Monday, March 24, 2008

Crescent (Rock) City

The kids and I just got back from an overnight stay in Crescent City, CA. While Christy is in Mexico, we decided to forgo all the EasterMania (tm) and take a quick visit to the world's most un-gentrified coastal town. If you've never been, Crescent City lacks all of the pizazz of most Pacific Coast spots- which is exactly why it's the perfect place to get away.

The hotels are cheap, the attractions are infamously cheesy (see Ocean World, and Trees of Mystery), and the food is mostly fast! The town is full of rusty boats, hugely fat sea lions, and "chainsaw artists" whose primary medium is centuries-old local redwood. If you can handle the stomach-wrenching drive through the hairpin turns of highway 199, I highly recommend it. Special bonuses include the stunning Smith River, and 300 year old redwoods in the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. What's not to like?

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Waiting for Applause

I'm proud to announce that Catch Hanky version 1.0 has been released. I am teaching my students how to make games in Flash using ActionScript. So I threw this little ditty together over the weekend, to demo some programming basics. It's far from finished, but I've decided to release it to ALL my readers - lucky you! Click here to be fulfilled.
3/26/08 Note: Fixed a font error. Not sure how to embed custom fonts in Flash. Changed version to 1.01...

Jury Duty

Hey, it's been awhile since my last entry. Really busy over the last two weeks. I recently served on Jury Duty for two days. If you haven't had the privilege of serving, it's both a blessing and a curse. It's cool to see how our vast judicial system operates up close and personal, but devastatingly lame when it doesn't work as planned.

I arrived with over 300 county residents at 8:30a on the first day. We were trained by an ABC news video full of patriotic images and "you are a proud American fulfilling your duty..." soundtrack. A local judge talked about the process of selecting juries, followed by a bailiff reading off the numbers of jurors who were selected. I was selected to serve on a civil case and brought in to a courtroom to be interviewed by the two attorneys handling the case - a prosecutor and a defense lawyer. The case was about a two-car accident in the parking lot of our local mall. An "actress" suffered injuries from getting hit by a young man which "hampered" her acting career over the last four years. She was looking for monetary damage$ to compen$ate her lo$$ of work. All I could think of was, "If you are an actress what are you doing in a small town in Southern Oregon?" I wasn't selected for the jury and got to go home early.

The next morning all ~300 of us got called back, which they say is unusual. I was selected for another case - 4th degree assault, and harassment. This time I was selected to serve. I learned that lawyers have the ability to manipulate the jury selection process by asking jurors questions related to the case and the charges set forth. Jurors are then dismissed or maintained based on the requests of the attorneys. The gist of the case was:

  • Older married couple drinking (too much) at a bar just after Christmas

  • Grandpa stays and plays in 9-ball tournament, Grandma goes home

  • Grandma sees that the awning of their trailer is broken due to a snow storm

  • Grandma gets angry and returns to the bar

  • Grandpa gets a beer thrown in his face

  • A scuffle ensues, and Grandpa hits Grandma in the eye with a pool cue

  • Four gentlemen jump Grandpa

  • Grandma is dragged away, and calls the cops

  • Grandpa is arrested and charged with 4th degree assault and harassment

Based on this outline, it seemed like a pretty easy case. As a viewer of many lame court-TV shows, I expected the usual parade of gruesome evidence and carefully crafted legal arguments from both sides. Instead, we spent all day hearing from witnesses who were perfectly lucid about the sequence of events all the way up until the time that Grandma was popped in the head. At that point their minds walked into a large murky cloud. Even Grandma contradicted herself on the stand, and essentially confessed that she didn't want to get her husband in trouble.

