Tuesday, January 31, 2006


I think this is funny, in a self deprecating sort of way.

Thanks to Dave Winer for the pointer.

It's a browser!

Microsoft has released a public beta version of its new Internet Explorer 7 web browser. If you've got Windows, you can check it out here: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/IE/ie7/default.mspx .

The best thing about it, from my point of view, besides the tabbed browsing and support for fixed css positioning is its built in RSS aggregator. Now everyone will be using RSS!

Saturday, January 28, 2006

All the Software I've Loved Before

At least one reader has asked for a comprehensive list of the software I've mentioned in this blog, so here it is.

Active Rubrics
DOM Slides
Foobar 2000
Gizmo Project
GMaps Pedometer
OPML Editor
PDF Creator
Pod Producer
Real Alternative
RSS Embedder
XSPF Music Player

Skyping in Bed

Best use of Skype yet:

Help student on bed rest attend class remotely.

That's right: one of my students, a pregnant woman whose doctor has placed her on bed rest for the remainder of her pregnancy (she's got about a week to go) participated my English class this week via Skype. She heard us, we heard her. Everything worked perfectly.

Now that's progress.

A Letter to English 101

I'm writing a letter to my English class. In it I will describe the assignment for next week. We've spent two weeks trying out a variety of writing processes: clustering, timed writing, writing with the eyes closed, writing from feedback, etc. The next assignment, in the spirit of Peter Elbow, is to write an essay about what it was like to experiment with all these processes. I'm planning the letter in FreeMind. Here's what I've got so far.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Synchronous Chat Q & A

Here's something I did with my web design class that I think made good use of both my students and the technology of synchronous chat.

Using a chat room, students, who had read fifty pages in the text book for that day, wrote questions they had about the reading. For eight minutes they entered their questions into the chat room. After eight minutes, they were allowed to start answering the questions for each other. We made it competitive.

There were some interesting results. One student said he answered his own question by answering someone else's. Another student, an ESL student, thought the whole assignment was a great idea. She suggested I make the questions available separately after they're posted, and this I will do from now on.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A Personal Realization

I've got to loosen up!

Art Effect

Danny Gregory, author of several good books on art and creativity has been conducting a survey. Gregory wants to know how making art at a professional level has influenced the ways creative professionals think and be.

In my case, drawing has become a means of meditation and relaxation. I also use drawings to prompt my memory. However, I still seem to think in words more than through images (is my choice of preposition there - in words vs through images - significant?). I still tend to draw from writing rather than write from drawing. Although, I have been playing with the idea of writing more cinematically. Just this morning, as I drove my car pool around the last corner of our commute and slipped my car into its berth in front of my academic building, I was thinking it might be useful to try thinking in movies, in moving images, rather than words. That I think I could do. That would be like daydreaming.

Oh. The image of the pepper shaker. I drew it in the margin of a textbook I'm using this semester. It's an outgrowth of my growing doodling habit. In the end, it might be doodling that gets me to think through images.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


a child's drawing of a tyrannosaurous rex

At his day care center, his caregivers have been trying to convince the child to "draw." In their eyes, drawing means rendering reductive, cartoonish, clipart-like images and coloring inside the lines. "Don't scribble," they admonish when the child fails to cover some bounded region with a thick coat of crayola. Undeterred, however, the child scribbles on, and today, sitting with him as he created the image above, I realized something: he doesn't scribble; the child draws! "What's that?" I asked him. "A T-Rex," he answered. And darned if he wasn't right -- it was the freest, and rather the scariest drawing of a T-Rex I've ever seen.

Disclosure: I am the child's father, and so maybe somewhat biased.

Fatherhood: The Unvarnished Truth

The Morning News has a nice piece on the reality of fatherhood as experienced by a most articulate group of dads. Here are some excerpts and a link to the full text:

Our son subsists entirely on a snack food called "Pirate's Booty." This would be bad enough, but it's compounded by the fact that he saunters around the house saying, "want booty." We don't love the game, we love the playa.

Things that initially seem cute become alarmingly ingrained habits. He evolved a peculiar gurning grin—budding teeth thrust forward, eyes squinted. Naturally, we imitated it in delight, encouraging him to do it more and more… Only later did we notice friends and family recoil in slight horror at the sight.

Other things are more transient—at this stage the window for parental gloating at your child's amazing aptitude and social skills barely lasts for a week until his peers catch up. We think of him as a fast learner, an early developer, a capable walker. "Oh he's fine," we tell friends as he waddles out of our sight into another room, before there's a bang, a heart-stopping pause, and a familiar wail.

