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Recalling Charles James: Christophe de Menil

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Recalling Charles James: Mary Ellen Hecht

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Recalling Charles James: Elizabeth Strong-Cuevas

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Recalling Charles James: Homer Layne

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Recalling Charles James: Paul Caranicas

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Recalling Charles James: Elsa Peretti

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Recalling Charles James: R. Couri Hay

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ENHANCED: Publishing Teaching: A New Opportunity for Higher Ed

This past fall Jim Fowler, a visiting professor in Ohio State University’s math department, moved to a tenure track appointment based on his demonstration of teaching excellence in online courses, including massive open online courses (MOOCs). In an interview...
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Publishing Teaching: A New Opportunity for Higher Ed

This past fall Jim Fowler, a visiting professor in Ohio State University’s math department, moved to a tenure track appointment based on his demonstration of teaching excellence in online courses, including massive open online courses (MOOCs). In an interview...
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We Are Lesser World Without George, Without GeoDuckie

CogDogBlog - Sun, 2015-02-08 18:06

The word came via Bryan Alexander’s blog last night that a great spirit of curiosity, interest, creativity has left this world, note of it too on his daughter’s blog.

George has gone through numerous health challenges; the photo above was from the time in 2011 I was doing my long odyssey trip and visited and stayed with him and his family in Alexandria. You may notice he is holding Geoduckie.

He had suffered a stroke(?), heart attack (?) that year, but I would not know know it from his energy. He took me to George Mason University where I got to do a bit of talk about my StoryBox.

cc licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

He took a great interest in ds106radio and we had fun that evening doing a live broadcast, George talking, laughing, and DJing eclectic music from his iPad. Here’s a benefit of being a bit compulsive on archiving, I have the audio from this evening.

document.createElement('audio'); DOWNLOAD AUDIO

George may be among the last of the Renaissance type people from the 1960s and 1970s; always curious abut new ideas, willing to listen to yours, drawing from an inner depth of mixed technical, literary, and art experiences.

He took an interest in computer technology sometime in the 1970s, but not as a technologist, but as someone in the humanities. He has a Digital Humanities person decades before someone slapped a moniker on it.

cc licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

He shared some readings that night from a paper he wrote in 1983 on Electronic Newspapers from proceedings of the 6th Annual International Conference on Computers and the Humanities.

When i asked him about his history in the field, he did not miss a beat when he quipped

I shoveled tar for Al Gore.

Like numerous others I got to know online years before I met George, I lose the trace of where it happened. I spent yesterday digging through my various archives; the oldest email form George is a note from March 2007 that he followed me on twitter

I thought I was fairly early on twitter, starting in January 2007; no surprise to see that George has opened his twitter account in August 2006

You may notice Geoduckie there in his profile.

As you can see, his daughter had tweeted the news of George’s passing through his account. It must have been before July 2014 (when I quiet Facebook) that I heard George had slipped into unconsciousness; his daughter has sent up an update in Facebook through his account.

The experience with George that stands out for me goes back to 2008. George was working then for Internet 2 and organizing a Internet2 Spring Member Meeting in Arlington, VA. George asked me (via twitter DMs), because of my Second Life work at NMC, to be part of a panel on gaming/virtual worlds (nice archiving, a video is still there).

There were some big names on that panel– Ben Fineman of Internet2, Mark McCahill (Duke University), Michael Rowe (IBM), and Martin Siegel (Indiana University).

I was not there in person. George was willing or even suggested that I participate live via Second Life. I was the dog on that panel:

cc licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by ghbrett

That’s my CDB Barkley dog avatar talking to George in Second Life, who is also operating the laptop in Virginia (notice Geoduckie by his side). Me? I was at home in Strawberry, Arizona. I know al of this from my own bloghistory.

What about that Geoduckie who accompanies George? He is the main subject of George’s flickr photos

And even has his own @Geoduckie twitter account

NASA hunting for rubber ducks — They're using my cousins for scientific research of ocean currents from Greenland.

— geoduckie (@geoduckie) December 22, 2008

I know I asked George for the full story in 2011, but I have such poor recall. My hunch/guess is it comes from George’s early interest in geolocation technology. As part of groundtruthing locations, George likely chose the rubber duck as a regular subject for his location explorations.

Like this one from February 2007

George was active online a year and more ago. I have a helpful pair of comments on an October 2013 post about a fellowship idea. I had referenced a quote I use a lot from Tim Berners-Lee about his vision for the web. George responded with:

Oh, re: Sir Tim’s quote. I always like Mark McCahill’s rationale for Gopher. He was part of the Computer Support Team at Unv of Minnesota. The team wanted a simpler Help Desk data base to deal with re-occuring questions. Gopher was hierarchical and extendable, as well as somewhat searchable, so they were happy. Mark always said they wrote it to make their jobs easier — end of story.

In February, 2014, just a year ago, George shared a really valuable resource for a Google+ Community I set up for Web Storytelling resources.

He responded with an expression of care to a post of mine last year about impeding eye surgery.

I can see in his twitter stream he was sharing resources April 3, 2014, he was curating links in ScoopIt.

