Sunday, January 02, 2011

I've Moved!

Since I rarely go into Second Life, please feel free to follow me at my new blog: http://teachingwithbrg.blogspot.com/

Happy 2011!

Friday, June 11, 2010

A View of the Lab: The Future of Linden Lab and Second Life


Is the virtual sky falling? Is Second Life dying? Is Linden Lab failing?

As the CEO and founder of Literature Alive! in Second Life, I have invested countless hours developing, building, and shelling out serious personal clams to work in an environment rich with educational possibilities.

I have very mixed feelings about the direction LL is taking, but I am not sure these feelings can be articulated in any meaningful way.

Long ago, I decided that I could not have a personal gaming life and a professional educational presence in Second Life. The work of Literature Alive! was more important to me than my personal (read not funded) research on gender communication in virtual worlds. I cut off most personal relationships on the grid that did not deal with education (Adrian, Aerolite). My little band of personal friends (Eloise, Lilly, and Daliah) were invested in Literature Alive! Fellow members of the FIC ("fettered Inner Core" - a term devised by Prokovy Neva to categorize folks invited to San Fran through the SL Views program) are still among the people I love to chat with in the odd chance I am inworld. All of the Lindens I knew and loved (Philip, Chadrick, Blue, Iridium, Everett, Jeska, Claudia, Glenn) have walked or been given walking papers.

The LL that exists today is not the one I loved 3 years ago. I blame this on M. I don't know if it is a good thing or bad thing for LL and SL, but it feels a whole lot more like an insurance company than a progressive and stunning environment.

But, I knew this was coming. When LL took away the land they donated for Dante's Inferno with some kind of lame excuse (we only promised it for 2 weeks...really? Where was I when you mentioned that??), I knew the cards were stacked. The work of the truly creative was less important, and the work of the money makers was more important.

Ok, they are a business and not a charity. I get it.

So, I am sitting here and thinking about what bugs me about all these changes. Aside from some terribly creative souls getting the heave ho, something is eating away at me. And then, while scooping sugar by the truck load into my coffee cup, it dawned on me. The glory days are over.

I have always been that girl that missed the glory days by 1 year. Either they happened before I got there or after I left. The "hey day" or "hay day" has always passed me. I realized, a the coffee pot, that I have been part of the "hey-hay day" of LL and SL. Finally! But, sadly, it is called that because it ends. "Back in the day" means that it survives...but isn't the same.

I can do exactly what I did 3 years ago in SL. Nothing has changed for me. I still use SL to build immersive literary builds for my literature students. Since I never made money, I am not losing any money. Since I can build my own stuff with the dear help of Elo, I don't pay out as much. I stopped asking for land donations a long time ago.

So, for Literature Alive!, Second Life is what it has been for the past three years...it is an excellent tool for imagining literature. My social life happens on the SLED list or on Facebook where my virtual farm and garden need tending.

I suspect that LL will keep kicking, and if they are smart, they will try to focus on what has made SL great. Prok got his wish; the FIC is dead. They hey-hay day is over. It is all business from here.

Image by Mickey

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Old School Way of Creating a Website!

Designing a web page with Photoshop isn't as hard as I thought it was going to be; it surely isn't brain surgery :-)

With the help of my dear friend, Eloise Pasteur, I was able to design an attractive webpage on my Mac from scratch using just Photoshop 7. To make it into a webpage, I used Smultron to write the CSS/HTML and CyberDuck to load files onto my server.

Windows users can use Photoshop, Notepad and WinFTP to complete this project.

This How-To article only focuses on the design of the site in Photoshop 7. As you will see, there are lots of benefits to using Photoshop instead of pre-created CSS templates. If you would like to learn the next step of this process, how to create CSS style sheets, click here.

While it may seem pointless to design a website with a photo program, there are lots of good reasons to do so. Many free CSS resources give you templates that all look pretty much the same (blog format, one, two or three columns, etc.). Designing in Photoshop allows you to articulate a stunning visual website that is unique.

Planning


As always, it helps to plan your ideas out ahead of time and to think clearly about what you want the end site to look like. Web design requires that we think about the user and any of the possible browsers he or she might use on any of the platforms.

In working with Eloise, I was able to identify the parts that my website MUST have and was able to think about what I wanted the website to "feel" like to the end user. I sketched out my ideas on paper.

Working with Images


Select or create images for your site (background, buttons, etc.). If you are creating original work, you can just skip this part and go to the next section. If you are using images created by others, read on!

The trick in using images found on the web is that you need to make sure you have permission to use them. Images licensed under Creative Commons can be used if their license allows for modification and/or commercial use. Flickr offers a pretty easy process for finding out which images allow for various kinds of uses.

To find an image, go to flickr and type in your search term. Once you get the results, click on ADVANCED SEARCH (next to the search box).



Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page and check off the box next to Creative Commons and modify. If your site is going to be commercial, you will need to check off that box, too.



If you prefer, you can also create buttons with programs like Buttonator. I created my own buttons using this image.



If you decide to use a background picture for your web page, you will need to find one that is not too distracting and works with your theme. You can use an existing picture or use the guidelines above to find one that is licensed under an appropriate Creative Commons license.


Building the Dream


Once you have all the ingredients picked out, you are ready to start building your dream. Start with the background layer first. You will want to think about the users and how their browsers will display your website. Since there are so many different sized screens and so many browser choices, it is good to use the industry standard.

In this example, I am using a background image of a book and flowers as bullet points.



Normally, a background image should be between 670px-1000px wide. There isn't really an industry standard, but Blogger uses 740px wide. Buttons and icons can range from 1px on up depending on the look you are trying to achieve. I used 25px by 25px because I wanted to sustain some of the flower's detail. You will want to check your site in different browsers to check the overall look.

The Layout Process


Once you have a rough idea about how big you want your images, you are ready to start laying out your work in Photoshop. This part is really fun because it is like table where you can just spread everything out and see what fits together nicely. Don't worry too much about the size of your images because you can always adjust them as you go along.


Step 1: Save your Background as Layer 0

Open up the Layer Palette (F7) (if it is hidden), and double click on "background." It will ask you if you want to rename it Layer 0; click OK.


Step 2: Create a Title

Using the text tool (the T on the toolbar), create a title for your web page. Play around with the color and font and where you want it located on your site. Just remember that not everyone has crazy fonts, so it is best to stick to standard fonts.



Once you have written what you want, click on the "move" tool (the little arrow at the top of the toolbar) and move the text where you want it.

Step 3: Adding Buttons, Bullets, and Icons

Each button, bullet, or icon will need its very own layer. You should definitely label each one as you create it to avoid confusion later. For example, the first flower in my project was named "flower" and when I copied it, it defaulted the name to "flower copy 1" and then "flower copy 2" and so on. Be sure to name each copy as you create it, so you are sure to match each image with the correct content.


Getting Ready for Publication


Once you have your image and text where you want it, you might want to add in some "space savers" as I did with the black boxes. These black boxes will be replaced with video screens that will be coded into the HTML. The black boxes help me visualize what the final website will look like.
The PSD file you generate is the design document that you (or another person) will use to guide them in creating the HTML and CSS files that go to make up the webpage. In addition, some of the layers may be used to create image files in a web-friendly format such as jpg or png. In my design, the flowers and the book background wereused in this way.

