March 2005 Archives

Last class

My two-semester foray into the world of teaching adult classes has finally come to an end. I will not be doing this again (at least not teaching hand-coding of HTML). Much like last semester, I ended with a class on web accessibility, the use of tools like Dreamweaver to complement hand coding, and blogging, of course.

One of my students, who was somewhat discouraged by her inability to keep up all semester, seemed quite excited by the idea of starting a site on Blogger so that she could ease into the world of site creation and practice what she has learned.

I also recommended the video tutorials at Lynda.com. The CD-ROMs and online learning library that Lynda Weinman’s company produces are brilliant, and, quite frankly, they would be a better investment for my former students than these classes. (Many of the Lynda.com tutorials have as much as a half hour of free video content online.)

With the accessibility thing, it often seems like I’m fighting a losing battle. It is so easy to make a web site compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), yet the level of apathy I encounter when it comes to this important human rights issue is appalling. At Princeton, it seems like for every webmaster I educate, or for every site that I help make accessible, another irresponsible hack comes along and creates yet another web site that is hostile to the disabled and flagrantly violates federal law. The ironic shame is that from a purely aesthetic perspective, these are some of the most attractively designed sites on the Princeton web. My attempt to give the “heads up” to one of his more recent clients fell on deaf ears, so now it looks like I will have to contact this designer directly.

BTW, if you are unaware of how to create an accessible web site, check out the Web Accessibility Initiative’s site, scroll to the bottom, watch the video, download the checklist, and then read some of the tutorials linked off of the main page.

Blogging on the horizon

The leadership of the New Media Consortium (NMC), an association of 200 universities, museums, corporations, etc., recently published their second annual Horizon Report (PDF), which tries to identify and describe areas of emerging technology that will become increasingly significant to higher education over the next one to five years.

The report is a worthwhile read for those interested in academic technology (even if a couple of the examples, such as integrating cellphones into the teaching and learning experience, seem a bit impractical).

Unsurprisingly, the report details blogging as an important emerging technology and relates it both to “extended learning” and “social networks and knowledge webs.”

 The potential of these tools [blogs, wikis, and other asynchronous forums] is to connect students in new ways, in new groupings, and for new purposes. Where these tools are being applied, ownership of the process of discovering or aquiring knowledge is beginning to move from the teacher alone into the hands of the educational group comprised of teachers and students.

The wheels of change at my dear alma mater are renowned for their glacial movement. Blogging, unfortunately, is one area where my university, in its role as internet service provider, has really fallen behind. As a result, members of our university community who want to blog have had to turn to third party ISPs or a free service like Blogger (as our university’s student government recently did). Free (as in beer) services are great—as long as their terms of service don’t unexpectedly change. Also, such services, especially the ad-supported variety, are not really ideal for institutional use.

I really want a pet...

| 3 Comments

…but my current lease doesn’t allow it. For now, I guess a Flash-enabled virtual one will have to do. Considering my ties to a certain NJ university, I couldn’t resist picking the tiger. I unapologetically stole his name from my favorite sci fi author. He likes it when you pet him. [via Watermark]

I dazzle minimum choice

Entering my full name into Anagram Genius gives me the anagram “I dazzle minimum choice” (my middle name is Dominic). [via “Whim Elegance”—er, Michele Agnew]

Hidden gems

In the dark recesses of my iPod’s memory are songs that I have never even listened to—probably not a unique or particularly exciting revelation, but I found it amusing.

While watching television this evening, a tune caught my ear. I skipped back the TiVo a couple of times to try and make out the lyrics. Then I opened up a new browser tab over the blog I was reading, Googled the lyrics, found the song on the iTunes Music Store, and clicked the purchase button. iTunes asked me if I wanted to buy the song again. Again??? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? Sure enough, the song was already on my ’Pod.

Quick sidenote—you know…someone placed into cryosleep in early 1998 and revived today would probably only understand the first sentence of the previous paragraph. ;-)

So why did I already have the song? The iTunes Music Store has been giving away at least one free track every Tuesday almost since its inception—108 so far (not counting public service audio books like senate hearings, the debates, etc). I download them religiously, but I often forget to give them a quick listen. The quality of the tracks are usually commensurate with their price, but a few gems pop up now and then.

BTW, the song was “They” by Jem.

Fortune cookie 3

I went to Super Star East Buffet today for a nice traditional Easter dinner. Chinese restaurants are great for that sort of thing; I had Christmas dinner at the same place the year before last.

