Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Freedom of Speech and Expression: The Jester and Anonymous

My friend called and said, "ya know, you don't have to publish all those comments about the Jester.  You can just ignore them. "  She is absolutely right, but I do believe in the freedom of speech and expression and that we are accountable for our words and actions, so I have not censored anything that comes in, and I don't require that anyone leaves a name or number.

The Jester's work fires people up and there really aren't many places where you can write about it, discuss it, etc.  The arguments are circular, though, so, at some point (now), I need to move on.

The Final Word

I  support free speech and expression.  Jester's work is his expression.  The courts will decide, if the time ever comes, whether his expression violates laws concerning hacking (and many thanks to the person who laid the law out - FANTASTIC information!) and whether his expression violates the civil rights of others.  I find it refreshing that someone is standing up and saying "this is what I believe in" and "this is what I am doing about it."  I wouldn't do it that way, but I don't use hacking as a form of protest.  I don't think it is unethical or illegal to admire the work of a lone wolf.  I don't have to agree with his work to admire it just as I don't have to "like" a particular piece of music or art to agree that is genius.  Most importantly, I am not his press agent, his legal counsel, his agent, or his mother.

Where Next?

The Jester isn't the only hactivist that I follow.  The other ideology that fascinates me is the work done under the name Anonymous.  The trouble with writing about Anonymous is that there isn't one particular theme or person or message since anyone can use the umbrella.  In talking about Jester, there is one person doing a specific set of activities; this isn't true for Anonymous.

Since I can't really discuss the technical side of hacks done under the name Anonymous, I will just focus on the activism part.  College students, in particular, are drawn to the masks and the fanfare.  So, this non-group is most fascinating to me.

I follow several Anon accounts on Twitter, and, truthfully, I learn so much from their tweets that I would not have known about.  For example, today a collection of Anonymous folks are supporting #OpGuzoo.  I would never have known about these poor animals tortured at a Canadian zoo had it not been for Anonymous.  Their information gathering and dissemination process is fantastic, and the reader can decide which causes to support.

The issues with Anonymous have already been identified.  When you allow anyone into the club -everyone will flock to the club, and there are all kinds of people - with good and bad intentions - that will show up at the door. Since it isn't a club, there isn't one person that can speak for the group when some goof ball does something on his or her own under the umbrella name.

That said, I have found the tweets of the Anons I follow to be educational (even if I don't agree with a cause or concern), and they link to direct sources.  I appreciate the voice they have even if I don't agree or support some of the causes supported by some of their followers.

The Connection

Interestingly, the Jester is the most anonymous of any of the hactivists but he opposes the overall Anonymous movement.  The only cause they have both agree upon is their joint disgust at the Westboro Baptist Church.  In his Twitter profile, Jester makes it clear that he is not associated with the Anonymous movement.  The Anonymous movement often supports whistle blowers and leakers that release sensitive and compromising information about our troops, our defense and offense tactics, etc.  The Jester opposes anything that he believes violates the safety of our troops or is considered an enemy to the US.

The Freedom of Speech and Expression

Back in the 60s, you could grab up your sign and go on a protest march.  There was a chance you would get beat down.  Nothing really has changed.  If one idiot in the crowd throws a paper cup at a police officer, the whole crowd is considered a mob and police have the responsibility to stop violence before it becomes a mob scene.  Hactivism bypasses all that hoopla.  Go in, write a little code, apply a little code, walk back to the kitchen and grab a bag of chips.  I give credit to the Anonymous protestors that still march in real time and real places.  And, truthfully, the masks are effective - they signify the acceptance that we are all one voice and that no one person is greater than another.  However, wearing the mask on the top of your head defeats the purpose, so if you are going to be Anonymous - be, well, anonymous.  Wear the mask or don't, but he honest about what you want at the end of the day.  If you want to be known as a protestor for a particular cause, pony up and own it.  If you want to join a throng of voices and don't need recognition, grab your mask and wear it proudly.

I believe that we all have a duty to "be the change" that "we want to see in this world."  For right or wrong, I believe both the Jester and his fans and the Anonymous followers are doing this - they are speaking up and trying to make a difference.  After all is said and done, apathy is what will kill us all, and these two factions are working toward beating apathy.

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Spin on Snowden

Here is my spin on the Snowden drama, for what it is worth:

The Libertarian

As a Libertarian, I hate the government poking around in my personal business.  Not that my personal business is exciting; it's not.  But, that isn't really the point.  I believe in Henry David Thoreau's sentiment "that government is best which governs least"(Civil Disobedience).  So, from this position, I thank Snowden for confirming what I already believed - we are being watched on every level.  Not only can I get a ticket for an illegal turn on red (which I did), they now can see that sometimes I send funny quotes to my various Fb friends.  Fortunately, I am not of any great interest; I post about education, children, and post pictures of trees and dirt.  So, the person assigned to me has a dreadfully boring job.  But, I appreciate knowing that my government is doing it.  I appreciate that someone stood and up and said "HEY!  LOOK!"  So, for that small part, I could support Snowden.

The Mom

But, then I think to, my kids came home safe from school today.  I was able to ride the train into NYC and didn't have to stop in an ER first to find my other leg...see, those NSA documents aren't looking for ME, they are looking for bombers, terrorists, people out to kill innocent people.  And, for every single day that I am safe, I am thankful that someone is keeping an eye on it all.  When I was in college, I was a life guard.  I was responsible to watch the whole pool.  It didn't matter that Suzy would never ever dunk another kid or drown; I still had to watch her to make sure that no one dunked her.  If she would have been dunked and drowned as a result, I would have been responsible.  So, you can't have it both ways.  You can either watch and know or not watch, not know, and still be responsible.  As a Mom, I want someone watching. 

The Execution

The biggest problem I have with Snowden is how he did what he did.  Yes, I understand that he felt like he had limited options.  Yes, I think our government is capable of horrible things (hellllllo G-Bay).  But, if you are so convicted, you will find a way to blow a whistle while you are on the field.  Running to England, Hong Kong, outer Bolivia?  It shows me that you are a coward.  I can not believe Geraldo wouldn't have snapped up the story.  CNN?  Fox?  No one?  Really, running away makes it look like you are in it for other reasons.  THEN you add to the mix that the NSA whistle blow wasn't the only data gift.  You have given the gift of our intelligence, our military outposts, etc.  You have threatened the lives of people willing to serve this country even if they don't agree with the mission.  Those are innocent people.  Those aren't government overlords; they are soldiers now compromised.  

The End of the Day 

At the end of the day, I am still dumbfounded.  I believe the government's only job is to protect the civil liberties of its people, but what if the only way to protect those liberties is to stomp upon them?  

I simply don't have an answer. 

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Jester's Angels

Jester's Angels

There are so many good titles out there for this I Learned on my Summer Staycation, and Only Fools Rush In: The Study of Crazy People

Today, I head back to my real life; Staycation 2013 is officially over.  Mostly, I did lots of stuff with my kids and pretended to clean the house in earnest.  But, this weekend, I got a sliver-glimpse of the Twitter world and its finery.  The best part of band camp was always the last two days.

While my concerns will turn elsewhere now that I am back to my real life, my weekend as part of Jester's Angels was fun.  Not that he needs Angels, and not that he works in a crew or needs a crew to work.  But, I had fun blasting haters with Beth J, Rachel, and Stephanie.  These are fantastic women, and it has been an honor to serve with them.  They are fun, witty, and refreshing.  Thanks, ladies - you are all rock stars.  I met some really nice guys, too, but the names are very confusing.  You know who you are (and thanks for sending me links to the videos on the NarcoTroll).

