Alton Brown and me

alton-brown

alton-brown

I like to eat. Alton Brown likes to cook. You would think this was a match made in heaven but so far, he has yet to drop by the DogWalk and make me a pie.

Hmmmm… pie.

But, he has replied to two of my tweets, so there is that. He uses Post-It Notes and mostly draws cartoons as part of the reply. It is really kind of cool and I recommend you hop onto his twitter timeline when he tweets.

Here are the two replies. Enjoy. They make Good Tweets! (Get it? Good Eats, Good Tweets… yeah.. ok)

alton-brown-drunk-tweeting

alton-brown-tv-dinner

Send to Kindle

Dern ye, ya shoulda taken d’pie

When I was fifteen, I worked as a cook for The Viking Village Smorgasbord on Snelling Ave in St. Paul, MN. It’s not there anymore and someone long ago turned the building into a furniture store. A few decades have passed since I last clocked in, but a few stories stick vividly in my brain as if they happened only yesterday.

In “The Cities,” as we were wont to say, we prided ourselves on being urbane, but we were surrounded by the State of Minnesota that had its share of dirt farmers. On this particular weeknight, a farm couple wandered in for dinner. He was wearing his best overalls and she, her best go-to-church Sunday dress. Neither had very many teeth, their faces were ruddy with sun and wind and their hands gnarled from years of manual farm work. They held all the cash they were going to spend in The Cities in their hands. Maybe it was all they had left, maybe all they started out with or everything they planned on spending but you could tell it wasn’t much.

….

Send to Kindle

The analog still rules. My takeaway from #140conf NYC 2012

140conf The State of Now

140conf The State of Now

The #140conf was held last week at the 92Y in New York City. We were there.

It seems like every year, going to the conference is like being at Woodstock; the one in 1969, not the fake ones that tried to recreated the magic. At some point in the future, my ability to say “I was there” will stop and define a moment of time.

When you find yourself in a room filled with geeks, the point of view tends to change somewhat where the technology begins to get worshipped far more than the humanity that created and used it. I guess that is human nature to see your point of view as holding an answer to problems but most of life acts as a potentiometer, not a switch. Sometimes what you know or can bring to the table is in the off position or dialed back really far. Other times, it is full-on. Wisdom is in knowing the difference and being able to apply it correctly.

As I was listening to each of the talks, I realized that no matter how great all this twitter and facebook connection stuff is, nothing happened until someone with a belly button cared enough to reach out and touch; using “old media” like a telephone or television or in some cases, a letter scratched out with a pen. Then — and only then — did the wheels turn and the train start moving forward.

To hug a friend during a chance meeting in the hallway; to hear music created with the tips of ones fingers; to extend a hand to an old gentleman climbing the few stairs to the entrance of the building; to feel your butt fall asleep even as the sessions went on; to hear the clamber of the trade show right outside the door, competing with the speaker on stage, to feel your stomach growl. These are the things that are most memorable even though they maybe shouldn’t be. These are the things that have almost nothing to do with the digital marvels that brought us all together in that one place.

Yet it is the digital marvels that we use to justify why we are there.

The more we immerse ourselves in this digital stuff, the more we crave analog contact. Eventually, it will be this very thing, this very messy analog that digital was supposed to bring order to which will once again define us.

* * *

My pick of the 2012 conference is Kevin Honeycutt (@kevinhoneycutt). His presentation* was the right mix of excitement and skill without dipping into the overly-exuberant. He lives and breathes his message and attempts to infect every student, every teacher, every one of us in the audience with an enthusiasm for learning. His story is also told with an analog pivot, a phone call. Read his story, watch the video below and then make something happen in your school, even something really small. But I dare you to just sit there afterwards.

One frustrating note: The speaker who came after him Andrew Rasiej (@Rasiej) wrongly concluded that education in America would be better if every student had access to an iPad.

NOOO!!

In one sentence, he negated the entire point of Kevin’s presentation.

Every student should have access to teachers like Kevin. It is Kevin who is the variable here, not the iPad. I’ll bet Kevin would have been just as effective motivating kids to get excited about music with a couple buckets, some string and a gum wrapper. How very, very sad this was so very wrongly interpreted.

Invest in people first; invest in the analog and the digital will follow. The people you invest in will see and use digital in creative ways. If you just invest in the digital, you will turn students into robot users, not creators.

Kevin’s presentation is between 1:47 and 2:06 below. Kevin’s “conclusion” follows briefly afterward.



