Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Let's get edumodocated!

Being referred to as "Mr.", 100 per cent battery, one connection. Priceless. 

Imagine how awesome Facebook would be if it was controlled by a teacher.

Wait - come back!

Edmodo is kind of like a Facebook for teachers and students - secure classroom sharing and blogging, organizing course work, sharing files, conducting polls, and communicating - in convenient online and app formats.

Let's give it a shot, shall we?

If you're in one of these classes - or you're just interested in seeing what we do in class - just click on this Edmodo link and use one of these codes to join the group and see (for starters) this semester's course outlines. I'll update the pages with take-home assignments and other stuff as we go along. 
  • Ad majors: 03fh0i
  • Ad (year one): tiqxk4
  • PR (year one): 2raj2c
  • Comedy Writing: hbiua1
  • Work Placement: vsvs0f
If the codes don't work, it could be an issue with 0 versus o. Just cut an paste the codes from this page, and it should solve the problem.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Here's to pencils, books, and teachers' dirty looks

A leafy laurel and hardy handshake to new and returning students at Red River College.

Here's to a great semester!

1. This is how it works:

2. I predict a riot:

3. Hope you have a wonderful first day:

4. I can tell that we are gonna be friends:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The 20 greatest things I learned this summer

1. Apparently there's this bin Laden guy who's been involved with planning terror of some sort.

No shit.

2. Once you learn how to drywall, paint, and build a shed, it's hard to stop.

3. There's great crap under the porch:

4. If you wait long enough to buy Batman: Arkham Asylum, it only costs $10 and comes with free chocolate bars and AXE shampoo.

5. I can watch Colbert sing "Friday" over and over and over and never get sick of it. 

6. I can't decide who is more nemesis-worthy: Winnipeg Parking Authority or YouTube.

7. I can't believe I used to like True Blood.

8. I can't believe I still love Curb Your Enthusiasm.

9. I didn't know I loved the FIFA Women's World Cup.

10. Want comments on your blog? Knock the new Jets logo.

11. Best little concert: Men Without Hats at Casino Regina. Best big concert: Muse at Lollapalooza.

12. Greatest Star Wars moment I've never noticed before:

13. Harry Potter is better without the wand and with the tap shoes.

14. The most inexplicably popular station at the new Childrens' Museum:

Seventeen hours in, the kids had collected five fluff balls.

15. Least-promising fragrance.

16. Propaganda is art: see the posters at the Art Institute of Chicago.

17. America is down on his luck.

18. You may love the lake, but I'd rather polka with Bob the Builder.

19. My rug is worried about something:

20. There's a Kenton's Infotainment Scan figure available at EQ3.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The difference between working in Toronto and Winnipeg

Person one: "I work my ass off, never sleep, and can't take a vacation."
Person two: "Wow - how much do you make?"

Person one: "I have nothing to do at work and no one notices when I don't show up." 
Person two: "Can you get me a job there?"

Monday, August 22, 2011

To be a jack of all trades, and a master's of one

When I left you, I was but a learner - but now I am the master!

Well, not quite, but I will be in a couple of years and...then you'd better watch it.

This year and next, as I "teach the kids to write good," I will also be doing the book larnin' myself, as I take my Master's in Education Technology from Central Michigan University.

It was not a decision I took lightly.

I knew it would be a ridiculous workload, expensive, and time consuming. I knew it would take me away from my friends and family more than I would like. I knew that I wouldn't enjoy premium cable on Sundays as much with assignments hanging over my head, in addition to the usual pile of marking taunting me from my briefcase.

On the flipside, I knew that being a student would help me to be a better teacher, I might (gasp) actually learn something, I should at least earn the educational designation that my parents earned - around the same age that I am now, it could lead to even niftier showcase of prizes in the future, and this would be the one and only time I could earn it with my employer footing half the bill.

Ca-ching. Sign me up, Chester!

Late yesterday - premium cable night, damn it! - the first week's assignments came in. I instantly panicked and haphazardly began working, before I even read the outline. I hate it when students start work before reading the outline, so I cursed myself as I continued watching TV, reading the outline, working on two or three assignments, snacking, and panicking.

I made it through the first couple of tasks, and around midnight I noticed my email inbox was flashing.

Here's what it said:
CMU seeks court injunction/students should report for classes; Staff should report for work

Central Michigan University is disappointed that members of the CMU Faculty Association have voted to engage in an illegal work stoppage. This action creates an unfair disruption to the start of the academic year for CMU’s students.