I have learned that most of the people that oppose the work of Jester really have no substantive argument to share.  In one tweet, they will say he isn't a hacker, and in the next tweet, they will say his work is ruining The American Way.  In one tweet, they will claim he has no influence, and in the next claim they have turned him into the "authorities."  If he is nobody, why do you spend all of your time trying to unveil him?

All I asked for was proof.  

Tell me how the legal system defines hacking.  Tell me how what Jester does doesn't fit the law.  Tell me why you say he is only a propaganda whore, and show me proof that he hasn't given credence to the work he has done.  Calling me names and telling me that I send my panties to the guy makes you sound like a dumbass.  If you claim to do research for a career, be prepared to share your "research."  Telling me to lick an extension cord is slightly original, but, alas, not a defense.

The weekend was, indeed, enlightening.  But, I prefer tweeting with educators.  They share lots of great stuff, and they work toward celebrating good work. So, I salute The Jester and his Angels.  Thank you for an awesome ride ;p

PS.  The thong is mine.  I believe Rachel sent the hipsters.  You bake the cupcakes.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Message to Haters

So yesterday's post helped me makes lots of new friends and sent me spiraling into a whirlwind of haters.  For my own sake, and to the benefit of haters who should hate me for a good reason, here are some lecture notes:

  1. I like the work of the The Jester.  His work is direct and clean cut.  It isn't random.
  2. I am not a hacker, and I don't speak the language.  If you are going to insult me, use plain English (or be creative and use Latin).
  3. While I adore The Jester and his work, I don't follow him blindly.  I am wicked smart, you see, and am fully capable of forming my own opinions on a whole range of topics. 
  4. I am, politically, a Libertarian.  This isn't a big deep dark secret.  A hundred years ago in college, I interned for both a Senator and a Congressman, and both of them were Republican.  I didn't go into a life of politics as a result. 
  5. My focus is steady; I am not on Twitter, or this planet, to support the work of hackers or politicians; I am on this planet to serve others.  Period.  My passion - the driving force of my career - is to make education accessible to all.  Part of that mission is to educate educators.  My interest in hacking stems from a desire to teach faculty and administrators how to manage "protest" hacking on campus; it has absolutely nothing to do with fan worship or cult following.
So, there you have it. 

To the jackass that thinks he can scare me, let me say, I won't even give you props by mentioning your name.  You are a dolt.  But, fear not, mon cheri, you can call my husband at any hour and tell him about my crush on (the concept of) The Jester.  He already knows, and he thinks it is cute. And, while I appreciate your parenting advice, mind your own business.   But, most importantly, I am not scared of you.  I was raised by a steelworker, a bartender, a gaggle of brothers and their even though I love kittens, old people, and the color pink, trust this...if you try to come through my front door, you won't go out without a police escort or an ambulance. 

Image Source

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Who is The Jester?

Right, so, I guess to be considered a blogger, you have to blog more than once a year.  I will work on that.

Lately, I have been interested in the twisty under current of hacktivism. Giving voice to the voiceless is a passion, and hactivism, whether right or wrong, is giving voice to something.

In studying hactivism, I have stumbled over most of the famous groups, ideologies, and movements.  They are all fascinating, and they all do something a little different or champion something unique.

My favorite among them is The Jester.

So, to clear up the obvious, I have a total crush on the concept of The Jester.  He is a super hero in a world full of villains.  But, he could be a she.  And he could be a 13 year old.  I have no idea.  No one has an idea.  The mastermind of Jester is that no one knows anything about him, and that is the way it should be.

His Identity

There are people out there devoted to unmasking The Jester.  I am not one of them.  If he showed up in my hotel room, I would hope he'd wear a mask or make me wear a blindfold; I totally don't want to know.  He is magical the way he is (and, I don't actually think he is a girl or a 13 year old).  He can't do the work he does if we know who he is...and the work he is doing is important.

So, who is The Jester? Well, in my fantasy, he is about 35 and is built like a marine and wears army pants and a black tee shirt.  He has a great tan, too. Oh, and he wears combat boots and has a picture of his Mom on the back of his dog tags.  But, that's just me.

In reality?  Who cares?  Let his work speak for him.

His Work

The Jester is a single focus operation - he takes down terrorist websites.  He is patriot hacker and only hacks those things which he believes pose a threat to American soldiers or the American spirit.  He mostly focuses on taking down Jihadist sites, but occasionally goes after anti-American hate groups like the Westboro Baptist Church, and, more recently, Ed SnowdenNewsweek did a great story on him, and even the military seems to recognize his capabilities.  To date, he is the only hacker that has successfully stopped major leaking movements like WikiLeaks (skip to minute 28).

So, should we unmask Jester?  Will someone get a fancy car or get all the girls if they know his identity?  Someone tweeted that we are giving him too much power; others tweet that our government doesn't even know who is he or what he is doing.  If that were true, Newsweek wouldn't care to write about him, and the military wouldn't mention him.  They care; they know what he is doing, and he can do it a heck of a lot faster without the red tape of organizational structure.

Uncle Ben would tell Jester that "with great power comes great responsibility."  Jester seems to know that already.  If he takes down a site because they are going to shelter Snowden, he brings it back up once the government changes its mind. He doesn't go after random enemies; he doesn't run around defacing random websites.  He seems to recognize his role; hell, the guy defined it.

So, to those folks trying to unmask The Jester, get a life.  Go after the bad guys. 

Image Source

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Tragedy in Sandy Hook

No matter how much I write or think, I can't scrub the imprint of this tragedy off my brain.  I have children.  Sweet little boys that still come for hugs when they are hurt, but are old enough to use the microwave.

Friday's tragedy is absolutely and unquestionably the worst nightmare of every mother and father.  Even those words sound trite because they don't quite capture the nightmare.

The people in Sandy Hook are heroes - living and slaughtered - they did every single thing right.  Why am I not comforted?  Because it means that you can give it your all and it won't be enough.  There wasn't one thing those teachers could have done differently.  They followed the book.  They saved lives and it wasn't enough.  The bullets still pierced innocent flesh.

The media drives me insane with their ridiculous questions.  How did it feel to wait in the fire house?  How the hell do you think it felt?  Like every cell in your body was on fire.  Like every ounce of your being was weighing in the balance.  Were you the have or have nots?  Were you the blessed or the cursed?  Were you the victorious or the pitied?  Would your child be one of the slaughtered?  Would you feel guilty is she weren't?  No one can imagine that wait.  No one.  I would have been beyond insane with fear.  If my child didn't walk through the door, I would not know how to put one foot in front of the other.  I would not know how to exist.

It provides absolutely no comfort that the shooter took his own life.  Every parent should have the right to look into his eyes and say, even in their heads, what they need to say to him.  But, obviously, our justice system would not have done any justice, so it is better that he slaughtered himself.  We would have made a thousand excuses to keep his life lit.

I don't know why I an't stop turning in my head this tragedy.  As a a a just resonates deep in my core.  How do we protect the most innocent among us?

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Syllables of Pain

It is a good thing that this Blog exists for days like today.

Words can not carry any weight in the shadow of such an inexplicable and devastating tragedy.  To even capture one word that can convey the sadness, nausea, anger, desperation, helplessness, or any emotion that can be linked to the slaughter of these innocent children and their teachers, is impossible.

What can any one say to the mother of the 5 year old that was one minute finger painting her name and the next minute lying in a pool of her own innocent blood?  There is no word.  There is no comfort.

As a mother, I immediately Facebooked my husband and told him to pick up the boys.  He said no.  We can't live in the shadows of fear.  Horse crap.  My kids aren't safe at the movie theaters.  My kids aren't safe at school.  In short...we are not safe.  Around every corner is some lunatic with a mission to teach us all a lesson.

It is useless to have a debate about guns right now.  I am not so much pro-gun as I am anti-big-government.  This guy didn't buy his guns legally, so all the gun laws in the world weren't going to stop him. Guys like him would have found any way to complete the mission.  Pain can use any number of tools; evil has every tool at its disposal.