There are no free tools that directly convert the PSD design template into CSS and HTML, but there are some that aren't free. I used Smultron (a text editor) to create both, but you can use tools such as CSS Creator (http://csscreator.com/version2/pagelayout.php) if you prefer, to try and generate the CSS automatically if you are unsure.

Finally you will want to FTP your files (HTML, CSS and jpg/png files, not the PSD) onto your server space so it is available on the web.

Your work in Photoshop is complete! You now have a unique webpage that looks nothing like the same-old stuff out of the web! Do you have any tips to add?

Image by Paukrus

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Personal Learning Networks? The Latest Buzz Phrase?

I am always skeptical of new buzz words in education. Every so often, there is a new "flavor" of the week, and all the teachers run toward the light - until a newer, cooler, light appears.

I had that feeling about the phrase "Personal Learning Network." Ugh. Everyone was talking about their PLN this and their PLN that. Ugh.

So, I ignored it. I didn't listen to any podcasts about it; I didn't read any blog posts about it; I didn't tweet about it; I didn't read tweets about it...I ignored it.

But, then I went to the annual #CAISCT retreat and listened a bit more attentively because these folks are my friends, and I like and respect them a whole lot. And, by hook and by crook, I came away appreciating the concept and understanding the buzz.

We all have personal learning networks. For me, Eloise Pasteur and Jean-Claude Bradley are at the top of my list. Jean-Claude got me into this whole mess of loving educational technology with his work on UsefulChem and EduFrag gaming. Eloise has been my right hand woman in Literature Alive! in Second Life. She is also the first person I turn to when I need help with anything (ANYTHING!) computer related.

But, I sat down and just brainstormed on paper other people that I always read or look to...people, blogs, organizations...and, wow, I really do have a PLN.

Here are some other peeps and groups that I consider my teachers:


But, this list is small and my RSS is now up to 143 subscriptions, and my TweetDeck blips every 12 seconds because I search for #edutech, #edtech, #English, #teachers, #teaching, #professors, etc.

Yeah, so, ok, I get it. I have a great PLN and it is growing exponentially. I am not a fan of the buzz phrase, but I think the concept is right on. We have people from whom we learn, and these people make us the great successes we are at work, at home, and in life.

So, to my PLN - I love you; keep making magic and inspiring me to be a better teacher, professor, and creator.



Friday, April 30, 2010

Celebrating 10 Years


A lot can happen in ten years. One decade. Yesterday, I was getting in the car with my Mom and Dad wearing an ivory and rum pink wedding gown...and ten years later, my life looks so different, but is very much the same.

My Mom, if she were here, would have said, I wasn't sure you'd make it this long. She knew that I marched to my own little drum and parading around on the streets with no names. She was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to stay in step with one other person for all of eternity. But, she was wrong.

Certainly, over the years, my band has included lots of people, but over in the corner, playing his own little drum kit, is Dave. Sometimes our cymbals crash and clash, but, overall, the music is good; it has a strong beat, a nice rhythm, and it is as diverse as it simple.

There is no guesswork involved; Dave and I are polar opposites on most things. He like acid metal and hot dogs; I like classical piano and tofu. He likes leather biker jackets and old cars; I like Indian dresses and Range Rovers. He reads books about rock stars; I read books about Laura Ingalls. We are very different.

But, there are some things that we have in common, and these have been the most important things in life.

We both believe in God, and our friendship and love is rooted in Him. We both celebrate individuality over conformity. We both love children and believe that they deserve the best we can give them. We both believe in the power of prayer. We both believe in the sanctity of music. We both believe that charity is more than giving money. We both believe that loyalty is the best give we can give our friends and family. We both believe in the power of forgiveness, and we always find a way to work out an argument.

Things are never perfect, and I am not perfect, and he isn't either. But, for ten years, we have learned to do what we said we would do when we said our vows 10 years ago:

Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Happy Anniversary, Dave!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Creating Ringers for the iPhone :-)

I love music, and it is so awesome to be able to attach a sound to a person on the iPhone. It also serves as a great warning if you aren't in the mood to talk to your Great Aunt Essie.

There are two ways to go about getting yourself a ringtone for your iPhone. You can either do it yourself in iTunes (which can be easy if you have recently purchased a tune), or you can create and/or download some awesome ringtones online using free programs. This post will help you to do both.

iRinger


iRinger is an awesome site, and you get 25 ringtones but then have to pay up (10 clams per month). It is also only for PC users. The 25 freebies ought to do the trick for most people, but, still and all, we at MUO like FREE FREE FREE stuff!


Going Free Style


In the quest for finding FREE 3G Ringer sites, I came by some super sweet places to create and download free ringtones. The best out there is Audiko. It is both PC and Mac friendly, and it is FREE!



You can upload any song from your computer, use a link, or provide a YouTube URL. It will then allow you to clip the section you want to use as a ringtone. Finally, you can download the clip for free! They have options for PC users, iPhone users, AND for people with older phones!



Now, don't be scared...there IS a HUGE HUGE button that says "Send to your phone" but you DO NOT NEED TO DO THAT...that is for a paid service (and is probably how they are able to do the rest for free). You can create your ringtone for free without sending anything to your phone.

Once you create your 30 seconds of bliss, you will have the option to download it in a variety of formats like on this Lady Gaga clip.


In a Pinch?


If you don't have time to create a ring tone, there are lots and lots of choices for ones that have already been created. Simply select from the list, and you will be able to download it for free (just remember, it is NOT NECESSARY to send it to your phone!).






Once you have the ringtone saved on your desktop, simply drag and drop it into your ringtone folder in iTunes. Go into your iPhone and assign the tone to one of your lucky callers!



Do it Yourself in iTunes!


If you want to go old school, make the ringtone yourself in iTunes. Just remember that you can ONLY create ringtones from music you purchased in the iTunes Store. If you downloaded a song from somewhere else, you are out of luck.

To create the ring tone, simply right click on the song, and choose "Create Ringtone." You will be able to select a portion of it to use, and iTunes will do all the rest for you. It will put it right into the ringtone folder, and it will create a little bell icon for in your library.



Be prepared, though, because not ALL the songs you purchased can be made into ringtones. There is some sort of secret formula about when you purchased the song and whether or not you have the most current version of iTunes.

Have you ever created your own ring tone? Do you have a favorite site to create and download them for free?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Ning gives Educators the Heave Ho!

Okay, not quite...but I am really sad about Ning's decision to pull the carpet out under all of the teachers that relied on its free services. Jane Hart has a nice article about it, and Tech Crunch was the first to break the bad news.

Sadly, Ning's "only" solution is to save pocket change by nixing their free services. Sadly, the ones that used that service most was the educational community. We turned to them, championed them, and spread the gospel of Ning at conferences, workshops, and in classrooms. And now we - literally - have to split or pay up the pot.

What Ning fails to realize is that we used their service BECAUSE it was free and because our schools couldn't or wouldn't afford to pay for services like it. That same negative cash flow still stands, and so we have no more money now (less money, actually) than before, so if they think they are going to intimidate us into buying the farm, well, sadly, their crops will remain untouched.