One mistake I guess we've made is in encouraging our son to be completely fearless. My wife and I were raised in the '70's, when Sesame Street and albums like "Free to Be You and Me" were all "rah-rah, build up your self-esteem, you can do anything, don't be afraid!"

We've now passed that mentality on to our child, who now suffers from the illusion that he is bulletproof. The other day after his bath I put him on our bed to dress him in his jim-jams and then, on a lark, threw the towel over his head. He reacted by laughing, leaping to his feet, and running full-bore in a random direction. When he went over the edge of the bed he hung there for a moment, Elmer Fudd style, legs bicycling in mid-air, before hitting the ground with a heart-stopping Wa-UMP! Tears were shed, hugs were administered, bruises were admired…and then, when I put him back on the bed, he was off like a shot, looking over his shoulder like, "OK, but can you catch me NOW?"

Link to full text.

Thanks to Danny Gregory for the pointer!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Killer Combo

I just thought of a way to combine RSS feeds and WebCT and save time. As things stand now, if an instructor using WebCT wishes to post an announcement for her class to see, she either has to post the announcement to a textbox inside the WebCT course space (at least a ten or twelve click procedure), or send a standalone email message to the whole class (seven clicks).

Alternatively, the same instructor could use Thingamablog, an ftp-equipped server, and an embedded RSS feed to post the same announcement to several sections of the class at once (maybe four clicks).

Here's another idea: let a student be a "guest blogger" on a WebCT course resource page. Have him set his RSS feed to "full text" and post comments about coursework. Or, put students in teams and rotate feeds from group blogs. Then the class will have another reason to log in to the WebCT course space -- to check out new posts from the "bloging group of the week."

Or use suprglu to compile a whole class' RSS feeds into one and embed the compilation into a WebCT page.

The possible permutations are endless.

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Thingamablog is a blogging tool that keeps a copy of one's weblog on one's computer while also publishing the blog to a server (via ftp). And I can tell you, now that I've tried the program on the servers of several hosts, I can aver that Thingamablog works very well, indeed.

Because Thingamablog does not use a server-side database, people who use Thingamablog often use blogdigger as a search engine for their blog and haloscan to support comments from those who chance to visit.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Silly, Yet Satisfying

Mermbut's Daily Sketch can be silly, but I still enjoy this series of single panel comics.


As I was riding to Ft. Pierre, I met a house with moving gear . . .

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Typing Test

Here's a web based way to test your typing speed.

My score: an abysmal 68 words per minute!

Objectgraph Dictionary

Here's a nice online dictionary that guesses what word you want to look up as you type it.

Pen O' My Heart

I've been collecting pens for a long time, but never have I found such an inexpensive one that does everything I need a pen to do (including draw) while sparing my ergonomically challenged hand further strain. Presenting Itoya's Gripper MD. The best thing it does, besides balance, is absorb the varying pressure of the fingers as they grip the pen. I think that's the critical bit: the flex of the grip.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

RSS via Javascript

How'd I do that?

Fun in the Sun

Sunbathing pals.

Seriously . . . But Not For Long!

Appearing on "Inside the Actor's Studio," Mike Myers explained that, when it comes to improvisation, seriousness can be a bridge to silliness, a thought similar to my own attitude toward heuristic devices . . . bridges (as I see them) to real creativity. Like Myer's serious side, it is best (IMHO) to use heuristics (playfully) only as long as you need them, until the spirit of creative association jumps up and asks you to dance.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Free Your Mind

Freemind, a java-based, cross-platform, concept mapping tool, has been greatly improved. Not only is the interface friendlier, it is now possible, with the help of a browser applet, to publish Freemind mindmaps online. Here's a sample mindmap I made with the program today.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Another Firefox Extension

"Save Text Area" is a Firefox extension that lets you save as a local text file the contents of a textarea (as in a form).

Friday, January 06, 2006


Firefox has a new extension: fuzzy time. It shows the approximate time in the lower right corner of the browser window.

I like the whole idea of "fuzzy time." I like the idea of not knowing what time it is down to the second. I like the idea that my sense of what time it is doesn't have to be perfect.

"Perfectionism is the enemy of creation . . ." -John Updike

"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor." -Anne Lamott

In fact, let's be fuzzy in all kinds of ways. Most folks have hear of "fuzzy logic." How about "fuzzy fitness" or "fuzzy etiquette?" I welcome your fuzzy thoughts on the subject.

Interview With An English Major IV

Phil was an English major. An English for Information Systems major. That means he did the analytical software documentation thing and the analytical literary critical thing as well. Listen as he tells about pleasing Phil the technical writer and Phil the critic at the same time. And find out what it really is that, in the end, keeps those English majors coming back for more.

Bonus Link: Interviews with English Majors (playlist)