Bava Mountain High

I was tickled when I read Adam Croom’s recent post about his trip to Trento this Summer. When someone visits the gorgeous country of Italy, it is no small feat when their visit ranks as a highlight. Entertaining so many good folks in Trento has been a lot of fun, and thankfully the scenery makes the job easy. In fact, I have begun to fall in love with the mountains of Trentino and Alto-Adige, when I am lucky enough to be hiking here, the rest of the world feels far, far away. 

Dolemiti di Sesto

A View of the Dolomiti di Sesto from an off-season Ski Slope

But I’m no Romantic poet, I can barely write a cogent blog post. So adequately penning the beauty of these alps is beyond my powers. So, being a lowly edtech, I’ll stick to the iPhone 7+ (which continues to blow my mind) and this humble blog. It’s hard for me to regret getting a phone after amassing more than 15,000 photos during my travels over the last  3 years. It’s become part of my daily rhythm, which is something I was aspiring to. I’m pretty much addicted, and this obsession is fed well by my surroundings. When heading up to Alto-Adige/Süd Tirol for a hike—one of three regions that are home to the Dolomiti, the other two being Trentino and Veneto—it’s impossible not to be visually inspired. 

Dolemiti di Sesto

The prato leading to the Dreischusterhütte

In fact, we took a day-trip to Val Pusteria in Alto-Adige, which might be one of the most spectacular spots and in region chock-full of natural beauty. We did a hike part way up the Drei Zinnen (Tre Cima di Laveredo) in Val Pusteria before dropping the kids off at camp.

The road ahead

Tess always leads the pack on hikes

Cyclist in Dolomiti di Sesto

Some cyclist scale

Of Maps and Phones

Lost in the mountains

Dolemiti di Sesto

Moon landing

Dolemiti di Sesto

Like the wild west

Grand Hotel --> Youth Hostel

Site of Tess and Miles’s summer camp “Grand Hotel.” Cats in NYC pay top dollar for these accommodations….

And the climbing continues, we finally did our first trail with a significant ferrata (kind of guided rock climbing) where we all had to strap on a harness and be attached to the iron guide rails at all times. It was wild, and the kids ruled:

That shot is everything to me! We did a ferrata on a smaller mountain over Lago di Garda and the views were stunning and the fear of doing a ferrata pretty firmly behind us, though being out there in the mid-day sun for a couple of hours on the rocks can wear you down.

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View of Lago di Garda from 3000 ft.

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Luckily the new and improved bava is virtually indestructible:

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Achievement unlocked

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Ask me again how I’m doing? #NOBODY!!!!

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Old Gold VHS Mold: the Fungus Amungus

Looks like we have fungus growing on a couple of our Betamax tapes. You can see it above on the Goldfinger tape. Kinda eats into the tape like the opening title sequence of John Carpenter’s The Thing. We are gonna have to get a headcleaner for the Betamax and do a full inventory check given this can spread communicatively through the machine! What’s more, we will have to do a fairly thorough inventory check for mold. Mold is pervasive and it ruins both the VCR and any tapes you play through it. I love this description from a forum post I found, this is no joke!

It is not safe!!!

What will happen is the mold will spew all over the inside of the VCR, ruining it, as well as infecting any future videotape put into it. Mold spores are pervasive, and often toxic. They will leech outside the deck, through every vent hole, and get everywhere in your home.

The only DIY method to mold cleaning is to take the VCR outside, and don’t be downwind of it. Wear a face mask. Realize this VCR will be trashed afterwards, and only usable for mold removal. Never again to be used inside, never again for playing tapes.

We are gonna try and avoid the “nevermore, nevermore” scenario above and be sure to check all VHS and Betamax tapes given this is one of the scourges of the trade. It would be a good, fun 80s horror, b-movie, no? The VHS mold that feeds off the customers viz-a-viz the machines? “Get Stevie King on the line, I want to talk a script treatment.” Lunchmeat’s Spare Parts provides a good guide for removing mold, and it is a fairly intense process that would take a while, I am pretty sure from the looks of it that that the mold on the Goldfinger tape is too far gone for repair, but I’m open to being wrong on that.

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Reclaim Video Laserdisc and VHS Haul

I have been quiet on the Reclaim Video front with everything going on with the Fall semester start-up, so before they become a distant memory I wanted to mention a couple of nice hauls of  Laserdiscs and VHS tapes we got in the last couple of months. Back in late August I took a trip to the Fat Kat Records location in Ruther Glen, Virginia to stock up on laserdiscs, and that I did. 

