Student Atlas of Oregon is alive

I just got word from one of my instructors and the head of the Student Atlas of Oregon project that our work is now online. As always, it is satisfying to see your work, even if someone did make some changes to it. The final product is pretty nifty, and I suspect it will be much more useful to middle school students than any other current collections of maps of Oregon.

I posted a work in progress view of the cross section map, but here’s the final product. I’d originally made it as a two-page spread, but the format of the atlas changed, and someone else merged the content for the final version.

Seen: Tornado damage

My sister just dropped of a CD of some pictures I took on her camera while we were back in Nebraska. Most are of potential rooftop banners, but the last several were taken of tornado damage in Kearney. My uncle Bill gave us a quick tour of the damage, which was really sporadic and surprisingly contained considering it all happened in town.

The first picture is of a garage. The high winds eventually caused a panel on the garage door to buckle, then the rush of air into the garage blew a hole through the roof. Remember, don’t open your windows in a tornado.

The second is an exhibition hall at the fair grounds (I think) that only one half of the building was affected. The building just folded and slumped in place. The skin of the building looks like a deflated dirigible draped over a hangar. Crazy!

Wednesday in Vegas

Wednesday was really quite boring for anyone not intimately concerned with online education or learning management software. I was “in session” from 8am until after 6pm, and despite the potential for some major snoozing, it was actually really informative and useful. Not only was I able to learn a lot that would be very useful to my job, I was able to meet a number of “internet” people that I frequently encounter online and folks from other schools and companies that I routinely collaborate with. I sometimes forget the power of the spoken word and the face to face when so much of my world is RTFM.

The keynote of the day was by Blackboard’s own CEO. Among other things, he was showing off the direction of Blackboard’s product over the next 2-3 years. The upside? The product will eventually contain the things we want now, like ajax interaction, mobile delivery, full CSS styling and easy inclusion (integration is a strong word) of other web applications like flickr and youtube. The downside? Migration, time, and money.

Here’s some pictures of the trip.

Tuesday in Las Vegas

I got up this morning intent on going to Red Rock before the conference started. As I was about to leave the hotel, I noticed several folks who were attend the conference and figured I should pick up a packet to make sure I didn’t miss anything important. I asked a fellow conference goer from Georgia where the sign up was and we ended up walking down to registration together. I told him my plans and he told me he was going to take part in a pre-conference workshop – something I had intended on doing before our department had a spending-freeze.

After picking up registration then dropping that in my room, I picked up some coffee and headed north looking for a bus stop. I still didn’t have the appropriate cash, but I stopped by the Rivera and turned a twenty dollar bill in to 2 five dollar bills and 10 ones. I asked a guy at the bus stop if I took the Charleston bus all the way to the end if I could get to Red Rock. He seemed confused, but said yes, that if I took the bus all the way out, I could easily walk to see Red Rock. The bus ride took nearly an hour and I saw more of Las Vegas than I care to recall. Suffice to say, I would rank Las Vegas even lower on the stankonia-ranking than Yakima, which while it has no popular destinations, at least isn’t as bad as LV. Riding transit here is vastly different than in Portland. For one, the transit stop and stop light alignment means that a giant bus must stop twice at each intersection. Once for the really long light, then immediately again for the bus stop proper.

As we got further away from the strip, I started to wonder if I was actually going to make it. The hills were getting closer, but something didn’t seem right. I asked the woman sitting next to me if the bus did get close enough to Red Rock that I could walk and see it and she said that yes, I could. The transit center was right at Red Rock so I could get out and see it then get back on for another bus when I was done. Whew.

When we pulled in to the Red Rock Transit center at the Red Rock Casino, my heart sank. I asked the driver, who was perplexed by me wanting to go to Red Rock Canyon, but that no, this was as far as the transit went. I did another check using my iPhone and I was still 11 miles from Red Rock Canyon. Too far to walk, and hell, too far to ride a bike with only 1/2 a liter of water and 100F weather. So I decided to eat my losses (I’m in Vegas after all) and catch the bus back to town. Stupid Me. Stupid Vegasans who thought I wanted to go to Red Rock Casino.

Anyway, after a late lunch (those Duece busses fill up quickly so I missed a bus or two) I headed down to the conference, checked my e-mail, then saw the keynote from Steve Wozniak. Sweet. The Woz. The keynote was OK, mostly a rehash of “the history” with some abrupt comments about education, then a reception where I got a Blackboard beer coozie. I’ll have to give my Canadian server admin grief about that when I get back. The exhibition was actually ok. I was able to see some cool posters, have some good beer and cheese and meet some of the vendors we do business with. The one I most wanted to meet and speak with was swamped with folks so I’ll have to catch up with him later.