This is a total crash and burn for Ning, and the new(ish) CEO should be super proud that he is driving one of the best services straight into the ground.

There are other services, and a smart start up will take over and improve what Ning started. They will do it with less staff and cut the overhead; they will wisely use advertising and Social Networking to their advantage. They will provide FREE service and be rewarded by innovation instead of damnation.

Good Bye, Ning. Don't let the virtual door hit ya...

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Back? GeWar2

So I haven't really been here for a while, but that is all about to change! I am writing more these days (mostly over at MakeUseOf), and I think it is high time to head back over to this side of the blog :-)

Since I am not teaching in SL, I have not been inworld much, but I am going to be using it this May to teach American Romantic literature and Introduction to Fiction. I have also been looking at other games like GeWar2.

Here is a review of it:




If you have a bit of free time and would like to try your hand at world domination, Google Earth War v2 (GeWar) might be the game for you! While it isn't a fast paced shoot em up kinda game, it is a lot like RISK and requires planning, strategy, and wit.

I have to admit that I never heard of version 1, but was totally excited when version 2 was born. I like games that make you think, and, as a Google Earth addict, I was keen on using GE for more than directions to the hair salon. Sadly, the awesome game concept is slaughtered by poor directions, difficult processes, and low turn around.



I was totally thrilled to take part in this review because I love games, and I love world domination (heh). This game promised to be hoards of fun for my character, Commander Young. In this version of GeWar2, players gather with others around the world to hunt for jewels and develop armies. There are over 1300 cities to search and there are alliances to build and enemies to destroy! My armies of deviant goddesses were ready; our money was overflowing; opportunities over floweth...but, splat, nothing.



For starters, the game is hard to figure out. The directions make absolutely no sense, and it took me forever to figure out that all I really needed to do to start was load up the first KMZ map.

Grrr. So, after I had that part sorted out, it took another hour to figure out how to select a home base. You have to zoom in slowly to see the cross hair, but you can't be too near an existing city or by a nosy neighbor. You have to keep checking the side bar in Google Earth to see what you are not doing right, but once you figure all that out, simply double click on the map to set your pin.



So, now I am two hours into this game and have yet to even dominate my cursor, let alone the world. I must admit...my passion for conquering Rome was waning. But, the desire to rule all of Christendom was still slightly alluring...so I marched onward.



The compass must have been broken or my GPS out of commission. I had no clue what to do next. Once you establish your home base, you are sent to your GeWar page, and you'd "think" there would be clear directions about what happens next...but...um...no.

Because the directions were not clear, I had no idea that I "shoulda" housed my base somewhere more central to things like fishing, oil fields, or cotton plantations. Evidently, the great New England states aren't known for their prowess.



But, since you don't actually load that map until AFTER you select your home base, I was stuck with Puritan Goddesses. We were no where NEAR close to either the fishing waters of Australia OR the oil fields of the Middle East. We were at least on the same continent as the cotton, but, sheesh...cotton???



(Side note...the graphics aren't the best, but they are OK given the difficulty of adding graphics to GE on a larger scale).



But, I didn't let geography get me down (even though this IS a game about geography and topography, right?). I paid hard earned Geos (the currency of the game) to place my ship, and oil rig, and cotton plantation, and diamond mine workers so I could train my army.

When I was at the screen I had enough Geos to train lots of my armies to be Goddesses with Gusto...but, because I was so new, or because I am a dolt and couldn't figure it out, I wasn't able to train my armies. As I will mention later, the boo-koo GEOS I had stashed and earned vanished over night, literally, so I have not been able to afford to train the warrior girls.



In the midst of this annoying and chaotic game, I kept thinking that the concept of the game is stellar. I really like the premise of it, and think it would be awesome for teachers to use if they modified the (really) bad and non-existent directions.

One sweet feature, for example, is that you can go on a treasure hunt to find jewels. The jewels are hidden in major cities or near real historical places, and you can learn about the places whilst hunting for the gems. I love that idea, and I think the developers could really go crazy if they clean up the documentation for the game.



To find the jewel, you were able to learn about the Pyramids of Giza.



I was actually refreshed after finding the jewel and thought maybe the game wasn't so bad after all. I still had high hopes because I love a game that teaches something, and I love rubies. Oh, and I wanted to rule the world.

So, I started looking for how on (Google) Earth was I supposed to start dominating...and, for not a lack of trying, I could not figure out HOW to attack another army.

Granted, I was tired. I had been playing this game for 5 hours and had one little ruby and some new factoids about Giza in hand. I had a nice sized army for a newbie. I had things growing and getting caught all over the planet. But, hmmm, how to attack thy neighbor???

My strategy was to find other clueless souls and attack them. But, I couldn't find them. Well, I couldn't find them for a while. So, I figured I would start with a land locked country like Chad because, well, I dated a guy named Chad when I was much younger and he was a jerk. So, it seemed as good a place as any.



Crap. Evidently, New England isn't close enough to Chad to wing zing an attack. I didn't have enough oil. I had to wait for my oil fields to mature or mate or whatever they were doing over there in the Middle East before moving my army.

Fine.

I understand that not everything gets spelled out in the directions, and I should have picked a better place than the Berkshires to host home base, but, c'mon. If I had known that there were going to be oil fields and fishing waters and whatever, I might have considered thinking about where the game designers would put them.

I had no idea what I was getting into with this game. And, now that I know better, there isn't a thing I can do about it. As the site makes perfectly clear a trillion times, you can only have one character or you get the virtual heave-ho.

So, at the end of day one, I had a fairly serene inventory but no clue what to do next besides wait.



The problem with a game this complicated is that I can't do it while balancing a crazy life. I couldn't get back to it the next day because I didn't have another 5 hours to devote to decoding the instructions. So, when I went back 3 days later, I had lost all my money, been attacked by a bunch of armies, and, ugh, I just gave up.

But, I wanted to be fair about the game, so I recruited some gamer students to play it. I also enlisted the help of a friend who is totally into world domination. These three gamers could not figure out the first KMZ file. None of us understood the instructions. We looked for FAQs.

Nothing.

In concept, I love the idea of this game. As an educator, I love the idea of learning about war using games like GeWar2. BUT, and this, my friends, is a HUGE BUT, the documentation and descriptions have to make sense and be USEFUL to a new player.

Image by John LeGear

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Am I a SWAG Hag?


Definition: SWAG hag - a person that only goes to the vendors to get SWAG ("Stuff We All Get").

Picture Credit: The MiScope by Zarbeco...my NUMBER ONE piece of SWAG and the coooooooolest product demo ever.

Visiting the vendors at NECC was lots of fun. The nerd inside actually went through the program in advance and marked off vendors that had goods that I am interested in learning more about (clickers, wireless, etc.). Since I am always on the hunt for cool things for the faculty and students at Hotchkiss, I expand my search to things for science, math, and other disciplines.

So, what about SWAG? I have to admit...I LOVE SWAG! It might just be a function of having a 6 and 7 year old that love little trinkets. OR...it might be that our suitcase ripped and all of Dave's shirts got milkshake spilled on them, so earning tee shirts was a solution to a potentially expensive problem.

But, does SWAG make me think better about a company?

