Here’s why: All the available data strongly indicates that Otto will beat all the other contenders across state in the upcoming Governor’s race.

Democrats have two major problems to face in 2018 and beyond. First, how do we win elections? Second, how do we remain true to our progressive and liberal roots?

For Democrats, 2018 is a must-win election, and Minnesotans have a lot at stake. Will the state remain the shining star of the North, or will it go the way of Wisconsin, and sink into a Republican dark age of union busting, environment polluting, professor bashing, service slashing, and economic activity destruction?

Of all the candidates running or suspected of running for Governor in 2018, Rebecca Otto is the only one who can most clearly win and at the same time preserve and advance core, human based, Democratic ideals, in my opinion.

The smart move for the DFL in 2018 is to turn to a candidate that has won several times statewide and has strong name recognition, positive feeling among the voters engendered by her commitment to widely held values, and a strong base of support. State Auditor Rebecca Otto is the only candidate with that resumé. Otto has racked up several historic victories, including the largest upset of an incumbent in 112 years, and is positioned to do it again in 2018. Her statewide electoral prowess far outstrips her nearest competitor, Tim Walz, who is largely unknown outside of his first district, and is untested statewide. Beyond that, Otto stands for strong for Democratic values, while Walz has shown himself to be a DINO-style Democrat. Walz enjoys a very high rating from the NRA, for example, and in February of 2013 was one of only six Democrats in Congress to vote to expand gun sales to the severely mentally ill, over the objections of senior generals including David Petraeus, Michael Hayden and Stanley McChrystal.

On the environment and climate change, Walz again voted with Republicans on anti-environmental bills progressives strongly opposed. He voted with Republicans in favor of building the Keystone XL pipeline. He introduced a bill, siding with Eric Paulsen, to expand offshore oil drilling. Walz refused to provide voters with positions on several other key issues covered by the 2016 Vote Smart Political Courage Test, despite repeated requests. Historically, candidates have failed to complete the test in part due to “fear of negative attack ads,” according to that group. In contrast, Rebecca Otto opposes unrestricted gun sales and supports common-sense, reasonable measures to prevent mass shootings by mentally ill individuals. Otto is also the acknowledged statewide leader on environmental issues, and cast multiple courageous votes against multinational corporate interests, in an effort to protect the environment even while being harshly attacked by industry advocates. Indeed, she and her husband live in a solar home they built with their own hands.

So why are some party elites pushing Walz over the far more progressive, experienced, and courageous, and environmental Rebecca Otto? Because they think we need a DINO to win, and appear to have lost touch with the party rank and file, just as they did in 2016. Walz is a talented but glad-handing politician, and older DFLers, the kind that promoted Hillary Clinton despite the rank and file’s strong preference for Bernie Sanders, find an old white traditional male politician to be a safer, steadier choice when the stakes of losing run high. But that is EXACTLY the kind of thinking that loses elections, because it disenfranchises party activists, it is reactionary instead of visionary, and it selects candidates from on high who are less able to capture the imagination of voters as something new and different. Considering that Democrats have never won the Governor’s seat two administrations in a row, that lack of contrast and imagination is a major concern in contemplating a Walz candidacy.

In their fear, the party elders who have endorsed Walz are willing to overlook Walz’s anti-progressive, anti-environmental voting history, thinking a DINO is what voters want. But they’re wrong. Hillary Clinton was anointed by the same party elites, and she underperformed Barack Obama in Minnesota by 180,000 votes. Hillary Clinton had many good qualities, but last cycle, Minnesotans showed they were ready to embrace bold, progressive leadership, the kind of leadership that they believe, based on track record, won’t sell them out on key issues when the going gets tough. They want a candidate who runs outside strict party affiliation, who thinks independently, and who takes stands for ordinary people instead of the wealthy elite or big corporations even if it means the corporations will mount attacks. They want the kind of principled, fearless leadership shown by Bernie Sanders and Rebecca Otto, not the calculating, fearful, history of Tim Walz.

But what about Trump? Didn’t Greater Minnesota go heavily for Trump? Didn’t the Minnesota Senate go Republican and the House go even more Republican? Considering all this, don’t we need a more conservative and calculating Democrat from Greater Minnesota to bridge the so-called “urban-rural divide”? That’s what some party elites argued when pushing Tim Walz. But Rebecca Otto is the only candidate who resides at the intersections of urban, suburban, exurban, and rural, on a small farm outside the Twin Cities. This means everyone can claim her as theirs.

But more importantly, the “urban-rural divide” appears to be a Republican myth that Democrats should not buy into. The evidence shows that Donald Trump received almost the identical number of votes in Minnesota as Mitt Romney did in 2012, so the notion that Donald Trump surged in Minnesota is false. Rather, Hillary Clinton underperformed Barack Obama’s 2012 Minnesota numbers by nearly 180,000 votes. The congressional districts that went the most heavily for Donald Trump in the general election (7, 6, 8, and 1) also largely went the most heavily for Bernie Sanders in the primary.

