Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The end is here...

...finals are finished and the winter term is OVER!!

Thanks, Professor Macek!
I really enjoyed your classes.
Here is a present just for you, because I know how much this means to you:
florida fireworks

See you next term!


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

"Ladybug, Ladybug, fly away home...

     ...Your house is on fire and your children are alone."

I always hated that little rhyme. I felt sorry for the mom-bug having her house burn while she was out doing some mom-thing, like gathering food for the baby-bugs. I worried for the baby-bugs; would she make it back in time?

In the news this morning there was an AWFUL story about a human mom who was off milking the cows when her family home literally burned down, killing six of her seven children. That is an unfathomable loss a real person is enduring right this moment; it isn't a story or a rhyme.

My own house isn't on fire, but I smell smoke. I worry I may misread the signals for being too busy.  There have been some serious family crises unfolding at home and presently they are threatening my student-hood. As a mom, a "nontraditional" student, and a business owner, I am pretty busy. I was actually spread rather REALLY thinly before starting school. I guess when I started, I was naively thinking "what's a little more work?" It is a lot, actually.

Suddenly I am very torn about my commitments. I am a scholar, getting paid to go to school (crazy, right?!), but first and foremost I am a mom. I feel like the lady-bug, and suddenly I'm not so sure about the school-thing. I might quit, actually. That sounds dumb from one perspective (I have a 4.0 GPA and a free ride); from another it feels urgent.

I'm feeling very much like it is time to "fly away home."

Thursday, March 3, 2011

And now for Ohio, and next...?

From today's Washington Post:
"The divide between government worker unions and their opponents, playing out now in several state capitals, highlights a critical aspect of the evolving labor movement."
Will this trend keep spreading? How do you feel about the spreading legislative push to restrict the union rights of government workers?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Former Senator Chris Dodd to Head Motion Picture Association

Add caption

  After a year-long search to replace Dan Glickman, former senator Chris Dodd has been named the new head of the MPAA. Dodd is an American lawyerlobbyist, and Democratic Party politician who served as a United States Senator from Connecticut for a thirty-year period ending with the 111th United States Congress     

     Barry Meyer, chairman of Warner Bros., said Dodd has the "right political instincts and experience" to lead the film industry against content piracy. You can read more here; I'll wait. 

(tick, tock; tick, tock) 

     So, what do you think? Is digital piracy about to get a wake-up call? Is Dodd the right person for the job?

The Future of Music

In Stephen J. Dubner's article, "What’s the Future of the Music Industry? A Freakonomics Quorum," Dubner presents five different perspectives from reputedly "smart people" with their best guesses.

Koleman Strumpf, professor of business economics at the University of Kansas Business School, is "dubious about making forecasts." Strumph believes  choices the major labels make on key issues and as-yet unknown new technologies technologies will direct the future of music's general course, but he doesn't foresee the recorded music industry's ship sinking.

Fredric Dannen, author of Hit Men: Power Brokers and Fast Money Inside the Music Business, is a bit more pessimistic, stating  "You can always count on the record industry to cling to the past, and to fight innovation." 

George Drakoulias, music producer, artists & repertoire executive at American Recordings, and veteran of Def Jam Recordings, claims "the old business model is dead." Drakoulias thinks the CD is on its last legs, and will be gone in five years.  He also believes the future holds some sort of music subscription service, possibly some pooled talent co-ops, such as the bands of Ozzfest, and computer involvement paired with highly mobile music. In any case he feels 
"the future is really in the hands of the consumer,"  with the public dictating "to whatever is left of the record industry."
Peter Rojas, founder of Engadget and co-founder of RCRD LBL, doesn't "pretend to know what the industry will look like in ten years," but is amused that "music itself is healthier than ever" thanks to the Internet, low-cost (or even no-cost) digital tools, and the resulting explosion of consumer-producer creativity.
Steve Gottlieb, president of TVT Records, feels "we have little choice but to invest in advertising-supported free services that will make this type of consumption profitable." Gottlieb believes the music industry will figure out new ways to recapture the revenue it’s losing, and then develop a "new, secure file format that offers audio, meta-data, and other digital features superior to those of MP3s." Gottlieb suggests this shouldn't pose too much difficulty and will provide the industry access to high quality digital products for direct sale that can be ad free, though he fails to explain how this could happen. He also warns "unless the labels actively reinvent themselves and embrace change, they will continue to find themselves in an expanding music marketplace that rewards their efforts less and less. "
As for me, I am sticking with my idea of bringing music back to the live local venues, with direct marketing of recorded music--for whatever digital devices the future may bring-- allowing more control and revenue to stay where it belongs; in the possession of the music makers.