Workshop on 'mind mapping' ups efficiency – Gulf Today | @scoopit

— George Brett (@ghbrett) April 3, 2014

After that, George’s tweets were a lot of favoriting of You Tube videos, many of them spiritual and songs of grace.

A last tweeted video (November, 2014) stands out:

I liked a @YouTube video 1936 Olympic rowing by Riefenstahl

— George Brett (@ghbrett) November 15, 2014

I was not familiar with the story of a 1936 Olympic rowing event; yes I do know that was the bizarre setting of Hitler’s Germany as hosts. In the comments I find reference to the The Boys in the Boat the story of the American crew of rowers who beat the highly favored German Team.

I have no idea what was behind one of George Brett’s last tweets, but I believe, like all of my too brief George experiences, that he is teaching me something about courage, about life.

Thank you George for everything you stood for. A man of grace, kindness, and curiosity.

And a playful spirit.

And Ducky.

cc licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

UPDATE (later on Feb 8, 2015)

@cogdog thank you Alan. 2011 was a pulmonary embolism; GeoDuckie was mom and dad's mascot when they went geocaching. Thank you.

— Megan Brett (@magpie) February 9, 2015

Top / Featured image credits cc licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by cogdogblog:

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A Taste of Honey and Cookies

CogDogBlog - Sun, 2015-02-08 10:13

It’s your birthday today Mom, and all I got you was a blog post. Again.

I bet you are making cookies, as you do on Sundays. I would call… but I cannot. And no one can enjoy those chocolate chip cookies and what was more valuable, the gift of a bag of your cookies.

Mom would have been 86 today. I must have done the subtraction 3 times, 2015-1929, thinking the number was not right. It must be more. It was right. Four years since the last time I could call Mom for a birthday greeting.

cc licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

She loved Herb Alpert’s music. In that photo is one of the 1960s vintage tables I remember from the living room of our house in Baltimore. The tables were there when we cleaned out her house in 2011.

Back at home in Strawberry, I have maybe six of the Herb Alpert LPs that she still had in her house, the ones that were on the shelves in our wood paneled basement family room, the one with the Zenith tube record player. Maybe I need to sit down and listen to them all.

In one of our recorded conversations, she told me, in sequence, about her enjoyment of the Herb Alpert music’s beat and her reason for baking and sharing cookies.


I’d like to picture her dancing on that beach with Herb and the band.

Happy 86th, Mom.

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Dinosaur Eggs and Web Paleontology

CogDogBlog - Sat, 2015-02-07 12:50

In the summer of 1986 as an undergraduate student in Geology, I got an internship at the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory. At the time I was on track to likely continue the track on to graduate school, but had not really zeroed in on an interest, but on that seemed to have my interest was paleontology.

I am fairly sure I had an overly imagined, movie-induced idea (this was post Indiana Jones era, while not a paleontologist was close enough), idea what that would be like. Plus I also was hooked as a teen on the story of Lucy. Ancient human history, older earth history, I liked.

Beyond the internship experience of getting to do work with practicing research scientists (and enjoy exploring Manhattan), they also brought in speakers in the field. One was a specialist from the American Museum of Natural History who had done this amazing research in finding dinosaur eggs in Mongolia.

Dinosaur eggs in Mongolia? Got me interested. Excitement, and hit it…

I arranged with him to get a back stage view of the museum. Behind the (?) 5 floors of brightly light halls of dino skeletons, the halls of dioramas was a different world of the research areas, I think it was seven floors. It was dimly lit, full of boxes and rows of cabinets. I remember watching someone slowly brush soil off a bone with a tiny paint brush.

Yeah, I was immature, but that did take care of my visions of the glamorous adventures of paleontology. I had (and still have) an interest in history and what we can reconstruct from scant clues, but my gut said paleontology was not the field for me.

My that was way too long a preamble.

But I have had some excitement recently with using a keyboard as my tiny brush, tracing fragments of web history. Rather then seeking answers to things millions of years old, just trying to find information about the early web form 20 years ago? It feels similar.

Next month (March 15-17) I have the opportunity to keynote at the 20th Technology, Colleges, Community Conference (TCC).

Yes it’s in Hawaii (ducks).

It’s also the 20th year for this conference, and the first 19 years were completely online. Started at Kapi’olani Community College, the CC in TCC initially was “Community Colleges”. In 2003, I was in Milwaukee for the League For Innovation Conference on Information Technology (their link no longer work, but I have my own shards in my blog), and got to meet Bert Kimura, who was one of the original organizers of TCC. He got me interested to get the Maricopa Community Colleges where I worked active as participating in the annual conference.

I did a presentation for TCC in 2004 on Photoblogging, I had just discovered flickr, but actually talked more about Buzznet and Fotolog.

In 2005 Bert invited me to give a TCC keynote, in which I invoked a metaphor of Star Trek’s Harry Mudd to talk about Small Pieces Loosely Joined

(notice again, the conference site is gone, my Maricopa hosted wiki reference is gone, but my blog post remains in tact).

