August 2007

Pearl Harbor Day Lesson Plans and links

Alan Haskvitz

On Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese submarines and planes from aircraft carriers launched an early-morning attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor. The attack included nearby military airfields. About 3,000 naval and military personnel were wounded or killed, and eight battleships, 13 other navy ships and 200 aircraft were damaged or destroyed.

With this attack, the Japanese formally entered World War II on the side of Germany and Italy. And it was the catalyst for the United States’ engagement on the Allied side.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt described Dec. 7, 1941 as “a date that will live in infamy.” On the anniversary of this event, help students and others grasp the significance using these free links and resources.

For more free resources go to

Astronomy and Space

National Teachers Hall of Fame

These sites are designed to help students become interested in astronomy and space and get them involved starting with studying the stars on their own birthdays and homes. Lots of good lessons and enough here to offer advanced students more depth.

For many more free resources go to

Space and flight lessons and links

Space lessons and units on the solar system

Huge selection of astronomy links

Astronomy for Kids

Astronomy links

Find the sky above you anywhere on earth and much more. Great fun.

Solar System Simulator

Order a simulated photograph of the Sun and planets as seen from any

vantage point.  The reader can choose any time in 5 minute

intervals from 1600 to 2399.

Lessons and good links

Online Astronomy
Easy to understand with good images.

Classical constellations and myths

Simple lesson plans and links

Space and astronomy lesson plans

NASA’s Ask an Astrophysicist site

Solar system lessons

Worksheets and more

Science vocabulary hangman

Fun for younger students

Science link site

Kids’ Astronomy lessons

Free worksheets

Links to physics and astronomy lessons by grade level

Extremely vibrant looking site with astronomy lessons

Includes history of telescopes

Science link site

Teacher developed lesson plans

Excellent astronomy sites for all levels

You need to search as there are some dead links, but the diversity of material is very good.

Astronomy link site from About

Lots of advertisements and a mixed bag of quality, but a lot of variety

Astronomy, mythology, and music

A very complex and complete unit of study for elementary students

How to set up science labs in many subject areas

Integrated Activities

Some poems about astronomy

Art and Space

Nice collection of links on how artists capture the heavens.

Family astronomy activities

Checking out the night sky. Great homework assignment to involve parents.

Pluto Express Home Page

This is full of great information of resources for teachers. Excellent.

Look into astronomy and others far out things.

Building a Telescope

How to build a telescope

Building a simple telescope

NASA lesson on building telescopes


Astronomy as a career links

Women in space and astronomy careers

National Association of Space Simulating Educators


Astronomical Society of the Pacific

David Dunlap Observatory

Database of stellar information

National Space Society

Mount Wilson Observatory

General information

National Optical Astronomy Observation

Naval Research Laboratory

Royal Greenwich Observatory

NASA’s Observatorium

Other sites

SETI Institute

Looking for aliens?

Sky On Line

Rocket and Space Technology
Encyclopedia Astronautica
Center for Science Education
Planet Quest
Nine Planets

Center for Educational Resources

Library of online and interactive K-12 science materials for teaching astronomy.

Asteroid Hits Earth

What a site, literally. See what NASA thinks about this issue.

What was the moon like on?
Just plug in the date to get a virtual photo
Satellite tracking sites

Scions xD and xB: Bigger and Bolder


The Car Family

For links to all vehicle websites go to

For more reveiws go to

In a nutshell: The Scion xD replaces the Scion xA. It is larger and more powerful. The Scion xB has also been restyled and given a larger engine. They are similar in appearance, but quite different in use. They have different dash arrangements as well. Unless you love to shift, get the automatic version, as there is no gas mileage penalty, Finally, the dealer has hundreds of customizing options to make your Scion toaster look different than others. Fun, responsible, and affordable, the new Scions may appeal to the youth market, but we feel they are for the young at heart as well.

Scion has abandoned the shoe looking xA in favor of the shoe box looking xD and the result is a bolder new little brother for the xB. We drove them both and found that the xD was the most cost effective. It was not as quiet and certainly not as powerful or roomy as the larger xB, but we liked its good-natured tossability, pricing, and fuel mileage. If you need a bigger box the xB is a good choice, but its pricing not places it against the much larger Honda Element, Chrysler’s PT Cruiser, the HHR from Chevrolet, and even Toyota’s own Matrix, all which are dandy, economical, family oriented vehicles.