There are a lot of gems, I particularly enjoyed the Japanese import of Blue Steel (1990), which I proceeded to watch the next day, its cool to re-visit early Kathryn Bigelow after seeing her career develop as a filmmaker, althoughI think I most enjoy  her early films like Near Dark (1987) and Point Break (1991)—but what a career.

I also picked up some VHS tapes on this trip to Fat Kat, and I was happy about that:

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And of course some VHS as well @reclaimvideo

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I wanna do a Quest for Fire/Waterworld double-feature at some point 🙂 I even got a cassette tape:

And a book:

But the real score was a few weeks ago when I found a lot of 300+ VHS tapes on Craig’s List. Full blown lots like this are harder and harder to find, and this one was a total gem. Meredith went to Maryland on her way back from the Nationals game and after hearing about Reclaim Video the Ingram family donated the whole lot for free, including  ton of empty VHS cases. This is a particular collection, I will get more pictures and add them to the ones below, but here is a small taste.

The back seat of Meredith’s car after pickup

6 Boxes of 80s VHS Tapes

Some VHS tapes from the Ingram Haul, love Turk 182, The Star Chamber, The Bad News Bears and Rambo, and even Night Hawks! (a personal favorite—we now have that one on laserdisc and VHS).

You had be at Mad Max

We still have to inventory it all, but our collection to a major jump with the addition of all these titles, and I have to think we approaching the 1000 mark for VHS tapes alone. I’ll need to confirm as much, but I have to think this haul pushed us over that number. Meredith also got the perfect card for the Ingrams, and now they have a lifetime membership to Reclaim Video 🙂

Thanks you card for the Ingrams for their generosity and support of Reclaim Video!

Thank you letter to the Ingrams

And beyond that haul, I got a 4-VHS set on Ebay featuring Streets of Fire (1984), the rock musical from the 80s you might not have ever seen. I was inspired by Paul Bond’s post on the film and his awesome GIFs—it’s a truly bizarre film.

4 Tapes

Willem Defoe at his very best

One final note, we have a second part-time employee at Reclaim Video that started a bit ago, so it’s becoming more official everyday. I am pretty hands-off on the day-to-day (understatement), but I understand people actually rent videos on occasion 🙂 And the big news is that there may be hope of telepresence via an iPad robot by as early as December, one can dream. I love Reclaim Video, and I don’t blog about it nearly enough.

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Tripod

After my last post I started searching round for timelines and details about early web hosting companies like Geocities, Tripod, Angelfire, etc. and I found a pretty neat timeline from The History of the Web site. Of particular interest was not only that tripod.com pre-dated Geocities.com by a couple of months (Tripod.com was registered on September 29, 1994 and Geocities in November). But Tripod was not up and running until 1995 framing itself as a hosting service specifically for college students to create a space for themselves online:

Tripod

The domain name for Tripod is registered, pre-dating most other free web hosting services like Geocities and Angelfire. Tripod’s explicit goal is to give college students a way of setting up a spot for themselves on the web, though it would eventually come to be known as an easy-to-use service for free web homepages.

Nothing new under the web’s sun. Reclaim roots! I was now intrigued, and I wanted to get a better look at Tripod back in the day, and the Wayback Machine has a mint screenshot from December 21, 1996.

Tripod.com on Dec. 21, 1996

I took the screenshot using the Full Page Screen Capture extension in Chrome, and I’m liking it. I think the whole page is interesting because of the dead space in the bottom right, and the links all the way down on the left are telling. I also like the Fidelity Investments banner ad. At the end of 1996 the service claims to have 150,000 users, a number that seems almost quaint two years for a web-based tech company. I also like the branding with AOL as a “Members’ Choice” site. So much goodness here, so going to add this as another possible site for the OWLTEH exhibit. Are these posts jumpstarting your 90s memory? If so, post a link using this form to a site from the 90s with your description to be considered for the Exhibit happening in Coventry in exactly two weeks. 

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Prof. Dr. Style

Lauren Heywood, Daniel Villar-Onrubio, and I are working on the exhibit for the Learning on the Open Web conference (OWLTEH) in exactly two weeks. One aspect of the exhibit will be framed examples of the 90s learning web. This will entail framed posters of websites from back in the day along with a placard crediting the person whom submitted the site and as well as their description. It’s been cool to see the submissions we have gotten thus far, and feel free to add your own examples of 90s web sites that have anything remotely to do with learning (which means a whole lot of them). 