Clinton’s underperformance meant that 180,000 Democrats stayed home not just from her race, but from all races. That meant there were fewer Democrats out voting while Republicans were out in their usual numbers, so despite the DFL spending record dollars, Democrats lost every close race. Some portion of this has to be laid at the feet of party elites who, for all her advantages, interfered in the process by backing Clinton too early and loudly, lining the machine up behind her as “the front runner” and disenfranchising Sanders voters who, the above numbers show, stayed home. Some of these same elites are making the same costly mistake in 2018 by backing Walz.

The results of the 2016 election can more accurately be interpreted as an anti-establishment vote and not reflective of an urban-rural divide — and that is a reading which favors Rebecca Otto as the DFL candidate for governor.

Unlike Walz, Otto has always run largely without the support of the party kingmakers and big money players, focusing her energies on rank-and-file grassroots activists, in the style of Bernie Sanders and Paul Welstone. In so doing, she has always outperformed the DFL candidate for Governor, racking up historic victories in election after election. This approach also led her to an historic victory in the 2014 primary, when a self-financed candidate outspent her 4 to 1, and she beat him 81%–19%.

Rebecca Otto does very well on the Iron Range, and understanding why that is so leads to a full appreciation of her standing with Minnesota voters. Otto voted to protect the BWCA and Lake Superior watersheds from copper-nickel mining until we get better financial assurances from multinational mining companies. Many assumed this would hurt her on the Range and cost her the election as governor, but the facts show just the opposite. Indeed, the “done on the range” argument is from the Republican, not Democratic, playbook.

Otto vastly outperformed both Governor Mark Dayton and Congressman Rick Nolan in every county on the Iron Range and across the entire 8th Congressional District in 2014, improving her margins after her vote. To see if Otto’s brave and thoughtful stand on nonferrous mining cost her any votes, we can compare her margin of victory in the 2010 and 2014 races in the Iron Range counties. (Note: The margin of victory is recognized as the best way to compare across counties, etc., because of differences in ballots across different precincts or elections. These data are from the Secretary of State’s office.)

Otto grew her margin in every Iron Range county in 2014 by an impressive average gain of 9.51 points, for a 72% bigger margin across the Iron Range as a whole. Remember, this happened after the controversy on the range, in which Rebecca Otto took what many thought would be the less popular stand, knowing it was the right thing to do. This happened after Otto explained her position and helped people see, through an examination of long term goals and shared values, that her position was the right one for the people of the state in general and the Iron Range in particular. This is a reality that her Republican (and other) detractors on the range do not like to hear about and tend to react rather poorly to, in my experience.

The most important thing DFLers need to realize is that Rebecca Otto was the only Democrat to actually vote for Democratic values on this issue, while others were afraid to. Otto can rightly borrow Paul Wellstone’s phrase, “I represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic party,” when others cannot. If Democrats don’t stop compromising on their key values they will continue to lose like they did in 2016 because there will be no reason for DFLers to vote for them. I believe voters are well aware of this, this and appreciate Rebecca Otto for it.

Was it a fluke? Maybe Otto just had an easier race in 2014. Let’s look at Governor Dayton’s Iron Range performance and see if there is any difference.

Here again, Otto’s 2014 margin of victory on the Iron Range was 1.54 points higher than Gov. Mark Dayton’s and 4.41% higher than Dayton’s across the 8th CD as a whole. While Otto performed better in every county in 2014 than in 2010, Dayton lost points in 5 of 7 Iron Range counties and across the 8th CD as a whole.

When comparing Otto’s margin to Nolan’s margin, Otto’s outperformance becomes even more striking. Here, Otto completely trounced Nolan’s performance in his own congressional district, to a truly stunning degree.

Otto outperformed Nolan by 12.15 points on the very Iron Range that was supposed to cost her re-election. And Otto’s margins were even better on the Iron Range than they were in the 8th CD as a whole, where she outperformed the Congressman’s margin by a stunning 10 points. Otto’s strong popularity is why Nolan asked her to headline or speak at events. Often, she was the only statewide elected official or party officer there for him at these events.

The evidence is absolutely clear and abundant that Rebecca Otto’s courageous stand on nonferrous mining earned her votes on the Iron Range. Suggestions to the contrary are not backed up by the facts.

What about Otto’s appeal in urban and suburban areas? The candidate with the best chance of winning the Governor’s race can appeal to voters in both Greater Minnesota, and in urban and suburban areas. So, let’s look at Otto’s performance in the state’s most liberal, urban, and populous area, Congressional District 5, home of Minneapolis. We’ll use its high-profile Congressman Keith Ellison as our benchmark.

Rebecca Otto and Keith Ellison both began their terms in 2003 as State Representatives. In 2006 when Otto was elected State Auditor, Ellison won the DFL endorsement for a rare open seat in Congress, making him the shoe-in in the general election because of the CD5 DFL index.

