November 8th, 2010
When Google Voice first sent out invitations to try their beta, my husband was one of the lucky ones. I had to sign up, wait for weeks, and then my invite finally came! w00t!
Let’s just say that Google Voice revolutionized the way I do voice mail, texts, etc.
I can give one number out to people, and when they call me, I can either:
- Pick up and have a nice chat with the person
- Not pick up and be e-mailed a transcript of the person’s voicemail
- Look like I didn’t pick up and listen in on someone leaving a voicemail (I’ve only done this with telemarketers. Most of the time, I can’t hear my phone – haha)
- Record the conversation for future reference (with the other party’s permission, of course)
Very nice features!
But, with all good things come…hilarious things…such as the sometimes questionable transcripts of voice mails.
After receiving one too many hilarious transcripts (e.g. my husband calling to “see if I love you!”), we decided to start a new website to compile the hilarity (and awkwardness) for generations to come:
Go visit, share some of your own, and spread the smiles!
October 24th, 2010
Two weekends ago, I was privileged to attend the 2010 EDUCAUSE conference in Anaheim, CA. It was awesome. I have a million more things to say about it, the lessons I learned, and the people I met, but in the meantime, here is proof that I was there –>
Asian to the core. My mother would be proud.
Want another photo of me photobombing with my awesome Asian-ness? Click here.
This week, I find myself in Yakima, WA for another conference. In March, I was invited to speak at the California Affiliate of the AAFCS’ conference. A member from the Washington Affiliate attended the session I presented on Blogs, Wikis, and Social Networking and invited me to speak on a similar topic at their conference. Now, I’m here. Tomorrow (or Tuesday) is the big day!
I must say that Virgin America is one of the best airlines to fly from LAX to SEATAC, hands down.
I love flying. But, more than flying, I enjoy people watching and the variety of people an airport brings. It always amuses me how aggressive people can get during boarding. It’s especially amusing that Virgin America uses a lettering system for boarding with “A” being at the back of the plane up to “F” towards the front door. I must confess that it’s both sad and hilarious when I hear people say, “Look! I’m in section A! I get to board first – haha!” only to realize once they’re on the plane that they’re in the tail section.
In other news, the drive to Yakima was not as bad as I thought it might be, and I take amazing self-portraits in rear-view mirrors. Other nonessential updates include:
- I ate both a ghost and a bat cookie on the way to Yakima.
- Snoqualmie Pass looks like a scene from The Mist
- I like my rental “car” a lot (so far)
- My hotel isn’t creepy for being $40+ a night (my hotel choices are considered awful by some since I go by price and rating, but mainly price)
And…that’s it for now. The reason for this blog post? Mainly to post my awesome, blurry picture from EDUCAUSE…and the one from the road.
If my students are reading this, don’t forget to read the lecture for Tuesday. You have been warned!
October 20th, 2010
If you haven’t checked out Windows Live Writer yet, you really should, especially with the new update that was pushed out on 10.19.10. The design is sleeker, the tabs are easier to navigate, and the editor itself is better.
Looks a lot more like Word, which will make more people comfortable with it, I think.
Live Writer has been one of the easiest ways I have found to manage my personal blog as well as different websites run off of WordPress.
By using Live Writer in conjunction with WordPress’ “Pages”, it’s relatively easy to run a “website” off of a blog engine like WordPress. And…Live Writer makes it easier to publish posts and pages from the comfort of one’s desktop.
What’s your favorite desktop client for publishing to your blog? Or do you prefer to write in-browser? I’m always looking for new things!
September 14th, 2010
I’m the kind of person who was born expecting things to go wrong. In elementary school, I was the kid with three #2 pencils for the SATs…just in case both of the standard ones broke. In college, I was the student who backed up my work on CDs, flash drives, the network drive, another laptop, etc. Basically, I try to live my life with a plan B…and C…and D…etc.
When I started teaching, I approached my responsibilities in the same way. Grades are stored in multiple (secure) places. PowerPoint presentations are on my laptop and on a flash drive (just in case I need to transfer to the classroom desktop mid-lecture. Yes, my laptop has died mid-lecture, but that was before my amazing Lenovo). I used LiveMesh before switching to Dropbox and Evernote (I’m paranoid). Always have a plan B…
…and then there was today.