Here’s the funny memory about that presentation. I was attending an NMC meeting in San Francisco, and had to step out of a hotel meeting room to do my keynote. The platform I think was Elluminate (the parent of Blackboard Collaborate), so I was in a quiet hotel hallway speaking into my laptop (I needed the wifi from the NMC meeting room).

Everything went fine until a meeting in the other room ended, and rush of people went right into the bathroom right across the hall from me, so my conference talk included background sounds of jostling conversation and toilets flushing.

The show must go on.

I also was asked to keynote in 2013, which ended up using a different metaphor for the DS106 Show

I have had this great history with TCC and a long time collaboration / friendship with Bert Kimura. We hiked together when I was in Hawaii for a conference in 2005 and he hosted me for a visit when I was in Japan in 2008.

It’s an honor to be asked to speak at TCC 2015- but also an interesting approach since the conference planners decided to celebrate the 20th year by making it a hybrid conference– some 100 participants will attend in person at the University of Hawaii and hundreds more will participate online.

That was my own web archaeology, assisted by my own web sites and a bit of searching.

For my presentation, I am going to do a bit of retro, talking about the state of the web in 1996. While its twenty years later, we still talk about it like the original conception, as a hyperlinked set of documents. We still talk about “pages” as much as we say “dial” someone on the phone. So I want to bridge forward and talk about some edgier web approaches that bust out of those perceptions.

I do have a clever shtick in mind, but this time it is not based on any TV or movie references. It is based on history.

To ground it I’ve asked Bert and his colleagues about the form and presentations from the first TCC conference in 1996. I remembered him saying it was text based (?) maybe it was via a BBS?

This was just about the time of the inflection point of the web where it became more than one of a handful of ways people used the internet. Two years earlier, the web was sharing the attention space of things like usenet, gopher. But the rise of graphic browsers, the earlier presence building of web sites, definitely took off in 1996.

What’s impressive about TCC is they do have a rather complete archived history of conference presentations from 1996-2007. That already surpasses many organizations (cough, no names named) who cast off their web history.

A few days ago I asked Bert by email for any files he might have had from TCC 1996. I wanted to know if there was any digital bits left online besides the conference papers — how was it run? who were the keynotes?

There was not much in the archive. I found a folder for a web page archive for what looks like a page Bert made as a welcome for conference participants. There was no URL on it, so I could not use the Wayback Machine to find it. To bring it “alive” at least for my presentation use, I put the web pages on my domain at

I hope Bert appreciates his youthful photo!

It’s the web of 1996, not much formatting, but it moved past the grey Mosaic pages of 1993-1994. But it’s HTML and images — it still works (unlike the Macromedia Breeze archive of my 2004 presentation dead due to flash plugins loaded in javascript).

The rest of the file in the archive Bert sent were related to the conference evaluation, drafts of the questions, but also a full summary of the results:

And in here I found the gold clue.

First of all the questions indicate the technologies used for the conference- a listserv, a gopher server, a MOO,… and a conference web site.

That old URL no longer works.. but I did find it saved in the Internet Archive Wayback machine – the oldest snapshot was from 1996 and is complete.

Later versions in the Wayback Machine seem to be missing links. An important lesson in using the Wayback is to try multiple versions snapshotted at different dates, after 2003 all you get are “not found” messages.

The conference instructions outline the format, look at how you ran an online conference in 1996!

Listed below are the conference presenters. Their presentations will be posted in the TCC-L subdirectory on the Kapiolani CC server for your viewing starting 25 March 1996, Monday, at 08:00 am (GMT Offset -10). Please “attend” the presentations of your choice between March 25 and April 1.

The conference will begin on April 2, Tuesday, at 5:00 AM (HST), with a posting of welcome messages (Provost John Morton and Dr. Bert Kimura) and the keynote addresses to all participants via email. These will also be posted on the web page later in the day.

From April 2 to 4, please send email to the presenters whose sessions you attended, including greetings, questions, and comments. All presenters will be standing by over the three days to respond to your messages.

During the three days, will serve as the general conference for all participants and presenters. Please send email re presentations that you especially enjoyed, the conference as a whole, etc.

On one of the three days (Apr 2, 3, or 4), each presenter will be featured in a live-chat MOO session for about an hour. A tentative schedule is included below. Please see the instructions for MOOing, which have been appended to this message.

Beginning on the 25th, you can view the presentations in two ways, WWW or Gopher:


(at the main menu, go to “Kapi’olani Info”)

At the “TCC-L Online Conference” main menu, you’ll find an updated conference schedule, presentations, bios and photos of presenters, etc.

We’ll be sending you, via email, an updated schedule of events for the April 2-4 conference by the 25th.

You get titles, abstracts, and links to papers for all presentations.

What was interesting was the effort to provide a synchronous component- not of the presentation- but of a gathering place. Presenters would be present at set times in a MOO.

I did not misspell MOOC.

MOO stood for “MUD Object Oriented”. How geeky is that, the acronym includes another acronym. MUD stood for “Multi-User Dungeon, with later variants Multi-User Dimension and Multi-User Domain)” — originally text based interactive game environments later used by educators to provide the kind of experiences we call social media now.

Not only does the TCC archived site include the instructions for the MOO, you get the logs!

