I was in the mall the other day and saw a kiosk chuck full of those wrist bands that are in style. Lance Armstrong made the "Live Strong" wrist band popular.
There were all different kinds; names, mascots, cute sayings...
I asked the clerk if they had one that said, "Don't Conform".
Saturday, June 25, 2005
I was in the mall the other day and saw a kiosk chuck full of those wrist bands that are in style. Lance Armstrong made the "Live Strong" wrist band popular.
Friday, June 24, 2005
I have two character traits that often clash with each other.
First, I'm a person who, when he starts something, pretty much has to see it through to the end. I don't like a lot of loose projects hanging around. That is not always to say that I do a stellar job at wrapping things up, sometimes I just slap on a bit of glue and glitter, and bring closure to my little project, just so it stops bugging me.
In fact, this is why I haven't started my second book. I've got the general idea of the book pretty much nailed down. I have the first chapter all worked out and ready to be put down in electronic ink. And yet I know if I get started I'm going to be bugged until I finish it. I don't know if I have the time right now in my life to take on yet another project.
The second character trait I have is that I'm pretty lazy. Now I say that in a nice way. I'm what you call lazy like a fox. I firmly believe in the 80/20 rule. The 80/20 rule states (at least in my version) that you can learn 80 percent of the material in 20 percent of the time. The last 20 percent of material, takes another 80 percent of the time. It's that last pesky 20 percent that gets you in the end. It separates the amateurs from the experts.
So, lets say you want to know about the battle of Gettysburg. There are about half a million web pages refrenceing the subject, along with countless books other material out there. You could spend days reading and begin to get a good idea of what went on there, or you could check out the wiki article, watch the movie, and you would know a great deal about the topic in a fraction of the time.
So, I am at once a person who wants to see things through to the end, and one who enjoys learning about a whole bunch of things, but I don't like to go for 'depth'. How are those character traits colliding right now?
I'm half way through a Ph. D. program.
I was walking across campus the other day and heard two people (they looked like professors), arguing over the IQ of the American beaver. One put it at around 45-50, and the other thought it was higher, but wasn't prepared to actually name a firm number. The topic fascinated me, (what fascinated me most that this was a serious discussion, but I digress) but the thought of me learning enough about the activities of an American beaver so that I could carry on an intelligent discussion on the topic exhausts me. I'd rather learn the 80 percent and leave the 20 to others.
And yet if I want a doctorate degree, I've got to tie myself to one specific topic, and beat that topic to within an inch of it's life, or mine, I'm not quite clear on that point yet. I have to become the expert. I thought if I looked at video games, a topic I'm quite interested in, I would be able to become that 'expert'. But it didn't work. There is so much out there that the idea of me reading and sifting through the vast amounts of data makes the inside of my eyelids hurt.
Anyway, at some point these two character traits are going to come to a head. I will either chastise myself for being so lazy and pathetic, and tell myself to buck up and become an expert; or I will tell myself to chill out, let things go, I don't need to finish every last thing I start.
Either way, I'll likely end up in the fetal position for a few days.
Thursday, June 23, 2005
I wrote a few days ago about about a social software program that lets you use friends to help you scour the internet.
I've come across a problem.
I was searching for news, and while I normally go to Google news, I somehow came across a link that led me to fox news. When I tried to go to a site, a pop up warned me me that this was a 'dangerous' site. The warning had come from one of my 'contacts'. Normally this warning is saved for sites that can infect your computer with spyware, or the like. But some noble person was trying to save his 'friends' from conservative ideology.
So far I've been unable to figure out how to discount information from certain members. If they rate web sites in a reckless fashion, my computer needs to be able to somehow ignore them.
While this functionality may exist, I haven't been able to find it because their website is down.
I'll report more if I am able.
We went to the rip-roaring So. Ogden parade yesterday, where there were about 30 fire trucks, a couple of kids, and a goat... Ok, I made up that bit about the goat, just to make it sound sexy. Forgive me, I'm blaming that little lie on one of my favorite books, growing up.
Anyway, when the flag came by, right at the first, my wife and I told our kids to stand up and put our hands over our hearts. My son, who had just spotted the entire color guard, asked, "Why? Do they shoot you if you don't stand up?"
