Monday, December 27, 2010

December Blizzard Timelapse

This is a cool time-lapse photo video by Michael Black on the blizzard up in the northeast.  Note how the clock keeps getting buried, then uncovered again by a dutiful photographer.
December 2010 Blizzard Timelapse from Michael Black on Vimeo.

Christmas Fog

Christmas Night 2010
Christmas has come and gone, retreating into the fog.  Here's a photo of our driveway and big pine tree after the fog has deposited its frost and moved on.  A good day, with friends and family.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Top Ten Reasons for Running in the Cold

The Twin Cities in Motion people like running, but they don't like the cold (sounds like a Silly Willy statement, doesn't it?).  They asked, on Facebook, for the statements that help motivate cold weather runners get out and onto the road.  Their list?  Here it is, with the contributors:
TEN:  Running tights hide your farmer's tan and skinny legs. Cassi Dermody
NINE:  Because you don't need to "ice down" sore muscles after a run! Gysler Castelino
EIGHT: Anything beats a treadmill. Ben Neeser
SEVEN: For the fun of having people ask, in sheer disbelief, "You're running...OUTSIDE?!" Sabrina Marthaler Hoppe
SIX: Because sometimes it's better not to be able to feel your toes. Shannon Hart
FIVE: Nature's bling: icicle eyelashes! Kelly Hanneman
FOUR: Because it gives people who shovel their sidewalks a reason to do so. Bryan Corbett
THREE: Because no matter who you are, someone falling down is always funny. Seth Schroeder
TWO: No mosquitoes! Heather Priolo
AND THE NUMBER ONE REASON TO KEEP RUNNING THROUGH A MINNESOTA WINTER IS...Because fat, pale and slow looks horrible in shorts and a singlet in Spring! George A. Fulp

Monday, December 20, 2010

Big Red Ball Tonight! (No, not a big commie dance-party).

Moon photo:  NPR and Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images.
NPR notes that we've got a treat in store tonight--a lunar eclipse that will render the moon a "big red ball."  It will be visible throughout North America, which means, if we can glimpse the sky tonight, we'll get a look.  NOAA says no:  
Tonight: A slight chance of snow before 9pm. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 8. South wind 7 to 16 mph becoming west northwest. Chance of precipitation is 20%.
But maybe we'll have a red tinge to the cloud cover.  In any case, maybe it's worth a little lost sleep.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Emotional "Spell Check" and other Curious Inventions

Suppose you get that bone-headed email from an angry student who's unhappy with the result of their decision to skip studying, go party, and sleep through the final.  Perhaps written with a lingering hangover.  You might be tempted to fire back with force, venting your irritation with the students' apparent sense of entitlement.  You know you can't send that ranting email!  So, here's a remedy, a gentle reminder, much like spell check, that watches for tone in your email messages in Outlook.  It's ToneCheck, one of the concepts featured in the NYTimes Magazine's review of some of the most interesting ideas from 2010.  The list includes such things as the "bra mask" and a guitar that stays in tune.

Friday, December 17, 2010

New Tool for Book Fiends

Google's got a new tool for free use by scholars or anyone with an interest in searching through thousands of books from 1800 to 2000 for words and phrases of interest to them.  The image here is my comparison of the words "memory" and "imagination" over those 200 years.  Note the rise of memory!  It's worth noting that interest rises in an item as it appears that it is fading from use or the culture.  Goodbye, memory!  

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Free Data Recovery Software

The guys at CNET are touting a free software package, iCare Data Recovery Software 4.0, that offers a robust data recovery package for all types of data storage devices.  Here's what their own statement is:
iCare Data Recovery Software is dedicated in hard disk data recovery like hard disk failure, formatted hard drive, MBR (Mast Boot Record) corrupted, bad boot sector, drive inaccessible, partition unreadable, partition deleted, software operation failure like Partition Magic caused data loss, Ghost failure, virus attacked, etc.
And here's what CNET says about the deal:
While most users never think about data-recovery software until they need it--like, say, after a corrupted hard drive has cost them years' worth of family photos--we know you'll want to make like the Boy Scouts and be prepared with this freebie.
 But move on it.  The software, usually priced at $69.95, is only free until December 25.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Student Blog with Multimedia Essays

A Website with Student Video Essays
My students in Composition II at Dakota State University have finished up their multimedia essays and are watching the creations and preparing for writing about them tomorrow morning.  Check them out and feel free to offer praise.  The site is here:

Snow Stalagmites

Snow Stalagmites
Some fine openings in the porch roof allowed for some unusual snow formations on the floor.

