Monday, October 30, 2006

The Eve of The Eve

All Hallows Eve, Halloween, Samhain. Pumpkins, candy corn, ghosties, ghoulies, goblins, Tarot cards, spirits and trick or treating. Tomorrow is certainly a fun holiday with a lot of variety in how celebrants from around the world observe the day.

The cold, lean months are coming. We gather around home and hearth as the colder weather encourages us to spend more time indoors. Crops have been gathered and fields stand empty until the spring.

And for those of us who celebrate Samhain, it is a spiritual time of the year. This is the time when it is believed the veils between the worlds is at its thinnest. At this time, we honor our ancestors. Ancient customs included setting food out for dead relatives, communication with the dead was thought to be easy, and divination was a particularly potent ritual. Even today, many pagans find ways to honor the dead and to celebrate what they left to us.

The kids will be out trick or treating. We'll pass out the Snickers Fun Size bars and Skittles. Our jack-o-lantern will take a prominent seat on the porch. And a good time will be had by all.

But we'll also pause for a few moments, light a solitary candle on the altar, and give thanks to those who've gone before.

I hope they hear us.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Public Privacy

This little blogging adventure has created an odd paradox. Each entry is public and available to anyone who might find it. Anyone. In the entire world. And yet, in my head, there is the perception of privacy. I suppose that comes from the fact that it is somewhat anonymous. In so many ways, the internet creates this illusion of anonymity and privacy even as we reveal things to strangers. Since my first and last names aren't stuck on each entry, I make the assumption that no one really knows who am I.

But what happens when they do?

I've been totally comfortable knowing that one or two folks have found my blog and read it. I appreciate the comments. I like sharing my thoughts. But it occurs to me that I've not given the URL to a single person I know. Why?

I guess it seems more vulnerable to have someone I know read my thoughts. It feels more intimate. It feels more exposed. And I'm not sure I understand that phenomenon. I'm not writing anything that reveals my deep, dark fantasies. I'm not admitting to heinous crimes. So what makes it feel this way?

Perhaps it isn't what I write, but simply the fact that I'm writing? I've never thought of myself as a writer. I'm not a terribly creative or insightful person. I'm just writing stuff down. And maybe that, in itself, is a little embarrassing.

And maybe out of millions of bloggers, I'm the only one who feels this way. Maybe not.

Maybe it is time to invite a friend to read.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Big Day

Yes, the day has arrived. Fifty years old. Half a century. Daughter13 sweetly asks, "So Dad, does this make you a senior citizen?" Ouch!

Work was fun. My office was draped, filled, covered in black crepe paper streamers. Fans were provided for 'hot flashes'. Photos and other desk items were 'artfully' rearranged or hidden away entirely. Login passwords were changed on my computer (to simulate a loss of memory as I typed in over and over what I thought was my password). Electronic greeting cards filled my Inbox while my desk was piled high with various cards featuring pictures of old men. I got little gifts here and there. One classroom really surprised me with a little party where each student made a small presentation of a card, gift, balloon, or treat. And the staff had a birthday cake at the end of the day.

At home there have been cards, gifts, various phone calls from friends and family, and a trip out to dinner with my wife and the kids. Now all that is left is blowing out the candles (hopefully NOT fifty of the suckers!) and having some coffee and cake before calling it a day and settling down to relax.

Being fifty really doesn't seem so bad. But then, it is only Day One.

(Hmmm...I've never hurt there before)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Spit or Sex?

I was reading the new issue of Mother Jones which arrived today...and I just had to comment on this!

Free Teens USA is an organization that calls itself a 'reality-based, abstinence-centered' program for teaching teens about sex. And one of their recommended activities when working with students is to have them spit into a cup, trade cups with another student, and then drink. Students are then told that sex is more intimate than drinking someone else's spit.

Okay. Maybe. Maybe it is more intimate. But if you're doing it right, it is also quite a bit better!

The Random Shoe Phenomenon

I'm sure I'm not the first person to ever make this observation. But the higher than average number of sightings lately makes the question unavoidable.

What is the deal with solitary shoes lying on the road???

I've spotted at least a dozen shoes just lying on the road over the last couple of weeks. A black wing tip. A brown clog. A white sneaker. Always on the edge of the road. And always alone.

How does that happen? An angry couple embroiled in a bitter disagreement over whether the toilet paper roll hangs with the paper going over the top or coming underneath, and suddenly one of them yanks off a shoe and flings it at the head of the other, barely missing. And they watch it fly out the open window. And decide...oh what the hell, we'll just leave it there. Is that it?

