Archive for the ‘All Things Organized’ category

Consolidating webspace

Sunday, 13 January 2008

bashing education is no longer…well, as far as a separate site, I’ve just deleted the wordpress.com blog and moved all the entries over here to vergilscoffee.com. (And, perhaps, you can imagine why).

My hopes for bashing education will still live and I figure that instead of having special sites for special topics really doesn’t make too much sense (especially because I wasn’t generating a lot of content on bashing education anyway).

So, I’m doing what many other are: consolidating all the stuff we have out there and trying to put it in one place–one Miscellaneous place, if I may–and let you the reader stumble upon and find stuff here.

Advertisements

Coffee Stains: Revisiting Original Writing in view of recent events

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Perhaps you might consider it cheating (me creating something new each week and using something that I’ve written a couple years ago) but it’s on my mind. It’s a part of a much longer piece that I wrote at the (get ready, lots of initials and capitalized words coming your way) Indiana Teachers of Writing National Writing Project Advanced Institute (or, ITW-NP AI) at Notre Dame University back in 2003. My goal for the week was to write 10,000 words–good or bad– personal narrative stuff and lots of experimenting and playing with language (which could be another way of saying: “Eh, it may just be crap”).

This is not a good thing to say in evaluating your own writing, but this is my favorite passage from the summer. I say that with some reluctance because the general rule or wisdom within writing is that if you really love it, cut it out. You are no longer objective about your work and you have fallen in love with your words. You simply can not judge the relationship between nouns and verbs and the syntax and tone and pacing with any clarity: your mind is cluttered with smiles and self-congratulations.

And I know that, but I still like it.

Here’s the setting: I’ve just written about how my father and mother got divorced and that he is now restricted to his car when he picks us–Mike, Stephany and me–up for the court-okayed visits. I begin this section my father’s car and the joy of getting it washed, then, the part I like at Bodega Dunes.

I do, though think of Bodega Bay with my father after the initial divorce proceedings. He’d pick us up in his white Cadillac equipped with power windows and an 8-track player. I remember Neil Diamond most of all and hearing “Sweet Caroline” when he took us through the Bubble Machine car wash located off of 4th Street in Santa Rosa. This wasn’t like the car wash on Steele Avenue where you had to get out of the car and watch it move through brushes and various stages of the washing process. No, in the Bubble Machine you stayed in the car and viewed the water and soap and cleansing from the inside. And Preston would say, “This is just like being the submarine” and I believed him. His service in the Navy had him stationed on a sub for some months and who was I to argue with him. He was my father and father’s always right, isn’t he? I find that when we are in the van and the boys are strapped into their seats and we’re beckoned to pull forward into the car wash at the Phillips 66 station by Goshen Middle School, I’ll smile. Invariably I tell the boys with giddy delight, “We’re going through the Bubble Machine” and they’ll laugh not so much they know the reference but because dad has said something funny.
Preston took us to the beach one Saturday or at least he had told us the last time that he dropped us off that we’d be going to the Dunes the next time. It didn’t look good with the grey clouds and 65-degree weather in town. And we knew this would be a problem because the coast, like the City (San Francisco) was always 15 degrees cooler than Santa Rosa. We heard the honk and followed the wave (he was confined to staying in the car during this part of the divorce process). We loaded into the back seat and headed for the coast by way of Highway 12. He assuaged our fears when he told us that though it looked grey, we were still going to the Dunes. We were going to fly a kite.
Sebastopol, apple orchards, windy roads with steep inclines, the town of Bodega where some of The Birds was filmed, the graveyard on the right side where we had played on the tombstones when we got a flat tire last year and then Highway 1. Highway 1 is the epitome of Northern California coastal driving. It’s the romantic, drive with the top down, leisurely wind the car up the coast with curves and hairpin turns that made you one with the Pacific Ocean. The Bodega Dunes is the first major beach you come to and we made the left-turn into the long gravel road to its parking lot.
Grey, windy, salt misty cold, a divorced father with his divorced children making an outing of the day. He said that we could add string to make the kite go higher and we chorused for the extension into the heavens. He was kind to us and he seemed to be focused on our gathering, of our flying of this kite. Perhaps we laughed and were giddy like the way my sons get excited about something we all do together that has that sense of awe and newness about it. It’s that moment that completely takes you over and take a clear, focused snap shot of the wide-angle image of the time and place and emotion and snap!
The sting broke and the scene stops and we look to Preston and Mike is running after the line but it remains out of reach and Stephany is upset and we look to Dad with questions and he looks and says that it’s lost.
We are back in the car. No 8-track is playing or at least I can’t hear it now but I am looking, searching out the window for our kite. We turn onto Highway 12 and still no sign of the kite or back in the apple orchards and I think I might have been asking the question aloud or maybe he saw me through the rearview mirror because he said, “It must have floated somewhere far away.” I still look out the window for the kite when we visit Bodega Bay. Maybe it’s out of habit or maybe it’s out of hope.