Based on the minimal evidence presented in the case, and the lack of relevant testimony, we let the defendant go on both counts - not guilty. Did I think the guy did it? Absolutely. Did all parties lie on the stand? Seems like it. Are they both train wrecks? For sure. My fellow jurors and I were all stunned at the lack of momentum in Grandma's efforts to testify. Why take it to court in the first place if you don't want your husband to get in trouble? Is it fear of retribution? Admission that you are also at fault? Love's blinding power? As I was leaving the court house I had the new and creepy experience of seeing the families of both parties waiting in the lobby, carefully examing our faces for some sign of the jury's decision. As we descended in the elevator I thought about how frightening it would be to hand down a jail sentence, and then face those same prying eyes.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Connecting Students Globally

If you are a teacher, you should definitely check out iEARN (International Education and Resource Network). Their address is iEARN is a non-profit organization that brings together teachers and youth to collaborate on projects.

You can propose a new project for collaboration, or join one in progress. It's really amazing to see what kids are doing together online. Sometimes very simple, but always very powerful. You can browse projects and see examples of the work through the iEarn Collaboration Centre,

I'm planning on doing a pilot project this spring with my Digital media students. I met some local teachers who have been doing this for years, and they rave about it. Sounds like fun!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Technology Assembly Line

Today I met with a group of teachers to discuss a cross-curricular project to teach students about "perception" through famous artists. This gives us a chance to teach a number of embedded concepts, such as point-of-view, perspective, empathy, etc. Earlier in the year, we focused on Normal Rockwell's Homecoming. This month we're focusing on the works of Diego Rivera. I'm going to use a section from his Detroit Industry murals, pictured to the right.

Although I'd heard of Rivera, I wasn't really familiar with his work - it's really cool. This image really floored me. I like the sense of leverage to the left side - every man working in concert to build the V8 heart of a Ford automobile. It's also a paradox. Who is controlling who in this painting? Is it the men, creating utility from raw ore and modern technology? Or is it the belching furnace and octopus like machinery, controlling the men like puppets. Regardless, this reminded me of working in my computer lab all day - a similar paradox. We like to think of technology as a ticket to freedom (the internet, free will, ideas as power). Yet these same machines need to be fed, requiring all of our attention and energy to create something.

It's a weird dance.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

It Started with Space and Quisp

My lifelong obsession with technology started in 1969. I have vivid memories of watching the Apollo 11 moon landings on a black & white tv set while eating Quisp cereal. I remember my Mom plopped us down in front of the tv and told us, "You kids need to watch this, it's an important moment in history." She was right. Those images were played again and again over the course of my entire life. Quisp fit right in with everything that was going on at the time - space toys, technology as a political and cultural force, new ways to process corn meal and market it to 4 year-olds.

Quisp was a space alien from the Planet Q who arrived on earth to share his "Quazy Energy Cereal" which is secret code for "sugar-encrusted sugar saucers." Quisp had an enemy named Quake, who brought his own subterranean breakfast food which was "earthquake-powered." Years later Quisp and Quake would battle for supremacy in a public vote over who's cereal would remain on the shelves. I remember being really concerned that Quisp would go away forever. In the late 80's I was at a Piggly Wiggly grocery store and found it in the cereal-bag section - you know, the ones where they remake Lucky Charms and brand it as Lucky Stars. I ended up sitting around with friends that day eating Quisp and removing a good quarter inch of skin from the top of our mouths.


  1. A person who has no skill.

  2. Someone who is new to a game, or website, online game, or something.

  3. The most common race chosen by new players of World of WarCraft.
I've finally arrived in the blogosphere. Instead of trumpets, I'm hearing that old pathetic "exiting Windows" wav file in my head (tada!). Kind of celebratory and defeated at the same time.

I've been working in high-tech companies, and teaching technology for almost two decades - but still surprisingly resistant to this new form of communication. It seems like talking to yourself in the forest, carthartic but ultimately just you and the quiet. That said, I still find myself reading blogs in my free time and it's pretty cool to peek into others lives in such a unique manner. I really appreciate people who can capture a moment in time, a topic, or even just document a process.

Now that I've entered this literary RPG I suppose the obligatory, "I hope to write about... perceptions... humor... insight... absurdity... technology... culture... etc..." is necessary. I've got some ideas, but I'd rather just see how it goes.

Embracing the noobelf.