It was a funny question. Sure enough, two of the guards had some wicked looking semi-automatic rifles. I assured him that nobody would be shot for not standing up for the flag, at least not at this parade. I almost went on to tell him that since we lived in a free country, you could actually burn the flag (at least for now) and not get shot. But then thought better of it. He is only 5, and that's a bit too young to be putting counter-revolutionary thoughts into his head.
But it is nice to live in a place where you can express yourself. When I was a young'n, my mom used the phrase, "Eat your veggies, there are starving people in China." Maybe the updated version should be, "Express yourself, there are those in the world who do not have such luxury."
Monday, June 20, 2005
Since the rest of us were pretty much living the laws described in Lord of the Flies, our response was often, "Well, what do you want, a star pinned on your chest?"
It's not pinned on my chest, I but I just became a 'Blue Star" member of e-bay. I did this by earning a rating of 50. They even sent me a certificate, if you can believe that, with instructions to download, print, and "display proudly".
Back where I came from, if you get caught displaying a certificate, especially a 'blue star' certificate, well... You may as well kiss your lunch money goodbye. Chances are there is a wedgie and a good beating waiting for you out on the playground.
I don't want my blog to turn into me blathering on and on about my book.
I came across this interesting website from Slashdot. The basic premise is that most of the 8 billion (read that like Carl Sagan would have: billyun) web sites are bad, poorly designed, not what you want. But by using this program, when you do a search rather than just wading through the most sites a search engine things are useful, you are wading through sites that your friends have found useful.
If that doesn't make sense, an excellent description is found here.
I'll try this out and let you know what I think.
Of course it only works if other people are willing to play. Does anybody want to be my social software buddy? Let me know and I will 'invite' you.
"Well, talk about first books...I got hold of Matthew Buckley's first book, "Chickens in the Headlights." I decided to see if the kids would listen while I read a bit to them at dinner one night. Since then I've eaten a cold dinner every night! Tonight the younger ones actually started chanting 'Chickens, Chickens, Chickens' at the dinner table until I got it out and began reading it!
"My husband who can deadpan any joke without even a twinkle got shaking with laughter so much during the 'bunkbed scene' in the first chapter that I thought I was going to actually hear a sound come out of him.
"My teenager loved the line, 'we cleaned our room today, so there's not room for anything else under there.' (He held up his hand and confessed over dinner, 'I've done it. I know what that looks like')
"My two young daughters, (ages 5 and eight) both loved the line about dragging baby Jacob--'I grabbed the foot of his pajamas and dragged him to the crib; he left a line of drool across the floor'. They absolutely erupted over the drool part.
"It's been fun to see the different ages all react to different things...but that's just it. They've all reacted and enjoyed it so much. Great first book, Matthew! Right now my kids are all starting to gather on the couches behind me like 'chickens' to the roost because I promised them I'd read more after they were ready for bed. It's 7:20 on a summer evening and you know what? They're all ready! So, Matthew, for cold dinners with no squabbling and getting children snuggly in their pajamas without a chase...Thank you again! For great family evenings, it's better than T.V. I highly recommend it. T. Lynn"
Very kind words...
Saturday, June 18, 2005
So, while driving around looking for the stores I was supposed to be in, I fell back on a little piece of information I discovered while spraying lawns. While this may not hold in all cities, I've found that the majority of them follow a simple rule. When you are moving away from the center of town, even numbered houses/building are on the right. So, if you are on 600 west and 500 south, heading north, even is on your left, and odd are on your right. But as soon as you cross main/state/center, or whatever, the numbers will switch. Now that you are heading 'away' from town, even is on the right, odd is on the left.
Try it, see if it works for your house. It's great when trying to find buildings or homes. You know which lane to be in.
So seriously, does this post win the prize for being the most pointless entry yet in this blog? :)
Ok, I take back all the things I said about book signings. I still feel very uncomfortable, being the center of attention, or having clerks tell customers that there is an author here today (do I wave or just pretend I don't hear?).
But something happened today that made all the uncomfortable feelings worth it. I was at the Seagull Book on Redwood Road (curse road construction, and idiots who think that since the lane is merging, they can drive up the side and then butt in line), and it wasn't too bad. There was another author there, so we could chat with each other. This allowed customers to approach the table without fear of us strong-arming them into buying our books.
