May 2010 Archives

In case you haven't seen this Lady Gaga remix, created by awesome librarians...


Had some time to knit today, and the Klein bottle hat progresses. Have finished increasing for the crown, and will begin to create the gap where the hat goes through itself, turning inside out.
Beginning work on a hat (Klein-bottle style)  Will post drawings of it, as I get the chance.

For a little bit of Friday fun... you can click and drag the grid, change colors, and so on. (via Kottke)
What is it about learning programming that brings me such delight?  It exercises the puzzle- and pattern-loving part of my mind.  So much of what I do in the rest of my life is open-ended, unfinished, exploratory - and I love that, too. Programming offers balance and contrast, I guess, and a chance to learn something new.
Feel like the Little Engine that Could.  "I think I can, I think I can..." 

More time with the Objective-C book today. I promise that this blog will not devolve into nothing but a record of my reading and exercises in programming.  However, I'm on chapter 3, and things are already making more sense.
Today my new book on Objective-C arrived.  I'm looking forward to the programming.  I have just gotten the console window to write, "Programming is fun!"
I hear people say, "Someone has too much time on their hands..." 

Usually it is in response to an offbeat creative project.  Is it an excuse?  "I'm too busy to do that kind of thing." Or a criticism? "I don't think the result was worth the time spent making it." The voice can be admiring, but the admiration is mixed with dismissal.

I guess I don't believe in "too much time" as a problem. You make choices. You find time. You take chances. You enjoy the process. Sometimes others enjoy the result.
Hmm... this iPhone application called ARIS (Augmented Reality and Interactive Storytelling) looks interesting. May need to download and explore what it does.

Dan Meyer, began his talk at TEDxNYED this way:

"Can I ask you to please recall a time when you really loved something: a movie, album, a song or a book. And, you recommended it wholeheartedly to someone you also really liked. And, you anticipated that reaction, you waited for it, and it came back, and the person hated it. So by way of introduction, that is the exact same state that I spend every working day of the last six years... I teach high school math."

Meyer goes on to show his approach, the ways he leads resistant people to become better problem solvers. I can see it applying to other subjects beyond math, too. I'm going to start following his blog.

(And as with so many cool things, I found this via lilalia at Yum Yum Cafe.)
As we all talk about 21st-century learning at my school and elsewhere, I'm finding that the MacArthur Foundation's Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning blog is a great resource for reports and research.  A PDF of a recent discussion document, entitled "Education futures, teachers, and technology"  is succinct and the questions it asks are provocative. 

"...a vision for 21st-century learning is no longer grounded in a single institution or an extended school day. It must honor the networked lives of youth and work across institutions and capacities, rather than pitting them against each other. Building these interconnected learning environments, and creating networked institutions that establish new ecosystems for learning, is critical."

- Education Futures, Teachers, and Technology

Beyond jargon, beyond visionary-grant-speak, we need to think about what it means for teachers and schools when we move from a 19th- or 20th- century model of information scarcity towards a new reality of information abundance. We can use new technology to reinforce old patterns, or we can embrace this disruption as an inflection point.  I'm curious to see how we will change.

Continued study of iPhone App Development - The Missing Manual.  You know it's a crash course when an entire programming language is covered in a one-chapter overview.  I've been half-lost, but chugging forward in the hopes that the overview will give me enough context to be able to work through the tutorials and documentation available online.  Stanford has a free iTunes U course in iPhone application development, which is well-reviewed, but it assumes prior knowledge of C. 

By later in the day, and after more hair-tearing at the author's pace, I'm backing away from the iPhone App Development book - for now.  Randy Pausch in the Last Lecture told us that brick walls are there to teach us how badly we want something. And I'm stubborn. But I recognize when an approach isn't working and I need to try something else. Apparently most of the resources for learning iPhone application development assume that if you are not already a Mac developer, that at least you already know Objective-C.  The resources for learning Objective-C assume that you have been programming in C for ten years or so, and just want to learn Objective-C as a variation, or for dessert. 

So... Learn C, then Objective-C, then the iPhone SDK?  And how long will all of that take? Further searches led me to a very active forum - which turned out to be for a book which teaches both C and Objective-C at the same time.  The book has very positive reviews on Amazon and it is designed to be understandable by novice programmers, Programming in Objective-C 2.0 by Stephen Kochan.  The author even responds to forum queries promptly.  

So here's the revised study plan: buy and then work my way through Programming in Objective-C 2.0, with the help of the forum.  THEN turn to iPhone-specific books, free online tutorials, and the Stanford iTunes U course, which by then will likely include details on developing for the iPad as well as the iPhone. 

And in the meantime, make what sense I can out of the book I currently have.

Just got my copy of iPhone App Development: The Missing Manual. Trying to wrap my mind around the Objective-C overview chapter today. I've had a class in Java, used to be able to make things happen with Actionscript, and now know some Processing, but Objective-C and the whole iPhone/iPad SDK are very different environments for me.

I'm going to keep working at this, but realize that it's not just going to click into place as a new way of thinking. If I can get through the overview chapters on Objective-C and Cocoa Touch, even if I don't follow them completely, I'll be able to get more out of the other tutorials I find online.  I'll have better context for them.

