heavy hitters

Written By: Miranda - Nov• 15•09

Let’s hear it for the heavy hitters! You know who you are…The harder you hit it the better it will act folks, the ones with the lead foot on the mouse button.

I turned into the corner at the end of the stacks of bookshelves at the library yesterday to see a long-time client of mine already at the big maple table with his laptop. I settled in kitty corner to him and after we exchanged greetings and related pleasantries we both settled in to our respective tasks.
The room was quiet. Charlie was watching “how to’ videos from the Experimental Aircraft Association. He builds planes in his garage up in Vershire and is a member of the Replica Fighters Association. (These guys build WWII fighter aircraft and then fly them around – these are ¾ or full size planes I’m talking about! I mean these guys are crazy.) He comes to the library to watch the videos as he is also on a last mile.

And then it began.

Like a dripping tap it became more and more noticeable with repetition.

Click. Click! CLICK! CLICK!

Charlie was pounding that mouse button, putting his whole body into it. You could see him gather himself as his eyes approached a clickable link, his back arching, his forefinger slowly rising and……. CLICK!

I see a lot of people do this, students included. It seems to have nothing to do with the digital native thing. Some people are just prone to it.
It makes no difference how hard you click that mouse button, it may be actively counter productive in fact. Yet people will put their whole backs into pounding on that left click. Why?

Even I do this when I’m really frustrated. I confess, here, publicly, that I am a mouse abuser and a keyboard pounder when a computer is doing what I said instead of what I meant.

Living on the last mile

Written By: Miranda - Nov• 14•09

The Last Mile

I’m writing this at the Latham Library, no, I cannot tell a lie, I’m writing this at home to post later at the library.
Our phone line has been getting noisy lately and yesterday it finally became unusable for any kind of data connection.

We have dial-up.

Most of the time we connect at a fairly good clip for dial-up, anywhere from 49000 to 52000 kbps and before you ask that’s all we can get at the moment.
I live in a little hollow in the hills in Thetford, VT. There is no cable. There is no DSL. I can’t get satellite reliably enough to justify the expense because the hill at our back – to the Southwest – blocks that most of the time. We get satellite TV when the leaves are off the trees. The TV starts to go in May and comes back in, well we started testing in late September and I believe in was mid-October when we finally got the Daily Show back. (Tangentially, I really think that works out perfectly. It’s like a higher power is telling us to get outside and enjoy in the spring when we lose TV.)

I live on the last mile and brother let me tell you it isn’t pretty out here. Our local town consortium, ECFiber is out there plugging away trying to get a loan to put a fiber network out here and to 26 other towns but it’s been an uphill slog to do that. It will be two years at the least I’d guess before it gets down Picknell Road. There is a possibility, just a bit of a one, that I could now get wireless access. WaveComm has put up a tower on a large pine tree at the Gove Hill Retreat, a Baptist camp on top of Gove Hill. We aren’t really line of sight to it but we hear that a house halfway down our road is, if they put a repeater on their house we might be able to get that. I’ve been meaning to call WaveComm for the last couple of weeks to see if I could set that in motion.

But I haven’t and this morning it is taking me five to ten minutes to send a plain text email.

Our dial-up connection generally runs around 49000 to 52000 kbps. My son and I have an older Apple Airport that has a modem in it, we use this to share our connection and although we can’t both download anything at the same time it serves well enough for email and most things. (Airports with modems aren’t manufactured anymore. We had to buy this one on EBay after the original one died) But this morning there is so much noise on the phone line we are connecting at 18000 to 24000 and at that rate Outlook Web Access just times out. I use a plain text email client from Dartmouth – Blitzmail – and even that is now almost impossible.
FairPoint, the little phone company that bought all the lines here after Verizon decided it couldn’t make a big enough profit here, is in bankruptcy court. I wonder how responsive the support line will be today…..

nb: when I called them from the bank parking lot, using my son’s Tracfone they were actually quite responsive, or at least understanding

So spare a thought for those of us living on the last mile. When you send us photos, remember that 100 dpi (dots per inch) resolution is plenty unless we want to print them out and frame them. Don’t send us links to cool videos; it only makes us feel left out. When you create your website, go easy on the Flash, puhleeze!

AutoZone are you listening?

zero waste, or, what happened to the pigs?