People need words so they can heal.  And, so they go to the words they know...ban the guns...get rid of the gun video games...change the culture.  In a sense, these words make sense, but they don't resurrect the lives that were splintered, shattered, and broken today.

What do we do to heal?  How do we stretch our hands across the earth to help the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, grandparents, aunts, friends, teachers, survivors? 

There is nothing they can do but cry.  There is nothing we can do but cry.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The PLN Project Featuring Twitter, Guy Fieri, Kookiness, Spleens, and Ed Sheeran

So, yeah, I never blog.  I don't know why, but there is just something in my nature that makes me not want to sit here every day and write for hours upon end.

Insert Twitter.

I love Twittter.  My gal pal, Katie, (a doctor and not her real name) also loves Twitter.

Two weekends ago we had lunch and were chatting about our amazing Professional Learning Networks (PLNs) and how Twitter is simply an incredible tool to keep current in the fields of medicine and education.

We are both active tweeters in our fields, and we haven't really used Twitter for super personal stuff. (Isn't that, after all, what Facebook is all about???)  In any case, we conjured up a wee plan.  We wanted to see if our PLN communities could handle some "personal" stuff and/or random stuff in addition to our normal "professional" related tweets.

So, here is the plan...

In addition to our normal PLN topics (medicine and educational technology), each of us picked a topic we love and have tweeted about occasionally, and, because we wanted to have a focus, we each picked one famous person to follow from our topic.  For Katie, she actually knows how to cook (and is quite excellent).  So, she is devoting herself to tweeting about cooking, pulmonary medicine (her normal PLN topic), and her famous person to follow is Guy Fieri.  She picked him because "he seems the most down to earth of the cooks on the cooking channel."  She also likes his hair - which is crazy because she is a straight and narrow kind of girl.  She insists that "no one really wants a doctor that looks like Pink."

For me, I love music of all shapes and sizes, so my chosen topics are music, educational technology (my normal PLN topic), and the person I chose to follow is a new British singer/songwriter named Ed Sheeran.  He is an excellent musician and part of this new "Young British stars are not jackasses" movement that is also evident in major acts like Adele & Mumford and Sons.  He has crazy hair like I do, so that made him a natural choice, but I also picked him because he wasn't someone I have tweeted about in the past (The Rolling Stones, Eminem, Metallica, Tori Amos, Jane's Addiction, Pink Floyd, Mumford and Sons, Gaga, Adele, Beastie Boys, et al).  He is also just a mere 21 which isn't "boy bandish" but a hell of a lot younger than Simon LeBon.  So, it is a different "jet set" than I am used to following (and, OMMMMG, if they had had Twitter in the 80s, Duran Duran would have been my constant source of girlie fandom).

Our "Study"

Neither of us wanted to do official research because we are set professionally and it is December. We just wanted to have fun and operate within the spirit of a project done years ago called "Barbie with Brains."  But, we are both nerds, so we wanted to give our little practice/study some guidelines.

1.  We had to continue to engage our professional communities.  We use Twitter because it is a place where we learn and grow professionally.

2.  We did not use Facebook at all for this practice.  Since our family and friends are on Fb, the results would get messed up because our friends and family would comment (well, at least mine, and they are raspy assortment of truckers, bikers, scholars, and dentists).  We also did not mention this project to any one (it is mentioned here, but no one reads this blog).

3.  We are using Quitter to see if anyone stops following us.  If someone we cherish from our PLN stops following us, we will connect with that person and explain that these increased tweets will stop on Jan 1.

4.  We committed to spending some of our free time trying to post lots of posts about our topic (food and music).  I have more free time than Katie, as she has to go save lives, and, well, I have to charge lots of devices and write code.  According to Katie, I have "diarrhea of the phalanges" anyway because I am a better writer than speaker.

5.  We had to somehow participate in the tweet culture of our chosen famous person.  Ed Sheeran has made that fairly easy, though, because he launched an #edvent calendar, and every day there is something new.  Katie is watching Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives and tweeting about it.  She is also following his tweet stream.

6.  We can back out of this project if we think it is damaging our PLN.  We needed a safe word.  Katie picked pickles; I went for chocolate.  This is why she is a doctor, and I am not.  Katie is a boat load more reserved than I am when it comes to stuff like this, but even I am not all that comfortable going all out there on Twitter.  Katie says that I "think too deeply about life and love and peace...there aren't enough Twitter characters to write it all down."  So, this will be the burden I carry.  I despise superficial communication.

7.  We are keeping an archive of our tweets and retweets, follows, and unfollows, and comments/interactions.  We will look at common threads after the project ends on December 31st.  But, it won't be the next day because, well, God invented Guinness.

8.  Our project will end with a blog post written together and posted here on this blog.  Katie is doing this project anonymously (see below). We will link out that post and this one to our PLN and see what responses we get.

What do we hope to learn?

We want to see what happens to our PLN if we infuse more of our personalities.  Katie, for example, is doing all of this anonymously because she can't risk her professional career.  Even though she is chatty, she is a little bit militant in her mannerisms.  She says that she "has always had a hard time making friends" because she is "harsh and abrasive" (her words, not mine).  On Twitter, though, no one knows that about her and that is a huge draw for her.  Everyone who knows me already knows that I am zany, experimental and have never, in all of my 40 years, cared the slightest bit about following the crowd. There is a lot of freedom in never having ponied up your personality to the altar of expectation. I don't need to be anonymous.

We want to see if people get into our chats from our PLN.  Will they listen to any of the music?  Will they comment on a diner?  Will they stop following us because we have crossed some sort of professional line?  Will Ed Sheeran fans suddenly want to start coding in Python?  Will doctors eat at dives?

Our Predictions

For some of my 1200 followers, I think an addition of personal stuff might be a little weird but not too weird.  It isn't risky for me to adore a sweet and cheeky soul singer from England.  I expect more of a lashing from the teenage girls that love Ed Sheeran because they are (really) devoted to him. And, when I was their age, I adored Simon LeBon, Jon Bon Jovi, and Slash.  So, I am cheerfully amused by their devotion to him, but also know that 14 year olds can get possessive about crushes.  So, I am going to be clear that there is no crush here (which would be utterly creepy anyway) and that it is, truly, because I am huge fan of the work I have heard him play and the music he has written for others. 

His songs like A Team have a depth to them that is somewhat rare these days, and he seems really well grounded for being just 21.  In the few interviews I watched to prepare for this project, I found a few instances where he seemed so much more mature than his age.  But, in more recent stuff I have watched, he seems to be falling into a teen idol trap.  But, give him his props, he is, in fact, a teen idol to a very devoted set of girls.  If I interviewed him, I would not ask one question that would make him slide backward into the fanboy circuit.  I would ask him about the work he did with the homeless and the fate of the girl, Angel, that A Team is written about.  I feel this young man has so much to say but no one is asking the right questions.  They want to know what kind of britches he wears.  So, in a sense, I am saddened by the loss of a great mind in the mix of what fame does to people. 

Whew.  Random.

So, my three predictions:  I won't lose many followers (right now I lose about 3 a week).  I may gain a few more followers, but not many (I gain about 3 a day), and, overall, my PLN will tolerate my infusion of something non-work related (this will be evidenced by retweets, comments/conversation, and "likes").  Educators are loving peeps.

For Katie's followers (about 400), she is unsure.  No one posts about anything other than medical stuff.  A lot of doctors apparently have two twitter accounts - one for personal stuff and one for medicine.  She, too, wanted to make sure that it was clear that she didn't have some sort of fan crush on Guy Fieri but that she loved his cooking style and his sense (and trust me, he is the absolute opposite of Katie.  Katie and I have been friends for at least 100 years now and she and I are polar opposites in almost every sense...Guy Fieri is the south to her north pole in terms of style).

