Author Archives: Park Ranger

Geek vs. Nerd – “Geeks are fans, and fans collect stuff; nerds are practitioners, and practitioners play with ideas.”

On “Geek” Versus “Nerd”

by burrsettles

To many people, “geek” and “nerd” are synonyms, but in fact they are a little different. Consider the phrase “sports geek” — an occasional substitute for “jock” and perhaps the arch-rival of a “nerd” in high-school folklore. If “geek” and “nerd” are synonyms, then “sports geek” might be an oxymoron. (Furthermore, “sports nerd” either doesn’t compute or means something else.)

In my mind, “geek” and “nerd” are related, but capture different dimensions of an intense dedication to a subject:

  • geek – An enthusiast of a particular topic or field. Geeks are “collection” oriented, gathering facts and mementos related to their subject of interest. They are obsessed with the newest, coolest, trendiest things that their subject has to offer.
  • nerd A studious intellectual, although again of a particular topic or field. Nerds are “achievement” oriented, and focus their efforts on acquiring knowledge and skill over trivia and memorabilia.

Or, to put it pictorially à la The Simpsons:

Both are dedicated to their subjects, and sometimes socially awkward. The distinction is that geeks are fans of their subjects, and nerds are practitioners of them. A computer geek might read Wired and tap the Silicon Valley rumor-mill for leads on the next hot-new-thing, while a computer nerd might read CLRS and keep an eye out for clever new ways of applying Dijkstra’s algorithm. Note that, while not synonyms, they are not necessarily distinct either: many geeks are also nerds (and vice versa).

An Experiment

Do I have any evidence for this contrast? (By the way, this viewpoint dates back to a grad-school conversation with fellow geek/nerd Bryan Barnes, now a physicist at NIST.) The Wiktionary entries for “geek” and “nerd“ lend some credence to my position, but I’d like something a bit more empirical…

“You shall know a word by the company it keeps” ~ J.R. Firth (1957)

To characterize the similarities and differences between “geek” and “nerd,” maybe we can find the other words that tend to keep them company, and see if these linguistic companions support my point of view?

Data and Method

(Note: If you’re neither a geek nor a nerd, don’t be scared by the math. It’s not too bad… or you can probably just skip to the “Results” subsection below…)

I analyzed two sources of Twitter data, since it’s readily available and pretty geeky/nerdy to boot. This includes a background corpus of 2.6 million tweets via the streaming API from between December 6, 2012, and January 3, 2013. I also sampled tweets via the search API matching the query terms “geek” and “nerd” during the same time period (38.8k and 30.6k total, respectively). Yes, yes, yes… I collected all the data six months ago but just now got around to crunching the numbers. It’s been a busy year!

A great little statistic for measuring how much company two words tend to keep is pointwise mutual information (PMI). It’s commonly used in the information retrieval literature to measure the cooccurrence of words and phrases in text, and it also turns out to be a good predictor of how humans evaluate semantic word similarity (Recchia & Jones, 2009) and topic model quality (Newman & al., 2010).

For two words w and v, the PMI is given by:

{\rm pmi}(w;v) = \log\frac{p(w,v)}{p(w)p(v)} = \log p(w|v) - \log p(w) ,

where in this case p(\cdot) is the probability of the word(s) in question appearing in a random tweet, as estimated from the data. For instance, if we let v = “geek,” we compute the log-probability of a word w in the “geek” search corpus, and subtract the log-probability of w in the background corpus.


The PMI statistic measures a kind of correlation: a positive PMI score for two words means they ”keep great company,” a negative score means they tend to keep their distance, and a score close to zero means they bump into each other more or less at random.

With that in mind, here is a scatterplot of various words according to their PMI scores for both “geek” and “nerd” on different axes (ignoring words with negative PMI, and treating #hashtags as distinct):

Many people have asked for a high-res PDF of this plot, so here you go.

Moving up the vertical axis, words become more geeky (“#music” → “#gadget” → “#cosplay”), and moving left to right they become more nerdy (“education” → “grammar” → “neuroscience”). Words along the diagonal are similarly geeky and nerdy, including social (“#awkward”, “weirdo”), mainstream tech (“#computers”, “#microsoft”), and sci-fi/fantasy terms (“doctorwho,” ”#thehobbit”). Words in the lower-left (“chores,” “vegetables,” “boobies”) aren’t really associated with either, while those in the upper-right (“#avengers”, “#gamer”, “#glasses”) are strongly tied to both. Orange words are more geeky than nerdy, and blue words are the opposite. Some observations:

