Thursday, June 18, 2009

End of an Era

Four years ago I took a class from David Wiley. I liked what he was saying, and we started a conversation. The next thing I knew David offered me a job as Utah State's OpenCourseWare director. When I came to the project we had 8 courses online. There are now over 80. We average as many as 2,000 unique visitors to the site every day from all over the world. We have mirror sites up in Africa, China, and Indonesia (that we know of). Our site has been translated into several languages, and is the third most visited site on the domain. Being the OCW director is something I've loved doing the last four years.

It is also coming to a close.

Budget cuts have resulted in the program coming to an end. We've spent the last six months scrambling to find a way to keep the lights on. We've sought after state money, private money, grant money, and my boss stopped me from going after embezzled money. We've found nothing, so as of June 29th, I will be starting a new job.

Emotions bubble to the surface when you go through change. On the one hand I am very sad to be leaving a job I love. I love the openness movement, and hope to be able to return to it someday. But starting a new job has its own excitements; new people, new challenges, new skills. I'm looking foward to working with Shelley again.

When I left my last job I mourned leaving the people I'd grown to care about. I thought there would be no way to find friends like the ones I left. And now I can't imagine finding friends like the ones I've grown fond of here in Logan. Game night, Rock Band, lunch at Great Harvest and Cafe Rio...

Change is rough. Change is exciting. And I feel like I'm about to get spades of it.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Are you seeing this?

We are seeing history in the making, my friends.

Whether we really want to admit it or not, we often only get information that other people want us to see. Yes, we have many news outlets; the evening news, newspapers, magazines, etc. But much of what we read has been orchestrated by those sitting in power. I'm not talking deep conspiracies here, but the simple fact that there are a relatively small number of people who decide what gets put on the front page, and we often miss important stories because the people sitting in the big offices decide to run something else.

Case in point. Iran just held elections. There have been protests and violence in the streets of Iran; people fighting for their right to have a voice in their government. You have probably heard of it by now, but you almost missed it.

At first the news coverage of the event was all but absent. The lead article on CNN's homepage was a story about how the US just made the switch to digital broadcast signal. The FCC recieved 300,000 calls. Exciting, eh? Only a single sentence mentioned anything at all about the protests in Iran.

In another day and age, that would be the end of the story. A nation would struggle and the rest of the world would move on unaware. We wouldn't get the information because there are simply no channels. What are we supposed to do, hear it from those right on the streets?

Well, yes.

We have twitter. I'm watching thousands of posts scroll by, all with the keyword #iranelection. I'm hearing people posting what is going on right outside their homes. I'm reading US supporters setting up proxys by which Iranians can get their Tweets out. I'm seeing people changing their proiles to green, to show their support. And it's all in real time.

I also saw another significant hash tag--#cnnfail. Yes, twitterers protested the lack of coverage that CNN and other news sources were giving to the event. From The New York Times (free subscription requireD):

"Steve LaBate, an Atlanta resident, said on Twitter, “Why aren’t you covering this with everything you’ve got?” About the same time, CNN was showing a repeat of Larry King’s interview of the stars of the “American Chopper” show. For a time, new criticisms were being added on Twitter at least once a second."

That is right, the world hear of an event because people were twittering it. Then they demanded coverage, and got it. As I type this I'm now seeing images and coverage from the Iran elections as the lead story on CNN's page. People demanded to hear more about the event, and CNN gave it to them.

If that doesn't make you want to go sign up for a twitter account, I don't know what will. We're living in a new world folks, and it seems to me to be getting more and more exciting every day.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Hospital Stay

I’m writing this in the hospital, sitting next to my son John.

John is a trooper. About 10 days ago he got a cold that settled into his chest. John has suffered from asthma since he was a boy, and he always struggles when sickness gets into his lungs.

Early Thursday morning John woke up at 4:00 with a horrendous cough. Instead of crying for Mom to come take care of him, he quietly got up, got a cough drop, drank a little water, and coughed into his pillow, trying hard not to wake the rest of the house.

Twenty-four hours later he was in the emergency room, struggling to breathe.

Tonight, after driving for 20 hours back from Wisconsin, I came to see John. I brought my oldest son with me and read a little to both of the boys. After I finished I asked John if he wanted me to sleep here in the hospital room with him. He told me I didn’t need to stay, and that he would be fine.

I gathered my things up and got ready to go. As I went to say goodbye, John looked up at me with his big brown eyes and asked, “Would you have fun if you stayed here?”

I was exhausted. I just wanted to go home and crawl into bed. I knew that he would fall asleep within minutes if I left, so I said, “How about this. I’ll take Spencer home, unpack, shower, and then I’ll call the nurse. If you’re still awake, I’ll come back. If you’re asleep, I’ll come back early in the morning.”

He smiled and nodded. I took my things out to the nurse’s station and got their phone number.

I looked back into the room and little John had pulled the sheets up over his eyes. I went back into the room and heard him sobbing quietly in his bed. He wanted so much for me to stay, but he didn’t want to be a bother.

Sometimes when you’re a dad you don’t always know what to do. Other times there isn’t a question. When you're a dad, there are some things that you just do.

“I’ll take Spencer home and come right back, OK John?”

I am crammed into a hospital chair, and will likely only get a few hours of sleep tonight; but that is a small price to pay for the hug I got when I returned to the hospital. John is sleeping well, and on the mend, and that is what is important.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Good Times

I'm a lucky guy. I have written two novels, and have been paid for my work. But that is not why I'm lucky. I'm lucky because I get to hang out with some of the coolest folks on the planet.

I just got back from the teen writers conference. It was fantastic. We had Josi Kilpack, Julie Wright, Jessica Day George, Jeff Savage, James Dashner, Nancy Allen, Lisa Mangum, Annette Lyon, and many more, all under the same roof. These people are so nice, and I'm so glad that the fact that I wrote a book gives me a chance to see them 3-4 times a year. I feel like I have so much to learn from them all, both about writing and their willingness to be so free with their time and talents.

I leave conferences like this fired up and ready to write. Thanks all!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Conference, conference, confernce...

Three conferences in two weeks is too many. I've got the teen writers conference tomorrow, and then GLS next week. When I get back it will be time to start cranking out the query letters. Should Or something like that.