Gadgetphilia

I wrote an article on my more personal blog (which I’ve used in fits and starts over the years) about how the gadgets my dad brought into the house growing up shaped my sensibilities about technology.  I link  to it here because it’s a bit of an “origin story” for my professional career, and it’s an interesting journey into some older computing and electronics technology (which especially for people younger than me will seem irresistibly foreign and exotic).

I think we are shaped by the technologies we’re exposed to in ways we don’t fully understand.  It’s probably valuable to reflect upon the tools you have used, and how they affect how you attack problems these days.  Both to take stock of what your experience brings to you, and what you might perhaps need to discard to move forward.

On Complexity, and Why We Don’t get Conference (and Classroom) A/V Right

I’m inspired today by an offhand comment by the famous (in our circles) Bryan Alexander, who is a frequent keynote and guest speaker at conferences all over the world, and has a lot of stunning and evocative things to say about not just higher education information technology, but the state and future of higher education in general.  If you’re not familiar with his work go check out his blogs and articles.  Even if you don’t agree with them he will get your brain moving.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that an offhand comment on his Facebook got me thinking:

“I’m fascinated by how conference A/V is still flawed and failure-prone, everywhere.

Continue reading On Complexity, and Why We Don’t get Conference (and Classroom) A/V Right

My new bag

In my previous post about EDUCAUSE, I mentioned that I needed a new bag instead of my very heavy and unwieldy Samsonite leather laptop attache I’d been using, and that I was down to either a Tom Bihn bag and a Timbuk2 bag.

Well, I ended up getting a Timbuk2 Command Messenger TSA Laptop bag in black. Medium.

It’s really good.  I’m still finding pockets in it.  I just noticed a few days ago a zipper that led to a pocket near the bottom of the bag–would probably work well for a compact umbrella.  It’s got tons of organizer pockets but they somehow don’t get in the way either.  The main big compartment seems almost big enough to put a weekend’s worth of clothes in, for the right weekend.  The shoulder strap is super comfortable and wearing it messenger style works.

The laptop compartment is basically awesome.  It has a large part which can easily fit a 15″ laptop, and fits my 12.1″ ThinkPad Yoga very well.  The compartment also has another pocket for a tablet, which I use to put my Nexus 10 (and sometimes Nexus 7) into as well.  The whole thing unzips from the main case to lie flat for TSA purposes, which I got to check on our trip back from Oklahoma this Christmas (oddly, on the way down they didn’t have us take anything out of our bags or lie them flat–they didn’t have any bins at the TSA checkpoint and were just running things through intact.)  It’s filled with this cool foam that is more like webbing, lined with nylon mesh.  It is super cushy and super comfortable.  There’s also the Napoleon pocket which you can jam all the stuff from your pockets into when going through airport security, which is great because then you can just pull it all back out as well and it doesn’t get mixed in with your other stuff.

The bag is at least 3 pounds lighter than my old leather attache and is so much more comfortable to carry it’s not even funny (I think I messed up my knee carrying my old bag around EDUCAUSE and it’s just getting better.)

I’m sure a Tom Bihn would also have been a great choice.  My only complaint about the Timbuk2 is is’t not an elegant bag.  I mean , it looks good, but it’s decidedly geeky.  I almost got the Proof bag but I decided to save the money in the end.

At any rate, I’ve been using it for work and for air travel at this point and I keep being impressed with its capabilities, so I can recommend it.  I’ll have some more travel this year and I’ll check back in on its performance and capabilities then.

 

Resolutions

2014.

It was a year.  Actually a good year–some things that were in limbo are no longer in limbo, and that’s a good thing even if everything didn’t fall out the way I thought I wanted it to.

So I have some resolutions for 2015.

The standard one–lose the holiday weight, get in better shape.  This is a specific weight goal and getting to finally run a 25 minute 5k.  I got really close last year, and then a bad bicycle accident last July knocked me off track.  I’ll get back into it again, I’m sure.

Reduce my procrastination and improve my time management.  This actually relates to another goal, which is to be more consistent in my follow-through on things.  One of the things I learned this year is that I haven’t been where I thought I was on this issue, and that I can greatly improve things by ensuring that people can feel they can rely on me.  (Which they can.)

I think people will find their resolutions, if they have many, are in fact related, and in fact have a root cause.  Fixing that root issue will make the rest work out.  Follow-through may in fact be my root issue, and by doing better on that, I will be able to more easily accomplish my other resolutions.  I also notice that by finishing things I am no longer weighed down by formless worrying about them, and I can use my forward momentum to keep accomplishing.