Of course, there was the fortune cookie. They all seem to have a similar theme lately. Why is dream singular, though? I guess only one of them is going to come true.

Your dream
will come true.
Lucky Numbers 3, 7, 12, 24, 27, 33

LAser in-SItu Keratomileusis 9

| 2 Comments

We may have reached the final chapter in my longer-than-expected LASIK saga (or at least the penultimate chapter).

This evening I traveled once more to Bergenfield for the follow-up appointment to my re-treatment surgery on January 22. Dr. Dello Russo’s office no longer does Saturday appointments for follow-ups (bleah), so I had to schedule for a Wednesday at 6:30 PM.

On January 22, I had to drive through the worst snowstorm of the season. Thankfully, it is now spring, and winter is a distant memory. Well, as the Russians say, “in the window” (bad Russian linguist joke).

Michael hates driving up to North Jersey. Michael hates driving in bumper to bumper rush hour traffic. Michael hates driving in zero visibility winter precipitation. Combine all three, and Michael is not happy.

It took me two hours to get up there (it’s normally an hour-long trip). Then I had to wait in the receptionist area for fifty-five minutes. Thankfully, I have a zenlike patience; but even my patience has limits. The doctor examined me for seven minutes, and then I went back out into the falling sleet, and ninety minutes later, I was home.

As for my eyes, they are healing up quite nicely. It seems that the reshaping was a success. I now have 20/15 vision in both eyes. Already, I am seeing much less nighttime glare, and that should subside even more over time.

I have always dreamed of having better than perfect vision. When I was a young child, I would sometimes stare intently at a lit flashlight held close to my eyes, imagining that its beam would somehow transform my eyes and endow me with super vision. Granted, these were the imaginings of a boy whose creative side…his passionate side…his hopeful side…often overwhelmed his rational side. (I suppose it still does.) Who would have thought, though, that decades later a light beam of a different sort would give some reality to a seemingly ridiculous wish.

Guess what I'm reading?

| 5 Comments
 Foolish man. You cannot turn me into a phantom because you are frightened. You do not dismiss a muse at whim. If you will not join me—then I will come to you.

Feel free to leave your guess in the comments…

With the pages of book four of this trilogy (yes, it’s one of those) now having passed through my greedy fingers, I am reminded how incredibly inspiring, intriguing, and engaging this author’s work is. When I read the first three books five years ago, I enjoyed them, but now I am experiencing this series with different eyes (in some sense, literally), and I am blown away.

No other collection of works I have read have provided me with such profound multi-sensory pleasure. (Hey, get ’yer mind out of the gutter; I didn’t mean that.)

I will certainly blog about this after I have read book six (and most likely start re-re-reading book one). In fact, I have already noticed this artist’s “ephemeral” influence starting to creep into the mock-ups for this site’s evolutionary redesign.

Fortune cookie 2

| 2 Comments

Last week someone else snagged the cookies before I could get to them. I got them today, though, and they seem strangely apropos. The wizened scribes that they have dispensing the sage advice and pithy sayings are not bad; I just wish they were better at picking lucky numbers. (I actually tried playing the numbers from last time.)

Don’t expect romantic attachments to
be strictly logical or rational!
Lucky Numbers 6, 7, 26, 27, 36, 37

 

If winter comes,
can spring be far behind?
Lucky Numbers 14, 18, 21, 24, 26, 27

Robot Chicken

Robot Chicken has got to be one of the funniest twelve-minute television programs…ever. I’m not sure if too many people outside of their “30-year-old-guy-who-refuses-to-grow-up” demographic would find this new show entertaining, but damn it—I have laughter-induced tears streaming down my face almost every Sunday now from 11:30 to 11:42 PM.

Dancing my cares away

| 2 Comments

I had forgotten how much I enjoy breathlessly bouncing around a multi-colored vinyl pad while a stirring techno beat fills my living room (and my soul). You can really lose yourself in the driving rhythm, and the concentration required to keep step with the music does not allow my mind too much opportunity to dwell on…other things.

DDR dance pad

Granted, Dance Dance Revolution is probably as close to real dancing as paint by numbers is to impressionism. Still though, in the privacy of one’s own home, one can add a bit of freestyling personal flair to the steps without worrying about how completely ridiculous these (occasionally flamboyant) stumbling gyrations may appear.