Video streaming by Ustream | 140conf Day 1, Session 1

*The harmonica app is awesome, but as an accomplished player of the real thing, I got bored. The banjo tuner was fun only it that is annoyed @chirn9980 when I claimed to be able to play a foggy mountain breakdown in the key of G. He claimed it was just a tuner and I was an idiot. It was still fun.

Send to Kindle

We should be careful about filling people with ambition

I had a pretty lively discussion with someone on the twitter this morning who had some strong opinions about how everyone should be self-employed and that we should quit relying on “The Man” for a job. I expressed some concern that before cheering them to jump off the ledge, we should perhaps maybe encourage people to first assess the risks, that they should jump with eyes wide open.

Twitter being what it is — by the end of the discussion — I was accused of scaring people, looking for more ways to fail than to succeed and killed fifty people on the highway with a load of wood.

….

Send to Kindle

Visiting London on a Sunday morning

Gerry and London from The UnseenBean Coffee

Gerry and London from The UnseenBean Coffee

“Do you drink coffee?” he asked me eagerly as soon as we shook hands. With a broad smile and cheerful flourish, he was already digging into his bag, giving me a pound of coffee from The UnseenBean.

Gerry (Gerard) Leary was born in 1952 and named after the patron saint of expectant mothers, St. Gerard. He weighed three pounds when he was born and the oxygen used in the incubator during the first few weeks of his life took his sight. Despite his lack of sight, his parents were determined to raise Gerry to be self-sufficient and independent.

“The last ten years of my father’s life, we were like two peas in a pod,” Gerry boasts with a slight chuckle. “But when I was growing up, man….” as his voices drifts off and his face lights up with a broad smile that tells a colorful story full of fond memories of youthful hooliganism.

At 59, he is fearless. He interacts easily with everyone around him and marches forward with as much confidence and conviction as any sighted person.

Gerry grew up and became a mechanic, but about nine years ago, his interests started to wander. As he was having dinner at a San Francisco café, he heard what sounded like a rock tumbler. It was, in fact, a coffee bean roaster. Immediately intrigued, he asked the roastmaster if he could learn to roast beans by sound and smell. Without missing a beat, the roastmaster explained what the roast looked like as the beans turned color. Gerry pieced together the subtle changes in sound and smell to map out a roasting cycle.

Armed with his indomitable confidence he enrolled in the San Francisco Coffee Training Institute to learn the craft of roasting coffee beans, despite the skepticism of the roasting instructors. He couldn’t see the color of the beans as they roasted, but he could smell and hear the change. He outfitted a sample roaster with a talking thermostat made from parts found on the Internet and The Unseen Bean was born. Later as the business grew, he bought a full-sized roaster.

But this was Hamvention weekend and Gerry (WBGIVF) was in town for that. We were curious about his entrée into HAM radio. London, a four-year-old yellow lab and Gerry’s guide dog, was also patiently waiting for us to get to his story. We’ll get there, I promise.

When Gerry was nine years old, he came down with an ear infection which kept him home from school for several weeks. He was driving his dad crazy with boredom, so his dad’s Army buddy gave Gerry an old radio to listen to. It wasn’t long before Gerry’s natural curiosity took hold and he and his dad were taking HAM radio operator classes. By the time he was eleven, Gerry had his license and he could not only listen, but talk on the radio.

“Keep active in the HAM Radio operators’ community,” his dad advised. “You’ll always be in the company of educated, caring and compassionate people.” Each year, Gerry comes to Dayton, Ohio to meet up with his community in person. Each year, they greet him as they would an old friend.

“London is my third dog,” Gerry shared. “I had a setter at first — which didn’t work out — and a black lab named Midnight for nine years after that.” Midnight was diagnosed with cancer and Gerry was faced with the awful decision to put him down. The training facility had another dog — London — but he was three days away from being cycled out of the program. Gerry would have to move fast to get this dog.

Within hours, he had completed the application and London and a trainer were on their way to Gerry’s house. It usually takes three to six months to acclimate the guide dog to a new owner; it only took about thirty seconds for London to jump into Gerry’s lap and then settle at his feet, London’s side snuggled up against his leg.

I takes six months to a year to train a guide dog. Only 40 percent of all dogs who enter a program graduate and are placed. Despite his casual demeanor, London is a dog with exceptional skills.

For more on Gerry Leary, visit his website at http://www.theunseenbean.com, on twitter at @TheUnseenBean or come on down for the next Hamvention and meet him and London in person. You will be inspired by his effervescent personality and quirky sense of humor.