I know I’m supposed to know this, but I think we all need to be reminded of it once in a while.

One of my other points of follow-through is maintaining this blog.  I hope people are reading it.  I think I have a sense of the mix of things I want to put here, and what I want my voice to be.  If I can semi-regularly publish content and work things out here it will also help me keep things moving.

So here’s to onward and forward.

On Decisions

I realized something recently.

I am, in many ways, quite cynical.  The reasons are numerous and varied, and perhaps not entirely all good.  It’s not that I don’t care about anything, it’s that sometimes other people care a whole lot about things I don’t consider important.   This came about when I said that most of the decisions we make on a day-to-day basis in our work, things like what software to use, what specific methodology, etc., basically don’t matter.  Or, while we might agonize over the criteria used to evaluate one item over another, many of the differences in choices are not discernible before implementation, and may not even be discernible after implementation.

Continue reading On Decisions

Miscellaneous EDUCAUSE thoughts

It’s now over a week from EDUCAUSE and I’ve been thinking a lot about its impact on me and how things went.  Here’s a few random logistical, personal, and professional thoughts:

Continue reading Miscellaneous EDUCAUSE thoughts

EDUCAUSE Day 2/3

Read Part 1 here.

Again, I woke up at 4:00 or so on Wednesday, despite being out a bit later the night before.  I understand waking up early when EDUCAUSE is in Denver or Anaheim or Seattle, but it seems wrong on the East Coast.  I guess I just don’t sleep well in hotels.  I did kind of get back to sleep a little bit and got out of bed at 6 to shower and get ready for my first meeting, a 7:00am appointment to be part of a focus group.

Continue reading EDUCAUSE Day 2/3

EDUCAUSE Day 0/1

I had an uneventful flight into Orlando, despite waking up before 4am.  I got my hotel shuttle, was able to check into my room early, and took a nap.  I then got to the convention center around 1:30pm, got my registration badge, and hung out waiting to see anyone I might know.   Sure enough, I found some people and we grabbed a quick lunch at the buffet at the Rosen Center hotel. Continue reading EDUCAUSE Day 0/1

Preparing for EDUCAUSE

I’m just over 36 hours away at this point from being picked up entirely too early by a car service to head to Newark Airport to fly to Orlando, Florida for the EDUCAUSE 2014 Annual Conference.   This will be my 9th EDUCAUSE Annual by my count, and this one is different because it’s my first as a member of the EDUCAUSE 2015 Program Committee.  That means we get to have a meeting with our committee and the 2014 Committee, where they share their wisdom and give us advice for our next year.  There’s a lot to do for next year and it will be great to get started. Continue reading Preparing for EDUCAUSE

A new home

I need to write more about the things I care about.  I wonder about the future of US higher education, and I work someplace where we’re going to be dealing with those issues in a big way in the next few years.  I’m both fascinated by how little things in educational technology change and the amazing transformations that have occurred in my 20+ years in the field.  I’ve recently had to deal with professional and personal loss that I’m still processing every day and I don’t know where it’s leading me.

I’m not usually a technology zealot, but I’ve had my share of biases and prejudices over the years.  I’m actually remarkably calm these days about such issues–iOS versus Android, MacOS versus Windows versus Linux.  I don’t really care anymore.  They’re just things you use to do other things, and in some you click here and in others you drag there, and in my mind the incremental differences in usability are usually balanced out–some things are easy in one, and other things are easy in the other.  Use what works for you, when you need it.

What’s important is to understand the underlying issues–how is technology shaping the way we learn, and perhaps our very definition of information itself?  What is important for the well-rounded individual to know and understand about technology (I think people should understand the basic principles of computers, devices and networks; and know enough programming to be able to think algorithmically about solving problems.  I also think people should know calculus not because you’ll use it every day but understanding the basic ideas of how calculus works puts a permanent dent in your worldview that shapes how you attack other problems and how you examine complex systems.  I don’t do any VAX/VMS systems management any more but the principles of computer organization and levels of a system shape how I view our complex multivendor network.

I’ll try and write weekly about things that interest me.  I may refer or respond to people I know or who I think are saying things that need to be said.  Perhaps I’ll present a contrarian view.  I will probably also document significant professional events.  I will not betray confidentiality or air my or others’ dirty laundry, despite the fact that those stories are often the most informative (you’ll have to at least buy me a beer for that.)

So welcome, and let’s hope I keep this alive instead of being one of those half-started blogs that are so popular on the Internet.