My legs will be sore tomorrow since I haven’t set foot on my dance pad in months (I have similarly ignored my Bowflex). I have been stuck on a strange emotional roller coaster since mid-December and have decided that it’s time to get off. It is time for me to refocus on all the things that add something postive to my life.

Where did all my students go?

| 4 Comments

Tomorrow is week six of my “Web Development with HTML” class; it should have been week seven, but a blustery forecast convinced the adult school to call a snow day two weeks ago.

Last week was the greatest disappointment of my short teaching career. I didn’t write about this at the time because there were too many other things that were gnawing at my psyche. Only two students showed up for class, one of them arrived a half hour late.

The enrollment for the class is twelve. On an average week about eight show up. I realize that these people have other obligations in their lives, but if I had paid $75 for twelve hours of instruction, I would make damn sure that I received twelve hours.

At least the two who showed up learned something (I hope). Ironically, it was probably the most important week of instruction. I introduced them to the world of cascading style sheets (CSS). Tomorrow’s hands-on exercise will draw heavily upon the previous week’s material.

I am somewhat torn. If only two show up again, I will probably be devastated. However, if the rest do show up, I will feel bad for my two faithful students because I will have to reteach much of last week’s lesson so that everyone can do the exercise.

The premise of the class, itself, is somewhat flawed. Hand-coding HTML pages is not really a skill for those who do not even possess basic Windows skills. However, in last semester’s class, eleven of the twelve stuck it out for all eight weeks, and I would like to believe that they walked away with at least a modicum of useful knowledge.

This semester, though, has left me wondering what I did wrong. Did I alienate my students in some way? Did I pace the class too slowly? Was it a mistake to post extensive materials on the web for those who legitimately could not make it to class?

At any rate, I will not be teaching this course (or any course) next semester. This seems to be just one more indicator that I need to move on to bigger and better things.

Pop-up backlash

Pop-up ads and pop-under ads—they are back with a vengeance. Bleah. The crafty coders that work for the various ad servers seem to have pulled slightly ahead in the scripted pop-up advertisement arms race.

Grrrrr. I use browsers with built-in pop-up blocking for a reason. This hijacking of my browser is an invasive disruption of my web surfing, and frankly—I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore. ;-)

I do not mind ads; in fact, I will occasionally click on those that both catch my eye and correctly target my interests (even though I try my best to mentally tune them out). Yet to combat this new breed of pop-ups, I felt compelled to take drastic action. For Safari, I installed PithHelmet, which works great against pop-ups, but by default blocks almost all ads, which may be overkill. For Firefox, I installed the Adblock extension, which seems a little buggy, but effectively short circuits all of those evil, dreaded “whack-a-mole” ads.

The ad servers got greedy and tried to bite off one of the hands that feed them. Well, I bite back.

Postcards from Sarajevo

| 4 Comments

They have been sitting in various boxes in various closets for close to a decade—a collection of twenty-two postcards that I bought in a makeshift post exchange near the Sarajevo airport while I was serving as part of IFOR (the NATO-commanded Dayton Peace Accords implementation forces).

Created and printed under wartime conditions by a group of artists who called themselves TRIO Sarajevo, these postcards re-imagined images from advertisements and Western pop-culture with the goal of raising awareness of the plight of besieged Sarajevans.

Framed mounting of 22 Trio Sarajevo postcards

I regret that I do not have the entire series; there are at least thirty-six of them. The ones I do have, though, are quite visually striking. I have been wanting to mount them for some time, and finally summoned the motivation a few weeks ago. It cost me about $200 worth of supplies and about eight hours to arrange (and rearrange) the irregularly-sized cards. The custom-sized frame, glass, and gray matte are from Michaels Arts and Crafts.

I did not originally intend for this to be a double matte, but my initial dimensional calculations were a bit off. Of course, there are no mistakes in art—the universe just takes art in unexpected directions every so often. I bevel-cut a white matte to size this evening and placed it under the gray one, and I quite like the way it looks now.

FYI, a Google search revealed a few more links about the TRIO Sarajevo postcards.

In like a lion

| 2 Comments

March really did come in like a lion, and I’m not just talking about the weather.

I can’t believe this month is already half over, and I only have four posts for the month (five now). My muse has been behaving rather erratically as of late.

Oh well, normal posts should resume by Sunday evening. Also, the next few entries will be ninety-nine percent angst free—guaranteed.

In addition, I’ll probably take some time today to catch up on all the blog conversations I’ve been missing out on.

