Thursday, July 31, 2008

I am a Winner!

I rarely win things, so win it happens that I do win something, I get a little excited.

I guess it was a month ago that one of my Twitter friends said the there was a Funky Monkey Review and Giveaway on her blog about free samples of a kind of fruit snack.

The directions were simple, "leave a comment here telling which of the 4 flavors you think you (or your kids) would like best."

I had my normal 32 oz of coffee that morning and came up with this-

I think my kids would like the Bananamon flavor. I am sure that it would have nothing to do with me walking around saying, “Bananamon!” in my best Jamaican accent.
The Kids would ask, “What is that Dad?”
“Banana, Mon!” I would say in my accent.
“No, really. What is it?” My children would ask with annoyance at my fake accent.
“It’s Banana, Mon!” I would continue to say and just for good measure I would add in the hearty laugh from the old 7Up commercials with the Jamaican guy in it, “Ha, ha! Ha! Ha!”
It would be fun for the whole family for about 15 min before the kids take the bag from me and run into the other room to discuss how weird their father is, and how they should try to keep me indoors for the rest of the day while sampling this new product.

And that is exactly what I did before my family sampled all of the flavors! A box was waiting for me when I walked in the door this afternoon. Four bags of each flavor, and everyone in the family was happy...

There are many contests at Maybe you can win something too!

Thanks Kate!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Last Lecture

I woke up Monday morning and lay in bed peeking at Good Morning America. I wish I could say that I spring out of bed like the Caped Crusader chasing the Joker, but I can't. It is much more like a rock rolling down the hill. I start slow, and end with a crash.

After my family's Disney trip, I was worn out my first day back. I looked up at the TV just in time to see that Randy Pausch died last week. I had no idea. I wanted to cover my head and stay in bed the rest of the day.

If you don't know who Randy Pausch was, you need to watch this You Tube Video (it is an hour and 16 min long and worth every min., even if you have seen it before). He has been on TV including Oprah, GMA, Dateline, and tonight, Tuesday, July 29, on "Primetime" at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

I don't know why his death has bothered me so much. Maybe it is because his family lives just a few miles away from me in Chesapeake, VA. It could be because my Mother, and Father-In-Law died from cancer, and I hate the disease. It might be because he was close to my age, was involved in education, and had similar interests. Perhaps I am upset because he has three young children and I picture how they will miss him as they grow up.

I think that perhaps the biggest reason that I am upset is because I loved the message from his Last Lecture. It is the way I want to live my life, but somehow I have never quite been able to live up to that goal. I guess I am just selfish and afraid I am not up to the task without an inspiring teacher to show me the way.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Disney World

Tuesday the whole family leaves for Disney World for a whole week! We are all very excited. I plan to take lots of video and tons of pictures.

The cool thing is that now anyone can preview the park online. The other night I hooked up the laptop to the big screen TV and jumped into Google Earth. There are .KMZ files that recreate the park in 3D. The Google Earth Blog tells a little more about it.

The placemarks in Google Earth showed enough to give the kids a preview of rides and attractions and make them yell, "I want to do that!" But the 3D view was awesome! Pretty much the entire park has been recreated. You can create a path on Google Earth and "walk" down the street and look at all of the things that are really on the street. Important note- Upgrade to the latest version of Google Earth, GE 4.3. Otherwise, you will probably miss all of the 3D.

I think the kids are as excited about flying to Florida as anything else. That is probably the thing I look forward to least of all. Airport security and all of the hassles with the airlines are enough to send me into a worry mode. I can just imagine my 10 year old saying something smart about guns or bombs at the wrong time prompting the authorities to give the entire family a thorough body cavity search. If that were to happen, I am sure my four year old would make them pay. He has a disagreeable streak.

We will be participating in a meal plan while saying at Disney's All Star Movie Resort. I am not exactly sure what that means except that I have been assured by people who have already done this that you are fed three times a day and given more food than you can eat. Sounds good!

