Sep 16, 2012 - fitness    No Comments

2012 Freaky 5k: now with more SPARKLE!

I set the bar high with my goal of $250, and I have so far received three donations totalling $105 — which is AWESOME. (Thank you A.C. in NY, B.W. in Maine, and …. my mom and dad.) But I REALLY want to meet my goal, and it was easier last year with Komen because everyone hates cancer, and everyone knows what Race for the Cure is. Hardy Girls, Healthy Women is a much smaller organization, but it has big needs, too. And maybe even more, because HGHW can’t just slap some pink on something and get five cents in return, their money is earned with a little more grass-roots effort, which is why it REALLY matters to me. So, I upped the ante.

If I meet my goal, I will wear a skirt in the race. Not just any skirt. A SEQUINED skirt, from Team Sparkle. Now, if you know me, you know why this is a very valuable prize. I am Not a Skirt Girl. And I am especially Not a Sequined Skirt Girl. Not much of the bedazzling type, over here,  more of a jeans-and-t-shirt or khakis-and-long-sleeved-knit-shirt girl. I do have patent leather shoes… but they are Danskos, so that is immediately negated.

But look at these skirts:

A sampling of the skirts at Team Sparkle (image from


And tell me you wouldn’t pay good money to see ME run a 5k in one. Exactly.

So, for every $5 you donate, you earn a vote to pick which color I will run in. (And yes, pink is an option. If you know me, you are looking for your wallet. If you don’t know me, just know that… I hate pink. Like, a lot. A whole lot. But if I get $250 for HGHW and the votes are in pink’s favor, that is what I will order.) You can donate through FirstGiving, or if you know me personally and would rather give me cash, I can take those donations, too. My 3 initial donors will get their votes and rewards, too, even though I just came up with this plan today. And if I run in a sparkly skirt, EVERYONE will be rewarded with a photograph of that.

The theme of the Freaky5k is “bringing scary back,” and to most people, a sequined skirt is not exactly SCARY. But to me, running a race is pretty scary, and doing it in a SPARKLY SKIRT is even scarier, so I’m bringing scary back in my own way.

You can donate and vote until October 17, and you can donate and not vote after that date, too. (I just need time to order the winning color.)

Here is Guidestar’s page on HGHW, if you want to know more about the organization and verify that they are aboveboard and worth your $5 and my 5k. In a sparkly skirt. (And for what it’s worth, Komen has a 1 star rating, based on 656 reviews, at Guidestar – so your support of my race this year is really and truly for a great cause.)

And this is their mission statement:

Hardy Girls works with communities and with girls themselves to change the environment in which girls are developing. We aren’t focused on fixing a problem with girls but on the world they are experiencing. We see and imagine the best girls can be, we create fun and challenging spaces for them to realize their strengths and talents and we engage the community in that process. Hardy Girls’ work is based on research that shows girls going through adolescence lose the strong voices that were natural to them in their early years. As girls reach adolescence the difference between the images they see of women in the media and the image they have of themselves causes them to turn their anger and confusion inward. While boys “act out”, girls “act in”, causing them to engage in at-risk, destructive behavior damaging their bodies and their minds. Our vision is that all girls and women experience equality, independence and safety in their everyday lives.

Sep 14, 2012 - life    1 Comment

Things that make me crazy. Part I.

Web forms.

  • When the ‘choose birth year’ defaults to the current year, or to 1912. At least make it in the ballpark of legal, and still living, adults.
  • When you click the ‘country’ drop down, and United States is buried in the U’s.
  • When you click the ‘country’ drop down, and United States is at the top of an otherwise alphabetical list.
    • Yes, both ways make me crazy.
  • When the form requests a ZIP code and then the City and State. That’s why ZIP codes exist! Cross-reference!
    • That four other municipalities use my ZIP code. If you have your own school, you should have your own ZIP.
  • That Google doesn’t use ReCaptcha.
  • When the state abbreviations are listed alphabetically as though the whole state was spelled out, so Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts are listed in that order (ME/MD/MA) instead of alpha by the abbreviation (MA,MD,ME.)
Sep 13, 2012 - technology    No Comments

Why I Love Tech Events

In the last 7 days, there have been two big tech events that I have followed closely. The first was Amazon’s Kindle event, and the second was Apple’s iPhone/iPod event. Twitter on both days (but especially yesterday, with the Apple event) was a mix of people sharing their thoughts about the event, or sharing how annoyed they are by people who share their thoughts on the event. Which, I get it — I get annoyed when people tweet every play of a game, or every segment of an entertainment awards show, or whatever. But I LOVE this stuff, and not because I am going to BUY it — but because I want to see what has been done to advance the technology. There’s some consumerism in there, sure (but there’s a lot of consumerism in pro sports and Hollywood, too) but I just love seeing how far we’ve come. The first phone I used was my home phone, and it was a rotary dial, of course, but it was also a PARTY LINE. I am 37 years old and have seen my telephone evolve from a party line to a tiny computer that lets me videochat with my sister across the country. That blows my mind, so I always watch with the hope that the next thing to come will be mindblowing as well.

