Sunday, April 27, 2008

OMG I Am Gonna Get Smarter!!!

Since having recently acquired two appurtenances disseminated by Apple, a MacBook Pro and an iPhone, I have noticed an upward trend in my intellect! Now I perceive a scholarly endeavor supports the veracity of this phenomenon!

Texas translation: Hey ya'll, I am fixin' t'git smarter with m' new stuff.Publish Post

Saturday, April 26, 2008

I Am So Lucky!

I just came back to my porch after turning off the sprinkler. I looked down at my surroundings and saw the following:
  • Two comfy lounge chairs
  • My dog Ringo who goes where I go
  • Kindle
  • Zippy the Flip Cam
  • Idella the iPhone
  • Maxine the MacBookPro
  • My bike
I am a very lucky person. But I am thinking...which of these do I treasure the most? Ringo, of course! But after that...what I am getting at is which gadgets do I/you value the most? Can I put them in some kind of hierarchy? Can you? Which can you least imagine getting along without?

Vote in my Poll!

For fun I am asking people what they think I should name my Kindle. I am wavering between Grendal and Gwin as explained in my earlier post about my new gizmo. I am stepping out a bit here also, and allowing people to tell me that I am silly to name my gadgets.

Getting to know Zippy the Flip Cam

Wow! This is one cool tool! My Flip Cam seemed to practically jump out of its no nonsense box. It came with a cute little pouch and two cords. Documentation was negligible but who needs to read up on this thing? It is ready to go, intuitive, and everything about it says HURRY UP! HOOK ME UP! USE ME! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR??? All I had to do was slip in a couple of AA batteries and turn it over in my hands a couple of times to look at the obvious and intuitive controls. When you slide the lever down, the USB connector hops right out and seems eager to connect with the nearest computer. What am I going to do, alone in the house on a Friday evening, to satisfy my little friend's hunger for action? What else? I film my very best friend, Ringo Bell, my trusty canine companion. I daresay every time I have gotten a new camera in recent years, the first thing I have done is to turn it on one pet or another. Sorry Nancy Pearl.

All that happened last night. Now I am sitting on my back porch, soaking up the springtime green sights and smells, and playing again with Zippy. The name came to me a few minutes ago. It seems to epitomize my camera's eager and peppy demeanor. Did I mention Zippy is orange and white? Yep, since orange and blue are SHSU colors, we all got orange cams. Or at least I did...don't know if other people asked for other colors or not. I just satisfied Zippy's urge to sync with Maxine, my MacBookPro. Ok I know this sounds suggestive but I cannot help it. Installing the software and viewing my first effort was done in minutes. In fact here I am blogging about it just 20 minutes after I first sat down out here. I am attaching the video, an obvious first effort, but enough to prove it works, and easily at that.

NOTE: I just got an email about the sound on this being really loud. This was not evident on my Mac but very much on my PC. I will study up myself, but does anyone know if you can adjust the sound before you record? Sorry about the loudness...if you want to see, you may want to turn down your sound first.

Getting to know my Kindle

I think I will name her Grendel. I always rooted for Grendel in the Beowulf stories, and for some reason thought the monster should be a she. I also thought of Gwin, the ferret in the Ink series, but like the complete rhyming quality of Grendel. Anyway, I just got my hands on a long-awaited Kindle yesterday. Our department ordered several back in November, and we have waited all this time for their arrival. As I have done with other new acquisitions, I want to chronicle my first impressions of my new friend.

First off, when opening her, I had an almost MAC feeling. The packaging reminded me a little of the unpacking of my iPhone. There was the heavy duty box with the cute little clasp, and the packaging inside of the unit, cords, and brief documentation booklet. Oh and the cover! It was lovingly covered in a sexy little translucent sleeve. The only difference was that the Kindle was nestled in rather ugly gray egg-cartonish cardboard rather than soft, cushy Styrofoam. I wonder about the comparative biodegradability (is that a word?) of the two presentations. Anyway, I lifted it out gently and felt a little thrill as I carefully peeled off the plastic coverings. Lots of people say Kindles are ugly and complain about the color. I was not put off by Grendel's pure whiteness, personally. I liked the weight and the feel of the back cover which is non-skid material and a bit friendly to the touch. So far so good!

I determined to be a good girl and read the instruction book. No problem--there is not much there to read. The real user guide is appropriately housed in the unit, ready to be your first reading experience. I spent some time going through the guide and getting a feel for handling the gizmo.