For some reason, I truly thought I had placed my power cord in my messenger bag.
Apparently, I hadn’t. And it was speech-day today; one of the most power-draining “I really need my laptop for this” moments of the semester.
I got through the first class just fine and shut down my laptop to conserve power.
Halfway through the second class’ speeches, the power alert icon popped up.
“3% remaining. Switch to power or lose your work.”
It should have read more along the lines of, “3% remaining. Why aren’t you switching to power? What kind of person allows their laptop to drain to 3%? Huh? HUH?!?!”
At least, that’s what it felt like at that moment.
And for one of the few times in my entire teaching career – I panicked.
I had no plan B or even C. I didn’t have the grading sheets printed out (I like to save paper), I didn’t have a second device to plug the flash drive into (I used to have a Dell Mini9), and while I generally remember 80% of speeches during the 2-3 days from which they are given, I didn’t want to just sit there, listen, and grade later.
And then the solution came to me.
- Dropbox + iPad = instant transfer of grading sheets to a device that has 8 hours of power. Bingo.
I generally use Quickoffice HD (Quickoffice Connect) for all my document editing needs, but I discovered an interesting fact: You can’t edit .xlsx files.
Then, I remembered I still had DocsToGo installed, a program that had given me much grief when trying to pull up and edit Word and Google Docs documents. It was worth a shot.
I could now grade the speeches from the comfort of my iPad and rest assured that they were syncing with my Dropbox account, to be accessed and printed at a later date from either my work desktop or my laptop (once it had power again).
So, in summary:
- Dropbox + iPad + DocsToGo = class goes on…
…and that is how the iPad (and other tech tools) saved me in class today.
August 9th, 2010
I dislike receiving forwards in my e-mail inbox. Most of the time, the information contained in said forwards are hoaxes, inflammatory political rhetoric, or silly pictures of animals either attempting to look cute or lick my screen (neither of which I necessarily need to see). There are always those few contacts who insist on remaining in the early 90s and forward anything they get their hands on or they think is absolutely adorable (even if it contains colored, 48pt font <—that’s not cool, by the way), and after 20 or so forwards, I start ignoring them mentally.
Tonight, I did not ignore a forward and instead decided to try it out. Context: I’m supposed to be finishing up (writing) a book chapter, and I hit writer’s block…again. Anything with the words “chocolate” and “cake” and/or “dessert” is a friend right now.
I looked at the recipe forwarded to me for this miraculous 5-Minute Coffee Mug Cake but decided to search for it on Google anyway since, even though I was desperate for sweet noms, I still don’t trust forwards. Here is the one I followed, compliments of Daisy’s Place, one of the first hits on Google:
- 4 TBSP flour
- 4 TBSP sugar
- 2 TBSP cocoa (but, since I didn’t have cocoa on hand, I substituted dark chocolate cocoa mix – worked okay)
- 1 egg
- 3 TBSP milk (I used organic, fat-free)
- 3 TBSP chocolate chips (listed as optional; I went without)
- A small splash of vanilla extract (I splashed; may not have been small)
- 1 large coffee mug
Here’s what happened (plus instructions):
Add dry ingredients to mug and mix well.
Add the egg and mix thoroughly.
(Pictured at left)
Pour in the milk and oil and mix well.
Add the chocolate chips (if using, and no, I was not) and vanilla extract and mix again.
(Pictured at right)
Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts (I cooked mine for 3 minutes and 33 seconds; not sure if it was at 1000 watts).
The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but do not be alarmed! (I wasn’t – I was fascinated)
Allow to cool a little and tip out onto a plate if desired (oh, I did).
So, how was it?
Well, it looked like a…a…
…a very deformed chocolate mess.
But it did taste pretty good. Nothing life-changing, but it tastes good enough if you’re craving chocolate cake and want it in 5-10 minutes. Of course, you could try walking down to your local grocery store, but this method gives you chocolate cake without HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) and other nasty ingredients (like crappy frosting).