The following compares Rebecca Otto’s CD5 performance to the Ellison benchmark in each house district in the congressional district:
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It turns out that Rebecca Otto is also an exceptionally strong performer in urban/suburban areas, outperforming Congressman Ellison’s margins in 14 of 20 house districts, and across the 5th CD as a whole. Note that Ellison’s performance in his own district is stellar, so Otto’s comparable but better performance is stellar-plus.

Rebecca’s urban and suburban support is not limited to CD5. In CD4, Rebecca outperformed the benchmark Congresswoman McCollum’s margin in 13 of 21 House districts in, and across the congressional district as a whole.
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Because of her strong performance and experience in urban, suburban, exurban and rural areas, Rebecca Otto outperformed the margins of every gubernatorial candidate she has been on the ballot with — Tim Pawlenty, Mike Hatch, and Mark Dayton — in 2006, 2010, and 2014.

Rebecca Otto also unseated an incumbent, and she did it by the largest margin in 112 years, in a race for a seat that had been occupied by Republicans for 134 of its 149 years. This was an enormous and historic upset — on a level that Walz can only dream of.

Otto then made history a second time when she won a tough re-election against the same opponent while being heavily targeted by the Republican Party, and without help from the DFL Party, becoming the only Democrat to be re-elected to the Auditor’s post in Minnesota history. Otto is now in her third term, and made it a third time with her absolutely crushing defeat of Matt Entenza in the 2014 DFL primary.

There is only one candidate with both the electoral experience and the track record of standing up for what’s right without fear or favor, and it is Rebecca Otto. Rebecca is authentic, warm, humble, yet tough, willing to fight for what is right, and these aspects of her character are already widely known. She is widely recognized by State Auditors around the country, winning every major award and serving as president of the national organization of State Auditors. She has Republican support as well as Democratic. In fact, it was former Governor and State Auditor Arne Carlson who first asked her to run for State Auditor. She has strong executive experience at the state level, and she knows how to manage the legislature. On all these measures, Governor Otto would be one of the most qualified new governors on her first day in the State House.

This is a year in which voters are looking for a truly progressive candidate, and it is right that they do so. Voters want a candidate who actually contrasts with Republicans instead of voting like one of them, a candidate who has powerful statewide executive and electoral experience and yet has demonstrated that she won’t sell out progressive values. Rebecca Otto is exactly that candidate.

In a year when so much is at stake, it is time to give voters a strong contrasting choice instead of a Democrat In Name Only practicing familiar old-style politics. It is a year when Minnesota is finally ready to elect a populist female governor, and we have such a candidate with the state executive and electoral experience to make that a reality. With only stunning and historic victories behind her, Gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Otto is in ready to make history yet again.

Ubuntu is a form of Linux. Most references on Linux will be applicable to Ubuntu, but each distribution of Linus has its own features, so if you are going to use a specific operating system (Ubuntu vs. Fedora, for example) you will be happier with a book about that distribution.

This is a selection of what I regard as the best books for the purpose, but if you are reading this post in late 2017 or later, and you click through to a particular book, do look around for more recent editions. Also, check out the book reviews on my other blog, which will include all sorts of science books, some politics, and a good number of computer related books.

For books on programming (in various languages, for kids and adults) check out this post.

Linux: General books

Two years old but still good:

How Linux Works: What Every Superuser Should Know

Unlike some operating systems, Linux doesn’t try to hide the important bits from you—it gives you full control of your computer. But to truly master Linux, you need to understand its internals, like how the system boots, how networking works, and what the kernel actually does.

In this completely revised second edition of the perennial best seller How Linux Works, author Brian Ward makes the concepts behind Linux internals accessible to anyone curious about the inner workings of the operating system. Inside, you’ll find the kind of knowledge that normally comes from years of experience doing things the hard way. You’ll learn:

  • How Linux boots, from boot loaders to init implementations (systemd, Upstart, and System V)
  • How the kernel manages devices, device drivers, and processes
  • How networking, interfaces, firewalls, and servers work
  • How development tools work and relate to shared libraries
  • How to write effective shell scripts
  • You’ll also explore the kernel and examine key system tasks inside user space, including system calls, input and output, and filesystems. With its combination of background, theory, real-world examples, and patient explanations, How Linux Works will teach you what you need to know to solve pesky problems and take control of your operating system.

    Yes, this is good: Linux For Dummies, 9th Edition

    Eight previous top-selling editions of Linux For Dummies can’t be wrong. If you’ve been wanting to migrate to Linux, this book is the best way to get there. Written in easy-to-follow, everyday terms, Linux For Dummies 9th Edition gets you started by concentrating on two distributions of Linux that beginners love: the Ubuntu LiveCD distribution and the gOS Linux distribution, which comes pre-installed on Everex computers. The book also covers the full Fedora distribution.

    Ubuntu Linux

    Ubuntu Unleashed 2017 Edition (Includes Content Update Program): Covering 16.10, 17.04, 17.10 (12th Edition)

    … unique and advanced information for everyone who wants to make the most of the Ubuntu Linux operating system. This new edition has been thoroughly updated by a long-time Ubuntu community leader to reflect the exciting new Ubuntu 16.04 LTS release with forthcoming online updates for 16.10, 17.04, and 17.10 when they are released.

