Saturday, May 31, 2008

Happy Birthday Lexi

The worst part about being so far from the family is that you end up missing a lot of stuff. Today is Lexi’s birthday. At least I was able to Skype in an participate with her opening presents and having cake using the video conferencing tools. I even had bought a piece of cake to eat here while she was eating with the rest of the family.

Happy Birthday Lexi!!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Day 103 in the Valley of the Sun

As I was biking back from Camelback Mountain today, I realized that it must have been at least 100 days since I arrived here. Come to find out that it was 103 and a lot has changed in that relatively small amount of time.

For starters, I have drop some weight. Actually, a lot of weight. Today, I started by biking up and down the bike paths in Scottsdale, the ones along the golf courses and lakes. You could tell that it was an unusually cool day in the Valley by how packed the trails were with bikers, walkers, joggers, and rollerbladers. After all, it was only in the 80s today.

I have been wanting to go visit Camelback Mountain in Phoenix for a while. There are some real nice and real expensive homes around this mountain. These home owners tried to close the street to cyclist and hikers, which would have prevented them from hiking up the trail on the mountain. The good news is that the homeowners gave up the fight about two weeks ago.

I get there and decided to lock up the bike and head up the mountain trail, just a little bit. There trail is rated strenuous and difficult, and is only recommended for experienced hikers. Well, I ended up hoofing my way up not just the first hump of Camelback, but hiking along the ridge to the higher second hump. It was a very tough hike, but well worth it for the view. (More pictures in photo album, scroll to bottom). I had my camera out on both the way up and down the mountain and I was able to take some great pictures (I hope you think they are as great as I do).

So now I am at the bottom and I still had an hour long bike ride home remaining. So yes, I am sore.

Like I said, these 100 days out here has been great for me physically. I am feeling the best I have felt in years. I have lost a lot of weight in the process of getting into a shape other than round. However, I am really looking forward to visiting folks in Virginia in three weeks.

P.S. don’t forget the pictures in photo album, scroll to bottom.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

It is cold and wet

Today I discovered that my waterproof pannier (or rear bag) for my bike really is waterproof.

Despite the fact that it has rain most of the afternoon and evening. We have only received officially 0.16” of rain and it is enough to trigger flood warnings. We might receive between 0.25” and 0.75” before it is over. I have discovered that there are some storm drains on the major roads, but not as many as in Hampton Roads.

What made my ride so miserable this evening was the fact that it was breezy and 60 degrees. In stead of biking in the flooded bike lanes, I stuck to the wider and raised sidewalks. This also meant that I did not have to worry about cars splashing me and I could take me time pedaling home. I could have taken the bus, but I had to find out how waterproof that bag was.

So how does this area handle such flooding? Most of the neighborhood parks are built in a manmade depression, this is where the storm water runs off to. Many apartment complexes and business parks have these manmade depressions as well that become a small lake for a couple of days after a good rain.

I know, I just referred to 0.16” of rain as flooding. But keep in mind that we have only had 2.34” of rain so far this year which is about 1.5” below normal.

Apparently, the storm dumped snow around the Grand Canyon and will continue through tomorrow and then the clouds will clear out Saturday morning. I will not be biking tomorrow, but that is because I have to meet a faculty member off-campus.

It will probably be a warm day when...

It will probably be a warm day when you wake up at 5:45am and it is 82 degrees out. Yesterday it got to 110 and today it only made it to 108. In fact, as I type this at 8:30pm, it is still 100 out. The funny thing is that they are calling for a high of 81 on Thursday and Friday it supposed to only get to 70.

Today I did ride my bike into work. It felt great. It is dry out and you really have to keep drinking water when biking home in 107 degree weather that is breezy. But I have plenty of water bottles on the bike.

The real problem is that they have just applied a micro seal to several of the roads I bike on. This stuff seems to grip my tires and makes pedaling harder. The good news is that it seems to stop gripping after a week or two. I did some looking around the internet and apparently the micro seal is a thin asphalt overlay and sealer made of emulsified asphalt, water, and stone dust. It gives the road a uniform color and texture, but more importantly it seals the street, thus preventing the infiltration of water. This means that the chances of the road cracking and forming potholes is greatly reduced and therefore lasts longer. The only problem is, I am told that it can cause the roads to be slick in the rain and cause cars to slide a bit. Since there are no storm drains here, I have seen a half inch of rain flood this place and turn traffic into a nightmare.

I did not bike to work yesterday because I had a presentation to give at the ASU Downtown campus in central Phoenix. It was great to see the new campus and it looks great. They even have dorms for this campus here and the campus is the home of the College of Nursing and the Walter Conkrite School of Journalism is located. When I was here for the Alpha Phi Omega National Convention in 1996, I stayed a few blocks over from this new campus. We had an overflow hotel for the conference, that is the hotel is the current dormitory for the campus.

BTW, the bus system had no problem getting me to and from the Downtown campus. Gotta love that free ride bus pass from ASU.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

But it is a dry heat

Today is the first day of triple digit temperatures. It took a while but they are finally here. This spring had been very average, the temperatures have not jumped up like they are prone to doing. Today’s temperature topped out at 105, but could go as high as 108 by Wednesday before the highs drop into the 80s.

Despite the heat, today I helped out a friend in setting up some poles for a awning to go over their pool so that it will be shaded from the desert sun. Of course time was spent in the pool so that we would not overheat.

I am going to try to continue biking through the heat. The mornings will be fine, but if the evenings are too hot, I can always load my bike onto the bus and stay cool. Regardless, I will be carrying plenty of water when I ride.

