Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Behold! We give you King Lear in all it's Peepy goodness

My school is running a Peep Contest. Pick a story or a novel and create a diorama using marshmallow peeps. Teachers are allowed to play too....so my wife and I decided to honor the Bard with our interpretation of King Lear.

Lear's youngest and most beloved daughter, Cordelia, refuses to flatter her father, going only so far as to say that she loves him as much as a daughter should. Lear, unjustly enraged, gives her no land.

Mend your speech a little,
Lest it may mar your fortunes. (1.1.97) (Lear)
Lear is soon to find out how much love Goneril and Regan (his other daughters) actually have for him. Both treat him miserably when he stays with them, and Lear is transformed from a powerful king to an impotent old man

How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child! (1.4.312)
The Fool is Lear’s own stand-up comedian, sure, but more interestingly, he’s the only guy that Lear allows to criticize him. Maybe it’s because the Fool is, well, a fool, but Lear doesn’t seem to care that he’s really hitting him where it hurts (i.e., Cordelia).
Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!
You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,
Strike flat the thick rotundity o' the world!
Crack nature's moulds, all germens spill at once
That make ingrateful man! (3.2.1)
I am a very foolish fond old man,
Fourscore and upward, not an hour more or less;
And, to deal plainly,
I fear I am not in my perfect mind.

My wife was the designer behind most of this. I was just the stage hand who ate the occasional peepy mistakes.

[Images all taken by Al Gunn:Creative Commons_Attribution]

TED: How my legs give me superpowers

"So people that society once considered to be disabled can now become the architects of their own identities and indeed continue to change those identities by designing their bodies from a place of empowerment."
----Aimee Mullins from her TED talk

[Image captured from http://www.myhero.com/myhero/hero.asp?hero=Aimee_Mullins]

Monday, March 30, 2009

Playing for Change

YouTube VideoJust had to share this.

Playing for Change is a group "dedicated to connecting the world through music by providing resources to musicians and their communities around the world." There was a recent documentary about the organization done and some of the video from that film is available on YouTube. Essentially, the group had artists work on songs from their specific locations and through the magic of multi-track recording were able to mix together these fabulous renditions. Take a look at this example of "Stand by Me".

In case you missed all the musicians who participated in this one song. I wrote them out for you. (A lot of these folks are street performers and don't have much of a web presence although, if you hunt you can find references to most of them. I linked to the ones who had web sites).
  • Roger Ridley (Santa Monica, CA)
  • Grandpa Elliott (New Orleans, LA)
  • Washboard Chaz (New Orleans, LA)
  • Clarence Bekker (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
  • Twin Eagle Drum Group (Zuni, New Mexico)
  • Francois Viguie (Toulouse, France)
  • Cesar Pope (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
  • Dimitri Dolganov (Moscow, Russia)
  • Roberto Luti (New Orleans, LA)
  • Geraldo & Dionisio (Caracas, Venezuela)
  • Junior Kissangwa Mbouta (The Congo)
  • Pokie Klass (Guguletu, South Africa)
  • Django Degen (Barcelona, Spain)
  • Sinamuva (Umiazi, South Africa)
  • Stefano Tomaselli (Pisa, Italy)
  • Vusi Mahlasela (Mamelodi, South Africa)
The film isn't yet available from Netflix but they have it listed with this description:
Filmed live on the streets and in the subways of Los Angeles, New Orleans and New York, this earnest documentary celebrates the often-ignored talent of American street musicians and captures the uniquely passionate nature of their performances. Bonus features include a tribute film to New Orleans street musicians and exclusive interviews with Robert M. Young and Grammy Award-winning blues artist Keb' Mo'.
An interview with Mark Johnson the co-director of the documentary is available through Bill Moyer. One interesting tid-bit, it took ten years to put together.

I was so moved by these songs I went ahead and pre-ordered the upcoming CD through Amazon. I can hardly wait to have it on my iPod.

[via Tangier Sound]

[Image: "Playing for Change logo": Captured from website: http://playingforchange.com/]

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Learning by doing

Interesting post on the Adobe Education Leaders blog by Peter French. Here is a snippet.

As I pondered this situation I realized a few things. First –I have years of experience doing this type of work. The students have very little experience. I not only know the software I also know the role and importance of the planning process, the problems these projects will likely encounter and how to solve most of those problems. In other words, I have learned on many, many levels, all about these projects. And – I did a lot of that learning by doing projects. I did not learn by reading books, watching tutorials, or listening to podcasts, I learned by doing. I freely admit that these supports were used occasionally but for the most part, I learned the most by doing, by falling flat on my face and by starting over – a little bruised but also a little smarter. It took years to learn the required lessons. If this was my process, then why should it be all that different for our students? Add to that the element of the creative process by which we come to our initial ideas and this situation becomes even more complicated.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Future of Newspapers?

