Friday, June 29, 2007

These are the Daves I know I know

These are the Daves I know, I know
These are the Daves I know
One of them is Justin,
But most of them are Daves

Ok, I guess not too many folks will get that little reference, but there you have it, sometimes humor is exclusive...

These are a few of the folks I work with standing in line to buy an iPhone. They could wait for two weeks and just buy one then, but where is the fun in that? This is like an event. I went down and talked to them, and it's quite the party. Anytime there are Popsicles, you know good times are to be had.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Nice Ride

Went out with some friends yesterday for a mountain bike ride up Green Canyon. It was a 10.6 mile ride, round trip. It was a lot of fun to ride with other folks. The benefit is that you kind of have to keep up. When I go myself I think, "I'm kind of tired, maybe I'll stop." When you're riding with others you just have to keep going.

I'm impressed with how good these guys are. I was wheezing, huffing, puffing, gasping the entire way, and almost everybody else was just chatting like they were sitting around a BBQ, sharing some drinks. I was pleased that I was able to keep up. For the most part I was never more than 10-15 seconds behind whoever was leading, although toward the end I was really feeling the fact that I hadn't eaten since 2:00. In fact, all that day I ate kind of poorly. Nothing for breakfast, a piece of cake and a couple of breadsticks for lunch, and then a Creamie at 2:00. I need to listen to the more experienced riders, and do what they do, eat as they eat, and drink as they drink.

All in all, a fun little ride.

Twitter is about as clunky as can be...

So color me unimpressed with Twitter. I believe their functionality has changed, because there is no way that in their current state they would get more than 8 users, and those users would only be involved because their masochists.

It's a great idea, and kind of fun, but holy cow their web site has problems. Maybe it's me, but I don't think so.

First of all, there is currently no way to search for other users using twitter. So I found out that I have two friends using twitter, but guess what? Can't do anything about that. The only way to search Twitter is to use a third party program. The problem? That third party program doesn't have access to let you add them as a friend. So you can see them, but you can't actually add them to your list.

The only way I can see that you can add a friend is if you happen to be on the web site when they add something. There is a 'public timeline' that shows EVERYBODY who is twittering. So if you call your friend, tell them to twitt, and the hit refresh until you see their message, you can then and only then, add them as a friend.

I've checked the FAQ and the help and it's useless. They point you to the third party API that again, doesn't allow you to add them. I submitted an e-mail to their help, but it froze up their server. When I tried to go back I got an error message.

Anyway, as I mentioned, I'm not impressed. I hope they turn their user search back on, because I can see how this would be a fun little app.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

My commute has gotten worse...

But that is a good thing.

I have an interesting commute to work. I have three options.

Option 1) I can walk three blocks and catch the bus that drops me off about 50 feet from the door to my building.

Options 2) I can drive my car and park about 5 blocks from my building.

Option 3) I can ride my bike to work, and lock it up about 30 feet from the door to my building.

Option 1 takes 10 minutes. Option 2 takes 10 minutes. And option 3 takes 10 minutes when I'm not in shape, and 8.5 minutes when I am. So it's summer, it's beautiful weather, I'm out of shape, so clearly option 3 is the best answer.

But I just round a different route that takes me 35 minutes (I'm hoping to cut it down to 30 after I get in shape). This route takes me down to a dam, up the side of a mountain, and then across and back down. You can see both the old and new route here.

Anyway, I'm hoping that if I stick to this commute, and work my tail off, by the end of the year I will be able to keep up with the COSL racing team for 8 minutes, instead of my customary 85 seconds.

If you're ever in the area, my commute is also a lovely hike. You can start right at the trail head and enjoy a lovely view of the entire valley. Enjoy it now before the encroaching development takes it all over.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Book Signing

I'm doing a book signing July 13th, from 6:00 to 8:00 PM, at the Book Table. It's for a charity, and there will be multiple authors there. Should be fun. Feel free to swing by if you're in the neighborhood.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Anybody out there Twitter?

Twitter is one of those things that you hear about, can't really understand what all the fuss is about, but you hear so much you can't help but do a bit more exploring. However, like most social software on the web, works better with friends. So, anybody out there twitter? If so, let e-mail me so I can add you as a friend. Because right now, I'm friendless...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Tracking the Net

Ever wondered who is doing what on the internet? Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.