CMU students should report for classes Monday and staff should report for work. CMU’s 439 fixed-term faculty and 591 graduate assistants will still hold classes as scheduled.

The impact of the FA’s action places an irreparable and unfair burden on students who want to graduate in a timely fashion, pursue graduate school or launch successful careers. As such, on Monday CMU will request an injunction from Isabella County Circuit Court and an order for faculty to return to class.
CMU remains committed to working with the FA toward a contract that is fair and equitable to all parties. CMU and the FA have both petitioned for fact-finding, which is the appropriate process under Michigan law to follow in coming to terms on a collective bargaining agreement.
No worries: if this whole master's thing doesn't work out, I still have a plan B - to lobby the government into making it legal for my dad to sign over his master's degree to me:

I'll take a K to block.

That's a Vniversitas Harvardiana degree, folks. For law. Or something. I think - I dunno. I don't read Latin.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Thirteen new words to the wise-ass

See number five.

1. Awarabouts - Having a vague sense you know where you are. "My awareabouts: Marylandish." See number 12.

2. Bandnesia - Going to see a live show and - in your excitement - later forgetting everything the band played.

3. Lameful - Lame and shameful. Like any song by the Black Eyed Peas.

4. Tune-a-Meld - Transferring all of your songs onto someone else's iPod.

5. Museums of Failure - Any library, centre, or museum with the words "George W. Bush" in the title.

6. OurPod - Sharing an iPod with someone else.

7. Sharity - "I've got something no one else has got, so now I'll make it available to everybody online, for free." From Simon Reynolds' great book, Retromania.

8. Skyrisers - High rises and skyscrapers: together at last.

9. Twibel - Libel on Twitter.

10. Twidiot - Idiot on Twitter.

11. Twilight - Using Twitter as a lamp. 

12. Unawareabouts - Not even vaguely knowing where you are. See number one.

13. Yesteryay - Your last hurrah. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Ode to the Towne's cinema three

I think that I shall never see
A theatre lame as number three

Three whose tiny screen is prest
Against my eyes as though a test

Three that mocks my sense of worth:
Twice the price for half the mirth

Too high a cost at that deposit
To only quip, "Is this a closet?"

Three you've made many's fate
To look like cheapskates on a date

Oh fools why built you, number three
Twice as small as my TV?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

How to make your lobster tails dirty and cheap

A lobster tail for $110? Cheap!

The next time you go to Minneapolis, go to the Oceanaire restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

Skip the menu and order your lobster tail "dirty" (sprinkled with a mysterious and tasty concoction of spices) - and for the low, low price of $110, the best lobster tail on the planet is yours.

I went to the place with a couple of my friends before seeing the Cars at First Avenue. After the meal, we felt pretty full and guilty about the giant price tag.

But after we got home, one of my friends - who had neglected to buy a roaming package on his cell phone - found out he'd incurred an additional $200 charge on his phone bill for messaging and roaming from Minneapolis.

So, in reality, his lobster tail cost him $310, while mine was only $110.

What a deal. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Queen or the Clash? Choose wisely, son

Sophie had it easy.

When I was 15, my father gave me a nightmarish choice: he would take me to the Twin Cities to see either Queen or the Clash, but not both.

I still love both bands, but my favorite album at the time was Queen's Greatest Hits, so I chose Queen. We went, it was awesome, I bought a T-shirt, and I bragged about it to my friends for years.

When Queen's Freddie Mercury died in 1991, I was sad that one of my favorite singers was no longer with us - but I was happy I'd chosen to see him in concert on what turned out to be his last North American tour. Whew.

By then, the Clash was no longer together, but I wasn't worried. I figured it would only be a matter of time until they reunited. But they didn't. Then lead singer Joe Strummer died.

Suddenly, I wasn't so sure I'd made the right decision.

Last weekend, in an attempt to make things right, I went to see Big Audio Dynamite in Chicago and Minneapolis - also known as the band that features the Clash's Mick Jones on lead vocals.

The band was great; it was mind-blowing to be in the presence in one of history's greatest songwriters, guitarists, vocalists - and one quarter of one of my favorite punk bands.

But deep down inside, I knew: had Joe Strummer lived, I'd probably be seeing the Clash reunion instead.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Lollapalooza turns 20, my sneakers die at two

Find Muse in this photo. 

After last year's oversold Lollapalooza fiasco, I vowed to never go back. 

Long story short: I went back.

The pull for me this year was the Big Audio Dynamite reunion - fronted by the Clash's Mick Jones - enough for me to get down off my high horse, put last year's bad vibes behind me, and take the 20th anniversary of the iconic music festival for another spin.