This is how we navigated an online conference venue in 1996:

*** Connected *** MOOhalo Conference Center Comfy chairs surround a table.  Computer terminals are on and you are ready to get some work done. You see chair here. Last connected Mon Apr  1 21:29:20 1996 HST from There is new news.  Type `news' to read all news or `news new' to read just new news. @exits out (#225) leads to 4th floor (#218) via {out}. out 4th floor This space stretches across disciplines.  To get to the MOOhalo Conference Room, go through the ATRIUM, or you might want to go DOWN to the third level for a visit. Looking through the glass wall, you see space for building and exploration. You might want to try Nash's gym which is UP above you. Sometimes tutoring takes place in a quiet place near here.  If only you could find the TUTOR.

And on and on it goes.

They also ran in the MOO a “Coconut Cafe” as a post conference party event suggesting an awareness of the need to provide informal conversations, the hallways of face to face conferences.

In later years I remember this in TCC online events as the “Luau Lounge” — I tihnk we lifted that idea when I worked for NMC, later even having post conference dance parties in Second Life.

Also in the Conference Logs is the entire archive of the listserv where you can track much of the information and interaction.

In there I find the “keynotes” — which were presented as text! One was from Dr. Bob Holderer, Assistant Professor of Writing, Edinboro University of Pennsylvania on “An Open Invitation to the Banquet”.

The other keynote was by Eric W. Crump, Coordinator of U of Missouri Learning Center Learning Technologies. Crump’s “keynote” was on a web page, linked from the email forum — INTERVERSITY: CONVERGENCE & TRANSFORMATION, or DISCOVERING THE REVOLUTION THAT ALREADY HAPPENED

Thanks to the Internet Archive, I found pretty much the complete history of this 1996 conference — well the gopher server is no more, the MOO long gone — But the web, in its basic elements of HTML and media — can live on a long freaking time.

What technology or media that you used in 1996 can you still run on a modern computer?

The native web.

Do you have any sense how important the Internet Archive is? Without it, we have huge gaping holes in the history of the web, which may not register a huh from the masses who’s view of the web is mostly a scrolling series of “now” status messages.

History… is more than an academic interest. It is where we came from, what formed the present, what informs the future.

And to me, this is way more exciting than fossilized dinosaur eggs!

By Daderot (I took this photograph.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Well… Fossilized dinosaur eggs are still cool.

Top / Featured Image Credit cc licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by Çatalhöyük:

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Sky Rider

CogDogBlog - Fri, 2015-02-06 23:55

Originally published by me at Barking Dog Studio » Inside the Photo (see it there)

Inside the Photo
This bot of metal sculpture sits atop a bicycle shelter on the campus of Thompson Rivers University, in Kamloops, British Columbia. I’ve noticed in numerous times since I arrived here three months ago. It has a stylish shape.

On this clear day, in mid afternoon, the light was super contrasty strong. I thought that it would look good against the solid blue sky, but was not sure I could get an angle that had the sky filled with buildings and trees near by. I might have done to brush out the two small white blemishes in the metal.

There actually was a little bit of tree detail in the upper left that I clone brushed out in Aperture, and I cropped it a tad to center it up. It was not until I was editing that I saw the reflection of the bicycle shape on the roof of the building.

While fully centered, it works (to me) as a composition. I knew I liked it a lot as soon as I saw it in my editor, and was easily my pick for my daily photo.

It was a really nice bonus that the photo on flickr was selected to be In Explored:

in explore!

This makes the fifteenth photo I’ve had picked; and tonight I found the Scout Tool from BugHugLabs (it works through the flickr API) that not only lets you see which photos have been picked for Explored, but also lets you generate a poster:

I don’t play the games that people do to get explored, it’s not a goal… but it does feel pretty good considering the quality of photos in there. If you ever need some inspiration, just take a few scrolls through the pool.

The best reward is taking photos that you feel proud of and enjoy yourself.

Everything else is teriary.

Barking Dog Studio » Inside the Photo is the part of my photo gallery site where, on selected photos I write about what went into creating the image, sort of like a DVD extra.

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PUNK: Chaos to Couture

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The Making of You Show Episode 4

CogDogBlog - Fri, 2015-02-06 01:40

Episode 4 ushers in the audio unit and was a chance to take advantage of D’Arcy Norman’s visit the week before. We wanted to do cameo’s where possible. And we wanted to make use of a lot of sound.

We had so much material (plus extra footage Jon Fulton did during our green screen sessions) that we have outtakes!

The idea for the opening links to the premiere episode where Brian mentioned that his band could record some music.

Since the music was going to be “metal” for the opening logo, I played around in Photoshop with a tutorial on creating chrome effects:

Our voice over the logo then transitions into the clip of the band with the logo on top in a cut away channel. Again, by doing this top layer as a transparent PNG, I lose any kind of box shape around the graphic– and, as I found out, I can set its opacity so we see through it.

Opening Credits and the Breaking Band playing the You Show metal anthem

This is not made up; since Brian invited me to weekly jams with the “Breaking Band” and we had one planned for D’Arcy’s first night here. I asked them to do the hard rocking way loud, terrible You Show song- that could not have been better, and it was totally improvised. D’Arcy was doing the video with my iPhone; you can see me point back to Brian and the zoom in on Brian was key.

