I could have been fined, jailed, or both.


I could have been fined, jailed, or both.

I got off with a “stern” warning. I must admit that the 40ish officer and his twenty-something partner using their best professional demeanor required that I exercise great care in not giggling. Something about their glorified golf cart and young age tested my mental toughness. Besides, I could have been fined, jailed, or both.

So, I was walking on the beach down to the pier. I had taken my camera this time with the intent of taking a picture of the pier with the waves breaking in the background. I could not find the angle that satisfied my photographer’s eye. I thought I would head up to the parking lot where the tourists left their cars and then I saw the dunes. Perhaps I could locate an overlook and come up with an image captured through the sea oats.

I walked along the parking lot searching for a path. I saw two women walking ahead of me through the dunes and headed in their direction. I found the “path” they were using. It lead out toward the highway so I gave up on taking a picture.

As I was heading down the highway – walking facing traffic – I sensed this vehicle pull up behind me. Since I was walking against traffic the vehicle kind of surprised me. This is when I met the sand dunes police guys. The driver gets out and said something that I thought meant I should sit in the golf cart. It turned out he wanted me to place my camera on the seat. The image of me sitting in the front seat of the cart while being questioned does seem kind of unlikely.

I was interrogated by the old guy. He wanted to know precisely where I had exited the dunes. I did not actually know, but my explanation of somewhere between here and the driveway was not precise enough. I finally admitted I did not know for sure. He went through a thorough description of the legality of walking through the dunes and explained that I had ignored the numerous signs warning against such activity. I did not see a sign, but this was evidently not sufficient. The dunes are very fragile and there is this rat or mouse the protectors of which prevent high rises from being built so I obviously could not walk there. I admit this was the one comment to which I could not resist offering a comeback. I told the officer that I had not stepped on any rats.

The officer asked me where I was from. I have no idea why I claimed Iowa. This is technically true if the question is where were you born. I am not certain if I was rattled or confused from talking with all of the other old folks who live down here about my history.

The officer asked for my identification and I thought I would soon be fined, jailed or both. Of course, my North Dakota license should have alerted the officer to possible conflicts in my story but he did not notice. Evidently, being from the midwest allowed me a break. I should have known better, but didn’t. He took a picture of my license with this phone. Now, I am in some kind of database as an evil doer.

I was released with a strong warning. One last time I was asked to explain why I decided to walk through the dunes. This time I mentioned I was just following the two women who could still be seen attempting to make their getaway up the road in front of us. The officers let me go and headed out in pursuit of the ladies.

I do know not to walk through the dunes. I did not learn this from the signs and it was the reason I did not deviate from the path to walk toward the crest of the dunes overlooking the beach to get a picture. Still, it was an interesting experience and I appreciate the work of the guys who stopped me.


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Finally, a positive way to understand Twitter chats

When a husband asks his wife “how was your day”, the question and the response are usually trivial. What is important is the unstated message that “I care about you”. Perhaps this is the way it is with Twitter chats. (not my insight – a comment I adapted from Mediactive)

Followers of my social commentary likely know that I am not a fan of Twitter chats (often described as edchats when involving groups of educators). An edchat typically lasts an hour and consists of group Twitter responses to a series of questions. The questions are often available ahead of time. I have attempted to participate in some and I have observed other Twitter chats and have formed my opinions based on these experiences. I find nearly all tweets are trivial – platitudes or socialization – nothing informative or original (e.g., links to resources I had not encountered). I blame a) the limited expressive potential of Twitter (140 characters) and b) my guess that few participants familiarize themselves with the questions before participating – in other words nearly all involved are shooting from the hip. Perhaps Twitter chats need to be flipped (another ed innovation). I suggest that 15 individuals spending one hour each represent a great deal of commitment that would be better spent if each read a book.

I really wish some grad student would investigate this phenomena. One could interview participants and create a coding system for the interaction (much like analyses of classroom discussions). It would be an important contribution if it generated conclusions that would lead to helpful suggestions.

