Monthly Archives: February 2009

The haircut

There is one thing that is more final than signing up for the cross country, training for it, equipping, organizing, and packing for it.  It is even more final even than paying the balance due.   That is the act of getting my hair cut in a style that will be easy-care all the way across the country.    I discussed the dilemma with my stylist when I last saw her in January.  She assured me that she knew just what to do.  She is an excellent hair stylist, and a very nice person.  Nevertheless, I have a love-hate relationship with her, because every now and then she seems to completely forget how I usually wear my hair and just makes something up.   The last time this happened, she imagined me with really short hair, and I felt scalped for a month.  It was, she told me, a “precision” cut.  I had to admit that as my hair grew out, it grew out in a great shape.

I suspect that her idea of a haircut that is completely care free, ready to wash and go, is another “precision” cut.  Fortunately, the stakes are lower this time, since I’ll be spending so much of my time during the critical grow-out period in a bike helmet.  I have surmounted all of the other challenges in preparing for this trip, and tomorrow, I’ll meet this one head-on.  If there are no pictures of me in this blog without a helmet on for the next couple of months  youll know the reason.

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A sense of the trip

One of the women with whom I’ll be traveling with across the country created a Google map from the beginning of our trip to the end, marking each of our stopping points along the way.

You can drag the map around to see both sides, and you can zoom out or in.  At this scale, the terrain view doesn’t do it justice.  One thing that is immediately apparent is that we’ll be spending a lot of time getting through Texas.  On the news tonight there was a sobering story about problems outside of San Diego with drug trafficers coming out of Mexico.  Another reason to ride with a buddy.

Word Camp Academic

Recently I traveled to Holy Cross  in Worcester to attend a NERCOMP program on academic uses of the Word Press publishing platform.   This open-source tool has exciting applications for the academic community in blogging, web content management, manuscript peer review, improvements in library catalogs, and course instructional support.  And because it is open source, those organizations that have adopted it and are using it in creative ways are downright evangelistic about it.  Word Camp provided an opportunity for individuals interested in these uses to meet and talk with the power users.

The speaker line up was really high-powered.  Ken Panko and Yianni Yessios from Yale spoke about how they have used WordPress to implement student-created podcasts, video and images.  In addition, they have created an implementation supporting a virtual paper mill inside Second Life.

Representatives of Wesleyan University spoke of their experience successfully using  WordPress  as a complete course management system, instead of expensive and less flexible products like Blackboard.

Casey Bison, of Plymouth State University, spoke about Scriblio, a WordPress based library catalog and digital archives system.

Scriblio is an “award winning, free, open source CMS and OPAC with faceted searching and browsing features based on WordPress“.  In a nutshell, Scriblio runs over a library automation system, providing Library 2.0 functionality like faceted browsing and user tagging.  The NOBLE consortium is seriously considering open source alternatives or amendments to our current library automation system, so it was great to see Scriblio in action.

Another very interesting presentation was offered by Holladay Penick, of CommentPress.

CommentPress is an open source theme for the WordPress blogging engine that allows readers to comment paragraph by paragraph in the margins of a text.   Imagine the implications for the teaching of close reading!  Read more about this excellent tool, developed by the Institute for the Future of the Book, at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The frontiers of video chat

Sometimes desperation forces you to think outside the box. In this case, the box was the television, and the desperation was the fact that for reasons which are unfathomable to me, not a single channel in my extensive Verizon FIOS package had the good sense to carry last night’s epic rematch between #9 Duke and #8 Wake Forest.

I discovered this sad fact shortly before the game began, and immediately began complaining to my son Matthew. Like me, he is a hard-core Duke fan, and, despite the fact that he lives in Maryland, we “watch” all of the games together. Online. We text chat during commercials, and, if necessary, during the game itself. We video chat during the halftime show, deconstructing the first half and making optimistic predictions for the second half.

Taking pity on me, he began texting me almost a play by play of the game. That was very difficult for him, and not fully satisfying for me. About 10 minutes into it, it occurred to me that I could video chat with his television!
He set up his trusty Mac on a stack of books, pointed straight at the game on TV. I got to watch second hand. Or was it third hand?

In any case, the picture quality is not a threat to cable, but it was definitely better than not getting the game at all.
By the way, it was a great game, which Duke won by a score of 101 – 91. Matt felt the need to jump for joy.

I did too, but there was no one awake at my house to get it on film.

Hard advice to follow

Nina, the woman that I have been working with to train for my bike ride is a professional nutritionist. Recently she told me two things (rather forcefully!) which gave me pause.
First, even though I am never hungry first thing in the morning, I have to stop coming to 6:00 am spin classes on an empty stomach.
Second, even though I have consistently avoided eating meat for the past eight years, I need to plan to eat it on my cross country ride.
Unfortunately, my experience with her suggests that she knows what she is talking about. I decided to experiment with her first prescription before committing to becoming a carnivore. Last week I had a gel shot before spinning.
There is very little to be said in favor of gel shots except that they work. And, for someone who finds it hard to eat real food at 5:45 in the morning, they are small enough that the experience is acceptably brief. I was conscious of how I felt during the class, and wasn’t sure that I noticed a difference. Unfortunately, there is no linear improvement in conditioning as a results of spinning. Some days are just hard, no matter what.
However, I did notice a big difference after the class. My legs were not jelly. I really did feel better! The real test came a couple of classes later when I forgot to eat the gel shot. I definitely noticed a difference. I am sold. Hopefully on the trip I’ll be able to manage real food for breakfast, and save the gel shots for that little bit of extra energy to get me up and over the mountains that have been inconveniently put in our path.
This means, of course, that I need to trust Nina on the meat-based protein too. While I am not looking forward to eating meat on the trip, I am resigned to the fact that good nutrition might make the difference between feeling good and just getting there.

The Kindle 2 and Copyright

Tomorrow,  Amazon will begin selling the second-generation of its popular Kindle electronic book device.  The OWHL library wan an early adopter when Kindle 1 was introduced in 2007.  I bought the device for the library on the first day that it was available,  believing that it was a technology to watch.  Continue reading

Early Valentine’s Day

I took a rare day off on Friday, so that Dean and I could have a three day weekend.  Between my debate team and his work schedule, it is unusual for us to even have a two-day weekend, so this was really special.  As we were drinking coffee and reading the newspaper in anticipation of heading out to Woodstock, Vermont, he told me that he wanted to give me my Valentine’s present before we left.

He brought out a large, nicely wrapped box.  “It’s pink,” he said.  He has trouble with surprises, and was eager for me to open the box.  I did, and found an interesting looking suitcase.  Definitely pink.

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Opening it up, I discovered that I was the new owner of a personalized multi-purpose tool kit.

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“There are very few household repairs that you can’t do with these tools!” Dean said, excitedly.   “And I have something else for you too!”

Now comes the jewelry box, I thought.  But no, actually, my second present, also pink, was a really cool, tiny,  multi-purpose tool for doing things like pulling thorns out of my tires.

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My husband really knows me.