Organized by Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction, this is the fourth time I've attended the festival, and the third in Chicago's Grant Park, where it now makes its home.

My observations: 

1. Coldplay vs. Muse
    There are always great bands at Lollapalooza. The issue is that they always play at the same time.

    This year's battle of the titans was Coldplay versus Muse. Unlike the bulk of the crowd, I chose Muse and was happy I did - they're my pick for the best performance of the festival. I now can say with certitude that those are not my underpants (Weiner jokes never get old) and I know exactly what it would be like if Queen and Rush jammed on Mars.

    Muse frontman Matt Bellamy gave Coldplay a dig during the set: "Thank you for coming to see us. We realize you had options. You chose the right one." 

    2. Eminem vs. Beirut vs. My Morning Jacket vs. Pretty Lights
      In a bout of counter-programming diarrhea, these four bands played at the same time.

      I walked back and forth between Eminem and Beirut; I was about a mile back from Eminem, but I saw him play "Stan" and sing with Bruno Mars and Skylar Gray, so it's all good, girlfriend.

      Pity poor Beirut: he has some great tunes that would captivate any audience in a fancy theatre on a Friday night. On an outdoor stage, sandwiched between Eminem and My Morning Jacket? Good luck, tiny man with a tiny band.

      Like last year, overlapping sound was a big problem at this year's fest. Let it be said that Beirut is not best enjoyed with indie jam rock blaring in one year and white-boy rap booming in the other. 

      3. Battle for worst band: OK Go vs. Cee Lo Green

      In this corner: Cee lo green's setful o' awkward pauses and technical problems - and the man pulled the plug with time to spare. The T-shirts that say, "Cee Lo says, Fuck You" may have hit a little too close to the mark.

      In this corner: OK Go's brutally boring vanilla rock.

      The winner for worst band: Cee Lo, thanks to OK Go's big save on the last song, "This Too Will Pass." Still: based on what came before, that song has to be a fluke. And no Rube Goldberg cameo?

      4. Gatecrashers special

      Despite more fencing and a three-level security check on the way in - wristband check, frisking station, and electronic scanner - gatecrashing remains a problem. One middle-aged woman told me she paid a security guard $20 to "use the restroom." Yet, she'd somehow found her way to the Eminem show. Go figure. 

      Overall, crowd flow seemed a bit better this year, with food and merch moving to Columbus Drive - the main thoroughfare - and the addition of more picnic tables at which to sit and moan about sore feet.

      Note in the photo below - the massive crowd that starts at the festival gate and goes on along Columbus Drive forever:

      5. Eminem fans not so BAD

      The BAD reunion was my raison d'etre, but I didn't expect the massive crowd I found awaiting the band's performance.

      Upon closer inspection, many of them looked suspiciously like Eminem fans. Turns out that Eminem fans are clinically insane: the die-hards stood and waited at the Music Unlimited Stage for upward of eight hours in 35-degree heat, though Fitz and the Tantrums, BAD, and Cee Lo.

      Eminem fans also win the prize for being the nicest ever: the young guys at the front of the stage gladly let us stand up front for BAD's performance and only made fun of Mick Jone's British accent a couple of times ("fank you!").

      A big thanks to the very nice, young men who restored my faith in a generation I thought to be mostly made up of rioters and hooligans.

      6. Do you like pina colada? 

      I do, but I like pina colada smoothies even more. Nicely done, food services.

      7. Young girls love Christina Perri 

      And they will take you down in their desire to get to the stage to see her. 

      8. New word: Bandnesia

      I was so excited to see BAD, I had trouble remembering the songs when the band was finished playing. That's why I had to drive to Minneapolis the next day to see them again.

      9. Five crazy moments

      1. A guy barfs up beer, takes another swig from the beer bottle, passes pukey beer bottle to girlfriend, she takes a swig too.

      2. America makes a drunken, late-night phone call to China to ask for help with the debt ceiling.

       3. A woman asks me when BAD is playing right after the band finishes playing on the stage right in front of her.

      4. A guy barfs up beer on the ground, people show up to watch the next band, sit down in the barf.

      5. Five or six guys from Winnipeg, all wearing their new Winnipeg Jets T-shirts, momentarily chanting "Go Jets Go!"

      10. Fashion watch

      Young guys are wearing more plaid; young girls are wearing more shorts that ride up the butt, so they can spend the entire day awkwardly yanking them out.

      11. Worth the price of admission alone

      The Chicago skyline at night.