So, first up, the Kindle event. I have a 1st gen Kindle that I got through work, back when it first came out. 5 years ago? or so? And it was great, I loved the e-reader concept and still do. But since then, I’ve also gotten an iPad (also through work) and since most of my reading is done in bed, I ended up using that a lot because it’s backlit. Kindles I have personally spent money on= 1, a gift for my sister in Colorado, and another yay, technology! thing about that, is that I have the Kindle under my account, so we can share books — something I really can’t do when she is 3000 miles away. When I first got my hands on the Kindle (the original) my thoughts were that it was really cool, but really expensive, and if I was paying, I wouldn’t have bought one unless I had accessibility issues. Having worked in book retail for years (RIP, Borders), as well as libraries, Large Print books are often abridged, and they are huge, monstrous things, and not every book gets the LP treatment. My very first thought with the K1 was “every book is now in large print, unabridged. Awesome.” Future kindles added text-to-speech (and then even more future kindles took it away in many models) but my first thought was what a boon e-readers would be for assistive technology.

When it came to the Kindle event last week, I really didn’t care about the Fire models. I have a tablet, I’m pretty committed to Apple for most of my technology (more in a bit) but the thing I found I didn’t like between reading on the K1 and reading on the iPad was the distractibility of the iPad. With a Kindle, I can straight up get lost in a book. With the iPad, I can read along, until a notification pops in to let me know that I got an email (“Oh, it’s from a student, I will just answer that now so I don’t have to worry about it later”) or a tweet directed to me or someone messages me on facebook, or or or — distractions that don’t come with a dedicated e-reader. But, I really liked the backlighting of the iPad (except when I try to read at lunch in a sunny spot. Then, yeah, it really sucks.) When the Nook with glow came out, I was excited — not because I was going to get one, but because I knew that Amazon would have to follow with something, and something even better. I watched the event last week specifically to see how they would do it, and it looks great. Kindle Paperwhite
has exactly all the features I want, at about 1/4 of the price of the original K1. I added it, and the leather case (in Honey !) to my Amazon wishlist as soon as the event was over.
What I love: the front-lighting looks great, it’s small and light, and did I mention only $119?

What I’ll miss: I loved the weird space age feel of that weird silvery cursor thing on the K1. I can’t explain why, I just did. I also loved buttons for turning pages, because it meant I could burrow under a blanket and turn pages and my hands wouldn’t get cold. That may sound a little weird but I live in Maine, we are cheap with oil, and when you are reading in bed in a 58 degree room, you appreciate being able to have as much of your person as insulated as possible. The Paperwhite has no buttons and a touch screen, and I haven’t found any info yet on how that will work with gloves, etc.

(Man, that hand looks gigantic. I know they want to make the Kindle seem small and light, but what pecentile does that hand fall on?!)



The other event that I always follow are the Apple events. I love Apple, I do, and I am eyeballs-deep into their ecosystem (exactly where they want me) but I love it for the reason so many people do — it works, and it works well for me, and for my general household. Like I like sharing books with my sister, I like sharing apps with my husband, or keeping our music in one pile under iTunes Match (which, we have pretty different tastes, but I like just having one account to deal with it.) My first (and thus far, only) smartphone is an iPhone4. My first iPod was the fat nano, and I sold that when I got an ipod touch in 2009 (because of where we live, while I really desired an iPhone, the AT&T service is terrible here, so I couldn’t justify it, so I did the iPod touch + dumbphone for a few years.) Dave had a fat nano that ended up being too small for his collection, so he bought a used Classic and sold the nano. I have had an iPad1 and and an iPad2 (still have) through work. Dave has a refurb iPad1, and we have a 27″ iMac* we got last summer, after using a G4 iBook for 6 years straight. I say all that to note that we are not “must have the newest, latest, greatest!” but that we tend to be pretty frugal and selective with what we DO buy.

