Friday, August 31, 2007

More Insanity from NWA

I continue to be baffled by Northwest Airlines. I'm not surprised that they are still struggling to survive because basically they suck, but I am surprised that they make it so obvious just how stupid they are. I have been planning two trips from Duluth to Michigan (either Detroit or Flint, most likely).

Detroit is one of their hubs, as is Minneapolis. When you fly out of Duluth (on NWA) you will be flying to one of those two cities; there are no other choices. So for my first trip I was planning to fly to Flint in October. I was surprised to find a relatively low fare of $239 for the round-trip DLH-FNT flights. In each case I would have to change planes in Detroit.

Then I started shopping for round-trip airfare to Detroit in November. The lowest available fare is $680. My first thought is that they must be having a major fare increase between mid-October and mid-November. So, I decide to look up the Duluth-Detroit for the same dates in October when I an traveling to Flint. I was surprised to see that the fare was once again $680 and up.

So, here's the deal-ee-oh. I can fly from Duluth to Detroit to Flint for $239 or I can fly from Duluth to Detroit (on the same flight as above) and NOT fly to Flint for $680. I cannot find any way in the world to think of that as anything less than TOTALLY STUPID.

Just to see whether this is a complete anomaly I decided to check another flight. What about flying through the other hub in Minneapolis? Round-trip from DLH-MSP is $399. If I keep flying from MSP and travel on to St. Louis my cost drops to $249. That's right, I save $150 by taking another seat on another flight and eating more lousy pretzels and being sneered at by more disgruntled employees. Still, that's nothing compared to the $441 I save by flying on to Flint rather than staying in Detroit.

Airline pricing has never made perfect sense, but they seem to be reaching an all-time high in stupidity. BTW, I try to teach my children not to use the word "stupid," but I just can't help myself when I can't find another word without sacrificing accuracy.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Grand Marais Animoto

Animoto is a new site for creating photo stories using your pictures, indie music, and some pretty well-done technology. This is my first attempt. It took me about twelve minutes and that included setting up my Animoto account, creating a new set of photos in my Flickr account, listening to clips from about 20 different songs before finding the one I wanted, and then letting the processor do it's thing. Here's my first effort, it's a 30-second short.

Animoto Shorts are free. You can create, share, and remix an unlimited number of them. Creating a full-length video costs $3, and the length will depend on how many photos you use and how fast your music is. Upbeat songs transition through the photos more quickly than slow songs. You can buy individual full-length Animotos as often you wish, or buy an All-Access Pass which allows you to make an unlimited number of full-length videos for one year at a cost of $30. I'll stick with the free option for now, but $3 is pretty cheap if you want a more serious end product.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

My Inbox Zero Mission

I really didn't think that I could pull it off. Hah, even I can fool myself. Much to my surprise, I was able to delete or file/archive all of my email messages at work. Somewhere around 15,000 emails have been deleted during the past few days and several thousand more have been moved into appropriate folders or archived if they really have a future potential use.

I've been inspired by the 43 folders series about Inbox Zero and also by several people I admire in the blogosphere who have been taking this idea to heart. Next step will be order the book Getting Things Done from Amazon and continue trying to make my life a bit more (okay, a lot more) efficient and productive. After I cleaned out my email box yesterday, I also threw out several boxes of old paper documents that I have been saving for the past few years, just in case I ever needed them. "Just in case" never seemed to happen, so now they're gone.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Dog Paddlers Rock the World

The LSC Husky Dog Paddlers had what must have been their best day ever at the Lake Superior Dragon Boat Festival. Winning their first heat, and then taking six seconds off their time during the second heat, helped put the team just .03 seconds out of first place among the nine entries in the Education Division.

Overall they finished in 37th place out of 86 teams, just missing the finals of the silver (middle) division. The embedded slide show contains several shots from the day, although no one was able to get the Dog Paddlers in action during the races (it's hard to paddle and shoot pictures at the same time).

Just a few notes: Listen people!! You paddle a dragon boat!! You don't ROW one!! You use a paddle, not an OAR!! All the cute little names like Intimidate-Oars, Insure Oars, Holy Rowers, We are Outd'oar, First Oar Else, and Rowed Rage are just dumb. That's like having a fantasy football team named the Shortstops or the Point Guards.

The end result? This was a great day. Great weather. Great sportsmanship. Lots of money raised for charity. The Keyport Krew won the wet t-shirt contest (capsized) and for good luck, one paddler wore pearls from China (the home of dragon boat racing where the good paddlers stand up while putting on a major push - here's a 30-second video if you don't believe me). Yes, this was a great day. Those Husky Dog Paddlers are the bomb.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Not Exactly a Viral Video

Although it doesn't compare to some of the viral videos that have been watched millions of times, I did have one of my YouTube videos eclipse the 10,000 view mark sometime yesterday.