Anyway, a woman approaches and I notice that a young boy is hiding behind her legs, he was probably about 8. The mother dragged him around to the front and pushed him forward. He shyly handed me a copy of my book on CD and asked me to sign it.
I proceeded to do so, and asked him if he had listened to them yet (they weren't purchasing it, rather they had driven across town with their own copy after hearing that I was at this store). The next thing I know he is gushing about his favorite parts. His shyness forgotten, he waved his hands, and told me the parts that had made him laugh. Sometime during his discourse his sister wandered in and started telling me her favorite parts. Their eyes were sparkling, as I'm sure were mine.
It made my day.
Not that they drove across town to meet me, not that they were 'praising' my book. But because they were telling me they thought it was funny. They had laughed. The mother told me they turned off their movies so they could listen to the book.
The high point of this whole project, the one event that made the whole process worth it, was a dark December night, when I read chapter 18 to my father and about three of my brothers. By the time we were done, tears were streaming down our faces, and our bellies hurt because we were laughing so hard. I knew what was going to happen, there was no reason for me to laugh, but I could barely see to read the words through the waves of laughter.
Laughing is what it's all about, and to think that these two kids, Kimber and Logan, listened and laughed over my book makes me happy.
So, I'll still dread book signings, but not quite as much.
Friday, June 17, 2005
So I'm reading this article that talks about how the 'net generation' are masters of technology. It perpetuates the idea that young people are inherently better at using technology than their older counterparts. While this may be true, I still think at the heart of the matter it's a self-fulfilling /prophecymyth.
There are several reasons often put forth as to why kids are so much better at technology than adults. They've lived with it all their lives, their brains are like a clean slate so they are quicker at learning, they have more free time, so they learn it better.
While there is probably merit to all of these, I also don't buy those as excuses as to why adults can't know technology just as well if not better than the kids.
After all, we've had technology just as long as they have. Even if they have been text messaging since they were 8, we have been doing it just as long. And wasn't the software written by adults, with adult schemas? Windows lets us create 'files' and put them in 'folders' or to the trash. We should understand that concept better than a child. And when it comes to free time, remember that kids are in school almost as long as adults are at work. And there are still all those other things the kids 'waste' their time on; video games, television, talking on their cell phones. If they are so busy doing these things, how do they become technology masters?
In my mind, the crux of the matter is not any of the above mentioned things, rather it comes down to social pressure. Let me explain using wild oversimplification and rampant speculation
Junior High and High School can be extremely cliquish. You're a Jock, or a Cowboy, or a Stoner, or a band nerd, or a cheerleader, or a dance squad member... You are often looking for ways to excel or stand out in your clique. You want to have the most tackles, or the biggest belt buckle, or play the three minute waltz in under 2:50, etc. etc. Well, if you happen to not be built like an OX, or care to hop on wild animals, or inject illegal substances into your bloodstream for kicks, what do you do? How do you stand out?
Some kids turn to those computers in the back of the library. They've seen some of those movies or read some of those books that make hackers look cool. Or they even just realize that if you know tech, the world, or at least a good paying job, will quite possibly beat a path to your door. So they begin to play.
There is a reward that comes when they do something that nobody else has done. They maintain the schools website. They do a crazy flash animation. Or better yet, they hack into something. Nothing says, “I'm a cool high schooler.” like an investigation by the feds.
Anyway, when we 'grow up', we don't receive the same level of social praise when we figure out how to fit a computer into a toaster. We receive praise for getting a high paying job, winning the Nobel prize, or being a nice member of society. When the rewards change, our actions change...
So, I argue that adults have the same ability as kids to figure out technology, they often have just as much time, they've just go to apply themselves. They need to work at it, not fear it, set goals, become more like... well, like the kids.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
A thousand years ago the problem was not enough information. You had to really search to find even a little bit of of the stuff. You usually had to travel somewhere to find information, whether it was to the blacksmith to become an apprentice, or to a library to read the scrawling of other thinkers, information was hard to find.
Today, the problem is too much information. We have the world at our fingertips, and we don't have to go anywhere to get it. Instead of searching out information, now we sift through information.