That clip worked great. We then had a set up where D’Arcy would shake his head and say “Let me show you how it’s done” and holding an electric guitar, pantomiming the lead while Matt, another guitarist played the real music.

The only problem was the cameraman (me). I did that off sync thing where I thought the camera was on, and when the sequence started I turned it off, and when it ended, turned it back on. So that clip was gone.

That worked to our advantage, because I got the idea later in the week to do the green screen at the end of our Thursday Open Studio hours in the Innovation Lab. Jon Fulton again set us up with the green screen.

Harry stepped in first to do a bit of air guitar to help me frame the shot and that made for a fun clip before the last credits.

After his air guitar session, his fans rush D’Arcy

The green screen of D’Arcy sites in the upper video channel, set to green screen mode. The clip I used for the background was a YouTube demo of laser lights, 3rd Place International Award Laser Show – Arrived In Flames (2014 ILDA Artistic Award). I first searched for video of bands with stage shows, but recommended clips pointed me to these collections of laser light show videos. I just used the video and muted its audio.

The guitar track was recorded by Irwin Devries (also part of breaking band); he just sent me back a track like 2 hours after I emailed him a request. I’s called “Green Screen of Death”


The first rush of the group of D’Arcy fans did not work since they barely entered the frame of my iPad, so that took a second shot- I had to tell them to rush up and touch him.

D’Arcy was patient with my demands That whole part took less than 30 minutes to record.

I dashed off a script Saturday and sent to Brian (see the Google Doc Episode 4 script). We both agree that we do better w/o exact lines, just the highlights of what we want to cover. It’s fun when one of us throws in a surprise line (Brian’s quip about cribbage).

Part of the “evolution” of the characters is that as the on stage Brian and Alan get more proficient, the back stage techies have less and less to do.

I thought it worked for the audio unit, and would be less video work, if we set it up so the screen went dark and most of the middle was conversational. We recorded just bits of the suggested ideas where we talk about the possibility of audio. Brian and I did a hike on Saturday (it was gorgeous out) and we recorded the walking sounds and experimented with his new fancy audio rig.

cc licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

We did go downtown to Value Village (thrift store) and Kamloops Inn (thats the bar noise).

The Audio sequence

The part where we talk through audio only looks like a mess, but it was pretty easy to edit by splitting clips, and tossing in other tracks. iMovie lets you layer at least 4 tracks of audio (not sure what limit there is). I thought at first to have the screen pitch black, but then decided to toss the laser lights in again. By putting a black screen in the main track, the lasers in the upper track could be set to be about 20% opacity, pretty dim.

In addition to our recorded sounds, I pulled a lot of effects and sounds in from the audio library that comes with iMovie (loons, monkeys, doors closing, eerie machines, impact sounds). The top audio track is Brian and I talking, and most things below are added sounds.

We decided in recorded to act like we stayed there. It was a late night idea, after recording the video, that it should be the tech guys who add one last bit of flare- that last bit of Brian’s voice was actually recorded at his door as I was leaving. And I threw the last call to the tech guys just when editing the movie, recording directly into iMovie (the knocking sound is me tapping the mic).

“Hard Rock Harry”

It seemed fun to have the last bit of Harry’s guitar act. Since he is a huge fan of Tim and Eric’s Totino Boy Brian did some Garage Band magic Sunday night to mix in Harry’s voice with the “punk bass” audio from that episode.

And for the closing credits, I added in some small outtake video clips as tiny overlays- this is the picture in picture effect.

Like the previous ones, this video just came together so well from really mostly single takes.

How much more fun can we have?

These syndicated post are from blogging I am doing as part of the You Show open seminar project at TRU. I am syndicating just this category of posts I have authored.

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Blue 65th

CogDogBlog - Thu, 2015-02-05 23:45

Apparently until Queen Victoria there was no traditional 65th anniversary gift; the charts jumped from 55th to 75th.

Sapphire means blue in Greek. The sapphire stones are characterized by their extreme hardness exceeded only by the diamond and their color and transparency. The blue sapphire is often called the gem of the sky and it comes in many shades of blue ranging from the deep blue of the evening sky to the mid-blue of a summer’s day sky.

In ancient time it was believed that the earth was embedded in a big blue sapphire and that was why the sky was blue. In many civilizations the blue sapphire is a symbol of heaven

There was a big blue sapphire sky today where I am in Kamloops, BC. In another dimension I might have been shopping last month for a blue sapphire for today. Because February 5, 2015 would have been my parent’s 65th anniversary.

I see some sweet irony in this wedding photo being stamped with “UNFINISHED PROOF”. Proof of? Never finished? I found buried in the digital photos their wedding certificate. I likely scanned at their house after Mom passed away in 2011 and my sisters and I cleaned out her house.

Unfinished Proof. Honoring and cherishing and plighting truth. In affection and sincerity.

Their first year of marriage was on a yearly salary of less than $5000 (I like how the 1950 1040A tax form is one page long). That was Mom who worked at “Reliable Liquors”, she cleared $1000 salary in 1950 as a bookkeeper; Dad making $4000 as a bricklayer. Income disparity?