If you have a HAM radio, reach out to WBGIVF. Tell London his Dayton Pack is anxious to meet up with him next year. And the year after… and the year after…

Send to Kindle

I apologize, Governor Kasich

Northmont Kindergarten Sign

Dear Hon. John Kasich, Governor of Ohio;

I apologize for my sight-sightedness with respect to my opposition to your state education budget cuts and SB5, which sought to limit bargaining rights for teachers. Clearly these were bills designed to give smart-ass bloggers like me an endless supply of content for free.

Please forgive my lack of vision. I look forward to the endless bounty of your labors.

I remain your loyal subject,

Rufus Dogg

Northmont Kindergarten Sign

Send to Kindle

Fannie and her big blue car

Windmill Cookie

Windmill Cookie

We had just moved into the big house on Van Buren Ave. in St. Paul in 1968. There were only four of us kids then, my two younger sisters were still babies. My mom didn’t know anyone in the neighborhood except Fannie, a rather plump, proper lady who lived straight across the alley from us facing Blair Ave. I’m not quite sure how they met, but I think it was at the laundromat that used to be on the corner of Blair and Dale, the one with the 5¢ Coke machine that dispensed glass bottles.

When Fannie walked, her girdle and underthings swished beneath her dress. She always wore a pastel-colored dress, even in the winter. She had white hair that was cut short and gold-framed glasses. I don’t remember her ever smiling, but her face was friendly and pleasant to look at. It was the face of a calming, comfortable grandma.

….

Send to Kindle

Mugging for social media

Uggie
Uggie
SOURCE: http://weinsteinco.com/sites/the-artist/

If you’re gonna make a movie that features a dog and that movie wins Best Actor and Best Picture of the Year, we’re gonna have a thing or two to say about it. I’m talking about The Artist starring Uggie and a few human beings in supporting roles, of course.

We don’t do movie reviews here, though this film is certainly worthy of one. After seeing it a few dozen more times, I may write one. For now, though, here are two observations.

“Silent” media gives a voice to the mute or the flawed.
Social media channels are for the most part, silent media. They do not require anyone to actually be themselves or show themselves in photos or video. You are what your words are in blog posts, in tweets, in Facebook updates and such. You do not need to be a great speaker, be able to carry a tune or dance to perform in the social media space. Social media gave to many nerds and geeks what silent film gave to George Valentin (and Uggie the dog if you want to extend the metaphor.) Sorry, you will have to see the film to the very end to understand this reference. Yeah, I know.. but life has no short-cuts.

Unfortunately for most, video is on the rise in the social media space, giving it a real voice in much the same way talkies did for silent film. Many stars will fall by the wayside, but it will also make way for the young. “People are tired of old actors mugging at camera to be understood. Out with the old, in with the new. Make way for the young! That’s life!” (Peppy Miller, The Artist)

Hating on the French
Can we just stop that already? As the Oscars went on and The Artist picked up more awards, my twitter stream filled up with anti-French tweets. I think we may be able to learn a little bit from Jean Dujardin who said in his acceptance speech, “I love your country” and proclaimed his delight for cinnamon rolls on the red carpet. If a big star like Dujardin can find delight in the smallest, pedestrian things about America, why can’t we find these same things about the French?

We all have flaws. Some of us are socially awkward; some are camera-shy. Still others have stage-fright and other have a French accent. Most of us are the dogs that run around the feet of others, just trying to get some attention. The tools you learned to use to overcome your flaws may not help you next year.

The survivors in this game are not the young as Peppy Miller suggested, but those who are willing and able to adapt.

Send to Kindle

Living in the land of plenty

Donut - Land of Plenty

I remember growing up in St. Paul, there was a donut shop on University and Dale that made the best raised donuts in the world. They were big and my favorite was a chocolate with crushed peanuts on top. We would take a special trip there every few months and only get one donut for each of us. The donut would take forever to eat.

We had the same relationship with the Dairy Queen on Rice St. We would visit the DQ on the Sundays our family drove down by the Mississippi to watch the barge traffic. We didn’t go for those drives often and we would always only get a small cone per kid. No matter how hot it was, that ice cream would last for a long time.

….

Send to Kindle

Pawprints in the snow

Pawprints in the snow

Pawprints in the snow

This morning, I started 2012 with a snarky tweet and a photo.

My 2012 New Years resolution; to be the first to make pawprints in the new fallen snow. Done!

It was a fun tweet and I went about my day.

But then I got to thinking about that pawprint and how the snow that was still falling will soon cover it up. And nobody will know I was there.

Send to Kindle