The big news, pun intended, is that the xD had its wheelbase stretched nearly four inches longer than the car it replaced, the xA, and a it is also a bit wider. A more enthusiastic powertrain comes from the well-proven Toyota 1.8-liter inline four-cylinder that has 128 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. We tested both the four-speed automatic and the five speed manual and found them plenty playful, but neither could be classified as spine tingling. We would go with the automatic as the fuel mileage is the same and it is more comfortable in day-to-day commuting.

Handling is better than we expected seeing the box like physical dimensions of the xD and the 16 inches 195/60 tires. Braking was pretty good, too, as the ventilated front discs and rear drums were up to the task of slowing this toaster on wheels.

We like the interior of the xD better than the xB. The gauge cluster is now in front of the driver instead of being mounted in the center of the dash as the latter. The xD’s cluster isn’t all that easy to read, but at least you don’t have to take your eyes off the road to check your car’s statistics.

Being slanted toward the youth market means being unique and having a good stereo. Thus the xD has a lot of storage spaces and the Pioneer stereo works well. However, we suspect this will be the first item replaced by owners. There are also two input jacks; one for IPod and another for an MP3 player. The sound quality for both units was average, despite the well-regarded Pioneer stereo with a single CD player in the dash and six speakers with 160 watts of power. There are a lot of adjustments on the stereo, but we doubt that any buyer is really going to be happy with it as the sound of the tires and wind make a better quality unit almost mandatory.

Mom’s view: Very nice. Handy, easy to maneuver, enough power to stay out from under the wheels of the illegal to drive in residential wheels of Hummer H2s, Lincoln Navigators, and Ford Excursions. Yep, that is right. These road destroyers weigh over three tons, which is the limit on most roads. Personally, I find them offensive, but if you have a large ranch and need to tow everyday they have an off road reason to exist.

Anyway, there is plenty of standard equipment with the Scion xB, especially safety wise. There is ABS, front-seat side airbags, a full-length head curtain airbag system, and optional stability control.

What I also liked about the xD is that is has become invisible. Thanks to the ubiquitous xB the boxy xD no longer generates much visual interest. That is a real plus, but also gives dealers who sell a myriad of options a real pathway to profits as there are so many ways to make your xD your own the mind boggles. I found that they confused most people, as they do look similar now that Toyota has redone its exterior treatments. However, the xD isn’t nearly as large as the xB. For about $1500 more the xB offers a lot more car. It is wider, taller, and over a foot longer. That shows up in the interior with the xB having considerably more front shoulder room and more rear headroom. However, with either the xD or xB there is an abundance of headroom with 30 and. 40 inches for each respectively. Cargo space is dramatically larger in the xB with more than the double the room available in the larger xB at about 22 cubic feet.

I quite liked the xD. The electric steering was well weighted, the brakes felt firm and linear and the front seats were comfortable. On the road there was a bit much road noise, especially offer roughed up roads. The Nissan Versa that costs less has a quieter ride, but than again it isn’t a box on wheels. Acceleration is in the 0 to 60 in over ten seconds category as the 1.8 liter four cylinder and its l6 valves are kept busy by double overhead cams that help make 128 horsepower at a high 6000-rpm. When loaded and traveling against a stiff wind the 125 ft-lbs. @ 4400 rpm of torque is tested. However, it is much better than the xA that it replaced. The xB has more horsepower, but it doesn’t feel that much more peppy due to the extra weight it touts.

I like the ride of the large xB better, but I felt in control at all times in the xD. In either car the ride is not soft and you have to work the engines hard to get thrust due to the fact they both need a lot of revs to produce propulsion. That is also why the gas mileage isn’t as great as one would think based on their compact size. I’d take the xD, keep it to a minimum of options, and scoot around town with aplomb taking parking places those owners of those horrible large SUV drivers can’t even get their pollution mobiles into.

Dad’s view: The ride quality of the xD isn’t up to the standards of the xB and rugged roads can clearly give you the shakes, but it is ready to romp and playful in both appearance and utility. I enjoyed my time with the xD and it would be my choice of all the Scions based on its pricing and extensive standard feature list that includes air conditioning, a trip computer, and rear seats that can slide forward or back. Very creative packaging.

We tested both the manual and automatic transmissions and see no need for the stick shift unless you want to feel you are in control. The linkage for the manual transmission has a very amount of twists to go though, but feels tight and the throws are easy to make. The clutch is soft with a low take up and you’ll need it because both engines need to be kept on boil to gain an advantage. The four speed automatic transmission works just fine.

I found it most unusual to see a seat belt latch hanging from the rear ceiling. It is for use by the person riding in the middle seat. I never got used to it, but it is nice to know that the Scions can hold five people.