    Former Ubuntu Forum administrator Matthew Helmke covers all you need to know about Ubuntu 16.04 installation, configuration, productivity, multimedia, development, system administration, server operations, networking, virtualization, security, DevOps, and more—including intermediate-to-advanced techniques you won’t find in any other book.

    Helmke presents up-to-the-minute introductions to Ubuntu’s key productivity and Web development tools, programming languages, hardware support, and more. You’ll find new or improved coverage of navigation via Unity Dash, wireless networking, VPNs, software repositories, new NoSQL database options, virtualization and cloud services, new programming languages and development tools, monitoring, troubleshooting, and more.

    Other Linux Distributions

    Not at all current, but of historical interest and probably available used: The Debian System: Concepts and Techniques and A Practical Guide to Fedora and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (7th Edition).


    Using the Linux Command Line and bash shell

    The Linux Command Line: A Complete Introduction

    You’ve experienced the shiny, point-and-click surface of your Linux computer—now dive below and explore its depths with the power of the command line. The Linux Command Line takes you from your very first terminal keystrokes to writing full programs in Bash, the most popular Linux shell. Along the way you’ll learn the timeless skills handed down by generations of gray-bearded, mouse-shunning gurus: file navigation, environment configuration, command chaining, pattern matching with regular expressions, and more. In addition to that practical knowledge, author William Shotts reveals the philosophy behind these tools and the rich heritage that your desktop Linux machine has inherited from Unix supercomputers of yore. As you make your way through the book’s short, easily-digestible chapters, you’ll learn how to: Create and delete files, directories, and symlinks Administer your system, including networking, package installation, and process management Use standard input and output, redirection, and pipelines Edit files with Vi, the world’s most popular text editor Write shell scripts to automate common or boring tasks Slice and dice text files with cut, paste, grep, patch, and sed Once you overcome your initial “shell shock,” you’ll find that the command line is a natural and expressive way to communicate with your computer. Just don’t be surprised if your mouse starts to gather dust.

    Linux Pocket Guide: Essential Commands

    If you use Linux in your day-to-day work, this popular pocket guide is the perfect on-the-job reference. The third edition features new commands for processing image files and audio files, running and killing programs, reading and modifying the system clipboard, and manipulating PDF files, as well as other commands requested by readers. You’ll also find powerful command-line idioms you might not be familiar with, such as process substitution and piping into bash.

    Linux Pocket Guide provides an organized learning path to help you gain mastery of the most useful and important commands. Whether you’re a novice who needs to get up to speed on Linux or an experienced user who wants a concise and functional reference, this guide provides quick answers.

    Wicked Cool Shell Scripts: 101 Scripts for Linux, OS X, and UNIX Systems

    Shell scripts are an efficient way to interact with your machine and manage your files and system operations. With just a few lines of code, your computer will do exactly what you want it to do. But you can also use shell scripts for many other essential (and not-so-essential) tasks.

    This second edition of Wicked Cool Shell Scripts offers a collection of useful, customizable, and fun shell scripts for solving common problems and personalizing your computing environment. Each chapter contains ready-to-use scripts and explanations of how they work, why you’d want to use them, and suggestions for changing and expanding them. You’ll find a mix of classic favorites, like a disk backup utility that keeps your files safe when your system crashes, a password manager, a weather tracker, and several games, as well as 23 brand-new scripts…

    Python

    Learning Python
    Python Crash Course: A Hands-On, Project-Based Introduction to Programming is a fast-paced, thorough introduction to programming with Python that will have you writing programs, solving problems, and making things that work in no time.

    In the first half of the book, you’ll learn about basic programming concepts, such as lists, dictionaries, classes, and loops, and practice writing clean and readable code with exercises for each topic. You’ll also learn how to make your programs interactive and how to test your code safely before adding it to a project. In the second half of the book, you’ll put your new knowledge into practice with three substantial projects: a Space Invaders-inspired arcade game, data visualizations with Python’s super-handy libraries, and a simple web app you can deploy online.

    My review: How to learn Python programming

    MORE COMING SOON

    Learn Scratch Programming (For Kids And Adults)

    Scratch, the colorful drag-and-drop programming language, is used by millions of first-time learners, and in Scratch Programming Playground, you’ll learn to program by making cool games. Get ready to destroy asteroids, shoot hoops, and slice and dice fruit!

    Each game includes easy-to-follow instructions, review questions, and creative coding challenges to make the game your own. Want to add more levels or a cheat code? No problem, just write some code.

    Coding projects in Scratch and other items.

    Learn Python Using Minecraft

    Write Computer Games In Python

    Invent Your Own Computer Games with Python will teach you how to make computer games using the popular Python programming language–even if you’ve never programmed before!