The reasonable girl in me says that if a company is sporting expensive SWAG, they have to jack up the prices of their products to cover the costs of the SWAG. Little staplers can not possibly be cheap.

But, as Elvis dazzled me and I had a shiny new iPod shuffle in my pocket, I wondered how much of a SWAG hag I really was...and if my inner Hag would win over the practical girl we all know and (hopefully) love.

I have about 4 bags full of SWAG. To help Dave out, I sat through 5 presentations to get him tee shirts, but, ethically, I would only sit through presentations of products I was interested in learning about (clickers, mostly). We have one set of Turning Point clickers, but I wanted to learn more about them and their competitors. Since I am a SMART fan (LOVE LOVE LOVE their products), I did get myself a SMART shirt so people would know my genius before speaking to me (har). Office Depot (Tech Depot) will be remembered because they gave out those little extender USB thingers that I desperately needed for my Mac. Aruba Networks sent me a little coin in advance of the conference, and when I turned it in with the card, I received an iPod Shuffle. Now, I had no idea what Aruba did, but I am much more likely to remember that they can provide a wireless solution to Hotchkiss because our car rides are now quiet as my son listens to his favorite tunes on his little Shuffle. And, I am eager to pass along their information to our IT department because they made such an effort to contact me. The SWAG I loved most was from Zarbeco. They gave out these little bugs in plastic that can be used with these UBER COOL hand held microscopes. Honestly, I am buying one just for myself because they are so uber cool. And, truly, I probably would not have stopped at this little vendor if I had not spotted the little bug thingies. After chatting for a half hour and playing with these mics, I am totally recommending that our science department buy them. So, in this case, yet again, SWAG brought me in...and SWAG helped me to see something I wouldn't have seen.

In other cases, it just wouldn't matter what they gave out. For example, I am a Google fan, so it doesn't matter that they handed out uber cool slinkies. They were great hits with my kids, but I would still love Google anyway. And, while I wanted a coveted SMART shirt, I love their stuff regardless of the tee shirt. PBS Kids, too, had great SWAG. They gave out little notebooks that I am using for Geocaching. But, again, I am already a fan of all of their work. Scholastic also had great prizes, and I won a Clifford the Dog USB. But, I loved them, too, without the little prize.

So, am I SWAG hag? Probably.

Even though it isn't important in the end, clever SWAG will get me to stop at your stand. Things like sticky pads and pens just won't do it...you have to sport little staplers, plastic buggies, or USB port thingers. If you are going to bother to do SWAG, make sure it is cool and different. But, don't worry, in the end, it is your product, not the SWAG, that will get my endorsement :-)

#NECC2009

Friday, July 03, 2009

NECC Reflections: The Good, The Bad, and The Untouchables

I just returned from the best conference I have ever attended (and I have been to a LOT of really great conferences!). ISTE's NECC conference is, by far, the best out there. I learned so much, and was able to meet some of the coolest people EVER - Mitchel Reznek from MIT and Alice Christie of Geocaching fame (to name just a few). I also had the chance to meet some buddies from Second Life!

But, I am an uber nerd, so I wanted to use my time to learn about concepts that would be useful to the teachers and students here at Hotchkiss. And, as much as I would have LOVED to play with SL in the SL lounge, I never actually made it there! I was off learning about how to use NASA's tools and MIT's Scratch Ed and the Library of Congress and US National Archives and these cool funky microscopes that are TOTALLY rockin. I spent some time at the vendors, but didn't even get 1/3 of the way through the 5 football fields worth of them. I listened to my favorite speaker in all of Christendom (well one of them), Alan November, while volunteering as a NECC "Ask Me" person.

I LOVED LOVED LOVED the poster sessions the most. I learned all sorts of things and gathered ideas to share with my colleagues at Hotchkiss. The student presentations were just fabulous, and it was great to see teenagers all engaged by teaching drooling adults! I did a poster session for the first time, too, and OMG, they are a bit harder than straight presentations! They are longer, for one, and my booth was busy from start to finish. This very sweet woman came to meet me, and she says she follows the blog, and it was such an honor to meet her and to hear how much she appreciates the work we do at Literature Alive! Truly, Eloise and I don't get a paycheck from our work with Lit Alive! so it always helps to know that people appreciate the work we do in SL. It was just so great to meet her!

There wasn't much I didn't like about the conference itself; it is REALLY well organized. The conference committee needs a totally huge medal and fully stocked bar, as they did a tremendous job putting it all together. The convention center in DC is nice, but the food was expensive and crappy.

There was only one thing that really put me off, though, and it has little to do with the conference itself. I have heard echoes of this in other blogs about how the "in crowd" is really kinda snooty. There is a group of EduTechPeeps (for lack of a better label), that think that their words, their blogs, their "projects", are the best out there, and they spend all their time talking about how great they are and how important they are, and they don't spend any time listening to other really great (but unknown) peeps, and they certainly don't pause for 12 seconds to offer friendly advice or mentoring. Sadly, I saw it over and over as people tried to introduce themselves to the self-appointed "Masters" and were given the cold shoulder-nod thing. PUHHHHHLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEZE. Rebel me...I didn't even bother. I have read their blogs and tweets, and, trust me, they are only interested in hearing themselves pontificate. They couldn't hear you if you were playing a bass drum AND a stand of pipes. They can only hear the clamour of their puffed up egos.

The bottom line is students. Period. If there is too much ME ME ME going on, no one is worrying about what the students are learning. I simply walk away and find the people who are saying THEM THEM THEM. Take up your hiking stick, and join the trek!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Visit Rime of the Ancient Mariner!


Need something fun to do today? Head over to Literature Alive's Rime of the Ancient Mariner build at Drexel Island!

SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Drexel/189/35/24



Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Literature Alive! and the Conference Circuit


Working on the builds for Literature Alive! is only half of the work Eloise and I do in Second Life. Eloise has her own thriving business as a goddess scripter/builder and RL educator, and, of course, I have my own RL educator work at Hotchkiss. On the side, I do a lot of presentations, workshops, and faculty development projects including trainings, conferences, and workshops.

Conferences are energizing, and I truly love participating in them. Of the conferences I love most, NMC's conferences top the list. They really select top speakers/presenters, and I always learn the newest and most cutting edge stuff. Their energy is amazing, and Larry Pixel (RL Larry Johnson) and CDB Barkley (RL Alan Levine) and really great guys.

The NMC Symposium on New Media and Learning opened today, and I am presenting on Google in Second Life on Thursday. If you have teh chance, PLEASE go register! It is well worth the money spent, and it is all online, so you can stay in your jammies!

If you don't have spare cash, check out the Best Practices in Education conference happening this weekend in Second Life. The schedule was a bit hard to find, but here it is.

So, to see if anyone actually reads this blog; what do you think of Desi with short hair? T'is a little poll ;p

Rime of the Ancient Mariner, or The Albatross Returns


Now that House of Usher is done, we are moving on over to the Rime of the Ancient Mariner build. I love Samuel Taylor Coleridge's wicked sense of doom and gloom. We have all felt the weight of that albatross from time to time.