The Whitneys...

LDStorymakers is starting a new awards thingy. From their site.

"The Whitneys are an awards program for LDS fiction, and are sponsored by the LDStorymakers. One of the most commonly repeated quotes among LDS authors is from Orson F. Whitney: “We will yet have Miltons and Shakespeares of our own.” As it is the goal of LDStorymakers to increase the quantity and quality of LDS fiction, it's only reasonable that the Storymakers should also honor those authors who excel and continually raise the bar."

So the book doesn't have to be LDS, just the author. I'd ask you all to go over and nominate my book, but unfortunately there is no category for what I write.

"The Whitney Awards honor novels in the following categories: Romance/Women’s Fiction, Suspense/Mystery, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Historical, Novel of the Year, and Best Novel by a New Author. Novels can be nominated by any reader (via this website or by mail), and nominees are voted on by an academy of industry professionals, including authors, publishers, bookstore owners, distributors, critics, and others."

I lobbied for a "Young Reader, Humorous, Quasi-Autobiographical, All of the Kids are the Same-Gender Family" award, but to no avail. Greasing palms with two dollar bills just doesn't get you what it used to, back in the day.

But seriously, think about a good book you've read, head on over to the site, and nominate that sucker.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Good Cause

I love my job. I can’t think of another job I’d rather be at, or another work I’d rather be involved in. I feel like it’s a good cause. I feel like maybe something I’m going to do today will make a difference to somebody, somewhere. It is fulfilling.

But I want to talk for just a minute about another good cause. One that also inspires me, and it’s one that my father has devoted his life to.

My dad arrived at Thiokol in 1979. A few months later his company delivered the solid rocket booster motors to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Two years later those same rockets took the space shuttle on its first flight into outer space. That’s right, my dad’s a rocket scientist. Those twin blazing infernos pictured above are what he works on, every day.

He has been with that company for every single launch of the space shuttle. He designs the instruments that ensure the motor is functioning properly. This last week he was asked to go to Florida as a special guest to witness the latest launch. Last night, we stood on my parent’s deck and watched the international space station move steadily across the Northern sky. It was visible because even though the ground was covered in darkness, 200 miles above the space station was still in sunlight. The grandchildren were amazed that Grandpa had built the rockets, watched the rockets go up, and that now the space shuttle was attached to that pin point of light, hundreds of miles above their heads.

There has always been something inspiring about explorers–the act of doing something that has never been done before. And while the era of terrestrial explorers is winding down, space still is wide open. There is so much still left to the unknown.

My dad still works at Thiokol, and is currently working on the next generation shuttle system. He was at the birth of one program, and is now serving as a midwife to the next one.

My dad is an inspiration to me, in this way, and so many others. So, to my dad, and Dad’s everywhere…Happy Fathers Day.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Confused by copyright?

Great little video that explains what copyright is, how fair use limits copyright, and does it in a clever way.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Trailing Boys...

I went walking with my boys today. Walking used to be a simple procedure. You lean forward, catch yourself with your right leg (or your left, it doesn't matter to begin with), lean forward again, catch yourself with your other leg, and repeat. I've been doing it for 33 years now, I’m somewhat of an expert.

But walking with boys is different. There are boys who run ahead of me, boys who walk next to me, and boys who walk behind. What happens is that I walk at a normal pace, then I have to stop and wait, then I have to walk slower, then I have to yell ahead of me at somebody to slow down. They say you burn about 200 calories walking for an hour. I burn 600 easily, on a good day.

I'm not complaining about taking walks with my boys, but today I noticed something. There are three zones that my boys end up in. The first zone is roughly even with me, or anywhere ahead. The second zone is behind me, maybe 10-15 yards. The third zone is behind me and longer than 15 yards.

In the first zone the kids usually lollygag. They are ahead of me, or at least close to me, so they stop to examine a bug, pick up a particularly strange rock, or try to scare a bird into flight. Since they are lollygagging, they invariable slow down and end up in zone two.

Zone two is usually where the boy realizes that he is behind. He will often call out to me, asking me to wait up. I yell OK, and keep walking. They jog a bit, and soon are back into zone one.

