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PDAnet (junefabrics.com)

Last week my wife and I made the move from Palm to Android. It was sad to see my venerable Treo go, but it really wasn't cutting it any longer. No wi-fi or GPS (in 2010!). And while it had good bluetooth functionality, the IR port on it just screamed retro. (People in IT literally laughed when I pulled it out of my pocket to schedule a meeting or check an email.) While I have yet to box it up and sell it back to Sprint (for $10 - ouch!), it's done.

The new hotness (for me) is the HTC Evo, a candy bar of a phone with a 1 ghz processor and a 4.3" display. It would seem huge to just about anyone in the market these days.  But it's actually about 2/3 as thick as my Treo and not all that much larger. HD video, 8 megapixel camera,  GPS, wi-fi, and so, so much more. I'm still working my way around this beast, but it is so nice and super responsive.  I used the GPS (my first GPS experience, really) on a Maine trip and I might as well have a Garmin since the screen is about the same size.  Spoken turn-by-turn directions courtesy of Google.

And today, after discovering that my wi-fi will be a bit spotty in my Maine residence, I decided to try to use the phone to establish a wi-fi connection via USB tether. June Fabrics' PDAnet on the Mac and on the Android. 5 minutes of installation and setup. Voila! (The image in this post comes from the June Fabrics site.)

You're reading a blog post made from the Mac via USB tether. How's that for cool? (Yes, I have the WordPress app for my phone and  I can post that way. But the point here is to test my ability to conduct "real" work from a 15" screen  via my phone's data connection. Done.)

Looks like it won't last through the next OS update. I'll have to think about that data plan add on, or find a reliable hotspot.

I made my final visit to York College (as a faculty member) on Thursday. After handing in my keys and ID, and before meeting with the dean and my chair one last time, I took a walk around the Jamaica neighborhood in which York sits.  It was fitting that I strolled up Archer Ave by the Jamaica bus stop. It was a gorgeous day for a walk, though the city was under a heat advisory. When I hit the entrance to York that runs under the LIRR, I couldn't help but reminisce about my first days there.  The picture I took of the entrance captures so much about the continuity and change in Jamaica, and at York.

Archer Avenue Entrance to York College (2010)
Archer Avenue Entrance to York College (2010)

This image has all the elements to it, save the heavy crunch of traffic normally running down Archer and the mass of residents waiting to catch the buses that line up at the stop.  (The absence of these core elements of Archer make the photo seem a little creepy.) When I started at York, a grafitti artist was painting the "Project Pick Me Up" mural on the wall.  I watched as each of the faces, and the background emerged over a week or two. For most of my time at York this entrance to the college was but a plan on the architect's desk. There was no branding, and no opening to the fence.

Some years later, soon after the Sean Bell shooting occurred around the corner, someone painted the mural with Mr. Bell sitting on a cloud wearing a sweatshirt with the words "50 Shots" on it. An image of Mr. Bell and his fiancee, dressed for their wedding, look up at the cloud.

Sometime after that, York College actually branded the entrance to the school with a very nice, stainless sign above the underpass and the York College and CUNY logos as bookends. The semi-open stainless steel fence  captures much of the college's relationship with the neighborhood - open, but not quite. Even with this awkward fence/gate, this entrance is so much more inviting than it was even 4 years ago.

And, in keeping with its tagline, York College remains On the Move.

I took a test drive with WordPress 3.0 today. I installed it on my server, set up the Network capability, and took a shot at creating a couple test blog sites with the install. So far, so good. I also tried out the child theme feature recommended for theme customizations. That element also seems to be working fairly well.

After tweaking the CSS for the test "child" theme by mocking up a recreation of my main website, I'm now contemplating a wholesale adoption of WordPress for my entire website. I'm a little nervous about such a move, though I can easily see how it makes sense.

I have yet to push enough 3.0 buttons to decide if I really want to go "all in" on WordPress as a CMS for my site.  My current design is pretty tired, having been written back in 2007 and 2008.  If I'm actually going to write a new CSS for my site, I might as well consider doing it in WordPress. Hmm.

While in Maine last week, I took the opportunity to check out some of the single-track available in the Portland area. A quick search turned up Bradbury Mountain State Park in Pownal, Maine. Online discussion boards suggested a really nice, well-maintained network of challenging single-track. The boards were right!

Bradbury is a really nice place for either a short or long ride, and it's full of multi-use trails (horseback riding, mountain biking, snowmobiling, x-country skiing, and, of course, hiking).