In my renaissance, I have been connecting with old friends in SL. Many of them are wearing the weight of those virtual albatrosses (albatrossi?). As budgets get cut, monies for virtual education are slim to none, and it gets hard to make a case for supporting virtual worlds when supporting the real world is hard enough. It is challenging to see value when the fog is thick and the seamates are dropping like flies all around you; it is easier to just to jump ship and swim to a safe shore where the birds are cute and don't smell like dead penguins.

However, there is hope. There is ground under that fog; there is light. The Mariner came back to tell his story. There was no dead yucky bird grossing out the bridal party; no - he lived to tell the tale.

We are all in a storm right now. But, there is hope, and we have a tale to tell. Our students need us to be creative all of the time. If we give up during the worst of times, our hope for the best of times is slighted. We need science folks to keep thinking about ways to cure the ills of the world; we need engineers to think up better and stronger bridges; we need people to find better and useful ways to communicate. It is only through the storms that we generate the best tales.

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Virtual Edgar Allan Poe Classroom ReBorn!

Eloise and I worked all day and night on recreating the Edgar Allan Poe Classroom (AKA "The House of Usher Classroom). Eloise whipped up a snappy drawbridge, and you can read or listen to several Poe texts before "trying" to gain entry to the House to find text-related artifacts. Stop in at http://slurl.com/secondlife/Drexel/200/25/24

Near the Poe Classroom, you will find a brief little exhibit called "Virtual Rhetoric." Complete with tank, the lesson address visual rhetoric in virtual worlds. Stop by at http://slurl.com/secondlife/Drexel/178/52/24

MANY MANY MANY thanks to Jean-Claude Bradley at Drexel for providing land sponsorship to Literature Alive!!!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Heroic Journey

Among the builds that Literature Alive! still operates, the Archetypal Cave is among the list of the living. Visitors can learn about archetypal literary theory and the quest of the hero. In a classroom, it is an engaging and interactive lab full of hunts and student-created content. Alone, however, it is a pretty dish with stale candy....pretty to look at, but a little dusty.

In Second Life, this seems to be the norm. There are lots of pretty dishes. There are lots of fabulous places that are chalk full of content but are empty, abandoned, and, well, virtually dusty. Even my most favorite builds are empty when I take people to visit them...they have, somehow, lost their magic, their wonder, their passion...

Right now, Eloise and I are finishing a how-to chapter on building a viable workspace. This comes at a time when we have lost more than 50% of our donated land because the owners have given up. What can I possibly tell businesses about Second Life when we are holding on to Literature Alive! by a simple thread? Should we pack it in? The thought has occurred to me on more than a few occasions.

But then I think about those wandering avatars. The ones that get tired of the hair of the week hunts and lucky chairs and type "Poe" into the search box. They will find the Literature Alive! Edgar Allan Poe House of Usher plot hosted by AJ Kelton and Montclair State University. Or, if they type "literature" they will find the Literature Alive! group that was formed for 3 people and now is home to a few hundred. They can find Dante's Inferno in a simple search and learn about Italian and literary history. These are the reasons why packing it in is not an option. As a teaching professor, the mission was always to get students to love literature. The goal wasn't to be the most popular professor, but to be the professor that sparked interest and cultivated a little flame

The virtual dream was the same. I started Literature Alive! alone as an alternative to the crappy content that can be found in SL. Literature Alive! would have died without the scripting genius of Eloise Pasteur, and since she came on board, we have celebrated all sorts of successes for over 2 years now. The students that have gone through, most notably Daliah Carter, have become proficient communicators. Daliah is such a success story...an adult learner gone from sewing factory worker to newspaper editor. She never planned to be a writer., but Second Life gave her a chance to write publicly. It is for the the Daliahs of the world that we need to keep on track.

That said, we do need some fresh air; we to open the windows in our virtual world and kick out the rugs. Once the light cracks through the dust, we can see what it is that makes us love virtual worlds. Eloise and I have been kicking up the rugs, and underneath the dust, we are finding the gems that have made us strong. The content, the builds, and the documentation have all been strong since the first prim was raised in the name of Literature Alive! While things might be dusty, the is solid. There is no structural damage. There has been no weathering.

Jean-Claude Bradley (SL Horace Moody) is donating some of the land at Drexel Island to Literature Alive! In real life, Jean-Claude is one of the most inspirational people I know, but he has now become that open window of fresh air for my virtual life. Literature Alive! is organic, much like the chemistry he teaches, and it relies on constant care, examination, and experimentation. Alone, the structures are just molecules, but adding the chemistry of intellect and passion will be the air that is much needed for us to stay successful in SL. What makes SL the tool of choice is its ability to connect people together - the collaboration of many for the sole purpose of educating others.

OK, so we have let ourselves get dusty. There are always Pledge and Old English. We need to grab our rags and polish and get to work. It is time for Spring Cleaning!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Where Have I Been???

Lordie! It seems that I have been away from this blog FOREVER, and then I checked the date, and, d'oh! - t'is true!

Life, as is usually does, got in the way of composing witty posts for all y'all. Most specifically, my mother's terminal illness raised its bar on Christmas Day, and it has been an all consuming journey. She is stable for the moment, and I can breathe once again.

Sooo....I'm back!

My Second Life is a little smaller now, as I have packed up a number of our builds. Sadly, the economy is hurting everyone, and my generous donors are giving up property left and right. One day, Literature Alive! might have its own island to call home, but, for now, all of the builds are available on request with a few stable properties left standing. It is sad to watch SL shrinking. It is a great tool for educational collaboration, and I hope that, one day, the powers that now rule LL will see the educational value of programs like Literature Alive! - the ones that serve the community as a whole and not a specific college or university. But, then again, they are a business, and money is usually the bottom line, so I guess we will just keep on trucking with what we have out there.

It feels good to be back :-)

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Support Joel Tenenbaum


Please join me in supporting Charlie Nesson (Harvard) in spreading the word about supporting Joel Tenenbaum. Joel is being charged with pirating 7 songs using Kazaa in 2004. He could have to pay a million bucks for those 7 songs. I urge you to gaze at your iPod and count how many songs you might have to pay for if you were in his shoes.

There is a Facebook group to join, but also BLOG about the issue! Twitter it! Spin it off into the viral world. This poor guy is standing where any one of could be...let's STAND UP FOR HIM!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Award Winning


T'is the Season to win awards. MANY congrats to Drexel Island for winning a nomination for the EduBlog Awards! I would like to hope that Literature Alive!'s Women and War Classroom helped, but, truly, it is likely that Jean-Claude Bradley's amazing work with chemistry is the culprit! To vote for them, go to EduBlog Awards voting.

I always wondered how these voting things work. I didn't get to vote for the Webby Awards, and I didn't even know that the EduBlog Awards were happening. I always think those things are stacked anyway. The same bloggers (the "A" List) win every year, and yet the people who I always think should win (Vicki Davis/Kathy Shrock/Larry Ferlazzo) do not. And, of course, I never voted because I had no idea there was voting going on. So, the blogosphere is a bit like High School. The popular kids are very popular amongst themselves, and the other kids, the ones that really make a difference, get little recognition. The prom queen is someone made only of legend and taffetta. Not that I think the winners aren't deserving, and there are surprises every once in a while (YAY DREXEL!). But, I have vowed to vote for these things from now on.