Thought this article, Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable, tied in with my previous one about textbooks. A good read. Great discussion starter.

Here are a few snippets to get you interested:

One of the people I was hanging around with online back then was Gordy Thompson, who managed internet services at the New York Times. I remember Thompson saying something to the effect of “When a 14 year old kid can blow up your business in his spare time, not because he hates you but because he loves you, then you got a problem.”

Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism. For a century, the imperatives to strengthen journalism and to strengthen newspapers have been so tightly wound as to be indistinguishable. That’s been a fine accident to have, but when that accident stops, as it is stopping before our eyes, we’re going to need lots of other ways to strengthen journalism instead.
Clay Shirky, the author of the article, wrote the book, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations.

[via Everything is Miscellaneous]
[Image:"Newspapers": Flickr: Uploaded on October 25, 2006 by laffy4k: http://www.flickr.com/photos/laffy4k/279511068/ [] Creative Commons]

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Open Source Textbook

Any of you who have ever served on the book committees of your k-12 schools know what a huge item this can be on your budget. Pick the wrong book and you are stuck with it for a long time before monies come available for your department again.

Any of us who ever attended college have experienced the sticker shock of buying our first set of textbooks. The cost of my books approached the cost of my tuition as an undergraduate.

As a student back in the 70s, a used bookstore opened in our college town, we flocked to it's cheaper prices. That bookstore mysteriously closed down after a year of brisk business. I was forced back to the higher priced college bookstore and was always suspicious of why that store closed. Sometimes I did without and tried to make do with the library copies. Understanding instructors tried to help out by picking cheaper books or putting a bunch of copies on reserve in the library.

The last few college courses I've taken have occured during the era of the internet and I've been able to get any books much cheaper. I heard of students going over the Mexican border and copying entire textbooks for themselves and their classmates. I also seem to remember some kids getting busted for scanning in their books and turning them into pdfs that could be shared with their peers. Advances in technology are coming. Access to the tools to easily copy or reproduce books are already here.

The way textbooks are distributed will change. The idea of textbooks online that you subscribe too instead of buy. Digital books that can be read by a device like Amazon's Kindle. Public domain books online. The change is happening right now. So, I found this article about an Open Source textbook fascinating. Virginia has released a physics textbook under a Creative Commons license. It was peer reviewed and put together in less than 6 months. It can be updated on a yearly basis and viewed online. And...the cost is much less than a traditional textbook.

I think radical change is going to come soon. The same kind of sudden change that came with digital music. I wonder if the textbook companies will be surfing that wave or be left sitting on the beach wet and obsolete?

[Image: Flickr: "revision/procrastination": Uploaded on March 26, 2008 by wenday :D: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wenday/2364373936/: Creative Commons]

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lego SpeedPod

Cool Lego vehicle.

No directions on how to build it, but show your kids this video, hand them some Lego and see what they can come up with.

At the builder, Bazmarc's, YouTube site he has this to say about himself:
Playing LEGO has always been a part of my life. Today as an adult i enjoy Lego Robotics building and programming. I studied in Industrial Engineering and have made a career in the Remote Technical Support Specialist field. I am an active member of QueLug - the Qu├ębec LEGO User Group - www.quelug.org

Other interest is the use of Technology and LEGO robotics in the classroom. Teachers feel free to contact me to get or share ideas. Parent or kids don't hesitate to ask me any Lego related questions or advice I'd be happy to share my knowledge.
Here's the video:

[via Brick Labs]
[Image captured from the YouTubeVideo:SpeedPod EXOFORCE LEGO PF; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jh30Kb0okbY]

Monday, March 23, 2009

Veni Vidi Vici

Always looking for short films to show my students. Here is an animated short, Veni Vidi Vici that was put together as a final project by Will Burdett and David Bryan at the University of Hertfordshire.

Veni Vidi Vici - 3D Animation @ University Of Hertfordshire 2008 from Digital Animation Herts Uni UK on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Learning After Effects

As a guy who is going to soon tackle Adobe's After Effects, I found this article encouraging. Kevin McMahon did the same thing recently and came up with these "5 tips for learning After Effects".

  1. Know your DV basics first.
  2. Know what After Effects is (and is not) for
  3. Know just enough of theAE keyboard shortcuts to be dangerous - and realize that this does not mean that many.
  4. Start simple, and I mean super simple.
  5. Use the wealth of AE resources - and take a class.
This is my summer learning project. Thanks for the plan of attack.