However, I will not be biking on Monday since I have to be at ASU’s Downtown Phoenix Campus first thing in the morning to help give a workshop presentation. The bus system here is so well put together that riding the bus there and back to the ASU Tempe Campus is a simple thing. Of course when the light rail is running in December, I can catch the train from a station at the ASU Tempe right to a station on the Downtown Campus.

In other news, only a couple more weeks until I go back to Virginia to be with my family, see old friends, and then bring my family west.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Teaching & Learning With Technology

Today I went to the Teaching & Learning With Technology Conference hosted by the Maricopa Community Colleges. It was great to see some folks that I have met at other conferences. However, the big thrill was the keynote speaker Dr. Michael Wesch. He is the guy who made the amazing YouTube video The Machine is Us/ing Us.

In his keynote, he started by highlighting his own culture shock as a anthropologist when travelled to the Papua New Guinea and then described the cultural revolution he observed that was brought on by a government census.

Then he talked about the cultural revolution we are currently in the middle of and how it relates to higher education. “The most significant problem in higher education is significance itself” was one of his assertions. He continued that the “problem in higher education is a cultural gap.” this point is highlighted by his YouTube video A Vision of Students Today this is also referred to as “if these walls could talk”

The crisis of significance is that students are the ones limiting their own learning with the question “will this be on the test?” Learning must transform from the acquisition of information into: discussing, challenging, critiquing, and creating information. We can not depend on the students to know how to leverage the new environment (technologies, etc.), we have to learn WITH them. We have to look at the students as a network of multiple relationships (see Metcalf’s Law) and not a one to one relationship of instructor to a group of students.

That keynote left me excited and with a reading list to go find and look into. I attended a session on Quality Matters which is a toolset of evaluating the design of online courses and I also was able to sit in on Dr. Wesch’s session where he talked about and demonstrated a course project from his cultural anthropology class, a World Simulation and the tools that were used to facilitate this course project.

The lunch speaker did a great job of profiling today’s K-12 students and really challenged the fact that today’s so called “digital natives” are not really digital natives. She used statistics of computers in the classroom from when high school seniors were in first grade versus today’s fourth graders and what they had in the first grade classroom and how the fourth grades can run circles around these seniors.

It was a great conference and as you can tell, I picked up some great ideas (you should see my notes).

Friday, May 9, 2008

It Is Now Summer

Yesterday, there were people running all over campus in their cap and gowns. ASU apparently had their largest graduating class ever - 8,000 graduates. All 8,000 were housed in one ceremony at Wells Fargo Arena, but many of the colleges have smaller ceremonies afterwards from Thursday afternoon through Saturday.

This makes today the first day of summer for me. I have always considered the first day at work after Spring Commencement to be the first day of summer.

To me:
  • Spring starts in January with the spring semester.
  • Summer starts when the spring semester is over.
  • Fall starts when the fall semester begins in August.
I am not sure if I will ever consider winter as a season here, I guess we will find out later this year.

Summer is a time when campus suddenly gets very quiet and parking gets easier. That has happened here. Actually, I have only been told that parking is easier since I do not drive to campus.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Playing Host

Yesterday, I put Dawn on a plane to head back to Virginia. It was one of the toughest thing I have done in a real long time.

We really enjoyed the four days we had together.

Late Friday night, I met her at the airport with a dozen roses.

Saturday we visited 14 houses with the real estate agent. It was a whirlwind tour of the area and Dawn was still trying to adjust to the time change and the pace did not help. However, that evening I treated her to a night at Tempe’s Mill Avenue. We had drinks at Fat Tuesday’s, dinner at Dragonfly Vietnamese Kitchen, walked along Tempe Town Lake, went shopping, and finished off the evening with homemade ice cream sandwiches at Cookiez. Since the hotel we were staying in was on the other side of campus, I gave here a night tour of ASU on the way back to the hotel.

Sunday was a day of shopping and relaxing. Since I had now shrunk out of a lot of my clothes, we had to do some shopping for me and of course we picked some things up for her as well. Then we went to a friend’s house to hang at the pool and talk about the area.

Monday we were exhausted, but revisited our “top four” houses to decide which we liked best and why. Afterwards, we went to IKEA to see if we could visualize the furniture in the house. We could.

I went back to work on Tuesday while Dawn visited SCNM and took care of a couple of things. I took her to lunch at the MU and then after work we went out for dinner. Later that evening, she left on a redeye back to VA.

It was a great four days. I wish it could have been longer. I would also like to have the girls out here too. But soon I will be flying out there and then they will be heading out here to stay.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

77 Square Feet

I have been meaning talk about my living arrangements. I live in a 7 x 11 room in a nice little townhouse that was built in the 80s. I live with two other guys (well the second guy just moved in) and we all have a technology background.

The downstairs kitchen is small, but it works for us. We have a clothes washer inside and the dryer is in the shed. It is there because why would you want a heat generating device in such a small house? We have a small bricked patio where I park my bike. There are also a lot of potted plants on the patio and at times it can feel like a jungle.

So as you can tell, the room is pretty spartan. the only thing in the picture that I bought here is the air mattress and bedding (except for the tartan blanket, I brought that across country). What you do not see is the cabinet from IKEA that has all of my papers and stuff. The room has cable, but I have not bought a TV yet since all we have is basic cable (that means no ESPN and Sci Fi, but we have Discovery). At least the place has wireless internet.

The house hunting is going well. The best part is Dawn flies in tomorrow night to join me in the hunt. I can not wait to show her around here.