So, when I was originally think about this exhibit I harken back to personal homepages on the academic tilde spaces that were a prevalent part of the academic web. Professors would create a fairly simple website with links to research, papers, professional organizations, and so on. .Net artist Olia Lialina termed this genre of websites the Prof. Dr. style, and has written extensively about the aesthetic here. Im blown away at the level she gets into in terms of browser copatibility, blink tags, web safe colors and more. I’m submitting the website featured above of German professor Werner Römisch as an example of such a site which will include the following text on the placard which quotes Lialina at length:

.Net artist Olia Lialina wrote extensively about early web design, and she classified a whole set of personal sites from the early 90s as “Prof.Dr” websites (http://contemporary-home-computing.org/prof-dr-style/).  As she notes:

“Prof.Dr” is a codeword, a tricky search request. I am aware of the fact that there are users outside of academia as well who always designed their sites in pure markup or redesigned according to 1993 standards recently. Still I suggest to use this name based on a scientific title as a tribute to the history, and reminder that all around the internet the very first pages were build at universities. To cement this term, within this article I’ll use only pages of senior academics holding a doctoral title.

The site highlights the minimalist, static design of the early web as well as reflecting a commonplace in the 1990s for universities to provide web space on a web server hosted by the university before the relative popularity and affordability of shared hosting in the early 2000s. The accounts were commonly referred to in the U.S. as  one’s “Tilde space” (~) and provided a small amount of storage and the ability to upload media and  HTML files via FTP.

I like how Lialina underscores the vital role of universities in building and shaping the early look and feel of the early web. I was also wondering what services Europeans used that was akin to 90s shared hosting where sites like Geocities, Tripod, Angelfire, etc. would give you free web space much like universities. I’d love to get a sense from anyone in the UK who used hosted services for web pages in the 90s.

What’s I was talking with Lauren yesterday, and we started to make real progress on the layout. We are thinking 10-15 printed website with blurbs distributed around the entire conference (on hanging racks or easels), with a central pre-fabricated wall with an over view and rationale. It’s kind of cool to build an impromptu exhibit like this, and given the goal is modest in that it just wants to highlight the long history of the web aesthetically. I’m also working on re-creating a 90s desktop and laptop experience in the lobby of the venue, and I’ve been on Ebay looking for OG hardware which is always fun! Anyway, I have more to say on these sites, but I’ll save that for my next post.

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The Long Search for Duke

Back in November of 2010 a much younger bava family visited a dog breeder in Bumpass, Virginia when we were seriously considering getting a Spinone. When we finally did get one eight years later Antonella reminded me of the videos we took years earlier. She asked if we all could wach them and as I often do these days when it comes to archiving my past, I froze worrying these videos were part of the Great YouTube Deletion of 2012. And, as it turns out, they were on my Youtube that was deleted in 2012. “No worries, I have backups, right?” One would hope, but the two backup drives I had and the backup folders on AWS delivered nothing. [At this point I usually curse myself for not backing up a version to this blog apart from Youtube and their ilk.]  I was searching across all video formats, though I was pretty sure I shot them with a flipcam which would be mp4. File names were going to be standard flipcam fare, but everything I found was not showing me any Italian hunting dogs from 2010. Damn, and then sets in that depression which follows the idea these recorded memories were lost. Sad bava…

But, but, but, I had a third backup drive I had forgotten about in the bookshelf that has just about all the videos I lost on Youtube in one fashion or another (except “Embedded!,” the lost EdTech Survivalist episode featuring a First Blood parody -but that was a casualty of the Blip.tv famine of 2013 🙁 ). Finding this stash of videos led to a good hour or two of all of us watching our younger selves playing with 10 or more Spinones and even a Bracco. It was good to find the videos, it was wild to see what time does, and it was a small victory in my unorganized attempt to hold onto memories I might have otherwise lost.

A five year old Miles, a three year old Tess, and Tommy not even a year. A small time capsule of video that captures a strangely long sense of our personal history. It’s weird when you start measuring time by intervals of twenty years. I’m not always sure why I wanna capture what I capture, but it seems to take on a life of its own that I was only initially part of. The archiving continues, and the Spinone thrive! It’s been a long search for Duke.


*The desire to get a Spinone has been with us even earlier than that, I saw my first Spinone on the streets of Brooklyn in 2001 and was smitten from then on. 

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Trying to Contain my Excitement (and workload) for OWLTEH

via GIPHY

In just under three weeks the free, one-day event Learning on/with the Open Web (OWLTEH) will be happening in Coventry. It should prove a lot of fun, and you can get a sense of some of the talks happening here (that site nicely highlighting the value of the TRU Writer SPLOT). I am planning on doing a workshop with Lauren Heywood and Daniel Villar-Rubio on SPLOTs as well as convening a presentation/panel with Anne-Marie Scott and Tony Hirst in which we talk a bit about the open web for teaching and learning at the level of the infrastructure. I pushed out an abstract here, but this is still a work in progress:

The emergence of an abstracted, containerized infrastructure for the open web poses all sorts of questions about the future. Focusing on everything from the shift from RSS to APIs, the rise of containers, and the talk of “serverless” stack, this panel will attempt to explain these developments and make sense of what open web infrastructure could look for higher education in the near future.