The reason I was especially interested in this year’s iPhone announcement is that Dave needs a new phone. When we first switched to Verizon several years ago (because our local carrier was bought out, and because I get a discount because of my employer), he got an LGChocolate and I got an LG Env2. The Chocolate died earlier in the year, so I activated the old Env2 for him, which he’s been using, but with frustration — it pocket dials, and lately, it just turns itself off without warning, so he will come home to find his phone hasn’t even been ON, and he has missed messages. We looked for a feature phone that would work for him — requirements of “qwerty keyboard, won’t pocket dial, good ratings” and … they just don’t exist. In fact, when I asked on Facebook if anyone could recommend one (and specifically said, NOT A SMARTPHONE), I got 6 recommendations. All for smartphones. Feature phones are going away, and fast, and I didn’t want to use contract pricing on a crappy phone. But, we wanted to wait to see what Apple had for it’s next-generation.

iPhone5 is … underwhelming. LTE is nice, but we don’t have it in our area yet, and we are very infrequent travelers. The bumps to the camera seem okay, but.. not huge. That there isn’t any NFC — especially with the Passbook app — is almost… weird. And the dock connector changing — I get why they had to, but it’s probably a big reason why we aren’t going to bother with the 5 this time. I’m sure, eventually, we’ll end up with devices that use the lightning connector, but right now we have enough devices that use 30pin that we have docks and cables and car chargers and all of that, and I don’t want to deal with starting the conversion now. The things I’m most excited about are in the new iOs6, anyway, and not the actual phone. HD front camera? Eh. I do think the EarPods look like an improvement though, as I have never used Apple’s headphones because they just don’t fit in my ear, at all. I leave some at work or in the car in case I forgot my usual ones, but that’s about it. After all the hype, we’ll be getting Dave a 4s — maybe a 32gb if they go on a steep discount, but even the 16 would probably be enough. (It wouldn’t for me, but I realize I am probably a heavier user than he will be.) More exciting than Dave having a fancy phone will be Dave having a phone that STAYS ON which means I can REACH HIM.

The iPods are definitely neat looking — Ingrid has an old school CD player that was bought at Rite Aid I think (a no-name brand we’ve had around for years) and she is getting into music now. Her newest favorite is the Fresh Beat Band, and one evening a few weeks ago, I downloaded the album to my phone, on a whim, while we were outside, and when it started playing, she was SO excited. I burned her the CD when I got inside, and she’s been loving it, but it made me think “huh, when will this go the way of the ladybug record player? I wonder when she will get her first ipod?” Because, she will, some day. Not this year, probably, but I look at the Nano and it’s cute colors and think it’s totally workable by a little kid. And the colored Touch models are clearly aimed at the under18 market for getting most of the advantages of a smartphone, without the data plan.

In general, though, I was left feeling Meh. I almost feel like there was something else that was supposed to be there, in the phone — but it didn’t get perfected in time. (Also, I just finished reading Steve Jobs by Isaacson this week, so that is probably coloring my reaction, too. That maybe there was something that without the ‘reality distortion field’ around, it actually DIDN’T get done on time like with other products.) (Also, ironically, I read that book in its paper form, checked out from the library.) I’m glad we waited — either way we’ll be getting a better deal than if we’d bought a month ago, but there’s nothing to make me buy up to the latest model for this situation, and I wonder if there are others feeling the same. Especially with 4s coming in at a baseline 16 instead of 8 — it’s way more palatable. (I don’t think I could go 8gb for any smartphone, even for Dave.)

Two events, that will probably net out a total of $250 spent over the next few months. Yes, I love my tech events. But most of it is just to see what’s out there now, and to start wondering about what will be next. iPhone5s rumors… are there any yet? I’ll have to check twitter.

*My first computer was a 386 Compaq ‘laptop’ that I took to college, which was followed by a Toshiba satellite, which was followed by a used G3 iBook, the G4, and then the iMac. The iPad is what led us to buy that first desktop.

Sep 11, 2012 - fitness    No Comments


One of the issues I’ve had with learning to run is figuring out the endurance piece. I just can’t seem to bust through the 2nd 3 minute run in week 3 without being in a lot of pain. A 3 minute run! WTF? So I asked my good friend Jeanne for help, and her thought was that I was going too fast. (haha. Ha.) She told me to aim for 12:30 on my running intervals, so I went into my app (iSmoothRun) and instead of using my C25K intervals, I set up a workout of repeating intervals of 2 minutes running, 1:30 recovery, repeated 11 times, which I figured would get me through my 3.25 mile route. (I went off-plan with C25K way back, when I opted to always do 5K instead of a 30 minute workout) I’ve been doing that all week, and it’s still been sucky, and I’ve still had pain and had to walk ten steps or so (especially on the uphill intervals) but today!!!! Today I did the whole thing, ran every second of my running intervals, EVEN THE UPHILLS (and in fact, the longest uphill ended up being one of my fastest intervals? Not sure I believe that, but that’s what the voice in my headphones and my run log says…) and most importantly: I didn’t hurt. I felt like a million bucks.

