Sunday Bloody Bono

Some more art from the bava, cause just like Bono, I’m saving the world one song at a time.

Update: The following video is a victim of the premature death of my YouTube account at the hands of those annoying arbiters of culture. I have substituted a play on the original video by Tom Woodward until I dredge up the original again 🙂 I have dredged up the original, but leaving Tom Woodward’s version below for posterity 🙂

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Day 88: Air Hockey

Image of 1970s wood panelingAbout 10 hours ago 36 hours ago I became a happy home owner, and I realized something pretty remarkable once I walked in La casa di bava today. I bought my childhood home. It’s an 80 year old house with many layers of character, and some true oddities, and I trip out looking at such details as the phone holder built into the wall at the bottom of the stairs. Everywhere there are signs of its original character and the layers of time and people dusted over the house ensure it is haunted with the past. My family is just the most recent group of haunters, and we will be sure to leave our phantasmagoric mark. The last day or so I have found myself particularly drawn to the basement when touring the house with others. It’s all wood paneling and, as Cogdog suggested on Twiiter, I really do feel like I found my house though a 1972 Sears catalog when I go down to the cellar. It is a wood paneled 70s extravaganza and this series has in many ways been leading m up to this moment, which of course will culminate on Xmas day, because the toys are as much a means to recapture the moment of my own childhood home, family members, and of course my mother, as it is a fun way to waste time. My childhood toys will be forever conjoined, and inseparable from, my memories of my childhood home at 885 May Place, including the wood paneled basement. And now that I have bought my childhood home, it’s time to furnish it with the toys and memories of my past:

air_hockey

air_hockey_desc

The Air Hockey table we got was unique because it was a shared present for seven kids. It was one of the rare communal Christmas gifts we ever got, and in many ways was one of the most memorable because of this.  It was already setup in our basement on Xmas day, and while we usually opened the gifts in the den, we all went down to the wood paneled basement together to see it as a family. We played at it for hours at a time over a series of years, with varying teams and tournaments. It was an integral part of our wood paneled basement, and nothing but good fun. I can almost hear the distinct sound of the plastic buck on the mallet as I write this. Beautiful!

And now it’s high time I catch up on four days of missed toys, all play and no work makes Jack a dull boy. Expect a flurry of toy posts soon 🙂

Image credit: Wishbook’s “1984.xx.xx Montgomery Ward Christmas Catalog P125”

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Then there is BuddyPress on UMW Blogs

…and oh what a beautiful thing it is.  We made no special announcement, and we have kept the profile data to a bare minimum, and Martha just pulled the whole thing together with the awesome new theme (and who’s work shows no fear!). And I have to say I love the visual integration with BuddyPress, the entire space now works seamlessly and makes a huge difference. I’m interested to see if and how people find and discover one another through the blogs directory.  When I just opened it up, I saw a number of cools blogs, our Strategic Planning site (another brilliant Martha Burtis design being stewarded beautifully by Nina Mikhalevsky out in the open), Tim O’Donnell’s and Jeff McClurken’s Ted Seminar is a featured blog, and Theresa Grana’s Bioinformatics syndicated Lab and Learning notebooks is front and center. It is another way at this community, and it opens up all kinds of possibilities for serendipity.

Blogs Directory

I find myself using the members directory to search known users and find new ones, I also use it as a kind of trace of who’s on now.  And when I see an old friend, I friend them 🙂

Members Directory

The Groups directory is something I am thinking a lot more about.  No one has used it really, but in the Looking for Whitman experiment, faculty are using it to direct message/email the entire class, and it works.  It is also wold be interesting, as Martha pointed out, to experiment with a class forming a group, which immediuately spawns a blog that they can use to author, or simple work within the forum/wire of the group.  What if groups had more of a twitter design for members, and allowed that conversations throughout the site in these unique groups, but then re-aggregated all together? Maybe, or maybe not.  We’ll see.

Groups Directory

Finally, the Profile page template is undergoing a much needed simplification, and it can be that very dashboard Gardner has talked about again and again, but something that show you your comments, blogs, friends, and various other things that allow you to frame an aggregated identity across the site.

Profile Page

Only time will tell, but I see the BuddyPress suite of features building in a rich means to explore the community that didn’t exist for WPMu before, and that in many ways brings some important sinews of connection between people into the architecture.  Grafting that on top of thousands of blogs asn users opens up a space to see if and how people use it, and how might we be able to make it further illustrate the work that is going on throughout UMW Blogs.

