Sunday, December 31, 2006

Farewell and Welcome

The year's ending with the feeling of winter, the wind whipping past with the sharp sting of the cold and snow, the rain having turned to ice overnight. We've got snow on the ground, ice on the windshield, and nothing between us and the start of the new year.

It's been a good year of traveling, writing, teaching, and other sorts of work and play. I hope it was for you, too, dear reader, and hope that in the next year perhaps you'll be more inclined than ever to join me on these pages, readers from Daqing to Sao Paulo, from Hookset to Flandreau.

Maybe you're an old friend who's stumbled onto the blog from afar, maybe someone here in Madison. It would be great to hear from you. May your next year be a great one!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

A Cow and The Liquor of the Sacred Heart

It's the journey, they say, not the destination, and driving across Minnesota is an illustration. The big dog Jack and his owners might be at one end of the journey, but if you keep your eyes open and stay on the lookout for cheese, you never know what you might see.
I managed to see my two sons and daughter this weekend, along with C, who knows how to oversee a mean sandwich operation. Younger son and I put together his first stop-motion video, and the daughter and I went for a very nice run around Alimagnet Park with big dog. Elder son keeps on with his own journey; it was good to see him.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas in Madison

Christmas here in Madison has come and gone. Seems like there was more than enough to do over the past few days, finishing up shopping, touching up some home-made projects, going to church, and finally giving and getting gifts. Travel to the Twin Cities is ahead, and I look forward to seeing C and C and A and exchanging gifts and visiting. We took some time on Christmas eve to drive around with the camera and shoot some lights; here's one shot. Today the father-in-law got a new knee for Christmas, which will probably bring some pain for a while and then a new lease on walking and dancing perhaps. This afternoon we laid a good friend from Scotland to rest with a beautiful service and the gathering of many friends and family. It's a good life when so many recognize all the things you've brought to them, the most precious gift being that of your love and attention. Peace.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Icy December--A Good Reason to Stay In

Across the area today ice is forming on roads and houses, cars and trees. It's icy out there! My father in law picked a good day to retire yesterday from the USPS, for whom he delivered rural mail for over 35 years without an accident, logging over 1,200,000 miles. Some people I know, my son in Fargo included, have plans to travel today; my thoughts are with them, hoping they will act wisely.
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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

According to Simon Pulsifer . . .

Many of my students like to cite the online resource Wikipedia for articles on everything from bulimia to obesity, on topics all over the board. A recent article in Time sent to me by TQ points to one kind of writer that contributes heavily to the Wikipedia effort, a man named Simon Pulsifer who's written over 2,000 articles and edited over 90,000 others. Why does he do it? Partly because his work doesn't keep him busy enough.

From now on maybe I'll encourage students who want to use Wikipedia articles to use the signal phrase, "According to Simon Pulsifer, a 25-year old unemployed resident of Ottawa who still lives with his parents, bulimia is . . . " How's THAT for an authoritative source? But maybe that's going too far.

I like the Wiki for some things myself, but I hate to see students lean on it.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Stephanie T. and Her Multimedia Presentation

With the end of the semester, it's good to look back over what has gone well and what needs to be changed. Having had students do excellent work may be my favorite thing to look back on. It's good for them, when they've worked hard and that effort has resulted in outstanding work, and I think they appreciate having someone recognize the efforts and the good results. One of my students in a sophomore-level composition class, a non-traditional student whose family and work also takes up a good chunk of her time, submitted an outstanding work that she has allowed me to recognize here. It's a tribute to her mother and an affirmation of her own goals as a mother herself. I like how the essay at the center is able to draw from a number of resources for its strength, including an appropriate poem by Emily Dickinson.

It's worth noting that students did not have a lot of time for the assignment, and most of them had never used the programs or created a multimedia document at all. Although I point to this as one outstanding effort, the two composition classes I taught this fall had several outstanding submissions, which may find their way here. In the future I plan to post some things I learned from giving the assignment. Here is the link to Stephanie's multimedia essay: Enjoy!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Party's Over

The title above might refer to a number of things--the end of the semester, the jolt in the celebration of the Democrats taking over the Senate, the last of the 125th anniversary of DSU, or, most importantly, the end of the first 50 years of yours truly.
All that's left of the birthday party now are the hats that the surprise travelers wore when they arrived, one of the arrivals looking oddly like a Dutch queen, with two hats jauntily jutting out at odd angles. Well, the hats and the bulging shirt-front on the birthday guy.
Birthday greetings came in from many sides, and it will end up being a week-long 50-fest, since it began on Saturday, continued through Wednesday, with more good will offered today, and Sunday my last gifts will be arriving. But best of all, no contest, was the festive appearance of the Minneapolis mob with their goofy smiling truck hats and silent blow-party unrolling do-dads (that really should squawk a barbaric yawp). The good will offered makes up partly for all the dumb stuff I did in the last 50 years to make people wonder if it's a good idea to be seen in my vicinity. Let's hope my next decade has me always making good choices. Like ending this entry here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Surprise Visitors

With a big birthday coming up, I was surprised this weekend by some very welcome visitors, two of my kids and my daughter's number-one man. I had thought it was going to be a party with some friends here in town, but when A and C and C showed up, everything got more sparkly. The friends AND the kids AND the wife made the whole thing a memorable weekend. The wife got things arranged with some stealthy emailing and arranging, and Saturday evening was a fun time, with birthday cake, games, and lots of fun conversation and sharing. Sunday we took a long walk in the park, and then the three travelers returned home and DSU turned its attention to this fall's graduates. Excellent.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Memories of Comic Book Adventures

My son and I were talking this evening and got on the topic of cartoon heroes and comic books, among other things. I was a comic book nut when I was a kid, eating up Spiderman and Daredevil comics, a fan of the sharp and witty sarcasm of Peter Parker's alter-ego. Daredevil was an earnest and anxious do-gooder that I liked, too. Some guys had flaws, like Iron Man with his bad heart, Daredevil with his blindness, but those flaws just made them cooler.
I would read anything, and I remembered as we talked that I even read Archie, Richie Rich, Donald Duck, Red Hot, and Casper the Friendly Ghost comics. But the dopeyist comic I remember was Baby Huey, a baby duck that was way bigger than his parents or anyone else. He wore a dopey bonnet, a diaper, and a goofy smile all the time. But, put a comic book in front of me, and I'd read it, whether it was Baby Huey or the Classic Comic version of Silas Marner. What were your 12 cent adventures?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

My Multimedia Project

My most recent assignment for the students in my two sections of Composition II has been the creation of a multimedia essay. For this project I encouraged students to use Photo Story 3 for the visuals and Audacity for the audio (both free downloads). I recommended that they write and record the essay in Audacity, add whatever background music was appropriate, and then add the photos and anything else in Photo Story. The idea here is to keep the writing, the essay itself, as the center of the work.

I had considered the use of Windows Movie Maker, but that program applies more to the use of video, so if students are just using still photos for the visuals, that program doesn't seem to fit. Some students appear to be planning to use PowerPoint, which can also serve well enough.

This week I finished a sample for my students, and I recognized that putting something like this together takes some patience and time. I wish mostly that I had spent more time on the essay itself and not as much on the production. If' you have made it reading this far, you must be interested, so I'll give the link to my sample. It's here.