Some small-town computing

These articles are both largely dated in terms of both content and point– computers come to the K-12 classroom, there are doubters, there are enthusiasts, there are wonders about how to measure success of computers, there are wonders about access for all, etc.– but I’m linking to them for 516 anyway. For one thing, it sort of proves to me that the questions that were out there about using computers in classrooms about 10 years ago remain. For another, both of them talk a bit about chalkboards, which have a soft-spot for me too.

“Classroom revolution from blackboards to computer screens,” from, a Massachusetts publication.

“Computers for Everyone,” from the Sioux City (IA) Journal web site.

Some Vonnegut writing advice

Kurt Vonnegut died this week. He was one of my favorites, and, as someone who fancied himself a “creative writer” as an undergraduate at the University of Iowa where Vonnegut taught briefly way back when, there was a lot of lore about him around town, even fifteen or so years after he had packed up and left town.

Anyway, here’s an excerpt I found via boing-boing of some advice Vonnegut offered in book of previously uncollected short stories:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

So it goes….

Apple enthuiast with 100 Macs

Gosh, and my wife gives me a hard time for my snowglobe collection– imagine if I went down this path?

Apple enthusiast has quite a core collection

Here’s a quote:

He’s got 99 computers. No, wait. Make that 100. He just got another last night, he said during a recent visit to his home about 35 miles west of St. Louis. Dozens of his Apple Macintosh computers are on display down here, a techie’s dream party pad.

Mehrle, 29, appears to recognize that there’s an inherent, well, geekiness to his computer collection, but he’s got a sense of humor about it. Perhaps at this level of commitment, it’s actually geek chic.

His bar is made out of 30 Mac Classics arranged next to and on top of each other. Guests can drink at the bar, “but no one ever does,” he noted. (Just imagine how much technology could be destroyed with just one spilled drink.)

The basement is wired with 20-amp circuits. He doesn’t just display his computers, he runs them when guests come over. Classic screen savers, like flying toasters with wings, flutter across screens. When friends stop by, they can play old-school games like StarCraft on machines networked together.

At one point, we had two or three “dead macs” in our basement but no microwave.  Go figure.

Small conferences and things to come in Detroit

There’s a nice (little?) piece in the April 9 Inside Higher Ed, “In Praise of Small Conferences,” by Jason Pickavance. The basic up-shot is that small conferences are better than big ones, and he goes on to describe what seemed like a perfectly pleasant meeting of the Two-Year College English Association West in Park City, Utah.

I would basically agree with Pickavance, but I would use the analogy of seeing live music. Those small venue events featuring performers I had not heard of before seeing them are often the best. On the other hand, there is a certain energy and excitement that comes from seeing the big and flamboyant rock shows with international acts. Small shows tend to be affordable entertainment; big shows nowadays tend to stretch into three figures.

My favorite music shows are the sort of medium-sized ones. My wife and I are going to see k.d. lang and Lyle Lovett perform together at the Ann Arbor Sumer Festival in June. They’re going to be at U of Michigan at Hill Auditorium, which holds around 3500 people. A big theater-sized performance featuring pretty big name acts.

Which, by the way, is one of the reasons why the Computers and Writing conference is pretty much my favorite. Besides being focused on my area of scholarship, it’s about the right size of conference for me. It’s not tiny, like the 80 or so people at the conference that Pickavance writes about, but it’s not giant like the CCCCs too. And better yet, I’ll be commuting to this year’s event.

Of course, looking at the calendar just now, I am realizing that this is coming up on the calendar quicker than I recall, May 17 to May 20….

Rolling Stone and “The Dark Side of Oz”

I forgot the book I was planning on reading while at the gym, so I instead picked up a recent (current?) copy of Rolling Stone and thumbed through it while on the elliptical trainer.  Kinda fun to browse Rolling Stone about two or three times a year.

Anyway, there was a piece in there about Pink Floyd (I didn’t finish it, but it was a sort of “history of” kind of thing) and they mentioned a link on the web to infamous “Dark Side of Oz/Dark Side of the Rainbow” thing.   Basically, if you watch  The Wizard of Oz while listening to the Pink Floyd album “The Dark Side of the Moon,” you get this weird effect of things synching up.  I remember one time in Oregon, we tried this with some friends out there (sober, more less too), and I thought it was bullshit.

Well, I still do think it’s kinda stupid.  Still, these “mashups” on the Rolling Stone web site are kind of interesting.

Easter Blog Reading/Web Reading Round-Up

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to just read/browse some blogs and web sites. Even though I have a mountain of things to do, I figure that I ought to take at least some time on this “holiday” to do some point around. So I did, and here’s some of what I found:

Alright, this extended beyond Easter. Now it’s time to get back to work, and busy BUSY week of work it’s going to be.