  • Collections are geeky. All derivatives of the word “collect” (“collection,” “collectables”, etc.) are orange. As are “boxset” and “#original,” which imply a taste for completeness and authenticity.
  • Academic fields are nerdy: “math”, “#history,” “physics,” “biology,” “neuroscience,” “biochemistry,” etc. Other academic words (“thesis”, “#studymode”) and institutions (“harvard”, “oxford”) are also blue.
  • The science & technology words differ. General terms (“#computers,” “#bigdata”) are on the diagonal — similarly geeky and nerdy. As you splay up toward more geeky, though, you see products, startups, brands, and more cultish technologies (“#apple”, “#linux”). As you splay down toward more nerdy you see more methodologies (“calculus”).
  • #Hashtags are geeky. OK, sure, hashtags are all over the place. But they do tend toward the upper-left. And since hashtags are “#trendy,” I take it to mean that geeks are into trends. (I take this one back. The average PMI score for all hashtags is 0.74 with “geek” but 0.73 with “nerd.” The difference isn’t statistically significant using a paired t-test or Wilcoxon test, or practically significant using a common-sense test.)
  • Hobbies: compare the more geeky pastimes (“#toys,” “#manga”) with the more nerdy ones (“chess,” “sudoku”).
  • Brains: the word “intelligence” may be geeky, but “education,” “intellectual,” and “#smartypants” are nerdy.
  • Reading: “#books” are nerdy, but “ebooks” and “ibooks” are geeky.
  • Pop culture vs. high culture: “#shiny” and “#trendy” are super-geeky, but (curiously) “cellist” is the nerdiest

The list goes on. If you want to poke around yourself, download the raw PMI scores (4.2mb) and let me know in the comments what you find.

(Update: I learned that Olivia Culpo — a self-described “cellist nerd” — was crowned Miss Universe on December 20, 2012. The event was heavily tweeted smack in the middle of my data collection, so that probably explains the correlation between “cellist” and “nerd” here. It also underscores the limitations of time-sensitive data.)


In broad strokes, it seems to me that geeky words are more about stuff (e.g., “#stuff”), while nerdy words are more about ideas (e.g., “hypothesis”). Geeks are fans, and fans collect stuff; nerds are practitioners, and practitioners play with ideas. Of course, geeks can collect ideas and nerds play with stuff, too. Plus, they aren’t two distinct personalities as much as different aspects of personality. Generally, the data seem to affirm my thinking.

I wonder how similar the results would be if you applied this method to the Google Books Ngrams corpus, or something more general instead of a niche media like Twitter. I also wonder what other questions might be answered with this kind of analysis (for example, my wife and I have a perennial disagreement over which word is wetter: “moist” vs. “damp.”).

Finally, when I mentioned to a friend that I was going to write up this post, she said “Well, I guess we know which one you are.” But do we really? I may be a science nerd, but I’m probably a music geek

Duke TIP Writing Contest 2013 Topic: Presidential Problem Solving

uke TIP offers 4th–6th Grade Talent Search participants the opportunity to enter our writing contest with cash prizes awarded to the winners and their school. Students must be enrolled in the 4th–6th Grade Talent Search.

2013 Topic: Presidential Problem Solving

“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”—President John F. Kennedy

It is 2013. The presidential election is over, and now it is time for President Obama and Congress to focus on the administration and implementation of laws and policies.

Your Job

Imagine yourself as a member of the U.S. president’s Cabinet. Your job is to advise the president on challenging national and international affairs as he implements his administrative agenda.

Your Mission

Choose an important issue that should be a top priority for the president and prepare a letter supporting your idea. To get the president’s attention, you will need to introduce the issue and clarify why it is important to citizens of the United States. It is important that you provide the president with a strategy to implement your plan.

Countless voices are clamoring to be heard, claiming that their issues deserve top priority, so you must be convincing. Are you up for the challenge?

Get Started

  • Before you begin, view a tutorial (PDF) about how to prepare your letter.
  • Curious about how your entry will be judged? Review score guidelines (PDF).
  • Once you have written your letter, use the submission checklist (PDF) to make sure you have followed all of the guidelines before you mail your contest entry.

Submit Your Letter

  • Postmark deadline: March 31
  • Mail submissions to: Duke TIP Writing Contest, 1121 W. Main Street, Durham, NC 27701


Writing contest winners are highlighted in Duke Tip’s Navigator newsletter and on this website. Winning entries will be sent on to Washington, DC!

Winners receive:

  • First place: $250 to the winner from each grade and $250 to each of their enrolling schools.
  • Second place: $100 to the winner from each grade and $100 to each of their enrolling schools.
  • Third place: $25 to winner from each grade and $25 to each of their enrolling schools.


According to the Chinese Zodiac, the Year of 2013 is the Year of the Snake, which begins on February 10, 2013 and ends on January 30, 2014.  The Snake, also called the Junior Dragon,  is the sixth sign of the Chinese Zodiac, which consists of 12 Animal Signs.  It is the enigmatic,  intuitive, introspective, refined and collected of the Animals Signs.  Ancient Chinese wisdom says a Snake in the house is a good omen because it means that your family will not starve.  People born in the Year of the Snake are keen and cunning, quite intelligent and wise.  They are great mediators and good at doing business.  Therefore, you should have good luck if you were born in the  Year of the Snake. 

This is a year of  water Snake, and all things will be possible.  Saving money and being thrifty should be your top priorities.  Delusion and deception are common in the year of water Snake.  Stay alert!  To gain the greatest benefits from this year, you must control spending and use your talents wisely.  If you are planning to get married or to begin a business partnership, be sure to thoroughly investigate the other person’s finances and background before you legalize the alliance.