Written By: Miranda - Nov• 04•09

A post by Phil Sparks on Mr. McIntyre’s Environmental Science blog,  a response to this article about Nantucket’s trash, led to some interesting reading this morning. In the article I read this on food waste and the benefits of composting.

When apple cores, stale bread and last week’s leftovers go to landfills, they do not return the nutrients they pulled from the soil while growing. What is more, when sealed in landfills without oxygen, organic materials release methane, a potent heat-trapping gas, as they decompose. If composted, however, the food can be broken down and returned to the earth as a nonchemical fertilizer with no methane by-product.

Which got me wondering… What happened to the pigs? When I first started working at KUA we routinely separated our food garbage out when we scraped our plates, that’s why there were two bins. The food waste was picked up by someone who gave it to his pigs. What happens to all that food now? Does it go into the landfill?

web publishing

Written By: Miranda - Nov• 03•09

We do not teach web 2.0 tools or online communication mores at KUA.
and I think that’s pretty unfortunate. We now have two a web publishing platform here at KUA, this WordPress installation. and KUtube

We have no policies that I know of written with these platforms in mind. We have the AUP – the Acceptable Use Policy. We have a paragraph in the faculty handbook on social networking and one line stating that discussing school policy with anyone other than faculty members is unprofessional. Does this qualify? Should I be fired?

How are these applied? Who applies them? What happens when someone publishes something that a parent, teacher, classmate or administrator finds objectionable? Do we measure it against the AUP? Who does the measuring? What are the consequences if it is determined that a post or a video is against policy? Is this OK? What about this?

The faculty who have set up blogs here on KUAPress have needed help to do so, they do not instinctively know how to use the tool even in a technical sense. Why would we assume students would? It is obvious, looking at the ModelUN blog that Isaac had no idea how to use the platform – he commented on the example post from Mr. WordPress and then abandoned the blog entirely.

Yet when they go out into the world, our students will need to know how to create web content and how to join in the online conversation as a citizen of the world. Even the chairman of the Republican party has a blog, though I’m awfully disappointed he changed the name from “What Up?”

It isn’t that I think our students will be using blogs per se, it might be something very different. But they’ll need to know how to communicate online, how to work cooperatively on projects, how to disagree without being disagreeable (which isn’t so easy with only words).

Now that faculty are using KUAPress, I don’t think students will use it much. I’m thinking that will probably be the kiss of death for it as far as student sites. But they’ll still need to learn. It isn’t instinctive, no matter how much older adults think it is.

Owen and Eamon’s Fresh Eggs

Written By: Miranda - Oct• 30•09

My son and I have been trying to pay attention to where our food comes from, we’ve been trying to eat locally. You can’t get much more local than the eggs we buy.

A couple of months ago, this table, cooler and sign arrangement began to appear at the end of a local driveway, about a mile from our house, on Mondays and Thursdays. The eggs are $3.00 a dozen.

My son, Chris usually picks them up after school, although the cooler is generally there when we go down the hill past it on the way to work and school respectively.

You leave your money inside the cooler in a plastic bag and take your eggs. This week, the carton had a marketing message in ball point pen:

Now, we don’t know Owen or Eamon (although after seeing the carton I think I may have to meet them) but we’ve been buying these eggs and eating them for several weeks. Why would we buy these eggs? We don’t know what conditions are like up that driveway for those chickens.  I can make a pretty good guess, I see the chickens sometimes roaming around on the hill and they look pretty happy to me.

But what about our safety? What about sanitary conditions? What about the cooler for goodness sake! It does have several freezer packs in it and always seems cool….

Do we trust these eggs?

Well, yes. I do. Hey they have shells and we don’t eat those, do we? They’re sealed already! I can tell if it’s too warm in the cooler. I trust Owen and Eamon. And the eggs really are wonderfully fresh and good.

Severen Suzuki

Written By: Miranda - Oct• 29•09


I do not believe I have anything to add…

post oil

Written By: Miranda - Oct• 17•09

As I put my long johns on this morning it occurred to me that expecting every room to be warm all the time is a luxury that until recently, wasn’t something that anyone expected ever.
My house is a little chilly this morning – there’s a frost and I have the heat set at 65 °
But here I am expecting to be able to be warm while I put on these long johns in a bedroom that is not used at all during the day by anyone. Not that long ago this was unheard of, to have every room in the house warm all the time. Now we do expect it and so we are gong to lose the very nature of the Arctic.

