Monday, May 28, 2007

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Winning and Losing, One Day at a Time

Winners emerged from the pack today, people we'll remember, who wrote their names into the history books as champions, those who ventured beyond the pack to establish some quality they had that others in some measure, at least today, were lacking. Dario Franchitti outlasted the pack and the rain to win at Indy. Duke won the lacrosse championship after their disastrous year. Fernando Alonso won the Monaco Grand Prix today. Some baseball teams won; as many others lost. Plenty other games were played, while people in Iraq and Darfur struggle to win another day of life on earth. Here in South Dakota we cherished the trophy of a relatively windless day, sunny and seventy degrees, perfect for running, playing in the park, planting flowers, riding your motorcycle, hauling rocks, or cruising round and round in your first little go-kart, no brick yard, no pit crew, no track, just a piece of rhubarb pie for everyone.

Friday, May 25, 2007

How Green was My Picnic Table

Yard work is currently the order of the day--mowing, replanting, trimming trees, planting, and cutting rhubarb. That kind of thing. Also, getting outdoor items shipshape for summer is on the agenda, so repainting lawn chairs and the picnic table worked its way to the top of the list. Now, the wife usually has a pretty good eye for color. The green of the designated picnic table color seems a little bold, don't you think?
In other pseudo-news, the father in law and I got in 18 holes of Howard golf yesterday (no yard work involved), and one of my brothers is up in South Haven, Michigan, today getting schooled on racing his vintage Norton Commando. Training today, racing tomorrow and Sunday at Gingerman Raceway. Check out the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association (AHRMA) for more information.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Big Day in Fargo

On May 3, I threw my hat in the ring for the Twin Cities Marathon for what I think is the 14th time, so I'll be doing the 26.2 mile dance again in October, barring injury. When I entered the form required proof for getting in Wave 1 with the fast guys, where I've always managed to stay. But with age I'm slipping, with sore feet, extra baggage, and a persistent ache in my left calf, and I didn't finish last year within the 3:45 time requirement for automatic placement in Wave 1.
Okay, that's the setup. I hoped on Saturday to tune up for the Deadwood Mickelson Trail half-marathon by running the Fargo half. I needed a 1:45 in the half marathon, and although it seemed like a remote chance, my training has gone well, I tried to stay close on the cold and windy Fargo morning. The final miles told the tale, with the second half done under 8 minutes per, cooking along in the last two miles on the happy wave of knowing I had 1:45 in the bag. 1:43:16. Whoop!
The wife was in the Fargodome with friends, including one enthusiastic young runner who would earn her own medal that afternoon in the kids run.
We got a chance Saturday to poke around downtown a little and visit with my lovely daughter and her dashing beau. More good times. Days like that make a guy feel a little younger, put a little more spring in his step.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Any Way the Wind Blows (As Long as It's North)

Tuesday took us to Canada, and Wednesday brought us back. TQ and I went up to Winnipeg for the Canadian Distance Education Conference, where we talked about our efforts to use blogs and wikis for helping students find and make use of information. It was cold up there, but we had a warm reception during the last session of the conference, where over 20 people came to hear what we had to say, asking questions and offering up some of their own ideas. It was a great session, though it threw me off guard when some professors spoke matter-of-factly about their resistance to using American servers to store or manipulate information. Any non-US server was fine with them. They mentioned the Patriot Act as a concern, leaving me a little uninformed about what provisions there might pose a problem. I'll need to look into that more. But they were interested in our work.
On a lighter note, I had brought an old case of cassette tapes to play in the non-cd player car we took, and TQ noted that one tape was dated--the recording made on May 16, 1977, 30 years to the day from our travel. Yours truly, a 20 year old soldier stationed in Friedberg, West Germany, just north of Frankfurt, making recordings. It was cosmic forces at work, so it was fitting the music was from the Canadian band Klaatu, and the first song? Check out the photo: "Calling Occupants of Interplanetary Craft."
The trip also featured good Korean and Italian food, a nice cool run around windy Winnipeg (where in their 50 degree weather people sported t-shirts, rode their motorcycles, and cruised with their convertible tops down). We shopped very briefly and scooted back south again on Wednesday, flashing our passports at the border, two occupants of international craft coming home (without having had either Canadian bacon OR Canadian Club.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Comic Interlude with Scott McCloud

The author of Understanding Comics, Reinventing Comics, and Making Comics was in Sioux Falls last night and talked about the growing field of cartooning, and JB, TQ, DW, and I were there for the event, taking time out from grading papers and figuring final grades. He makes a great presentation, with a slide show of something like 700 images, he said. The high-schoolers in attendance were enthusiastic about the genre and made that known.