Recently, my sister visited us and we both ran in the Grand Rapids Marathon (great race, by the way). On our way home from the South Bend Airport via the 20 bypass, she mentioned that she and Mike had been in contact with Preston in the past year. I haven’t heard from my father since the last court-ordered support check in 1987. He didn’t respond to my college graduation card, nor my wedding invitation, nor Evan’s birth (I think we gave up and didn’t bother sending a birth announcement for Colin). I was, surprised at the news.

And it’s at this point where I am supposed to reflect on something heavy, about all of the issues that I’ve struggled with stuff because I haven’t had contact with my father in 30 years. But that won’t happen. I think I understand why he didn’t maintain contact and I think that sometimes we just need to leave people to their private lives instead of making it into something that is truly about us and not so much them.

I still like what I wrote, though.

It’s nice to settle for Safari

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

I’m looking at a draft post that I never did finish. It’s about how I was getting frustrated with switching to a certain browser for specific tasks. Call me old-fashioned, but I want it my way and that way (in my perfect world) is that one browser should be able to do all of my basic InterNetTubes things I do: 

  1. Quick browsing
  2. Really good display of pages
  3. Ability to enter text into a html text field (or something like it).

Specifically, WordPress and Moodle text fields.And up to this point, Safari always met the first two requirements but always failed on the third one.Bummer.And so, here’s what I was typing 4 months back as I was working through my browser-angst:

I’m writing this entry in Safari to see if I can do the “Code” work around to get the post to look how it ought to.See, for any of my usual browsing, feed-reading, emailing, Safari is great. I have an older machine with limited resources available, and I would rather use the Cocoa app that is known as Safari.But, for the times when I want to do any text-editing windows, Safari simply will not render the correct editing toolbar. Thus, I have to switch over to Camino (which is also lightweight and snappy) to do editing on two of my major sites: vergil66.com (a Moodle-based site) and vergilscoffee.com (a WordPress.com site).Here’s what I mean:Moodle-editing (vergil66.com)This is my main classroom site throughout the school year and I am constantly updating information, communicating with students and posting assignments. The typical set-up in creating an assignment or any text-based item has a html-edit area as follows:(Dang, I just saved my WordPress post for this piece and now all the formating is gone:          

BTW, that’s exactly how the editing came out: one big long text block. But not anymore with the recent update to Safari. In their blog post, the developer folk over at WebKit mention the improvements and my particular priority (#3) was addressed as their #1.

1. Enhanced Rich Text Editing As you browse the web with a WebKit 3 based browser, you will get a complete and functional rich text editing experience on the new read-write web. Here’s a sweet demo of our improved editing support, just click the text and editing controls appear.Specifically, we have worked together with developers of RTE libraries and applications to improve compatibility. WebKit 3 fixes many bugs, and supports additional text editing features like links and lists. We now have support from web applications like WordPressGoogle DocsGMailBlogger, and many more. We’ve also improved editing to support libraries like TinyMCE and FCKeditor. We expect even more web apps and toolkits to add support over time.       

My Moodle editing issue hasn’t changed, but that doesn’t affect me as much anymore: most of my editing for that site is done from another computer.Thanks WebKit bugwatching-developer folk; thanks for listening and improving a really good browser.  

Update: my post, as you can see, was a bit premature: WordPress editing looks good when you’re editing, but gets lumped together (esp. paragraphing). I don’t know, when I use Camino and other browsers, if I hit Return in the editing field and it will show up as a new paragraph…not so with Safari (BTW, I’m using the most recent build of WebKit). So, I suppose I will continue to switch back and forth between Safari for #1 and #2, Camino for #3.  (and the only way to get this last paragraph to paragraph was to enter in the <p> tags manually) <sigh>.

Coffee Stains: Let the rocks be rocks

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Inuksuit overlooking the bayI’ve just finished a proposal for a grant that would allow me to be in Nunavut, Canada for over a week to see the the bare landscape of “Arctic” Canada and an incredible section of Baffin Island where Inuksuk are plentiful.

I’ve been taken by these stone structures and find that I often build some makeshift Inuksuit (Inuk-Sweet) when we are on vacation or about or when we visit Lori’s brother and his family in Wisconsin. This trio were built this last month.