But the more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that the solution to both problems is the same. You need a guide. Apprentice blacksmiths didn't spend the first four years in the kitchen studying texts. They were on site from day one, living, breathing, experiencing smithery, under the watchful eye of somebody who had the information. This can't be done in a traditional classroom setting. This is experiential learning, in a live setting. Don't read the book unless you are searching for answers to a real life problem.
Whether it is a master blacksmith that shows you how to do make a horseshoe, or the master engineer who shows you how to work through the problem solving process, the most important thing is not information, but rather an expert guide. Somebody who asks you questions and makes you seek out answers, who gives you problems that will not overwhelm, or bore you, but challenge and inspire.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
It's an article describing the great war of 1988 between Transformers and GI Joe. The problems stemmed from the fact that "Cobra had gained control of large sections of the Backyard, including the area from the Big Stump to the Flower Bed. Meanwhile, Joe forces had dug in near the Back Door, and had set up air fields by the Clothesline."
Anopther great article from the Uncyclopedia is about "cowation - The process by which a person becomes a cow for no good reason. First they're just standing there, like a normal person, then they start to moo, then they become cows."
You just can't find this caliber of article on any fancy pants Encyclopedia...
Sunday, June 12, 2005
So, I think my second son has all the making of a discussion board debater. Not just a regular debater. A debater extraordinaire. I have witnessed many debates on discussion boards, and he imitated the techniques used. The conversation between him and his brother went something like this...
“It's time for dinner.”
“No it's not, it's time for supper.”
“No, it's time for dinner.”
“NO! Supper! Supper, supper, supper!” (At this point he covered his ears and ran out of the room screaming, so as not to be able to hear anything else.
Now all I need to do is teach him Goodwin's Law, and he will be set.
I downloaded and installed Open Office a while ago. I should mention that I download and install programs all of the time. Usually I use them once or twice, then forget about them.
With Open Office (OO), my experience has been the opposite. I haven't opened Word since the installation of OO. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not a Microsoft basher. I use all sorts of their products, and have no beef about them.
However, that being said, Open Office kicks the tail off Microsoft Office. I've been using it for about a month and have had nary a problem.
I've been meaning to write up a nice comparison of the two systems, but Matt13 beat me to it. I heartily recommend OO (the beta version) to anybody who doesn't want to shell out the hundred or so bucks to Gates. It's a very slick program.
I've known about podcasting for about 3 months, but have never gotten around to actually doing it. Whenever there is something 'new' I balk at it, for reasons that I will explain later.
I actually found podcasting to be easy. It really is, it took me all of 45 minutes to do. But when I look at the steps, I can also see how it could be considered overwhelming. So, here are the steps I took to do my first podcast.
1- The first step I took was to decide to do it. Since I blog, I thought I would start with blogger. I went to their help section, did a search for audio files, and found that it was easy.
2- So next I set up an account with audioblogger, which is actually pretty cool. You call up this number, talk, and post it. 5 seconds later, you have an audio blog. I called the number, but it was busy. I tried the next day, but it was still busy. I went back to help, found a second number, called it up, and within 30 seconds, I had an audio blog; my first.
3- Since I wanted to post the first chapter of my book, in audio, I had to next rip the tracks off of the CD (no worries, I got permission from my publisher). Since the whole chapter was not on one track, I ended up with 6 separate tracks. I didn't want users to have to listen to 6 separate files, so I needed to combine them into one.
4- Next I needed some good audio software. I'm sure there is professional stuff out there, but I like open source. A quick search later and I found Audacity, a surprisingly powerful little tool. A quick download and install later, and I was set.
5- I ran into my first problem (there are always problems) here. I could not import the audio files. I was about to throw in the towel, when I realized that I could import mp3, but could not import the windows media files. So now I needed to take my 6 tracks, and convert them to mp3.
6- A quick Google search showed me several kinds of converters, and a quick download and install later, I had 7 mp3s.
7- I uploaded the mp3, figured out how to merge all the tracks into one file, and tried to export the file as an mp3. No such luck
8- Back to audacity, found an extension, download, unzip, and I now had my chapter 1 as a single mp3.
10- Back to Blogger, I edit my original audio file to point to my new 17 mb file. I double check, and behold, my first podcast appears to be working.
Anyway, I've got a few thoughts about this process, and why I dreaded it, when it really was only 45 minutes of work. I'll post about that later. Right now, I think I'm due for a little nap.