[Image: "Al Gunn pondering the computer"; Modified in Comic Life: No rights reserved]

Ten minute Attention Span

Quote from John Medina's Blog, Brain Rules:

Peer-reviewed studies confirm my informal inquiry: Before the first quarter-hour is over in a typical presentation, people usually have checked out. If keeping someone’s interest in a lecture were a business, it would have an 80 percent failure rate. What happens at the 10-minute mark to cause such trouble? Nobody knows. The brain seems to be making choices according to some stubborn timing pattern, undoubtedly influenced by both culture and gene. This fact suggests a teaching and business imperative: Find a way to arouse and then hold somebody’s attention for a specific period of time.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Funny: Alien Abduction Lamp

My wife says this lamp does not fit our decor. Too bad!

Not available yet for purchase, but soon.

[via craziestgadgets.com]

[Image captured http://abductionlamp.com/]

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sharing your PDF files

Found Yudu mentioned on a blog while I was searching for something else.....one of my favorite occurrences. Kinda like finding spare change in the couch when you are looking for the missing phone. It just so happened I had given a workshop to teachers recently about running a Paperless classroom and one of the suggestions I made was to make all their worksheets/assignments available online as PDFs. The students could download them or read them from their browsers. We have the capability to do this in two ways in our building. One, is to place the files on our server. Two, is to place files in a Google Site page they create specifically for this purpose.

I now have a third option. Yudu is a way to put your PDF files online and make them available to your students for free. Some restrictions apply but they are the same ones that apply in my building so I don't see a problem.
  • No adult content
  • No offensive material
  • No copyright abuse

You have the following options regarding your PDFs. You can make your material:
  • Public Everyone can see and browse this content
  • Private Only You can see this content
  • Protected Password protect your content to limit who can view it.
Anybody else tried this site yet? Any opinions?

[via Free Technology for Teachers]

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Embedding Spreadsheets in your website

The Google Docs Blog recently had a post about embedding spreadsheets in your website and include instructions on how to do the following:
  • Schedule
  • Calendar
  • Reading List
  • Countdown Timer
  • Quote of the Day

There is also a link to instructions on ideas for twenty more embeddable spreadsheets.

[Image captured from http://www.vertex42.com/News/embedding-google-spreadsheets.html#ideas]

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Devolve Me

Who wouldn't want to see what they would have looked like if they'd been born 500,000 years ago. Load your picture up into Devolve Me and get a peek at your distant ancestors. You can see the movie of the de-evoloution of myself shown in stills above or go to the main site, upload your picture and get a glimpse of your own family tree.

The rest of the site has some information about Darwin and promo for a course offered through the Open University. This summer they will have some video of a lecture given by Richard Dawkins. Interesting but the main draw here for me is the morphing program.

[via GeekDad]
[Image: Captured from Devolve movie made at http://www.open.ac.uk/darwin/devolve-me.php]

Monday, March 16, 2009

Camera Extender

Over a year ago, I wrote about Andy Ihnatko filming himself as he walked. It didn't look like he was holding the camera at arms length, yet he was able to keep his face in frame. It was a neat effect. He described how he was using a modified tripod. I was reminded of his device when I saw this tripod on the web today. The QuikPod Handheld Convertible Tripod is built to do the same thing that Andy did for $17 (Amazon price). Ihnatko says he built his from parts of other tripods for about $5.

While surfing Amazon I saw another similar product called the QuickPod DSLR Handheld Convertible Tripod. It also works as a monopod and includes an angle mirror to help you see what you are shooting. This one will set you back $49.95 (Amazon price). Both are made by the same company, QuickPod. Do a search on Amazon for tripods, monopods and/or camera extenders and you will see a few more of these setups.

I had the idea that you could use the garage built camera mount that I linked to in a previous post, and hook it to a painters pole. As I also suspected, my idea was not original and after a little searching found several web posts about doing this very thing. Here is a shot of a rig shown at Photography for Real Estate. The author uses a bracket to mount his camera to a pole which lets him take some shots of his houses with a different perspective.

Lots of plans out there for some cool do-it-yourself projects. Don't think I will be buying the Quickpod model just yet. At least not until I bloody my thumb on a few home made attempts first.

[Image: QuikPod Handheld Convertible Tripod: Image captured from Amazon.com]
[Image: Pole Camera Bracket: Captured from http://photographyforrealestate.net/2008/03/12/shooting-pap-with-minimum-equipment-and-effort/]

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Always productive....but if I weren't

I am always productive at work.