I suppose I could say that I’ve a history with rocks: I grew up near Bodega Bay, California and near the impressive Northern California coast (where the Pacific Ocean is not so much to swim in and sun bathe near but as to look at and admire and write somewhat bad poetry about). I think of my literal impression of rocks during a 6th grade outdoor education trip to British Columbia, Canada.

We’re into the 4th day of our trip that began at school in Santa Rosa, California and we were now into the northern part of Oregon. We had various responsibilities on this trip (mine was on the “planning the route” committee) and since the tents were all set up, many of us went to the lake. And where’s there a lake, there are rocks.

I need not explain nor describe the amazing skill and art to the skipping of rocks on a smooth lake: this knowledge comes from the very thing that makes us human. Smooth, flat, sidearm and a flick…yes, it is all in the wrist.

And so we’re skipping rocks and being in the moment and something thumps my on the head.

Any guesses on what?

So, I grab my head, and I don’t think I’m crying as much as slightly annoyed that my head now hurts and someone walks me to the nurse.

No one wanted to see the nurse, mind you. On day One, I mentioned to Todd Eberlee that I thought I didn’t feel good and that maybe I should see the nurse.

Todd shook his head and said “I don’t think you should do that.”

He read the “why?” look on my face and responded “I hear that she’ll make you drink prune juice…no matter what the problem is, she’ll make you drink prune juice.”

And so, upon hearing this, my ache went away. Later that night Russ verified that prune juice claim.

So you might see why I didn’t want to see the nurse, but after drinking the prune juice I realized that I really hated the taste and that it really is as bad as its name.

But something irritated me more than that metal tasting prune juice: being used as an object lesson. Adults are good at this: using a real-life example of an obscure concept. The concept was during the devotional time that evening. Remember, I said this was a private school and so religion was mixed with education as being a positive combination. And one of the adults is talking about anger and tempers and then he says “Much like what happened to Chris tonight.”

All eyes turn toward me.

“When he got hit in the head by a rock, he didn’t swear or say anything bad or hurtful to others.” And then the application went to a bit more discussion and then to a time of prayer (“with all eyes closed and no one looking around”).

I was annoyed with being used as an example for someone’s religious talk because I didn’t think it was accurate. My not swearing nor saying bad things had little to do with religion; I didn’t swear because I didn’t have a temper–Less to do with a higher power, more to do with just who I was.

There is a social norm that says that students listen to the adults and do what the adults say because (fill in your favorite answer). There is a wall of separation, a very thick line, between you the student and me the teacher. Perhaps there’s wisdom in respecting those lines. But, isn’t there value in telling anyone, even it they’re a teacher or an adult on an outdoor education trip with a bunch of 6th graders?

No, I didn’t say anything to the guy who used me as an illustration, mostly because I didn’t think it was my place (it only affected me and thus I would just a whiny outdoor education 6th grader).

And it’s because of this idea, I encourage my editors and students to not take what I say as truth: they should challenge my ideas (for they could be misrepresentations). Few take me up on the offer, many simply smile and nod.

The student publications class which I advise didn’t have an editor-in-chief, nor a managing editor nor any of the traditional hierarchy that seemed to organize my staffs in the past. I was faced with choosing between 5 or so highly-qualified applicants for the editor job and I went with a newer more unconventional way of doing publications. When I told the now disappointed applicants that I was doing away with traditional structures in favor of spreading the responsibilities to all applicants, I explained that this was an experiment that could be a fantastic failure (or some phrase like that) or really be a good way of doing publications.

Tonight, as we finished recording a TalkShoe session with some of the editors, I realized that I’m chalking this idea as a fantastic failure and I am incredibly happy that we tried it.

It’s like a thump on the head, isn’t it?

Necessary cleaning

Saturday, 18 August 2007

I’m used to the idea that not having a place for more stuff means more stuff needs to go in the trash or to Goodwill. I am comfortable with knowing that even though I’m not always looking forward to going through each room once or twice a year to declutter, the process has becoming increasingly easier.

So, when the hard drive of my eMac is reaching that less than 5 GB, I refrain from getting more places to put the “stuff” and try and trash lots or give it away.

The process is getting harder because the stuff on the hard drive is actually good stuff. So, I pulled out JDiskReport to help me pinpoint who is the space hog and where I can get back above the 5 GB threshold.

Here’s the overall:

Disk Report And I don’t find it unusual that most of the 40 GB HD is taken up with Users stuff (as I have been fairly careful about how many versions of office suites or browsers or photo editing apps I really need–though I still can’t decide between Safari and Camino…but that’s another post).