Band Battles

Once upon a time (about 35 years ago), music was accessed often and live, typically at a party at a friend's house, or sometimes at small local clubs. On some summer nights the music was in the parking lot of the local strip mall, where many "battles of the bands" were waged.

This music was rife with the kind of power that comes from direct access. No pirating or paying to download; just live gigs your friends told you about, or you read about on a poster, or you performed; you were there to experience it.

The music was interactive, but old-media interactive. Very local, very grass-roots, and honestly pretty cool. You might have had to pay a cover charge--the bands had to get paid--but not much; and it was usually totally worth it. The bands would give back what they hoped was their friends' and fans' money's worth of raw emotion, and possibly even talent. 

If there was a
 lot of talent, though, things changed. Then came the offers, the hopes, the big money, the recordings. It was cool to hear friends on the radio or their records, but live and local was better. Even though everyone was trying to get their deal and make it big, when it happened the happiness was sometimes short lived. Sadly the music got buried in big business dealings, sold-out song writing, tour buses, substance problems, and far-away, huge stadiums. It was still kind of cool, but not as cool.

Perhaps it is time to rethink the best way to share and sell the fruits of musical inspiration, talent and effort. Perhaps it is time for a new version of the folk art music model, where producers and consumers are often the same people and music is made for the joy of producing and sharing it. Money can still be made--maybe not millions--but the greedy people who were always just in it to get rich might get weeded out.

Perhaps musicians should get back to performing more concerts, handing out fliers, and putting up lots of posters. By all means keep the new media, too; promote websites, sell recordings, get fans to tell their friends. Maybe direct access can help recreate the interactive, connected relationships musicians once had with their listeners.

New media/ music related websites:

Friday, February 25, 2011

Union vote elicits shouts of "Shame!" from Wisconsin Democrats

A highly contested bill was passed early Friday by the Wisconsin Assembly. The budget plan by Gov. Scott Walker (R), which would strip most public unions of nearly all of their rights to collectively bargain, has drawn thousands of unions supporters who have gathered in protest at the State Capital in Madison over the past two weeks. State Senate Democrats refused to return to the Capitol to join the Republican Senate majority for a vote on the bill.
After more than 60 hours of debate, shortly after 1:00 AM, the Republicans called for the vote. The vote happened quickly, with Republicans passing the bill in a matter of seconds, while Democrats were yelling "No, No, you can't do this!"

Apparently they can, and did. The bill passed 51-17

Thursday, February 24, 2011

UFOs and Such

What do you think, really? Do you believe close encounters of the alien kind have been happening here on our home planet, as some media are reporting

There have always been those super out-there believers, and the web now allows them to build many amazing websites. There are those intended to serve as "welcome home" landing pages for our intergalactic brethren, and those that warn of interplanetary threats, cautioning we will make great pets or become super tasty meals if we do not wise up and get ready to resist impending alien invasions. Warnings don't just come from tin-foil hat wearing types; Stephen Hawking recently put in his two cents regarding "don't talk to strangers (from other planets.)"The Royal Society in London recently hosted a conference on the topic of alien encounters, "Is There Anybody Out There?" 

Meanwhile, in several areas around the world there are media reports that pop up citing close encounters sourced by supposedly highly reliable military personnel, confirmed by corroborating data such as radar reports or concurrent civilian sightings. 