 The Sign of the Snake

People born in the Year of the Snake share certain characteristics:  Acute, aware, charming, cunning, elegant, mysterious, passionate, proud, serene, and vain. They are attractive people who take cries with ease and do not become flustered easily.  They are graceful people, exciting and dark at the same time.  They enjoy reading, listening to great music, tasting delicious food, and going to the theater.  They are fascinated with all beautiful things in life.  Many of the most beautiful ladies and men with strongest personalities were born in the Year of the Snake.

Contemplative and private, Snake people are not outwardly emotional.  They usually act according to their own judgment and do not follow the views of others. They can appear cunning and reticent and work very modestly in the business environment.  They will plot and scheme to make certain things turn out exactly as they want them to.  They are not great communicators and can become quite possessive when they set their minds on achieving the interest of a partner.

Snake people become easily stressed and have to avoid hectic schedules or noisy atmospheres.  They need calm and quiet to thrive and succeed.  They must have sleep, relaxation, and peace  to live a long, healthy life.

People born in the Year of the Snake are usually very sophisticated and cultured in their choices for home decoration.  They are elegant and graceful and place emphasis on their comfort when deciding what to decorate with.  They are materialistic and need to have as many of everything as possible.

They become bored easily and therefore change jobs quite frequently.  They are very conscientious and diligent at work.  They are organized and precise, cautious and alert when doing business.  They act confidently, calmly and have a strong sense of responsibility and clear goals. Sometimes, because they like to work alone, they can seem as though they are withholding information or being secretive about some important things.

Snake people are oversuspicious, which is their nature.  They hide their suspicion, and acting as if nothing is on their minds.  They like to think deeply, plan carefully and make a systematic and appropriate exposition of their views. They like to follow the fashion and be properly dressed. And, they usually speak with great care.

Snake people are passionate lovers and show a strong desire for control when associating with others.  They will never forgive anyone who breaks a promise.  They show their resentment with ice-cold hostility instead of bitter words.  Some of the people born in the Year of the Snake may strike their enemies with a deadly blow.

It seems not easy to deal with a person born in the Year of the Snake, especially when he thinks one way and behaves in another.  There always lies an alert heart behind his serene appearance.  He has a strong will and will try his best to hold fast to his position.  He is so cunning that when you think you may have seized him, he has already slipped away.

Snake people will face danger fearlessly and deal with unforeseen disasters. They are not annoyed by lack of money and are usually lucky enough to own everything they need.  They can be successful as long as they avoid excess spending.  Although they are intuitive, they should avoid dive right into decisions without weighing the consequences.



• Have an escape route and plan in mind
• Leave your belongings behind
• Keep your hands visible
• Hide in an area out of the active shooter’s view.
• Block entry to your hiding place and lock the doors
• As a last resort and only when your life is in imminent danger.
• Attempt to incapacitate the active shooter
• Act with physical aggression and throw items at the active shooter


• Remain calm, and follow officers’ instructions • Avoid pointing, screaming and/or yelling
• Immediately raise hands and spread fingers • Do not stop to ask officers for help or direction when evacuating, just proceed in the direction from which
• Keep hands visible at all times officers are entering the premises
• Avoid making quick movements toward officers such as attempting to hold on to them for safety
• Location of the active shooter • Number and type of weapons held
• Number of shooters, if more than one by the shooter/s
• Physical description of shooter/s • Number of potential victims at the location

Putting a 13-Year-Old Child Safely on Facebook

Putting a 13-Year-Old Child Safely on Facebook 
An e-mail in my inbox Monday morning from my editor had a scary subject line: “Help!”
When I opened the message, I read this: “My daughter is 13-years-old today and so, as promised, I let her sign up for Facebook. YIKES. Now I am freaking out over her privacy settings!”
Even for an adult, Facebook’s privacy settings are as daunting as trying to do your taxes with an abacus. For teenagers, unaware of the consequences of their online actions, using Facebook incorrectly could potentially leave a digital trail that might follow them all the way through high school, college and into the real world. What’s more, there are also creepy people out there on social networks.
Here’s what I told my editor.
First, you should sit down with children and explain that anything — stress the word anything –they post can and will be used against them on the Internet. This includes private messages and photos they believe are visible only to friends and comments they leave on people’s pictures or status updates. Although all of these things can be set to private, a friend-turned-enemy could take a screenshot of something your teenager has shared, then send it around school for all to jeer at. Teenagers should assume that there is no such thing as private on Facebook. The company has repeatedly changed settings that were once private, to public, and there is nothing to say Facebook will not do this again. Even so, you will want to go through your child’s Facebook settings to make them as private as possible.
To begin, click on the arrow in the top right and then scroll down to Privacy Settings. Once inside, the first thing you will want to do is ensure that anything your child posts on Facebook is only visible to Friends, not the Public.
Once you have done this, methodically go through every setting — be aware, there are dozens of them — and change your child’s account to only be visible to Friends.  I would recommend leaving the “Who can send you friend requests?” tab open to Everyone for the first week or so. Like a child’s first few days in school, let him corral friends on the social network, then you can go back into this option and change it to only allow Friends of Friends later.
To prevent an excerpt from your child’s Facebook page from showing up in public search engines, including Google and Bing, be sure to go to the Apps tab in the privacy settings and click on “Public search.” Then make sure you disable “Enable public search.”
One of the most important privacy settings is how personal information is used in ads. This is where Facebook uses you, or your likes, in advertisements on the Web site. For example, if you like Coca-Cola, Facebook will show your friends ads for Coke using your name as part of the advertisement. (A bit creepy, I know.)
To change this, click on the Facebook Ads tab. Then click on the two links that say “Edit third party ad settings” and “Edit social ads setting” and change these options to “No one.”
When I talked to my editor later in the day, she mentioned that her child had logged into the new Facebook account on a friend’s iPhone that day. This, you should stress, is a very bad idea. If your child forgets to log out, the person can now see everything on their Facebook page, including private chats and messages.
Just like teaching a teenager how to park a car until they get it right, I would recommend sitting over a child’s shoulder and watching them log in and then log out of his or her Facebook account in a way that doesn’t save the password.
You can see other tips from Facebook on the site’s Teen Safety Area.
Oh, and one last thing: Friend your teenager on Facebook.

