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Sunday
Jul192009

Fashion pointers

Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.
Mark Twain

It must be something that kicks in with geezerdom, but I've been bothered a lot more lately by people who are badly dressed who should know better. I am not complaining about kids (now defined as anyone under 30). Their low-riding drawers are the fashion equivilant of my bell-bottom jeans of the 60s and 70s. One should accept that all young people are fashion idiots and that every generation should have embarassing photos from youth.

I am addressing the gwoen-up guys I see at conferences, at church services, well, just generally in public. These pointers cost little or nothing and would make my environment much more attractive:

  1. Wear a damn belt. It and your shoes should match. (The shoes should match each other as well as the belt.) Reversible belts are a heck of a deal.
  2. Buy your pants with a waist size big enough that you don't need to make the below or above the belly decision. Pants go across the belly.
  3. Your socks should match your pants, not your shoes.
  4. Don't wear brown shoes with black pants.
  5. The bottom of your tie should just cover your belt buckle. If it's too long you look like a pervert; too short you look like a car salesman.
  6. Don't let your tie's design be the most memorable thing about you.
  7. No hats indoors. Especially those with earflaps. A baseball cap being clean does not make it formal wear.
  8. If the color of a sports jacket doesn't occur in nature, leave it in the store.
  9. When in doubt, it's better to over dress than under dress for any occasion. You can always take off the ties and jacket too keep from looking too much like a stick.
  10. Ask your wife's opinion and then actually listen to it.

I only have one fashion tip for women (formulated after attending a wedding recently). If you are wearing a strapless dress, figure out some way (duct tape?) to feel secure in it instead of reaching under your arm pits and tugging it up every five minutes. You're breaking the hearts of all us dirty old men who are praying for gravity to win.

A fashion bonus tip (thanks M.A. Bell):

Saturday
Jul182009

Broadband 

 

Johnson’s Law of Network Capacity: You can’t be too thin, too rich or have too much bandwidth.

The map above shows the availability of broadband Internet access in the area where my house (the X if you are a stalker) is located.  On this map, provided by ConnectMinnesota, pink indicates high speed Internet service provided by cable modem (my house), lavender shows DSL connections, and yellow indicates no service a'tall. Were it available, fiber broadband would be shown in gold.

I spent last Friday attending a public meeting/hearing of a "task force" that has been charged by our governor to make recommendations concerning broadband distribution in Minnesota - how much should be provided, who should provide it, and how can it be made affordable. And just how important is good Internet access to the economic development of an area anyway. Several intriguing questions were raised:

  • Is broadband an essential utility (think electricity, clean water, etc) or a market service (cable television, cell phone service)?
  • How do you define broadband in terms of capacity?
  • Traditionally people have accepted lower upload than download speeds. Is Web 2.0 changing this?
  • Should the government subsidize broadband access in areas where population densities are too low for commercial providers to supply it profitably?

I am no policy-wonk so I have little to say about these issues. My testimony, unsolicited, lasted about three minutes with the only point being that Internet bandwidth needs by schools are set to balloon - and very soon.

Just a little historical perspective... Our district first established a (SLIP) Internet connection and created a wide area network in early 1994 with 2400 bit "hang-up" modems on regular dedicated telephone lines. 2.4KPS speeds were fine since we had only a few users and text-only Internet interface. Our WAN now runs at 100MPS and our district's connection to the cloud is 42MPS. With judicious caching and packet-shaping we don't get a lot of complaints about Internet speed from our 8000 or so users. (We do have "rush hours" like everyone else.)

But I am growing concerned about even the short-term adequacy of our pipe to the cloud for a number of reasons:

  • We are seeing increasing state requirements for more online testing, shorter testing windows, and tests that are media-rich.
  • We are increasingly using ASPs (Application Service Providers). Our school website and data warehousing/mining solution run on servers outside our WAN. We are looking at external hosting of our e-mail and calendaring services.
  • Video and audio conferencing tools like Skype are so simple and specialized equipment-free that more teachers are using them.
  • Use of multi-media resources like YouTube, TeacherTube, TED, and iTunes are the rise.
  • Our textbook series are nearly all supplemented by online resources - again, many media-rich.
  • The coming one-two punch of affordable netbooks and cloud-computing will drive up bandwidth needs. What happens when every kid starts using Zoho or GoogleDocs?

Yes, I know file compression schemes are getting better, but I'll be there is some corollary to Moore's Law that predicts bandwidth needs of individuals/organizations. There are two worries schools should have: does one's region have the infrastructure build to double or triple the broadband speeds when needed? And, if available, can your institution afford the increased capacity?

(PS - 7-20-09 Another factor that might impact the need for more-better broadband would be a large and permanent spike in gas prices. At say $6 a gallon, I predict we would see a sharp rise in shortened school weeks, more online classes, etc.)

My home Internet speed sucks!

Saturday
Jul182009

AASL and Amazon learning the hard way

Two interesting happenings this week on the long march toward an all-digital information future:

Chris Harris started quite the discussion about what he considers to be AASL's overly restrictive protection of its student standards. (Joyce Valenza's in her NeverEndingSearch blog does a great job of catching the tone of the conversation on AASLForum listserv here and here.)

AASL is in a Catch 22 situation - it wants its standards widely seen and used, but it also wants to control how they are used and wants them to earn the organizationrevenue. (Oh, despite these being written by "volunteer members," such standards are expensive for organizations to produce.) Judging by the tenor of the discussion on various library lists, the ill-will being generated by the controversy is costing AASL a lot in lost membership and good will. A quick (oh, I forgot that that quick is not in AASL's vocabulary) policy reversal, placing a share-alike, non-commercial use CreativeCommons license on the standards would show it listens to its membership. (#FreeTheStandards ) AASL and ALA will need to move into the 21st Century someday, whether they want to or not.

The other step back comes from Amazon that has deleted some Kindle titles, not just from its online inventory, but apparently from users' actual devices. (David Pogue's take here.) According to the NYTs, the publishers did not have the rights to offer these titles. Some critics have compared this move of Amazon's to waking up and finding books missing from your bookshelf with check for their value in their place. Personally, I see it more like turning on your television and finding some of your cable channels gone. Amazon doesn't sell e-books; it leases them to readers as long as they have a working Kindle reader. Adjust your thinking.

As anyone who has ever implemented a new way of doing business knows, even the best planned, most thoughtful transitions ever go off without unexpected hitches. All membership organizations like AASL will eventually find that they need to give very liberal copyright permissions to their materials if they really want them to be widely used - which in turn increases the power of the organization. A model for compensating authors that does not involve the use of DRM schemes like those used by the Kindle will happen and all publishers will realize that all their materials will need to be made available in scary, easily stolen electronic formats.

The directions seem clear - fewer restrictions, digital formats, alternate forms of revenue generation for producers. But these little detours are interesting!

(Added July 21 - E-book banning's potential demo'd by Amazon <http://bit.ly/11t2IC> - Manjoo writing in Slate. OK, ALA OIF - where are you? Maybe this is more serious than I first thought!)