Practice, practice, practice.
via ze frank, who writes, "this is how we should all start our day :: click below to watch"

There must be 50 ways to forget your umbrella. "Leave in the rack, Jack. . ." via @smallstreams
I've just learned that it is possible to create your own digital book covers for any of the books in the iPad Books application.  And what makes me even happier is that it works in very much the same way as adding album cover art in iTunes.  Thanks to Michael Grothaus at The Unofficial Apple Weblog for the discovery and clear directions.

"I can never accomplish what I want, only what I would have wanted had I thought of it beforehand."

- Richard Diebenkorn

Adam Tobin is the director of Exhibit Development at the Exploratorium.  In this wonderful video, he tells stories about making toys, tinkering, and the connections with making art.
Just discovered Apps Amuck - 31 days, 31 example applications with tutorials for learning to program the iPhone.  As they say, "The key here is simple: Taking baby steps is better than taking no steps at all."  I like the idea of a small daily task, and find that an incremental approach to learning and practice works well for me.
"I like having a current event from 1666 and tomorrow." 
(Youngest child wrote her report on this.)

"Create a meaningful experience and the learning will follow." I wish Gever Tully's Tinkering School had been around for me to go to as an 11-year-old.

For 48 Hour Magazine's Hustle issue, I remembered a family nursery rhyme, counting a baby's toes:

Little pea,
Penny rue,
Rooty whistle
Merry hustle

So that's the piece I submitted (click to enlarge), telling them that babies are the merriest hustlers.

48 Hour Magazine has finished editing, but not yet listed contributors...  
By three in the afternoon tomorrow, I'll know if my work was accepted for publication in the first issue of 48 HR Magazine. If it is, I'll share a link.  If not, I'll show you what I submitted. (The theme was "Hustle.")
Sometimes doing something else is as good as a rest.  

Sometimes only resting is as good as a rest.  

The trick is telling the two sometimes apart.
Screen shot 2010-05-06 at 6.07.01 PM.png

Decided that I'd like to be able to make programs for the iPhone and iPad.  This means lots of tutorials and figuring out the best way to teach myself.  Long ago, I taught myself PhotoShop - mostly from a book.  I'm hoping I can do the same here.  (The screenshot of the simulator above  shows my first program, "Hello, world.")

Ran across this story today, while I was in search of something else (my favorite mode of discovery, whether on the web or in a library).

As Gandhi boarded a train, one of his shoes slipped off and landed on the track. He was unable to retrieve it as the train was moving. To the amazement of his companions, Gandhi calmly took off his other shoe and threw it back along the track to land close to the first. Asked by a fellow passenger why he did so, Gandhi smiled and replied, "The man who finds the shoes lying on the track will now have a pair he can use."

Haven't been able to find an original source / citation for this story yet - any ideas?

Keep dreaming.  As you put the pieces of your work/ life together in unexpected ways, you will see things you never noticed before.

I got a stylus for my iPad, and it lets me play with painting and sketching programs in a new way. (This was done in SketchBook Pro with a PogoSketch stylus.)  I like being able to layer translucent colors - color picking and brush size are not yet intuitive, but erasing is easy, so I can just keep going. I like some effects and not others, but the difference between this medium and physical media has me intrigued.

Here's a short essay about the importance of students at any age "owning" the processes of their educations. I found lots of good discussion in the comment stream. Among other points, I'm interested in how people define and expand on ideas of Edu 2.0. How can appropriate technology ease, accelerate, expand opportunities for learning?
Tonight I'm thinking about steps to help an anxious writer compose a first draft. (I'm working with a couple of different people for whom writing does not come easily, and these are a first pass of my own at a more generalized description of the process.) The more that can be done to play to a person's strengths, the better - whether those strengths are visual, or linear, or analytical, or...  - find a way to center the process and build the project out from a place of strength and confidence.

The more that can be done to break a larger project into bite-sized pieces, the better. 

Paper with no lines can be a good thing to start with - or graph paper.  Break away from the keyboard and from writing on the lines, if you can.  You can fill a page full of one-word versions of the big ideas, then take those ideas and give each one of them a page of its own.  On those sub pages, put the one word in the middle and then surround it with components, examples, details.  

Then, and only then, turn to the keyboard and take those smaller pieces (the examples and details) and turn them from fragments into sentences. The more conversational these first draft sentences, the better.  Keep spaces between these sentences (they may well wind up in a different order), and put page breaks between your topics.

Once that's done, you can go back to the first sheet and arrange and group the big ideas in an order that feels comfortable, and use that as a way to order all the sections you've typed. Within the sections, organize and group the details and examples and put them in order.

Now that everything is in order, you can much more easily write the connecting phrases and sentences ("Another example of this theory..." "However, this is only true on alternate weekends..." etc.).  Reread all the parts you have, and you should be able to identify your main points.  Write the introductory and concluding paragraph drafts last of all.

This drafting method is almost exactly the opposite of the writing process I first learned in school: where we began with planning a thesis, writing an outline, and following the outline to create the written work.  I find it much more helpful to outline my work after I've written it, rather than before.  Then I can see if the argument is logical, because I already know what I've said.

Nick Lowe once said in an interview that his approach to songwriting was, "Bash it out now, and tart it up later."  These steps are for the "bash it out" part of the writing process.  To "tart it up" - to revise - is a process for another day.




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