Katie's three predictions....She will lose followers (she loses about 1 a week now), she will not gain followers (she gains less than 1 per week on average), and her PLN will not tolerate her persona infusion.  She doesn't think there will be a a smooth way to tweet about cheeseburgers while others tweet about academic journal articles.  She also recognized that her age (54) might prevent her from being as carefree as I am at 40.  She thinks our ages impact our ability to post.  We'll see.  No one really knows your age on Twitter unless you tell them.  And, hell, I am still 29.  Can't help what the sun and Earth do :-)

We are excited about the project. 

So....let's see how this all shakes out.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Adventures of Building a Facebook App: Day 2

I am learning in leaps and bounds today.

The first thing I realized this morning was that I don't have a SSL certificate for my domain, so I ordered that and it will take about 48 hours they say and the site has to be rebooted.  Ok.  No worries there, as there is plenty of time for me to fiddle around with PHP.

I also updated the Facebook page that goes along with the App.  That came out now I just need to get the app coded and up there!!!!

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Adventures of Building a Facebook App: Day 1

O. M. G.

So, it is officially SPRING BREAK here in the great Mouth of Wilson, but that sensation hasn't quite kicked in because it just felt like a weekend.

I have a pretty robust to-do list for break (mostly laundry and cleaning, a little geocaching, and some movie watching), but I wanted to take on something new in celebration of Lent.  I wanted to build something or create something that others could use.

So, I decided to create a Facebook App all on my own without BuildChatter or any other site (BuildChatter, btw, never did end up working for me...and no one ever followed up, so scratch them off my holiday card list).

Now, I can create simple Fb apps (hello my name is Wally.  Go to this site and learn about what I do/sell/eat).  Usually, I program in Java.  I am also a fan of Python.  In the last year and half, I have learned to program in like 6 new languages (really, once you learn one, they all start to make sense).  But, for whatever dumb reason, I decided to do this Fb app in php.  Ugg.


Anywho...the process for actually creating the physical space for a Fb app is a cinch.  You just go to Facebook's Developer Site and get busy.  But, for some dumb reason (not the same one as before), I decided first to go with their cloud service hosting.  After an hour of trying to figure that out and wanting to light matches and burn my eyes out...I realized something...duh...I have my own server.  My server supports php.  Bah.

So, I went and set up the server to meet with Facebook's open source stuff (easy peasy), and now I am at the brink of writing the code.  But, it is like coding in French after years of coding in Latin.  If I were a wimp, I COULD switch over to Java and reset everything that way and write in a program I know much better....but, nah, where is the adventure in that???

The App

The App, at its initial stage, will be for students.  They will read something and then respond with YES, I am ready to take a quiz!  or No, I have some questions about the reading.  If they choose Yes, they go to a visual quiz using ThingLink or, if I want to be more academic, they will take a real quiz, self grading, in Google Forms with automatic grading and data distribution. If they say no, they open up a chat box to post questions (which will be posted for everyone to respond to and verify, but will also be sent to my email).

This app isn't really for my current students, as they aren't allowed to use Fb.  But, I can see using it with college students.  But, once it is complete, I am hoping to share it with other communities.  Imagine if doctors could have patients read up on stuff while they are in the waiting room?  Imagine if teachers could get professional development credits for taking and passing PD tests?  There are infinite possibilities.  And...since this my Lenten project...all of the source code will be open source and free and tweakable by one and all.

But, alas, it is nearly 3am, and my eyes are burning.  Not from matches...not yet.

Oh, and the picture here was sent to me by my good friend, Earl Kinsley.  Well, he WAS my good friend...until he sent me that match. ;p

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Tools for Teaching Programming

Robert Diana wrote a great post about 36 resources to help teach programming.  It is a great article, so head on over there to read the whole thing. Even though it is long, it has every detail you can possibly imagine about what is out there for teachers!

I especially love his brutal honesty about what works and what generally doesn't when it comes to teaching kids how to program.  Unlike some sites, he doesn't lay praise just because a tool or resource is hot.  Refreshing.

I have heard of most of the programs he listed and use many of them (Alice, Scratch, Terrarium, BlueJ, and Greenfoot).  He provided some background and other resources, though, for those tools that will be useful.  I also want to check out some other resources he mentioned: Waterbear, LiveWires, and RailsBridge).  He has included a list of materials for further reading, too.

Overall, his article is the bomb!  Go read it!

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Top 10 Places to Find Free EduTech Tools

Colleagues always ask where I find about all these free and wicked sweet tech tools.  The answer?  My amazing Personal Learning Network (PLN).

In the "industry," it is important to credit the work of others.  Well, as a HUMAN, praising the work of others should be constant, but, sometimes, circumstances prevent us from being able to give praise where it is due.  Twitter, for example, only allows so many lines, and sometimes it is hard to fit in a longer post and the @InsertNameHere.  So, the credit gets chopped off to save the precious retweet.

There are instances, too, when time is slim, and I might just be browsing through my many sites and will simply bookmark something to get back to it later.  Then I forget where I got the link from in the first place.

So, this post is all about giving praise where it is due...this is my PLN, and I recommend you follow these folks, subscribe to their ditties, and love them as dearly as I do!

General PLN Stuff

I get most of my info from four sources: Diigo, Google Reader, Twitter, and Facebook.  I also get swarms of email from various mailing lists devoted to educational technology and teaching.

The A List

If I am pinched for time, I will sometimes skim Twitter or do a pointed Facebook search for my A List posters.  These are the sites I follow religiously because the content is soooo good, and I am able to use so much of what is posted!  They aren't in any particular order here, as they are all #1 in my book:

1.  Larry Ferlazzo - Larry's amazing lists and lists of links are fantabulous.  Since he is an ESL teacher, I can find a lot of English related stuff here for my own students.  But, he has lists for all disciplines.  I love that he is honest, too, about what he finds or if he hasn't had time to truly explore a site.  I totally trust his judgment.

2.  Cybraryman - Cybraryman has EVERYTHING.  I can't even begin to praise his work because I wouldn't do him half the justice he deserves.  If I need something, I go to him or Larry.  One of them has what I need.

3.  Edudemic - This is a more general site, but they have a lot of great content, and I can learn more about bigger tools (like Pinterest).  They feature "how to" articles that have bailed me out more than a few times.

4.  Jane's Pick of the Day - Jane maintains a top tools list each year, and I love using that as a rubric to make sure I have heard of everything worth hearing about.  She has a new blog, so this one doesn't get the kind of attention it used to get, but I still find useful information here.

5.  Edsitement - I am always a little nervous about anything produced by our government, but this site is really worth its weight in gold.  For a humanities teacher, it is a one stop shopping place for everything and anything you could need to teach English or history.

6.  MakeUseOf - While this site isn't necessarily for educators, a lot of the tools they post can be used by educators.  Everything is free, too.  They have awesome guides on how to use programs like Photoshop, and they have great lists of freebies for your operating system.

7.  Mashable - Again, this site isn't just for educators, but they have great content, and I can use a lot of what I find there in the classroom.  I also enjoy following them on Facebook.

8.  Smashing Magazine -  - Despite my lack of coordination with real life clothing, I am a bit of a design hag when it comes to digital spaces.  Smashing has everything I need to be a great designer.  They have lists of places where I can get free fonts and whatnot, and I love their monthly desktop calendar posts.

9.  ICTMagic - This is another site like Larry Ferlazzo and Cybraryman. Martin has everything here, and sometimes it is a little hard to find things, but it is always well worth the hunt.  I have much of his work to supplement classroom reading.

