Sharpie Twin Tip – Fine – Ultra-Fine

One of those minor comments I don’t want to email about – kinda spammy.

This marker/pen is really useful.
The little cap for the fine point is a bit hard to take off.



As they say at

Dual degrees of precision.

  • Increased functionality with both Fine and Ultra Fine tips in one marker
  • Permanent on most surfaces
  • Fade and water resistant ink encourages multiple project uses
  • Quick-drying ink
  • AP certified nontoxic formula
  • 10 assorted colors to make your marking unique

Got a 4-pack of them at Staples.

Posted in Miscellaneous | Leave a comment

My grandfather died on the Titanic 100 years ago

This has an interview with my grandmother, Lily May Futrelle, on the Titanic 50th anniversary (Audio link at the end of the article), as well as a video of me.

I will expand on this later.

(As of February 22, 2012, I too am a grandfather: Lorenzo Futrelle Ballerini.  Pictures will appear in a separate post.)

Posted in Family | Leave a comment

Tutoring for standardized tests (SAT, GRE, MCAT) – Easy for me

All of these tests are basically easy for me.
So I can tutor them with no problems.
This is especially the case when I tutor using one of the review books, as I normally do.  The student and I would both own the review book we’d be using, so we can literally “be on the same page”.

Problems:  I occasionally find errors in the analyses or answers.
Also some of the explanations of how the problems should be done do not solve the problems with the requisite amount of skill. I often find clearer ways to explain the strategies, or suggest different and better ones. (They probably can’t afford to hire knowledgeable people with PhD-level skills and experience.)  Thirty-five years of teaching has taught me a lot about how to develop and explain clear solutions.

When I’m not tutoring for a standardized test, the review books may still be appropriate. Otherwise, I’d work with the student’s own textbook or another I choose that I think would be maximally helpful.

The review books have answers and explanations. But they are not textbooks, so they have some obvious limitations as teaching tools.  But parents and students often like teachers and tutors to “teach to the test”. I certainly try to give a broader view than just teaching how to plod through the problems.

Certain tests are specialized and detailed about particular subjects.
I could do some of these without any difficulty.
Others I wouldn’t try to handle – not ready to go back to school because I’m doing my own research that requires a lot of time and effort.

The GRE (Graduate Admissions Exam) is a case in point.
Since it applies to a wide variety of graduate programs, it has no specialized material.  So it’s little different from the SAT, testing math and verbal skills, though at a higher level.

Posted in Tutoring | Leave a comment

The Lexington Prep School (Lexington, MA)

A tutoring customer of mine asked me to visit the Lexington Prep School (LPS) in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Here are notes on my visit yesterday, 2012-04-17.
I spent an hour-and-a-half with the Associate Director, Ms. Kim.
The school was essentially empty, save for a few staff members.
Either the students were elsewhere or it was Spring vacation.
My notes here are just a sample of the many noteworthy aspects of the school. The website has far more information.

The website:

The facilities and environment: The location is suburban. The main building is an older Victorian house in pristine condition – every corner of it and the attached dormitory spaces were spic and span.  The school sits on a small hill, well back from the street.
It was obvious that in a matter of weeks the trees would be leafed out and flowering – quite lovely I’m sure.

The classrooms are designed to keep the class sizes small.  The classrooms I saw typically had six desks, seating twelve students, total.

The program:  The school is not a typical nine-month boarding school.
Instead, it is focused on short-duration programs to help students maximize their scores on SAT, SSAT, and TOEFL tests.  These programs are far richer than that, since it includes half-day tours of elite schools, specifically MIT, Harvard, and Brown. Includes field trips to nearby communities and Boston.

The LPS website lists a diverse set of programs beyond the SAT, SSAT, TOEFL test focus.
Since there are a number of foreign students, exposing them to the US culture and even history, is another goal of the LPS.

They focus on the individual needs of students, beyond the classroom.
For example, we walked past one teacher’s office while she was tutoring a young woman student, one-on-one. The Director said that the student was rather shy and profited from individual attention.

One focus of the school is to prepare students for admissions to fine colleges and universities. To that end, I was impressed by the ‘media’ classroom where students practice public speaking. This is important in preparing students for college interviews, especially their foreign students.  The SAT program is of three weeks duration.  Beyond that the students would start to burn out from the intense and rigorous schedule.

Student life is busy and secure:  You should download the SAT schedule,
It shows you just how fully scheduled the students’ time is – though that includes a two-hour evening free time period and Sunday afternoon “Fun Activity” periods. Fun activities include visits to parks, beaches, and the (huge) Natick Mall (
My experience agrees with the school’s – keep the students busy – they don’t do well trying to organize their time on their own – they flourish, working in a well laid-out schedule.  I asked the Director to send the hardcopy brochures to my customer.  The tangible documents make an impression that complements the online material.

Since the students are as young as eleven, the school is careful to look out for their whereabouts and activities.  I thought it quite sensible that the school discourages students, especially the younger ones, from bringing their own laptops. The students are not at the LPS to do Facebook and play  games on their machines.  There’s much too much serious learning and studying to be done.   As part of this, the school’s WiFi shuts down at 11pm every evening.

I looked in on the kitchen. Like all the other facilities it was neat and clean and appeared efficiently organized.  They produce three meals a day for the duration of each program.

Security is paramount and integrated in to the schedule and facilities:
The only entrance to the school is through the front, main door. There are many exits, but they are alarmed and only for emergency exit.  Security personnel have screens that monitor the many closed-circuit video cameras stationed around the school.

I toured one of the first floor dormitory boys hallway.  Each room has its own lavatory.
A student’s room I was shown had a bookcase stuffed with SAT prep volumes – the school gives those to students to keep. The student evidently had some of his own books as well as books checked out from the LPS library. The shower room was large, nicely tiled, and as clean and neat as could be imagined.

The resident assistant has his room in the same hallway.  At 11pm every night, he locks the hallway door and it’s lights out.  This assures that the students have a regular schedule of rest and are ready for breakfast the next morning at 8 with classes beginning at 9.
The girls’ rooms are similarly arranged, but on a different floor.
If a male wanders down a female dorm hallway, they are subject to expulsion(!)
This is quite a strong regulation, but it sets up clear and understandable boundaries.

I hope this little personal tour gives you an outline of what the LPS is all about.
There is much, much more on their website.

Posted in Tutoring | Leave a comment

Exercise to ward off Alzheimers benefit/54390452/1

Even playing cards counts?!

My diet is getting better -losing weight.

Trying to get to the Boston Sports Club four times a week, versus three in the past.

Posted in Health | Leave a comment

I think I’m going to like Blogging

I have 122 hardbound journals – I do like to write all the time.

I also have hundreds of Google Docs.

Some of those ideas, thoughts, belong in this blog.

The Golden Rule of blogging should be:

Don’t simply recycle material that’s already out there for people to find.

Posted in Blog startup | Leave a comment

Tutoring started – 2012

I’ve started tutoring – math, the sciences, English.

I”m really good at one-on-one.
I’m able to explain things with simple examples that are both informative and clear.

Posted in Tutoring | 1 Comment