Please Join In – Thanksgiving Holiday Art / Poem / Short Essay Fun

Dear talented stars,

How about let’s do something fun and creative to make this Thanksgiving Holiday different and special? I would like to propose that each of us posts his/her own art work (including photos you take), poem, or a short essay, or even a recipe with the theme of Thanksgiving holiday.  We have so much to thank for – so much that we can’t even count.  A nice greeting card you make to your parents or siblings or teachers or friends also counts.

Show us how creative and thankful you are. Share with us your happiness, joy and thankfulness.  Deadline: Noon, Nov. 25, 2012

I will collect all of your posts and make them into a collage for our end-of-year gathering!

November 6, 2012 – Who Would You Vote For and Why?

FYI – About 2012 Presidential Election


There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His Father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.

The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence. Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all.  He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his

The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.

The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said, ‘You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one. You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. But It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound will still be there. A verbal wound is as bad as a physical one.

Remember that friends are very rare jewels indeed. They make you smile and encourage you to succeed; They lend an ear, they share words of praise and they always want to open their hearts to us.

Put the Brakes on Fatalities Day 2012 Poster Contest

Kansas kids ages 5 to 13 can focus on traffic safety and also win prizes – a win/win combination!

Deadline – Entries must be postmarked by September 14

Check out the Rules and Prizes here:


Listen to Clara’s Interview with NPR – For Mars Rover, Curiosity Is The Limit


Poster for Special Olympics (Track / Field) Day on May 5th, 2012

Diamond made them. What do you think?

Kansas City Money Smart Day, March 31, 2012


 Money Smart Day, a free event sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, will offer 30 financial educational sessions on March 31. This will bring financial education resource providers and consumers together in one central location to learn about a host of financial topics for the whole family.  This event will be held at the American Century Investment Building at 4500 Main, Kansas City, MO 64111, from  9 a.m. to 4p.m.  In addition, there will be resources available, a youth center with activities, free financial tune-ups and the ability to run your credit report during the event. Registration and more details are available online

Many Moons – by James Thurber

Many Moons

James Thurber

Once upon a time, in a kingdom by the sea, there lived a little princess named Lenore. She was ten years old, going on eleven.

One day Lenore fell ill of a surfeit of raspberry tarts and took to her bed. The Royal Physician came to see her and took her temperature and felt her pulse and made her stick out her tongue. The Royal Physician was worried. He sent for the king, Lenore’s father, and the king came to see her. “I will get you anything your heart desires,” the king said. “Is there anything your heart desires?” “Yes,” said the princess. “I want the moon, if I can have the moon, I will be well again.”

Now the king had a great many wise men who always got for him anything he wanted so he told his daughter that she could have the moon. Then he went to the throne room and pulled a bell cord, three long pulls and a short pull, and presently the Lord High Chamberlain came into the room.

The Lord High Chamberlain was a large, fat man who wore thick glasses which made his eyes seem twice as big as they really were. This made the Lord High Chamberlain seem twice as wise as he really was.

“I want the moon,” said the king. “Princess Lenore wants the moon. If she can have the moon, she will get well again.”

“The moon?” exclaimed the Lord High Chamberlain, his eyes widening. This made him look four times as wise as he really was. “Yes, the moon,” said the king. “M-o-o-n, moon. Get it tonight, tomorrow at the latest.”