10.  Free Tech for Teachers - Richard Byrne has amazing tools, too.  He also has a lot of great info on Google and mobile apps.

This is where I collect most of the goodies that I then share here on this blog or post on Twitter or Facebook.  They are all worth a look!

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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Cube Creators

A very cool tool has emerged from Read Write Think!

CubeCreators helps a teacher create awesome study cubes that ask questions and provide answers.  What a cool way to study! I made one for Dante's Inferno, but you could use it for any discipline.

The only thing I wish for, though, is that it could be made available as an embed on the web.  It would be cool to be able to post this on Twitter or Facebook.

ThingLink: A Sweet Tool for Photo Based Quizzes

Let's face it...most quizzes are boring.  But, what if you could ask the same questions but attach them to a photo?  ThingLink lets you do that AND you can post it on Facebook or Twitter (or send it by email).  I love it!  I made this little sample Dante quiz on Circle 7: Violence.

Musings of a Madwoman? No More!

I have been struggling for the past 24 hours to come up with something amazing to write about.  Truth be told...I got nuthin.

Well, actually, I got LOTS of stuff to talk about, but none of it can be put on the web...being all protective of my online presence and always aware that nothing ever goes away once it hits cyberspace and all...

So, I decided to get inspired by my RSS feed.  Holy Toledo - that was in a mad state of chaos.  It took 24 hours (well, I slept, took 2 naps, and read 2 books, oh, and ate, played games with the kids, played games on Facebook, and watched some Monty Python...but, in the spare spaces...), but I finally got it sorted.  I deleted a tramillion (at least) subscriptions...people who haven't posted in a few months, etc.  And then I realized something...I really don't like to read blogs all that much.

I am a tool hag.

I love to learn about new technology tools or classroom tools or freebies.  I love to learn about the successes of my various friends and/or their students...but, seriously, I take care of all of that on Twitter.  I don't want to read a dissertation about any of it; just gimme the link.

So, in the layer of hypocrites I sit with my trusty MacBook Pro...

I hate blogs that blabber on and on, and, omg, this blog blabbers on and on. post?  It won't be about Gerard Butler (who isn't and wasn't addicted to hype to make a boring story more tasty...) or award show fashion.  Going back to what I know.


Monday, February 27, 2012

Circle 8: Malebolge

I don't know how it happens, but poof!  Time goes by and I forget to write.

I didn't watch the Oscars.  In fact, I am fairly sure I have not heard of 99% of the films up for awards.  I did, however, check in on some fashion this morning.  And, the greatest dressed award goes to Sir Elton John's son, Zachary.  He was entirely too cute.

I have been away because I am immersed in teaching Dante's Inferno to High School Seniors.  I have taught this text a batrillion times (well, give or take), but it is so different teaching it to teenagers.

Part of the appeal of the Inferno is where we see ourselves in it; Dante wrote it for that same reason.  For adults and graduate students, my previous audience, they had a great deal of life experience to help them sort out their ideas.  High School students get stuck in Circle 2 and can't manage to get past it.

As we approach Spring Break, projects and exams are coming due, and it is even more obvious to me that  the students struggle with not just the language but the idea that any action we take is unsavory.  Was I like that as a teenager?

Probably.  It is the beauty of youth.

Anyway, I saw that my favorite actor (Gerard Butler) has done a three week camp with the Betty Ford Clinic.  That is probably the place where famous people go where they can be left alone.  If I were famous, I would totally vacation there to get away from the media.  In any case, I hope he is well and has sorted out whatever issues he went there to sort.  I hope he read tons, as that is the best medicine for almost any ailment.

Off to teach the Malebolge!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Corpse Walker

Reading about life during the Mao years of China is fascinating.  It truly wasn't that long ago.

I am always interested in learning about other cultures, and, for whatever reason, I am fascinated with certain cultures and time periods.

My MA thesis advisor was Chinese (and probably still is, actually), and his knowledge of American literature and English grammar/mechanics was far superior to anyone I had ever met.  I learned so much from him in the year I spent under his wing.

About two years ago, we hosted two Chinese boys for three weeks.  My sons idolized them, and it was truly a great cultural exchange.  The little I knew about China was derived from the all-you-can eat Chinese Buffet in my hometown of Bethlehem, PA.  But, these two boys lit an interest to learn more about the culture.  We learned about what they really eat (although, it must be said, all boys love cereal and LOTS and LOTS of it!).  We learned about what schools were like, and why they wanted to study in the US.

In exchange for their culture, we took them on their first hike (OMG, that was a disaster, but a totally funny story now), and we took them to their first St. Patrick's Day Parade and Wake (Chinese boys doing a jig is much to remember).

Their stay with us has prompted me to learn more about the history and culture of China.  I read Confessions: An Innocent Life in Communist China by Kang Zhengguo, and I am now reading Corpse Walker: Real Life Stories: China from the Bottom Up by Liao Yiwu.  Both texts are brutally honest and amazing.

What both texts share an incredible sense of resilience.  How can I possibly complain about Google Chrome's laggishness when people became cannibals during the 3 year famine?  Villagers ate little girls, for Pete's sake. People stole children from other villages to EAT THEM.  You can't even complain about eating leftovers when you learn that this happened less than 100 years ago!!!!

So, this is what I learned...complain less.  You could have it a LOT worse.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

The Truth About Community Colleges: A National Treasure

First, a confession.

I am a product of a community college.

Second, another confession...

I am proud to be a product of a community college.

Back in the day (more than 20 years ago), I was sitting in summer school because I failed 10th grade English by 1 point.  I was missing a swim meet.  I was filling out stupid worksheets.  I was bored off my rocker.

My 10th grade teacher, a woman I despised at the time, flunked me because I was "lazy, unmotivated, and refused to work to my potential" (I am reading the report card right as I type this).

As I sat in that classroom and looked around, I remember thinking that I didn't belong there.  I read all of the time; my vocabulary, thanks to my parents, was fairly robust.  I had read all the books I was supposed to read, but I was too stubborn, or thought I was too cool, to fill out the worksheets.

The summer school teacher, whose name has long since escaped me, asked if I really wanted to spend my life working at gas station because I was too lazy to do my homework.

That summer changed me.

You never admit this when you are a kid, but OMG...I didn't want to end up in some boring dead-end job.  I wanted to go to college.  I want to be noticed for how smart I was and not for how cool I thought I was (and, truly, I wasn't even very cool).

To make a long story very short: I got my act together.

In the summer between my junior and senior year, I went to summer school again - by choice.  I went to the local community college and took all the math courses I needed to catch up so I could take Calculus and Trig 1 and 2 during my senior year.

During that summer experience, a bunch of returning adult students were in my classes.  They were all going for nursing.  They pulled me along with them by the scruff of my neck and kept telling me that I had it good; my parents could help me.  They waited too long and it was harder because they had jobs and families.

We studied together in the learning center, the cafeteria, the lounges.  We held study groups at each other's houses on the weekends.  I don't remember any of their names or faces now, but I sure do owe them a lot.  They helped me be a better student and a better person.

My parents weren't prepared for me to go to college. I had never shown any interest, academically or otherwise, in going.  As a middle income family, there wasn't money to pay the big bucks of college.  As a student with a spotty academic (not to mention naughty behavior) past, my options were slim.  My mother wasn't convinced that I had converted to the good side, either, and she was a little hesitant to toss all kinds of money at a whim.  My father told me that I had one semester to prove myself if I wanted their continued help.

Much to everyone's relief, I made honor roll that first semester, the second semester, and all the way through graduate school. A community college changed my life and gave me a fresh start to become the person I am today.

As state governments choose to cut this program and that program, I hope they will consider the invaluable services provided by a community college.  Trade programs, transfer programs, and community programming are just a little bit of the amazing services these schools provide.