    Begin by building classic games like Hangman, Guess the Number, and Tic-Tac-Toe, and then work your way up to more advanced games, like a text-based treasure hunting game and an animated collision-dodging game with sound effects. Along the way, you’ll learn key programming and math concepts that will help you take your game programming to the next level.

    Scratch Programming For Kids, By The Cards

    Want to introduce kids to coding in a fun and creative way?

    With the Scratch Coding Cards, kids learn to code as they create interactive games, stories, music, and animations. The short-and-simple activities provide an inviting entry point into Scratch, the graphical programming language used by millions of kids around the world.

    Kids can use this colorful 75-card deck to create a variety of interactive programming projects. They’ll create their own version of Pong, Write an Interactive Story, Create a Virtual Pet, Play Hide and Seek, and more!

    Each card features step-by-step instructions for beginners to start coding with Scratch. The front of the card shows an activity kids can do with Scratch–like animating a character or keeping score in a game. The back shows how to put together code blocks to make the projects come to life! Along the way, kids learn key coding concepts, such as sequencing, conditionals, and variables.

    This collection of coding activity cards is perfect for sharing among small groups in homes and schools.

    Using mainly data from this poll, and RCP’s approval ratings page for Obama 2008, we get this graph.

    Trump’s approval rating was never high, and at the moment of the election and shortly after, when the approval ratings for a president have gone up for every election since polls existed, Trump’s numbers have dropped.

    The Kindle version of People of the Book: A Novel by Geraldine Brooks is currently, and I suspect briefly, available for $1.99

    If you’ve not read it, you should read it.

    Publisher’s summary:

    Inspired by a true story, People of the Book is a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and intimate emotional intensity by an acclaimed and beloved author. Called “a tour de force”by the San Francisco Chronicle, this ambitious, electrifying work traces the harrowing journey of the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, a beautifully illuminated Hebrew manuscript created in fifteenth-century Spain. When it falls to Hanna Heath, an Australian rare-book expert, to conserve this priceless work, the series of tiny artifacts she discovers in its ancient binding-an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair-only begin to unlock its deep mysteries and unexpectedly plunges Hanna into the intrigues of fine art forgers and ultra-nationalist fanatics.

    The American alligator is found only* in the US, and is widespread in Texas. It is found in both rivers, such as the Rio Grande and Sabine, and along the coast. And, it turns out that the preferred locations for many of the important activities in the day to day live of the American alligator overlap a great deal with humans.

    Louise Hayes, biologist, and photographer Philippe Henry have produced, with TAMU Press, have produced Alligators of Texas, a highly accessible, well written, and richly illustrated monograph on these beasts.

    LOUISE HAYES has been studying American alligators in Texas since 1985 at sites such as Brazos Bend State Park and the J.D. Murphree Wildlife Management Area. PHILIPPE HENRY is a professional wildlife photographer based in St. Mathieu du Parc. His photographs have been published worldwide.

    If you are into Alligators and their relatives, regardless of where you live, this book may be an important addition to your collection. If you live in Texas in any of the Alligator areas (near larger rivers, the coast, etc) then you need this book along side your bird guides and plant ID pocket volumes. Not that you need to know how to identify an Alligator, but rather, to learn all about them.

    This is a very nice looking book.

    _____________
    *Originally, I wrote “only in the US” because the info that came with, and in, the book apparently says this, and there are other sources that say this as well. For example, one distribution map for Mexican relatives of the American Alligator shows no alligators anywhere near the Rio Grande. An interested reader, however, asked how the heck the Alligators stay on only one side of the Rio Grande and avoid Mexico.

    It seems that these alligators actually do avoid the main body of the Rio Grande and are simply rare or non existent in Mexico, but at the same time, the ARE in the Rio Grande, but just rare. For example, a small population showed up in Fort Hancock in Hudspeth County in 2009. They must have been able to pass back and forth across the river.

    So, it seems that this species of Alligator is an occasional but rare find in Mexico, and presumably not that common in the Rio Grande itself.

    Anybody from the region have any local alligator information to add?

    SEE THIS NEW INFO ON THE DISTRIBUTION OF TEXAS GATORS

    I’ve reviewed, researched, and generally looked around for a selection of gifts that could work for kids ranging from very small to High School (and beyond!?!?) that are science oriented.

    Coding

    The best kids coding books these days are probably those that use scratch. Before suggesting a couple, though, consider, especailly for older kids (middle and high school) this fairly recent Python language book that focuses on Minecraft: Learn to Program with Minecraft: Transform Your World with the Power of Python HERE is my review.

    My favorite scratch programming book is Scratch Programming Playground: Learn to Program by Making Cool Games is a brand new offering from No Starch Press.

    Never mind all the other programming books for kids, this is the best so far.

    Scratch is in the Logo family of object oriented programming. Indeed, Scratch itself, as a language, is a very short distance from the original object oriented programming, much closer to the source than many professional object oriented language.

    Scratch 2.0 can be run as a stand along program in windows and on a Mac, but works better on the web, in a browser, on all platforms. Working in that environment, on the browser, has the important advantage of immediate access to a large amount of work done by others, that you can freely borrow from. And, of course, you can show off your own work.