The texture was interesting. It was more like a dense sponge than a fluffy cake, but it worked.
And here is how I enjoyed my “cake” – with low fat, organic, vanilla bean frozen yogurt. That’s right; that’s froyo right there.
Final rating: 2.5/5 stars for taste if I was in my right mind. 3.5/5 stars when desperate.
August 4th, 2010
A few months ago (or maybe a month ago), I received one of the best wedding anniversary gifts a female geek could receive – a new piece of technology. My husband teases me about my fascination with “shiny things” (usually meaning jewelry), but this time, my shiny thing was a brand spankin’ new iPhone 4. Even after 8+ hours of trying to get the thing activated (shout-out of gratitude to the peeps at the AT&T store on San Fernando who hung in there with us for what felt like an entire day – even 1 hour after closing!), we were very happy with our new phones.
I’m still happy with my phone; I’m not sure if Mike is still happy with his phone. I think he still likes it, but you’ll have to ask him.
I was planning on blogging about my love affair with my iPad, but most everyone’s already done that. Plus, I’ll do that post after I’ve taught with it this coming semester (!).
Things I Love About My iPhone 4:
The Camera – I had been failing miserably at my 365 Project. Only 60 pictures, and we’re already in August. #epicfail. But now that I have my new iPhone with its fun, easy-to-use camera, I tend to snap pictures like crazy. The front-facing camera is pretty fun, too, but the “real” camera is where it’s at. Plus, I now have a world of apps at my command to edit my pictures before uploading. Fun! Apps I recommend and have had fun with:
Plastic Bullet – can’t remember what this does, but I remember it being awesome
Camera + – more camera options
CameraBag – fun “lens” options
PictureShow – again, can’t remember what it does, but it was awesome enough to make this list!
PS Mobile – photoshop mobile
Diptic – fun splicing pictures with effects!
The Apps – I had a T-Mobile MyTouch 3G (beware – music if you click) before having an iPhone (it is my personal goal to try out every smartphone OS before I die – I’ve done Windows Mobile & Android), and I thought its Marketplace was “teh bomb”. How wrong was I. Granted, most of the apps worth anything for the iPhone cost a dollar or more, but you know what? I’m okay with that. I’ve come to realize that there are people out there who have spent their time and potentially their money to develop the app I want. Who am I to think that they’re worth less than a dollar? Free stuff is great and all, but some developer out there made that stuff, and he/she needs to eat, too.
That said, I love most of my apps.
I also love (very much) that the apps I bought for my iPad transfer seamlessly to my iPhone. And by seamlessly, I mean I love not having to pay for them again.
On-Phone Banking – Sweet mother of all pine trees, have you tried Chase Bank’s mobile app??? Not only can you:
YOU CAN DEPOSIT CHECKS WITH IT!!! o_O
I will never have to go to a bank again. Well, unless I need cash. Chase, the day you can make an app that prints cash from my iPhone, I will bake you a cake of your choice (assuming I am still alive and capable of baking said cake).
- Yelp – Okay, Yelp isn’t technically iPhone-only (I think), but I was only introduced to the amazingness that is Yelp because of my iPhone. And my husband. But the iPhone 4 really made Yelp come alive for me. I can check restaurant reviews and more importantly, for the competitive person in me, check in. Foursquare and I dated for awhile, but Yelp won out due to actually-helpful reviews.
- Organization Tools – My life is on my phone. Before I had a smartphone, my Google account and computer were my life keepers as was the spiral-bound day planner my college gave me as a present, but that’s beside the point. Without my phone, I am at a loss. My contacts, appointments, to-do lists (if I have any…haha), weather, etc. are on my phone. It is the personal assistant that fits nicely in my purse/pouch. Hackers – forget it. Anything worthwhile isn’t on there, unless you really, really want to attend that one webinar on education and cloud computing for me. If so, be my guest and leave your name, address, birth date, and SSN in the comments section.
Things I Like About My iPhone 4:
- The Case – I bought a Speck case the day I got my phone to protect it not only from the elements but from the potential typhoon of destruction known as yours truly. I like my case a lot. In fact, I’ve modded it with a piece of velcro, so I can snap it to my dashboard while driving. Hey, it was $6 of velcro versus $30+ for a car adapter. The reason I say I like my case is that I’d prefer not to have to use it. The phone is a beautiful piece of hardware, but with my case on, it becomes a clunky-looking, less-beautiful piece of hardware. And Apple’s bumpers are a rip-off. Good thing they’re shipping those out for free now.
- The Games – The games get placed under “like” solely on principle. I actually love them, but I’m an educator. I’m not supposed to be addicted to games. (Just kidding about the not-supposed-to-like-games part and educators. We can have fun, too!)
Things I Do Not Like About My iPhone 4:
- The Death Grip – While I have not personally experienced the phenomenon commonly known as the “death grip” because I am too chicken to take my beautiful phone out of its hard core case, I have seen its effects first-hand. It does indeed affect your signal in a rather dissatisfying manner. At first, I consoled myself that it was only if you managed to put your finger over the tiny antenna area, but I’ve seen the signal plummet unmercifully when the entire side was covered. I watched in sympathy as my husband would balance his un-cased iPhone 4 on his lap to try to get signal back. That is an experience no one should have to go through…at least, not often. Having a case/bumper does solve the problem, but it’s still sad.
- Fear of Breakage – The iPhone 4 is beautiful but is also hard glass on both sides. I am more paranoid than your average human being, but I would still like to have the assurance that a little tumble will not send my life spiraling out of control as I cry in a shamed heap over the particles that used to be my iPhone.
- Google Maps – I debated putting this in the “like” section, but after replaying memories of the wonderful thing that was Google Navigation on my Android, I had to put this in the “do not like” section. What good is a map that I can barely see to me, especially as I’m trying to navigate traffic in Downtown LA? Okay, I shouldn’t be navigating traffic in Downtown LA while relying on Google Maps, you say, but isn’t that part of the point of having Google Maps in the first place? To un-lose yourself when you get lost? I’m hoping Google will release Navigation for the iPhone, but I’m not holding my breath.
Overall, I’d rate my experience with the iPhone 4 a 3.5 stars out of 5. Would I recommend it to others? Sure! Why not.
Other operating systems I need to try before I die:
- Maemo (I’ve tried it vicariously through my husband’s former Nokia n900).
Now back to trying to beat people at Words with Friends (I’m rockd0ve, by the way! And I will try to pwn you!)
July 16th, 2010
I saw this the other evening and “awww-ed” at it the way one does when something really cute needs a friend or a hug (ie baby seals, pigeons, grad students…)
In other news, grad school is over for the summer, work is hectic, and I’m writing this from my iPhone 4g. Signal is so far…good.
More posts hopefully to come.
May 26th, 2010
We’re reading about blogs and wikis and blogging in general for one of my grad classes this summer, so I figured I’d mosey on over to my own blog to see what’s happening. Oh, yeah – that’s right; I’m the one who needs to keep this thing updated. That’s how blogging works! *shamed grin*
Since May 11th, I turned in my last grades for the Spring 2010 semester (you’re welcome, students), kissed my husband goodbye as he started a new job (we don’t work for the same institution anymore, but we’re definitely still together!), registered for 3 summer classes for grad school (I had the sudden urge to be done), found a new place for us to live (we’re moving back to Burbank), got increased hours at work, and did the dishes.
It’s going to be a busy summer.
But as I sit back in my awesome office chair (at home) and think about how life is going, I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything. One thing I have learned recently is to treasure the seasons of life as they come and learn from all experiences, both good and bad. Sure, it sounds like I got bitten by the self-help bug recently (I blame my EDUC 268 class and all we have to read on leadership), but I’m really beginning to see how past experiences have shaped me as a person and are continuing to shape me. I hope they shape me into a better person.
On another note, I am loving my iPad and wishing I had an Evo like my coworker (grrr, people who went to Google IO). Honestly, though, a Nexus One would suffice.
iPad review to come soon. :-)
Cheers to all my classmates in all my different classes this summer. We will survive!
May 11th, 2010
A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University
Months and months ago, an acquaintance of mine mentioned this book. Then, another one did. And another. Then one more, and I finally reserved it at the library. From what I was told, I had some idea of what to expect, but I wasn’t prepared to be utterly encouraged by this book. Let me start out by saying that if you can’t handle honest discussions about Christian educational experiences, the book (and this blog post) are not for you.
I reserved the book about a month ago and did not pick it up until near its due date. Once I started reading, I couldn’t put it down. Kevin Roose is a talented writer, but it was what he had to write about that really drew me in.
In summary, during his sophomore-ish year, Kevin chose to leave “free-spirited, ultra-liberal” Brown University to check out what it’s like to study and live at a “conservative Baptist school” – Liberty University. Before I read this book, I had heard of both Brown and Liberty, but I had never heard of Jerry Falwell or Liberty’s political and spiritual background. (I’ll blame this ignorance on not growing up 100% in the U.S.) It was really interesting to read of Kevin’s experiences, but instead of thinking worse of him for “tricking” a Christian college into letting him “spy” on what it’s really like (some Christians feel that way), I applauded him. He gives a pretty fair evaluation of what it’s like to eat, drink, sleep, study, and breathe in a Christian educational bubble. Believe it or not, I was even encouraged.
(If you don’t know, I went to a Christian college for my undergraduate work and currently teach at the same college as well.)
Here are some things that stood out to me:
- Kevin got in to Liberty pretty easily and few people figured out that he wasn’t really a Christian. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that on Kevin’s part – I think Christian institutions of higher education need to realize that not everyone on campus is a true believer. While most faculty, staff, and students know that truth deep down inside, so much emphasis seems to be placed on outward actions as proof of one’s spirituality. Unfortunately, a lot more emphasis seems to be placed on outward actions as it relates to school rules. “Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t sleep around, be back in the dorms by 11pm” turn into rubrics of one’s spirituality instead of the true fruit of a believer – love, joy, peace, patience,kindness, gentleness, self-control, etc. Now, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with an institution having rules (even if some seem strange); what I am saying is that the spiritual maturity of a person should not be measured by how many rules they did not break or how many school functions they attended. That’s naive, if not pharisaical.
- Spirituality in the dorms. While living in the dorms, several of Kevin’s wingmates would come in and ask how he was doing spiritually. They were looking for some specific answers, and to Kevin’s credit, he answered as honestly as possible. “How is your Bible reading coming along?” was met with how many hours (or minutes) he had truly spent reading his Bible for the Bible classes.
- These types of interactions always bothered me when I was in college – not that I was being asked how I was doing, but who was asking me how I was doing. My mother would ask me (she’s okay), my boyfriend (now husband) would ask me (he’s okay), some of my close classmates and friends would ask me (again, okay), my advisor would ask me (she was my mentor – still is – A-okay!)…and then there were the random people on campus who I may have met once or twice who wanted to know where I was in my walk with God. Those people always made me feel a bit uncomfortable, not because I had anything to hide (believe me, I think I was too honest sometimes), but because I had no idea who they really were and then – BAM! – tell me about how you think you’re doing with the most important aspect of your life! In short, it felt more like the police interrogations I experienced in the former Soviet Union than a truly sincere person who really wanted to know about my faith.
- Kevin made a rather astute observation about all of this that really blessed my heart. Those people were not trying to be nosey (maybe some were); they wanted to be sure he was safe. With hell a real, pressing threat to Christians, they have a passion to want to make sure an individual will be saved from its terrors. It was an interesting perspective I had never really mulled over.
- Levels of sin. Sin is sin, regardless of the specifics, and yet believers seem to form arbitrary levels of sin. You lied? Sure, that’s sin, but that’s not as bad as committing adultery, etc. The consequences of our sins may be different, but that doesn’t change the fact that…sin is sin. It was interesting to read Kevin’s observations of how believers at Liberty handled sin – the different levels, and even the difference in how different genders were treated. (More on that some other time)
There is so much more I could write about, but why should I? Kevin Roose has already crafted his fine book, and I would recommend that all believers involved in Christian higher education read through it at least once.
April 25th, 2010
Capital gains, incentives, etc.
For the past few months, my “policy discussion group” in grad school has been eating, drinking, and sleeping on the issue of the “unsatisfactory reading levels of homeless children”. Believe me when I say we have been fully immersed in this topic – our current reference list as of 7:55pm on 4/25/10 is four pages long. We have been pouring over journals, magazines, websites, and government publications, trying to learn more about 1) this issue and 2) crafting informed policy proposals. After starting with a rather broad focus, we decided to narrow our focus to homeless children in Washington State.
Our final project is to craft a policy proposal that could reasonably be submitted for implementation. We were to propose two different policy responses: one from a “constrained” view and the other from an “unconstrained” view (see Thomas Sowell’s A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles for more on constrained/unconstrained visions of society”). I ended up working on our “constrained” proposal – paying homeless students for positive behavior and academic achievements.
Paying students for behaving or getting good grades is not a new phenomenon (albeit, it may be novel…and very appealing to students. I would love to still be paid for good grades. Oh, wait. Is that what scholarships are all about?). I remember my mother giving me $5 for every “A” I got on my report card in 4th grade. When she realized I was most likely going to be a straight-A student for the rest of my academic career (this epiphany happened at the end of 5th grade), she stopped paying me. It was a sad day, but I wasn’t the only one in my class who had parents who tried to motivate them through cash payments or plain old special activities and items. I knew this kind of motivation was going on, on a small scale, but I had no idea until now it was being considered and implemented on a district-wide scale, and had, in fact, been implemented for some time.
TIME magazine recently published an article entitled Should Kids Be Bribed to Do Well in School?, examining the different programs and experiments being conducted in different cities. One of the largest studies is being conducted in Washington DC – 14 schools in collaboration with Harvard economist and researcher Roland Fryer and Harvard’s Education Innovation Laboratory. Students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade earn up to $100 every two weeks ($1500 per year) for various criteria: attendance, homework completion, and other achievements. Similar programs exist in New York, Chicago, Dallas, and Atlanta (similar, but not the same).
It seems to be working so far.
In January 2010, CBS News conducted a survey as part of the “Where America Stands” series that found that most Americans oppose paying students for good grades, behavior, etc. The poll also found that older Americans (65+) strongly oppose the practice, but parents who had children in K-12 tended to support it more. The article doesn’t really state why such opposition exists, but the biggest critique of incentive programs always seems to end up on one thing: paying students will kill their intrinsic motivation to learn for the sake of learning.
I’m not sure I agree, and I think there is a bit of hypocrisy present in telling students they should learn for learning’s sake without the possibility of tangible rewards.
Should you be working for working’s sake, and your employer not give you a paycheck?
“Well, that’s different!” I’m not so sure. We are told to aim for “A’s” in school…why? So we can get into a good college/university. We want to graduate from those universities with degrees…why? So we can get a job…a well-paying job (at least we hope. I ended up a teacher. I must have missed the memo about well-paying jobs). Every little motivator counts, and when it comes to money, the motivation increases dramatically.
And what’s so wrong about money? Why do we feel differently when the motivator isn’t money? No one questions a teacher who promises the class a special field trip if they behave all semester. Or if a professor says they will cancel a quiz if everyone performs well on a project. Or if a parent says they will start saving up as a family for a special vacation if their kids do well during the school year. But why the (almost) hostile reaction when money is involved?
Back on track…
Of course, when the money starts dwindling (you aren’t being paid enough or at least what you think you’re worth), you look for other options…or quit altogether. Sure, some students may stop working hard if the monetary incentives decrease, but here’s something I’ve noticed about students in my years (albeit few) as a teacher: students who want to learn and want to do well tend to do so regardless of the motivators placed before them. I don’t know why. Maybe their parents instilled a great work-ethic in them, maybe they already have intrinsic motivators (self satisfaction) to keep them going, but overall, I think it’s a choice. Students make a choice to do well, we make a choice to be good employees, and those choices can distinguish us from the rest regardless of the situation.
So, should students be paid for good grades? I don’t know yet. My current opinion is that it depends on the situation. I see the pros and cons, and my opinion may change in the coming months and years.
What do you think?
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