Wednesday, October 31, 2007

We back row folks finally have an excuse...

I've always preferred the back row. Maybe it's a leftover primitive defensive reaction, to keep potential threats in front of me. Maybe it's because I'm shy, and don't want people looking at the back of my head.

I've often been to meetings and taken a seat near the back, only to have the speaker demand that everybody move to the front. It drives me nuts. I sat back here because I wanted to. No, I don't want to move forward, I'm afraid of getting hit with your spittle if I sit too close.

But now those of us who prefer the back, and are geeks, have an excuse. I'm in a meeting and the only plugs are at the back of thee room. If I'm asked to move forward, I can put a pained look on my face, as if my one and only desire is to move forward. But then I gesture toward my laptop cord plugged into the floor. Alas, I'm tied to my spot. Here, in the back. Where nobody can sneak up and club me with a rock.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Whitneys

I don't remember if I've blogged about the Whitney Awards yet. If you haven't heard about them, you can go to their site at You can read the rules, but the Whitney awards are basically trying to become THE award to get in the LDS publishing world. I think they've got a good shot, since Robison Wells is at the helm. Oh, and because they just announced a cash award for the winers. From their press release:


"The Whitney Awards Committee announced today that they will be
offering seven large cash awards to be presented at the upcoming
Whitney Awards banquet in March 2008. These cash prizes are due to
the generosity of the Whitney Awards' marquis sponsor,

"Founded earlier this year, the Whitney Awards program is a non-profit
organization dedicated to rewarding excellence among LDS authors.
With the new sponsorship of, winning authors will
receive up to $1000 along with their trophy.

"The Whitneys offer a total of seven awards. The five genre awards
(Best Romance/Women's Fiction, Best Mystery/Suspense, Best
YA/Children's, Best Speculative Fiction, Best Historical) will each
be accompanied by a $500 cash prize. The two overall winners, Best
Novel by a New Author and Best Novel of the Year, will each receive

""We're very excited about the sponsorship with,"
Robison Wells, president of the Whitney Awards Committee,
explains. "There is enormous talent among LDS authors, and every
year seems to produce better and better novels. This is an exciting
time to be part of the LDS fiction industry. Our hope is that these
awards will raise awareness about the high quality fiction available
from LDS authors, and to draw in new readers.""

Now, you may think that I'm posting this in hopes that you might go over and nominate my book. That's not the case at all, although I do have an ulterior motive. I happen to know quite a few of the authors that have a good shot at winning this thing, and if they do, I'm planning to hit them up for some cash.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

David vs. Googliath

I congratulate those of you who read that horrible pun in the title, but still decided to read the article. That pun was just awful.

My brother sent me an article from the New York Times that talks about Google's work in scanning books and making them available to search. I've long been a fan of Google's work, even after publishers tried to bring a halt to the work by America's favorite pastime, litigation. However, the NYT puts a different spin on things.

When Google scans this material, they make it available to anybody who uses their search engines, but ONLY people using their search engines. From the article:

"Libraries that agree to work with Google must agree to a set of terms, which include making the material unavailable to other commercial search services. Microsoft places a similar restriction on the books it converts to electronic form."

So even though something is in the public domain, you can only find it through Google's engine. It is not clear whether or not the library can allow somebody else to scan in the work, and then make it available.

So, we have the king of the search engines, and some might argue the king of the internet, hoarding information. As an information liberator, I find that highly offensive. :)

Enter David. From the article:

"The research libraries, including a large consortium in the Boston area, are instead signing on with the Open Content Alliance, a nonprofit effort aimed at making their materials broadly available...[The Open Content Alliance] is making the material available to any search service."

At the end of the day, I want to see content in the hands of those who can benefit from it. I don't want to see the day when you have to do a search in 6 different search engines because they all have information the other one doesn't.

Kudos to the Open Content Alliance for making content open to all.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Great Friend - Great Site

I get to meet and work with a lot of cool people at my job (in real life, their faces aren't that dark). They do cool stuff at work, and then go home and do cool stuff there too.

One person I have had the great pleasure to work with is Lady Corrine of England. Lady Corrine is a graphic designer, and a dang good one. All of COSL's stuff is done by her. Half of the shirts in my closet are Lady Corrine originals, which reminds me, I need to have her autograph one of them.