As costs rise, and students shoulder more of these costs, there needs to be a place where students can go that fits within their budgets and offers flexibility to work around work schedules.  These schools need the best equipment, and a commitment to continued support for technology and diversity.

Please do all you can to support your local community college and its efforts to retain state and local funding.  Even if you have never stepped foot in one, I promise that you will meet a community college graduate.  He will be taking your X-Ray after you slip on the golf course or taking notes during your meeting with your lawyer.  She might be preparing your taxes or fixing your computer.  He might be building your cabinets, or she might be helping you solve an insurance problem.  He might be teaching your child or saving your life in an ambulance.

Community colleges matter.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Popularity of Hell: A Case for Video Games in Education

 I have no idea why Dante's Inferno is so appealing to students.  But, of all the great texts I teach, this is the one where kids will sit up and pay attention.

The EA video game, Dante's Inferno, is surprisingly good and has a lot of accuracy.  Only a few students have played it, but they were able to answer a lot of questions about the text because they had played the game.

The idea that games can add to education is not new, but there are still plenty of folk who nay say.  If Dante can be a small example, the kids that do the worst seemed to know the most because they had played the game.

I truly wish they would come out with a Facebook game called "The Canterbury Tales."  If they are slightly more daring, they might do a whole Shakespeare series.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Preparing for Hell

The students in both English 12 and College Credit English started the Dante unit today.  By far, this is one the coolest texts to teach.  Students seem to get into it in a way they don't for Chaucer or Shakespeare.

Students love to talk about the nature of sin, and seem to have more questions about their own beliefs as the unit progresses.  As a teacher, it is always rewarding to watch students carefully consider their own belief systems.  Students have often written to me years after the course to tell me how much they valued and remembered the unit.  This is a true Kudo to Dante, himself, though, as this text is THAT engaging and timeless.

The first step on our journey through the unknown is to evaluate what we already believe about all issues concerning sin, heaven, hell, etc.  The students fill out a survey with the following 10 questions:

1. Do you believe in the concept of sin?  If so, define "sin."  If not, why not?

2.  Do you believe in God or a "higher power"?  Why or why not?

3.  If you believe in the concept of sin, are there some sins that are worse than others?

4.  If you believe in the concept of sin, are there some sins that can not be forgiven?

5.  Why do bad things happen to good people?

6.  Do you believe in ghosts/spirits?  Why or why not?

7.  What happens to the soul after the physical body dies?

8.  Do you believe in Heaven and/or Hell?  Why or why not?

9.  What happens to a soul of a person that has committed suicide?

10.  Do we judge people by their occupations (judge, lawyer, actress, etc.)?

The responses to these questions are always fascinating.  In the 17 years I have been teaching (mostly at the college level), the responses are never consistent.  On average, there are 2 students per class that are atheist or agnostic.  On average, there are about 2 students that are born-again Christians.  The rest fall somewhere in between.

What impressed me most today, though, was that one group of students actively sought out our campus chaplain to discuss the issues.  They wanted to know his take.  It was totally learning in motion.  They went and tracked him down, brought him in, and listened.  It was kind of cool.

So, what I learned today....students do care about these sorts of issues, but they don't have many places where they can actually talk about them.  Some of them are looking for answers; others are still forming questions.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Celebrity Status: What Teens Think

Students are returning from mid-winter break, and dinner was very lively.  The students in the play (we are doing a HS rendition of the musical Grease) were sitting around chatting about the Grammys, and I told them about the recent activity on this blog concerning the actor Gerard Butler.  Some of them also have me for English, so they saw his performance of "Beowulf and Grendel."  The gaming students (who are mostly in theatre, too) saw him in 300 and in Law Abiding Citizen.

We talked about the nature of fame.  Our school has an elite basketball team, for example.  Currently, we are ranked #1 in the country for HS Boys' Basketball.  These players are awesome, and most of them are headed to big schools to play college ball and then, if history repeats itself, some of them will head off to the NBA.

So, the students said there is a difference between famous actors, famous musicians, and famous athletes.  Fame treats them differently, they report.

They felt that actors are held to a super human status because they are judged by the roles they portray.  One student reasoned that she would expect Butler, for example, to be a "just" man because he was just in all three movies she saw him act in (B&G, 300, and LAC).  So, because he picks roles that have good (but somewhat tortured) men in them, he must identify with that kind of man.  She said the proof is in his current three films.  In Machine Gun Preacher, he plays a man on the edge that is doing good; in Coriolanus, he plays a tortured man trying to do good; in Of Mavericks and Men he is a tortured man trying to be the best at his sport.  They felt that he plays extreme roles, and he has extreme relationships, because he is an extreme guy.  I asked what proof they had about his relationships, and they agreed that they had no proof of that aspect of him because the media is not reliable.  They did find it interesting that he had weights brought to him while he was working on movies.  Working with two trainers at 6 hours a day is intense, so they felt that was proof, too, of an extreme and dedicated personality.

I am not sure if he is an extreme person or not, and, sadly, I won't ever get a chance to ask him, but their ideas about him were very mature and considered.  As one kid said, "BRG, you are what you eat.  If you eat roles that are beyond human, people see you as beyond human."

For athletes, they aren't tied to portraying others; they are playing a game.  Their fame comes from how they do on the court or field.  People like to talk about their personal lives, but not as much as they do for actors and singers.  I guess that might be true.  I don't know anything personal about any of the Philadelphia Flyers.  None of the guys I have ever watched Hockey with in college knew a thing about who these guys were shacking up with at the end of the night.  No one cares what they wear to the store.

For musicians, there is a mixed bag.  They definitely felt that rappers have a higher visibility than other musical artists.  People care more about what Rihanna is doing than Taylor Swift, for example.  They see rappers as having more of a jet set life.  Some of them believed that rappers live like they are on a reality TV show and want the attention in ways that other actors, like Butler, avoid.

They sure had a lot to say about fame.  They felt that fame, and the dwindling of fame, was the true downfall of Whitney Houston.  Because she could no longer sing like she once could, and she couldn't be that glamour girl of the 80s and 90s, she felt she had nothing to live for anymore.  They believed that actors and musicians feel this pain more than athletes because athletes know their shelf life is short on the court and field.  They go into it knowing they will only have a few years to shine.

So, these are thoughts of modern teenagers sitting around a table at dinner in a small corner of the world.  I wonder if others agree?

No Takers: Do Teachers Really Collaborate?

As expected, my LiveBinder challenge went untouched.  Well, except for my good friend, Jean-Claude Bradley at Drexel.  He teaches orgo chem, though, so it isn't likely that we could find a connection between his work and Dante.

There is this idea that has been baking itself into the hollow points of my skull and, dare I say it, it is a little snarky.  Do educators really collaborate?  Is technology for the teacher or the student?

OK.  Those are two ideas, and they aren't inherently connected, but it strikes me that educators don't really collaborate that much and technology, like knowledge, is still stuck in the hands of the teachers while the students have the awesome opportunity to, um, watch.

My PLN is always a buzz with opportunities to collaborate.  Educators are often asking for us to comment on the blogs, VoiceThreads, Wikis, or whatevers of their students.  If I have time, I always try to drop in and read a bit and leave comments.  Students get sooooooo excited when other people read their stuff.

When I taught at the college level, I tried to find every opportunity possible to partner up with other teachers in other academic disciplines (especially science and technology).  Most community college students are not going to major in English; they are headed out to a working world where MLA means squat.  By the time I left to purse the whole Ghandi mission thing, my students had writing partnerships with Drexel & Dusquene,  work related partnerships with 3 area businesses, and service learning events with the local county home and hospital.  Students wrote a play using interviews they conducted and shaped into monologues; they put together Veteran's Day tributes; and they honored immigrants. They built Edgar Allan Poe's House of Usher and 14 other literature simulations in Second Life.  They were constantly challenged to work collaboratively.