Probably needs some work, but that’s the least of my worries. I am in the middle of trying to get a Windows 95 boot emulated on a mid-90s computer and even creating a local area network to reproduce sites from circa 1995. We’ll see how that goes, and also I am in need of some 90s websites if you have an idea or two submit them here for the Teaching and Learning on the 90s Web Exhibit, submissions here please 🙂

I’m gonna have a busy weekend, I am in over my head! 

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Reclaim Today: Tape Action Outside!

Last night I finally got back on the Reclaim Today train. The show has been on hiatus during September given the new semester was in full swing, but Reclaim Hosting is starting to come up for air and we all know the show must go on!

I’m pretty excited about this episode cause it connects a couple of things we’ve done over the last few years, with this blog being a touchstone. Back in May I got the following email from John Grahame:

Dear Professor Groom,
 

On your bavatuesdays “Total Recall” blog from Feb 28, 2015 <https://bavatuesdays.com/total-recall-panasonic-omnivision-vcr/> you post a jpeg of a 1981 Montgomery Ward ad for Panasonic VCRs. The bottom VCR separates the tuner and the VCR to enable the user to “Tape action outside!” I bought one of those (for about $1,050!) in 1981. I still have it and it still works. Looks nice, too. Do you have any idea if there is anyone out there who would be interested in preserving items like these? I guess I’m thinking in terms of a museum of technology of something like that. I’m 70 years old now and am feeling the need to find ways for certain things I own to have a future.

Thanks,  

Do I have any idea of someone who would be interested? You bet! The post from this here old blog, THE BAVA, was from 2015 and was part of my documentation of the UMW Console exhibit we created at UMW. It highlighted my purchase of an early 80s Panasonic Omnivision VHS player—which was the player my family had while I was growing up. It was (and still is) an awesome learning machine. In many ways it was an anchor of the 80s exhibit in my mind because it brought me back to the video 80s that were so formative. So, John’s email had me right away, and the image he is referring to with the dual unit from a Montgomery Ward catalogue was part of that post:

This was mobile video in 1981! Turns out this machine is a 1980s Panasonic Omnivision with Tuner and Recorder—and the tagline “Tape Action Outside!” provides a sense of the arrival of mass consumer portable video from the early 80s. When John shared the original manual and receipt it felt that much more real, technology with a very personal history.

$1300 in 1982 for this technology

I immediately responded to John with interest and we soon after got on a call wherein I explained Reclaim Video as an extension of the idea we started with the UMW Console in 2015. He was thrilled to contribute, and at this very moment the Panasonic Omnivision PV-4510  is en route to Fredericksburg to discover its new home in Reclaim Video. It’s due to arrive today, so hopefully pictures will follow.

But even better than the machine were John’s stories of exploring video in the early 70s throughout the 1980s. He started exploring video while a student at UMass in 1970 with Sony’s Portapak. I was not familiar with the Portapak and I looked it up after talking with John back in Spring, and it was a relatively inexpensive setup at $1500 in 1967 for this kind of technology (I was way off in the episode thinking I saw the price point at $120 or so, but it sounded as wrong as it was—so never trust me).

Image of Sony's portable video unit "Portapak" from 1967

Sony’s portable video unit “Portapak” from 1967

The Portapak is interesting because as John noted, UMass had ten of them lying around, and given no one was using them he was able to hold onto it for two years and basically turn his mass communication papers into video papers. What’s more, from the Wikipedia article, the advent of this tecchnology during the political turmoil fo the late 60s meant it was being used by artists and activists alike to capture that moment:

The introduction of the Portapak had a great influence on the development of video artguerrilla television, and activism. Video collectives such as TVTV and the Videofreex utilized Portapak technology to document countercultural movements apart from the Big Three television networks. The Portapak was also a crucial technology for the Raindance Foundation, a collective consisting of artists, academics, and scientists, motivated by the potential of the Portapak and video to develop alternative forms of communication.[4] Because of its relative affordability and immediate playback capability, the Portapak provided artists, experimenters, and social commentators the ability to make and distribute videos apart from well-funded production companies.