Cleaning Up Afterwards

Cleaning up Center Street

Loader/Blower does its work
 The boys from the city get the job done, blowing the snow out of the city.  Thanks, guys!
One more small flurry

Monday, December 13, 2010

Me and My Birthday Suit

Look at the curves on those rear quarter-panels! 
Before I could walk, I cruised with my parents and my older brother and sister up into Wyoming--Hyattville, specifically--to meet my Great-Grandma, Winnie Hollywood, the lady that raised my dad and his sister.  There's a lot fewer creases in the skin in those days, before I had reached my first birthday, while now each year adds a few more bulges in some places, wrinkles in others.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Better Day--It Only FEELS Like 21 Below

The sun comes up after our snowstorm
Northwest wind at 16, temp at zero.  That's better than yesterday, when things were much worse.  The wife and I did get out and about just a little--some grocery shopping, some lunch at El Vaquero, and mailing a package.  I went out again myself for another shopping spree (groceries only), and a stop at my mom's, but that was plenty for a very wintery day, and  I was glad to come home, stoke the fire, and settle back in for work on some Christmas gifts and school.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

First Winter Storm

Winter arrives in full.
Our first big winter storm has arrived, bringing wind right now at 35mph, with gusts of 43mph, temperatures of 8 degrees, combining for a wind chill of -17 degrees.  Our graduation ceremonies at Dakota State University, scheduled for 10:30 today, have been postponed to 1:00 tomorrow, and for good reason.  It's a good day to stay home and watch the weather.  If I do go out, good thing I have my new hat!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Bow to the Hat Master

My sailor-knit hat, courtesy of the wife.
The wife has taken knitting by storm, producing all sorts of clothing and other fabric items from long bits of string.  Here you see my new knitted sailor's hat, lovingly made by the wife's own hands.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Here Comes Shanghai, Much of China to Follow

The news this morning from China would serve as a wake-up call if enough people aren't groggy enough from checking the new Facebook layout to see what that third-grade pal had for breakfast.  These Shanghainese kids are staking their claim to be the best-educated students in the world, according to a test, the Program for International Student Assessment, that was first administered there this year, following its use in countries across the world.  An article on the NYTimes describes how these 15 year old students topped the list in reading, math, and science scores by a significant margin.  Response from American officials was clear:  
“We have to see this as a wake-up call,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in an interview on Monday.
“I know skeptics will want to argue with the results, but we consider them to be accurate and reliable, and we have to see them as a challenge to get better,” he added. “The United States came in 23rd or 24th in most subjects. We can quibble, or we can face the brutal truth that we’re being out-educated.”
 What next?  More cuts in education for South Dakotans and other states throughout the country.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

A Die-Cut Book--Tree of Codes

So here's an interesting idea: Take a book, the paper kind, that someone else has written, and then cut away words from the pages of that book to leave another story, your own story. That's the concept behind Jonathan Safran Foer's book, Tree of Codes, which uses the novel The Street of Crocodiles, by Bruno Schultz.  Here's a video of Foer talking about, and showing, his creation. Double-click for full screen.  

So I Was a Coffin

My students are working on multimedia presentations of an essay they're writing.  My email brought me a message from Poets and Writers Magazine, and this video, not of an essay but a poem, is a powerful reminder of what the combination of effective words and telling images can do. Double-click for full screen.  

Saturday, December 04, 2010

A Snowman Bigger than a House!

That's one big snowman!
Yesterday as the wife and I cruised in to work, she exclaimed, "Wow, look at that snowman!  It's bigger than that house!"  Because I was keeping my eyes on the road, I had missed it. "Where?" I asked, beginning to gawk where she was pointing. I didn't see this monster snowman, amazed that someone had managed to scrape together enough snow for even a LITTLE guy, since we have only the barest of snowfall.  I couldn't imagine how someone could have built a snowman that high.  Heavy equipment in the back yard?  As close as it was to my class time, I had to drive around the block to see it.  "Where?" I asked again.  When she pointed, I saw she was referring to a some big metal hoops with lights on them.  "That's not a snowman," I pouted.  She was right, of course, sort of; it was a big metal light-encrusted representation of a snowman, bigger than the house.  It looks much better at night, when it's all lit up, as here.

Getting into the (Electronic) Christmas Spirit

It's about that time when a person has to drive around in the evening a bit to see just what sort of extreme craziness some folks have about decorating their yards, houses, and selves for the Christmas season.  Here, so far, is the winner of Madison's most extreme home make over, complete with audio soundtrack.  Yes, we tuned in and watched from our auto, even as Madison's law enforcement cruised by, keeping the impulse to riot in check.  

Friday, December 03, 2010

Finishing Hard--Cross Country Style

My cross country coach used to tell us a key to doing well in races was "finishing hard."  I remind my students of that in the closing weeks of each semester, encouraging them to do their best work, to put the polish on assignments and keep steady pressure on to shine.  It makes a difference.
I was reminded of that by a story this morning in The New York Times, heralding a young woman, Holland Reynolds, who crawled across the finish line after collapsing five yards from the tape.  She wasn't in first, but her team needed her to finish in order to win the championship.  She did.  See the race and the finish here.