The latest of these reports, on the AOL home page today, references some "evidence" of UFOs tampering with military nukes. Yikes.

Okay, I am familiar with the "dog ate my homework"-sort of excuses for screwing up; I've used that on occasion myself. But if these military guys are the ones actually turning the nukes on and off for kicks (or by accident) and then blaming it on the aliens--well, that may be more scary than aliens. 

All scoffing and skepticism aside, what do you think? Have you ever had an actual, impossible-to-dismiss-as-something-else UFO sighting?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Right to Freedom of Association

Lawyers Seek to Shield Twitter Accounts From WikiLeaks Investigation

On Monday 14th February 2011,  said:
Mon Feb 14 18:28:37 2011 GMT

Tomorrow (Tuesday morning), a federal magistrates court in Virginia's national security heartland will be the scene of the first round in the US government's legal battle against Julian Assange. The US Attorney-General has brought an action against Twitter, demanding that it disclose the names, dates and locations of all persons who have used its services to receive messages from Wikileaks or Mr Assange. It is understood that Twitter will resist the order, so as to protect the privacy of its customers.

Assange said today "This is an outrageous attack by the Obama administration on the privacy and free speech rights of Twitter's customers - many of them American citizens. More shocking, at this time, is that it amounts to an attack on the right to freedom of association, a freedom that the people of Tunisia and Egypt, for example, spurred on by the information released by Wikileaks, have found so valuable".

On December 14, 2010, the US Department of Justice obtained an Order requiring Twitter turn over records of all communications between Wikileaks and its followers. This Order was acquired through the use of the "Patriot Act", which establishes procedures whereby the Government can acquire information about users of electronic communication networks without a Search Warrant, without Probable Cause, without particularizing the records that relate to a proper investigatory objective—and with without any public scrutiny. The basis for the Order remains sealed and secret.

Whilst happy that Twitter plans to resist the subpoena, Wikileaks said it was confirmed that other service providers like Google and Facebook and Yahoo may also have been served with a production order back in December, at the same time as Twitter, and may already have provided information to the government by way of a deal under the secrecy provisions introduced by the Patriot Act. "We are all asking all service providers to explain whether they too have been served with a similar order, and whether, they have caved into it" said Mr Assange.

Tuesday’s case in Virginia, involves the United States government seeking to obtain vast amounts of private information that would jeopardize and chill First Amendment rights of association, of expression, of political assembly, of speech. At its essence it seeks information that can be converted into a list of individuals, across the globe, who have followed, communicated with, and received messages from WikiLeaks – the very sort of government intrusion into basic freedoms that the Supreme Court ruled was prohibited by the First Amendment. WikiLeaks will not participate directly in that proceeding because it believes that the US lacks jurisdiction over expressive activities beyond its borders, but it strongly supports the associational rights of its followers and all who work toward a more open society.

Mr Assange will not himself be intervening in the action against Twitter because as an Australian who has committed no criminal act on US territory, he claims that the American courts have no jurisdiction over him. The head of his UK legal team, Geoffrey Robertson QC, has brought in Alan Dershowitz, the distinguished Harvard Law Professor, as part of the team to advise on the US Attorney General's actions.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction

"Students have always faced distractions and time-wasters. But computers and cellphones, and the constant stream of stimuli they offer, pose a profound new challenge to focusing and learning."
Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Your Brain on Computers

Articles in this series examine how a deluge of data can affect the way people think and behave.

Fast Times at Woodside High

How Technology is Distracting Students

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Egyptian Music and Social Change

Dr. Ramzi Salti, professor of Arabic Language and Literature at Stanford University, is this week's guest on "Stanford Spotlight." Dr. Salti discusses and plays old and new Arabic music from Egypt, including music that is fueling the current uprising in that country:

Ramzi Salti's blog: "Pop Culture in the Arab World."