Taxes paid must be proof.

No blue sapphires given today, except from the sky. It made for light that sang and danced as proof of its pure blueness.

cc licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog




Top / featured image credit: cc licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by cphoffman42:

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One Click Featuring in WordPress Sites

CogDogBlog - Thu, 2015-02-05 16:45

In consulting You Show participants on their site organization, I am trying to help them see there are more opportunities for the front page than the long river of reverse chronological ordered posts.

Many themes (like the Virtue Theme on the You Show) give you an option to display posts from a category, rather than just the newest. I helped Franzi today flip hers using the stick Twenty Fourteen Theme; there is an option in the Customizer to put posts tagged “featured” in the front magazine style layout.

For themes that do not provide this, I have gone the route of customizing the WordPress Loop query used on the front page. A non hacking route is the Category Excluder from Theme Customizer plugin which lets you choose which categories not to display on the front page.

This capability becomes very useful on Feed WordPress type aggregation hubs because the inflow of posts is so high (hopefully) that a river of new posts is not useful.

My strategy is to recommend that people who are admins on the site do some curating-by editing aggregated posts to add a category (or tag), they can create a set of “featured” posts (viewable via the Category Archive view). I was never able to get the Connected Courses folks to grasp this idea; maybe no one wanted that responsibility.

I did try using a rating plugin on the ETMOOC hub that enabled a “highest rated” view but not too many people voted.

As a site admin, it helps to do this via a category process because it forces you to regularly review incoming stuff. I set it up on the You Show site, we have a category called “Highlight Reel” we can add to posts:

But the process for getting to the posts to add the category was.. tedious. In an archive view, there is no way to edit that post, and because the links in the syndication hub go out to the site, it is not an option to view the post, and then click the “Edit” button in the admin bar.

Some themes add an “edit” link in the templates so you can do this, but Virtue does not. It’s a pretty easy thing to add, if you can find the write template file (this varies from theme to theme, in Virtue, it was in /templates/content). The thing you want to add is the wordpress function edit_post_link. There are options you can use on that function to add spans and or css classes, but at it’s simplest, somewhere in the loop where it is spitting out content for each post, add something like:

<?php edit_post_link('Edit Post')?>

What this does is add an “edit” link next to each post that can only be seen by users that are logged in with post editing privileges (Editor, Admin, etc). Visitors to the site will not see them.

These helps some, because if I see a post on the flow I’d like to feature, I just:

  1. Click the Edit Post link
  2. In the editor, click the category to add
  3. Update the post

    It’s not bad, but still seems 3 steps when all we need to do is to add a category. So I hacked something in.

    I will need a way to send from the clicked link a variable that identifies the post ID number I am updating. In my (child) theme functions.php, I do need a function that allows WordPress to understand extra URL parameters. For my site, I am using ones already created for the signup form:

    /* ----- add allowable url parameter for urls */ add_filter('query_vars', 'youshow_parameter_queryvars' ); function youshow_parameter_queryvars( $qvars ) // allow parameters to be passed in wordpress query strings { $qvars[] = 'pid'; // when we need to pass a post id return $qvars; }

    This means I can send to a WordPress URL something like:

    And my custom template for this page named Feature This has some logic it can act on.

    Next, I made a function that can put the link to mark a post as featured, and make it so only people logged in with editing privileges can see (and click) on it.

    function get_highlight_post_link ( $post_id, $toolslug = 'feature-this' ) { // only for editors and above if ( current_user_can('publish_pages') ) { return (' [<a href="' . get_site_url() . '/' . $toolslug . '/?c=' . $post_id . '" target="_blank">Feature This</a>]'); } }

    I send the function get_highlight_post_link() a value for the post I want to affect. By default, the link will be to a page on my site with a url / slug name of feature-this. And it opens in a new window so I don’t lose my place

    This is solely so I can add this to my templates. By making it a function, I can use it more than one template. In my theme, I find the part of the code that echoes the meta data below a post, and add in:

    ... (meta data theme stuff like date, comments, categories) < ?php edit_post_link('Edit Post')?> < ?php echo get_highlight_post_link( $post->ID )?>

    Now… (if anyone is still with me). I create a page that has the slug name (url) of feature-this which means if I create and upload a new theme template named page-feature-this I can put in stuff that only is used on the one page.