Mashable, by far my favorite blog ever, is promoting the Open Web Awards. They have all sort of nifty skippy categories, and you can have a voice in who gets picked.

I am not a campainer, but I will champion this one cause: VOTE FOR DIIGO! Diigo is the best social book marking system out there. It is easy to use, and, honest to Pete, I get so many great resources from there! SO VOTE.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Choices

I caught this TED talk by Barry Schwartz on the "Paradox of Choice." Fascinating. Although created in 2005, I believe the content is still important (and, I am holding out for the Creme Brulee torch!). We have so may choices, and the paralysis of choice is very true.

Here is his advice: "The secret to happiness is low expectations." and "We all need a fish bowl."

He is a great speaker:

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Book Club

I needed to feed my brain. It was starting to dry rot. Well, maybe it was always a bit touched with soggy wood, but I felt the need to read something other than a blog.

The beauty of New England (besides the leaves in fall) is that everyone belongs to at least one book club. I joined the one for female faculty at Hotchkiss, and I was so excited and motivated at the first meeting.

Instead of the traditional format, this month they did a "share" session where you bring in books you have recently read and loved and share them. At the end, you toss them into a circle and pick out a few to take along to read.

I selected three books, and have started the first one: La Tour Dreams of the Wolf Girl by David Huddle. So far, the book is an excellent read (even though I HATE the main character, Suzanne). But, truly, to get me to hate a character so well is a gift of genius. The opening story about Suzanne on the school bus sets the tone for her character, and I dislike her already. If La Tour is indeed an "old fart,"Suzanne is his modern prodigy (an old "fartress"?).

For our next meeting, we are all reading Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks. Ms. Brooks spoke at Hotchkiss earlier this term, and I am eager to read another book by her.

People have asked if I have given up on Second Life. The answer is no. I am not teaching right now, and so I am using my free time to explore some other things, but I will be back again once I am teaching. Plus, my best friends are in SL (Eloise and Dal), so I will be back very soon.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Is Blogging Dead?

I just read a fascinating article over at the Economist about the "death" of blogging. My knee jerk reaction was that, NO! BLOGGING IS ALIVE!

Is it?

Friday, November 07, 2008

True Confessions of a Social Media Slacker!


Lordy...I updated my MySpace page today. Jeebus; the pics were like 2 years old! Then I got a Plurk thingy that said I had to update my Plurk. And, I hadn't been there for a majillion moons! I Twitter every time I Diigo, so that seems like I am on 40000 times a day, but, well, not so much. There seems so much to keep track of out there!

I took a break from SL for a bit. Since I am not teaching this semester, there isn't an urgency to be there, so I tried out some other things. I start coaching diving next week, so I may still be a little scarce until I start teaching in January.

In any case, I thought that I should "try" to be more useful to the online community and post useful things here again. So....

My presentation for NMC is located here. The cool A-Z tools wiki is here. But, to make life a wee bit easier - here is the list!

A = Amazee, Animoto, A.viary and AwesomeHighlighter
B = Broth and BlockPosters and Brush Video
C = CoSketch and Campfire
D = Discipline Specific Tools and Diigo
E = Encyclopedia of Educational Technology and EgoBoxes
F = FURL
G = Google Suite and Group Table and Go2Web2.0 Directory
H = Huddle and Hulu
I = Indezine
J = Joodo
K = KEEP Toolkit and Kwout
L = LectureFox
M = Mixbook and Merlot
N = Ning
O = OneTrueMedia
P = Penzu, Project Gutenberg and Preezo and Picitup
Q = Qlubb and Qollage
R = RTM, Rememble and Review Basics
S = Slideshare and SpringNote and SlideRocket and Storytlr and scrnshots and Scrapblog
T = Technology Dictionary and Teacher Training Videos and Teacher Tube and TimeRime
U = Udutu
V = VoiceThread
W = Wikispaces and WeGameand Web2Rights
X = Xtimeline
Y = YouTube and Yudu
Z = Zotero

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A New Day Has Arrived

My children will never know what it was like to only have rich white men in the highest office in the US. This is a good thing. I hope, in my life time, that the words "Madam President" will also be a reality.

No matter what side we were on last night, today we must all work together. This was the message that both McCain and Obama stressed in their speeches (and, why, oh WHY, couldn't ALL of the speeches have been that good???). As a member of neither of the two major parties, I watched with interest as the polidoofi (my term, not theirs) talked little about issues and more about the costs of dresses and someone's great aunt Annie. But, all that is behind us...today is a new day.

Working together is never easy, but working apart is so much harder.

Today, I had the excellent fortune to present at NMC's Fall 2008 Virtual Symposium. The number of new faces was refreshing. NMC does an amzing job of getting new people hooked into the newest technologies.

So, today, educators started our day together...finding ways to teach and learn together. And, outside of the conference, others spent their new day doing the same.

Scientists like Jean-Claude Bradley are finding ways to do research together - breaking down the barriers of patents and antiquated publishing methods. Teachers like Eloise Pasteur are technology to help learning disabled students harness intellectual freedom. Lawyers like Charlie Nesson are challenging the music industry to stop abusing their power. There is a lot more sharing and less competition...and this is an amazing time to live.

But, we still have work to do. 52% of Californians voted down the right of marriage equity. My concern here isn't the number or even the final vote, but that there are literally two nearly even sides of that issue in CA and both sides need to listen to the other. Where can they find compromise? Where can they talk without feeling bashed (and, truly, I mean that for either side)? There seems to be a need for a discussion - not just name calling and veiled threats?

We have lost the art of conversation. Whilst the computer might be part of the demise, I suspect it has a lot more to do with not wanting to anger anyone...or not wanting to "cause a problem."

Teaching Naked requires one to think about life as both being dressed and being open. It is very easy to try new clothes on all the time...it is easy to buy a new outfit when things get rough or go south...it is easiest to layer up the clothes so that the layers can peel off easily in any situation. It is much harder to teach naked...everyone sees all of your everything every minute of every day. But, it is real, and they can expect it always to be real even sometimes imperfect.

I hope that President-Elect Obama will "Govern Naked" as much as he can without selling our national soul; I hope that Charlie Nesson will continue to work toward changing our outdated copyright system; I hope that we will all try to work together to save our planet, our children, and our future. This is a GREAT new day...let change begin with me.

(side note...here is a clip someone took of me and put on YouTube):

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Catching up!

I can now see. Really. Had the second cataract removed on Thursday (yes, yes, I am too young, but tell that to the eyes). Since I can't really see, I am not going to type much, but, rather, leave you with a great artist to listen to :-)

Monday, October 06, 2008

That John Denver Song

Many thanks to the anonymous poster who sent me a link to this:

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Good Gravy! The Blog is Back!

As I have settled in to my new life, I have really let posting fall by the side of the info super highway. It has been like TWO MONTHS! Does anyone still subscribe?

Fear not faithful readers (if there are, indeed, any of you left), I am back!

Life in Lakeville, CT is MUCH MUCH different than in PA. For one, the scenery is simply incredible here. Our house overlooks the golf course and distant mountains. The clouds are spectacular here; it is almost as if they are closer to the ground than the ones in PA. Maybe they are smore swirly or swishy - I donno - they are just cooler.