The Kids Are Alright

     Today's tween and teen consumers have been surrounded by electronic technology since birth. They take their media as for granted as the previous generation took whatever it was they experienced: Walkman? Desktop PC? Video camera? Contemporary kids are unimpressed--Got iPad?--though expectant their access to electronic gadgets will continue, unimpeded by parents. Parents, who once did without the gadgets they now dish out to their offspring, are more aware of costs and assume there should at least be some appreciation. Meanwhile, entitled children shrug unimpressed shoulders and upgrade with their own money or nag until they are provided with all the latest and--for awhile, anyway--greatest devices.
     Parents worry about the consequences their pioneering children may face, using the devices they provide. Their children's young minds are dispersing at warp speed to wander paths where parents not only cannot lead--in many cases they don't even know how to follow. Are the children of this generation at risk in a digital "Lord of the Flies?" Are they being led away by the shiny, high-tech, multi-media Pied Piper, where, alone in an electronic forest, they make easy prey?
     Perhaps the predators do "come out at midnight," but parents have ways of keeping them at bay. This new technology may have its sharp edge, but we don't need to entirely take it away. Instead we need to teach children how to use it in age appropriate ways, without harm to themselves or others. This might require a quick education for the parents, to bring them up to speed.By strengthening their own understanding of new media and making sure their kids know how to resist attractions that pose harm, parents will know for sure: "The kids are alright."
     They won't always seem so shallow, either. Young kids used to yak away on the phone; now they text away, thumbs flying. But in time the conversations change, regardless of the medium facilitating them. Children's interests and the topics they discuss will mature. When  it does, the skills and tools these children have mastered will allow them a whole new level of connection, new ideas launching from broad mind-bases with a reach their parents could not have conceived of.
     And in no time at all these kids will be grown and getting their turn to generate their versions of new technology. Eventually they will have their own kids, who will likewise be born into a new set of technological advances and advantages; and then their parents--today's digital generation--may find themselves shaking their heads at the audacity and entitlement.

Webcast: What Kids Learn When They Create with Digital Media

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

North Central College: Snow Day!!!

 I have received official notice:
"North Central College will be closed beginning at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 1, 2011 through Wednesday, February 2, 2011. All classes and regularly scheduled activities are canceled, and only employees designated "essential" are required to report to work. A Blizzard Warning remains in effect from 3:00 p.m. today through 3:00 p.m. Wednesday, February 2, 2011. You are encouraged to get safely to your final destination for the evening and remain off the roads. A decision regarding classes for Thursday, February 3, 2011 will be made no later than 6:00 a.m. Thursday."

Egyptian President Mubarak Says He Won't Run for New Term


Link: Google Real Time Updates

Live From Egypt: Millions Against Mubarak

Democracy Now!’s Sharif Abdel Kouddous 

 Live from Tahrir Amid Massive Protest:



Police Attack Praying Egyptians

What do you think about this?

Journalist Arrested and Beaten Alongside Protesters in Egypt

In Egypt, police have arrested up to 1,200 people, including a number of journalists. Among them was Guardian reporter, Jack Shenker. He was arrested and beaten by plainclothes police on Tuesday night and shoved into a truck with dozens of other people. He managed to keep his phone with him and recorded what was happening as the truck carried them outside of Cairo.

Democracy Now! broadcasts some of the dramatic audio recording:

Where are the Egyptian Women?

As the Egyptian anti-government uprising unfolds the question of what role the Egyptian women are playing is in many people's minds. According to reports, the number of women taking part in the protests is "unprecendented." Slate rounds up various estimates of women in the crowds:
Ghada Shahbandar, an activist with the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, estimated the crowd downtown to be 20 percent female. Other estimates were as high as 50 percent. In past protests, the female presence would rarely rise to 10 percent. Protests have a reputation for being dangerous for Egyptian women, whose common struggle as objects of sexual harassment is exacerbated in the congested, male-dominated crowd.  

Monday, January 31, 2011

"Egyptians are not Americans"

Sharing some perspectives on the events transpiring in Egypt:

What Corruption and Force Have Wrought in Egypt
By Chris Hedges

Hollywood Blvd. Movie Theater Offering Free Tickets!

