Major Project Outline

In my daily job as a high school science teacher, I often informally refer to media literacy and digital citizenship competencies within my pedagogy.  I have never taken the idea of teaching these competencies and applied them in a more formal manner within my teaching practice.  Given this situation, for my major project, I have decided to undertake the creation of a curriculum-supported digital citizenship resource.  This resource will be aimed towards supporting the existing French version of the Health Science 20 curriculum: Sciences de la santé 20.

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Why Sciences de la santé 20?  Aside from the fact that February 3rd, 2020 will be the first day of the second semester at my school, I will be beginning a new Sciences de la Santé 20 course.  Consequently, this will allow me to develop my resource at the same time as I teach.  This will allow me to design activities and resources that can be immediately tested and evaluated in the real world.  I addition to the fantastic timing, I find the Health Science 20 curriculum to be very conducive to developing digital citizenship and media literacy skills.  Many of the outcomes and indicators built into the curriculum are based on information research and sound critical thinking which corollate directly with the idea of media literacy and digital citizenship.  To give a few examples:

HS20-SDS1 –> Create and carry out a plan to explore one or more topics of personal interest relevant to Health Science 20.

HS20-HC1 –> Analyze how Western, Indigenous, traditional, complementary and alternative approaches to health care can contribute to a holistic (e.g., mental, emotional, physical and spiritual) perspective of health.

HS20-HC2 –> Examine how personal, cultural and societal beliefs affect ethical decisions regarding health care.

HS20-NU2 –> Analyze dietary choices based on personal and cultural beliefs and scientific understanding of nutrition.

Although these are only a few of the outcomes within the curriculum, as one can see, they are all areas of focus that allow for the parallel development of digital citizenship and media literacy.  As an example, when looking at the HS20-NU2 outcome, I can’t help but think of the variety of online media that extol the virtues of “miracle” nutritional products and advertisements for the latest weight loss diets.  With our students being bombarded on a daily basis by this information on social media and on the internet at large, unless they gain better digital citizenship skills and media literacy skills, our students will become highly susceptible to this dishonest rhetoric and dangerous disinformation.

My aim is to continuously refer to these competencies in my course and try to have at least one activity per unit exclusively related to media literacy and digital citizenship.  However, I plan to develop six activities, one for each major unit of the curriculum.

Technology availability is going to be a challenge.  My school as a limited number of computers available and most of the time, they are booked for other classes and students who follow distance education courses.  In addition to technology availability, there is a digital divide problem where some of my students have easy access to technology while others don’t.  I will have to be creative and flexible in the ways I use technology to accomplish my activities.  Does anyone have ideas?

To guide the preparation of my resource, I will be basing my outcomes for digital citizenship and media literacy on the Saskatchewan Digital Citizenship Continuum.  Thankfully, this last resource as well as the Saskatchewan Digital Citizenship Policy Planning Guide are both available in French!  What a great starting point!  In addition, I’ll be keeping in mind Ribble’s nine elements of digital citizenship throughout the process of building my resource.

What will this resource look like?  As it stands, I would like to integrate the following tools to develop my resource.

Youtube Video Tutorials: I’d like to produce a few tutorials for my activities and release them as an Open Educational Resource.

Student Accessible Google Doc: I’d like to encourage collaboration and use some of the techniques I’ve learned in my EC&I classes to get students collaborating on projects.  In addition, I will also be using the Google Doc to disseminate information and links to the students.

Student Blogging project: Much like we do in our class, I’d like for the students to complete a few blogging assignments as a way for them to apply and demonstrate their new competencies.

Teacher Guide Google Doc:  As I develop my ideas in a more formal manner, I plan to document everything in a public Google Doc that will eventually be available as an Open Educational Resource.

As you can imagine, this resource will be developed in French as it makes my work applicable to my reality as a teacher and could be of use for my colleagues who also teach this same course in the francophone school division.  Given all of my work will be OER’s, a willing teacher could use them and adapt them for their own needs and their own language if translation needed.  Worry not, I will be blogging my progress and my process in English.  Looking forward to hearing what you think!