The xD is based on the chassis of the Toyota Yaris and it has the same front wheel drive layout, although it is heavier and not as swift. However, we like the Scion much better even if it is not recommended for towing.

There is little doubt that the xD is going to have its hands full trying to eke out a niche with against the larger and not much more expensive xB, the Chrysler PT Cruiser, Chevrolet’s HHR, and the French looking and roomy Nissan Versa. However, none of those can get a dealer option list that includes B pillar appliqués, a spoiler, wheels or wheel covers, overhead consoles, and even a quick shift kit not to mention a navigation system XM or Sirius satellite radio and a upgraded stereo to go with the standard air conditioning. Cruise control, tilt steering wheel with redundant controls and even a tire pressure monitor and first aid kit.

On the highway the diminutive size of the xD dissipates quickly you have a reasonably high seating position that offers good visibility in all directions, but beware those large C pillars can hide a semi truck. Acceleration is best below 60 and you are going to have to keep the accelerator down to generate two-lane highway passing with safety.

The xB is slightly friskier, but has more weight to tout around. It has a smoother ride and has more usable room even with the back seats up. So I would go with the large xB and spend the extra money for the additional engine power and room.

Young working woman’s view: Okay, so I am unemployed at this moment even with a MBA and MIS and an Ivy League Bachelor of Science degree. But hey, that’s life and why I don’t have a new car payment either. Despite this the Scions are not my type of boxcar. I did like the xD’s interior with its very nicely designed dashboard and the place to plug in my iPod. The stereo monitor was a bit much and the stereo controls for the Pioneer unit and its joystick manipulator out of my age range. Seating is comfortable, but only over short distances. The seats lack enough cushion for my nerve center, but they are easy to adjust. The backsets have a 60/40 split and can be slide forward or back and have two position recline to provide the passenger more foot room. The headrests are easy to move out of the way, too. Despite this the Honda Fit has more utility in its cargo hold and is easier to drive enthusiastically. It does not have the panache of the xD.

I much preferred the xB with its larger dimensions even with the center mounted gauge cluster. I also found it more fun to drive and had superior equipment such as ABS with a panic brake assist feature, stability and traction control.

College going male’s view: You get a non-locking glove box, lots of storage bins, a center console and pockets in the front doors as well as a heaping vastness of cargo space when the rear seats are folded flat with the xB. The front MacPherson struts and a rear torsion beam axle are controlled by anti-roll bars and this box feels well connected to the road if you can learn to live with the lean and the saving grace of the stability control system. Stopping is fine as the xB utilizes ABS disc/drum brakes with Electronic Brake force Distribution and Brake Assist circuitry to reign in this showy shoebox. I would opt for the larger rims and tires if you want to test your driving skill and also gain some needed ground clearance.

Pioneer’s stereo was just okay. The control buttons are quite small and if you order the big subwoofer it takes up space in the cargo area of either vehicle.

Although I am the prime demographic for these Scions I can’t really warm to them. Certainly, I like the room and look, but I like a smoother ride and better gas mileage. I would save a bit more and get the Toyota Matrix. It has the same engine as the xB, but has a smoother cruise level.

Family conference: Surprisingly, neither of these boxes gets exception fuel mileage. The xB has a 14-gallon tank and the xD an 11-gallon unit making both vehicles capable of 300-mile trips without refueling. W got 28 and 25 miles per gallon with the xD getting the better figure. A Toyota Corolla can do better so the wind resistance really impacts these two Scions. The bottom line for us is that they are handy, versatile, environmentally friendly, and are well priced. They have a fair amount of competition, but we like them and find the new xD a good friend in the city.

Driveway Stuffers


The Car Family

For links to all vehicle websites go to

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Nothing says happy holidays like a shiny new toy in the driveway whether it is a Bentley, Mercedes, Audi, or for the self-actualized, a Pontiac convertible. Regardless of what model you choose two things are assured. First, you are going to make your insurance agent very happy and secondly, someone in the family could have gotten it for you cheaper.

With the PCH artery largely clogged what you are seen driving is just as important as how fast it goes. So the ideal holiday car is one that articulates style while waiting for the (circle all those that apply) rock slide, flood waters, tidal surge, movie star gwakers, fire engines, out of state RVs, undressing surfers, and/or crashed Ferraris to be cleared.

Since Malibu has been described as what’s a heaven for, it is no small feat to reduce the 500 or so possible holiday rides to a respectable handful for perspective Santas to consider when shopping for something for every yearn. For the size doesn’t matter buyer the Mazda MX-5 (nee Miata) now comes with as a hardtop convertible that tucks into the briefcase sized trunk. You get room for two and your bottle of STF 50 sun block and not much else. On the other hand that’s all you need. With Mazda’s flingable flyer the sky’s the limit for this young at heart tanning machine.