I took the advice of a couple people in the parking lot and rode the east side of the park, on the side with the campground. I found some really nice, technical trail full of little ups and downs, swithchbacks, rocks, roots, and more.

Then, on Sunday evening at my local riding spot, I ran into a guy who was talking about racing in Maine. I told him about the ride and he went on to describe for me the races he's done at Bradbury. I guess I picked a good spot to check out the single track!

The ranger and park volunteers I talked with were really pleasant and helpful, and the riders were all eager to share their knowledge of the park. I'm thinking this will be a very nice place to go for camping, and for some less technical family rides on the snowmobile trails.

WordPress v.3 has now been released and I'm intrigued. This spring I ran two course websites in WordPress.  Previously, I had always built sites in Dreamweaver. The WP approach makes it much easier to build in RSS, and to add Web 2.0 functionality right in my single course site.  I no longer had to build the course site, and the blog as a separate site.

My success this past term got me thinking to the next 5 years, and to installing WordPress Multi-user (WPMU) on my server space.  This would enable me to build multiple course sites in a single WP installation.

With WordPress 3, it seems, I can simply upgrade to 3.0 and get multi-site functionality. The WPMU community that has grown up over the years may not be so happy about WP pulling multi-user functionality right into the core, and I can understand the sentiment given all the work in WPMU Dev, and elsewhere.

For me, this might be just the ticket. I wasn't looking forward to getting WPMU running on my server, though I don't expect it can be that difficult. WordPress's "5-minute installation" just reduces all that worry - or so that's the hope.

I was watching TV with the kids one evening and a Dos Equis commercial came on.  You know the series featuring "the most interesting man alive." Anyway, there's an ad in this series featuring what appears to be a younger "most interesting man." When we saw the commercial the kids noticed that the guy looked like me.

I took it as an opportunity to play a joke on them. I insisted that I had indeed done the commercial.  It's ridiculous, unbelievable, and yet almost credible.

I'm not sure what I think about the narration that accompanies the clip.

I was blown away at our last department meeting when it concluded with a farewell cake and much well-wishing as I prepare to leave York College for a new position at the University of New England in the fall. The cake was beautiful and delicious, and the card everyone signed left me sad to leave my colleagues. They're just wonderful.

Deep took some pictures and sent them to me, and I'm posting them here so I'm reminded of my soon-to-be-former colleagues with each posting.

Cut the CakeMore Cake CuttingSome ColleaguesMore ColleaguesCadyAnn and othersAlan, Sam, Karin (with Dean Meleties in the doorway)A Posed Shot (no smile?)The Cake

On April 10-11, I attended the Northeast Writing Centers Association conference at Boston University. A group of York students, my colleague Heather Robinson, and I presented on Saturday afternoon as a panel exploring issues of the visual in writing center and eportfolio work.

This was a good opportunity for the students to see what others are up to in writing center work, and to get out of New York for a couple days. The students delivered the same presentations on April 15 at York's first Undergraduate Research Day. Nice.

I really enjoyed meeting (and seeing) colleagues from around New England, and beyond. On Sunday, Heather and I facilitated a roundtable discussion of the uses of film in WAC work during the Northeast Writing Across the Curriculum Consortium's roundtable session on Sunday morning. The discussion was quite engaging. I was especially intrigued by ideas for short interview-based films on WID coming out of MIT. I'd love to see us do something along these lines.

On March 3, I presented an assessment-based picture of writing at York College/CUNY. This talk was something I had been looking forward to for more than four months, and is a much more elaborated version of a talk I gave at the Provost's 2010 Academic Leadership Retreat in late January. Following the talk, it was suggested that I make the talk available. So here it is.

Zi6_0098

Snow day all around! The call was for 6-20" of snow in the NY Metro area.  I think we had perhaps 6", though it was probably more like 4. But the college closed its doors for the day, and so did the kids' school.

I managed to get out of the office, away from the computer, and into the backyard for an hour or two to help the kids build a monster snow fort. It looks a little like a white chocolate Hershey's Kiss from the front and it stands about 7 feet tall at the peak.

The snow was pretty wet and heavy, which perhaps explains the limited accumulation and our ability to shape a fort out of it using giant snowman-like snowballs.

Nate in the fort, as seen through the window

The great thing about winter is that it brings out the kid in everyone, or it should. We didn't hit the sledding hill today because of the roads and the wind, though we talked about it.

The challenge with a snow project on this scale is the cold and the kids' interest. Snowball-fight breaks and general shenanigans help a lot. But by the time the fort was built we were pretty much ready to head in to warm up! And then it was back upstairs to the desk for me.