Technology makes our classrooms limitless, and, yet, it seems we are more limited.  Teachers (obviously not all teachers...but too many) are so engaged in technology that students are left watching.  Nothing sucks more than having to watch someone else pay a video game.  Get me in there...pass the Wii controller...hook up the other joy stick.

So, why do teachers preach collaboration but side step actually doing it?

Well, for starters, collaboration takes a boat load of time.  There is no one on this planet that hates meetings more than I do; as a person of action, I would rather you just send me the memo with your expectations and let me get to work.  I am not all about caring and sharing and talking about feelings.  Eh.  It isn't that I don't care about them; it is just that I am a solutions driven person.  If your feelings are attached to a solution, yay!  If not, complain elsewhere; you are impeding progress.

Collaborators need to meet a lot, and they need to stay on track.  There can't be a parade of ego prancing around.  Set up a game plan, execute said game plan, assess said game plan, make adjustments to said game plan, make game plan better.  Win the game.  There is no room for ego.

The second problem is also ego driven.  Teachers are natural rock stars.  We love to talk, and show off, and be amazing with our gadgets and cool toys.  Well, that is all fine and dandy, but, um, the kids watching you are not as impressed as you think.  Community College students are great because they are often a little older and want to be there; they are in the midst of changing their lives to something better.  But, high school students are a captive audience, and you are not as cool as you think.  What impresses kids, in the few short years I have worked with them, is when THEY get to hold the controller. No one wants to watch me make a Prezi.  But, the students LOVE making Prezis.  No one wants to to watch me hand code a first person shooter game.  But, they LOVE programming their own games.  I don't need to be the star on the stage; they can be the stars.  This is their chance to learn something new, retain it, and carry on a love for literature, programming, or whatever I am teaching (Ecology?).

The final problem is one that we have had for years and years in education.  Teachers are competitive.  We need to feel better about ourselves by hoarding our good practices.  In some cases, we hide our stuff because we fear retribution from our peers.  I've been there.  Nothing is more daunting than being a trailblazer in a kingdom of dinosaurs...even if some of those dinosaurs are your age.  But, some people just hide their good stuff because they are afraid someone will copy it.

Education, and knowledge itself, should be free, open, and accessible to everyone.  We only want people to collaborative on OUR projects; we want to be the ones that get the glory.  Bah.  Who needs glory?  Teaching is an art form, and artists are inspired by other artists.  If there were no museums or galleries, those artists would be screwed.  The same is true of teachers.  We need to see good teaching to be better as a whole.

Am I surprised that no one from my PLN added to the Dante project?  Not really.  I picked a hard topic.  On purpose.  Will I add to someone's binder?  Sure; if I have time and resources that are helpful.  Will I continue to post comments on other teacher's student blogs and wikis?  Absolutely.

Teaching and learning is about students.  Education will improve when we can honestly check our egos at the door.  Technology will be meaningful when we allow students to take the reigns.  We need to give them opportunities to shine.

Change begins with shutting up and taking action; like the words of the band, Cracker, "Get off this; get on with it; if you want to change the world, shut your mouth and start to spin it."

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Surviving the #Grammys

I don't think I have ever watched any award show for movies, TV, Music or anything like that.  I've watched performers on these shows, but only because someone called me to the room.

I broke with tradition because one of my favorite bands, Mumford and Sons, was up for an award or two against another band I like - the Foo Fighters. Plus, Foster the People were playing as was Adele.  So, I thought I could make it through.


Before you start thinking I am an awful brand of hater, stop.  Hear me out.

How can anyone possibly compare the music of Mumford and Sons to the Foo Fighters???  They are both amazing.  The band members seem like real dudes.  I loved the speech from the Foo Fighters about where art and music come from (the heart and mind) and not a fancy studio.  They made their music in the garage - old school.  So, I am glad they were awarded, but I also wanted to give an award to Mumford and Sons, too, because they are also amazing, homespun, and awesome.

How can we compare Adele to anyone?  She is just amazing.

The new brand of musicians is not at all about glitz and glam.  They seem all down to earth and into the craft of music.  Now, that probably doesn't apply to folks like Rhianna, whom I also like to sing along to in the school van with the students, but my kind of music - rock, hard rock, metal...they don't seem to be about the show and tell of it all.

Really, all of them are amazing.  How can you give an award to one person when they are all simply divine?  So, that leads me to believe that the winners are somehow politically selected.  Even in grade schools, winners are always a political decision.  I hate that.  My kids have won awards, and I always feel sorry for the kids that don't win.  Of course, my boys are brilliant and should win every award, but every parent feels that I feel bad for the other parents.

I do, however, like to see the dresses.  For as much as a non-frufru person as i am, I do think getting decked out for an event like the Grammys is OK.  Sorry, guys, but y'all look the same...a tux is a tux.  My vote for the boys goes to the Foo Fighters because they wore tee shirts.  But, I do like to see the girls all dressed up.  I would only ever want to go to the awards so I could get all sorts of gussied up, too.  But, seeing as there are no pending invitations on my dance card, I will have to live vicariously through the celebrities.

Rhianna, by far, was the most beautiful.  I loved her dress, and I loved that her hair wasn't all pasted into a geometric design.  Since I have big curly hair, I love all women with big curly hair, and so, I loved the look of Diana Ross.

Nicki Manaj looked like crap in that red dress.  Sorry, honey, only Lady Gaga can get away with something like that.  I expected more from Gaga, though.  Since she did meat, she should have done fish or chicken or maybe brussels sprouts.  I think she is a brilliant woman - a 21st century Madonna - and I do love to see what kind of outfit she has going on.  But, Nicki?  Nah.

Adele is simply gorgeous.  She wore exactly what I expected.  I love how she is all about the music.

Taylor Swift looked simply gorgeous, as well.  I loved the color of her gown, and her look was simply elegant.

I loved Cyndi Lauper's look.  It was totally a throw back to the 80s, and it was amazing for her.  She looks fantastic.  Well, ok, the big ole gold chain at her hip was little much, but I liked the hair and the bodice.

Robyn looked stupid.  I don't even know who she is, actually, but, hell, I could have put together something better than that, and I think flannel is the new satin.  You are at the GRAMMYS for pete's sake...wear something other than what you wore to bed last night.

Kelly Osborne looked stunning.  I even liked her hair colour.  I am not a fan of ink, and I always think people place ink in the dumbest places.  If anything was wrong with her look, it is that her tattoos are in dumb places.

So, I think that was everyone I saw in the pre-game line up.  There were a bunch of people I never heard of before, and most of them looked fantabulous.  One or two looked like they were trying too hard.

So my thoughts are that when they have the awards for "Best Classical Literature put into Screen Play Format" and I win for my Dante's Inferno rendition, I will probably wear something mauve.

A Live Binder Experiment: The Dante Binder Project

LiveBinder is one of the best research tools in the web 2.0 world.  I have created binders for presentations, and I actively check out binders created by others.  I have always felt, though, that more could be done with the tool.


It is Sunday morning here in Mouth of Wilson.  It is a balmy 10 degrees outside. The back door broke in the wind last night, so the house is like an iceberg.  Ah, THAT is what the deadbolt was for....

Minnie the cat is trying to eat the fish; Bad Kitty is trying to drink my coffee, and Dexter is chasing his little stuffed gator.  The turtle is eating ham.  The dog is outside peeing on the truck.  Mustache man is under the weather (too much butter??), and Sharpie Boy is watching video game bosses via the Angry Video Game Nerd.  The Boss is watching reruns of World's Dumbest (Don't even get me started on what I think about that show!)

Since things are pretty peaceful, and we have time before getting ready for Sunday School, I thought I would kick off a little Sunday project and see what happens.

