share your talent with others and to want to pass that on to others.  I wish my mom was still around to hear me play, but I'm very grateful that I have the opportunity to help others learn the piano and hopefully they'll share their gift too. 

Here's a live performance by Olafur.  I typically start watching at the 4:30 mark or so.  I hope you enjoy it too.


Check Out This Good Music Or: I Embrace My Music Snobbiness

I've been to a ridiculous number of concerts.  I love finding new music and sharing it with others, including my students.  I'm one of those people that rarely listens to the radio.  I'll say it out loud.  I'm a music snob.  

I recently inherited an old antique record player that was my grandfather's and started buying vinyl like it was going out of style.  I knew that once I started it would be difficult to stop, but unfortunately the record player is currently broken, and that at least will help my bank account some.    

Here are who I've been listening to a lot of lately if you're looking for good new music.  [I warned you and told you I was a music snob.]

TesseracT - Progressive Rock / England

Olafur Arnalds - Instrumental Classical / Iceland

Sigur Ros - Otherworldly Post-Rock / Iceland 

We Lost the Sea - Instrumental Rock / Australia

Oh Hiroshima - Post-Rock / Sweden

This Will Destroy You - Instrumental Rock / USA

If These Trees Could Talk - Instrumental Rock / USA


You can tell I love finding music from places all around the world.  I'm excited to see TesseracT again in May and Olafur Arnalds in June, both in Chicago.  One of the bands above that I'm not sure if I'll ever get to see is We Lost the Sea since they're from Australia and don't typically tour here.  They unfortunately lost their lead singer to suicide in 2013.  After this tragedy, they didn't know what the next step for their band would be.  They decided to march forward as an instrumental band, and their album Departure Songs is simply amazing.  You can check them out above if you never have.  There is a story behind each of the five songs on the album, as they're each dedicated to someone or a group of people who passed away, culminating with a two song dedication to the Challenger explosion that incorporates the speech that Reagan made the day of the explosion in 1986.  It's simply amazing.

If you've discovered any amazing music lately that's typically under the radar or you'd like to share with concerts you're going to, please feel free to share who it might be in the comments below.  You can see which concerts I'm going to under my Events on this website.  Thank you!





creating a new class is a blast

My friend Andy and I are pumped.  We're working on a new class for the fall titled Advanced Topics in History and Modern Science: The Past, Present, and the Future. I know, it's a lengthy title.  But it's going to be epic.  Andy continues to challenge me with awesome ideas that are spinning in my head as I type this.  

I was inspired to start my own class a few years back before jumping into admin and can't wait to have something else brand new again.  It was also really inspiring to talk to Don Wettrick about his Innovations class on my podcast back in the day.  It's still one of my favorite episodes that I ever did.  You can listen here:

If somehow you're in education and you don't follow Don and how he's leading the movement for innovation in schools head to StartedUp Innovation.  

"OK so Don rocks.  That's all well and good.  What is your new class about?" 

I'm so glad you asked. 

Here's the course description:

      The goal of this course will be to develop an understanding of how societies have evolved through scientific discovery while diving deeper into the driving question “What will be the goal of future humans?”

      Themes may include but are not limited to the information age of 1970 through the present.  Utilizing a team-teaching approach, this course will focus on using current events and real world source material outside of traditional lesson plans and textbooks.  Students will engage in the material through readings, discussions, and projects that push their thinking further.   Advanced Topics of History and Modern Science: The Past, Present, and the Future aims to be a truly unique and thought-provoking course designed  to push students to think outside-the-box and make connections from the classroom to the real world.  

So although we have major topics that we're going to frame a good part of the class around topics like transportation, artificial intelligence, and medicine, students will help drive where we go. 

Here's a link to our brainstorming Google Doc for the course.  I'd love to hear your comments or suggestions below. 

We'll be using all sorts of materials to help support the course, like Michio Kaku's The Future of Humanity which came in the mail yesterday. 

Stay tuned for further updates on this project.  Hopefully I can convince Andy to be my co-host for a new podcast where we chronicle our journey.  Ya know, because I don't have enough projects already.  :)  


The #NeverAgain Movement

On Valentine's Day, a 19 year old went to his former school in Parkland, Florida and shot several students and adults, killing 17 and shattering hundreds of lives forever.  We've heard stories of heroes (both kids and adults) that took bullets for others.  

When I look at my current students, I desperately want them to be safe.  I would be devastated if any of them passed away, let alone several of them at once like what happened in Columbine, Sandy Hook, and Parkland.  The AP Test is completely meaningless next to the safety of kids who have a limitless future.  

People have argued that "back in the day" students had rifles in their truck and they never brought them into the school to shoot someone.  OK.  They continue by pushing that the second amendment guarantees our right to bear arms.  But the second amendment was written in 1791.  In 1791, cars weren't even invented yet, let alone assault rifles.  It is extremely difficult to imagine developing the laws of the land and doing your best to write them so that they could apply forever without any modification.  If change was never part of the process, the amendments themselves wouldn't exist.  Women [19th Amendment] and African-Americans [26th Amendment] could never vote.   We're simply in a different time.  We live in a time with cars instead of horses and semi-automatic weapons instead of bayonets.  The price of technological advancement is that when a major development occurs like the invention of cars, we have to change our laws to protect citizens by providing requirements like the Driver's License test in order to help others be safe.  Of course there are still accidents by good drivers who are going the speed limit, but less people are killed when law-abiding drivers are on the road.  Just like our schools need to be drastically updated and moved away from an industrial model with desks in rows and ringing bells where even adult teachers have to wait to go to the bathroom, it would be ridiculous to assume that all laws written over two hundred years ago don't need updated.  It would be as if major breakthroughs continued to happen in medicine but we never used new drugs or advancements in sanitation when conducting surgery.  

Please don't hear the wrong message.  I'm not saying that we need to repeal the Second Amendment and that all guns need to be banned and taken away.  But the framers would've never guaranteed the right of a citizen to own an AR-15, a weapon used by the military and designed to kill people, not deer.  It is powerful to have a conversation with people that own guns who understand that something needs to change and can admit that they don't need an AR-15 in their cabinet.  The gentleman above used the hashtag #OneLess to share his message that every gun matters.    

The fact that there was yet another mass shooting in America and in an American school sadly isn't surprising anymore.  What is news is that surviving students at Stoneman Douglas High School are changing the equation and they're basically saying, "We're tired of school shootings being a regular part of the American news cycle and fading away.  We're not gonna take it anymore."  People like Emma Gonzalez, Sarah Chadwick, Cameron Kasky, and David Hogg are leading the #NeverAgain Movement and using the positive power of social media to push for change.  These survivors are heroes too.  They are building the March for Our Lives event on March 24th in Washington, D.C. which is spreading across the country.   This is the first time I will take part in an event like this, and it's long overdue.  

Regardless of where you stand on gun control, it's hard to deny that the bravery, passion and eloquence of these students is inspiring.  I can only hope that someday my young daughter will stand up for what is right like these students are.  Also, I really hope meaningful change is enacted extremely quickly, so that something like Columbine, Sandy Hook, or Parkland doesn't ever happen again.  #NeverAgain.