One day we are going to try to go to Sea World, but I have to confess to just being ready to go with the flow. My wife, Amy has planned everything out, so my role becomes security, crowd control and pack mule for the Doss family. After carrying a backpack full of rocks around for a couple of weeks, I am now prepared for all of these tasks.

My step mother will be coming with us on this big trip. I am very excited about having her come with us. I hope she has a good time and we don't wear her out. She doesn't like the roller coasters but I think she will like the other rides. The last time we went to Disney World, I don’t think she enjoyed herself. I hope I can make it up to her.

I will be going cold turkey for a whole week- involuntarily. No computer access. That will be hard, but I think I will survive. It is not like giving up heroin or anything, right?

My Personal Goals as security and crowd control for the Disney World trip:
1. Have lots of Fun!
2. Keep everyone happy.
3. Take lots of pictures and videos.
4. Get everyone home safely.

I will be back in a week, and I am sure I will have something to share…

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Social Network Distress

About a year ago I started to explore social networking. I decided to create a personal learning network. I didn't call it that, it just sort of happened. My network became as important to me as my friends and family in the real world.

It sounds strange, but it is true. Twitter became a way to connect with others sharing the good things that I found and collecting resources that my "Tweeps" thought were useful. I created a blog (obviously) but there really wasn't the feeling of connectedness there that I enjoy from Twitter.

I love Second Life, and I have made many new friends there, but Twitter is a faster way to connect with more people. Second Life takes a bit more time to get into, you can't just jump in and out and have anything meaningful happen there.

I have experimented in other social networks. Nings, Plurk, Pownce, and My Space, just to name a few. The problem then became that I had so many separate networks that there really was no way to keep up with them all. I started looking for a way to connect them so that I would have a way to communicate across networks. So I tried, Plaxo Pulse, and Jaiku, as well as a few others.

The only one service I care about is Twitter. It first, my exploration into other services was all experimental. Later, it was because I was unhappy with Twitter. It has taken me almost an entire year to develop my Twitter circle. It is a slow process connecting to others in a meaningful way, so I care about my group. Leaving them to go to another service is something I could not stand, unless they all came with me. It is the people that make the network, not the service. The problem is that Twitter is making me very upset.

The Fail Whale is kind of an inside joke with people who use Twitter. It is a happy blue whale being carried on strings by the cutest little birds. The whale only appears when Twitter is not working right. When you see the Fail Whale as a Twitter user, this is not a good thing, but it is not the only annoying problem that I have experienced.

In the good old days I could count on an "Older" text link at the bottom of the page to link me to more Twitter messages than would fit on one page. This was awesome because I didn't feel like I had to check Twitter 100 times a day to keep up with my network. Now it seems like the "Older" link is gone forever.

I used to be able to pull a trick to get around the missing "Older" link. I would add this suffix, ?page=2 to the end of the Twitter URL,, so that it would look like this,, Twitter would take you to the previous page of tweets and you could read the older posts from your network anyway. This made me feel super smart. You could even add a 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10 to the end of the URL to visit even older posts. This trick will not work anymore. If you try it, Twitter just bounces you back to the main page.

I can no longer keep up with my "Tweeps." Between not being able to get on Twitter and not seeing any more than the first page of Tweets, I am not happy. I am can't give up, so I have started looking for a program or service that will make me feel like I am on top of all of the messages flying around.

Twhirl is a nice little program. It is small, sits on your desktop, and seems to get your Tweets pulled in nicely. But I think there is a limit to the number it will pull at one time. The best feature is also the most distracting. There is a little notification bubble that pops up whenever you get a message. I like this feature, but being the ADD poster child, I find that the constant stream of popping bubbles keeps me from doing other things like, oops! There goes one.

Tweetdeck is a program that I like, and with a recent update it says it will pull up the last 200 messages, but I don't believe it. The last tweet that was pulled in last night was at Tue 15 Jul 23:20, and my first one this morning was at Wed 16 Jul 04:57. I am not a math person but is Tweetdeck telling me that not one of my Twitter friends posted a tweet in over 5 hours? That is unbelievable to me. I have at least a couple of Twitter friends who live in Asia, and a few people I know are night owls. I am missing something!

