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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Lemons, garlic and skim milk

You can disregard the title. That is the stuff I have to get at the store on my way home and I do not want to forget. I thought if the title was visible while I was writing I would be less likely to fail in the completion of my assigned mission. I read somewhere that older folks have lower intelligence, but more wisdom. Perhaps writing things down so you don’t forget is an example of the latter.

I admit the title sounds like the list of ingredients from one of those chef challenges – you have 20 minutes to make an appetizer that contains lemons, garlic and skim milk. Now that I have you thinking about what you might make, I will write about something that is entirely unrelated. If you have suggestions for how to combine these ingredients, I will accept recipes and forward them to my wife ’cause she must need these things for something



I really like coffee shops. My definition of a coffee shop my differ from yours – a real shop is not to be confused with those chain places with only two tables one of which is occupied by a college student listening to Green Day and working on his first novel. I am most productive in a place with lots of space, interesting characters with varying characteristics of body type and dress, and good coffee. Many mornings I drive about a dozen mile to Webster. Webster has about 650 people but it has a coffee shop that meets my requirements. Fresh Start has great coffee (Kona and Blue Mountain if you want) and the equipment to roast individual orders in 20 minutes. The menu is exotic – I could have ordered a breakfast pizza with truffled bechamel (whatever that is), eggs, and lobster. I wonder what kind of pizza you can make with lemons, garlic, and skim mile – probably easier than lobster and truffled bechamel? The music, a requirement for me, is straight from Pandora with a large monitor on the wall so I know what is playing. This place is so cool they will even warm your cup with hot water before you add the coffee. I prefer a paper cup without the preheating.

I wonder why it is writers like to write in coffee shops. Why not in a quite and isolated library carrel or an ivory tower office with the door closed? I think it is the principle of what I like to call “productive distraction”. Left to our own meager cognitive capabilities we would like focus on something we think is interesting. In a coffee shop, the minor distractions disrupt our limited creations by randomly seeding our own message from parts of our memory we had failed to consider introducing creative elements into what we produce. I apologize for the complexity of the previous sentence. My theories tend to be difficult to capture in brief form.

You should be warned – my wife says she hates when I joke around ’cause it is not obvious when I am trying to be funny and she often believes the strange things I say. Strange is obviously a very personal perspective. Who could possible combine lemons and garlic to generate anything that is edible?

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Self Image


Self image is the way we see ourselves. Some folks struggle with self image and it taints their perspective on life. My self image is fine. I see myself as young, handsome, and pleasant. My grandkids like to draw pictures of me. I go along with this because I attempt to encourage their creativity. There is also the possibility one of them will produce something interesting or cute and I can use it to decorate my office or use it as a social media avatar.

This was the Thanksgiving offering from Olive.

I agree that there is some resemblance. I do wear glasses. I do keep my hair cropped short. I am still participating in movember. However, I also do have a neck and my frown is seldom this pronounced. Do I really look this scary to little kids?

My wife thinks this image captures me quite well and thinks I should use it for my Twitter profile. I don’t know. The image might take the edge off my cogent comments.

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