Looking Forward to a New Adventure

My name is Daniel and I’m a teacher at École Monseigneur de Laval located in Regina, SK.  I have been teaching grades 8 to 12 science in French for over 12 years and have had the opportunity to teach in a rural setting as well as in my current urban setting.  I’ve had the opportunity to experience principalship and have been enjoying deep involvement in the affairs of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation on a provincial level as an STF councillor and on the local level as my Local Teachers’ Association President and the LINC chair for local collective bargaining.

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I love technology.  I’m a dedicated science educator who loves his job.  Wanting to extend my education formal education as well as enhance my pedagogical toolbox, it was only logical to pursue my graduate studies in the field of educational technology.  EC&I 832 being my fourth class in my Master’s Certificate in Educational Technology, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, learning and sharing with a panoply of wonderful classmates.  I cannot wait to, once again, continue my learning journey in partnership with everyone involved in this course.  Happy learning and I look forward to connecting through my blog, through Twitter and all the other mediums we might discover over the next few months!

Learning How to Sew (week seven)

This week represents the culmination of my project.  My aim was to complete my EDC2 bag and I’m pleased to report.  MISSION ACCOMPLISED!  Here are how things went in the final week of my major learning project.

My first task was to cut and install a piece of plastic to act as a rigid bottom to my bag.  I scavenged an old piece of plexiglass that I has in my supplies and used the table saw at school to cut it down to size.  I then used a piece of sandpaper to make sure there were no sharp edges.  I didn’t want the piece of acrylic to make any inadvertent holes in my bag.

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I then placed the piece of acrylic in the bottom of the bag between the outer layer of the bag and the liner I had completed last week.  Once I had aligned the liner and the bag, I pined them in place to prepare for the installation of the zipper.  Making sure I had everything aligned, properly oriented and securely clipped in place, I was ready to stitch the assembly.  On the other side of the bag, I did the same procedure with one additional step.  In the original plans, two nylon paracord loops are placed underneath the zipper to act as a clipping location for the eventual shoulder strap.  Having purchased plastic clamp style clips to use instead, I cut out a couple pieces of fabric to act as supports for my clips.  This little bit of improvisation went smoothly.

(Side note: Had I not gained the experience of the previous project, I’m certain this step would have never been so easy.  This small piece of sewing improvisation gave me a tremendous amount of confidence in my abilities as a student of sewing.)

With the zipper installed, I felt a wave of momentum that called for me to finish my project.  I should have kept calm and collected as this is the point when things started going awry.  The spacing in my stitching started being uneven and I even missed the proper location to stich at some points.  I started introducing involuntary pleats in my seams and started to get irritated that things weren’t going as quickly and smoothly as I wanted.  I was getting tired and it was late.

(Side note: Over the many years I have spent working late nights doing hobbies that I love; I have noticed that working when tired is never a good idea.  Patience quickly runs out, I rush through steps, I miss important ones and end up with mediocre work that is not up to the standards I set myself.  At this point, I should have listened to my body and to my frustrations and stopped.  Sewing, like many other practices like teaching, performing sports and playing music, having a positive growth mindset is essential.  This is not achievable when the mind and the body are tired.  There is no shame in taking breaks and going to sleep when contemplating a problem.  A good night of sleep seems to always bear fruit in these situations.)

I decided to at least install the two zipper sliders and secure the zippers by sewing the stops at both ends of the zipper.  The first stop was a challenge as the material was very thick and didn’t want to feed properly in the machine.  The machine was struggling to get through all the thicknesses of the material, and in my impatience, I floored the pedal to get the job done.  By doing so, my first zipper stop was crooked and poorly stitched.  In frustration, I removed the stitching and tried again with a relatively satisfactory result.  When came time to install the second zipper stop, the same problems arose but a major one manifested itself.  Due to going too fast and asking too much of my machine, I broke my first needle when it slammed into the flat part of the zipper.  That was the tipping point for me.  Not knowing where the replacement needles were and not being in the mood to proceed, I left the project there and stormed away.

(Side note: Breaking the needle was probably the best I could have asked for, it forced me to stop my unproductive use of time.  I often tell my students the following words of advice: There is no sense in staying up late to study as the mind is not in a state where that information can be retained.  I recommend, the night before and exam, for my students to go to bed early and get a good night of sleep.)

