Ink a Teacher!

“An apple for the teacher” is an old tradition in America that has fallen by the wayside. But doing a little something to show your children’s teachers that you appreciate their effort and understand the challenges they face is still worth the effort.

Rather than sending an apple for the teacher, I’d like to suggest you “Ink the Teacher”. No, I’m not suggesting a gift certificate to the local tattoo parlor. I’m talking about ink for the classroom printer. Teachers in the US typically spend hundreds of dollars each year out of their own pockets to get supplies that dysfunctional school systems don’t provide. We could all help just a little.

When you head to your child’s classroom for back-to-school night this year, do a little sleuthing and find the model number of the classroom printer. Contributing an inkjet cartridge and perhaps even a ream of printer paper will give you superhero status and help ensure your child has a productive school year less constrained by tight school budgets.

…and if you tweet the idea, maybe you’ll help more than just your child’s class.

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Turn PDF Slide Decks into HTML5 Web Presentations in Under 5 Minutes

In an earlier post, I introduced Simple HTML Slides and an anonymous sync server that lets your audience follow along via the web. It uses some deep jQuery magic from Janne Aukia’s wonderful zoomooz.js.

There’s now a new feature that will let you take a PDF of a slide deck and quickly and easily turn it into an on-line presentation that syncs just like the earlier HTML slides.

On a Mac the process is amazingly simple. I’ve been able to put a 60-slide presentation on-line in under three minutes! Just browse to the PDF Slides page and follow the easy instructions there.

I don’t know of a workflow for Windows that is as simple as what’s on that page. It should be possible to cobble together a PhotoShop action but I’d rather find a solution that doesn’t require a $600 software package. If you know a quick, simple way to make a directory of web images from a PDF (preferably with free & open source software), please post a comment.

UPDATE: This post, and the PDF support feature of Simple HTML Slides have caused a lot of confusion. Many people see this and come to the erroneous conclusion that Simple HTML Slides aren’t actually done in HTML and the only way to make a presentation is to pour a PDF into Simple HTML Slides. That isn’t true. Supporting PDFs of other presentation formats is just an added feature of Simple HTML Slides. The real power of Simple HTML Slides shows when you write your slides in HTML. See the project page for more details.

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Crowdsourced Help for Ladybugs

Ladybugs are some of our best friends in the insect world. They are voracious predators of aphids and other plant-damaging insects, but two of the major species of Ladybugs in North America appear to be in decline. The Lost Ladybug project at Cornell University is conducting a study to learn more, and you can help.

To be able to help the nine spotted ladybug and other ladybug species they need to have detailed information on which species are still out there and how many individual insects are around. Entomologists at Cornell can identify the different species but there are too few of them to sample in enough places to find the really rare ones. They need us to be their legs, hands and eyes. This is a great summer science project for both kids and adults! You can learn, have fun and help save these important critters. It’s also a great excuse to get away from your keyboard and spend a day outdoors.

If you find a ladybug in your garden or while on a hike, snap a picture and make a note of the time and location. Then visit The Lost Ladybug Project’s web page and upload the photo. You’ll help the team at Cornell learn more about where the different species live, and help our spotted friends as well.

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