When in a cynical mood, I also question the motives of some participants who seem to promote themselves through this communication model. In particular those who believe their expertise should demand a price should they be invited to share their wisdom face to face. This message contains an interesting internal contradiction if you consider it in depth.

My reading of Mediactive has caused me to mellow a bit. The Edchat probably does serve a social function among those who value educational applications of technology. I wish it would be represented for this contribution.

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Hangin with the hippie dippies

We are spending some time in Sedona, Arizona. We have visited this location a couple of times because Sedona is warmer than North Dakota at this time of year and also a very beautiful place. The unique beauty of the location comes from the unusual red rock formations that circle the community.


Like other similar locations Sedona appears to attract the very rich who are evidently willing to give in to the requirement that you fashion your cliff dwelling from adobe and glass. These are the folks who fancy boots, cowboy hats, and western clothes and keep real estate prices inflated beyond the means of those who actually understand why cowboy boots have pointed toes. There are the young outdoor enthusiasts who hike and ride thousand dollar bikes up and down the trails and then spend their evenings working as waiters or convenience store attendants. I can talk to these folks ‘cause I worked with college students for many years, understand their motives and need to find themselves, have eclectic musical tastes, wear Keen sandals, and happen, in general, to be one gnarly fellow. Dude!

There are also artists. I do not understand art, but I do like pretty things. For the most part I will have to take my own photos and do without the items fashioned from stone and steel. Too expensive.

The group that fascinates me are the new agers. I stare at them and wonder if they are true believers or just are unwilling to let anyone else in on the scam.


The red rocks are home to several vortices (I think that is the plural of a vortex). The locations are marked on the maps available to tourists.

According to Wikipedia – In fluid dynamics, a vortex is a region, in a fluid medium, in which the flow is mostly rotating on an axis line, the vortical flow that occurs either on a straight-axis or a curved-axis.

I don’t think these folks have physics degrees so vortex must have more than one meaning. I guess you do not want to fall into one of these. Beam me up Scottie.

Crystals are a big thing. I should buy a book to learn why. I think they are supposed to have healing powers.

I have also learned that you have an aura that can be revealed with a special type of photography. Skilled professionals are able to photograph your aura and then “read it” to tell you things about yourself that had escaped your awareness. Perhaps this capability is available to us all. There are some weird settings on my digital camera I never understood, but might be able to figure out if I read the manual. Perhaps the A setting stands for aura. I try this setting once in a while, but the pictures usually come out over exposed. Perhaps what I accepted as a lack of artistic skill on my part was really a missed opportunity to search for the inner truth in nature and in others. Now I wish that I had not deleted all of those pictures.

Finally, there is the matter of aligning your chakras. My understanding is that the mystics who practice this skill are kind of like chiropractors, except they fix you in other ways than twisting you into that weird pretzel position or determining if your legs are the same length. I hate that sound when your neck cracks. Perhaps I should give the chakra guys a try. Namaste.

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When my feet hurt I have walked enough

I am a data guy. I made my living, back when I had job, as a researcher and I analyzed data using fancy computer software. I made charts, tables and I wrote scientific papers. Data are truth.

Most people do not know that the word data is plural. But, I admit describing your recent efforts to collect a datum does sound really weird. Sometimes being grammatically precise is not worth sounding weird.

Now that I no longer function as a social scientist, my fascination with data (plural) seems to be focused on me (singular). I must generate data by the terabyte. The challenge is collecting this valuable information.

Somewhere along the line, I discovered the fitbit. The fitbit is great. You hook it on your pocket and it records how many steps you have taken, how many flights of stairs you have climbed and how many minutes you have been engaged in strenuous activities. I think the strenuous activity counter on mine must be broke, but it does show I take steps and climb stairs.

I read somewhere that you are to walk 10,000 steps a day. If you do, you get a message saying “goal achieved”. When you are getting close, you get a kind of “you can do it” message. The Fitbit relies entirely on positive reinforcement. You do not a get a “you are a loser message” if you only accumulate 1500 steps.