The next day, rested and ready to continue with my project, I found a new needle, replaced it, and finished my final zipper stop without any issues.  The next step was to install a long piece that was going to act as a tube to house the rods retain the shape of the bag when it opens and closes.  I used the seam tape to keep the folds in place and sewed the tube in place in a matter of minutes.  I was once again, one with my machine!

The last important part of the project was to make the shoulder strap.  Not only did I have figure out how to thread the webbing through my clips, I had to fashion a primitive shoulder pad.  There were no instructions on how to make said shoulder pad, but a quick scrub through my resource videos quickly gave me the answer.

The final part of the puzzle was to bend some stainless-steel rods for the openings on my bag.  This was quickly done with a hack saw to cut the rods to length, a hammer and a vice to bend them into shape and file to remove the sharp edges.  Installing the rods was effortless.  Suddenly, my project was done.  I had learned the foundation of sewing and felt an enormous sense of relief and an even bigger sense of accomplishment.

As I proceeded in completing my final sewing tasks related to my major learning project, I came to appreciate the mix of resources I was able to use to accomplish my goals.  Learning how to sew is not an easy task, but with the proper resources and the proper support, it is well within reach for any learner.  Although I had my wife available to support me, I honestly tried to fend for myself so as to explore my limits and fully exploit the tools and methods a new learner would have at their disposal without the luxury of someone with experience by their side.  The main resource I used was YouTube.  The diversity of available tutorials ranging from complete beginner concepts to more complex situations, I could always find answers to my questions on Youtube.  The availably of open resources such as the creative commons patterns I used were very valuable to my development.  I’m not going to pretend that after 7 weeks and more than 50 hours of sewing that I’m an expert.  I still have many things to learn and as with any new skill that is acquired, new questions arise, and new opportunities emerge.  I’m already thinking about the next project I would like to accomplish.   I’m also reflecting on how these new skills fit with all the previous skills had already acquired in my capacity as a make.  I have gained a new perspective on a world that was foreign to me and I’ve proven to myself that I have the ability to learn by using many of the technological tools we have explored over the past few months in EC&I 831.  From social media, to open educational recourses and well beyond.  Here are a few pictures of the progress I have made and the final product I have achieved.

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Being an educator in the world of social media activism #difficult

The term activism can encompass a wide range of interpretations as we can attest by the varied discussions that were shared this past week in our EC&I 831 small group discussions.  Wikipedia starts its description of activism in the following way:

Activism consists of efforts to promote, impede, direct, or intervene in social, political, economic, or environmental reform with the desire to make changes in society.

As social media has taken an ever-increasing priority in the daily lives of an swelling segment of the population, it’s only natural that the idea of activism has established itself into it.  Human nature leads us toward wanting a better world that better reflects our personal values and our personal situations.  As the internet has become almost ubiquitous in all corners of the world, the panoply of values and opinions ranges all walks of life.  From human rights to religious beliefs, from art to culture, the internet and social media provides a medium that allows society to debate and thus continually evolve the social contract.

When it comes to the idea of social justice in the online world, an uncountable amount of initiatives are continuously fighting for our attention.  By the difficult to understand voodoo of social media and viral campaigns, certain initiatives gain notoriety and affix themselves in the psyche of popular culture.  Here are a few examples of initiative that have certainly crossed your social media feed just to name a few:

As these online initiatives fight for your attention, others important initiatives fall through the cracks and never gain your attention.  This reality in an unfortunate part of social media in that with the current structure provided by the big social media frameworks, media and information is being tailored for audiences thus providing a certain filter that can easily blind individuals to the true depth and complexity that makes up many social justice issues.  As Zeynet Tufekci from Scientific American elaborates in his article: YouTube’s Recommendation Algorithm Has a Dark Side, the algorithm that recommends content from YouTube is structure in a way to lead users in very deep rabbit holes of content and often leads towards content that promote extreme views that are often unbalanced and heavily biased, thus inculcating erroneous information in the minds of its users.  On a personal note, I had this experience when, out of pure curiosity, I clicked on a video denying that humans had landed on the moon.  As a science teacher, I wanted to see first-hand, the arguments put forward by the creator of the video so as to gain an insight in this large piece of online subculture.  In the following days, I had difficulty avoiding these types of videos in my Youtube Recommendation feed as the algorithm was constantly trying the recommend videos of the same type and genre.  Had I not been strong in my convictions and knowledge about the issue, I can see how undecided minds could easily be influenced towards one side of an issue, regardless of which side is right or wrong.