No matter what I use to interact with my Twitter friends, I am not getting all of my Tweets.

Check out this article if you would like a more detailed breakdown between Tweetdeck and Twhirl.

Things have been moving lately with Twitter. Twitter recently acquired Summerize and they supposedly have more money and big names working for them. Great! Can they make it so I don't lose any Tweets? I feel like I can hardly leave my computer or I will miss the most important Twitter message ever. I don't know what it could be, maybe the newest Dr. Horrible episode is ready!

My real fear is that on my upcoming Disney vacation I will lose a whole week's worth of Tweets. The hotel we are staying at charges extra for Internet access. What year am I in? There is no reason to take the laptop. Ahhh! Did I say that?

If I try real hard I think I can post and read a few Tweets a day on my cell phone. What happens if I drop my phone on the trip? Am I risking suffering the agony of Delirium Tweetums?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

NECC T-shirt, follow-up!

Kim Caise, a teacher who also missed the fun NECC liked my shirt and offered to help anyone who wants one get it at a lower price! If you are interested in a shirt, try out Kool Imprints.

Her comment- "We can print the shirts for you for around $14 including shipping. Feel free to contact us for a price quote at:" That is at least $3 less than what I paid for mine!

This is what the shirt looks like...
Thanks to Tracy Murdach at for the shout out on your blog!
Thank you to Vicki A. Davis at CoolCatTeacher,! My picture is on her blog! Man, I really need to work out or something...
Thank you to the Tech Chick Tips,! I am honored by the attention.
I think it is great that people like the t-shirt. I would be very excited to see someone wearing it someday.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

NECC T-shirt

About a week ago, I decided to create a t-shirt to show my displeasure at having all the people I follow on Twitter go to NECC and leave me behind. I was bored and it seemed like something fun to do. I designed the shirt based on the Twitter status link that shows individual Tweets.

Here is the original design that I made.
I tried to keep things simple and just made everything in Word, and took a snapshot of it with the Print Screen command. I used Picasa to crop the image and convert the it to a jpeg.I uploaded the file to and they showed me a preview of the shirt.

It looked good, but Zazzle warned me that the the image might pixelate. I was willing to chance it, so I went ahead and ordered one. My shirt arrived today and this is what it looks like-

It looks better than I had hoped for! The only problem is that I didn't order an extra large... As long as there is no shrinkage there should be no issues. The shirt has no tag in the back- I love that!

If you would like a t-shirt like mine, click this link! I tried to set up a Zazzle page to share and sell my t-shirt but I was not interested in making a profit. I thought that $17.45 was plenty to pay for a t-shirt without me trying to add on a 10% profit on all sales. So I sent myself an email with a link to to image on a shirt, and you can have the shirt for what I paid for it if you like it. If you have any problems with the shirt, let me know I will help.

I also searched Google for a Zazzle coupon (I embedded the search into the link), I found one for free shipping and paid only $17.45 to have the shirt sent to me.

Zazzle is only one of many online stores that will put anything on a t-shirt, mug, mouse pad, etc. I think making a t-shirt has never been so easy, even if you don't like mine- make your own!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Alamo

This is me and my Second Life friend Thunder in costume looking at a poster at the Alamo with our names on it.

Sunday was the big day. Day one at the big NECC and the Alamo tours in Second Life. A small group avatars volunterred to be tour guides for the Alamo re-creation at the ISTE sim. I had been concerned about doing a good job, but it seems that I was worried about nothing. I gave two tours to a total of 4 people. I guess I had been hoping for more.

This Video was made by my SL friend Norma Underwood.

This Video Was made by the Alamo Tour organizer Valibrarian (SL name).

I was excited to meet some new people and it really was a very good example of how a virtual environment can be used for distance learning applications. Of course I did stretch myself by doing something completely new, so I think it was a great experience.

This is me, Alfredo, giving a tour in the Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library.