Or does someone buy new shoes and just can't wait till they get home to wear them...and in the rush to change simply loses control of one shoe and out it goes?

Backseat lovers flailing and groping and...well...use your imagination.

Perhaps it doesn't even come from a car! A jogger with a blowout? A pedestrian who doesn't realize until much later that they lost a shoe?!?!

A shoe gnome?

I have no working theories. But it is a truly odd occurrence. And there are a lot of folks at home tonight holding one shoe and wondering what to do with it.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

You've Got Mail!

It was bound to happen. My invitation to join the AARP arrived in the mail today. Ouch! The big birthday is still a few days away. Do we have to rush things?!?! Besides, while some people calculate and know just how long before they can ditch their job and golf all day, I actually love my job. And I don't golf. And I'm in no hurry to retire!

Okay, I know the AARP isn't just for retired folks. And I mean no disrespect to the organization. I'm sure they do good things for seniors. (Ooo, that's another 'ouch'. Do I have to call myself a 'senior'???) But I can't overlook the humor in the large (obviously) button on their home page to make the text larger. And, as someone who still feels young, I cringe when the top link on their Fun & Games page is Tell Us About Your Grandparenting Activities. Dear god, please let 'grandparenting' be years away!!!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Communicating In A Global Society

That's the title of the conference I'm attending today. And while I eat my lunch, I wanted to drop in a thought or two.

While the focus of the conference is on educational uses of technology and how we can use this with our students, I'm also interested in the personal and professional uses of Web 2.0. Even more importantly, I'm thinking about how critical the use of this medium is now - and will become. One statistic from the morning...a UC Berkeley study of 2003. In that year, globally, we generated 5 exabytes of new information. [pausing a moment while you look up 'exabyte'] The stunning part of the research is that only 0.01% of that information ever got printed. The rest is digital. Amazing.

Obviously, not all of that new information is crucial. Just like this little blog. This is good for me and perhaps a few others, but generations from now students and professionals won't be looking at Notes From My Corner as a key source of information. But that drives home the do we know what is important? How do we choose which information has meaning to us as individuals, parents, professionals? Some information is important to all of us - such as the fact that we are down to eight planets now. Some information is important to groups of like-minded or like-interested folks. And some is just good for me because it entertains me, makes me think, or helps me get from Point A to Point B.

Learning how to find it, how to analyze it, how to make that information come to me....that is the new literacy. And the title of the keynote today. Redefining Literacy for the 21st Century was about those skills. I thought, being a geek in general, that I knew a lot of that. Now I know I have a lot more to learn!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Passion of Connection

What is it that makes this whole internet/blogging/wiki/podcast thing so cool? First I'll admit, I'm a geek. I love computers - can't live without my Mac. Love the internet and the fact that so much is waiting at the click of a mouse. And I love browsing web sites, IM's, chat rooms, and all that stuff.

So now that the confession of geekdom is out of the way, what else makes it fun?

It's not the technology, but the connections it makes possible. In little about little, the author comments that he can write about everyday events for him to read in the future. I totally understand that. But I also get embarrassingly excited when someone reads my blog and leaves a comment. The connection with someone I don't even know is fun.

And this week I had an experience that took it to a new level. I watched an online pre-conference keynote video podcast by David Warlick, a well-known educational technology guru. And in his podcast he asked folks to leave comments on his wiki. I did. And then someone in Texas left a comment about my comment. So, of course, I went to check out her blog. And she listed her favorite blogs. Turns out, one of her favorite professional development blogs is also one of mine! So I left her a comment, of course! And she commented on my comment. Video podcast>wiki>my comment>her comment>her blog>mutual blog>my comment>her comment. Now THAT is fun!

The opportunities for learning, exploring, and sharing are exciting. The very fact that I'm in sharing with this person and other folks whom I will never meet is still almost unbelievable. And yet, it is commonplace to my three kids. What astonishes me, they take for granted. Some part of me wishes they shared my awe. But a huge part of me is envious of what opportunities they will have.

Friday, October 20, 2006


I love taking photos with my digital camera. I have all the basic photos of family events and activities, but I also try to grab other shots just to see what sort of things might turn up as I review them. Here was an interesting day...

The drive to work on a gray, rainy, fall morning in early October...

That same afternoon but it looks like an entirely different day. It is sometimes amazing how different one day can be!

I love fall in New England!