Another more nuanced example of the same situation is the influence social media had in deciding the 2016 American General Election.  Although there is much analysis that remains to be done to determine the real effect social media had on the decision the American electorate made, Hunt and Gentzkow in their article entitled: Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election, explain that social media is a growing source for news.  With questionable sources of said news and the speed at which this information travels, one cannot deny that social media’s influence on society will continue to grow.  The many nuances and the many biases that are present in many sources of information on the internet make evaluating social justice issues a true minefield that can be very unforgiving.

IMG_4771Social activism on social media is without a doubt very present in our daily feeds, but how effective can it be?  In my option, activism requires concrete actions and changes in behavior.  It’s easy to comment on a social media post, it is easy to change your profile picture and it is easy to retweet an article related to a social justice issue.  It is much harder to have a conversation with political figures that have actual influence on the issue, it is much harder to write a letter to entice a company to change a behavior and it is much harder to get out of the house and act on what you believe is right.  In my own situation, my conviction towards the use of sustainable renewable clean energy has led me to invest my own money in a solar power system for my house.  This is real action as opposed to continually tweeting about the advantages of solar power.  The inertia that often keeps people from real social activism is often referred to as Slacktivism.  As Wikipedia explains it:

Slacktivism is a pejorative term for “feel-good” measures in support of an issue or social cause. Slacktivism is showing support for a cause with the main purpose of boosting the egos of participants in the movement. The action may have little effect other than to make the person doing it feel satisfied that they have contributed.

This is not to undermine the value of sharing ideas, views and positions on social media.  Awareness is without a doubt an important part of activism and cannot be underestimated.  As a teacher, I feel conflicted in using my platform and my influence as an educator to promote any social justice initiative.  Although certain initiatives can seem to be straight forward and obvious, other issues can be delicate and complicated.  No issue more complicated that politics.  In the last Canadian Federal Election, strong opinions and positions circulated in my school.  I was often asked for my opinion by student.  This was a trying time in that my convictions sometimes came into conflict with those of my students and, in many cases, their parents.  I was very careful to not share my own views but would carefully guide the discussions towards the debate of broader ideas and the rationale behind such ideas.  I encouraged my students to seek real and credible information to substantiate their positions and their arguments.  To me, this habit of evaluating information, seeking it and basing one’s opinions on it is the basis of good citizenship.  I cannot, in my own good conscience be a social justice warrior online or in my classroom without first guiding my students towards habits of healthy information processing.

Curtis questions in his blogpost about Activism: “Am I making a difference? Am I being complacent in taking the cause further? By posting on Social Media how can you participate in productive conversations online?”  I tend to go through these same questions when confronting activism on social media.  In most cases, I just don’t see the value in participating myself considering the potential risks as a semi-public figure in my school community.  This might be a bias in my own mind since, as Catherine elaborates in her blogpost, there are many pros related to social media activism:

Social media activism can:

  • Spread a message to a large audience very quickly

  • Organize events easily (like the Women’s March)

  • Allow marginalized groups to express their views freely

As Brooke wrote in the conclusion of her blogpost:

As classroom teachers, we have a responsibility to present social justice issues to our students. If we chose not to participate, our silence indicates a clear message, that these are not issues we care to address and therefore, do not value (Source). If we choose to remain silent on these issues, we risk allowing our students to become passive citizens rather than justice- and action-oriented. 

I feel the pressure of this responsibility and I feel like I must face it in my own way.  In way that I will have true impact.  These arguments by my classmates have pushed my beliefs to a point where, at the moment, I’m of the opinion that social justice and activism has an important place in the classroom.  As much as I would like to take positions on certain issues as a teacher, I believe my job is to foster discussions and lead my students to making strong arguments based on good information.  By promoting good social media practice and by teaching strong media literacy skills, I think that if I accomplish these goals, I will have done my part in promoting healthy activism and productive social justice activism.