Hate football? Too pissed at the Packers?

FREE admission this Sunday, Feb 6th for Hollywood Cinema's Superbowl Strike!
See all of those Oscar contenders you've been planning to check out...for FREE!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Black Eagle

I just got home from seeing Black Swan. It was intense and hard to watch, but better than I'd expected; I think Natalie Portman should win the Oscar for her performance.

But the truth is, I no longer feel like elaborating about the movie. I read Professor Macek's post about the latest news in Egypt, and suddenly a film critique seems shallow. A different sort of Black Swan--a darker side to technology, to human nature--has been let out of its Pandora's Box and is dancing across the world stage, turned loose by a US company.

Actually, the events presently transpiring in Egypt make me think of another movie: Iron Man.
I'm not being facetious. Tony Stark has cool technology (and weapons), which he naively thinks are manufactured and used for the greater good--for the protection of human lives and freedom. To his shock Tony learns his technologies are instead being used to strip people of their basic rights.

With any technology there is the risk: in the wrong hands it can be used to perform harmful acts. Greed plus technology seem to often set the stage for immoral actions.

Where is Iron Man when we need him?

Internet TV is poised, ready to leap into the big picture to give television viewers a whole new reality.
The television your father lovingly knew as “the boob tube” is getting yet another kick in the hypothetical hammer pants. Like it or not, once again TV is evolving. Don’t get me wrong; whether Plasma, LED, OLED, 3D—whatever—the television set isn’t going to be left behind, at least not anytime soon. TV is just going to get a makeover.
With the help of the likes of Google TV, iTV, and Boxee Box, your grandpa’s idiot box is now able to go where no TV* has gone before: the Internet. Media these days is, after all, about being interactive.
Just think, the next time you’re watching “Tarantula” you won’t have to scream in terror by yourself; your net buddies will be right there with you, posting comforting words onto the screen where the horrid arachnid lurks. Watching a rerun of South Park and need to tweet a laugh? No problem; Internet TV understands your need to media-multitask.
With Internet TV you can have an online conversation with your friends while you share the viewing experience—even if you are sprawled on sofas at opposite ends of the world. Soon you'll wonder how you ever survived without it!

* I am referring to mainstream, rather than tech-geek aided, televisions.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

School Days...

     I am not your average college student. Average in age, that is. Now that I have dropped back into school (after a long break,) I find my memory being jogged by certain experiences that bring back old feelings about formal education:
     I get nervous about impending tests; I worry about not doing assignments correctly; I am concerned about being late for class. Many of my old concerns from my grade school and high school days, however, seem gone for good. Really good. I do not worry about what I'm wearing. I am not bored; I don't resent and blow off my assignments; I don't worry if I'll make any friends.
      I do not have to worry about bullies.
     Bullies were a big theme for me for a short period of time in my early childhood. It felt interminable while I was going through it; I suffered intensely from unwanted mean-girl attention. The more I attempted to withdraw from their focus, the more they seemed to hunt me down. At home I was creative and confident; at school I was self-conscious, socially isolated, lonely and sad. By fifth grade I'd studied my tormentors, and figured out how to effectively defend myself. The bullies, or my sensitivity to them, dissipated. 
     Unlike most of my college classmates, I have children. I have watched them face their own school issues, which sadly have, at times, included bullies. This seems to be a somewhat common childhood experience, and I am wondering how people look back upon it as adults.   
     Have any of you ever experienced bullying? Were you a bully? Either way, how did you get over it? 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Enter my contest and WIN PRIZES!!!

So, I have decided to create a contest with my blog, just because...well, just because.

My contest will be a ...
poetry contest,
and you are invited to enter!