Want something even minier? Try the MINI Cooper convertible. You can order yours with a turbocharger if you fancy playing tag with the big dogs. Either way its Bulldog stance, retro interior looks, and glued to the road ride make the MINI both frugal and exciting. When it comes time to park or maneuver, this is the car to have and you don’t have to surrender any creature comforts or challenge your credit limit at $22,700.

Larger four and five passenger convertibles from Chrysler and Ford are best sellers due to their pricing, starting around $20,000, and more relaxed fit comfort levels. No surprises and plenty of standard features make these good driveway stuffers for those who like their vehicles traditional looking to veil that topless lust. For those who prefer a hard top convertible, the Pontiac GT is most appealing, but be prepared to pay a few thousand more for the privilege of watching the metal top fold gently into the trunk. Visually, the G6 has a Clark Kent disguise that hides its super solar appeal. Cute and cuddly.

A bit more expensive, but hey, it’s the holidays, are hard top convertibles from Volkswagen and Volvo. We especially liked the Volkswagen Eos, as it not only had the metal top folding option, but a glass sunroof as well. So cool and priced well at about $30,000. The Volvo was another matter. It was bigger and pricier at $43,000. Competent and wanting to please, the Volvo has also been rated one of the safest convertibles you can buy along with the Saab 9-3. The Saab is one of our favorites, though it does not have a retractable hardtop. Sharp handling, able to attract attention especially in Electric Blue, this is a most underrated driving experience. Best of all, its still a bit quirky.

Covet moving to the head of the class? Try the Audi W12 with its all wheel drive, and a dozen pistons being rammed into action by enough exploding hydrocarbons to make Exxon stockholder’s smile. This understated yet elegant sedan is stunning inside and out. Its 450 horsepower may not be as fast as Santa’s reindeer, but he doesn’t have vibrating seats and I’m sure the Audi’s view out the windshield is better. It only takes $120,000 to keep your fanny happy.

For nearly the same money there is the new Lexus LS 600h L. Called a hybrid, this powerful sedan has about every feature known to earthlings from all-wheel drive to an eight-speed automatic trans and a separate air-conditioner for the back seat passengers. For  $12,675 you can order the Executive Package that provides rear seats that recline, heat, cool, and massage. And for those easily entertained, this car can parallel park itself.

What says love more than his and her Mercedes convertibles? In this case the so fast 6.3 CLK AMG and the stunning SL 550 roadster. The SL550 has a new seven-speed automatic, a $94,800 price tag, and a 382 horsepower engine. A study in chic understatement, this convertible has everything from stability control to deployable rollover hoops behind the seats. This is the convertible of choice for the well kept. In the other corner of the garage is the “What has god wrought?” CLK AMG that uses its 495 horsepower to propel this four-seat convertible to 60 miles per hour in under five seconds all the while looking so innocent.

Last, and easily the most sexsational holiday vision for your driveway is the Bentley convertible. No need to decorate your dwelling, simply park this beauty out front and watch the traffic slow to view the true spirit of giving. Yep, it is expensive, but you had 12 months to save, which is the real reason the holiday season is at the end of the year. The Bentley is a study in outrageous numbers. Two turbochargers, four wheel drive, six speed transmission, 12 cylinder engine, 552 horsepower, and I didn’t’ even mention the gas guzzler tax. There is absolutely nothing that would make Santa trade in his sleigh more than this white goddess with her brown leather dress and bulging flanks. Whether it is beating up an unsuspecting Porsche, humiliating the Highway Patrol helicopter, or just maxing out your gas credit card, this is the vehicle of choice for those who aspire to show their true love of consumption in this season of giving.

For a list of all vehicle websites go to


Getting Ready for Back to

School for Teachers

Planning for the first day of school summarizes the fun and challenge of teaching. Not knowing what to expect, you must be prepared for everything. With that in mind, I have rounded up the best resources I could find, tested them and present them here for your review.

Here’s an interesting way to start the first day in most elementary classrooms. Take a digital picture of each student to use for your anecdotal records and, if you have time, to place in a student-made frame. Using a few craft sticks and some white glue, the students can make and decorate their own frames. Next, attach the photo and a label with the date and “First Day of Class.” They can be sent home that first day or kept to the end of the year.

Here are other quality sites and important information for all teachers that have proven to be the best over the years.

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