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WPMu: State of the Union Here and Abroad

Well, I have been deep in my toy blogging and out to sea in many regards, I become a home owner tomorrow, and just got back from an exhilarating talk in West Virginia that has my spirits up about a way of thinking about some things. The Me/We web, from Muhammad Ali to Walt Whitman, the possibility and promise of framing a model that empowers faculty and students to own and manage their own digital spaces and feed them back together—a me/we proposition. And to see the work Alan and D’Arcy are doing with their experimentation with real time publishing, and just dreaming about capturing the work happening around UMW out in the open in real time. A visualization of learning. And then there are all the things that Google Analytics will tell us about who’s visiting what sites, with what search terms and how long will they stay and read. A look into how open education done through blogs and sites that are part of community will begin to echo out into the ecosystem of the web. Feeding it positively, and building networks effects beyond the school. It excites me!

And then to think that Novak Rogic and his award winning development team at UBC’s OLT is starting to openly blog the unbelievable work they’ve been doing of the last year and a half. For example, Novak will be talking about how they’re running a large WPMu install for a school with 30,000+ students! That is such an essential narrative, and it starts here. When I stop and think about it for a second, this group has fueled a steady flow of plugins that realized everything from the bliki to the syndication bus. This all was developed there and they are going to tell us all about it! “Rich as kings!”

And UMW Blogs has been back up and running smoothly after an emergency move to a new server to keep up with how hard it was being hit. And special thanks to my guru Zach Davis of Cast Iron Coding fame, who brought the whole thing over on a minute’s notice to a new server in less than two hours one late Tuesday night while he had a million other obligations. Both Zach and his partner Lucas have been such solids for us at DTLT over the last two years. I am constantly reminded, but most acutely in times of crisis, jut how much depends on the work of so many. And not only does Zach have to put up with my crap on a daily basis, but his imagination has helped fuel UMW’s innovation on levels we could only dream of without him—a vital piece to the puzzle.

I even have the specs for the new server Zach has UWM Blogs on, which is beautifully handling the syndication bus with 3,000+ users and almost 3,000 blogs, a so far not a hitch (I know so little about hardware that I’m not even sure I copied what’s below correctly):

ver CPU: Dual Intel Xeon-Harpertown 5420-Quadcore 2.5GHz
MOTHERBOARD: SuperMicro X7DBU Intel Xeon QuadCore DualProc Sata
# RAM: 4GB ECC FB-DIMM DDR2
DRIVES: 2 SATA 250GB Drives with hardware RAID 1 NETWORK: 100MBPS

The education community and sharing is solid, but recently a cloud has settled in over at wpmu.org, where James Farmer is bemoaning the “Discontinuation” of WPMu, a project Matt Mullenweg refers to as “a tragedy of the commons,” and notes the development and sharing between of WPMu is a small fraction of that for the core WP, quite possibly because a fraction of the people administer WPMu. But the larger points that the organization of the community is so deeply locked into the development at INCSUB that is increasingly locked behind a pay wall for plugins that aren’t always maintained (the first problem with our 2.7+ to 2.8+ upgrade in August related to multi-db). And I just don;t know why the pay wall development like the WPMu Global Tags plugin is just a pay version of Donncha’s Sitewide Tags Pages Plugin and Simple Tags—which together can do that and so much more. All of which makes Matt Mullenweg’s point that the development is now being duplicated—half of which is locked behind a pay wall, and the other half often languishing—that much more poignant. WPMUDev has almost doubled in price over the last year, and while they have developed some good stuff, fact is that the code of WPMuDev’s plugins is suffering from the pay model—and we here at UMW have not renewed. Quite frankly, I don’t disagree with Matt, and I am increasingly thinking the merging of WP and WPMu will hopefully make the whole process that much easier. But at the same time I wonder what features will disappear, will the possibilities be curtailed? But then I wonder if that specifically matters all that much, the community that is dedicated to thinking and experiment in teaching and learning must develop according to ideas and larger visions of sharing and collaborating between people openly and freely. A new possibility for education that makes institutions people.

I HEAR it was charged against me that I sought to destroy
institutions;
But really I am neither for nor against institutions;
(What indeed have I in common with them?–Or what with the
destruction of them?)
Only I will establish in the Mannahatta, and in every city of These
States, inland and seaboard,
And in the fields and woods, and above every keel, little or large,
that dents the water,
Without edifices, or rules, or trustees, or any argument,
The institution of the dear love of comrades.

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Day 89: Putt-Putt Raceway

putt-putt-speedway
Image credit: Wishbook’s “1976.xx.xx JCPenney Christmas Catalog P358”

I was never a big race car/race track fan, I had a few in my day put it never really got me excited like some other toys did. One of the few exceptions was the Putt-Putt Raceway which I got as four or five year old, and I absolutely loved the whole bridge over the track with a film camera. I also liked the grandstand, and the fact that you turned the drivers heads to get the car to go. Another nice feature of this toy was that it gives way to crashes given the track is a cross-over. Much of my time using this toy was dedicated to getting the two cars to crash into one another—I mean why else would one have interest in a cars racing?

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Me, We

I’m not always so good at sharing my presentation materials because a lot of what I do is improvised at the moment.  I rarely, if ever, have a prepared talk about a specific topic, but develop a conceit around which to frame some ideas I have been thinking about.