Saturday, June 11, 2005
I was listening to one person talk about how they do their distance education. They mentioned that in each of their locations, the students have several controls, but chief among those were two buttons. One was a "I'm Lost" button, the other was a "I have a question" button.
At first this confused me. Aren't those basically the same thing? Don't you ask questions when you are lost?
But upon further reflection, I came to the conclusion that my first assumption was wrong. And I think the two button are a good thing. Sometimes when you are in a learning situation, you are so lost you don't even understand enough to formulate a question (other than, "why am I here?" Or, "What are you talking about?") But we don't ask these types of questions because that would make us look stupid, and with the exception of maybe Larry, Moe and Curly, we don't like looking stupid (though face it, we all like to say nyuk, nyuk, nyuk, when we are in the privacy of our own home).
With the "I'm Lost" button, you can just press it, and leave it up to the instructor to ask the questions. Leave it up to them to figure out where they have gone wrong. They must figure out where they lost us...
Also, with the "I have a question" button, it may be an "I'm getting this, this is making sense, let me just double check" type of question. Maybe the instructor has told me something, and I'm going to apply it to a new type of situation, thus verifying my understanding.
Anyway, I thought that both of those buttons should be used in any type of instruction. And if the instructor is using a powerpoint slide there should be a "Please dear God, blow up the bulb in the projector so I am not subjected to any more of these animations and poor visuals" button.
That would be very cool.
Friday, June 10, 2005
By far, the most interesting aspect of the conference was the water coolers. I don't know if that is a statement on the coolers, or the conference, or just that I'm fascinated by really stupid things.
The tops of the water coolers were your normal, plastic, office-type water cooler. The bottoms, however, were made of some kind of ceramic. They kind of looked like this. Nothing special, but for the life of me I couldn't figure out how they kept the water so cold. They don't plug in, so it couldn't have been electrical. Maybe they just filled the ceramic base with ice, but by golly, those suckers stayed cold all day long. I kept trying to figure out some really cool law of physics it was taking advantage of, like those little woodpecker toys, or those very cool potato clocks. Who knows what kind of whacky science could have been going on inside that ceramic belly? Bill Nye, maybe.
But even if i was just ice, my brain was stimulated more by thinking of that water cooler than any other aspect of the conference...
Saturday, June 04, 2005
Or, maybe just beast.
One person's old news, is often another person's new news. I'm sure there are still people out there who still haven't seen the numa numa boy. I pity them. It's really funny.
Anyway, since this site makes me look like I'm infatuated with chickens, I thought I would be ****** if I didn't at some point have a link to the subservient chicken. I actually came across this site almost a year ago, and it's pretty dumb, but it funny dumb. So if it's new to you, have fun.
Dance, chicken, dance!
Thursday, June 02, 2005
I witnessed a shocking scene in a nearby park, today. The faint of heart should tread carefully.
I was at the park with my boys, playing on and around some playground equipment. One boy shows up with some toy guns. Not just a few toy guns, but an entire arsenal. He had pistols, cap guns, and what looked like an assault rifle that went 'ratatatatatat' when you pulled the trigger. Shocking!
But as shocking as that was, it gets worse. This boys started passing his guns around to other kids, including my son, and they started shooting at each other! Pointing guns at each other and saying 'bang bang', I got you! Shocking!
But as shocking as that was, it gets worse. The boy had an older man with him, what looked like his grandpa. Grandpa has two pistols and begins slinking around the playground like an evil villain straight out of an old western. The kids started shooting at him, and he started shooting back. He would wander off, hide behind a shed, and then approach from another way. Again, bang, bang, I got you! Shocking!
What is this world coming to when little boys and grandpas can play with toy guns in a public park. Haven't they studied up on their PC behavior!
But by golly, they sure looked like they were having fun. You could cut the imagination and excitement with a knife.
I just purchased my book from Seagull Book, on Washington Blvd. They had just pulled it out of the box. I bought it just in case nobody else does.
Ok, I promise I'm not usually this gushy, and my blog is not going to turn into me going on and on about my book, but still... It's a bit exciting.
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
I feel like a new papa.