My plan is to repeat this on Thursday, and then do one of the C25K workouts on Sunday, and then next week nudge up my running intervals by 15 seconds, or maybe 30? and then tackle that endurance level (and I almost put that in quotes, because seriously, running for 2 and a half minutes straight is an embarrassingly low bar for endurance, but it’s MY bar, and it is certainly more than I could do before!) and then keep increasing my interval time, and decreasing the recovery time, until some day, I am just running. And today was a tiny but also kinda big step in that direction.


Sep 5, 2012 - fitness    1 Comment

Running update

I haven’t posted an update on my running in a while, so here’s what’s new:

I am still learning to run. I am probably going to ALWAYS be learning to run, but I’m still getting out there.

This summer, on my Summer Fridays (I flex my schedule to have Fridays as a work from home day) I loved getting up and going for a run and showering and then starting my day, and as soon as summer Fridays were over, I missed it, but the only window to do that would involve getting up early. I mean, REALLY EARLY. But I wanted to try, just once, to say I did, so I did. I downloaded an app for my iPad to set an alarm (Dave is the alarm master in our room, and HE didn’t want to get up that early!) and I laid out all of my running clothes in the living room, and when my alarm went off at 5:15, I snuck out and downstairs and suited up and headed out, and…. it was great. More than great. It was almost EASIER to get up at 5:15 and go for a run that it is to drag out of bed at (mumblemumble) and race to get out the door. The streetlights were still on! It wasn’t muggy, it was the just right temperature. After my 3.1ish miles (I don’t go for time, but for distance, and aim for a 5k every time I run, but that typically takes me about 45 minutes, see: still learning, above) I get in, take a shower and get some breakfast before anyone else is really awake. It’s great. I wish I’d started sooner.

Because I now realize I can do it, I started immediately worrying about winter, and remembered that there was a free gym pass promotion through our wellness department at work, and yay, I was one of the ones to to make it on the list! The gym is right by my house, and not only has cardio machines, but also does classes, including one that is like the Group Power class I loved so much at the Y, AND it’s at 5am. I am looking forward to that as well.

But related to running, I am going to do a 5k I did last year, again, called the Freaky5k. It’s at the end of October, and is sponsored by an organization that I love, called Hardy Girls, Healthy Women. Here’s their mission statement:

Hardy Girls Healthy Women (HGHW) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the health and well being of girls and women. Our vision is that all girls and women experience equality, independence, and safety in their everyday lives. To that end, our mission is to create opportunities, develop programs, and provide services that empower them. Since day one, Hardy Girls programming, resources and services have been powered by the latest research in girls’ development. Much of that research comes from the work of Hardy Girls co-creator and board member, Lyn Mikel Brown.*

I want my daughters to be raised in a world that values them as people, not pretty objects, and Hardy Girls, Healthy Women (and Brown’s book, Packaging Girlhood) help me do that. I can’t wait til they are old enough to participate in the Adventure Girls program (next year, for Ingrid!) and the resources they provide for people who work with girls — I would love for my girls to spend most of their time in a “Hardiness Zone.” So, this year, instead of raising money for Komen, as I did last year, I am making my fundraising race the Freaky 5k. Part of being a healthy woman is nutrition and fitness — but also having the courage to sign up for a race, when you run a 15 minute mile.

I would love it if you would donate. I am running with at least 2 friends (hoping to get more!) and our team name is Geek Girls Go!, with the motto of “Not Just a Pretty Brain.” Please consider supporting me, and us, and HGHW, by donating a few bucks over there on the right. If I can dare to learn to run**, you can dare to donate $5.

*Little known fact: Lyn Mikel Brown grew up in Washington County. (I know this because she graduated with my cousin. It’s WashCo. We know our 6 degrees.)

** and learn to get up before dawn to do so!


Sep 2, 2012 - education, technology    2 Comments

Back to School with Canvas

Today I greeted my new class of first year students. I love teaching this class (you have to, to be okay with giving up your holiday weekend each year to teach it!) because I am the first instructor they meet. I take that role seriously — I try to set the tone for their college experience on that first day, by being positive and friendly and accessible.