The Lord High Chamberlain wiped his forehead with a handkerchief and then blew his nose loudly. “I have got a great many things for you in my time, your majesty,” he said. “It just happens that I have with me a list of the things I have got for you in my time.” He pulled a long scroll of parchment out of his pocket. “Let me see, now.” he glanced at the list, frowning. “I have got ivory, apes, and peacocks, rubies, opals, and emeralds, black orchids, pink elephants, and blue poodles, gold bugs, scarabs, and flies in amber, hummingbirds’ tongues, angels’ feathers, and unicorns’ horns, giants, midgets, and mermaids, frankincense, ambergris, and myrrh, troubadors, minstrels, and dancing women, a pound of butter, two dozen eggs, and a sack of sugar – sorry, my wife wrote that in there.”

“I don’t remember any blue poodles,” said the king. “It says blue poodles right here on the list, and they are checked off with a little check mark,” said the Lord High Chamberlain. “so there must have been blue poodles. You just forgot.”

“Never mind the poodles,” said the king. “What I want now is the moon.”

“I have sent as far Samarkand and Araby and Zanzibar to get things for you, your majesty,” said the Lord High Chamberlain. “But the moon is out of the question. It is 35,000 miles away and it is bigger than the room the princess lies in. Furthermore, it is made of molten copper. I cannot get the moon for you. Blue poodles, yes; the moon, no.”

The king flew into a rage and told the Lord High Chamberlain to leave the room and to send the Royal Wizard to the throne room.

The Royal Wizard was a little, thin man with a long face. He wore a high red peaked hat coverted with silver stars, and a long blue robe covered with golden owls. His face grew very pale when the king told him that he wanted the moon for his little daughter, and that he expected the Royal Wizard to get it.

“I have worked a great deal of magic for you in my time, your majesty,” said the Royal Wizard. “As a matter of fact, I just happen to have in my pocket a list of the wizardries I have performed for you.” He drew a paper from a deep pocket of his robe. “It begins: `Dear Royal Wizard: I am returning herewith the so-called philosopher’s stone which you claimed-‘ No, that isn’t it.” The royal wizard brought a long scroll of parchment from another pocket of his robe.

“Here it is,” he said. “Now, let’s see. I have squeezed blood out of turnips for you, and turnips out of blood. I have produced rabbits out of silk hats, and silk hats out of rabbits. I have conjured up flowers, tambourines and doves. I have brought you divining rods, magic wands, and crystal spheres in which to behold the future. I have compounded philtres, unguents, and potions, to cure heartbreak, surfeit, and ringing in the ears. I have made you my own special mixture of wolfbane, nightshade, and eagles’ tears, to ward off witches, demons, and things that go bump in the night. I have given you seven league boots, the golden touch, and a cloak of invisibility-”

“It didn’t work,” said the king. “The cloak of invisibility didn’t work.” “Yes it did,” said the Royal Wizard. “No, it didn’t,” said the king. “I kept bumping into things, the same as ever.”

“The cloak of invisibility is supposed to make you invisible,” said the Royal Wizard. “It is not supposed to keep you from bumping into things.” “All I know is, I kept bumping into things,” said the king. The Royal Wizard looked at his list again. “I got you,” he said, “horns from elfland, sand from the sandman, and gold from the rainbow. Also a spool of thread, a paper of needles, and a lump of beeswax – sorry, those are things my wife wrote down for me to get her.”

“What I want you to do now,” said the king, “is to get me the moon. Princess Lenore wants the moon, and when she gets it, she will be well again.” “Nobody can get the moon,” said the Royal Wizard. “It is 150,000 miles away, and it is made of green cheese, and it is twice as big as the palace.”

The king flew into another rage and sent the Royal Wizard back to his cave. Then he rang a gong and summonded the Royal Mathematician.

The Royal Mathematician was a bald-headed, nearsighted man, with a skullcap on his head and a pencil behind each ear. He wore a black suit with white numbers on it.

“I don’t want to hear a long list of all the things you have figured out for me since 1907,” the king said to him. “I want you to figure out how to get the moon for princess Lenore. When she gets the moon, she will be well again.”

“I am glad you mentioned all the things I have figured out for you since 1907,” said the Royal Mathematician. “It so happens I have a list of them with me.” He pulled a long scroll of parchment out of a pocket and looked at it. “I have figured out for you the distance between the horns of a dilemma, night and day, and A and Z. I have computed how far is up, how long it takes to get to away, and what becomes of gone. I have discovered the length of the sea serpent, the price of the priceless, and the square of the hippopotamus. I know where you are when you are at sixes and sevens, how much is you have to have to make an are, and how many birds you can catch with the salt in the ocean- 187,796,132, if it would interest you to know.” “There aren’t that many birds,” said the king. “I didn’t say there were,” said the Royal Mathematician. “I said if there were.” “I don’t want to hear about seven hundred million imaginary birds,” said the king. “I want you to get the moon for princess Lenore.” “The moon is 300,000 miles away,” said the Royal Mathematician. “It is round and flat like a coin, only it is made of asbestos, and it is half the size of this kingdom. Furthermore, it is pasted on the sky. Nobody can get the moon.”

The king flew into still another rage and sent the Royal Mathematician away. Then he rang for the court jester. The jester came bounding into the throne room in his motley and his cap and bells, and sat at the foot of the throne.