With the online site linked to your fitbit, I can generate charts and tables just like I did in the old days. There is no publication outlet for these data so I will post my most recent chart here.


I understand the Fitbit has something to do with being fit. How is this supposed to work? I guess you check your data each evening and if you have yet to reach 10,000 you put your shoes back on and  head out for a few laps around the block.

In relating the data from my Fitbit with other observable variables, I have discovered one important relationship. When I actually generate 10,000 steps my feet hurt. Hence, I have decided when my feet hurt I can quit walking. One scientific discovery achieved.


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Tips for old guys

Florida seems a great place to pick up tips on being a cool old guy. No matter your actual age, there seem to be experienced mentors everywhere. Here is what I have learned so far.

The hat – Do not wear the bill of your hat flat. Curved is best. The flat bill labels you as dopey or dope or something like that. Do not wear a plain hat. A John Deere hat will make certain everyone knows you are a tourist. I bet most of you thought it was John Dear (I add these insights just to convince you that I really do know these things).  I think hats with college logos make you look smarter. One more thing – you do not have to remove your hat when you go inside.

The shoes – White is not necessary and reflects too much light. Sun burn is always a problem. Wear the shoes that look athletic. Do not be concerned you will required to demonstrate the full potential of these shoes – the vast proportion of individuals who purchase them never break into a trot. Who can afford these shoes besides old guys and kids with wealthy parents? Someone has to keep the manufacturers in business.

The cane – The cool cane in the south seems to be a putter. It pretty much sends the signal, my other car is a golf cart. By the way, golf is not actually a sport that requires much mobility. If you can stand upright, your cart will take you to your ball  I am also thinking a golf club makes a great weapon just in case one of the local hoodlums attempts to steal that gold chain or fancy watch you are wearing.

Your car – If caught with your minivan, explain you left you main ride up north and you drove the van this trip cause the grandkids are flying down to see Mickey.

The hearing aid – Do not worry if you require amplification. Look for a model with a blinking light and everyone will assume you are using bluetooth. You can embellish the illusion by pretending to click a button on your device and then say random things as if speaking on the phone. If you are clever and think well on your feet (or while sitting), what you say may generate admiration in those within range of your voice. “Yeh babe, I did pick up the wine. I will meet you on the boat.”

Your bike – Bike has nothing to do with peddling or exercise. Bike means motorcycle. If you are ever cornered, just explain that your wife (old lady) will not let you ride without her and she took the key while on a shopping in Europe. To make such excuses more credible, it helps if you invest in one of those chains that secures your billfold to your belt.

You can see I have picked quite a bit in a week. Keep your eyes open – the possibilities for learning are everywhere.

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Consider motives

I am easily amused by technology, but I have been trying to figure out for most of the day whether what this innovation does is interesting, potentially quite significant, or both.

A 16-year old programmer, Nicholas Rubin, has created a browser extension that a) identifies senators or congress people (my personal gender neutral term) listed on content you are reading and b) if you decide to click on the highlighted name of one of these individuals, provides the funding sources and amounts supporting the last run for office.

This information is interesting without any further use. BUT, consider this. As educators we have made it a cause to help learners become information literate. We explain that you cannot simply accept anything one finds online, but must attempt to include the credentials of the author in evaluating the information. Is it likely the authors has a reasonable level of expertise? Does the author have ulterior motives that may explain the particular position taken.

Perhaps we should teach a similar skill – political literacy – to students. Shouldn’t we evaluate the positions taken to determine if the rationale provided is legitimate or if the politicians is responding to other motives. It this the best decision for constituents, blind obedience to the party position, or a response to major source of personal funding. Some, for example Larry Lessig (Republic Lost), argue that politicians are primarily motivated by reelection. Because the process is so expensive, the game of governance is unduly influenced by building up the campaign funds that are available. Taking money must comes with strings that reduce independence. Some of these funds can be identified and this is where young Mr. Rubin’s app comes in. For example, when issues of fracking or the Keystone pipeline are under consideration, how would you evaluate a pro position taken by your elected officials if you know the oil and gas industries are the largest donors to these officials?

