Friday, September 30, 2011

Pecha Kucha Night

So last Thursday I had the opportunity to attend my first Pecha Kucha (roughly pronounced puh CHA chuh). Pecha Kucha originated with an architectural firm in Tokyo that grew weary of long-winded design presentations. Their remedy was to create a presentation format that emphasized speed, clarity and cohesiveness. Each speaker or presenter in a Pecha Kucha gathering is allowed to use a maximum of twenty powerpoint slides. Each powerpoint slide rotates after a maximum of twenty seconds. The result is that each speaker has only six minutes and forty seconds to get their idea across to the audience.

The main emphasis of Pecha Kucha is the open exchange of ideas in a casual forum. Creating time limitations forces speakers to be creative and inventive in the way they organize their information. Some Pecha Kucha's have a guiding theme. The theme of the PK I attended was education. Other PK's are a smorgasbord of new ideas from architecture, graphic design, music, art, politics, etc...

A classmate of mine at SMU, Sarah Jane Semrad, is the co-organizer of the Dallas Pecha Kucha. The PK they hosted last night was the seventh edition. There are over 300 PK chapters around the world and has become a true global phenomenon.

The setting for Thursday's Pecha Kucha was interesting in and of itself. The Texas Theatre is notorious in the annals of Dallas history for being the location where Lee Harvey Oswald was nabbed by police after the JFK assassination. The seats have been replaced but theater employees can show the geopgraphical location where Oswald was found slumped down in his seat as he tried to avoid arrest.

The Texas Theatre shut down for many years until recently when it was renovated and reopened. Today it shows both classic and arthouse films. It also hosts all kinds of local events. This next weekend they will be hosting an OU-texas (mainly Sooners) watch party. The restored interior stuco design is undulating and organic. They truly do not make theaters the way they used to.

Kimberly and I watched twelve presentations. There was a ten-minute intermission at the mid-point. Speakers included Sarah Jane's twelve-year old daughter, principals, administrators, teachers, school architects,a participant in the Special Olympics, tutors and more. The evening ended with a rousing presentation from the newest trustee on the Dallas Independent School Board.

We walked out charged up and ready to make a difference in our educational system. Fortunately Kimberly and I are in the trenches so to speak as educators. It's not hard for us to become involved since that's our actual profession. As we walked out of the Texas Theatre a rare and spectacular lightning storm was exploding over our heads. We got in the car before the downpour began. I found the metaphor obvious: lightning fast ideas sparking a downpour of innovation and achievement.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Google+ Migration

Facebook is wearing me down. FB made quite an improvement a few years ago when they simply posted status updates in realtime as they were posted. But this week they brought back "Top Stories" where they spoonfeed you updates based on what "they" think you want to see. I don't want someone else to determine what news I see. Plus they garbled up the site by adding all these other features that really muddies things up. What happened to the clean and simple Facebook? Everything is so complicated to change and adjust. It's becoming what MySpace used to be.

So I've opened up a profile on Google+ which opened up the doors to everyone this week after a two month invitation only trial period. It's cleaner and simpler. It features the elegant minimalism you see on Apple products or Google itself. I'm still testing it out and I've only been on for three days. So far only six friends have connected but I'm sure the number will increase as others ditch Facebook.

If enough of my friends ditch Facebook I'll be all in on Google+. My friend numbers on Facebook had become too bloated anyway. I've deleted 80 people in the past two weeks who I barely knew. I originally intended to just have close friends and family on Facebook. But that blew out of control as people I hadn't seen in 20 years who I didn't even like back then requested friendship.

In Google+ you create circles of people and can easily control who sees what on your profile. You can easily control where your stream of information goes. Facebook is trying to remedy this but their options are clunky. Google+ seems very intuitive and easy to figure out.

My only beef with + so far is that you can't send private messages to friends. At least I haven't figured it out yet. And to send a public post to a single friend rather than to a circle requires you to post on your own page then type in who you want it to go to. Quite a change of thinking from FB where you simply found your friend's wall and posted on it. Everything on Google+ starts with your page.

So just as + is in the beta stages, I'm in the beta stages of trying it out. If none of my friends or family shift over I guess I'll stick with FB. But I hope they try it out.

Photo: The Dynamo. JDW is second from the left

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Flickr Madness

Big update on my Flickr page. Click HERE to see recently updated photos.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Just Say No...

