Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Grinch in Who-Ville

What's Christmas without "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"? It makes your own heart grow a couple of sizes, making you feel the Christmas spirit even if your shoes are too tight. You can watch it, that's right. You can watch it yes sir, you can watch it tonight.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Kindle and Reading

What will happen to the book? For many young people, it's a question that doesn't concern them; they don't buy books, and they don't read them. But will an electronic version of the book change that? I don't know. The Motley Fool says it will change the world, and Newsweek says it's the future of reading, but much of that sounds like the jangle jingle that seems always to come when a new technology appears. It's the Kindle, from Amazon. It might be a great thing, but an electronic book is still an electronic device, not a book.

The Fool points out that one cool thing is the way they're opening up publishing to anyone. You don't need that pesky editor or publisher to give you the thumbs up; you just take your masterpiece, upload it to Amazon, and voila! a book anyone can download to their Kindle! I suspect they'll sell some to people who want to get that electronic version of their own book.

You sure wouldn't want to drop it in the tub, and I'm glad I didn't have it on some of my travels, but it looks like a cool new thing, and who knows what it might do to readership and literacy? Not much, I think.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving Class

Thanksgiving Day decorations aren't up to what appears for Christmas and Halloween, but they're getting there. It's important, if you're going to decorate, however, that you do so with class. Clearly, the first photo, shot clandestinely in the cover of darkness, demonstrates how NOT to present your Thanksgiving spirit to your neighbors. Who wants to look at a giant turkey, his eyes popping out like he's about to meet the ax? Its owners are clearly lacking in the finer sensibilities; one imagines the interior of their homes adorned NASCAR posters, Bud Light neon, a football phone, perhaps even a rug with a college football logo (country music playing in the background).
The second photo illustrates a blow-up lawn ornament offered by those with a much higher degree of taste. Whose spirits wouldn't be lifted by a giant turkey in a pilgrim outfit, his head thrown back in defiance, or perhaps poised as he is just about to leap into the sky to save other hapless turkeys in these dangerous times? Clearly, those within appreciate the finer things in life--good food, fine wines, classical music, a well-tamped cigar.

Finally, a photo that illustrates how, during the holidays, one can appreciate a three-butt kitchen.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Free Rice Can be Addictive

Okay, I've spent the last 20 minutes or so playing Free Rice while watching the Vikings play the Raiders, and I managed to reach level 48, but I'm done now. Others will have to work to feed the world. Go to it!

Let's hope the Vikings have the right word for victory.

Tripping on Proglottid

For vocabulary fans, a new site lets you easily text your skills while apparently offering rice to those who need it. Free Rice is simple and direct--given a word, you choose from among four choices to advance in your vocabulary. For every right answer, ten grains of rice are added to a little visual bowl, and after three correct responses, you gain a level. A wrong answer sets you back.

My best level is 46 (yes, with NO CHEATING). Proglottid got me. It's a tapeworm segment. If I'd only known!

Just remember that you have other things to do. It can be captivating.

Tiny Hail? Noisy Snow?

What some people might call snow pattered onto the lawn yesterday morning, what you might call a snow shower, except that it was really a kind of tiny hail, little snowflake-sized hailstones falling not-so silently, as you might hear in the video provided here.

(I tried to upload the video yesterday using Blogger's own video inputter, but was thoroughly thwarted! Finally I took the footage into Moviemaker, added the title and end, and put it on YouTube, so here you have it. Not worth the effort, but I was determined. )

Saturday, November 17, 2007

DSU and "Dare to Do"

DSU is rolling out its new advertising campaign that uses the tagline, "Dare to Do." We'll get TV time, radio play, and a new billboard out of the deal. I look forward to seeing the new TV ad on Monday night on KELO TV.

My sources tell me there's a skydiver featured. We'll see!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Hello to Sylvia Again

So, she puts her head in your lap, calls you god-like, and gets all doe-eyed looking up at you after following you home from the park. She obeys your every command. She sits, she begs, she pulls at her leash. She's Sylvia, and she's making trouble in this marriage.

DSU's very able theatrical group put on a hilarious and touching version of A.R. Gurney's play tonight, starring Kari Hofman in the lead role. Director Kelly Macleod managed a skilled group, and the audience was (and will be) rewarded by the performance. It was every bit as good, or better, than the NSU performance I saw last summer. Just don't bring the kids.

The performance was preceded by an event at the DSU Foundation and dinner at El Vaquero, and poetry, music, champagne, and celebratory cake and finger food followed.