“What can I do for you, your majesty?” asked the court jester. “Nobody can do anything for me,” said the king mournfully. “Princess Lenore wants the moon, and she cannot be well till she gets it, but nobody can get it for her. Every time I ask anybody for the moon, it gets larger and farther away. There is nothing you can do for me except play on your lute. Something sad.”

“How big do they say it is,” asked the court jester, “and how far away?” “The Lord High Chamberlain says it is 35,000 miles away, and bigger than princess Lenore’s room,” said the king. “The Royal Wizard says it is 150,000 miles away, and twice as big as this palace. The Royal Mathematician says it is 300,000 miles away and half the size of this kingdom.”

The court jester strummed on his lute for a little while. “They are all wise men,” he said, “and so they must all be right. If they are all right, then the moon must be just as large and as far away as each person thinks it is. The thing to do is find out how big princess Lenore thinks it is, and how far away.” “I never thought of that,” said the king. “I will go to her, your majesty,” said the court jester.

And he crept softly into the little girl’s room. Princess Lenore was awake, and she was glad to see the court jester, but her face was very pale and her voice very weak. “Have you brought the moon to me?” she asked. “Not yet,” said the court jester, “but I will get it for you right away. How big do you think it is?”

“It is a little smaller than my thumbnail,” she said, “for when I hold my thumbnail up at the moon, it covers it.”

“And how far away is it?” asked the court jester. “It is not as high as the big tree outside my window,” said the princess, “for sometimes it gets caught in the top branches.” “It will be very easy to get the moon for you,” said the court jester. “I will climb the tree tonight when it gets caught in the top branches and bring it to you.” Then he thought of something else. “What is the moon made of, princess?” he asked. “Oh, ” she said, “it’s made of gold, of course, silly.” The court jester left princess Lenore’s room and went to see the Royal Goldsmith he had the Royal Goldsmith make a tiny round oon just a little smaller than the thumbnail of princess Lenore. Then he had him string it on a golden chain so the princess could wear it around her neck. “What is this thing I have made?” asked the Royal Goldsmith when he was finished with it. “You have made the moon,” said the court jester. “that is the moon.” “But the moon,” said the Royal Goldsmith, “is 500,000 miles away and is made of bronze and is round like a marble.” “That’s what you think,” said the court jester as he went away with the moon. The court jester took the moon to princess Lenore, and she was overjoyed. The next day she was well again and could get up and go out in the gardens to play. But the king’s worries were not yet over. He knew that the moon would shine in the sky again that night, and he did not want the princess Lenore to see it. If she did, she would know that the moon she wore on a chain around her neck was not the real moon. So the king sent for the lord high chamberlain and said, “we must keep princess Lenore from seeing the moon when it shines in the sky tonight. Think of something.” The Lord High chamberlain tapped his forehead with his fingers thoughtfully and said, “I know just the thing. We can make some dark glasses for the princess lenore. We can make them so dark that she will not be able to see the moon when it shines in the sky.” This made the king very angry, and he shook his head from side to side. “If she wore dark glasses, she would bump into things,” he said, “and then she would be ill again.” So he sent the Lord High Chamberlain away and called the Royal Wizard. “We must hide the moon,” said the king, “so princess Lenore will not see it when it shines in the sky tonight. How are we going to do that?” The Royal Wizard stood on his hands and then he stood on his head and then he stood on his feet again. “I know what we can do,” he said. “We can stretch some black velvet curtains on poles. The curtains will cover all the palace gardens like a circus tent, and the princess lenore will not be able to see through them, so she will not see the moon in the sky.” The king was so angry at this that he waved his arms around. “Black velvet curtains would keep out the air,” he said. “Princess Lenore would not be able to breathe, and she would be ill again.” So he sent the Royal Wizard away and summoned the Royal Mathematicain. “We must do something,” said the king, “so princess Lenore will not see the moon when it shines in the sky tonight. If you know so much, figure out a way to do that.” The Royal Mathematician walked around in a circle, and then he walked around in a square, and then he stood still. “I have it!” he said. “We can set off fireworks in the gardens every night. We will make a lot of silver fountains and gold cascades, and when they go off, they will fill the sky with so many sparks that it will be as light as day and princess Lenore will not be able to see the moon.” The king flew into such a rage that he began jumping up and down. “Fireworks would keep princess Lenore awake,” he said. “She would not get any sleep at all and she would be ill again.” So the king sent the Royal Mathematician away. When he looked up again, it was dark outside and he saw the bright rim of the moon just peeping over the horizon. He jumped up in a great fright and rang for the court jester. The court jester came bounding into the room and sat down at the foot of the throne. “What can I do for you, your majesty?” he asked. “Nobody can do anything for me,” said the king, mournfully. “the moon is coming up again. It will shine into princess Lenore’s bedroom, and she will know it is still in the sky and that she does not wear it on a golden chain around her neck. Play me something on your lute, something very sad, for when the princess sees the moon, she will be ill again.” The court jester strummed on his lute. “What do your wise men say?” he asked. “They can think of no way to hide the moon that will not make princess Lenore ill,” said the king. The court jester played another song, very softly. “Your wise men know everything,” he said, “and if they cannot hide the moon, then it cannot be hidden.” The king put his head in his hands again and sighed. Suddenly he jumped from his throne and pointed to the windows. “Look!” he cried. “The moon is already shining in the princess Lenore’s bedroom. Who can explain how the moon can be shining in the sky when it is hanging on a golden chain around her neck?” The court jester stopped playing on his lute. “Who could explain how to get the moon when your wise men said it was too large and too far away? It was princess Lenore. Therefore princess Lenore is wiser than your wise men and knows more about the moon than they do. So I will ask her.” And before the king could stop him, the court jester slipped quietly out of the throne room and up the wide marble staircase to princess Lenore’s bedroom. The princess was lying in bed, but she was wide awake and she was looking out the window at the moon shining in the sky. Shining in her had was the moon the court jester had got for her. He looked very sad, and there seemed to be tears in his eyes. “Tell me, princess lenore,” he said mournfully, “how can the moon be shining in the sky when it is hanging on a golden chain around your neck?” The princess looked at him and laughed. “that is easy, silly, ” she said. “when I lose a tooth, a new one grows in its place, doesn’t it?” “Of course,” said the court jester. “And when the unicorn loses his horn in the forest, a new one grows in the middle of his forehead.” “That is right,” said the princess. “And when the Royal Gardener cuts the flowers in the garden, other flowers come back to take their place.” “I should have thought of that,” said the court jester, “for it is the same way with the daylight.” “And it is the same way with the moon,” said princess Lenore. “I guess it is the same way with everything.” Her voice became very low and faded away, and the court jester saw that she was asleep. Gently he tucked the covers around the sleeping princess. But before her left the room, he went over to the window and winked at the moon, for it seemed to the court jester that the moon had winked at him.