Anyway, Lady Corrine has been in England, and has been working on a breast cancer awareness site. It came as no surprise to me that the site is well designed, very informative, and just plain cool to boot.

I highly recommend checking out Lemonland. And if you happen to run into The Mayor while you're there, ask her if there is any money in the banana stand.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Preparing for Halloween

My number two son is very creative when it comes to Halloween costumes. He makes up his mind early, decides how to do it, and then does it. This is the son who two years ago decided he wanted to go as a mountain. He then convinced his brother to go as a mountain too, so they could be the Wasatch Range.

This year, for whatever reason, he picked his costume early. He found a big cardboard box that would suit his purposes, and planned his course of action. My wife did the cutting, but the planning was all his.

I've posted his handiwork if you'd like to see it. Oh, and I should mention my son's name is John.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Take my content, please...

The good folks over at the Open University in the UK wrote a post this morning about the hesitancy of people remixing their materials. From the post:

"In the last year we’ve seen around 900,000 people using OpenLearn materials in teaching and learning around the world. What we’ve seen much less of is people reworking our materials - as they are free to do under the Creative Commons license - and replacing the reworked materials back in the public domain for others to benefit from...

"There is a nervousness about reworking other people’s finely tuned academic content and publishing what may be unfinished and untested materials. There are barriers to reworking - some technical. However, even when we’ve reduced the technical barriers, lack of time and uncertainty about the value of the remixed resources can get in the way."

We have found the same thing at USU OCW. Almost a thousand unique visitors a day, and yet there are not many people taking, reworking, and publishing our material. At least not that we know of.

I can't help but agree that part of the problem could be that there seems to be a barrier when the existing content is the work of one person. Maybe it’s because when we change a person's content we are in a sense telling them that their materials are not good enough. That they need to be improved. People seem to be more than willing to edit a community project, such as wikipedia.

I have found my own attempts at collaborative composition to not exactly work. People drop by my wiki, but few edit my work. Compare that to the million penguins project. People were very willing to add and edit that content, because it started out as a group effort.

I hope that as the Open OCW takes off, we'll see more reuse of existing content.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A complicated issue...

I was looking online to see what time our library closed. I found the hours, and then noticed a link to a list of the 100 most banned books. I should note that our library called them banned books, the site I link to says 'challenged books'.

I think what they mean by challenged books are books that people try, and maybe sometimes succeed, to get out of the public school. I personally think the more information the better, so I don't much care for the banning, or challenging, of books.

However, I was struck with a very curious thought as I looked over the list. The only books I know that are regularly banned from the classroom are books like the Bible, The Koran, and other religious texts. These books are banned, but were not on the list.

Now I understand the whole 'separation of church and state', but it brings up a complicated issue. We don't want teachers using the bible to educate children because religion is a very personal thing. And sometimes people go overboard. The bible teaches Christian morals and values. It also teaches things that cannot be verified by science. People feel uncomfortable when teachers, who hold a position of authority, teach ideas out of these texts. Religion, so they say, is best left up to parents.

But there are great stories, ideas, morals, and values in these religious texts. I'm sorry, I don't care what religion you are, David and Goliath is a fantastic story. The little guy standing up to the big guy. He succeeds by thinking outside the box.

I can't tell you any good stories or values from the Koran. That book was banned in my school.

I'm not saying I think we should bring religious text into public schools. But I also don't know if I agree with the banning of religious text. I think it's a complicated issue, and I don't quite know what the answer is. What I do know, is that these kind of religious texts should be on the list of banned, or challenged, books. Because if ever there was a 'banned book', those fit the definition.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Political Sweetness

My undergrad was in Political Science, and my heart will always be there. I love studying politics. I like the history aspect, I like the psychology aspect, I like how deep down it's all about the understanding of human nature.

So, it was a happy day for me when I stopped by The McLaughlin Group home page only to discover you can download video or audio files of their episode. You can't find a better place to tune in to an intelligent discussion of current events. Well, except for maybe Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me (go P.J.!) Wait Wait is also available for podcast download.

In the immortal words of Mr. McLaughlin.