First Day with the New Commuter Bike

In case you were unaware, I sold my trike to buy a commuter bike . . . . and so far I love it! Today was the first day of commuting by bike. I have always wanted to be bike commuter, but the trike just wasn’t doing it for me. It’s so hard to store and hard to take places. Plus, it’s an expensive piece of art that I couldn’t just leave anywhere.

I added 15 minutes to my total commute time, but also added 40 minutes of moderate exercise. Many of you may thing that 20 minutes to go 4 miles is slow. There is a giant hill I have to overcome! Check out the elevation profile.

Long story short. I like cycling and I like cycling to work!

Standing Desk

I’ve read all about standing desks. I like them. I’m never going to be a full-time stander though. I like to stand and work on days that I don’t stand in front of a classroom all day. But, after 4 hours of teaching, I prefer to sit.

I’d seen this great Ikea hack a while back about a cheap standing desk. We went to ikea this weekend, so I decided to give it a try. I switched out some of the ingredients mentioned in the aforlinked article. I used $3 brackets and a $1.99 shelf. I also went with the black-brown look.

Lack side table – $9.99
Ekby Valter – 2 X $3.00
Ekby Laiva – $1.99

It was still under $20! Hopefully it will continue to work for me.

CALL Reading

I am in the thick of reading in preparation for the big “D” . . . and I don’t mean Dallas (which would be fun). . . or divorce (which would be horrible).  No, this “D” is somewhere in the middle and it stands for Dissertation. I plan on defending my prospectus soon. I’ve already started working on one of my articles. As I was hauling my books around the house this evening I thought I should take a picture so I could remember how much fun I am having—and I’m not being sarcastic. Some days are not fun, but for the most part I enjoy what I am doing.

Aardvark

With Google’s recent acquisition of Aardvark, I wanted to give it a try and see why they bought it. Aardvark is a website that lets you ask questions and get answers. I could describe it more, but that’s what it is. You submit a question and then aardvark searches for a user that might be able to answer it.

At first, I wondered how this differed than just searching for answers online. I decided to ask it questions whose answers I couldn’t find by searching with Google. I thought I might be able to get a good response. Out of all the questions I asked, all the answers were unhelpful or showed that the answerers did not understand the questions. Some were just flat out ridiculous. I think that the concept is interesting, but so far, it isn’t helpful.

Word Processor Search

I recently continued my ongoing search for the ultimate word processor for mac. Before I get to much further into this post, I must say that I am very content with Office 2007 on PCs. I think it is great. Since I’ve been using macs rather exclusively for the last 3 or 4 years, I have not been impressed by the word processors for mac. Here’s what I have learned.

Lightweight word processors. Let me say that I love these little programs. I’m talking about TextEdit that comes with OS X and others like Bean. In my speed tests (which weren’t done really scientifically) these were obviously the winners. They can do everything they do lightning fast. I wish that the the other word processors were like this. Obviously, they aren’t near as powerful as their big brothers, but they ar great for jotting down some text. I use TextEdit all the time. I think bean is real great too. The only real problem I have with these is that I can’t implement all the features that I need in order to produce an APA paper.

Openoffice.org and NeoOffice. I love these two suites. They are nice, but unfortunatly they are are also slow. They are memory hogs. There are occasional bugs. I’m really impressed with the work that has been done. Now, the whole idea of using open-source software really gives you warm fuzzies. Those, however are canceled out by the bickering and bad talk going between the two companies. It’s a long story but you can search for stuff about it online. NeoOffice looks and works a lot better with OS X. OpenOffice.org now has a native app which allows it to compete with NeoOffice. The former now has to wait to include the updated code from OpenOffice.org which puts it a little behind OO.o.

Word 2008. Some people might complain about using a microsoft program on their mac. I’m not a fanboy. I’m fine using it. It was much quicker than OpenOffice.org and NeoOffice. I liked that. Office 2008 has about every feature you need. It’s bloated. It’s expensive. It works. As I was looking around all these programs, I found a hidden menu item: Style Gallery. This allows you to sort of apply style sets, but isn’t really the best solution. You just create templates with the styles you want and then you can apply them to any document. I don’t like how confusing the formatting palette can get though.