Trust and betrayal (redux)

| 8 Comments

I had something very valuable taken from me this week—my ability to trust. It will be a long, long time before I can get it back…

[The ugliness of this post made me sick. I deleted the rest of it at 11:33 PM on March 10.]

Purging.
Sadness. Numbness.
Healing?

It frustrates me that I am never able to stay angry for very long. Scratch that. One person, a former boss, proved the exception, but that seems like a lifetime ago.

My favorite Fishism (…Fishisms…now, there’s a flashback) was his simplest one—“Bygones.” If only real life were that simple. Bygones…bygones…

Damn it.

Silence is golden

Sometimes it is best to not say anything at all.

Fortune cookie 1

| 2 Comments

Some men who work in my building order Chinese food at least once a week, but they rarely eat their fortune cookies, leaving them behind. I usually grab the chocolate ones. Today’s fortunes seemed moderately encouraging (in light of recent events), and I thought it might be fun to post them. Scanning would be a pain, but CSS-styled text does the trick and allows for easy addition of new ones in the future. (Too bad the effect is lost with RSS feeds.)

Hope is the most precious treasure
to a person.
Lucky Numbers 14, 19, 25, 27, 34, 39

 

A way out of a financial mess
is discovered as if by magic!
Lucky Numbers 10, 20, 25, 30, 40, 45

Search engines & blog logs 2

| 5 Comments

Another month has passed, so it is time for a second perusal of the search engine referrals for notMike.com. Last month’s installment produced decidedly unexpected results. Mere mentioning of a certain female cooking show host inexplicably put my humble blog at the number one and number two spots out of 65,300 Google results for r****** r** nude.

As a result, 2,265 people dropped by, looking for countless variations on that theme. While that was certainly fun for awhile, I don’t think that I will be mentioning her name again.

A total of 122 visitors were looking for nude pics and info about the Bowflex grandmother. Come on people, she’s in her 50s, and she’s someone’s grandma. Oh well, I guess when I age a couple of decades, I’ll think differently.

So what else brought people by during February, besides the usual phrases that brought ’em in last month?

  • how to write a secret admirer note
    I’m torn on this one. I would probably advise against it altogether. On the other hand, I will probably keep and cherish the one I received last December for a long time to come.
  • trouble socializing never dated
    I feel your pain. Really.
  • feel the rain on my face
    …taste the rain on my lips; in the moonlight shadow.
  • male bulges pics secretly taken
    One really has to hate those camera phones.
  • absolutist view of abortion
    An absolutist view of anything is a bad thing. Oh, wait. That statement was kind of absolutist. Never mind.
  • washboard stomach photo
    Not yet. Washboard stomachs sure are hard to develop.
  • photo soldier kitten m16
    Firearms and cute, furry animals? Interesting.
  • random gross nude pics
    Why would anyone search for this?
  • princeton sucks
    Hey, them’s fightin’ words!
  • men are better at math and science
    President Summers? Thanks for stopping by.
  • pred forte stings
    Just at first. Once your eyes heal, it doesn’t sting.
  • quotes about friendship men and women
    No comment.
  • she ll hear me out and won t easily be converted lyrics
    “Somebody” is such a good song.
  • nude cheesecake
    Mmmm, cheescake. I’ll take it nude, slathered in chocolate, drizzled with caramel, dripping with cherries.
  • homemade battle royale collars
    Wow, it looks like like someone is really having problems with their students (explanation).
  • what happened to chocolate cheesecake godiva ice cream
    Thank you. Why would they dare take such a delectable flavor off of the market.
  • cooking to hook up progressive girl
    You know, I still haven’t had an occasion to use that book.
  • mac iisi
    That was a great little computer, and it was only $4600. I am still paying for it thanks to educational loans.
  • plan b contraception and religion
    This is one area where “religion” really needs to compromise. BTW, even though emergency contraception is no substitute for condoms (one in three Americans has a sexually transmitted infection), here are two web sites that can’t be linked to enough. For information about emergency contraception, visit ec.princeton.edu. US residents can get prescription requests for emergency contraception completed within 2-8 hours, 7 days a week at getthepill.com.
  • caught nude pics from photocopy machine
    I couldn’t in a million years imagine doing this at my workplace.

Well, the results this month weren’t quite as humorous as I thought they would be. I guess February isn’t a very funny month.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from March 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

February 2005 is the previous archive.

April 2005 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Powered by Movable Type 4.3-en