I am planning to put up the plastic on the windows, I am a little late this year.
As I am one of those “poor” who make less than forty thousand a year, this is what I do instead of having permanent storm windows. I’ve gotten rather good at it over the years. It’s a routine.
Frst you wash the window, because whatever’s on the window is going to be staring you in the face for the next six months.
Then I put up double sided transparent tape (and this is where it does get a little pricey because it’s like $8.99 a roll and I usually go through four or five rolls). I buy the plastic itself in rolls too, that’s around sixteen dollars. It’s never quite enough for all the windows, but you don’t want to go back and buy another 16 dollar roll so at the end you always have to go out and get one of those window kits because you don’t want to buy another whole roll. The plastic is especially made for this purpose, very thin and shrinks up with heat.
I cut off pieces for each window, get it as tight as I can and then starting at one corner run a hair-dryer back and forth across it and it tightens up with heat. Once you trim the edges, you can hardly tell it’s there.

Heat in every room may be one of those things we should stop expecting again. Many people are thinking about what is being called Post-Oil. My own son is certainly among them.

the deserving poor

Written By: Miranda - Oct• 15•09

I started thinking seriously about income and much and too much – money in other words – a week or so ago. In a semi-organized way I mean. As a subject, not as in “how will I be paying the electric bill this week” kind of way.

I was listening to National Public Radio in the car. The conversation was about the health care system as usual and I wasn’t really paying attention when I heard one of the voices say something like – “..for families who are poor, you know families living on 40, 50 or 60 thousand dollars”. It was just a scrap sentence but it gave me quite a jolt because I don’t make anywhere near 60, 50 or even 40 thousand dollars, and I don’t think I am poor.

I’m certainly not rich, I live from paycheck to paycheck, pretty much. I’m certainly aware of that today, I just wrote a check for my property taxes and I think I have about a hundred and fifty bucks to last the next two weeks.
But I don’t think of myself as poor.

episode 1:Thinking about income

Written By: Miranda - Oct• 14•09

I started reading this New York Times article (on a family surviving the severe pay cut of one of the wage earners. ) this morning with my coffee and just finished it up. I found it very striking, very interesting and it fits in perfectly with something I’ve been thinking about a lot these days: income.

Specifically, how much is not enough, and what does not enough mean exactly?

So the Lawlors soldier on, with plenty of family help. Their sisters have pitched in with baby-sitting, gratis. His parents bought their kitchen table, the dining room table, a playpen, a living room sofa and the deck furniture. His father’s two unmarried sisters, both retired teachers, insist on helping their only nephew — the one family member perpetuating the Lawlor name not only in this generation but, through his three sons, the next generation.

The aunts offer a subsidy. They insist, for example, that Bryan Lawlor eat healthy meals when he is on the road, even if that means spending more than his airline-allotted per diem. They’ll pay, and Mr. Lawlor says he does now eat properly. The aunts also paid $200 to rent “moon bounce” equipment for a Lawlor child’s birthday party last month. The birthday boy had asked for the party entertainment, and the Lawlors obliged, with the aunts’ help, not wanting the father’s loss of income to translate into constraints on the children’s lives

This article is just chock full of good quotes and this is one. What does this say when a family with four children feels the need to use someone else’s money to rent a “moon bounce” device for a kids birthday party because they didn’t want it to translate into “constraints”.

Constraints? Not having a moon bounce for your birthday isn’t a constraint. It’s a favor.

I’ll have to come back to this it’s time for Jon Stewart (yes I watch last nights episode today – I can’t stay up that late.)


Written By: Miranda - Oct• 02•09

I was cleaning out one of the food cupboards the other day and I came across a jar of corn relish.

This particular jar of relish was given to me by my Aunt Joanna and I remember the September day she gave it to me last year. She spoke about how corn relish in the depths of winter always made her think of the late days of summer, and goldenrod and those afternoons when the only sound is cicadas shrilling.

Aunt Joanna is dead now, she died last May. Yet here is this jar of relish that her hands made, and put in a jar, and gave to me. It seems strange that a condiment could outlive a person.

I’m not sure I’m going to be able to eat this relish. Once it is gone it might feel as if the last of my funny, fun-loving aunt is gone also.