Exquisite corpse stories

Here are two very short stories, crafted by combining four individual sentences jotted down by two ALFs and two students during writing time with @melody today:


“Spookie Szn”

Wild spooky loud mornings, you say. They could hear the thud all the way downstairs, and it sounded bad. Cupcakes are natural and happening all the time. The ghost smiled back.


“The Pumpkingdom”

Purple stars? I see. The Pumpking loves to make jokes. How long will roasted pumpkin seeds last, really? The skeletons are getting closer with every passing moment.


Happy Halloween!





Geoguessr Results 10/24/18

This week we decided to do a U.S. cities map.  The average score was higher on this one, so we expected to do pretty well…. instead we (mostly) nailed it.  We got a perfect score (5K) on three of five locations, and were no further than 100 meters from any location.  Signage was a big reason here, as we found evidence of exactly which cities we were in on each location.  Thanks to @hugo and @theanchor for their continued and consistent support!

^From our first location… “where God is doing a new thing.”  Haha.  This was actually our worst score at 4,972.

Geoguessr Results; 10/3/2018

This week, we decided to play a U.S. map.  After getting 4,000+ scores on our first two locations, we were given a rural grainy image location, making it hard to read any text or signage.  This led to the Wisconsin/Washington mix-up above, affording us only 1,000ish points.  While this knocked down our score, we still crushed the average for this map (9,600)!

Want to play?  You can find this awesome game HERE. Want to challenge us?  Bring it.  You can try the maps we’ve completed HERE (scroll to the bottom to try an ALC locations map).

A new challenge!

I had some trouble figuring out what I wanted to blog about today, so I decided to go with my most recent fitness challenge.  Last year, I did a 10,000 kettle bell swing challenge – and I even got a trophy from my #superALFteam here in NYC when I completed it =).  This time the focus of the challenge is lunging- another basic human movement- and requires NO weights at all!

Here’s the program:

Week One

First up, 300 lunges.  Yes, 300.  This seemed pretty attainable to me until I realized 300 meant 300 per leg, or 600 total.  I broke these down into 15 sets of 40, with 1-3 minutes of rest in between.  I also chose to perform 100 of the 300 lunges as reverse lunges rather than a traditional walking lunge, and will keep something close to this 2:1 ratio for the rest of my 8-week challenge.

Next up, 4 sets of Sissy Squats for max reps.  I want to make clear that this movement is not a great idea for those who have consistent knee pain poor ankle mobility!

Now with my quads thoroughly thrashed, it’s time to target the hamstrings with 6 sets (again for max reps) of swiss ball hamstring curls.

To complete this brutal workout, we stay with the posterior chain (glutes and hamstrings) by performing 4 sets (again for max reps) of “straight fire” glute raises. These were brand new for me and very challenging, especially when trying to hold the contraction for 2 seconds.

Week 2

+25 lunges

*Attempt to increase max reps for each assistance movement*

Week 3

+25 lunges

*Attempt to increase max reps for each assistance movement*

Week 4

+25 Lunges

*Attempt to increase max reps for each assistance movement*

Week 5

+25 lunges

*Attempt to increase max reps for each assistance movement*

Week 6

+25 lunges

*Attempt to increase max reps for each assistance movement*

Week 7

+25 lunges

*Attempt to increase max reps for each assistance movement*

Week 8

+50 lunges

*Attempt to increase max reps for each assistance movement*


I’ll update this post after 8 weeks.  Hopefully I can still walk by then…


With love and agility,



On the importance of (not too many) agreements

When a new year starts at ALC-NYC, there is usually some measure of a cultural reset.  For us, a big part of this is emptying the “practicing” and “mastery” columns of our Community Mastery Board.  The CMB was a tool that Art, @tomis and I wanted to us to shift the “rulesy” culture that existed at Manhattan Free School and is common to other free and democratic schools.  It lightens the entire process around creating culture by focusing on the development of agreements, not rules, and allowing space to try things and discard them when they’re no longer necessary/effective.

I was chatting with a 5yr veteran student today, and he agreed with my theory that there is a direct correlation between an ALC that has a healthy culture and a relatively low # of agreements on the CMB.  I just ran down the hallway to check in with ours, and at the end of the second week of school, we have 4 agreements in the “practicing” column, and 2 in “testing” (where they’ll stay until next Friday when we check in on how they’re working, if we want to move them into practicing as is, or modify them and test for another week).