    Al Sweigart, author, has really nailed a kids oriented programming book better than I’ve seen done before, and I’ve seen them all. I’ve got a full review of this book HERE.

    Computer Coding Projects In Scratch: A Step-By-Step Visual Guide

    Coding Projects in Scratch uses fun projects to show children how to code with Scratch, teaching essential coding and programming skills to young learners. Built on the basics of coding, each project follows simple, logical steps that are fully illustrated. Kids learn a new, important language through simply explained projects, with key coding concepts broken out in separate panels and illustrated with Minecraft-style pixel art. Learn how to create animations, build games, use sound effects, and more before sharing projects with friends online. Coding Projects in Scratch is highly visual and unique step-by-step workbook will help beginners with no coding skills learn how to build their own projects without any instructions, and helps them develop key programming skills that will last a lifetime.

    Technology

    Get a robot. I highly recommend the mBot robot kit (pictured above).

    The simplest project in the new book Electronics for Kids: Play with Simple Circuits and Experiment with Electricity! by Øyvind Nydal Dahl is the one where you lean a small light bulb against the two terminals of a nine volt battery in order to make the light bulb turn on. The most complicated projects are the ones where you make interactive games using LED lights and buzzers.

    In between, there is quite a bit of detail.

    I’ve written a detailed review of this excellent book HERE.

    Super Cool Tech is a book that looks like a laptop. Or do the kids, these days, call it a notebook. Whatever.

    This is one of those innovative format DK books, and is great for kids around Middle School age through High School, in my opinion. This book …

    … explores how incredible new technologies are shaping the modern world and its future, from familiar smartwatches to intelligent, driverless cars.

    Packed with more than 250 full-color images, X-rays, thermal imaging, digital artworks, cross-sections, and cutaways, Super Cool Tech reveals the secrets behind the latest gadgets and gizmos, state-of-the-art buildings, and life-changing technologies.

    Lift the unique laptop-inspired book cover to see incredible architectural concepts around the world, such as the Hydropolis Underwater Hotel and Resort in Dubai, and the River Gym, a human-powered floating gym in New York City. Discover how a wheelchair adapts to its surroundings and learn how a cutting board can give the nutritional information of the food being prepared on it.

    From 3-D-printed cars to robot vacuum cleaners, Super Cool Tech reveals today’s amazing inventions and looks ahead to the future of technology, including hologram traffic lights and the Galactic Suite Hotel in space. Perfect for STEAM education initiatives, Super Cool Tech makes technology easy to understand, following the history of each invention and how they impact our everyday lives, and “How It Works” panels explain the design and function of each item using clear explanations and images.

    This book could be in a kid’s gift guide or an adult’s gift guide, depending on the kid or adult: Arduino Project Handbook: 25 Practical Projects to Get You Started.

    I’ve read quiet a few Arduino project books. There are two kinds. The intro book, such as the one being reviewed here, that provides a large number of projects that illustrate how the system works, while at the same time, providing a number of practical projects mixed in with some that are just for fun but that show important physical and programming principles. the other kind are more specialized, and cover how to use this system to build, say, environmental sensors, or robots, or to work with Lego Technic, or whatever.

    All the intro books that don’t suck (some suck) are similar, give you similar tools, similar information, etc. But this new book, Arduino Project Handbook: 25 Practical Projects to Get You Started, is better than the other intro books for two simple reasons.

    First, the instructions themselves are VERY clear and have EXCELLENT illustrations to show the wiring. The second reason this book is good is that it is current, new, up to date. This is the most current project book available, so if you are looking to get started with Arduino, this is the one you want today. I’ve written a more detailed review of it HERE.

    This is not new, but look at the still current and fantastic new version of David Macaulay’s “How Machines Work: Zoo Break!” reviewed in detail HERE.

    Not sure what category Wall-E goes in, but if you order quickly (supplies are limited) you might be able to get your hands on the LEGO Ideas WALL E 21303 Building Kit.

    The official description:

    Build, display and role play with WALL•E! Construct the LEGO® Ideas version of WALL•E with posable neck, adjustable head and arms, gripping hands, opening trunk and rolling tracks.

    Build a beautifully detailed LEGO® version of WALL•E—the last robot left on Earth! Created by Angus MacLane, an animator and director at Pixar Animation Studios, and selected by LEGO Ideas members, the development of this model began alongside the making of the lovable animated character for the classic Pixar feature film. It has taken almost a decade to perfect the LEGO version, which incorporates many authentic WALL•E characteristics, including a posable neck, adjustable head, arms that move up and down and side to side, plus gripping hands and rolling tracks. With a trunk that opens and closes, you can tidy up the planet one pile of garbage at a time! This set also includes a booklet about the designer and the animated Pixar movie.

    Math

    Have a look at the Manga Guides to math and related topics.

    I reviewed the Regression Analysis guide HERE.