The prompt is:

(Replace the "..." with your poem)

Poetry Contest Guidelines:

There is no can enter for FREE!
You can enter as many times as you want, for FREE!
Your poem may be "bad." Not raunchy, BAD--as in poorly written.
There will even be a prize for the most poetical poem!!!
You might win a HOUSE!!*
Or a CAR!!*
Or a CAT!!!!*
There are two ways to enter:
1. Write a poem and post it on your blog.
2. There are no other ways, I just thought it would be cool to have a numbered list in this blog entry.
3. Once you have posted your blog, comment here to let me know you are ready to be judged.

Good Luck!

* important fine print where the false advertiser admits you, the reader, are about to get screwed--but which banks on you being the sort who won't read the fine print. This particular fine print has to break the bad news: you really have absolutely no chance whatsoever so help me God to win a house, or for that matter a car, through this contest. I'm lying through my eye teeth (PS--why are they called "I Teeth? Incisors? Or is it EYE teeth? That is even crazier!) Whatever; back to the fine print. As I was saying, despite the the sad fact you will NOT win a car, or a house, you probably will win a cat, or, say...three. Your three cats will be old, sickly, blind in at least one eye, and they will all miss the litter box more often than not; but then that is a matter for the fine print, which you are not reading. Sucker. My crazy cat-lady aunt will be dropping your cats off shortly. Congrats, winner!

Monday, January 17, 2011

HOW is it done?!

This is a real question. I hope for real answers, posing as "comments."

How on earth do people do all of their homework in college?
Do you do all of the readings? Do you "speed read?"
Can you remember what you've read, or do you lose it all when you cram the next assignment into your brain?
How many hours--honestly--do you spend doing homework?

Because, wow; I have a lot of reading to do.

Friday, January 14, 2011

"Google me"

I'll admit it; I'm hooked on Google. I jumped in and started optimizing my presence in hopes of increasing my position in searches, trying to climb the ladder so that people looking for a dog trainer would find me first...or close to first. It isn't easy making it to a high position in search engines unless you are willing to pay. I am not willing; no ad-words, no pay-per-click for me. 

I decided to do it the cheap way: self-promotion based SEO.  At first I played fair, spreading my propaganda across a range of search engines. But I have to admit, I soon left them all for Google. I know Bing is trying hard, and Yahoo strives to compete, but I like to ride the fastest horse. I'd feel weird saying "Bing me." Or "Yahoo me."

Google had me from, well, hello. I started out just dabbling with Googling others or myself; with a g-mail account; with more g-mail accounts; with Google Places, which gave me my own little spot on the Google Map, easily identified with my own geo-specific, Google generated QR code (see my post below for more on that if confused.) With iGoogle, I gained a home page with a little fox on my banner ( that a sly wink at those who were once loyal to Firefox?), who changes what he does based on what time it is. 

Oh, and while I am 'fessing up to how deep it goes between me and Google, there's more. Several years ago I added some Google "Knols," a place where I could expert blog about...what else? Dogs. Later Google Docs became important, what with me now being a student and all; and my Google Calendar is so handy for synchronizing my busy daily activities. But that's not all: I have Google-based Picasa to keep my photos handy, floating around in some Google data cloud for easy access from anywhere!

I also use Google Talk, a chat tool with a video chat option, so I can stay in touch with my Googling kids no matter where we are on the Google Map.  Wondering if I have a YouTube account? You betcha

But it all came together with Google Voice. Google Voice started out as "Grand Central," which I beta tested. It was pretty cool; a central calling station that assigned me a free phone number (in my area code,) which forwarded all incoming calls to all of my phones--home, cell, etc., at the same time. Never missing a call, recorded messages to text and e-mailed to me: WOW! Oh, and a most (the most?) compelling detail: with Grand Central I didn't pay for a single incoming call, neither from cell nor land line, regardless of who I used as a mobile service provider. Before the unlimited call package days, this meant a lot to my phone bill; actually it meant a lot LESS.

I loved Grand Central, and wasn't going to break up with them when Google assimilated them into its huge, ever-evolving, Jabba-the-Hut-like mass. So, I went all the way to the Google side, and now I am part of the evil conglomerate, a willing participant, a minion.


I also rank really high when you Google me