(For those worried about me driving while taking photos, no commuters were harmed in the making of this post.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Growing Old(er)

With my fiftieth birthday just days away, I crossed one of those lines in the sand today. I got new glasses. No, not bifocals. Those are so 'old school'. Nope, I got the amazing graduated lenses. When telling me just how amazing they really would be, the doctor assured me that the top part of the lense would allow me to see Uranus with crystal clarity while the bottom portion of the lense would allow me to read the fine print on my watch battery. And somewhere in between, if I held my head nice and straight, the focus would be perfect for looking in the neighbor's window.

Well, I got 'em on right now. Drove home without killing anyone. And I will admit, I can see pretty darn good. But there is obviously some adjustment period here. The obvious, of course, is that people tend to look down when we read so they stick the 'close vision' part along the bottom. Of course, we look down to walk and traverse stairs, too. So that will take some getting used to. But I had been warned. On the other hand, no one had told me that things would seem to 'bend' nearer and farther away as I moved my head from side to side. And at the moment, the laptop screen seems to be just at the right distance to be out of focus unless I find that one tiny sweet spot with my head just slightly tilted to the right and my chin tucked down, just so.

I'll get used to them. And they are better than my old glasses. But the whole thing makes me feel just a tad older than when I got up this morning.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Field Trip

Daughter13 left before the crack of dawn this morning for a class trip to Washington, D.C. While I did nothing today other than go to work and get a hair cut, she travelled over 350 miles, toured Mount Vernon, checked into her hotel, and is, at this very moment, beginning an 'illumination tour' of some of the most prominent landmarks in our nation.

For the next four days, her and 239 other eighth graders will get on and off buses about a hundred times while visiting monuments, memorials, museums, restaurants and gift shops.

Two years ago I had the opportunity to go along on this trip as a chaperone with Son16. And having been on this class trip, I know my daughter is going to have a wonderful experience. Oh yes, she'll be exhausted by the time each day ends. But she'll also learn more in four days than she could possibly learn in the classroom. She'll see, experience, and touch part of our history.

I'm no super-patriot, but one can hardly stand at some of the memorials without feeling the history they represent. And it is impossible to tour Arlington Cemetary and walk along the Vietnam Memorial without feeling the impact of how many lives have been lost in violent conflict. And the collections of the Smithsonian are varied and massive enough to impress anyone - even a thirteen year old.

The house is unnaturally quiet. We don't have family close by - no weekends with grandparents - so she has never even been away for more than one night at a time. So there is an oddness to her absence. We miss her. And if she weren't busy laughing and talking and looking and exploring and learning, she might miss us too. But right now the important thing is the laughing and talking and looking and exploring and learning.

Enjoy your trip!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Are you ready for some football?

Okay, confession time. I love to watch pro football. I'm not a sports nut. I don't watch much baseball - only the occasional Red Sox game. Basketball interests me even less. And tennis lost my interest with the retirements of McEnroe and Connors and Bjorg. And I hardly even think of golf or bowling as sports! And that is just the pro level. College sports interests me even less.

But pro football is wonderful. I don't care about the 'controlled violence' aspects. I don't need to glamorize it in any way. I just think these are good athletes in a team sport that requires a nice bit of strategy to be consistently successful. Just enough brawn mixed with just enough brain.

And today was a good day. My favorite team - the Patriots - had a bye this week. But it was good for the other 'local' teams. Jets and Giants both won. Washington and Philadelphia both lost - ultimately a good thing for the Giants in terms of standings. And a couple of games came down to last minute drives and even final plays (some with success and some not).

While the 'meat' of my afternoon was really all about doing some laundry and helping the kids a bit with some homework, the games in the background provide a very pleasant bit of entertainment on a fall afternoon.


I read two blogs today that posed questions about the act of blogging. In Little About Little, the blogger wonders about the etiquette of blogging:
Is there blogging etiquette?
And if there is, who made the rules? I just read my blog and found, much to my delight, comments on several of the entries. It was great. I want to say thank you, and I certainly now will comment more often because I know how it feels to be acknowledged on some level. But it would be interesting and fun to find or formulate an etiquette.
And in Decisions and Revisions, Sara asks about the future of blogging:
will videos replace much of the writing in blogs? Will the attitude be: If you can show it, why bother writing it out?
The first comment got me to thinking about some writing I've done for my job on emergence. At work I've focused on how the unrelated efforts of each individual in the workplace contribute to the success of all of us.