Here is an exercise (perform on a source of your choice if interested). Use the link above to locate and install the extension in your browser. Here is a link to a recent story in the GFHerald concerning the Keystone Pipeline. This example was not selected with a great deal of work – it was the first hit on the search for Keystone. You should be able to learn about the funding sources for Senators Heitkamp (D) and Hoevan (R).

hoevenkey heitkampkey





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Trying to be profound can confuse people

The Google founders messed up too. Google isn’t real, it should have been googol (a 1 followed by 100 zeros).

Cindy seems to be having trouble defining herself in retirement. When we had to offer the information for FETC registration you are required to include a company affiliation. I still list mine as UND. Cindy decided to use our book web site – learningaloud.com. The lady heard learningallowed.com and put that as an affiliation on our name tags.

fetcbadgeThe idea behind learningaloud is that learning results from generative activities. Hence, I blog to share what I know, but I also blog because it helps me learn. Learning aloud is a way to say I am learning out loud. Try explaining that to someone in a few seconds. I understand that some would interpret that as learning allowed which was ok and I have always enjoyed the play on words. I thought I was being clever, but perhaps I was being confusing.

I guess it worked for Googol.

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Rest stops I have known

Cindy and I attempt to turn our trips into technology learning opportunities. Since we have taken a significant number of trips, it can be difficult to find a new theme. I am still attempting to find a new focus.

Soon after crossing from North Dakota to South Dakota we pulled into a rest stop. The first stop in a state tends to be particularly impressive. I suppose if you have had little previous experience with the state this offers an opportunity to provide a good first impression. We are not new to South Dakota and so I am not fooled. Still, I have always been impressed by the outdoor art at the rest stops.


Some folks review museums. Some folks review eating establishments. I am considering a series of reviews focused on rest stops. I would have to work out my criteria – visual attractiveness, tourist information, availability and cost of refreshments, smell, access to towels, etc. I will have to give this some thought.

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On the road



First day of the first great road trip of my retirement. We are heading South. Moving was tough. During those many days cleaning out the basement of our long time home, it felt like this day would never come. The experience taught me a great deal about perseverance. I learned you have to take one step at a time. Step by step. Flight of basement stairs by flight of stairs. Plastic tote by plastic tote. Dust bunny by dust bunny. Dried up can of paint under the stairs by dried can of paint. ….

Time to go. I can tell when I begin slipping back into that dark place again. I will post from the road.

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The Innovators

I seldom use this blog for book recommendations, but I am making an exception. I encourage  you, especially you “digital natives”, to read Walter Isaacson’s “The Innovators“. I have read many, many books about tech innovators, but this book does a particularly good job of pulling together a reasonable history. The Innvoators makes an attempt to capture the big picture. The context provided should be of particular value to those who lack an appreciation of the role of digital technology in our present culture. The book focuses on key individuals and includes just enough personal color to make the book entertaining as well as informative.

Having experienced much of this history as a participant, I recommend this book because it seems to capture a romanticism we have lost. At a time when the technology tools were so primitive, the hopes of those developing and promoting the tools were expansive. The assumed potential of giving individuals the power to build and communicate was intoxicating.

We have pretty much created the potential that was imagined. The hardware, software, and online capabilities are likely more than the pioneers predicted. However, I wonder about the utilization of these possibilities. Would the pioneers have desired NetFlix and Facebook or Comcast and Verizon? Has the opportunity to increase the number of voices being heard been realized? I would suggest that vacuum of opportunities available will be filled by a narrow range or providers unless individuals are willing to invest more of themselves. The tendency for passive consumption in combination with even more powerful tools is a recipe for greater inequality.

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