27 February 2014

40 Years Alone on the Taiga

OK.  Deep breath.
I came across this article in the sidebar as I was reading the Smithsonian article from my previous post about the cranes.  I saw the headline, "For 40 Years, This Russian Family was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of  WWII."  It sounded like a headline from some half-rate tabloid rag.  ...but it was from Smithsonian.  I caved in and clicked on it.  And from that point on my mind was completely blown.  Maybe I don't read enough about different cultures, subsistence existence, hermits or something.  I can't stress at how many different points of reading this article that I was forced to stop, think and try and wrap my head around it.  ...When the patriarch was nonplussed about our ability to put satellites into space because he'd been observing the night sky, when the son was hunting animals by running them to death by exhaustion...in the winter...barefoot...overnight, when the family's existence hung on the durability of ONE rye sprout....and their harvest was 18 seeds.
I don't want to spoiler the article so I'll just say, if you like it, to read this article as well, about a gift one of the family send Medvedev.
It probably sounds crazy but this article totally unsettled me.  I was so excited and tense while I read it.  A combination of shock, disbelief, admiration and weirded out was running through me.  Visions of "Castaway" and "My Side of the Mountain" and the Native Americans were running through my head. 
I want to spend more time reading things like this.  Articles like this change how you think.  How you rationalize.  What you understand about the world and humanity.  I think this may tie in with my twitter post.  I want more like this and less like "Burger King Receipt Makes Grandma Cry" [actual headline on cnn.com under "Top U.S. Stories"].  Headlines like that make me what to cry.

[Edit. 1: Turns out there are books and documentaries about this family.  I will have to explore more.]
[Edit. 2: Why do the pictures suck so bad in the article? ]

Sandhill Cranes

Smithsonian has a great article with wonderful images about the sandhill crane migration that makes the Platte River in Nebraska such a draw for birders.  It sounds completely amazing and I must get over there to see it some year soon.

26 February 2014

Twitter Shareout

The power and intrigue of twitter was unveiled to me when I attended my first ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) a few years back.  I was floored by the amount and quality of resources and answers as well as the 'community' living in the twitter-verse.  It is truly the best professional developments I have taken part in.  I credit it with helping raise the level of my work as a tech trainer. And the list of who I followed was probably 90% edtech folks.
Lately though, I've thought that I should be diversify myself a bit.  I have relaxed my stance of keeping my twitter 'for work only' and tried out some other areas.  Some of these accounts need to be vetted and determined if they are really worth following, but some of them are quite good.
Soccer - @waatpies @Zonal_Marking @ESPNFC @OptaJoe
Photography - @ReutersPictures @NPPA @Life @LightStalking @JoeMcNallyPhoto
Spanish - @CNNEE (CNN en Espanol) @Aristotelese @MUYinteresante
Faith - @AndreasWidmer @NewsVAen @JamesMartinSJ @CardinalDolan
Birding/Nature - @PolkCCB @IowaDNR @DesMoinesParks @CornellBirds @AudobonSociety
Design - @skillshare @typographica @FontsInUse @jessicahische
Misc- @CoryBooker @csoghoian @UN @USAID @NickKristof - Cory Booker has incredible twitter fluency.  It was more impressive when he was Newark mayor, but still is admirable.
Food - @Rick_Bayless @GDeLaurentiis - This is an area that I've struggled to find value in via twitter (maybe Instagram would be better).  I unfollowed Jamie Oliver and Tyler Florence and these two are hanging by a thread.

So I decided to reach out to the family and see what other people were getting good value out of on their twitter feeds.  Here's what I got back.  Thanks for taking the time to share everyone!