When the student return from their long weekend, we will kick off our Dante unit.  They seem to love talking about Hell.  Some of them think they live in it, actually.  But, nonetheless, we will devote ourselves to the study of Dante's version of it.

I've taught this content at the college level and have scaled it down to the high school level, and there are some pretty great activities that have surfaced over the years.  But, I am always looking for better ways to share this amazing work.


I created a Live Binder called "The Dante Binder Project" and included just the basics of what I use to teach the unit.  I posted it on Twitter with an invite for others to add content, and I will see if anyone does that between now and 11:00 PM tonight.

LiveBinder seems to be a tool that calls for collaboration.  We will see :-)

Saturday, February 11, 2012

300 Reasons

So, Mustache Man (that's my son) and I watched 300.  My other son, Sharpie Boy, didn't make it through the opening credits before running off to draw.


The actors were brilliant, and I actually liked the effects (as a gamer, it is all about the visuals and the game play).  But, I just couldn't get into the story line.  It probably would have been awesome to have seen it in the theatre with surround sound, as watching it on my macbook pro isn't the same experience.  Also, having to answer 4000 questions every 32 seconds so Mustache Man could follow along wasn't helping (he is 10).  We liked some of the creatures, and, of course, "this is Sparta" is now a catch phrase around the house...(as in "Pick up your toys!  Off to bed!  This is Sparta!"  That will get some good use (just like that guy that shot his daughter's laptop...."This is your laptop; this is my 45" is a great phrase to get my kids to eat dinner).

After watching the movie, I went to a mate's house to play Risk in celebration of another mate's birthday.  There are at least 300 reasons why I can not and should not conquer the world.  I suck at it is probably the best reason.

Living in the middle of nowhere at a boarding school limits other Saturday night entertainment, but we had fun.

I have watched a few of the links people sent to me about Gerard, and, eh, they were OK.  I liked him on the Ferguson show and on the British talk show.  I also liked his clip on SNL.  Having played bagpipes for years all over the east coast at Scottish games, I have no problem with accents.  But, the SNL skit was funny, as it reminded me of friends I have not seen or talked to in years.

The last site I looked at was just atrocious.  It was about that desperate housewives chic.  First of all, don't even get me started on the desperate housewives.  They are all, um, desperate?  Second, the comments section of the page was just dumb.  It is amazing to me how people think they know someone based off anything our media scrapes up.  Do I really care if Gerry is a man whore???  Do little children in Africa care that Gerry's trailer door is busy? Really?  This is what we most care about as a society????

So, that is where I stopped.  I tried.  I really tried, for a day, to be a super fan.  Sorry, Gerry, it isn't in me.  I leave you to all the other women of the world that can pay that much attention to your every move.

RIP Whitney Houston

News has it that Whitney Houston has passed away.  For those of us that grew up in the 80s, her "I will Always Love You" was THE song at every dance.

Rest in Peace, Whitney.  I am sorry this life couldn't give you all you needed.

Réquiem ætérnam dona eis. Dómine; 
et lux perpétua lúceat eis. Requiéscant in pace. 

May the souls of the faithful,
through the mercy of God,
rest in peace
and rise in glory.

May light, perpetual, 
shine upon Whitney,
now and forever. 

Weekly Wrap: Gerard Butler, Unsubscribr, Naked Men, and Feral Cows

So, it is time for a weekly wrap of the precious and witty stylings of this bog.  Included are some updates and/or reflections.

We'll start with Gerald Butler because, if traffic is any indication, you've come to see what I've written about him.  If you are a techie person or a teacher, scroll down a bit to the information about Unsubscribr, Build Chatter, and Pinterest. I will leave the naked men and feral cows to the very end :-)

I am a little blown away by how many people wrote to me about Gerard Butler.  Most people were very kind (seeing as I was little snarky about fan clubs), pointing me to this movie or that interview.  These ladies know their Gerry!

Someone emailed me to tell me I had fallen prey to something called "The Butler Legacy." This is, evidently, something that happens to smart women that adore Gerry for his spirit and brain and not his looks.

Well, I am not sure that I can lay claim to the BL, but I do want to say that, while he is handsome, smart, and funny, he isn't the only actor I enjoy.  I am absolutely in love with the work of Brendan O'Carroll,  Sean Connery, Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Gary Sinise, Helen Hunt, and Tom Hanks.  I enjoy all of their work for different reasons.  I've not written blog posts about them because I didn't have a blog at the time I discovered them (although I will probably write a post about the amazing work Gary Sinise does with veterans).

Only one person emailed me in anger.  Truly, I meant no disrespect toward people in fan clubs (truly).  It isn't my thing, but I don't think less of you if it is your thing.  Yes, it seems odd to devote so much energy to an actor when there are people out there that deserve our undivided devotion because they are trying to change the world by working with the poor and discarded (the work of Vickie and Thom Hicks, for example).  Yes, it seems a little OCD to focus on every word and movement of any man or woman.  But, everyone has a hobby, and mine aren't any better or worse. If adoring Gerry is your thing, havatit.

It can't be easy to be that cute.  I would never trade places with Gerry for anything (well, except that I would have so much fun trying to save the world with his bank account; imagine all the poor children that we could get vaccinated?  Imagine the rice we could buy? Imagine the schools we could build???).

It would be fun to be his official biographer, too, because you could hang out with him, he would tell great stories and make you laugh, but then he would go away to be with his famous friends.  It would be the best job in the world.  I am certain he has people for that; it appears that he has people for everything.  I wonder if he feels all alone despite the crowd.  There is such freedom in not being famous, wealthy, or good looking.

I did find out, though, that the name of the book he spoke about on the Stern show is called Resurrection by Neville Goddard.  I ordered a copy from Amazon this morning.  It would be fun to talk to anyone about it if you have read it.  I just received the book about Jnana Yoga that I spoke about earlier this week.  I am excited to hit the hot tub to start reading.


Many, many thanks to the people at Unsubscribr for sending me an invite to their full version.  I really love love love love this tool.  I was a member of way too many mailing lists, and they were just pulling me down because I couldn't get to student or parent emails or to any of the BRG fan club (ha).  My digital life has become so much more manageable because of Unsubscribr.  If you have not clicked on their link, you ought to hang your head in shame.

Kudos go out to the folks over at Build Chatter. John has been very kind, and has been working with me to get the app to work.  It isn't working yet, but I was impressed by his responsiveness.  With any new start up app, we can expect some challenges as people with varying abilities begin to use it.  I see much potential in the app, and hope to use it to create literature quizzes for my students.  I will wait and see how it goes with them, and will keep all y'all posted.

Finally, I got my invite from Pinterest.  Again, I am not sure why everyone's panties are in a twist over this site.  It is pretty, for sure, but it is like going to a conference where there are only poster sessions.  I like posters and all, but, bah, after you have seen one too many, it is time to hit the pool!  I will see if it gets any more dazzling before I make a final assessment of it.


There is actually a book about the naked men of India.  Sadhus: India's Mystic Holy Men describes how these men detach from all earthly necessities.  Now, I am a spiritual woman, but I am attached to being clothed.  Anyway, I ordered the book and we'll see what they have to say about it :-)

I did not know that there are, in fact, hoards of feral cows living all over the planet.  PBS has a great little ditty about the problem in India.  If you have some time, check it out.


That is this week's wrap.  I must return to helping my son donate unused toys to the local shelter.  He and I have a date to watch 300 after dinner (but only if I hand pop some popcorn, AND make butter, AND make stove top hot chocolate, AND read to him from his Star Wars Dictionary...sheesh...Gerry Butler just made my workload worse, hahaha).  Once we get through all that, I will THEN have time to get into the hot tub with my stack of books.

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