We are adjusting to life at Hotchkiss, and I am daily amazed by the talent of the students and teachers. In one week, we heard a GREAT lecture about historical travels to Antarctica in preparation for a school trip to the Antarctic donated by Mr. Forrest Mars (think M and Ms); the faculty met with Sir Michael Barber, formerly of the Tony Blair administration, on change in education; listened to the unique music performed by Alturas Duo; perused paintings by artist Steven Romm, and, oh, did I mention that we had the honor of meeting and listening to a lecture by President Enkhbayar of Mongolia? Imagine - this was just ONE WEEK.

I am incredibly impressed with the faculty here; they are talented, engaging, smart, opinionated, diverse, and resourceful. They don't follow one another blindly; they carefully consider opinions, positions, and, truly, discuss matters. Previously, I would have winced at the conversation about the VP candidates in the hallway near my office; after this one, I was actually excited to hear everyone's take on it.

Who knew that there could even be a group of such diverse people that can laugh and debate and still trust each other at the end of the day? Amazing. I am blessed to be surrounded by such great and inspiring people!

The students are equally diverse, but also equally passionate. There is no apathy here; they are engaged. This stems from having great teachers (ones that want more than spitting back MLA formatting). But, it also illustrates the culture fostered in an awesome place like this.

It is great fun to play board games with the boys on my floor, but we also have great conversations about sports and politics, too. They are informed, and make strong arguments to support their positions. We just won our home football game (really, like 5 minutes ago), and the kids are in the hall having fun, laughing, and just being teenagers. It is a great place to be.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Whirlwind


Picture: Mustache Man takes a break from being a cowboy...

Patient blog readers! Methinks you need a raise. I have not posted in a long while, as I have been moving and starting life in a new state.

Our move to Connecticut was fairly smooth. While a fair amount of china was crushed, all of the humans, pets, and fish have arrived safely.

New Faculty Orientation started Sunday evening, and, dare I say, I am actually enjoying it. Hotchkiss is an amazing place for a number of reasons, but it is most refreshing to be surrounded by bright and engaged faculty members. They do not agree on everything, but they celebrate diversity of thought, and it is simply a rich intellectual environment.
Picture: Sharpie Boy takes a break from drawing number and letter machines (um, Talking Word Factory thingers).

Training lasts from sunrise to sunset, so I am generally too tired to do anything else, but I am up early today because my Dad is having surgery on his stomache cancer. So, the worrier in me is up with him (though the distance is hard at a time like this). If you are of the praying sort, his name is Paul Ritter, Jr., and I appreciate any prayers you can send his way.





The kids are adjusting fairly well. Julian cried every single day last week, but is getting a bit better this week. DD is finally meeting some of the other kids around here, and is loving his newest Star Wars addiction.

The Boss starts EMT training tomorrow night. He is happy to get off campus :-)

I am happy but truly exhausted; I am looking forward to some kick back time in SL!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Favorite Diving YouTube Videos

Here are some of my favorite diving videos from YouTube (yes, yes, I should be packing).

Highlights from Athens (and a welcome for sync diving! WOOOOOT!):



2004 men's 3M Diving

The Olympics Vs Packing

As much as I NEED to be packing the kitchen, I am sitting on my butt watching the Olympics.

The sport I am most interested in is Diving, but I also wanted to catch swimming, fencing, and archery. When I got my certification to teach archery, my instructor was a retired Olympic coach.

Anywho.

Here is my recap...although I TOTALLY recommend NBC's website.

The opening ceremonies were GORGEOUS! Many kudos to Beijing for putting together the BEST opening I have ever seen. I get very emotional during the parade of nations, but usually calm down during the speeches and the lighting of the torch. But, this time, I had Kleenex by my side for the whole thing, and I needed almost a whole box for the torch lighting. I know it is dorky, but I always think about those athletes from small countries like Sierra Leone. And I think about those countries that are allowing female athletes for the first time. And, I think about those countries that have just ONE athlete...imagine how proud that person's mother must be! Even as a kid, I always rooted for the Moms!

I am just incredibly touched by the idea that there are these athletes that have beat the odds of poverty and are now standing in the center field surrounded by the most incredible fireworks display EVER. Even though we know those folks have no shot at a medal, still they stand proud representing the thousands of people who can not even watch them on TV. Ack. Where are the tissues!

Of course, I LOVE LOVE LOVE Mike Phelps (US Swimmer), and I love his Mom. In Athens, I cried as his Mom watched the race. And, of course, I cried this time because not only did Mike set a new world record and capture the gold, but he couldn't find his Mom in the crowd. The kid has a bajillion things going through his mind, and he wanted to find his Mom!!! If you missed the race, here is NBC's video of it!

I watched fencing with great interest, and was rooting for Sada Jacobson. But, I was happy to see Mariel Zagunis win the gold. Mariel was the first US woman to win the gold and she defended her medal well.

Sadly, I missed most of archery. I caught a piece of it live, but the coverage wasn't all that great (hint: focus the camera on the ARCHER and then the TARGET).

I did catch the gold medal ceremony for Judo, as I was proud as pie of the Romanian athlete, Alina Dumitru. She came out of the blue, wasn't the favorite, and won the gold. When they raised her flag, she cried, and I cried, too.

Okay...the dishes won't pack themselves. I am off to an Olympic sprint in the kitchen!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Cooties

In lieu of an actual post, seeing as I am knee deep in moving boxes...here is something that makes me laugh every time I see it!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pandora's Box and Other Tales

One of my favorite memories from my teenage years involves a Chevy Nova, a John Denver tape, and my friend Tracey.

Tracey's Mom drove us everywhere in her blue 1970something blue Chevy Nova. She was a nurse at the State Mental Hospital, and she often told us stories of the men on her floor thinking they were Jesus. But, when she wasn't telling us stories, we listened to this old John Denver tape with the poem "Pandora's Box" or something like that on it. It's funny, after all these years, I don't remember the words or the tune, but I remember that I sat in the front seat because Tracey would never, ever, ever sit in the front seat of any car. I remember singing all the other songs but hoping that the Box song would come around before I got dropped off.

I am surrounded by memories.

Packing and cleaning my childhood home is therapeutic and, sometimes, a little sad. I am looking soooo forward to our new life in CT, but, for the next 14 days, I am surrounded by voices and images and, sometimes, tears.

Today I packed my library. I donated EIGHT LARGE boxes to the library. As I packed the books, I could remember little details about them. Some were ones I read as an undergrad; some were from graduate school. I am fairly certain I have the largest collection of Jung and Archetype resources in Bethlehem. Inside many of the books were notes tucked here and there. Some were reminders to "pick up cat food" and some were doodles with phrases like "Matthew Lewis was a twisted X!#!" Only true nerds can understand, lol.

Parting with books was hard.

Cleaning the boys room was harder.

As I packed away all the little itty bitty clothes, I can remember where and when or who or why we got most pieces. The baby clothes were packed in a sealed container and, honestly, smelled just like I remember (not poopy - um, fresh like little daisies). As I packed up the Noah's Ark items for Good Will, I just remember the excitement of being pregnant and the anticipation of a new baby...then the instant jolt of finding out we were having a second one! But, the cute matching clothes, the little stuffed toys, the rattles....they are all in boxes ready to go to another baby....to another Mom with the same hopes and fears...

