“The Literacy Debate,” NYTimes style

My colleague Cheryl sent me this article, “Literacy Debate: Online, R U Really Reading?” from the Sunday New York Times book section. It figures; I contemplated getting the NYT yesterday too, but decided to try and fix a broken kitchen drawer instead (with some success, I might add).

The story promises to be one part of a series “The future of reading: digital versus print.” That’s just great. What will come next? “The future of sandwiches: peanut butter versus jelly.” Or “The future of music: rock versus roll.”

It’s an interesting and very teachable article as it keeps see-sawing back and forth between the idea that yes, children (of all ages, I guess, because the group they are talking about here are teenagers, mostly) need to read books to become better readers and thus smarter/better people, versus reading stuff online really does count as reading and it is a type of literacy skill that is both different from traditional book reading and that is important to master. To me, they kind of bury on page four the key point: “Even those who are most concerned about the preservation of books acknowledge that children need a range of reading experiences. ‘Some of it is the informal reading they get in e-mails or on Web sites,’ said Gay Ivey, a professor at James Madison University who focuses on adolescent literacy. ‘I think they need it all.'”

I realize that there has to be a debate/controversy created to sell some papers here, but the idea that reading is somehow an “either-or” affair is ridiculous. And every time that someone says “the kids today don’t read books like they used to,” I always respond with two words: Harry Potter, a reading phenomenon unlike anything that existed when I was a kid.

Incidentally, the picture in the article of the kids looking at laptops and the parents looking at newspapers/magazines is sort of what it looks like around our household. Only around here, the TV is on too, and all three of us are looking at laptops typically.


I’m getting ready to get out of the house to play golf today (oh, the burdens I must carry), but I stumbled across this, TalkShoe, which promises to be a community podcasting system.  And it looks like it is one that can work with a cell phone, which would be very cool.  I’m rethinking of ways to revamp 328 with different web 2.0 -type technologies, and this seems like it might be a good one.

Oh, the nearly random things the internets brings

Via boing-boing, I read this story about how the (morning?) news anchors of the Las Vegas Fox network have fake/plastic cups of McDonalds chilled coffee sitting in front of them. My initial thoughts were of course: it’s on Fox, and it’s in Vegas. It all adds up.

And then, just following a couple more links, I stumbled across this, Dickipedia: A Wiki of Dicks. Pretty good junior high humor. Here’s the opening paragraphs on the entry about Simon Cowell:

Simon Phillip Cowell (born 7 October 1959) is a British record executive, television producer, “author,” celebrity talent judge, and a dick.

Through the creation of television programs such as American Idol, Pop Idol, and Britain’s Got Talent, he has managed to force both his abrasive personality and the abrasive personalities of a number of mediocre “artists” into homes across the world. Uniquely, while many celebrities became popular despite being dicks, Cowell became a celebrity because he is a dick.

It isn’t a “real” wiki in that you can’t just edit anything, but it still provided me with almost five minutes of entertainment, and what more can we ask from this communication network?

Adeona: free and open source laptop security program

This looks pretty cool: Adeona, which is a free and open source security software for tracking a laptop. Follow the link for the full explanation of the software, but besides the fact that the price is very right, this is my favorite feature: “The Mac OS X version also has an option to capture pictures of the laptop user or thief using the built-in iSight camera and the freeware tool isightcapture.” So you can take a picture of the thief. That is almost cool enough for me to see if I can get a laptop stolen and then track the bad guy.


Like I said, I haven’t tried this yet and it does look like it might be a half-step beyond the abilities of some basic users, but it looks very promising.

Hey Obama– give your staffers an office to call from!

I’m sitting here in Sweetwaters with Will (he too likes working/playing/hanging about in coffee shops once in a while), and there’s this just out of college kid sitting a few tables away.  So far, he’s made about 40 cell phone calls to various people on some kind of list to get them to come to a rally to support Barrack Obama.  It’s a free country I know and I too have been on the cell phone in here recently, but jeesh, if you going to do nothing but talk on the phone for an hour and a half, can you go someplace else?  And here I thought Obama had fistfuls of cash.

There goes call #41.

About those pushups…

About a month ago, I wrote/posted about a site called one hundred push ups, which is a six week training plan for being able to do 100 pushups at one time.   Just thought I’d post to let folks know and to keep myself honest (my friend Bill’s advice) on my progress so far.  Well, I just managed to crank my way through the end of week 3, which was tough because there’s a big jump between week 2 and week 3.

I must say that even with my fairly half-assed approach to this, it does feel like I’m getting some good quality exercise here.  When I started back in late June or so, I don’t think I got to five; just now, I managed to complete 20 without my arms falling off. Sure, there’s strength training here, but I think that a part of it is technique and form.

Anyway, it’s a quick little exercise routine; thumbs up.

Fair v. Fair

It’s been quite the arty week around here in Ypsi-Arbor. Annette and Will and I took in a bit of the annual Ann Arbor Art Fairs on Thursday, and on Saturday night, we went to that Ypsilanti upstart, the Shadow Art Fair. To be fair to the folks in that quaint festival in Ann Arbor, they had some automatic negatives compared to the most excellent festival in Ypsilanti, some beyond their control. The Ann Arbor Art Fair was both steaming hot and outdoors, while the Shadow Art Fair was both temperate and indoors at the Corner Brewery. The Ann Arbor Art Fair is kind of pain in the butt with all of the crowds, getting there in the first place, etc. While the Shadow Art Fair was crowded, it wasn’t near as mob-oriented as the Ann Arbor Art Fair. And while the Ann Arbor Art Fair offered bottled water, the Shadow Art Fair featured beer– well, not free, but since it was indoors and at what amounts to a large bar, easily available.

But the biggest difference between the two events was that the Shadow Art Fair was both very cool and actually affordable. The Ann Arbor Art Fair is about art as a product, a commodity. That means simple things on a stick, on paintings or prints to put above a couch, or “conversation pieces” that go in wealthy peoples’ homes. The Shadow Art Fair is about the process of art, about the making and experience, about DIY. And, I don’t know, the Shadow Art Fair just had a lot more coolness to it.

A couple of short videos to show what I mean. First, here’s Will picking out an intestine button from a large monster (for the cost of $1):

And then there’s this video of folks answering the artistic question of what’s inside the Ypsilanti Water Tower:

I assume he didn’t recognize me (why would he?), but I saw Mark Maynard peddling his wares. I was tempted by a Drew Barrymore poster he made (one of several Drew Barrymore tributes), but I passed. Instead, I ended up with a lovely Ypsilanti t-shirt and very groovy Shadow Art Fair poster, both products of those talented VG Kids. It’s hard to explain, but the poster I bought features an alternate version of the Shadow Art Fair poster on one side and part of a printing of a poster for Twangfest in St. Louis, MO. And Annette and Will both bought some cool woodprints that are liable to show up in our dining room soon.

Anyway, an exciting and arty week for all. But if you can only pick one art festival to attend next year, make it the Shadow Art Fair, please.