Work. Work. Work.

That's me. Always on task. Never doing anything that isn't work related.

But if I did decide to goof off, I have a whole desk full of company bought office supplies, calling out for me to be creative. To let loose.

Just like these pictures demonstrate.

[via Make]

[Image captured from Make: Office supply model making: http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2009/03/office_supply_modelmaking.html?CMP=OTC-0D6B48984890]

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

5-Minute Foam Factory

Here is a great video tutorial on building a hot-wire foam cutter from Make.

I remember using my train transformer as a kid to heat up wires to make them glow. This works on the same concept....except your mom won't be yelling at you to quit trying to burn down the house.

[Image: Captured from Make: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiitiKyu_Iw&eurl=http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2009/03/weekend_project_5minute_foam_factor.html?CMP=OTC-0D6B48984890]

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Aptera Update

Read my most recent Aptera Newsletter today and there is some good video and article links. Company is still saying they will be selling to the public by October of this year. Bad news for us Colorado boys is that it will only be sold in California. They still want to build their customer support infrastructure as they go into production.

Edmunds did an article on the car along with an embedded video. Here's a small taste of what they said:
"With a curb weight of just 1,760 pounds - slated to drop to 1,500 pound in the final production version - and a drag coefficient that's about half that of the most aerodynamic production cars on the market today, the battery-electric Aptera 2e can go at least 100 miles on a full charge with two 180-pound adults and 250 pounds of cargo on board, Wilbur said, That's a fuel-efficiency equivalent of getting 200 miles per gallon.Configure the vehicle as a range-extended plug-in hybrid with an internal combustion engine generating juice for the electric motor once the initial grid charge is depleted and fuel efficiency jumps to more than 300 miles per gallon-equivalent"

The price tag of 25-45 thousand is still a little steep for me and I'd like to read something about how it does on ice an snow. Still, this little vehicle appeals to my inner geek.

[Image captured from http://blogs.edmunds.com/greencaradvisor/2009/02/2010-aptera-2e-a-first-look-at-california-companys-three-wheeled-ev.html]

Monday, March 9, 2009

Watchmen Discussion Possiblities

Got to thinking about what I wrote in the last post about the Watchmen being a good choice for a book club. Why not a group of students. Might be a good way to get a book club started in your school, or mine. Went online to find any resources that might be useful and came up with these links:

Who Discusses the Watchmen? (TheBooklist.com): Short, general article on topics you might use to get the discussion rolling.

The Annotated Watchmen: Your complete guide to the series. (www.capnwacky.com): Not so much a guide for discussion as an explanation of the many references within the book. For example:
"In our world, Ford was vice-president from 1973 (when Spiro Agnew resigned) to 1974, when Nixon resigned and he became president. In their world, somebody, maybe the Comedian, snuffed Woodward and Bernstein before they could report Watergate, and this, combined with Nixon's popularity following the victory in Vietnam, led to his serving at least five terms."
Might prove helpful for younger readers as they tackle some of the cultural and historical references in the book.

Watchmen Questions (petermerel.newsvine.com): Seems to be based more on the movie than the book, but still some interesting questions that could be thrown in during a discussion of the book.

Watchmen Discussion Points (Jack Mangan's Deadpan): Online discussion of the book. Read through all the posts to get ideas for discussion topics. For example
  • Question for the panel - who was really the most disconnected from humanity, Manhattan or Ozymandias? [Ed from Texas ]
  • The title of “Watchmen” comes from a story written by Juvenal about guardsmen hired to watch the wife of a jealous husband. Juvenal posed the question “quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” or “who watches the watchmen?” Why is this an important question when reading “Watchmen”? [ditto]
Wikipedia entry: Lots of information here including some discussion of the themes. For example:
"Putting the story in a contemporary sociological context, Wright wrote that the characters of Watchmen were Moore's "admonition to those who trusted in 'heroes' and leaders to guard the world's fate." He added that to place faith in such icons was to give up personal responsibility to "the Reagans, Thatchers, and other 'Watchmen' of the world who supposed to 'rescue' us and perhaps lay waste to the planet in the process"
If any other teachers or book club members have some resources that might be helpful, leave a comment.

Science of Watchmen

OK...I admit it. I've been counting the days for the release of Watchmen. I have a couple of students who are Watchman fans and we share stories and hopes about the movie. I won't be at the opening night but will make it to an evening performance sometime this week. Jim Kakalios, the author of The Physics of Superheros was a consultant for the film and this interview about the Science of Watchmen is on YouTube. (Embedded below)

Clever way to move a discussion of the movie into a discussion of science with your students.