@darth | Funny photoshopper
@astroRM | Space, great photos from ISS
@THE_47th | News - Syria. He is Syrian and can be harsh/unthoughtful at times... rough language
@juliaioffe | News - Sochi was great, she is Russian-American good insights into Russian behavior/society
@HayesBrown | News, fun - DC reporter/blogger prolific tweeter
@CarlBildt | Politics - feed is more open and candid than you'd expect from world leader
@Yael_Averbuch | Soccer - great footwork

@JamesMartinSJ | Jesuit, author, editor of America magazine

@AmExperiencePBS | American Experience history series
@TodaysDocument | Historical documents from US National Archives
@HistoryExtra | BBC History Magazine
@WDLorg | World Digital Library
@Smithsonian | Smithsonian - for science and history
@NPR | NPR - for news
@Pontifex | Pope Francis - for hope

 @ListenLikeaLwyr | A blog exploring effective listening practices for lawyers, law students, and other legal professionalsIn addition to pointing to her blog, she posts to other useful sources. And you may say, “But I’m not a x#$%! lawyer, why should I care about this?”. Because listening—really listening—to others isn’t just a shortcoming among lawyers (great as that may be). If you think that listening is a worthwhile skill (and you should), then you can benefit.
@PresentationZen | Garr Reynolds. Author of Presentation Zen. Based in Japan. Help people tell their unique stories through medium of the 21st-century short-form presentation.  Reynolds usually only points, but what he points to—especially Presentation Zen—is almost invariably worthwhile. His books are also terrific.
@DalrympleWill | Writer, historian and Mehrauli goatherd. Co-founder and continuing co-director of The Jaipur Literature Festival and award-winning (i.e., big award-winning) author of travel books and histories. His tweets concern India (where he now resides), good writing, #JLF, and so on. Also some good photos. Keeps me abreast locally, so to speak.
@ianbremmer | Political scientist, author, prof at nyu, ostensible intellectual entrepreneur, president of @eurasiagroup His tweets are often the most interesting. Sometimes pithy (and often snarky) comments on current events, and frequent snapshots of really interesting, informative statistics (yes, you read that correctly). Perhaps the most consistently informative tweeter among my selections.
@brainpicker | Interestingness hunter-gatherer obsessed with combinatorial creativity. Editor of @brainpickings & @explorer. Bylines for @WiredUK & @TheAtlantic. MIT Fellow.
Her blog is a gem for matters creative, especially design and writing, as well as insight brief essays or quotes, and her tweets often provide a foretaste of her longer work. Tweets and posts mesh well.

Steve had two comments that I totally agree with.  First, "I must preface my choices by saying that I use Twitter primarily as a source for finding more extended sources, usually blogs."  That is how I started out finding people to follow.  I had a good list of twenty or so edtech blogs that I read and so I just started following those people on twitter and then later branched out from there. His second comment was in regards to my request, "It really makes me think, and a few tweeters might get axed in the process, but such is good gardening for the mind."  There were more than a few people who got unfollowed as I was looking over my lists.  Too often of tweets and not enough substance was a possible infraction, as was "I don't think I recall seeing/remembering any tweets from this person.'
Thanks for all the input everyone!  If you have any good twitter tips, leave them in the comments!

23 February 2014

Sarajevo '84: Revisited

A series of photographs by Dado Ruvic came across my social media net yesterday and I'm glad it did. Sarajevo and Los Angeles in 1984, were the first Olympics I can remember watching, when I was eight years old.  And ten years later, the four-year long Siege of Sarajevo was the focal point as Serbs, Muslims, and Catholics waged war as Yugoslavia broke up and eventually became Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Macedonia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Slovenia, and Croatia.
As we hear about the billions poured into facilities and infrastructure by host cities now, this pictorial is a sad illustration of what a civil war and a foundering economy can do to negate those dollars. (It's also a reminder of how quickly some of our man-made structures can start to be taken back over by nature in thirty years.
[I do have to say that I think many of those pictures would be much improved by a healthy covering of snow.]
This Today article takes a broader look at venues and what they have done with facilities once the Olympians leave town.   And here are some images from the more recent, but often-cited example of poor planning, Athens games.
And no story about the Sarajevo games would be complete without an image of what the American athletes wore to the Opening Ceremonies...