This year, I am setting the tone by being even more prepared. Sure, I have started each class with a syllabus, posted a link in the portal, etc, but this year I built my whole course in Canvas. The other sections are using a 3 ring binder, developed by the course leader, and in lieu of the binder,  I rounded up electronic versions of those files and created modules (where the binder has tabs.)

But that’s just the baseline – the part I am even MORE excited about are the assignments, and how in Canvas, the assignments can be done so flexibly. For instance, my students are required to attend two different events during the semester, and in the past, that was proven by the student providing the handout in their portfolio. Which was fine, but easily forged. So, when I heard an instructor lament that they’d never seen an electronic device being used in class for classwork, I decided to make those event assignments something different than providing the handout. For those, the students need to provide a photo of themselves at the event. They will get 10 points (full score) if they are in the photo, and 5 points if it’s a photo of the speaker. Simple, but that I can specify the file type of .jpg or allow a link makes it easier.

We also do journaling in this course, but in the past, we were to collect journals at the end. So, of course, many were done the day before they were due and just backdated. This time, I have made 5 journal due dates throughout the semester, and only accepting submissions via URL. (Have I mentioned that we are ALSO converting to Google Apps this year, too? Another huge, bright spot in my day!) Attaching the rubrics makes the expectations clear to the students what is due. The calendar makes it clear WHEN it is due. I am in love.

When I was researching our next move with an LMS, Canvas was my personal first choice, and I knew that regardless what direction the institution would go, that I would use it my Technology in Education course. (Due to the nature of the course, it’s sort of part of the design that I get to go a little rogue with my choices.) The one thing that my evals have dinged me on is “timely feedback for grades,” and it’s the area that I’ve tried to make better with each class. The challenge in that course is that so much of it is blogging, and I can’t provide a grade on the blog, for privacy’s sake, so I end up with my Google Reader open and a Google Spreadsheet and trying to cross reference and set color coded rules, but I can’t share the spreadsheet with students because it has ALL their grades (FERPA again) and I inevitably scroll past (and thus, “mark as read”) a blog entry, and half of them title their blog “my ED307 blog” so I have to dig to see which student is saying what, and…. it’s a logistical nightmare. Add Twitter to my curriculum, and that doubles. So, when I saw the URL submission piece in Canvas, and the Speedgrader, it was the EXACT solution I had been looking for. I can now use a rubric for the blog posts, grade and comment all at the same time, and my students will know exactly where they stand.

Secondly, one of the biggest WTF? moments of last semester was when many students bombed a major project. I am a big fan of the “double dip” – I don’t create work without a purpose. So, when we discussed writing rubrics, and rubric tools, I used that class to have students design the rubric for the next big project. We designed the rubric, I posted it, and they had 3 weeks to complete. Many students failed, and it was clear that they never went back to the rubric to help guide their project. Those that had used the rubric, did great. Those that didn’t…. After that assignment, I knew that next year, I would have students do a peer review – if they had just had a peer look at it, with the rubric, everyone should have aced the project. And so Canvas offers every.piece.of.that. Every one. I can create the rubric, they submit the project via URL, I can demand a peer review, they can correct any issues, and THEN I can assess with the rubric.

I am convinced that my students will be more confident in their progress in the course, and that I will see that reflected in my teaching evals. And I am also convinced that students will start asking for more of that from their instructors, and once they see how much EASIER it is than any other method we’ve used before, that they will be into it, too.

Here’s a little clip showing how SpeedGrader works, from Instructure’s guides:


Sep 1, 2012 - life    No Comments

All in one.

I have been blogging in one form or another since 2001, when I started at Diaryland. I moved from Diaryland to LiveJournal to Typepad, to another Typepad, to  vox, to WordPress, to Posterous, to Tumblr and all the way through, my blogging identity got more and more fractured — I should have just a blog for my family, and then one for my friends, and I don’t want to bug either with my tales of running, so I’ll start a new one… and pretty soon I had a lot of little blogs and it was too much to keep up with so I just stopped.

But that doesn’t work either.

So, I slurped up my most recent posterous blogs (the family one, and the running one) and pulled them into my hosted account (where I had grand plans of just a ‘professional’ blog) and here is where I am going to write about my life, which involves my family, my career, my pursuit of a better me. And I’m just going to get better at using tags so that the people who roll their eyes at kids can skip over those posts and go right to the ones about tech, or the family members can say “LMS, iOs, WTFs, where’s the cute pics?” and click on family, and the people who need to know that non-athletes can run, too, can click on fitness, etc.

Because, that’s who I am – I am a mother and a wife and a daughter and a teacher and a geek and a runner and a learner and a worker, and compartmentalizing all of that just doesn’t work anymore. Welcome (back?)