    Here is a list of most of the other guides, all of them are great:

  • The Manga Guide to Physiology
  • The Manga Guide to Physics
  • The Manga Guide to Electricity
  • The Manga Guide to Linear Algebra
  • The Manga Guide to Statistics
  • The Manga Guide to Biochemistry
  • The Manga Guide to Calculus
  • The Manga Guide to Databases
  • The Manga Guide to Relativity
  • The Manga Guide to the Universe
  • The Manga Guide to Molecular Biology
  • Climate Change

    Climate Change: Discover How It Impacts Spaceship Earth (Build It Yourself) covers many concepts in earth science, from paleontology to climate systems to how to make a battery out of apple (how can a kid’s science activity not include the apple battery!).

    This book represents an interesting concept, because it involves kids in mostly easy to do at home projects, covers numerous scientific concepts, and takes the importance of global climate change as a given. There is a good amount of history of research, though the book does not cover a lot of the most current scientists and their key work (I’d have liked to see a chapter specifically on the Hockey Stick and the paleo record, thought these concepts are included along with the other material).

    One of the coolest things about the book is the material on what an individual can do to address energy and climate related problems, including (but not limited to) advice on activism, such as writing letters to government officials.

    Climate Change: Discover How It Impacts Spaceship Earth (Build It Yourself) is listed as for reading ages 9-12 (reading level U), but with a parent working with the kid, this can work for much younger children, especially if you focus on the projects. I intend to work with my five year old on some of the projects, and use a couple of the sections as night time reading material. When he gets a bit older he can read the book himself. This would also be a good book to give as a gift to your kid’s school library, or even better, the appropriate elementary school teacher.

    Please Don’t Paint Our Planet Pink!: A Story for Children and their Adults was a go fund me project that eventually evolved to become a real live book and an excellent one.

    magine if you could see CO2? In the book, it is imagined to be pink. The imagining takes the form of a quirky father, one imagines him to be an inventor of some sort, coming up with the idea of making goggles that would allow you to see CO2 as a pink gas. This is all described by the man’s patient but clearly all suffering son, who eventually dons the prototype goggles and sees for himself.

    I read this to Huxley, age 5, and he loved it. He kept asking questions, and saying things like, “Is that true? Really?” I knew he would enjoy the book for its witty chatter and excellent illustrations, but frankly I did not expect him to be enthralled. He is fairly laid back when it comes to matters of science, nature, and for that matter, mathematics. He tends to absorb, then, later makes up song about it or comes up with difficult questions. His reaction was unique.

    Bill McKibben’s reaction was pretty strong too. He is quoted as saying, “I’ve often wondered what would happen if CO2 were visible. Now I know!” … except he already knew. There would be pink everywhere. At the density of about 400ppm. More than the 350 value that gives his organization its name!


    Doing Science

    Treecology: 30 Activities and Observations for Exploring the World of Trees and Forests is an excellent new nature activity book for kids of a fairly wide range of ages.

    Like a tree, the pattern of the book is pretty straightforward but fractal like; you start off simple but end up pretty much anywhere in the world of ecology. The book begins with the basic definition of a tree, simple tree anatomy, some phylogeny, some tree physiology and biology, but then branches off (pun intended) into things that are related to trees, like things that live on them, eat parts of them, etc. Seeds and seed dispersal come in around this point as well, as one might expect. The role of trees, or tree related images or tree names, etc. in human culture is also explored.

    As indicated by the subtitle, these lessons are organized into thirty things you can do. Some of these things simply involve looking (dividing your local landscape’s larger plants into “tree” and “not a tree,”, etc.) while some involve more intense observation (like telling different trees apart) or interaction (including, of course, waxing leaves and similar activities).

    The book includes some great tips on observing (or attracting) forest insects. I think Huxley’s Buggy Camp could have used some of this info this week to help them find tree-related buggy creatures in the nearby woods.

    This book can probably work in any North American region, as it is not too specific at the species level, and pretty generic at the genus level. As it were. There is more than enough activity in this book, in terms of both amount and diversity, to keep a family with any number of kids busy on several weekends. The activities are also spread out across seasons fairly well.

    Monica Russo has written and illustrated several nature books for children, and authored “Nature Notes,” a column in the Sun Chronicle. Kevin Byron is a nature photographer who’s work is widely recognized.

    The Outdoor Science Lab for Kids: 52 Family-Friendly Experiments for the Yard, Garden, Playground, and Park is a good guide to home science experiments for kids, usually with adult involvement, ranging across a fairly wide range of age but mainly, I’d say, middle school for unsupervised work, or pretty much any age if supervised.

    All of the experiments can be done by adults with younger kids watching or being involved to varying degrees.

    Most of he experiments cost little or nothing, depending on where you live (like, do you live near a pond?) and what the phrase “common household ingredients” means to you.

    Many of the experiments involve things in nature, which is why it is the “outdoor” and not the “kitchen” or “bathroom” science lab.