For the West Virginia Higher Education Technology Conference here in Morgantown, West Virgina I am framing my presentation around the conference theme “weLearn” using a clip from Leon Gast’s 1996 documentary When We Were Kings (1996), which frames the figure of Muhammad Ali through his 1973 boxing match with George Foreman in Zaire referred to as “The Rumble in the Jungle.” It’s a brilliant documentary, but I focus specifically one one scene, the very last scene, wherein George Plimpton discusses Ali’s poem “Me, we.” It’s fascinating not only because he argues it is the shortest poem in the English language, but also as a way to frame the man.  I wanted to take that poem to frame the web, and how we are using it at UMW Blogs and Looking or Whitman, so the following presentation is my attempt.  As is always the case, there is very little text and a bunch of videos and images, but I imagine you may get the idea, it is still too long so I have to edit it down, but the first four slides and the final one which is a concluding poem from Whitman “I hear it was charged against me” to bookend the presentation with another poem, which I think suggests what I might be arguing for with the “me we” figure 😉

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Day 90: Good Humor “Bike”

Good Humor Bike

As a very young bava this was without question one of the most magical toys I ever had.  I mean the ice cream man was tantamount to God on my block growing up, and the idea that I could actually cruise around my house emulating him is not something to consider lightly for a malleable mind.  You could ring your bell, don the Good Humor cap, and dole out ice cream to all your brothers and sisters who were good that day (and I had six to choose from). Just the idea of having my own mobile freezer filled with fake ice cream was enough to satisfy me, and unlike many toys I got, this one was used and abused for years afterwards. I have to thank Jenny and Mikhail’s post for this discovery, because I had forgotten it until I saw it on the same page as Sit n’ Spin in the 1976 JC Penney Xmas Catalog.

Image credit: Wishbook’s “1976.xx.xx JCPenney Christmas Catalog P366?

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Day 91: Rubik’s Snake and Sit ‘n Spin

Mikhail here, everyone’s favorite guest poster on the bava. No one does hospitaliano like the bava, no one. — We have a two-fer today, the Twist aka Rubik’s Snake and the perennial favorite, the Sit n’ Spin. I chose the snake, Mrs. Mikhail chose the Sit n’ Spin.

Rubik's Snake

Man, did I love my Rubik’s snake. The one I got as a gift in 4th grade may have been a Chinese knock-off of the Rubik branded original, but I didn’t care. (I probably cared more that my slip-on Vans were a Kinney Shoes approximation.) Unlike the more famous Rubik’s Cube, the Snake was not a puzzle that had one sanctioned solution but offered what seemed like infinite possibilities. The challenge, at least for me, was to think up of an object or a figure and then try to bend and shape the snake into something that resembled that shape or figure as much as possible. Fun too was to create some an unusual, practically random shape and then imagine within it something recognizable — kind of like looking for shapes in passing clouds.

sit_n_spin

Jennie says: The sit ‘n spin was my ideal toy as an only child. I spent hours spinning and have memories of playing in my room during 70’s dinner parties making myself dizzy and attempting to open my bedroom door without falling down. No intellectual challenges or complex puzzles. Just a pure, unadulterated childhood high.

Image credit: Wishbook’s “1976.xx.xx JCPenney Christmas Catalog P366”

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Blinders

Blinders

Just some more conceptual art from the bava. Remember now, I’m an artist.

Photo taken by the great Andy Rush.

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What Would Tom Woodward do?

So I have been preparing a post to discredit Tom Woodward because he is increasingly becoming everyone’s favorite technologist here at UMW’s DTLT, and quite frankly it’s driving me crazy. It’s always Tom Woodward this, and Tom Woodward that. Or even “What Would Tom Woodward Do?” It’s not fair, I mean I’m the bava, I shouldn’t pander to some lowly K-12 technologist. I coined EDUPUNK, damn it, (albeit with the help of Brian Lamb). Why does everyone love Tom Woodward? What’s so great about him? I mean just cause he’s been recycling his archive to relive the glory days of teaching is no reason to but him on a pedestal, right? Just cause he writes precise and hysterical lampoons, dreams up brilliant projects for his students, tears Portaportal a new one, and writes succinct and useful WPMu posts—all within a week no less—is no reason to exaggerate his significance.

And while I still felt the momentum to knock him down a notch after reading all of this, it wasn’t until I dug into his Tech Ninja videos that I lost all motivation and finally had to cry “uncle!” to the greatness that is Bionic Teaching. If you haven’t seen his Technology Ninja videos, I highly recommend “Servers and Shortcuts” and “Drinking Dangers”, both of which are freaking hysterical for starters (I’m including them below). It really just doesn’t get any better than this, and I am now an acolyte and true believer. I have officially agreed to help build the Tom Woodward votive shrine here in the DTLT headquarters. But I still hate him!

Download Servers and Shortcut
Download Drinking Dangers

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