If you haven't been, go see it if you have the chance.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Remembering the Vets

It's the day we call Veterans Day, a time we should pause and reflect on the offer that many have made to serve the greater need of country. My family added its share to the roll of veterans, starting with my dad, who joined the Army Air Corps just as WWII was ending. My mom had a brother and sister in the Air Force. Among my siblings, my older sister Rita did her time in the Air Force, then me in the Army, then Jess in the Navy, followed by Renee and Justin in the Army and Jay and Jered in the Navy. We were examples of people with few options taking advantage of the opportunity that the military offered, turning the veterans benefits into college and a better life. Only my little sister had experience with conflict, spending time in the Middle East during the first gulf war. My own time in Germany in the mid-70's didn't seem like much of a contribution, but I did what I was told and thought about my role in the bigger world--not a bad thing for a 20-year-old to be doing.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

One Foggy Morning

Yesterday and today both were beauties, especially for this time in the fall--temps over 50, just a bit of a breeze, sun shining. Both days were ripe for motorcycle riding, and yesterday I spun the Concours up to the fading village of Rutland, where a pile of leaves burning on the corner of a lawn was a rare sensation, its smell hearkening back to a time when a leaf-pile in the yard was quickly transformed into a fiery celebration, its embers glowing, inviting a young boy to transform those burning leaves into a giant volcanic inferno. I had to pause there in Rutland and soak it in, then turn and hotfoot it back again to Madison, where this morning the fog transformed our house and yard, a light mist lingering until the sun came on later in the day and set us back safely in the sunshine state.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Dan Weinstein is My Hero, iJot, and Other Cool Stuff

Our GPACW Conference today, a gathering of the Great Plains Alliance for Computers and Writing, has been a success, doing what it should do--confronting teachers with questions and offering an opportunity to consider how to answer them. Presenters through the morning and afternoon gave us a lot to think about, in terms of specific tools as well as concepts that need further consideration. Just as it should be.
The conference, hosted by our own Dan Weinstein, brings together some heavy-hitters, including Dickie Selfe, who has thought and written much about emerging literacy issues. Also in attendance as a sponsor and interested party was Marc Barrot, whose iJot software seems poised for bigger and better things. Marc was especially interesting to talk to, interested in what I was doing with my students and seeking out how his program could better serve our needs. Marc's concept and simple execution of an idea of collapsible and expandable outlines on the web is evidenced in iJot and on pages such as Salon's Slam in Salon. I'm feeling good about all that.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Thor Heyerdahl and Maureen Murphy

Is it any coincidence that Dr. Murphy was born the same year Thor sailed from Peru to Polynesia, or the Yankees took Brooklyn in the TV World's Series, or Americars began showing up at the drive-in movies, or the Tupperware party began, or Jackie Robinson broke into the big leagues, or an airplane first broke the sound barrier? I don't think so.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Aniboom's Animation Feature calls itself "The Home of Animation," and to back up their claim they offer a free online animation feature called Shapeshifter that allows you to create sophistacated animations (or crude ones) in a few minutes of tinkering. Check them out. Thanks to Brad for the tip.

Cloudwest Pottery Arrives, Mostly Intact

My brother Jered Nelson is a potter living in the San Francisco region who works for Heath Ceramics and makes his own pots on the side. He just keeps getting better, and his current work is elegant and beautiful, as the photos here show. Our cups, bowls, and salad bowls arrived recently, and though several cups were damaged, most dishes made the trip intact, and they're now finding good use, making our dining experiences even better than before. He'll take orders. Let me know if you're interested or contact him at cloudweststudio at

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Alan and His Art

Some people dabble; others dive in. My colleague Alan Montgomery is a diver, a guy who paints and paints, even as his teaching load, like mine, keeps him plenty busy. I saw him with his students out on the lawn south of Beadle Hall the other day, leading them through an art project. He recently had a show and artist reception at the Museum of Visual Materials in Sioux Falls. But he's also got a lot of material on the web. You can look at his site on SAATCHI gallery here, and he's got his own site here.

I like his painting "Codes," shown here.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Warm Yourself at Your Computer

Here's 30 seconds worth of firewood you can enjoy. If you keep your sound on you can enjoy the popping and crackling of the logs in the fireplace. When things start to cool off, just play the video again. Let's call it my BTU to you.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Index Cards as Insights

Okay, so I'm not working all day today, nor resting, but working, resting, working, etc., etc. Jessica Hagy has been busy with her blog consisting of what she's written on index cards. No, it's not poetry, but it's got her a book deal. Go figure.

I Was Not Alone

I learned today a statistic that puts me more at ease with a dark element of my past. I stole candy from my children's Halloween stash. But, now I know I was not alone. The candy industry reports that 90% of parents admit to such theft. The other 10%, I suspect, are liars as well as thieves.