To Parents: Why Kids Belong IN the Kitchen

Cooking with your children has many benefits:

  • Real life lessons. They are learning how to cook. An added benefit is that your future sons- or daughters-in-law will love you for it.
  • Bonding time. The best time to have conversations with your kids. The more one-on-one time we give our kids, the more they tend to open up. Perhaps you could designate a special day for each child to have with Mom and/or Dad in the kitchen. 
  • More peas, please! If kids help prepare items such as vegetables, as well as help you shop for them, they are more likely to try them during mealtime. And kids that learn to eat well are more likely to eat well as adults. Also, they will less likely snack on junk food when you are preparing a healthy meal. By reading labels together and showing them what goes into a healthy meal, you will be teaching them great life-long eating habits.
  • A side of self-confidence. By letting your children help in the kitchen and try their hand at cooking, you are providing them with a healthy dose of self-esteem.  
  • Building traditions. Pulling out the family recipe book together is a great way to share important family traditions as well as build a good foundation for starting your own. It will also give you an opportunity to share some of your fondest memories with your children.
  • Reducing their risk to use drugs This may seem far-fetched but it’s true. A report from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University says that kids who have open lines of communication with their parents, a strong bond and the support, praise, and acceptance by their parents decrease their chances of becoming drug abusers. Son, here’s your spatula.
  • Scrapping the screen time Kids that are in the kitchen cooking will spend less time parked in front of the computer or television screen. Engaging in a more productive activity, they are actually contributing something to the household. Genius! Think about all the arguments you won’t be having!
  • Foster their creativity As they become more confident in their way around the kitchen, cooking can give them an opportunity to flex their creative muscles. By fostering a creative spirit, you are giving your child another opportunity to explore who they are. 
  • Teaching moments Kids get to see how things change through various processes in the kitchen: chopping, mixing, heating, freezing. Won’t their teachers be impressed when they come back to school with hands-on knowledge of their latest science lesson?
  • Showing a little love Not that saying “I love you” doesn’t matter—it does, but sometimes actions do speak louder than words. What professes your love to your kids more than inviting them to completely make a mess in the kitchen?

Blog Authors Get Together – R U Coming?

On Jan. 16th, the Martin Luther King Day, there will be a get-together of our blog authors. The purpose of the gathering is to meet each other face to face, to recognize, to reward and to encourage the authors, and to have fun together!  We will go ice skating first, then have lunch at the wonderful California Pizza Kitchen.  Details are below:

11:00am – Meet at The Ice at Park Place, 11565 Ash Street, Leawood KS, 66211 We will do ice skating for about an hour.

12:00pm – Go to California Pizza Kitchen at 11655 Ash Street   Leawood , KS   66211 We will have a short meeting and a great lunch and hang out till 2pm if you want 🙂


2011 in review – Annual Report about our Blog Activities

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Thanksgiving Holiday Creative Fun Contest

It is time for some creative fun time!

For anything related to Thanksgiving, submit YOUR funny story, poem, drawing, photos, music, or book report, or recipe, or video, and share the fun with everyone! Then we will vote the most fun post.

Note: all submissions must be the author’s own work, old or new.

Let the fun begin now!