Here are some early impressions
  • The appearance of the displays is very appealing. It does look more like book pages than any other portable reader I have seen, because of the ink-like print and the matte finish screen.
  • Adjusting text size is nice so I don't have to wear my cheater glasses to see small print.
  • One early problem I have noted that is still persisting is that it is awfully easy to hit a page forward button by mistake. One review I read last night points out that there is no really obvious way to hold the Kindle and let your hands rest. I tried using the unit with and without the cover and found that the problem exists either way.
  • Another issue with handling was that I tended to hold it in such a way that left bottom corner was digging into my left hand. It made me wish all corners were more rounded. As with the button problem, this may be something that goes away as I get more used to holding it.
  • The keyboard has very small symbols. It took me a while to figure out which one stood for home page, something that I wanted to know very early on.
  • Actual reading from the device is fun and comfortable. I am pleased with this, which of course is the raison d'etre for the device in the first place.
After early exploring I do have questions. My goal for the next day or so is to find answers for them:
  • First off I wanted to download blogs. In my mind I can download someone's entire blog history and then subscribe for future updates. I can find how to go to Amazon and subscribe there, but it seems to be fee based, with a small fee attached to using them for RSS. I don't want to have to pay for reading blogs that are free in other formats. This is top of my question list.
  • A colleague, Dr. Frank Hoffmann, wants to know about archiving. His question is, once you download a book from Amazon, can you then save it as well to a computer and then to a CD? From what I read, the answer is not clear. I do know that Amazon helpfully offers to keep all your files for you at your profile site. I am thinking that is their remedy for this question.
  • Somewhat related to my blog question, I want to know what can I download from where, and get for free? I am stingy! Hoping to figure out more about that today.
As I said, this entry is just to record first impressions. This evening or tomorrow I want to post an update describing how I am getting along with my new friend after spending more time with her, and what answers I have found to my questions. Overall, my first speed date with Grendel was enchanting. I am looking forward to getting to know her (OK now I am thinking maybe Grendel is a HE) better!

PS OK Grendel IS a guy...I just reviewed and remembered this in (where else?) Wikipedia. I also looked up Gwin, and reminded myself that he was a martin, not a ferret. So my memory is hazy. Big deal. Anybody that knows me is aware of that! And as a TOTAL ASIDE I read again about the plans for an Inkheart movie. It is supposed to come out in October of this year. Cannot wait! In my opinion, the Inkheart series beats the heck out of HP for fantasy reading. There is still a chance I may change the name of my buddy from Grendel to Gwin...

Here are some questions:
  1. About blogs...does a blog have to be listed with Amazon for you to subscribe? I know you can also browse to blogs which is likely what I will do, but wondering.
  2. Is there a way to move stuff from your Kindle to a computer, as in backing up a book? I know Amazon helpfully saves for you, but wondering about alternative.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Grading and bragging

One of my favorite things to do is spend a day grading papers. Call me strange, but to me there are many rewards:
  • I get to know my students better.
  • I know they will be pleased to see feedback on their work
  • I get a feeling of accomplishment.
  • I learn from them.
  • I get to see how they approach assignments creatively.
One thing I do NOT do is assign work that is comprised of reading summaries or bulleted lists. I know all too well that such tasks cry out for plagiarism and call upon just rudimentary thinking processes. I like to make assignments as open-ended as possible so as to allow my grad students to explore areas where they know they are weak or where they have particular interest. In one class I ask students to document completion of Internet tutorials for traditional searching and also for Web 2.0. But students may not just turn in notes or lists of "things I learned." Instead they must present information in a creative manner. One thing a number of people did this term was to write radio scripts or imaginary conversations. We had conversations between a librarian and Ben Franklin, between a librarian and a patron who wondered if librarians are becoming obsolete, and between a librarian campaigning for access to Web 2.0 resources and an administrator. There were also an informercial for Web 2.0 resources and several radio shows scripts, a couple being call-in programs. Now for the bragging. I am proud to say that my assignments brought out these interesting, informative responses instead of deadly chapter summaries. And even more, I am proud of my students for coming up with such clever and well presented products for their assignments.

To top it off, I stayed home today and worked on my back porch. My fountain is gurgling, I can hear faint piano notes from the music school next door, Ringo is napping at my feet, and the yard is a riot of green. Life is good!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Coming soon to wall near you!

Wow! Take a look at these mini projectors! How cool is that? And thanks to my student, Sarah Moore, of Tuloso-Midway High for pointing them out!