    The way to do this is to copy the basic page.php template for your theme, and rename it page-feature-this. Put this code at the top:

    < ?php // get the proper category ID, yuck hard coded. Shoot me. $def_category_name = 'Featured'; // we need the category's ID $highlight_category_id = get_cat_ID( $def_category_name ); // get the value of parameter that represents the id of the post to change, // if not present, set value to -1 $post_id = (isset($wp_query->query_vars['pid'])) ? $wp_query->query_vars['pid'] : -1; // set up array to update post $w_information = array( 'ID' => $post_id, 'post_category' => array( $highlight_category_id ) ); // update the post, value is 0 if it borked $da_post = wp_update_post( $w_information ); ?>

    This all happens before the page loads. Farther done in the template, after where it spits out the contents for the page (which can be anything, its only for admins) add right after

    <h3>Processing...</h3> < ?php if ( $post_id == -1) { echo "<p>Uh oh. No post id found. Bad link?"; } elseif (!$da_post) { echo "<p>Egads. Something bad happened. Unable to update post.</p>"; } else { echo '<p>Eureka! We added <strong><a href="' . get_permalink( $post_id ) . '">' . get_the_title( $post_id ) . '</a></strong> to the <a href="' . get_category_link( $highlight_category_id ) . '">' . $def_category_name . '</a> Category. Yipppie!'; } ?> < ?php endwhile; ?>

    With this in place, I can add a post from any archive view listing to our "Highlight Reel" category, by clicking the "Highlight This" link (my names are different from the example code above)

    Admin's only have access to these tool links

    It not only makes it simple for me, I can give anyone I want to push things into this curating role an Editor role, and then can log in and mark posts to be featured.

    Top feature image credits : cc licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by Neetesh Gupta (neeteshg):

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NEWS & UPDATES: New Online Nursing Course Has Global Impact

In June 2013, the World Health Organization released new guidelines for treating and preventing HIV in middle-and low-income countries. Option B+, the new recommendation for the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV (PMTCT), calls for all pregnant and breastfeeding HIV...
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The MOOCing Machine (and making thereof)

CogDogBlog - Wed, 2015-02-04 22:38

It starts, as often it does, with a tweet…

The Automatic Teacher

— Audrey Watters (@audreywatters) February 5, 2015

Audrey’s series on The History of the Future of Education is more than book worthy.

In her latest, The Automatic Machine, Audrey takes us more into this past future history. I’ve read previous bits by her about Sidney Presser and claims for inventions of machines that teach (wikipedia quote):

“The first.. [teaching machine] was developed by Sidney L. Pressey… While originally developed as a self-scoring machine… [it] demonstrated its ability to actually teach”

I was really sucked in by the embedded video where Pressey explains (standing in front of a classroom of passive students) the Teaching Machine in 1964:

Thirty-eight years after the description Audrey quoted, his explanation of how it works and what it does has barely change. The only new feature is the ability to trigger an award, a piece of candy for a correct answer. The woman’s expression is priceless when she presses the right key and gets a candy:

“We give Tums now. We used to use Lifesavers, but they are too big now to fit this machine.”

Thirty-eight years to work on technology, and still foiled by bugs and lack of standard sizes assessment rewards.

And than that tickling. I had to make a remix with this classic video. My idea was to find a modern talk about MOOCs, and put its audio to Pressey’s video. It would be easy since since you talks continuously, and you cannot really see the movement of his mouth, so keying to his motion was not needed.

I searched in YouTube for “MOOC” and “assessment” and found very little. Oh well. I was about to use Daphne Koller’s 2012 TED Talk on What We’re Learning from Online Education — there would be some humor in her voice coming from Pressey. Her talk is eighteen minutes, so finding two and a half would not be too hard, especially where she talks about what they are doing.

But I went back to the YouTube well, and one or two links in a sidebar was EdX’s Anant Agarwal TED Talk (we know what TED talks about a lot) on Why Massively Open Online Courses (still) Matter. There was a spot about nine minutes in he is talking about the virtues of learning online, self-paced, and talks about the student’s excitement over the “green checkmark”.


So here is the final. I got lucky because the phrasing and timing worked out really well; as Agarwal talks about videos and interactivity, Pressey is handling the Teaching Machine. It ended up pretty damn good according to my MOOC Mocking standards.

I present “The MOOCing Machine”:

And now, for the pay I am continually trying to advocate in everything from ds106 to the You Show — the making part.

I use the extension in Chrome from to download both videos as mp4 videos, and import them into iMovie.

The key for this stuff is knowing how to separate the audio and video tracks. I put the Pressey sequence in first, and use Modify -> Mute Clip to remove the sound (muting is handy as I can un-mute it if I need to hear the original track to match to something else).

I then select the segment of the Agarwal clip that’s close to what I need (it need not be precise since I can adjust the in and out points in the timeline) and drop it in after the Pressey one. Select that clip and use Modify -> Detach Audio. This is what separates the audio from the video. I take the audio track and slide it under the Pressey track (do this first!) and then delete the Agarwal video.

Then its a matter of finding the start point in the audio (drag the left margin). I removed one small bit by using Split Clip on the audio track twice, and deleting the part I did not want. Sometimes the audio matching takes a lot of work, but my first guesses were really lucky.

Right as Pressey is doing his candy reward thing, Agarwal is talking about “instant feedback”. He says, as Pressey manipulates the machine “How else to you grade 150,000 students?”

Here in the closing sequence, I use a simple “Centered” title from iMovie. I wonder if folks know you can modify the fonts, colors, sizes, even add extra lines? Don’t accept defaults!

I continued Argawal’s voice for his credits, where he talks about “students dreaming of the green check mark” and then when Pressey’s credit sequence comes in, I fold his voice in, which we have not heard. He ends with the value of students retrying an answer (one of four choices, sigh) and the amazing feature of flipping a lever to get immediately scored testing. I roll in with a credit screen for Audrey’s post…. and fade to black.