This morning, I held in my new book in my grubby little hands. No, it's still not out in stores, and no, I still haven't received my author's copy, but I managed to track one down.
I've been stopping by Seagull Book stores now for about a week. Asking different sales folks if they happened to have a book called Chickens in the Headlights. The answer has always been, “I think it's coming out soon, but we don't have it yet.”
Well, today I talked to somebody who said something different. I was at the Logan Seagull Book, and the answer came, “We don't have it yet, but I hope it comes soon, that book is hilarious!”
Wait. I didn't know this guy. Sure, my family and some friends have read the book, but if the book wasn't out, how did he know it was funny?
I inquired, and he informed me that they had gotten was is apparently called a 'demo copy'. I guess the stores get advanced copies, the clerks can read them, then suggest the books to whomever they think might like them.
Well, now I felt a little silly, but I couldn't leave the store without seeing 'my baby'. I stammered out something about feeling dumb, but I was the guy that wrote the book, and if he would let me just take a peek at it I would be forever grateful.
He was very kind. He let me hold it, flip through the pages, tuck it back into the shelf. He also told me to check back this afternoon, since they are getting a shipment today.
Little does he know I'm camped out in his parking lot, watching for a big brown truck.
I haven't acted this much like a kid on Christmas morning since... Well, since Dec. 25, 1980.
When I work at Utah State I walk right through an elementary school. Well, not right through the school, per se, rather the grounds of the schools. OK, not really the grounds of the school, but the kids spill out onto the grounds of the university, and I walk through... Anyway, I walk past a bunch of little kids, that is what I'm trying to say.
Today it was organized chaos, instead of the beautiful pure chaos I usually see. Today the kids had adults with them, and there were all sorts of interesting things going on. I happened to walk by a wading pool filled with marbles. There were some pvc pipes nearby and it looked like some interesting experiences were about to take place.
I glanced at the kids and their eyes were filled with excitement, but at the same time, one of the adults was speaking.
“These three were climbing trees, so they have to sit out.”
I didn't dare look at the kids' faces because deep down I'm a softie. If I saw the look on their eyes, it probably would have ruined my morning.
Since these kids were climbing trees, they couldn't participate in the learning activity.
Logically I can see the reasoning. If the kids were to fall out of the trees the school might be held responsible, parents might sue, blah blah blah. Plus, it's hard to keep track of fifteen 7 year olds. If you allow some kids to go off and play, the next thing you know everybody is going to want to play.
But then again, they are kids! Kids and trees go together like socks and sheets, right out of the dryer. They are drawn to each other, and there is a lot of warm clinging. But now these kids have to miss out on the learning activity because they committed the abominable sin of exploring.
I had a similar experience the other day with my son. We had a confessional session out in the garden. It didn't start out that way. I was working, he was working, and when he does anything that requires concentration, he hums.
So there we are, working, humming, thinking; and suddenly the humming stops. There is a moment of silence, then the confessional.
“Sometimes I just have songs going through my head”, my son said, sounding a little sad and ashamed. “I just can't stop humming.”
I wanted to tell him I loved his humming, probably because I knew it wouldn't last forever. But I didn't say anything because I could tell he wanted to say something else. Sure enough, he went on.
“My teacher makes me stay in during recess if I hum. I have to write “I will not hum.” 20 times on a paper.”
Now for all of you who are long time readers, (or should that be “both of you who are long time readers”? :), you know that I've just written a book. Writing is part of my 'trade'. And my son is being taught that humming is bad, and writing is a punishment.
Now I know that the second bit is false, writing can be loads of fun. Heck, I'd like to see writing passed out as a reward. And while the first bit about humming is sometimes true, it's also often false. I enjoy a good hum every once in a while, and should probably do it more often. I think physiologically it lightens your step. There is something about nerve endings being vibrated by your head that... Ok, I'm making that up.
Anyway, this post doesn't have much of a point, except for that sometimes I'm convinced that school often does as much harm as good. You can learn a lot by climbing trees. You can learn a lot by exploring. You can learn some by sitting at a desk all day, but is that the most valuable way to spen their time? To spend their childhood?
There are movements out there to get away from the old style of teaching. We live in an information age, and yet we are still learning and instructing as if we were an industrial one. I hope we aren't so entrenched in the old ways that it takes us decades more to move on.