Haiku for January 2005

January 8, 2015

Colors! New year’s dawn?
No, return of last pizza
From 2014.

The haiku describes the my first waking minutes of 2015. No, I didn’t celebrate the new year wildly I didn’t even stay up to see in 2015.

I’m pretty sure that I had a viral infection. It probably wasn’t flu: I had a flu shot a month or two ago. It probably wasn’t the pizza that made me sick: none of my partners in pizza were sick that night. However, some have been ill subsequently, in a manner compatible with the virus hypothesis.

I just ate cheese for the first time this year, having avoided it since the incident described in the haiku. Some time later this month. I’ll be ready to eat pizza again, and then to make my first batch of pizza of the year.

February will see at least one haiku from me. It will also see another new year: the year of the goat, or sheep, will start on February 19.

I hope that the new year is a happy and healthy one for you.

The Christmas on Fire

December 29, 2014

Christmas tradition in the country of my birth includes setting food on fire. The country in question is the United Kingdom, and the food is Christmas pudding. The pudding comes after the main course, which often involves turkey roasted in the oven.

Our main course yesterday was lamb. To be more specific, I used Alton Brown’s Silence of the Leg O’ Lamb recipe. I bought a six-pound leg (without the shank), already boned, rolled, and tied. I made the lovely paste of garlic, mint leaves, mustard, and so on and smeared it on the leg.I fired up the grill, emptying the drip tray first.

When the grill’s built-in thermometer read 500 F, I put in the lamb, in such a way that it was not over a flame. I flipped it a little over 20 minutes later. It looked a little more charred that I’d expected, but things seem to be going well. I went inside to the kitchen to tend to other dishes, such as mashed potatoes, and a simple but successful combination of snow peas, bacon, and white wine.

I was summoned from the kitchen with the news that the grill required my attention. There was a rather impressive fire, originating from the drip tray. No photos or videos were taken; I’m not sure whether that’s good new or bad news.

From this point on, the story becomes happier, if less exciting. I turned off the gas. The fire went out. I emptied the drip tray again. I turned the gas back on. I served the lamb a little later than intended, with the exterior rather more charred than intended. But the inside was tasty, much of it pink. The main course was not followed by Christmas pudding, or by any further fire.

I hope that you have eaten well this holiday season, and that you have been safe from fire and other hazards.

Books: To E- or not to E-?

December 14, 2014

16019808532_3c6a940a6c_oI love books, and am getting used to the idea that a book isn’t necessarily a physical object. These days, I buy more books made of electrons than books made of dead trees.

The photo shows the first three books in Lemony Snicket’s current series, All the Wrong Questions. Each is in different form.

  1. Who Could That Be at This Hour? I have in hardback. I’d been meaning to try out the series for a while. I bought this particular edition because it was only $4 at a book fair at my kids’s school. Reading it made me want more books in the series, preferably in dead tree form. Although this is not a long book, this is a pleasingly chunky volume, with apt illustrations by Seth.
  2. When Did You See Her Last? I have in paperback. I bought it from Amazon, where the paperback edition was $7, and the Kindle edition only 35c cheaper. Still I wanted more.
  3. Shouldn’t You Be in School? I have as an ebook: on Kindle, to be specific. That edition was only $2 when I bought it (it now, a couple of weeks later, $4). I did have some concerns that the illustrations wouldn’t work as well on a tablet’s screen, but the cover and other illustrations show pretty well, I think.

As you can see, price sways me toward ebooks, but a lower ebook price doesn’t always defeat dead trees. But sometimes time defeats dead trees: a download takes seconds, rather than the hours or days involved in dead tree pickup or delivery. Sometimes ebooks win because they don’t take up shelf space, or gather dust.

How do you make the decisions between the ebooks and dead tree books?

“WordPress is web software you can use to create a beautiful website or blog”: this according to WordPress.org, a site that surely ought to know. WordPress was originally for blogs. Then it was for blogs and, if you wanted, other websites. Now it is for websites, including, but certainly not limited to, blogs.

When WordPress 3.0 came out, back in 2010, I realized that a Learning Management System (LMS) could be built on the WordPress platform. I thought about building one myself, but decided against it: the LMS market was crowded; it contained a huge competitor in the form of Blackboard; I didn’t see how I could get a first foothold in the market; and so on.

2014 saw the release, not only of WordPress 4.0, but also of CoursePress: a WordPress-based LMS from Edublogs. While it didn’t make sense for me to build a WPLMS in 2010, it makes a lot of sense for Edublogs to do so now. The LMS market is still crowded, but Blackboard is less dominant. More important, Edublogs already has a foothold in many educational organizations: those for which it manages blogs.

So how is CoursePress implemented? In WordPress terms, it is a plugin. You can download it at no charge. So what is it in business terms, and how does it make money for Edublogs? There are two answers: it is a feature of the CampusPress service; and it has a Pro version, for which there is a charge.