Pages ’09. I like pages. It’s quicker than all but the lightweights. It isn’t as expensive as Office 2008. It has the ease of use of a typical mac program. It’s rather feature complete and let’s you do everything that you need.

Mellel and others. I didn’t look at these too much. I found that they simply didn’t look nice and I didn’t want to spend money on program that didn’t seem to look nice or offer frequent updates.

So, here’s a brief run down of some categories and the winners.

Macness: Pages
Features: Word
Price: OpenOffice.org
Warm Fuzzies: OpenOffice.org
Speed: TextEdit
Style sets: Mellel
Comments interoperable with others: Word

So, it looks like I’m stuf with word. What I want is a quick, free, open source word processor that has style sets and works well with Microsoft Words reviewing features (comments, track changes, etc.) If anyone out there knows of one, post a comment.

Personal Development: Computer Style

Whoa! Two posts in one day! Hold on! As part of my own personal development, I’d like to blog more. It helps me share ideas.

Dragos Roua has an interesting post on being your best self. It compares us to computers. I think that there are some good points here, especially the unexpected shutdown.

Balance your core features

Defrag your mind

Update your drivers

Stay virus free

Enjoy an unexpected shutdown every now and then

Theme Changing

I’m looking for a new theme. I love Hemmingway, but I don’t think that it is very usuable for some possible viewers.

TESOL Part 1: My Experience

I really enjoyed TESOL this year. I won’t talk about the things I didn’t particulary like about the conference organization. I think that there were some problems that could have been devastating to my experience. I complained a lot about then, but I made sure I would have an awesome time at TESOL.

How did I do it? Well, that’s a good question. I took a different approach to TESOL this year.

Previous Approach: I wanted to get the biggest bang for my Institution’s Buck. I made sure that I went to all the sessions I possibly could. For example, even if I couldn’t find something I like during the 10am sessions, I would pick the one that seemed the least painful to go to and go to it. This made for a long day filled with unproductive sessions.

New Approach: This year, I only went to sessions I really wanted to go to. I probably went to half as many sessions, but I found it to be much more beneficial. I didn’t go to as many sessions, but I felt like I learned just as much.

How was this more productive?

  1. I was more alert and enthusiastic about the sessions I actually went to.
  2. I found some interesting thing to do when I wasn’t in a session.

What did I do?

I really enjoyed the electronic village. They have presentations, but they are smaller and more hands on. At first I thought that I wouldn’t learn anything, but actually I learned a lot. These activities combined with interviews with possible employers, networking, and quality discussions with publishers, I really filled the gap. This was a great conference!

Check back later for more details!

Productivity and Technology

First of all, welcome to my professional blog. I thought about having a welcome post, but then I thought that I should get right down to business.

I’m a tech guru. I assume that some of my future readers might be as well. I also like to be creative and make things. As I started working on my blog, digital teaching portfolio, and website, I really wanted to do some cool stuff. Cool stuff takes time.

One of the things that I think all teachers and basically anyone who has a life should do is carefully way options. I could spend hours developing my own blog, porfolio and website. It would be fun. I would enjoy myself. Unfortunately, it would also keep me from actually doing what I wanted to do: blog. One day I might do it too, but why re-invent the will. So, I’m using wordpress like crazy. WordPress for the blog, wordpress as a CMS, and wordpress as an information and direction hub. For me it came down to what the purpose actually was. Will I do some web development for fun? Sure I will!

I had a computer teacher say something wise to me once. He said that often times computer gurus take 10 hours to develop something they need, when there is a suitable option readily available. 10 hours coding or 10 hours blogging, working, sleeping, eating, watching tv, being a human? I think we all know what was chosen.

So, this rambling mess might not be the best way to start off my blog, but I hope it get a message across. Part of our own productivity is based on our own priorities. Productivity means different things for different people.