Thursday, November 30, 2006

Welcome Guests!

An initiative to invite prospective students and others into the blogosphere at DSU went live today, and humble HorseshoeSeven is one of the chosen sites. Welcome! Look through my archives to check out some of the activities, photos, ideas, and exotic places your humble writer has been involved with over the past few months. Other student, faculty, and staff bloggers at DSU are listed here- - -along with podcasts by a number of people.
And, as always, your comments are welcome!

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Christmas Story--The Games

The 1983 movie "A Christmas Story" keeps building its reputation, an article in the NYTimes shows. Two games that give fans of the movie a chance to play Ralphie are at (Don't shoot your eye out!) and Be careful with that first one!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Creating Multimedia Presentations

With the technological focus of Dakota State University, and as a professor in the liberal arts there, it's important for me and my colleagues to keep up with innovations that affect how people learn about and make art and communicate. Technology changes these things continuously. Cell phones, mp3 players, computers, radio, and other innovations keep making things new. So, what do we do? We're trying to make good use of technology and teach students to use it effectively, so I'm taking my first leap into a required multimedia presentation in a composition class. It's exciting and a little nerve-wracking at the same time. Will the technology hold up? Will students respond with vigor? I'll try to keep the blog posted.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Nashville Cast--And Cats

Del McCoury's bluegrass band sings a song called "Nashville Cats" that describes the concept of being one of too many guitar pickers in that music city, and it might also be applied to others, English teachers included. Three of my colleagues and I presented a paper last weekend in Tennessee at the NCTE Conference there, and nearly 200 people were in attendance, many of them interested in what we had to say. Thousands of teachers, from grade school to college, attended the conference, and it was heartening to hear all the good things that teachers across the country are doing to promote good writing and effective reading. We were a dime a dozen those few days, but we left knowing a lot more about how to be good teachers.

But the conference wasn't the only thing on the table, and we got to visit one of my sisters and check out the Grand Old Opry at the Ryman Auditorium (where the lineup included Emmylou Harris, Hal Ketchum, the Del McCoury Band, Jean Shepherd--singing "I'm Tired of Playing Second Fiddle to an Old Guitar"--and the Riders in the Sky, among many others). Others included Pam Tillis, Nanci Griffith, Carolina Rain, Ray Scott, and that guy that sings "Pop a Top Again"--Jim Ed Brown. We spent an evening on music row, where every little hole in the wall had a band just bristling with talent.

It was much the same way looking through the conference schedule, with almost every presentation a home run.

Check out the photos here--note the wife's new boots and my sister's first pair after moving to Nashville a dozen years ago. That's Emmylou in the white hair.

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Busy Weeks

This week is the second of short weeks of school, following DSU's Assessment Day and Friday off for Veteran's Day. Tomorrow begins two days of training for the use of InDesign software by Adobe. Then Wednesday is back to school, with a visit from Kent Meyers, author of The Work of Wolves, Light in the Crossing, and The Witness of Combines, and The River Warren. He'll be visiting my class in Mark Twain and then doing a reading and discussion that night to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Madison's public library. That Wednesday night we'll be heading to Omaha, where Thursday morning four of us will present at the National Council of Teachers of English Conference in Nashville, TN. We hope to see Emmylou Harris at the Ryman Auditorium, visit with relatives, and see a lot of great presentations and people at the conference. We hope to return full of new ideas and put them into play in our classes.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Flatware in Love: Or, How to Make an Afternoon Disappear

After seeing David Pogue's video on creating stop-motion movies using free software, I got a bee in my bonnet and wanted to make one. So, I bought a cheap webcam (Microsoft LifeCam VX-1000) found the software (Stop Motion Pro v5), downloaded their trial version, and made a little film about silverware at odds with each other. I used Audacity for the sound and Microsoft's Movie Maker to finish it off. I then loaded it onto YouTube. It's silly, and it has the watermark of the trial version, so I'll have to try it again with a bit more preparation. It's here.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Times Offers its Treasure-Trove for Free (Temporarily)

About a year ago, The New York Times took some of the great content it has online and put some of its premium writers into a subscribers-only category called TimeSelect that kept out those of us who were taking the free ride. This week it's offering this great content gratis, including the writing of David Brooks, Maureen Dowd, and Thomas L. Friedman, among others. One of the delights I hadn't expected was the sharp and artistic observations and paintings of Maira Kalman, who offers up The Principles of Uncertainty, a blog that displays her sharp eye and keen and roving mind. It's worth a look, so while you have the chance, check it out, and don't miss Kalman's take on Paris. The gate closes on November 12.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Pheasants Falling, Moon Rising

Troops flew in from Alaska last night to try and turn the tide against the invading horde of ring-necked pheasants. We donned our orange uniforms and did our best to sort the soldiers from the civilians as we tromped through corn field and sloughs, blasting away at the roosters and letting rabbits, deer, owls, partridges, quail, and pheasant hens go, along with various little birds and assorted animals.
Then the moon rose on the way home and life was back to normal after the long walk through cluttered hallways of cornstalks and seedy clouds of cattail blossoms.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Trojan Sports Fans

The wife and I were good supporters of DSU sports the past couple of days, attending the men's basketball team last night and the football game this afternoon. It was fun to watch the men, who don't always get a chance to relish the taste of victory, handle a team from North Dakota and send them home with a notch in the "L" column. Women's basketball won last night too, beating one of the top teams in the nation. Both men and women ran in the cross country meet in Sioux Falls, but I haven't heard yet what our top runners managed to accomplish. This afternoon the football team saw victory and the memory of a positive end to the season slip away as their opponents marched down the field and regained the lead to seal the victory.

But it was fun to join our colleagues and watch our students doing the things they enjoy doing.