Afterwards, I wandered back towards my room and dawdled above the gondolas in the Venetian mall and stopped at Mainland for dinner. The roast duck noodles jumped out at me and I have no regret. Just after I got back to my room, I got a call from Michelle and Ella. Getting a call from your daughter who says “Hi daadee” is just about one of the most incredible things ever. I talked to her for a while then Michelle for a bit before Ella wished me night-night. It was her bed time, but not mine.

Monday in Las Vegas

I recently traveled to Las Vegas for the Blackboard World conference. This is being posted a week later because of limited internet access.

I arrived in Las Vegas around noon. Caught the shuttle to the Venetian, but found out I was at the Palazzo; connected but separate. The shuttle ride sucked. I sat by the window, which was covered with a Bette Midler show advertisement so I couldn’t see where I was going. I did notice that we went by Hofbrauhaus, but lost context because of the windows and the weird geography. The two Japanese gents next too me were talking about their blackberry’s, Yahoo and golf. blah blah “intermittent showers” blah blah.

After I got to my room, and sufficiently scoped it out (awesome!), I walked to Hofbrauhaus. 2.4 miles in 102F. On crappy streets. With crazy people. By the time my sweaty self was seated, I needed a lager. I had the N├╝rnberger Rostbratw├╝rst and kraut while trying to figure out how to get to Red Rock Canyon. I asked the waitress who had just moved for advice, but she couldn’t help me. She did say that I should just take the bus since it went right to Red Rock. I wanted to ask her why she chose to move to Vegas, but decided not to. It might have been a tragic story.

After lunch, I walked back towards the strip and was dive-bombed by a gray jay. It actually hit my head twice before I realized what was happening. It followed me for a few more palms, squawking. I warned the guy walking the opposite direction so he took a wide berth. I wish I hadn’t said anything so I could have gotten video of someone else getting pecked. I played some blackjack on the walk back and did fairly well for about 30 minutes then slowly lost my lead. Maybe I’m not patient enough.

After a humid walk back, I required a dip in the pool. It was really nice, floating on my knees looking up at Palazzo, Treasure Island, Wynn and Encore. Nice enough skyline. Afterwards, I sat in the room and sipped some tequila and watched the sun set. The worn thrust/fault mountains outside town really make me like the place much more. Suddenly there were cannon shots below and I discovered that it was one of Treasure Island’s many pirate shows. I saw it back in 2004 and remember standing on some concrete pylons across the strip by an empty lot. The room I’m in now didn’t exist just those few years ago. Freaky. There are lots of cranes all over the city and lots going on. Many of the casinos we passed last time no longer exist.

I went out for some dinner then came back to find my bed had been turned down and my ice bucket had been refilled. I could get used to this place. It’s a shame they haven’t embraced the internet. That would be nice. $10/day for wireless access is absurd. I just spent time in Nebraska where the hotel had free wifi. Get with the times.

iShould’ve foreseen this

My iPhone is mostly upgraded but needs to connect to the iTunes store for some activation type transactions. Said store is down, so my phone thinks it hasn’t been activated. I figured that I’d wait until the weekend to install the upgrade so this sort of thing wouldn’t happen, but after buying super monkey ball, I couldn’t wait any longer. Now I can only laugh at my predicament.

I wonder what time that meeting is this morning. If I’m late, I’m sure they’ll understand. At least 3 of them have iPhones and might be in the same boat.

First flight and Nebraska

Ella and I flew back to Nebraska for a wedding and for my grandparent’s 60th anniversary over the long weekend. It was Ella’s first time flying and her first time in either Colorado or Nebraska. Due to the cost of flying and lack of vacation, not only did we fly to Denver instead of Lincoln, but Michelle stayed home. My parents and sister who were driving back to Nebraska for the wedding picked us up in Denver, then we completed the last 288 miles with them.

I had kind of been dreading the trip because I was worried about traveling with a toddler, less than enthusiastic about going to hot & humid Nebraska during the summer, and all sorts of other little things that I associate with being in the Midwest. (i.e. no recycling, bugs, wal-mart everything, lite-beer, my family’s seeming need to out-religious each other, meat in everything, driving everywhere, etc.)

There was really no reason to worry though as I had a great time, and I’m pretty sure Ella enjoyed herself too. You see, I have 21 cousins (not all of whom were there) and as they are having kids, there were plenty of people for Ella to play with, or at least watch. She made quick friends with a couple of my first cousins, once removed. (that distinction was bugging me the entire time. “My cousin’s kid” wasn’t cutting it, despite being shorter)

The weather was even cooperative most of the time and we had several pleasant evenings outside with cardinal calls, lightning bugs, yard games, and a few mosquito bites. Ella even got to swim in the same pool that I swam in as a toddler some 28 years ago. When away from it, it can be easy to forget all the parts I like about Nebraska – family being foremost. Like the trip to Ontario last September, it was great to catch up with family (many of whom weren’t on the Ontario trip) and see how everyone is doing. It reaffirms how important the connection to family can be, and reminds me that we need to make sure we keep in touch for Ella’s sake. And ours.

Some photos