My interview with Bill from Saigon at the Ben Thahn market is by far the most popular video of those that I have uploaded to the site. 34 comments (positive, no less) and favorited 28 times, and counting. 23 ratings - all 5 stars. I'll take it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Beloit College Mindset - Class of 2011

With the start of a new school year we again see the Beloit College Mindset List. Most students (recent high school grads) entering college this year were born in 1989. What has their life been like? The Beloit list has 70 items on it. I picked the top ten that have some sort of meaning for me, either things I have strong memories of, or things that I never thought would happen (pay for water?).

For students entering college this year:
10. China has always been more interested in making money than in re-education.
9. General Motors has always been working on an electric car.
8. Tiananmen Square is a 2008 Olympics venue, not the scene of a massacre.
7. Russia has always had a multi-party political system.
6. When all else fails, the Prozac defense has always been a possibility.
5. They never saw Johnny Carson live on television.
4. Stadiums, rock tours and sporting events have always had corporate names.
3. MTV has never featured music videos.
2. Fox has always been a major network.
1. They have grown up with bottled water. (CC photo by shrff14)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Thriller Video - Finding the Truth

Scott McLeod from Dangerously Irrelevant posted the most interesting thing that came through my RSS feed today. His post about the Filipino prison inmates doing their Thriller dance routine is a great example of the power of using the "personal media" to tell your side of the story - without needing to bother with the idea of providing equal time to opposing views.

As of this evening, almost 5.5 million people have viewed the original video uploaded to YouTube by Byron F. Garcia, a provincial security consultant with the Filipino prison system at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC). I'll embed the video below, but here's the link to YouTube for more info.

Someone else has posted a rebuttal video that tells a very different story about life inside CPDRC. I'll also embed that video for your comparison. Although this one is labeled "The Truth," you'll probably agree that it is not easy to know for sure where the truth lies in all of this. My gut is telling me that there is more truth in the rebuttal than Mr. Garcia would care to admit.

  • Disturbing item #1: First video has been viewed about 5.43 million times more than the second.
  • Disturbing item #2: First video has been "favorited" by 29,867 YouTube viewers.
  • Disturbing item #3: Even ABC news has an all-positive story about the dancing at CPDRC.
  • Disturbing item #4: Apparently Mr. Garcia is quite a choreographer since his YouTube account currently contains 14 videos, most of which are other inmate dances. I have no doubt that he is also enjoying his new worldwide popularity.

The most "fair and balanced" (I'm beginning to hate that phrase) coverage that I've found so far comes from a new media company where they ask: "with evidence of tattooed concubinage and the unsettling popularity of Gracia’s YouTube, is this really new-age rehabilitation, or age-old exploitation?"

For those of you in education, I hope you can find your own version of a teachable moment in here. Looking past the funny video to an underlying truthiness should be an important info literacy skill for current and future generations.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Workshops at Norfolk State

I just returned home from an excellent, very short, but very fun trip to Norfolk, VA. That was my first time in Norfolk and I found it to be an excellent place to visit. Great people, lots of history, and lots of things to do and see. The fun part for me was not the sightseeing; it was the four workshops that I presented to the faculty, staff, and administration at Norfolk State University School of Liberal Arts.

Here is the flyer that they distributed for the workshops (descriptions here). I keep all of my presentation materials online and available to the public. These are the four workshops that I presented at NSU:

What a great group of people. Many faculty attended, including several who are fairly tech-savvy as well as several who are just starting to cut their teeth on using technology in a serious way to enhance their teaching. Their enthusiasm and attentiveness was obvious and inspiring. These presentations tend to be fast and furious. I like to throw out lots of ideas, tools, and possibilities and hope that each participant picks up a few things that they can incorporate into their teaching and their own personal learning. Several administrators and staff members also attended the sessions.

My special thanks go to Damani D who invited me to come to Norfolk State and was my host during the stay. Damani had attended one of my sessions at the ITC Conference in Albuquerque and decided that I had something to offer to the employees at NSU. Harry S was very helpful, informative, and engaged in the whole process. It was pleasure meeting Danny A who is their director of e-learning, as well as the Dean and Assistant Dean of the School of Liberal Arts. Their instructional designer, a gentleman named Murat who hails from Turkey, can also be counted among my new friends.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay in Norfolk and especially enjoyed my role of opening the minds of some very smart people to some new possibilities for using collaborative web-based tools that they might not have considered previously. That is the fun part for me.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Back to Work

I have been on vacation for the past two weeks, which is one reason why I haven't posted in at least that long. Because of conferences, meetings, and vacation; I have only spent three days in my office since July 3.

Tomorrow I return to the office to get settled back in and start trying to play catch-up. As usual, all the benefits from the time away will probably get washed away during the first day or two back on the job. Ce la vie.