However, sometimes they are so enthralled with the bug, rock, or bird that they fall completely out of zone two and end up in zone three. Now my older boys can get out of zone three without a problem, but my 5 and 3 year old can't. What happens is that they yell at me to stop. When I don't (I know, bad Dad), they look at the distance (over 15 yards), and give up hope. They fall down to the ground and assume what I call the Charlie Brown position (kneeling down on the pavement, screaming, and often striking the ground with a fist). At this point I have to stop because neighbors are peeking out of their houses. I walk back so that the child is in zone two, speak a few encouraging words, and they once again catch up.

So, what does this have to do with anything? Well, it doesn't have to have to do with anything, but I can't help but compare it to learning. Because, well...that is all I deal with all day--at work and at home.

Whenever a person sits down to learn something, they are in one of three zones. They are either all caught up, or maybe ahead. They are behind just a little, or they are completely lost. In zone one it's quite easy to lollygag. I understand what the prof. is saying, I can sleep, just a little. I don't need to read the chapter. Ultimately that leads you to zone two where you realize you don't quite understand. You need to focus, study, or pay attention so that you don't fall into zone three. You’re not confused or lost, you’re catching up. You’re learning. Zone three, of course, is a zone of panic. You realize you're clueless, you need some serious help, and you don't understand anything of what is being said. This is a bad zone to be in.

When I'm teaching my boys, I can tell which zone they are in. If they're in zone one, I pick up the pace. Chop, chop, let’s make it harder. I purposefully move ahead until they are in that sweet spot, zone two. Here they have to pay attention. They are not frustrated, they are not bored, they are learning. It is incredibly hard to keep a person in this zone. Good video games can do it, but it's hard to design instruction that keeps a person in zone two for an extended period of time.

It becomes even harder when you add a second, third, or maybe 25 other learners to the mix. Then you have kids in all sorts of zones. Do you push those in zone one? Do you slow down for the people yelling in zone three? Personally if I was in that situation I'd just curl up into the fetal position. I don't think it can be done, at least not very well. You can't manage kids in all zones. They will always be in different zones, despite our best hopes that none of them are left behind.

May I conclude with yet another rant about copyright law. If I create a program, write a text, or prepare a lesson, ultimately it has to be catered to a zone. This program is for 4th graders, who are struggling at math (zone 3). But copyright law locks that content down. I can't modify it and use it for those in zone 1 or 2. I can't adapt it to 3rd graders, or make it more challenging for 5th graders. It’s tied down. It’s set in stone.

There are now thousands of 'things' out there that are licensed under a creative commons or GPL license. Professors and educators should be using, reusing, mashing, and remixing these items. The more we can proliferate this material, and make it adaptable to a wider audience (in all zones), the better off the learners will be.

The key is to realize that automation is not going to be the silver bullet. You can never rely on a program to adapt to a child. Technology will always be an important part of the equation, but at the end of the day you need a teacher, you need a learner, and you need useful content.

Monday, June 04, 2007


I've been kicking around an idea lately about tying information to a physical location. Right now we get information when we're at our computers. With phones, we're moving a little toward getting information 'on the go', but information is still tied to key words and not locations. With GPS units that can pin point a location to just a few feet, why can't we start tying all of the information on the web, to locations where it might be more valuable?

So if I'm standing in front of a tree, I might be able to do a quick search to see if anybody has tied any information to that spot. I might find an arborist who describes why kind of tree it is. Or maybe a local who can tell me when it was planted, and by whom. Or maybe a young couple got engaged under it, and they can tell me their story. The important thing is that the information is relevant to a location.

I had this idea several years ago for such a site but since I'm a poser, and not a coder, I really couldn't do anything about it. But now, google maps has made it possible to do just what I've described. With their personal maps you can enter the latitude and longitude, type in information, link to a web site, or link to audio and video you've created.

USU is hosting a conference this fall, and I've begun to mark points of interest in Logan for our visitors. I've got places to eat, things to see, campus map, etc. I also intend to add a hikes and the great outdoors section. It's just a start (there are more than two places to eat in Logan), but I intend to add more as I get a chance. Such a page could be useful for our conference attendees, but also useful for anybody else coming to Logan. I've put in a request to google to allow for collaborative maps, so that others can add to the site.

I've also documented how to make this kind of map over at this site. Just click on the 'how to make a geoStory' link.