If you haven't read the graphic novel, give it a shot. Comic books were my gateway drug into short stories and then to novels. As an adult, I moved away from comics and never got caught up in the graphic novels that started coming out while I was a young man. I resisted the Watchmen for years. Finally, after reading that TIME magazine listed it as one of the best 100 English language novels from 1923 to the present, I gave in and read it last year. I loved it. It's complex and multi-layered. It's the kind of thing you can read over and over. I convinced my wife who never read comics to read it. She was skeptical. She likes science fiction though, so out of love for me and the genre gave it a try. She loved it, too. If I was still in a reading group, I'd recommend it as a novel for discussion. Give it a try and then casually mention to your students that you read it. At least one little Watchman groupie will come up to talk to you about the book afterwards.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Don't remember where I saw Afrogadet mentioned but I've been following it for a while now and thoroughly enjoy the articles. It is a "website dedicated to showcasing African ingenuity" and boy have I been impressed by some of the things they've shown.

My uncle is a beekeeper, so I was particularly interested in this post on the blending of a modern beehive with a traditional one made from a hollow log. I'd love to know what my Uncle Ray would think of this?

If you teach Geography, I think you'd find a variety of posts here demonstrating various aspects of African culture. Not to mention some interesting design and technology concepts. Add this one to your RSS reader. I think you will enjoy it.

Let me close with this quote about the gathering of honey from the hives naked:
"The honey is collected at night by naked men (yes totally naked …) they say that this prevents one from getting bees stuck in your clothing… I asked about the possibility of getting stung in sensitive places, they said the bees were far too civilized for that…but yes, people had fallen from the trees and been found comatose and butt naked at the tree base…"

[Image: Captured from http://www.afrigadget.com/2009/03/03/the-beesness-of-honey/]

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Werewolf Cupcakes

I love to cook. I love werewolves. I am so saving this site for my next foray into scary entertaining.

Of course, all entertaining is scary for me.....so maybe I'll just make them for myself and gorge while I watch Fringe on TV.

[Surprised this didn't come first from my werewolf building friends in Washington.]

[Image: Captured from http://annieseats.wordpress.com/2009/03/03/werewolf-cupcakes/]

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Best Buy Teach Award

I've been dreaming about a classroom set of inexpensive digital cameras for a couple of years now. A set I could bring into a class, check out to every student and not be too worried about damage or loss. I've had several projects in mind for my multimedia and my web students that would require lots of pictures generated by the kids. So, when my principal asked me to consider applying for a technology grant from Best Buy, I figured this might be the time to ask for the cameras.

I wrote the grant back in the early fall and just last week took the paperwork off my wall where it was hanging and said, "Guess I'm not going to get this one." In a grumbling, crotchety old-man voice. "I never get these dag-nabbed things. Mumble. Grumble......"

Today I got an email announcing that I was one of the winners. I could only say, "Yippee." Still in a grumbling, crotchety old man voice. Cause that's pretty much the only voice I got. Although today maybe with a clear overtone of humble appreciation.

Thank you Best Buy.

Rest of you teachers, if an old dog like me can get a grant, what's stopping you? The application process opens up in July. Be sure to check it out.

[Image: Captured from http://www.bbycommunications.com/crnew/our_programs.asp]

Monday, March 2, 2009

Sound Effects

I often tell my video production students about a documentary I saw that had a short segment describing how they got the sound effects for Star Wars. Essentially some guys went out and recorded various sounds in the world and then used them as the basis for the effects in the film. The one I always remember is a man with headphones and a recorder hitting the guy wire for a structure. That sound eventually became the laser blast sound you hear in the movie. I encourage them to be creative in their projects and not just use the same canned sounds that everyone else uses.

My enthusiasm falls on deaf ears. If I'm not going to grade them on it, assign it or twist their little adolescent arms and walk them on their tiptoes over to the sound equipment, it's not going to happen. The other video teacher and I have been talking a lot lately about how our students are doing great with the visual aspect of their projects but tend to ignore the sound. So, I've been thinking about ways I can get them to start listening. Paying attention to the sound levels. Maybe build an assignment around creating sound effects as the first step towards building an audio awareness of their work.

So, I was pleased to see this Guide to Sound Effects. It will be a part of my new improved lessons on sound next year.

[Update: Found this site about the man who did those star wars effects, Ben Burtt]

[via Make]

[Image: "Headphones, glasses, smile": Flickr: Uploaded on June 10, 2007 by allaboutgeorge: http://www.flickr.com/photos/allaboutgeorge/540043362/: Creative Commons]