“an ability to actually teach”.

Let’s hear it for actual teaching by a machine.

This may be my finest remix hour… until the next one.

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Verizon’s Modern Telephone Network… if this was 1895

CogDogBlog - Wed, 2015-02-04 19:07

I’m willing to even give them some slack, like maybe 1945.

It’s not just Verizon, but that is who I pay every month for operating a network that allows computers to generate phone calls to me from numbers that do not exist.

I plan to write Verizon often in this post, just in case they are monitoring.

These have been coming to my Verizon phone number well before 2012 when I started tracking them- at the time it was a recorded message from “Rachel with Cardholder Services”, later it was Tiffany, Anne, Kelly, Heather, even Scott. More recent iterations are from outfits trying to represent Medical Insurance and Life Alert.

Verizon transmits me information from numbers that are out of service, across a network they manage. And I pay them for it.

All of my efforts to deal with this have failed:

  • Pressing the phone option to talk me off their list. Yeah, PT Barnum rules.
  • Pressing the phone option to speak to an operator and asking them to not call me back. They hung up. At least 5 times.
  • Pressing the phone option to speak to an operator, and screaming obscenities or playing loud sounds or just leaving the phone off the hook. No results.
  • Pressing the phone option to speak to an operator, keeping them on the line, pretending I really wanted to give them a credit card number. This ended with the person on the other end cussing me out and hanging up on me.
  • Reporting to Do Not Call (reported at least 40 numbers)
  • Keeping a log in Google docs. Not worth the time
  • Filed complaints to FTV and FCC (zero)
  • Letter to my congressional representative Paul Gosar. The person who did followup suggested DoNotCall (see step 1), and later said there was nothing they could do.

Verizon transmits me information from numbers that are out of service, across a network they manage. And I pay them for it.

In November 2012 The Christian Science Monitor reported that the FTC “took down” five of the companies behind the Rachel calls.

Apparently there were more, because it continued.

Who is Rachel?

The frequency of these has increased in the last few months, I get sometimes two or three a day, and average maybe 8 a week. Since I have been in Canada since October, and just answering the phone to hang up would cost me $0.89 (paid to Verizon), I just ignore them.

Verizon transmits me information from numbers that are out of service, across a network they manage. And I pay them for it.

Instead, when I get a call from an unidentified number, and from a town where I know nobody, I do not answer. It’s pretty easy to google the numbers, and you find there are consumer complaint web sites several pages deep full of complaints. I’ve take lately to tweeting these to Verizon, just today

More #robospam calls from out of service numbers @verizon transmits on their "modern" network

— Alan Levine (@cogdog) February 4, 2015

Early on their support twitter account asked me what they could do. I told them to make it stop. Their offered solutions were:

  1. They told me I could for free block up to 5 numbers (and pay to block more). This is closing the barn door… they numbers are rarely repeated, and blocking thus does nothing.
  2. They told me I could change my phone number. Oh F**** Yes, this is a reasonable thing I want to do.

Verizon transmits me information from numbers that are out of service, across a network they manage. And I pay them for it.

Each one of these numbers I just logged in the last three days produce results with a very easily identifiable pattern.

To repeat, Verizon transmits me information from numbers that are out of service, across a network they manage. And I pay them for it.

I do not know how phone networks work. Yes on the internet, people can spoof their IPS to obscure their origin (the business backbone of email and comment span) but users and providers and network managers have tools to block known malicious addresses. They create honeypots and build up organized collections of abusers.

You would think a megalopolis company like Verizon, and their other Brothers in Profit could easily harvest this trove of information on the phone report sites. A pool of bad phone numbers. If I can google it, they can do something more automated.

But they do not. I won’t even go into the fairly land of conspiracy theories and suggest that Verizon makes some buck on this. Maybe Rachel runs Verizon, or the other way around.

Actually the FTC did something that approaches a 21st century networked approach- they offered a $50,000 prize to combat robocalls. And apparently action is being taken (?).

The followup now identifies Rachel as the target! Zapping Rachel:

On August 7-10, 2014, the FTC challenged the tech-savvy public to help us zap Rachel and her robocall buddies by creating the next-generation robocall honeypot at DEF CON 22. A robocall honeypot is an information system designed to attract robocallers and help investigators and academics understand and combat illegal calls. This was the FTC’s second robocall challenge, and our first DEF CON competition.

The contest consisted of three separate phases. Phase 1 (Creator) challenged participants to build a robocall honeypot. Phase 2 (Attacker) challenged participants to find honeypot vulnerabilities. Phase 3 (Detective) challenged participants to analyze honeypot data.

There are even t-shirts. How hip is our government.

Still, almost every day, on my Verizon network phone, I get calls from numbers that do not exist.

And Verizon shrugs, collecting my monthly fees, and says, “huh? what problem?”

Verizon transmits me information from numbers that are out of service, across a network they manage. And I pay them for it.

Top / featured photo credit: “Telephone exchange Montreal QE3 33” by Various photographers for Cassell & Co. – The Queen’s Empire. Volume 3. Cassell & Co. London. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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