    Make a pitfall trap, find and observe inverts, conduct plant warfare using the principle of allelopathy.

    For those in temperate zones, these are mainly spring-summer-fall experiments, so with 52 of them, this book is good for a few years.

    Each spread (two pages) has one experiment, richly illustrated with photographs. There is a list of materials, safety tips, the protocol, and a side bar on the science itself, along with a “creative enrichment” idea such as making graphs, or testing the allelopathic properties of invasives.

    The author, Liz Heinche, is a molecular biologist and mom, thus this book. From the publisher:

    Outdoor Science Lab for Kids offers 52 fun science activities for families to do together. The experiments can be used as individual projects, for parties, or as educational activities for groups. Outdoor Science Lab for Kids will tempt families to learn about physics, chemistry and biology in their backyards. Learn scientific survival skills and even take some experiments to the playground! Many of the experiments are safe enough for toddlers and exciting enough for older kids, so families can discover the joy of science together.

    I know of at least one pre-school that uses the book. I’m not a big fan of home schooling, but home schoolers will like this book. The book is not a substitute for middle school or high school science instruction in schools.

    Also in the same series are Kitchen Science Lab for Kids (where you will find an excellent milk rainbow protocol) and Gardening Lab for Kids, which I’ve not looked at.

    Chanting “God Save The Queen,” a mob of angry children surrounded Westboro Baptist Protestors who had shown up to harass a school’s community who had elected a transgender homecoming queen. The protesters were forced to get back in their care and get the hell out of Dodge. Or, in this case, Oak Park Missouri.

    From this Revolution News:

    High School students, Church groups, anarchists, antifacists, liberals, LGBTQIA+ activists, and more came together to send the Westboro Church and their message of hate back to Topeka Kansas – and to honor Landon Patterson. The Westboro Baptist Church didn’t even make it to the school.

    At a street corner, activists swooped in on them, and a group of anarchists immediately held a banner in front of the WBC to block them. Other protesters swarmed in from behind, and everyone chased the four or five members of the WBC back to their van. The police, of course, protected the WBC the whole way.

    Huxley has not yet been required to use a pencil box. He had to buy one, but they’ve not used it yet. I guess they get to that later in Kindergarten.

    So, I have time to get a new one, just ordered. Better get yours now, they are likely to sell out.

    I’m wondering if this would hold the Raspberry Pi.

    Anyway, note that there is also a version available for pirates.

    Click here to get it at Amazon.

    Do not build an actual bomb. This is for hoax bombs only.

    Bjorn Lomborg often touts, and has done so recently, that his Copenhagen Consensus Center works with seven Nobel Laureates. I’ve always let that pass but wondered if it was really true, who they were, and what that involvement consisted of. Graham Readfearn of DeSmog Blog has done the hard work of running this down and he found out that this is not as impressive as it seems. For one thing, one of the Seven is not actually alive. Of the other six, at least one is a very well known climate change contrarian, and overall the amount of work, and the quality of the work, they have produced is unimpressive.

    Check out: “Seven Nobel Laureates” Behind Climate Contrarian Bjorn Lomborg’s Think Tank Are Not All They Seem, Or Even All Alive

    Here is a meme I made to commerate Graham’s efforts:
    Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 11.07.30 PM

    Click the image to get the full size original.

    Click here to learn more about Lomborg.

    The “Nones” are rising, at the expense of the Nuns.

    From “Openly Secular“:

    Recently, two studies have been released that affirm the number of nonreligious Americans is rising. For several years, the percentage of secular Americans has been increasing rapidly and the media has been reporting on it. But dig a little deeper, and it becomes abundantly clear that this new data is fundamentally different and demonstrates a significant shift in the hearts and mind of American citizens, and critically, American voters.

    These new studies, one conducted by the Pew Research Center on Religion & Public Life, the other by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) reveal that not only are there more religiously unaffiliated Americans (often called “nones”), but more of these people are calling themselves atheists or agnostics. At the same time, the number of Americans who identify as Christians is shrinking.

    Since 1993, the percentage of Americans who claim no formal religious affiliation has grown from 9% to 22% according to the PRRI study. No other group has risen as sharply. Not only is the overall number of unaffiliated Americans surging, a greater proportion of these “nones” are identifying as secular. The Pew study shows that 31% of the “nones”—representing 17 million Americans—self identify as atheist or agnostic, up from 25% in 2007. An additional 39% of the “nones” say that religion is not important to them, which means 15.8% of the total population of the United States is atheist, agnostic, or secular.

    Almost sixteen percent of potential voters carries a lot of political clout. A group of voters this large who believe in the separation of church and state simply cannot be ignored.

    “This data is particularly meaningful as the 2016 presidential election approaches,” says Todd Stiefel, Chair of Openly Secular. “For the first time, politicians will not be able to ignore the substantial voting bloc of secular Americans. We have real clout and we vote. As the number of secular people continues to rise, more and more Americans will come to realize that many of their loved ones, next-door neighbors and coworkers do not believe in God, and that they are still moral, good people.”