I’m not messing with the sw directory because most of that is Unix stuff that I still mess with…I did notice that there is 1.2 GB of Documentation for the Developer directory (and all of that is available on the web).

I’m up to 3.3 GB now.

I’ve used the Monolingual app that removes the language files that you won’t use…that got me almost a Gig of space when I ran it. Also, I have already cleaned out the browser cache. It’s now onto what is in that Users directory.

iTunes eater And there’s not a lot to trash here as this is paid for content (on the music side) that I’d rather not hunt down the original CD for (wherever it is in the basement). We’re podcast people, so that directory gets a cleaning often, but I think Kristen Tippet (“Speaking of Faith“) must have big files, so I’ll delete the older ones there. I guess I am also guilty of owning most of Bruce Hornsby’s stuff. I’m good with that as the Compilations category hides my bent toward all things Soundtrack and Musical.

The TV Shows category got really big for awhile, but recently we’ve been able to find most things via NetFlix (that, and anything I’ve bought via iTunes, I’ve archived on storage media==>more stuff <g>).

I didn’t put the graph up on this–because, well, pie charts can only be so pleasing to look at– but I found in my Pictures directory (12% overall) that iPod Photo Cache takes up 2.3 GB of HD space. Humm, should I delete it? Not sure, but I’ll read up on that one before I do it.

As I clean out my hard drive again, I realize that it is difficult using a 5-year-old machine with a limited amount of space anyway (40 GB). We do more digital stuff and that really cool digital stuff eats a lot of available space. I’m okay with that and I have found myself doing less graphic-heavy projects and more “plain text” items. I am reminded of the “cycle” statement some one told me over 12 years ago: Instead of the hardware driving software development, it seems that software pushes hardware requirements. Translation: “System Requirements” on that program or game that you want to install on your 2-year-old CPU.

Perhaps, then, this opens up more opportunity for the Web 2.0 culture. Perhaps, lower resource-intense OSs (*nix) and Open Source programs will allow us to use machines to do stuff that needs to be done as opposed to merely being the newest new.

Now, time to reclaim some hard drive space and think of a plan to get a new computer.

Update: I regained 3.7 GB of hard drive space by tossing the iPod Photo Cache and ADC Ref Lib (~67k files total). I am now at a comfortable 5.8 GB. I’ll be doing this again in a month.

A holiday decluttering of a workspace

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

The before pictureAnd thus, here is the before picture and if you go to the source file on flickr, you will get an annotation of all of the stuff that is happening in there (books, cds, piles and piles). In fact, in my original caption, I’m almost proud of all of the things that are cluttering the area (almost an I Spy picture). You should notice that every surface is piled and where there is a space (esp. the cubby holes), well, something just has to be there, right?

And so, after being reminded by a 43 Folders post by Merlin Mann, I decided on tackling this area to let it breathe a bit. My general conditions were to throw away about a 1/3 of the paper pile stuff and to move anything that did not contribute to the workspace to another appropriate location.

And the after picture:

The after pix I’ll annotate this one with the Flickr notes, but I’ll happy to see that all of the stuff and things are gone and what is left is a place to work. (Mind you, this is the family community computer and all hands touch and use it, so it needs to be usable for everyone, not just me). The job took about 45 minutes and that includes moving the new stuff to another location (in temporary piles until that room is finished…okay?). Aside from the two inuksuit in the upper right-side, everything is useful for this space. And, most importantly, now it can breathe.

Close shot of USB cord organizerProbably the more interesting discovery is what to do with this CD-storage space (when that was a popular thing to do with these corner computer desks). Since we don’t have a use for putting our CDs here, I decided to use it for storing the 4 different USB cords on the left side (where the USB extension from the ol’ eMac resides). It seems to be a good use of space and we can locate the appropriate cord without having to root through a wad of cords that we used to stuff into one of the cubby holes.

So, the task is done and now the fun begins when we try and maintain the area and shield off the temptation to reclutter the area.

Vergil runs, but its really about the coffee

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

As the content of this site has drifted from thoughts and musings to a record of my running marathons (and training), I’m finding that I’m drifting back to thoughts and musings while running and training for Netflix marathons.

So, as of today, I’m starting to morph this site (and its design) to fit a domain name that I purchased a while ago and is just sitting out there with no where to point to: vergilscoffee.com. Vergilscoffee was the name of my year or so as a layout editor of a local monthly publication. I had one client and that one client ceased to publish anymore and vergilscoffee ceased bringing in the big bucks (it was a fun, off-off to the side business venture).

So, that’s the short of it. I’ll be updating things soon.Peace.