I consider CoursePress interesting, and in with a chance. How about you?

I just gave in to the temptation to start a new blog, having resisted said temptation for… months? years?

I teach at Virginia Tech. Like many universities, it hosts WordPress blogs for those to whom it provides an email address.

So I started a new blog there. Well, there isn’t physically at Virginia Tech: Blogs @VT is run by Pressable.

I had fun choosing a theme, and writing about choosing a theme. Is that sad? Understandable? Feel free to leave other adjectives in comments.

This will continue to be my main blog, and my personal home on the web.

Back To Firefox From Chrome

December 9, 2014

After my daughter’s school started using Chrome, it seemed that the browser wasn’t big enough for the both of us. So I switched back to Firefox.

In a way, my switch away from Chrome was prompted by the success of Google for Education, and of Chromebooks. At school, my daughter Maddie uses one of the over 50,000 Chromebooks purchased by Montgomery County, Maryland, for use in K-12 schools.

Maddie has to sign in to her school Chrome account to do some of her homework. She does so on the office computer, otherwise known as dad’s laptop. When she started doing this, strange things happened to my browser, to the extent that Chrome no longer seemed like home to me. At first I thought about coexisting in Chrome, and set up a Chrome account for myself.



Then I considered switching to a different browser, and came up with multiple reasons for switching back to Firefox. It would be simpler to use a different browser from the one Maddie uses. I’m still a little annoyed at Google for discontinuing Google Reader. I was curious about what had happened in Firefox while I was away. Some recent browser comparisons favor Firefox over Chrome and other browsers.

Firefox this time round? So far, not bad.

Thanksgiving (Is) For Games

November 27, 2014

I am deeply thankful for games, and for the people with whom I have played them over the years. I am particularly thankful for board games. Clarifications: I am not criticizing video games, or the people who play them; some of the board games I like best are actually card games; perhaps tabletop games is a better term than board games; I am not thankful for every tabletop game ever, and do acknowledge than many of them stink; neither am I thankful for every single person with whom I’ve played a tabletop game…

Is this board games’ golden age? Owen Duffy’s article in yesterday’s Guardian argues that it is. I agree, and hope that an even better (platinum?) age will follow. It is certainly a good time for board/tabletop games: “the past four years have seen board game purchases rise by between 25% and 40% annually.”

So why is this a good time for board/tabletop games? There are at least two explanations. I think of them as the compliments explanation and the complements explanation.

“Games are simply getting better” is the compliments explanation. That quote from the article compliments designers and publishers of games on making better games available.

Another quote illustrates the complements explanation. “The rise of smartphones and tablets has given players an inexpensive way to try digital versions of board games, and many go on to buy physical copies as well.” The digital and physical versions are complements, rather than substitutes. To be more specific, and perhaps more surprising: the existence of the digital version increases, rather than decreases, purchases of the tabletop version, even if the tabletop version costs ten times more than the digital version.

Dear readers of this post, it may be time for parting words. If you celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, I hope that you do so safely and happily. If you are “tabletop game compatible”–and I believe that most humans are–I hope that games play a positive part in your holiday season, and in the rest of your life.

If you are interested in the impact of technology on our lives, please bear with me for another paragraph or two. It seems strange that tabletop gaming and smartphone usage are on the rise at the same time. Who wants games with components of cardboard and wood, costing dozens of dollars, when there are so many mobile games available for a few bucks, or at no immediate financial cost? One answer is that such gamers are rare, and becoming rarer.

Despite our affection for them, the market for board games tumbled 9 percent in 2010 and the road ahead is straight downhill… With apps, every boardgame can be brought to the screen, be carried in your pocket…. online game centers… knit people together.

The quote, from Michael Saylor’s book The Mobile Wave (2012), presents an argument that games on mobile platforms will substitute for games (sometimes the same games) on the tabletop. The book presents an argument that connected mobile devices will substitute for pretty much every existing way we do pretty much any thing. I suspect that data from the few years provide tend to support the general mobile wave thesis.

But the games for which I am thankful seem to be buoyant, their cardboard boxes floating on the mobile wave rather than being swept away by it. I think that tabletop games will remain on top the the wave, although sales figures may bob up and down.

Here are some of the questions on my mind. I’d love to see responses, and further questions.

  • Will the current “golden age” of board/tabletop games continue, or even turn into a more precious age?
  • Are digital versions of tabletop games complements to, rather than substitutes for, the tabletop game itself?
  • In what other arenas are digital versions complements to, rather than substitutes for, “the real thing”?

Have a great Thanksgiving, or Thursday, or weekend, or whatever it is for you,
Andrew

ps edited for clarity on Dec 3, 2014

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