Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Change of Perspective

If, like me, you are a geek. I'm hoping that you're spending some time on Wired's web site. Wired is legendary for their innovative print design and cool story lines, but they also do a great job on the web. I thought this story was particularly interesting. Some talented grad students at the University of Washington (aka "YewDub" if you live in Seattle), had a great idea - point space probes back at Earth to get an understanding of what a life-supporting planet might look like from afar. They used the Deep Impact spacecraft to observe Earth from 30 million miles away. They calculated color wavelengths to help differentiate water from land masses. This could help immensely in determining oceans and continents on our blurry neighbors in space. Here's a link to the full story on

I like the focus on "seeing" is believing. Observers of science, rise up! John Locke's "Empiricism" is alive and well!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

News of My Demise is Greatly Exaggerated

It's been over two weeks since my last post. I'm not sick. I'm not injured. I'm not angry. I'm just tired of trying to graduate this year's seniors! I have never loved and loathed a group of students as much in my whole teaching career. I know of roughly 20 wonderful, smart, talented young people who are a hair-width away from falling off the cliff and not getting their diploma. After 13 years in the system! Based on my long history of college slacker-dom, I think I am now paying the karmic penalty for my transgressions. When I was in school, the thought of NOT graduating put the fear of God in all young people. Today, not so much.

This time of year makes me wonder about the state of education and our changing societal norms. Is high school still relevant? Are we really preparing kids for life in careers and college? What do these students think they will do if they don't get education/training? What is the cause behind all of the symptoms? The first video here is older but well done. The second is a little newer revise of the legendary "Shift Happens" video. I think they both nicely capture many aspects of the problem.

I'll be better off after graduation. Enjoy the holiday weekend!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

My Favorite Flash Games

The Internet is supposed to make us more productive, but we all know that it's a morass of time wasting activities. For every productive moment on the Internet there is two moments of wasting time (LOLcats and Facebook be damned!). Here are some of my favorite stress-relievers on the Internet:

Bloxorz - Maddeningly addictive... The goal here is to roll a rectangular brick end over end, or sideways to dump it into a hole. Don't knock it, until you try it! Rolling bricks has never been so perplexing or satisfying.

N - You are a gold-diggin' Ninja (hence the "N" title). This game clearly has roots in the old "Jumpman" Commodore 64 titles and a healthy nod to "Loderunner". The game play is deep and complex. There are over 500 levels in the latest version.

Mini-Putt - A classic from the early part of this decade. I don't even like golf, and I like playing this game. When this came out, my friends Pete and Chris went to war with me over low scores. It devolved into a long string of emails with screen caps that were under dispute, and cries of "photoshop!".

flOw - A beautifully designed, elegant flash game created by Jenova Chen. Flow is part of Chen's thesis research at the University of Southern California's Interactive Media Division. As you eat other organisms you evolve and swim deeper into the murky depths. Brilliant.

Click Fest - If you like popping bubble wrap, then this is the game for you. It's simple, yet compelling - click all the buttons on the screen as fast as you can. Be sure to try Click Fest 1 through 4 for some variety.