It’s interesting to think that the introduction of video to a mass market was as far back as the 1960s, and John’s career as a video producer ranges from the 70s through the 80s when he got to work with Francis Ford Coppola on One From the Heart (1982). While often remembered as the film that sunk Zoetrope Studios financially,  it is also remembered as a pioneering exploration of using video to create a film. Here’s a bit of context from the Previsualization Wikipedia article:

The most comprehensive and revolutionary use of new technology to plan movie sequences came from Francis Ford Coppola, who in making his 1982 musical feature One From the Heart, developed the process he called “electronic cinema”. Through electronic cinema Coppola sought to provide the filmmaker with on-set composing tools that would function as an extension of his thought processes.[1] For the first time, an animatic would be the basis for an entire feature film. The process began with actors performing a dramatic “radio-style” voice recording of the entire script. Storyboard artists then drew more than 1800 individual storyboard frames.[1] These drawings were then recorded onto analog videodisks and edited according to the voice recordings.[8] Once production began, video taken from the video tap of the 35 mm camera(s) shooting the actual movie was used to gradually replace storyboarded stills to give the director a more complete vision of the film’s progress.[8]

Instead of working with the actors on set, Coppola directed while viewing video monitors in the “Silverfish” (nickname) Airstream trailer, outfitted with then state-of-the-art video editing equipment.[9] Video feeds from the five stages at the Hollywood General Studios were fed into the trailer, which also included an off-line editing system, switcher, disk-based still store, and Ultimatte keyers. The setup allowed live and/or taped scenes to be composited with both full size and miniature sets.[8]

John relates his experience filming Harry Dean Stanton and Nastassja Kinski on the streets of Las Vegas without permits on the streets of Las Vegas in video. How cool is that, and here is an image of John (the man with the camera) and Coppola during the shoot:

John Grahame with Francis Ford Coppola while shooting One from the Heart in video

These connections blew my mind, and I knew I wanted to have John on an episode of Reclaim Today once we started it cause this kind of insight to the long history of video during the 60s, 70s, and 80s was a big part of why I was so excited about Reclaim Video, and here is that history being recounted by one who worked intimately within it. What’s more, it provided another moment to reflect on that bit at the end of the documentary Heart of Darkness wherein Coppola has a pretty brilliant of vision of what the advent of cheap, ubiquitous access to video could do for movies as an art form.

The long history of video just became that much more interesting to me, thanks John!

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Reclaim Roadshow hits the Skid

It’s been quite day, week, month…the like of a Reclaimer is always intense! Between shoring up a wave of new schools with Domain of One’s Own as Fall arrived (welcome University of Brighton, CSU San Bernardino, Skidmore College, Wesleyan University, Bates College, and Drew University) as well as our more recent WordPress Multisite schools (hello Trinity Western College and University of New England!) we’ve been head’s down busy. What’s more, the new semester pushed our shared hosting services for universities and colleges everywhere into high gear. So, what did we do? We decided to add another event: the Reclaim Roadshow!

The idea of doing regional user-groups is something Justin Webb (we are getting the band back together!) suggested. We ran the Workshop of One’s Own twice last year and that was fun, but it was primarily focused on admin training and deep-dive into managing Domain of One’s Own. What we haven’t been doing (besides the Domains17 conference) is getting folks together to share how they are using Domains and show-off some of their work. We start discussing a possibility in the Spring, but after Ben Harwood talked to Lauren and I about a training session it quickly transformed into a two-day training/user-group event in beautiful Saratoga Spring, NY thanks to the good folks at Skidmore College. The event will be broken up into two-days, the first day will be admin  training and targeted instructional usage of Domains and the second will be a user-group conference driven my folks in the community sharing their experience, approach, projects, etc. 

2012/366/96 I Found the Bus!

We don’t have a Reclaim Bus yet, but I have to believe that cannot be far behind. So, if you are in the Upstate New York area (or willing to travel from around the Northeast) we would love to see you at the Reclaim Roadshow at Skidmore College on November 8 and 9th.

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OWLTEH Teaching and Learning on the 90s Web Exhibit


So as part of the Open Web for Learning & Teaching Expertise Hub (OWLTEH) event will feature an exhibit of sites featuring teaching and learning on the web during the 1990s. There is a ton of latitude in the definition of teaching and learning, but the idea is to have folks submit their idea in the form below. After that we’ll print, frame, and display selected examples as part of a visual exhibit of the90s web. Submitters will be credited accordingly.

You can add the site name, URL (if still available), a brief description of the site, all of which will be printed and accompany the poster. If the site is no longer active/viewable and you have screenshots let us know. 

Additionally, we plan to create a virtualized network of old 90s computers running Windows 95 so all available sites can be accessed through the glory of Internet Explorer  🙂 The local network is still a work in progress, but what could be more exciting then a Local Area Network you access via modem that is filled with browsable educational sites from the 1990s web? NOTHING!

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