21 February 2014

Vampy Weekend does Andrea Bocelli

While I was waiting to pay for my chai at Starbucks last week, I saw they had a compilation cd there for Valentine's Day (the "Sweetheart Album").  I love looking at these albums and so I flipped it over to see who was features.  Lo and behold, Vampire Weekend are on there and ever crazier, they are covering "Time to Say Goodbye (Con Te Partiro)" by Andrea Bocelli!
While Ezra's voice is obviously not going to match up with Andrea's, I do like the arrangement and instrumentation.  Give it a listen here or pick up the full album next time you are ordering a latte!

DHL, the friendly pranksters

Shipping company DHL used some wits and some thermal ink to get some great footage of their competitors delivering large boxes that were pretty much advertisements for DHL.  Check it out here.

14 February 2014

Drone Survival Guide

Not really in the Valentine's Day theme, but how cool is this "Drone Survival Guide"?! Designed by a Dutch designer, it comes complete with translations into Pushtu and printed on reflective aluminum paper.  I want one for the map room!  For now I'll settle with downloading the free PDF and making it my laptop's background.  Eyes to the skies, folks!

12 February 2014

A New Photo Adventure aka "Hello, Learning Curve"

After much thought, hemming & hawing, trying out caboose's DSLR, and doing research, I finally
pulled the trigger and purchased a DSLR camera!  I've always loved taking photos, starting with my Kodak Instamatic X-15.  It had a disposable flash bar!  The sound and the smell were so cool. [Sidenote: I should totally try and find one of those cameras for fun!] I really caught the shutterbug when I took Photography class as a senior in high school.  Film, dark rooms, freedom to wander around town, what wasn't to like?!  Through college I had a couple Samsung film cameras before upgrading after graduation to a Canon SD600 in 2006.  That was a fantastic camera.  I really explored the settings and got my digital legs under me. 
But, after I dropped that one while tailgating in 2009 it was time to upgrade to a SD1200.  I got it on Black Friday and, while I liked it a lot, I never really felt like it was any sort of an upgrade on the SD600.  The size fit so nicely in the pocket, though, it was fabulous to take to concerts and on walks. 
After three years with that one, I nearly broke down and bought a SX260 on another Black Friday visit to Rockbrook Camera.  Instead, I talked minovia into buying one for her classroom.  She loved it and I loved it even more.  It has been a great camera for the past year and a half.  TWENTY times optical zoom is really wonderful for capturing birds at the feeder.  It is a little larger, though, and not a great fit in the pocket.  Great quality images though. 
And now I have an iPhone so I find myself taking some carefree snapshots with that.  The best camera is the one you have with you, as they say.  But for real photos, I've been thinking we were ready for a 'grown-up' camera.  I tested out caboose's Canon XSi for a month or so and quickly realize a couple things.  One, it produced rich, sharp pictures and the ability to control the focal point can make for 'picture-perfect' shots.  And two, the learning curve to be able to consistently take those type of shots and not spend five minutes figuring out the settings before each shot was going to take me a while.  Caboose also passed on the great tip of considering used cameras.  I ended up getting a Canon T2i used on amazon.  The T5i is the current model and when you compare the specs, the T2i really is very similar (the processor being the obvious improvement).  With the money I saved by buying used I will be able to pick up a zoom lens.  I am super excited to start doing some reading, maybe even signing up for a Skillshare class on photography and now that the polar vortex might possibly be ending, I'll be able to get outside and test it out.  But first, I'll have to find a suitable camera bag!

Olympic Spirit on Display

In case you haven't seen this yet, a Canadian coach (from California) comes to a Russian XC skier's aid after he crashed and fell a couple times, trying without success to finish the race on a broken ski.  Check it out here and toast to sportmanship, kindness, and the Olympic spirit.

11 February 2014

Jimmy Fallon & The Muppets Say Goodbye To "Late Night"

What else is there to say?  It's Jimmy Fallon & the Muppets performing "The Weight".  I love everything about that sentence.

10 February 2014

NTW Spells It Out!

Proud of my nephew for his recent spelling success.  Representing his school and earned second in the Metro Catholic Schools Spelling Bee.  Well done, buddy!
And the man knows style.  I would've given him the trophy just for looking like he means business.