As I started my remix of the EDC2 this week, I initially thought I had bitten off a bit too much than I could chew by trying to undertake a project like this one.  Upon watching all the tutorial videos, I was feeling a certain sense of anxiety and dread that I would fail.  (This is something I see quite often when teaching high school science.)  I often had to settle down and tell myself, as I often tell my students, let’s take this one step at a time.  There is no sense in worrying about step 32 when steps 1 to 31 have yet to be completed.  With this feeling of anxiety and dread, I buckled down and got to work while telling myself: there is no shame in failing, as long as you do your best!

Step 1: Preparing my fabric

Last week, I was thinking that using canvas as my main fabric was the way to go, but when looking for canvas to use to my bag, I found it was hard to find exactly what I liked.  The canvas material that I found was very expensive and it wasn’t quite the texture I wanted.  Before making a decision, I decided to go look at the remnants section of the store and found some denim.  After much consideration, denim was much more affordable and provided the rigidity and the structure I desired.  Having cut all the patterns last week, a few hours of cutting and all my fabric was ready to go.

material cut

Step 2: Sew the pocket

The first task I undertook was installing the pocket on the liner of the bad.  Positioning the pocket took a bit of measuring, but once everything was positioned, a few pins kept everything in place.  I first folded over the edges and stitched them all the way around.  This stops the material from fraying on the edges.  Then I stitched the pocket to the liner remembering to not stitch the top.  I added a couple vertical stitches to keep pens and markers in place.  Although the stitching is not the nicest, as this will be inside the bag.  I’ve accepted this result as a learning experience and decided to press on.

Step 3: Attaching the bottom to the outer bag

The next step was to attach the bottom piece to the outer bag.  Although relatively straight forward of a task, I needed to fold over the edge of the denim and met a major obstacle.  As once tries to fold over denim, the material has a tendency to regain its shape thus not keeping the fold.  I had seen in one the Youtube tutorial videos someone use some special tape to hold the fabric in place when preparing it to be sewn.  After a bit of rummaging in my wife’s supplies, I found said tape and was amazed at how well it worked!  Not only did it keep everything in place, the constant width it provided made for a nice consistent professional look.  I’ll keep that special tape in my toolbox for years to come!  With everything taped up, top stitching the bottom to the bag went perfectly.

seam allowance tape

Step 4:  Make the handles

This step was and interesting one for me.  To make the handles, I first had to fold over strips of material and stitch them in a manner to make a long tube.  Using fabric clips to hold everything in place, the stitching was rather simple to accomplish.  The difficult part was turning over the tube to get the proper side on the outside while hiding the seam.  A long stick proved to do the trick.

Once the tubes completed, I had to fold over a small section in the middle of each tube and stich them together to make the place where the handles are to be grasped.  I was surprised by how well this technique worked and how it made the handles sturdier and more comfortable to grasp.  I’ll never look at bag handles in the same way again!

handle grasp

Step 5:  Attach the handles to the bag

Positioning the attachment points for the handles was simple.  The pattern provided the exact locations.  I simple overlaid the pattern on top of the bag, poked holes in the corners of the areas where the handles were to be attached and drew marks with my white pencil that I had retrieved from my sewing kit.  I then traced the positions and removed the pattern.  Now that I had clear locations for my handles, I need to attach them.  I positioned them with sewing pins and stitched them with a rectangle stitch pattern with and x pattern within.  As I got to the 4th handle, I was pretty happy with my improvement.

(Side note: At this point of the project, for the first time, I had the feeling of being one with the sewing machine.  My old Signer was now an extension of my mind and by body.  I felt complete trust in its abilities and the machine worked with me rather than against me.  Perhaps this is the point where my anxiety started to fade, and I started having fun.)

Step 6: Stitching the sides of the bag and the liner

This step was simple, stich the sides of the bang and the liner.  Making sure to hit my marks it went perfectly.  The next part of this process proved to be a bit more difficult.  I needed to add a second stich along the inside of the bag to provide strength to the structure.  This required me to sew inside the bag and I had difficulty seeing what I was doing and it blocked much of the light from getting in.  To solve this problem, I retrieved my trusty headlamp from my toolbox and my world was illuminated!  (This is the type of problem solving I love!)  Doing the inside stich went like a breeze.