      12. Cool festival promos

      A toss-up: the Google+ tent with Google+ fans blowing on my Google+ bald head, the Lollapalooza Instagram contest, or the Toyota "made you get in our car" tent:

      13. Other fine bands

      White Lies, Chain Gang of 1974, Two Door Cinema Club.

      14. Funniest stage banter

      "The Irish should never really stand in the sun. And I'm a ginger, so it's even worse." - Alex Trimble, Two Door Cinema Club

      15. deadmau5? Try dead feet, son.

      That's it: I'm never ever going back again. Then again: if XTC were to get back together...

      Monday, August 8, 2011

      Ten things that crossed my mind at the BAD shows in Chicago and Minneapolis

      1. Bald men rock.

      2. Wait a sec - this isn't the lead singer of Foreigner.

      3. Big Audio Dynamite? I came here to SAVE BIG ON CAR AUDIO.

      4. Who's bad? I'm bad.

      5. London's Burning! Wait - London's burning?

      6. Don't you hate big, tall jerks who push their way past people who have been waiting for hours at shows, like this gargantuan bonehead and his butthead friend did?

      7. Do these shoes clash with a BAD shirt? Get it? Clash? Aww, forget it.

      8. Now that I've seen two BAD shows in a row, I believe I'm officially a groupie. Does this mean I now have to "do it" with the band?

      9. Mick Jones and Paul McCartney outlived each of their songwriting partners, and are now considered less cool than the ones who died. The lesson? Die first.

      10. BAD is good. (Too bad News of the World closed down, because I think I'm a natural for headline writing.)

      Thursday, August 4, 2011

      Eleven great apps and websites to enhance your book-larnin'

      1. VoiceThread
      Post photos and comment on them - in text, video, or audio formats. The perfect activity for radio, TV, and photography classes - and just, plain fun.

      2. AnswerGarden
      What's the meaning of life? Post the question on AnswerGarden, and embed it on your blog, website, or social network - answers are displayed in a wordy cloud of goodness, as though from (insert religious figure here) him- or herself.

      3. Wallwisher
      Create a virtual wall for brainstorming and feedback; get a custom URL for your topic and share it with others to get a response.

      4. Idea Flight
      The iPad app that allows "the pilot" to control the screens of the "passengers'" multiple iPads. "Is everybody on the same page?" Yes, because you control it.

      5. Edmodo
      A site for secure classroom sharing and blogging, organizing course work, sharing files, conducting polls, and communicating - in online and app formats!

      If you're in one of these classes, just click on the above link and use one of these codes to join the group and see this semester's course outlines.
      • Ad majors: 03fh0i
      • Ad (year one): tiqxk4
      • PR (year one): 2raj2c
      • Comedy Writing: hbiua1
      • Work Placement: vsvs0f
      6. Marshmallow Challenge
      How do you build the tallest freestanding structure using 20 sticks of spaghetti, a yard of tape and string, and one marshmallow? Through collaboration and teamwork. Or not.

      7. Edutopia
      The George Lucas educational foundation, where teachers, administrators, parents, and students talk about learning. A vast resource of great ideas. Makes up for Episode One.

      8. Sync.in
      A great, free site for simultaneous document editing and collaboration.

      9. Google Docs for Educators
      Like Sync.in, this site allows you to collaboratively work on documents, view and respond to each other's work.

      10. Glogster
      Multimedia poster- and moodboard-maker - copy, images, graphics, links, video.

      11. LiveBinders
      Create online binders and combine your projects into a digital portfolio.

      Tuesday, August 2, 2011

      They laughed when I said, "iPad" - but when it started to sell!

      It's hard to believe it's been well over a year since I mentioned the then-forthcoming iPad to my students.

      "It sounds like a Maxi-Pad!" blurted out a student, in a clear tribute to Beavis and/or Butthead.

      Not long after, iTampon trended on Twitter. The Churchillian wit was spreading!

      What a difference a year makes. Now, no one giggles when you say, "iPad." Those who have it get it, and those who don't are about to: it's outselling Android tablets to the tune of 24 to one.

      I seldom watch TV now without an iPad on my lap - huh, huh: he said "lap" - for IMDB, Twitter, and Zite. My mother and her husband have iPads. My dad is talking about getting an iPad when version three comes out, reportedly this fall.

      More and more soon-to-be CreComm students are emailing me to see if an iPad fills the tech requirements. The answer: of course. If all of my students had iPads, we could begin using the Edmodo, Idea Flight, and Blackboard Mobile Learn apps in the classroom in earnest.

      And what of the girl who cried Maxi-Pad? She and her iPad are living happily ever after.