You see, this is the beauty of the tool.  It can be as full as it needs to be for the culture of the school to be serving everyone’s needs and staying true to the Agile Roots:

And yet, an empty CMB is a beautiful thing.  It demonstrates that the members of an ALC community have grasped (whether they actively studied them or not) and incorporated the Agile Roots and an ALC’s particular student agreements.  They’re running silently in the background of a healthy culture, much like an agreement that has made it’s way across the CMB into the “mastery” column.

As I checked in with kids today 1-on-1 to get their thoughts about what we actually need at the moment, the overwhelming consensus was that all we really need is an agreement about where and how we can eat food in the space.  If everything else is working (and they’re haven’t been any Culture Committee forms filed yet) and the smooth transition we’ve had to this year is any indication, I’d say the ALC-NYC culture is strong.  And when you consider that leaves all the time and space in a week for kids to focus on their intentions and aspirations, that’s pretty damn cool.


With love and agility,




The Nimzo-Larsen attack

B3… what a weird opening. Then wait for E5.  Time to fianchetto that bishop to B2.  This is how the Nimzo-Larsen begins.  Interesting that Nimzo is the first part of the name, because it was actually Larsen that developed this opening. By placing pieces on squares that are out of the ordinary in most players’ experiences, the NL attack is meant to befuddle and confuse, which can lead to opponents making mistakes, especially in timed games.

After taking double digit beatings from @timotree, I felt it was time to try a new opening on for size, and the Nimzo-Larsen seems like as good a bet as any.  I do tend to (like to) castle on the right side as white too, so it keeps that bit of familiarity for me.  Let’s see how it works out…

Look what I built…

Ok, so it’s no secret that I’m not good at redstone.  @timotree and @fireballdeath are the experts in that department.  So, how can I be useful on the new server?  What can I build?   Well, something that doesn’t require redstone!  So, I headed off to the Nether, like a 49er trekking to the west coast…

I want the gold, give me the gold!

Now we all got the gold- because I built a (slightly U.P.) Zombie Pigmen farm!

Basically, it works by using snowballs (or any projectile) to anger the pigmen in the vicinity of the cobblestone building.  When standing on the platform inside, the pigmen approach the iron door (which is, based on how I originally placed the door, technically ‘open’ despite actually being closed) and fall into a deep (approx 50 blocks) pit, where they die of fall damage and drop their stuff into hoppers that feed into a chest.  The best thing about this is, you can still collect the XP even though you aren’t technically killing the pigmen yourself.

More screenshots to come (maybe even a video in action) later-


I’m not a very good chess player [but it’s still fun at the moment]

A few months ago, @sunday decided to start a chess club offering here at ALC-NYC.  I had dabbled a bit in the past, learning how to play a few rudimentary opening moves from an old friend, and mostly playing against my ex-girlfriend for a year or two, before putting away my board and pieces about two years ago.

Mostly due to the enthusiasm and dedication of @timotree, I’ve now been playing at least one live game per week, and averaging about 2 online games per day.  You would think that with all of this practice, I would be getting a lot better, but instead, I feel like I’ve hit a wall.  Not only can I not beat @timotree anymore (before Winter break I had decent success against him in live games), it seems that I’m greatly over-matched against most of the players I’ve been paired up against on Lichess, the app that we’ve been using.

Here’s a screenshot of our game currently in progress:

It doesn’t look promising for me (black), does it?

Here’s what I’ve learned in the past few weeks…

  • I’m prone to making “blunders.”  These are equivalent of “stupid mistakes” in math problems, i.e. completing a really difficult standard deviation calculation, then typing a 2 instead of a 3 in the answer box.  These are moves I make, and then when my opponent makes their next move, I immediately see what I did incorrectly and regret it.  I hate losing this way.  It’s way harder to accept than when an opponent outplays me.
  • I’m susceptible to “tactics,” as @timotree calls them.  I get caught in a lot of “pins,” and often find myself frustrated when I think I’ve set myself up nicely (being up a piece or two early on), only to find that I my opponent was setting me up to trap my queen and rook between the same attacking piece.
  • I’m good in the early game, but after the 7th or 8th move, I don’t really know what the “best move” is in most situations.  I’ve been trying to use the Lichess “analysis board” to help me understand what the best moves are.  The problem is, once you reach mid-game, they stop giving you suggestions.
  • Number of pieces in play isn’t the only factor to judge who’s going to win a game- piece positioning is just as important.
  • If two important pieces are on the same color square, they are able to be pinned.  It’s best to keep important pieces in close proximity on different colored squares to avoid the pin.
  • A great resource to learn more about the game is The Chess Network on YouTube.

Here’s a video of a game between two masters featured on The Chess Network: