June 07, 2006

This I Believe (Not Much)

Inspired by Tamara's latest blog entry, I hopped over to the Belief-O-Matic site to test my religious mettle. And our survey said: (bing!)

1. Secular Humanism (100%)
2. Unitarian Universalism (99%)
3. Mainline to Liberal Christian Protestants (87%)
4. Liberal Quakers (86%)
5. Nontheist (82%)
6. Theravada Buddhism (67%)
7. Neo-Pagan (61%)
8. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) (52%)
9. Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) (49%)
10. Reform Judaism (47%)
11. Taoism (47%)
12. Bah?'? Faith (46%)
13. New Age (44%)
14. Jehovah's Witness (39%)
15. Mainline to Conservative Christian/Protestant (39%)
16. New Thought (39%)
17. Orthodox Quaker (34%)
18. Sikhism (34%)
19. Mahayana Buddhism (33%)
20. Scientology (33%)
21. Seventh Day Adventist (25%)
22. Hinduism (20%)
23. Jainism (18%)
24. Eastern Orthodox (17%)
25. Islam (17%)
26. Orthodox Judaism (17%)
27. Roman Catholic (17%)

No surprises here other than to see Catholicism at the absolute bottom of the list. June keeps fretting that on my deathbed, like the Dad in Brideshead Revisited, I'm going to suddenly morph back into Joe Super-Catholic, thus making my final exit a relief to everyone concerned.

Notice the absence of an apology for not blogging lately. Aren't we all tired of reading those?


April 14, 2006

Halfway Back from the Dead

It's all catching up with me. I'd been feeling worn out before the trip to Las Vegas and the podcasting class, and a few days later I began to feel a sore throat. And then achy-breaky joints and a headache that wouldn't quit. Alex already had the symptoms and so the two of us spent all the rest of his spring break sleeping, coughing and groaning. Eight days later, I'm beginning to feel on the mend again. June, on the other hand, after healthily buzzing around in frustration at our immobility, is starting to feel sick today. There's some kind of conservation of misery principle at work here.

So for all these forlorn days, I've been dozing in front of the laptop, grazing through all of human knowledge and digesting none of it. Still, a few things stuck in my mind, or at least my bookmarks, that seem worth pointing out to anyone interested.

First, this piece by science fiction writer, futurist and all-around bright guy David Brin caught my attention. He does a nice job at looking ahead to a process in which true conservatives untie themselves from the ruling gang of thieves and idiots in Washington and begin again perhaps to be an engine for real reform.

School Performance Maps is a particularly useful Google Maps mashup. Click on San Diego and look at the pretty colors. I've never seen the North-of-8, South-of-8 divide more clearly delineated. Go a bit further north and you can also see Highway 56 as another boundary, this time between good and excellent.

And you've probably seen the It's a Secret thing by now. God I wish I knew Flash.

Google came out with its calendar today and it looks so dang good that I might finally switch from iCal. Less widely noted was the new Google Page Creator. I haven't been able to test it out but it might save a lot of us from having to teach teachers how to wrestle with Mozilla Composer.

And finally, am I the only one who thinks that this picture / headline combination to the right is funny? The actual story didn't warrant any word play. Or is it just my virus-damaged brain?


October 18, 2005

Looooooook into my Eyes....

My optometrist has a nifty new instrument in the examination room that lets her gaze deeply into my retina looking for signs of trouble. Normally, that requires dilating the eyes so that I spend the rest of the day looking like a crackhead, and ten minutes of her wearing a miner's cap and directing my eyes through all four compass points. Instead, her able (and cheaper) assistant sits me down in front of what looks like a portable peep show and flashes me eight times in light that is exactly the same shade of green used by the Martian weapons in the 1953 version of War of the Worlds. Much more pleasant, and then the good doctor gets to tour me around my retina pointing out the scenic attractions as she goes. So it's quicker, educational, and on request they'll send you the pictures.

What you see above is my right eye. The shiny psrt is where the optical nerve hooks in, and the out of focus thing just to the left of that is a floater cruising its way through my vitreous humor, one of the least funny parts of my body.

Very cool, isn't it? Now don't ever say I haven't shared my innermost secrets here.


August 26, 2005


Outbit on what, you may well ask? On a postcard.

For three or four years now I've become hooked on collecting postcards of Waterbury, Connecticut, land of my youth. Don't ask me why. I don't collect anything else, really. But there's something cool about seeing the places I was deeply familiar with as a kid as they were fifty or sixty years before that.

This morning on ebay a postcard was sold that had never turned up before. What's remarkable about it is that it shows the block that I lived in, right across the street from the main office of Scovill Manufacturing. In fact, the four story brick building I grew up in hadn't been built yet when the postcard was printed, some time before 1910. Anyway, this is one of only two postcards that shows that particular block and I already have the other one.

The card went on ebay with an opening price of $9.95. By last night it had gone up to $21. I put in a bid of $51 and went to bed. Minutes before the auction closed, though, someone else put in a higher bid and the card sold for $52. The winning bidder, I'll bet, probably grew up in the same general area.

All the buildings in the picture are long gone. The site of my apartment building is now buried beneath an overpass the goes from nowhere to nowhere. Scovill's is now the Brass Mill Center shopping mall and the Timexpo Museum.

Oh well. Now that I know the card exists, I'll keep going back to ebay to continue the chase.


May 23, 2004

Today, I am a Bozo

Perhaps on other days, too, but today the evidence is clear. Here was my to do list for the day: 1) Take several boxes of books from my home office to my SDSU office; 2) Pick up Alex's classmate Will in South Park and drive them both to interview someone in Kensington for their video documentary on gay rights. 3) Go to a graduation party at the home of my first completed doc student. 4) Work on a grant proposal for NSF.

What demonstrates my bozoitude? First, we loaded up the car with books and headed to campus. We were almost there when I belatedly remembered that on Sundays the building elevator is turned off. No way am I dragging all these books up three flights of stairs... so mission aborted. Then, I memorized Will's address and printed out a map from Yahoo to get us there. Unfortunately I memorized it with the first two digits reversed, so we arrived 18 blocks north of where we were going and had to zig and zag around several canyons to get to the right place. That added ten minutes to the flight. We finally arrived at the address in Kensington for the interview and knocked on the door several times. No one there. I called June at home and had her check my email. Turns out that I had mapped the work address of our interviewee, but we had agreed to meet at her home... another schlep away. We arrived a half hour late.

After all these wrong turns and dead ends, I was looking forward to the party. June and I arrived at the house all gussied up, flowers in hand, and wondering why there weren't a lot of cars parked nearby. No sign, either, of the live music mentioned on the invitation. So when the door opened our surprised host told us that the party was yesterday.

Clearly I'm losing my marbles. I'm hoping it's post-semester traumatic stress rather than early onset senility. I'm wary of working on the grant proposal tonight, though, for fear of the streak continuing. Instead of NSF funding us for $300,000, I'm afraid I'll end up owing them money.

I'm going to bed early to put this day out of its misery.


April 24, 2004

Web-Enhanced Memories

We watched the remake of Failsafe today, and it brought back memories of the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis. I remember the nervous churning in my guts each morning that wasn't made any easier by the principal at Croft High School, Mr. Kinney. He had risen to administration after a long career as an English teacher, and began each day by personally intoning the announcements over the school PA system. With all that literature knocking around unused in his mind, he made sure to include a quote or literary allusion whenever he could between class play rehearsal times, Latin Club meetings, and lunch menus. He was especially in his element during October of 1962. I don't remember the specifics but I know there were poems about mortality and pointlessness read in a stoic, world weary kind of drone. Exactly what a 14 year old wants to hear before Algebra I.

The cover of the Saturday Evening Post is also burned into my memory. By coincidence, they were serializing the Failsafe book that week. The image of bombers streaking over the Kremlin lay on our coffee table as we watched the UN debating the end of the world in black and white. I haven't seen that cover since 1962, but on a whim while watching the movie today I typed "Saturday Evening Post" +failsafe into Google and a second later, there it was: the October 13, 1962 cover by Robert McCall. The web amazes me yet again.


February 02, 2004

Found Out

After 24 years of deliberately flying under the radar here on campus, I've been outed by today's issue of SDSUniverse. Two nicely written articles cover my obsessions with WebQuests and blogging. Good thing I'm leaving town Wednesday. I hate elbowing my way through crowds of autograph hounds and paparazzi. Then again, with all eyes riveted on Janet Jackson's mishap, maybe no one will read it.


January 01, 2004

Another Year

Following the lead of Alex, I'm starting the new year with a list of things I hope to do in this space in 2004:
  • Daily postings... not the biweekly trailing off of recent times
  • More links. There's a long list I've been hoarding.
  • More tales of travel. This year I'll be going to Romania, Hong Kong, Brazil and New Zealand, so there should be lots to talk about.

But for today, not much to report. Watched the pilot episode of Leave it to Beaver today along with about 3 hours of Twilight Zone. Got to watch Alex's face as he saw "To Serve Man" for the first time and remember what it a kick it was back in 1961 when the ending was a surprise. And June made enormous popovers for breakfast

Wishing for a Happy 2004 for us all!


November 16, 2003


Yesterday was the annual technology festival put on by San Diego CUE, an organization I helped get started.

Since this was the 20th such event, there was a lot of reminiscing about the ancient beginnings of educational computing, and Yvonne Andres, the telecommunications pioneer and long-reigning Queen of Global School Net stepped forward with a page of pictures from the 80s and early 90s.

They're all great, but I'm especially bowled over by this picture of my now-almost-6-feet-tall son Alex. Thanks, Yvonne!


October 03, 2003

Flying Saucer over Waterbury

I just unwrapped my new copy of EndNote and was noodling through the Library of Congress. Just as a test, I typed in Waterbury as a search term. Near the top of the 216 items found was this:Flying Saucer over East Main Street, Waterbury, Connecticut, 18 June, 1954. Holy crow! This is looking right up the street toward my inner-city homestead. Who knew?

All you see on the site, though, is this thumbnail. You can't tell if the UFO is from Zeta Reticuli, Epsilon Eridani, or one of those spiffy ones with the tail fins from Cygni 61. I guess I'll pony up the $22 for an 8x10 of this to satisfy my curiosity while helping to pay down the national debt.


July 18, 2003


So here I've been for two decades in the city that thousands make a pilgrimage to each summer, and I've been oblivious. It's like living in the suburbs of Mecca and never doing the haj. Today, at long last, we all went to Comic-Con and trolled through the vendor area.

And saw: stacks of comics from the 50s, miniature orcs and knights, strolling Klingons, medieval trollops... you name it. Cartoonists have groupies here, all lined up to get a signature or to watch him draw. June noticed how dark most of the present day comics are, so different from the brightly colored worlds of Archie and Superman.

I had two brushes with celebrity here. First, I followed a line of people waiting for an autograph and found a familiar face at the end of the line surrounded by security people. Immediately I recognized him as the guy who blocked the aisle and smiled apologetically as he settled into his seat in first class as I headed for steerage on the plane coming back from DC. I didn't know who he was but he clearly had star quality. I completely forgot about him until I saw him there signing autographs and looked up at the sign: Crispin Glover. Don't know what his connection with comics is, but there he was.

Then, sitting quietly at a table with a tip jar, with no lines of fans in sight, sat one of the heroes of my yoot: Forrest J. Ackerman. In 1958 he began to publish Famous Monsters of Filmland, a monthly magazine filled with stills from all the vampire, godzilla, werewolf and flying saucer movies that I loved as a kid. I bought every issue (long gone, unfortunately) probably well into high school. Forrie's career went back further than that, all the way to the pulp magazine origins of sci-fi (a term he coined). What an interesting, idiosyncratic, obsessed life!

Had we planned this better, I would have gotten to see two more of my favorite bloggers and writers: Wil Wheaton and Neil Gaiman, both there today but somewhere out of view. Maybe next year.

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April 10, 2003

Where Am I?

That's one of life's enduring questions, especially for the disoriented. Thanks to IndyJunior, a tool that combines Flash and XML, I now have created an answer to the question for myself on a new page called Where's Bernie?.

Now that I've played some with XML, I'm eager to apply it to other things like lesson planning and adventure games. Stay tuned.


March 01, 2003

Problem Solving on the Road

I woke up in Austin this morning with my usual Young Frankenstein hair and realized that I hadn't packed a comb or brush. What to do? With the theme music from MacGyver running through my head, I fished the plastic fork from last night's take out dinner from the trash and combed myself into presentability.

No one in my workshop, as far as I know, laughed specifically at my hair.


January 02, 2003

What, Indeed, Should I Do With My Life?

The blogosphere is all abuzz about What Should I Do With My Life?, a new book that's just been excerpted in Fast Company. What excellent timing to raise this question at the first of the year when we're all looking back, looking ahead, and have a little time to actually think about such things. Here's a snippet I liked:

"In the past decade, the work world has become a battleground for the struggle between the boring and the stimulating. The emphasis on intensity has seeped into our value system. We still cling to the idea that work should not only be challenging and meaningful -- but also invigorating and entertaining. But really, work should be like life: sometimes fun, sometimes moving, often frustrating, and defined by meaningful events. Those who have found their place don't talk about how exciting and challenging and stimulating their work is. Their language invokes a different troika: meaningful, significant, fulfilling. And they rarely ever talk about work without weaving in their personal history. "

I've always felt that way; the line between work and the rest of life has always been blurry for me...and I've married a woman and sired a son who are exactly the same way. To some, it probably looks as though I'm always working. To others, I probably seem like a slacker who doesn't apply himself enough to be fully productive. But mostly I'm having a good time. Wish you were here.

Coincidentally, I recently came upon Frost's poem Two Tramps in Mudtime on the web. It's also about that blur. I might stick the last stanza up on one of my pages as a kind of long signature:

"But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future's sakes."