McCloud and his family are on tour promoting his new book, appearing next in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and then on to Montana. If you haven't seen any of his work, check out his online comics or trundle yourself on down to your local comic book store and pick up a copy of Zot or one of his other works.

He's working on a new book about the story element of the comic genre, he said.

It was good to see some DSU students there.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Saturday was graduation day for 193 DSU students who navigated the rigors of college life and came out of it successfully. Their professors too are pleased to see this stage of the process. I don't know what I would do without the rhythm of school and vacation, the arrival of spring and the end of the school year. Each fall I look forward then too to the onset of the year. Like farmers, we plant, we nurture, and then we see what grows. When crops are good, the reward is like no other.
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Saturday, May 12, 2007

An Iott's Guide to Spring

Spring at our house usually requires at least one or two trips to Iott's Greenhouse and Gardens near Ward, SD. My first trip there was with the wife on the way back from Canby, MN, and the wife, sister, mom, and friend made another this week. Their mission? Beautify Lake and Miner Counties.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

College Students and the Grass Situation

A recent report by the U.S. Surgeon General mentions little about the effects of air-borne pollens upon post-secondary students and their study habits, but recent observations have shown (see illustration below), that college students faced with the prospect of studying for final exams will seek any distraction, which may include starting up lawn mowers left idle during months of winter.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Landfill of Plenty

Spring turns some people's thoughts to planting, cleaning, slimming down, and shedding the unnecessary. But culling your possessions takes recognizing what's worth keeping and what's not. Madison's spring cleanup gives the curious a chance to see what others are purging.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Big Brother and the Comstock Lode

Up in Silver City, Nevada, people are shooting my brother! But he's a tough cookie, and he'll survive, his name in the credits of yet another movie; this one's "Coyote Hole," a western that focuses on the plight of a young woman stuck in the barely-civilized frontier town in the 1870's (where Mark Twain got his start as a "journalist"). Joe might look like a rough customer here, but his good-guy squinty stare has to counter the evil dudes menacing his niece. Check out the story in the Nevada Appeal here.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Kayuda and Collaborative Workspaces

My friend DW moves at a pace unlike the rest of us. He's always got an eye out for cool new technology for improving student writing and helping them see their computers as tools rather than toys. And he's always finding them. Me, I'm thinking about the final I'm writing, or how I'm going to strip the paint off the scavenged dressers now waiting in the garage, or what's on tomorrow's workout agenda. Maybe I'm thinking about laying out my courses for next fall. But D? D's like a commander general unfurling the battle map, placing his units strategically, devising new uses for old equipment, ready to engage. Today his trumpets cry, "Kayuda!"

I checked it out, briefly. Kayuda looks very promising, allowing for online collaborative brainstorming and composing. What does it look like? Think Freemind mindmaps you can build in teams. Pretty cool, aye?

It made me think about the cool teaching I can do with a tool like this, and the potential for groups to engage in meaningful writing. Thanks, D!

Friday, May 04, 2007

StoryCorps Coming to South Dakota

Your mom's got great stories, your grandparent has experiences you want told beyond your family. What do you do? Check out StoryCorps, a program on NPR that features recording sessions "offering participants the opportunity to record the stories, voices and wisdom of friends and loved ones." This group is coming to Sioux Falls with their recording studio, sponsored in part by SDPB, from June 7th to June 30th. You can make reservations for recording times and use their recording equipment, and the really good ones will be on the air. Check out the story on SDPB's website.

Sorting Through Manuscripts

Yesterday afternoon a group of volunteers worked through the manuscript submissions for New Tricks, the DSU literary magazine. Check out the photos of these hardy souls worked through a good, solid group of writings and artwork. Some volunteers had left by the time yours truly realized that taking photos might be a good idea!
Thanks to all who helped. There's still work to do, but a big chunk is done. Look for an announcement here soon about publication.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

YouTube Rivals

YouTube might have cornered the market on videos depicting the disasters of skateboarders trying to grind down a stair railing or young women shaking their behinds, but others video websites such as Daily Motion have a wide variety of offerings (I'm sure YouTube does too, but they're not featured the same way). Another French site featuring music and video is The Takeaway Shows by Blogotheque. Check out an animated version of Hamlet on Daily Motion below! It's the product of Moonfleet, a Spanish outfit.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Ja haben wir keine Bananen

When it's too early in the morning after a long day and night of grading papers, going to meetings, going to more meetings, teaching classes, and eating donut holes, it's no sense trying to make sense, so I won't. What do you do with a pack of dogs that won't run, a flock that won't fly, a colony of ants that seems to be distracted by the glow of a distant object? Dogs aren't dogs at that point, nor birds birds, and ants will disappear like the bees are doing. Curious times.