Writing Contest for Duke TIP 4th/5th Grade participants

Duke TIP offers 4th/5th Grade Talent Search participants the opportunity to enter our writing contest with cash prizes awarded to the winners and their school. Students must be enrolled in the 4th/5th Grade Talent Search and currently be in the fifth or sixth grade.

The 2012 topic: In Quest for a Mythical Hero 

Every culture develops a set of beliefs about the world and the things that happen in it: the rising of the sun; the moon and stars in the sky; earthquakes and volcanoes; weather, hurricanes and tornadoes; and much more. Over time, one people’s beliefs may become another’s mythology—a collection of stories or tales belonging to a people addressing their origin, history, deities, ancestors, and heroes.

The challenge:

Write a story about a being celebrated in mythology. The being may be from any tradition—not just ancient Greece or Rome, but from Egypt, India, or Babylonia. You might choose from the Norse, Mayan or Aztec cultures. You will craft a plot that occurs in the present, but you will bring the characteristics from the past into the present day. You will describe the origin of the being, the powers, as well as descriptions of personality, appearance, and attire. You will make the choice of a conflict or a problem that needs attention, and this being will use powers and skills to solve the problem situation.

As you develop your story, consider how to incorporate into the plot: 
  1. What is a real problem I want to solve? What conflict would I want to bring to a conclusion?
  2. Where did this being come from? Of whom a relative or descendant? From the beliefs of what ancient culture or tradition?
  3. What powers does the being have? Over what objects does the being have control?
  4. Who is the opponent? Is it a nemesis or archenemy, or is it something in the world of nature, or perhaps the supernatural?

Submission deadline: Jan. 3, 2012


Writing contest winners are announced in Duke TIP’s Navigator newsletter and on this Web site. Winners also receive:

  • 1st place: $250 to the fifth grade winner; $250 to the sixth grade winner and $250 to each of their enrolling schools
  • 2nd place: $100 to the fifth grade winner; $100 to the sixth grade winner and $100 to each of their enrolling schools
  • 3rd place: $25 to the fifth grade winner; $25 to the sixth grade winner and $25 to each of their enrolling schools 


2011 – 2012 Math Olympiads Contest – Will You Come?

The “Kansas Shiny Gems Math Olympiads Team” for 2011-2012 will have contest prep sessions by Mr. McCalla in the following date and time:

Session 1    Sept. 26, Monday, 7:45pm – 8:30pm
Session 2    Oct. 10,   Monday, 7:45pm – 8:30pm
Session 3    Oct. 24,   Monday, 7:45pm – 8:30pm
Session 4    Nov. 7,     Monday, 7:45pm – 8:30pm
The contest date and time are:
Test 1        Nov. 21,    Monday, 7:15pm – 7:45pm,  test problems re-cap by Mr. McCalla: 7:45pm – 8:15pm
Test 2        Dec. 19,    Monday, 7:15pm – 7:45pm,  test problems re-cap by Mr. McCalla: 7:45pm – 8:15pm
Test 3        Jan. 16,     Monday, 7:15pm – 7:45pm,  test problems re-cap by Mr. McCalla: 7:45pm – 8:15pm
Test 4        Feb. 13,    Monday, 7:15pm – 7:45pm,  test problems re-cap by Mr. McCalla: 7:45pm – 8:15pm
Test 5        Mar. 12,     Monday, 7:15pm – 7:45pm,  test problems re-cap by Mr. McCalla: 7:45pm – 8:15pm
The location for all sessions and tests is
Kansas City Christian School
4801 W. 79th Street,  Prairie Village, KS 66208

Mid-Autumn Moon Cake Recipes


Makes 2 dozen
1 can (17-1/2 ounces) lotus seed paste
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2-cup non-fat dried milk powder
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup sugar 1/2 cup solid shortening, melted and cooled
1 egg yolk , lightly beaten

1. Mix lotus seed paste and walnuts together in a bowl; set aside.

2. Sift flour, milk powder, baking powder, and salt together into a bowl. In large bowl of electric mixer, beat eggs on medium speed until light and lemon colored. Add sugar; beat for 10 minutes or until mixture falls in a thick ribbon. Add melted shortening; mix lightly. With a spatula, fold in flour mixture. Turn dough out on a lightly floured board; knead for 1 minute or until smooth and satiny. Divide dough in half; roll each half into a log. Cut each log into 12 equal pieces.

3. To shape each moon cake, roll a piece of dough into a ball. Roll out on a lightly floured board to make a 4-inch circle about 1/8-inch thick. Place 1 tablespoon of lotus seed paste mixture in center of dough circle. Fold in sides of dough to completely enclose filling; press edges to seal. Lightly flour inside of moon cake press with 2-1/2 inch diameter cups. Place moon cake, seam side up, in mold; flatten dough to conform to shape of mold. Bang one end of mold lightly on work surface to dislodge moon cake. Place cake on ungreased baking sheet. Repeat to shape remaining cakes. Brush tops with egg yolk.

4. Bake in a preheated 375 degree F. oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a rack and let cool.