Ack.

The hardest part, by far, has been seeing pictures of my parents. At one time they were happy and smiling...but, today, those smiles, that joy, is only a very distant memory. Today we tossed out a furniture thingy from the basement; it was covered in crayon. But, those crayon marks were not from my children; they were from my brother, Timmy, who died when he was 8 - nearly 35 years ago. As they carried it to the corner, I felt like they had raised the Titanic in front of my eyes. Those crayon marks sat silent all these years - peppered in dust - but seeing them now, in the sunlight, in the open...

I think about that John Denver song, and it reminds me a little of what I have to do here in the next two weeks. I have to open the boxes of time and sort through the memories...and decide which of them are going with me to CT, which will cause damage, and which ones need to be let go.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Thoughts About Moving

At the moment, my life is random. I pack a little, spend a LOT of time sorting out the antics of the neighborhood kids, clean up wikis and blogs, yadda yadda yadda.

So, in the spirit of the moment, here are some random thoughts.

In my spare time (har), I like to read through decorating magazines to get ideas for our new pad. But, here is the thing. I really don't think people LIVE in places like that. It can NOT be possible. These are supposedly "kid friendly" houses. But, um, MY KIDS would wreck those delicate vases and soil any couch not made of teflon or rubber.

I love how the magazines talk about having "fun totes" all over the place. What tote is fun? What will my six year old do that is FUN with a tote that doesn't fall under the "please don't kill your brother by suffocation" category? Truly, it is a lot full of rubbish.

I am convinced that I am both a terrible mother and a horrid wife. My house has never been spic or span, my kids don't eat broccoli flourets whipped up in a snappy second, they don't do arts and crafts in the family painting lounge, and, jeebus, they don't say things like "Please, Moustache Man, I feel that it would be super swell of you to pass me that crayon. Oh, I can totally understand why you don't want to share it, but really, I feel it is my turn to use it. Oh, thank you for being such a wonderful brother. I admire you for giving me that crayon."

Here is the real deal around here...

Sharpie Boy eats food he hides. This is a gross thing. I understand it is gross. But, I CAN'T FIND HIS HIDING SPOTS. The doctor says he will survive.

Not only do I not whip things or souffle them in my kitchen, I don't think the word flouret is in any cook book I own (unless there are brownies decorated with them). Even if I could whip a flouret, I am fairly certain that Moustache Man would still demand a waffle or a hot dog, and Sharpie Boy would ignore it and find his stash of goldfish crackers.

Arts and crafts happen on the floor, on the porch, and in the tub. The floor and porch are sanctioned; the tub creations are rarely approved. The best art, at least to my crew, is clogging the toilet and yelling "Run! We have a FLOOD!"

And, at no time, does sharing of toys happen unless there is a negotiation on the table. This is the real dialogue:

MM: Gimme that crayon.
SB: No
MM: (Hits SB)
SB: (Kicks MM)
MM: Cries
SB: Cries louder
Mom: Yells

So, you see, I need these magazines, but their advice is truly crappy. If I HAD A MAGAZINE, it would have articles like "How to Get Sharpie Marker Off The Antique Piano" and "The Best Hot Dogs for Kids" and "12 Ways to Unclog a Toilet." I would have layouts of REAL kid rooms where the clothes are all stuffed under the bed and dirty underoos are hanging from the crooked train lamp. I would have marriage columns called "My Marriage Survival Tip: Always Sleep when Husband Drives" and "How to Guilt Trip Husband into Washing His 4-Day Old Coffee Cup that HE Hid"

I would only accept ads from places where I can actually fit into the clothing. And, all of the models would be well fed and robust, so that we can SEE what would look like crap on us BEFORE we dream of looking like Genie. There are NO "carefree pants" and "brilliant hues" for Moms. We wear what doesn't smell, and we find the least stained item to go to PTA.

Anywho. Those are my random thoughts for today. Tomorrow, I might talk about cleaning out all my wikis and blogs. That was a CHORE! But, I needed to change all the references of my former employer to my current one, and I also cleaned up some odd looking stuff. It wasn't as fun, nearly, as unclogging the toilet.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bye Bye L C C C

Yesterday, I had my exit interview at LCCC. I am officially done on August 15th because of the contract year, but, for all practical purposes, we have parted ways.

My friend asked how it felt to be "done." And, I couldn't answer her. I am not sure I can even now. I loved most of the students at LCCC, and I will miss them. Students like Daliah and Nada made everything very much worthwhile.

Even though there are people at LCCC passing rumors about WHY I left, I can assure you that I didn't leave because I was unduly unhappy. In fact, I wasn't even looking for a new job. Because of Second Life, I met a guy who told me about this new position at a great boarding school, and the rest is history. I fell in love with Hotchkiss the minute I landed there, but not because I was trying to escape LCCC. I love it because it is a beautiful place to live and work, the people are amazingly smart, the students are bright, and the facilities are out of this world. The job is something new and challenging, and I am looking forward to a new chapter.

But, truly, I could have stayed at LCCC until retirement. I was eager to annoy my critics for at least another 30 years. But, now that I left/am leaving/transitioning/whatever, I can really see with a clear eye what is great about LCCC and what sucks about it.

The great part is easy - the students (for the most part) are great, and the support staff (secretaries, maintenance, security) ROCK! My goodness, they really should get the better pay cuz' they do all the work. The library staff also rocks. In fact, I am not sure I have ever met a librarian I didn't instantly love.

The sucky part is more complicated. For one, the leadership wastes money out the wazzzzzooooo. Case in point: Yesterday, when I was returning my laptop, I couldn't walk through the Student Union Building. Why? Well, apparently, the flooring (which is only about 8-10 years old) was not pretty enough for someone at the top, and, thus, the maintenance staff (who are working on a bajillion other projects) are BUFFING IT and REPAINTING it. That money SHOULD be going into positions, technology, and staff.

Laptops and iPods are locked in cabinets...never even opened or used. WHY?

Now, these just grace the tip of the tip of the TIP of the iceberg. Don't even get me started on the crotchety old farts that need to retire already....teaching outdated crap and calling it "the right way." Pretending to be all Harvard (and CLEARLY they aren't up on what Harvard is doing because Harvard is doing LOTS of wicked awesome stuff)....Training up the junior faculty to be as bitter as they are...whining and complaining and demanding more money to do mediocre work. Ya know...they always say "We just don't get paid enough to do X and Y" Well, I got a raise every year just along with everyone else, and more money didn't change their apathy. I wonder what price it is to get people off their butts?

Of course that doesn't apply to all the faculty; it really only applies to many of the ones I dealt with daily. I have seen many of them belittle students, belittle adjuncts, and then chant about how they are upholding some imaginary standard (which, interestingly enough, they don't even agree on).

Ack.

So, I could have stayed and been a click in the wheel of apathy. But, then again....brilliant kids, brilliant and diverse colleagues, gorgeous facilities, awesome benefits, amazing place for our family to live and grow.... Hmmmm.....

To answer the question posed by my friend: I am not sure how I feel about leaving, but I know that I am really happy about where I am going.