I'm sorry. I really don't want this site to be too political. However I have lived in Texas for fourteen years. As an educator I have seen firsthand how Rick Perry has attempted to dismantle public education in favor of private school vouchers. So many people outside of Texas are ignorant of his record. They are simply impressed by his fiery speeches and good hair. But here are several facts you should know about Rick Perry. These are not simply my interpretations or opinions. These are facts...

1.) Perry wants to repeal the 17th Amendment which calls for the direct election of senators. He believes the federal government had no right to take that power away from the state legislatures.

2.) Perry pushed for a new trans-Texas corridor highway to be built and run by a Spanish company that he was invested in. He was going to force people to give up their private property to make new right of ways for this multi-billion project in which he was personally invested in financially.

3.) Perry ran Al Gore's presidential campaign in Texas in 1988. AL GORE!

4.) Perry has raised taxes twice since being in office.

5.) Perry is in favor or eliminating the federal income tax.

6.) Perry is in favor of eliminating public education in favor of private education. He believes that universal education is not something the government should be involved with.

7.) Perry publicy supported Hillary Clinton's health care plan in the 1990's...while he was a Republican.

8.) Perry endorsed Rudolph Gulliani, a pro-choice, pro-gay marriage Republican candidate for president in 2008.

9.) Perry pushed for federal bailout and stimulus funds.

10.) Perry supported welfare for illegal immigrants.

11.) Perry believed that the children of illegal immigrants should be allowed to enroll in state universities and set up a roadmap for graduates to attain full citizenship.

12.) Perry tried to force 12 year old girls to be vaccinated against the HPV virus by executive order.

13.) State debt in Texas has doubled since he became governor.

14.) Texas now has 25 billion dollar budget shortfall.

15.) Perry is cutting 4 billion dollars in education funding for the next two years...including 3 million dollars for my own school district.

16.) Perry pushed for a law allowing concealed handguns on college campuses (he made the initial statement one month after the Virginia Tech massacre).

Some of these positions I actually agree with (see 9, 10 and 11). But my point is that he's not an authentic Tea Partier. He's a hypocrite. He decried the second bailout as federal overreach but accepted the funds nonetheless. He incorrectly stated that Texas retains the right to secede ( a matter that was settled once and for all by the Civil War ). He simply follows the political winds. And if you ever saw the video of him cussing out a highway patrolman for giving him a speeding ticket you would never vote for the man. The only reason he has been elected and re-elected is because there has been no viable alternative on the Texas ballots. The Democratic Party in Texas is a joke. Perry takes vacations to the Bahamas on the taxpayer dime. Suddenly he's talking about being a Methodist. But his foul language and actions seem to belie his words.

And what does it mean when the governor prays for rain yet we get nothing but fire in Texas. Please for ANYONE...ANYONE (even that loon Bachmann would be a better choice) than Rick Perry!


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Jackson's Hat-trick plus one

Jackson's first ever soccer game was yesterday. Because of strep throat he had only been able to make one practice. We were just hoping he had fun. He ended up not only having fun but dominating the game with FOUR goals! The boy looked like a natural. I know I'm biased but he did lead all scorers from either team. He had a big cheering section made up of both sets of grandparents, Uncle Sam, Aunt Kristie and cousin Adia and even Great Grandma White was there from Oklahoma.

This video is one of his most spectacular goals. He grabs possession at mid-field, avoids a scrum, sweeps to the left flank and never looks back. Sweet goal!

Friday, September 09, 2011


What a blur.

Once school started, the usual chaos ensued. It has been quite a blur. Labor Day usually serves as a nice breather after three weeks of madness. Things usually hit their groove beginning the Tuesday after the holiday.

Turns out JDW has soccer practice on Wednesday evenings and I didn't want to miss them. So 48 hours before SMU's classes started I swapped my Wednesday Revolutions class for a Monday Modern Lit class. It was a class I was originally planning to take but the revolutions class intrigued me. But to make soccer practice I went with my initial choice which I think will be a great decision. The Monday class called "Americans In Paris" is about the literature and philosophy of the American literary expatriates who gravitated toward France following World War I. We'll be analyzing some of my favorite authors including Hemingway and Fitzgerald. We're also looking at Proust and James Joyce among others. I really enjoyed the first class and I am excited about the possibilities.

The Tuesday night class, Creativity: Historical and Personal, has been fascinating as well. We're studying everyone from Leonardo da Vinci to Steve Jobs. It's a writing intensive class which has been a nice chance to free-form write again.