Is the same true in the blogosphere? Will the etiquette of blogging emerge simply as a result of all of us blogging, reading other blogs, and commenting on blogs? I think so. But I think it isn't the etiquette, but rather, the etiquettes. Plural. Blogs are so varied by topic and style. I love some. I'm bored with others. Some are political. Some are porn. Some are funny. And each genre seems to have its own etiquette emerging as a natural by-product of the blogs themselves. And I like that type of etiquette. It comes from the users rather than an authority. And in that way, it is the style that is most pleasing and beneficial to the users of those blogs. And that, in my thinking, will be the etiquette that serves the blogosphere best.

As someone who loves to read and write, Sara's question is more troubling to me. YouTube (GoogleTube?) and other video sites are surely popular and fun. Vlogs are visual and compelling at times. But will that mean the death of the written blog? I hope not! And I have faith that it won't happen. For a couple of reasons. First of all, television and movies and VCR's and DVD's offer high quality entertainment, but it didn't mean the end of the publishing industry. Borders and Barnes & Noble didn't chain their doors. People love a good read. Secondly, some of us love words and love to write. I took a long time for me to start blogging. But I know I would never start videotaping my entries. As the old saying goes, I have a face made for radio. But more importantly, it just doesn't appeal to me in the same way. I like the act of composing and linking and quoting and putting my ideas down on 'paper'. I don't have that same good feeling inside with video. So Sara, as long as there are good blogs out there like your blog, I think the readers and writers of the world will have plenty of good things to read.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

On the radio...

Tonight I heard an ad on the radio for some sort of air filtration system. And they told me the air inside my house was five times dirtier than the air outside. How can this be? I know we don't dust and vacuum as often as we should. But FIVE TIMES?!?!

And then I began to wonder...where do they get these numbers? Did the take an air sample from the house of the guy who lives next to the waste treatment facility? Or the house built on a toxic waste site? Or maybe they went directly to the cave of darkness and sucked an air sample right from satan's boudoir complete with smoke and particles of burning sulfur and brimstone?

But my house? We don't smoke. No one even uses aerosol hairspray or deodorant! It just can't be that dirty in here. It's gotta be safe to breathe...right?


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Merchants, Performers and Cleavage - OH MY!

This past weekend, my wife and I took two of our kids (Daughter13 and Son16) to the local Renaissance Faire. It was a perfect fall day in New England and our first ever visit to the Faire. And we were all entertained. We all enjoyed shopping at the various merchants and returned home with new jewelry, bits and pieces of upcoming Halloween costumes, some excellent incense, and lots of snacks. We enjoyed various performances by troups of jousters, singing executioners, and a bawdy rendition of the story of Samson by the Pope and Cardinal Show (with none other than me playing the part of Samson!). And yes, there was an abundance of buxom wenches all around.

The best part? Watching the kids. Watching them laugh till it hurt as the executioners performed rap songs. Watching them grin from ear to ear as they got their turn throwing axes and trying their hand at archery. And watching them burst into applause as the sword swallower swallowed! Kids are jaded. Been there. Done that. Got the t-shirt. But then the man SWALLOWED A SWORD! They just don't do that during an assembly at school.

It was a good day as a family. It was a good day to watch kids enjoy being kids.

Monday, October 09, 2006

To Blog, or Not To Blog

The question of the day...should I start my own blog?


Transition. A life change is always a good time to begin something new. Earlier this month, my youngest (Daughter13) became a teenager. That makes me the proud dad of three teenagers. Of course, it also means my hair is turning grey at a faster pace than ever! Later this month, I'll turn fifty. That's right, the big FIVE OH. I'm not freaked out by that. But I'm very aware of where it puts me every time some survey asks me to check off my age group!

Addiction. I read my first blog about a year ago. I was so innocent at the time. And for six months or so, it was a gradual process of finding blogs I really enjoy. It was a casual pleasure. But then I started to need more blogs. And I added RSS feeds so I didn't have to wait around to know the latest posting. Now I find reading (and sometimes commenting) has become part of every day. And I figure, if I'm gonna be playing in the blogosphere anyway, I might as well go ahead and dive in the deep end.

The Geek Factor. I love computers. I love the internet. Creating a blog tweaks the geek deep inside.


Enough already! One estimate is that 75,000 new blogs are created every day. Another estimate put it this way: a new blog is created every second. EVERY SECOND!! Do Google and Wordpress and the others really have servers that big??? And can all those blogs find an audience or do they just add to the muddle? On the other hand, I'm not really writing to find or entertain a particular audience. I'm writing for my own pleasure. If someone comes along, that's cool. If not, that's okay, too.


Transition + Addiction + Geek Factor > The Muddle

So I created my little corner and this is where I'll be.