Sept 7: Bottom stitch and flip

The last step was to do the final bottom stitch of both the bag and the liner do the final flip to reveal the bag in its half-done glory!

Next week: zippers, straps and clips!

Learning How to Sew (week five)

This week was one of preparation.  As my projects increase in complexity, the time required for preparation seems to also increase.

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As I undertake my final project, which is making an EDC2 from Savage Industries, I’m realizing that a big part of sewing is not really sewing.  Gathering the required materials and preparing them takes longer than sewing the project itself.  This week’s tasks were categorized in three parts: gathering the materials, preparing the pattern and mental preparation.

edc2

(Source)

Gathering the materials proved to be more difficult than I initially thought.  In my mind, a quick trip to the fabric store was all that was needed; however, this was not the case.  As I proceeded through the list of things to find and acquire, it became apparent that choices had to be made.  As I decided to source the materials locally, I had to modify the supply list to products that were immediately available.  Steel hooks were one the list from the pattern maker, I decided to go with plastic clips as an alternative as they are more economical and were immediately available.  The zipper I needed wasn’t available, therefore I decided to wait until I’m further in the project as it’s not an essential until much later in the construction process.  The materials that were recommended was used sailcloth, given we live in the middle of the continent, let’s just say it was impossible to find.  Therefore, I decided to substitute sailcloth for canvas.  For the bottom part of the bag, I decided to repurpose and old pair of denim jeans.  These are but a few of the numerous adaptations and decisions I had to undertake over the past week.  Here goes to hope that these decisions won’t impact me too negatively later on into the process of making my bag.

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The preparation of the pattern was smooth sailing considering the ordeal I went through last week.  (This goes to show how with I’m reapplying the concepts I’ve learned from the past.)  I printed the pattern on 11’ x 17’ paper using Adobe Reader and with the straight edge, the cutting wheel and a bit of tape, assembled the pieces to make a full-size pattern.

*(Side note: Early on in the process, I was made aware quite clearly by my wife that certain cutting appliances were exclusively for fabric and others were exclusively for paper.  It turns out, paper, which is made of cellulose, is extremely hard on cutting edges thus dulling blades quite quickly.  I was reminded of this lesson by the following tweet from @courosa)

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I prepared a time-lapse video showing the process of cutting the pieces of the pattern that I had previously assembled.

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The final part of the project was mental preparation.  As building this bag is much more complex than my previous project, I needed to familiarize myself with the process of assembly from people who have already accomplished this project.  I therefore turned to Youtube and found a selection of excellent videos of people who undertook this project.  The initial video I watched was the original video of Adam Savage assembling the bag himself.  It’s a fantastic step by step process that goes in depth on how to assemble the bag.  There are certain parts that were hard to follow but overall, it was an excellent starting point.

My take on Adam Savage’s EDC2 bag// sewing by Make With Miles was a fantastic video where many different substitutions were made from the original plan.  It gives a nice step by step process.  The author’s father owns a sewing based business, consequently, he used many types of machines that I don’t have, and he used a few procedures that I could not use in my situation as a beginner.

Adam Savage’s EDC 2 Bag in the style of The Martian by Malt and Make is another video I appreciated as it clarified many of the difficult to understand parts of the process.  I also appreciated his approach in explaining the intricacies of assembling the bag.

Finally, the last video I watched was Making my own version of Adam Savage’s EDC.ONE by Crafts by Ellen.  Another step by step video using other techniques that are different from the other two videos.  It’s apparent that the author is very experienced in sewing and the quality of her explanations and work is self-evident.

With all these videos, I feel like I’m on the path to success as I have all the support I will need to achieve the result I’m wanting to achieve.  Many unknows will undoubtedly appear in the next week, but as I’m a journey based on open education, I’m sure I’ll be able to find the answers I need somewhere online.  I’ll end this post by showing the message inscribed in the pattern of my project written by Adam Savage.  I found it so appropriate when considering OEP from this week.

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With a message like this from Adam Savage (of Mythbusters Fame), how can one not become a bit exited to get back to work!