Thursday, September 3, 2015

Photo Reflection of the Day #166: Shelling Out for the Dress

Shelling Out for the Dress 20150829_113533

What Is It

A dress made out of seashells and other natural elements.  

Why It's Today's Pick

While visiting the Peabody Essex Museum, I stumbled upon this outfit.  It's probably not my fit and not exactly my style, but it is pretty dang cool.  I recommend clicking through to the Flickr page so you can better see the detail. It's made entirely of seashells, snail shells, and the like.  I can only imagine the time, effort, and attention it took to craft this thing.  It's part of why I like the museum so much is that it is often filled with such curious and fascinating exhibits.  I find something new every time I go--and that's just with their regular exhibits, nevermind their specials.  

This submission is part of the 365 Challenge.  For 2015's submissions, check out this link to all the posts.  For access to all photos, which open for reuse under a Creative Commons License, check out the full album on Flickr.

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

What I Did On My Summer Vacation...[Insert Laugh Here]

This summer has been great.  I started a doctoral program and finished my first two courses.  I got in some good running (even after recovering from an injury).  I got to finally go on my honeymoon.  I got a lot of different projects off the ground.  But my most exciting experience thus far has been the stand-up comedy class that I took at North Shore Community College's community education program.  This six-week course has been not just a great opportunity to start to think about and write stand up routines but also an opportunity to meet some great (and really funny) people.  

I took the class because I figured I could always spruce up my teaching with a bit of side-humor or just make my material potentially more engaging, but I've found the experience to be something more.  It's definitely unleashed a lot of creative writing around humorous content and it's been fun to develop a singular bit while getting a lot of content and writing for other potential future bits.  

The class format was simple but effective and run by the fantastic Amy Tee.  Class 1:  Introductions, discuss ideas about what you want to do, start to think about your script.  Several days before Class 2, send Amy the script or what you have thus far for feedback and tweaking.  Class 2: start practicing in front of classmates for experience and feedback and repeat.  Along the way, Amy introduces different pieces such as callbacks, persona, and getting used to the stage dynamic.  By the second half of the 6 week course, we're recording our bits to get of a sense of how we sound and look.  And like any good creative endeavor, this process proves effective when I look at my original script and where I have it now.  

Beyond the class, we will be doing a live performance on Thursday, September 17 at Timothy's on Route 1 in Danvers, MA.  Tickets are $20 and include both dinner and 10 soon-to-be-minted comedians going for their first performances.

Comedy Show in Danvers MA Flyer

Of course, the question I first get is if I'm nervous about performing in front of an audience of potentially 100+ people.  There is some nervousness in me somewhere, but it feels more like first-day-of-class nervous.  It's there, I acknowledge it, but it's not something that will prevent me from doing it.  If nothing else, it feels exciting to get the first experience out of the way because I think I'd like to actually do more performances in the future.  

It's always fascinating how random things (like taking a comedy class) can open up new ideas and generate something in one's self that wasn't necessarily there before (or has been very quickly coaxed into being).  If nothing else, this reminds to always to try new things.  


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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Photo Reflection of the Day #165: Salem's Museum Place

Salem's Museum Place  20150829_100707

What Is It

The main entrance to Museum Place or the "East India Mall."

Why It's Today's Pick

I've always had hope for the East India Mall, but it has unfortunately been the same for the twenty years.  A mall that has a variety a few stores that are constant, but not necessarily popular, and a whole slew of businesses that come in and out with regularly frequency because traffic in the mall itself is sporadic.  Still, the exterior of the mall which runs along the walking section of Essex Street is still a fabulous little pedestrian space for people to wander and hang out.  The water fountain has been around for years and I remember years ago when I worked at the YMCA that coming to the fountain was a regular activity to keep the kids occupied.  

This submission is part of the 365 Challenge.  For 2015's submissions, check out this link to all the posts.  For access to all photos, which open for reuse under a Creative Commons License, check out the full album on Flickr.

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Photo Reflection of the Day #164: Moonfish

Moonfish

What Is It

A fish statue aligned such that it looks like it is about to swallow (or is spitting out) the moon.

Why It's Today's Pick

As I finished my run today, I usually end up walking by Gillis Park, where this fish stands atop a playground.  I was walking by it and noticing the moon so bright in the morning and realized that this could be a great shot.  It took a little bit ot light it up just right, but I like how it came out.  I also did a shot with the moon between the tail and the back of the fish, but it didn't seem as compelling as this one.  

This submission is part of the 365 Challenge.  For 2015's submissions, check out this link to all the posts.  For access to all photos, which open for reuse under a Creative Commons License, check out the full album on Flickr.

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Textbooks and OER

For the last few weeks, almost on a daily-basis, there have been articles from USA Today to Huffington Post to NBC to ABC to the Christian Monitor, all taking about the cost of textbooks.  On one hand, I applaud reporters bring this to the attention of the average consumer and the public, but I'm also disappointed that the vast majority of articles fail to acknowledge the Open Educational Resources movement or when they do, it's usually to downplay or discredit it.  Below is an amalgamation of letters to editors that I sent out that never got published but I figured they still needed to be out there for people to read.

As we enter into the fall, students everywhere will be going to or going back to college.  Many of these news outlets have been remarking about the skyrocketing costs of textbooks—up over 1000% since the 1970s.  Because of the nature of textbooks and higher education, it has become an increasingly exploitative market with publishers undermining a second-hand market of reselling textbooks by publishing annual or biannual editions (Because history textbooks need a new edition every two years) or creating locked content online that requires potential further purchasing (and which the student loses access to within a year). 
On open educational resources -- Beyond definitions

For students, parents, faculty, and administrators lamenting these exorbitant costs (upwards of $1000+ a year), I encourage all to advocate for open educational resources (OER).  OER are free content available online that instructors can use, edit to their liking, and redistribute to their students.   In the last decade, the OER movement has worked hard to produce high quality content such as videos, lesson plans, learning objects, and even textbooks that instructors can integrate into the course for free.  A quick look at OER Commons, one of the most well-known OER repositories will reveal ample content for many faculty.  You can also get a nice tour of the OER landscape by visiting North Shore Community College's LibGuide on OER.  


The OER movement bypasses the traditional market entirely by freely producing and sharing content that will help their students learn without making them pay extra.  Students gain access to their learning materials on the first day and keep them for as long as they chose.  Colleges supporting faculty in creating or using OER find that both faculty and students are happier about the opportunities it affords them.  

There are also people like David Levin, CEO of McGraw Hill (the biggest of textbook publishers) who are trying to convince students and faculty to "go digital".  Of course, for his company, going digital means buying their digital products which will increase their profit margin significantly, while eliminating a secondary market for textbooks.  It's not just about going digital.

In his advocating for digital textbooks, he forgets to mention a few things that are worth noting and make his plea not just dubious but misleading.  His argument seems to say that he empathizes with students and faculty and that his plea is really on their behalf, but it's not.  The digital textbook racket is even more menacing for students and faculty than the physical textbook business model.  He's using the platform of expensive textbooks (something he contributes to as part of McGraw-Hill) to bait and switch faculty and students into etextbooks.  The problem is that McGraw-Hill tactics with etextbooks are even more exploitative than their tactics with physical textbooks. 

While with textbooks, students can hope to have a year or two before the publisher throws out a pointless new edition, etextbooks offer no secondary and cheaper market.  Instead, everyone must pay the same price for entrance and there is no opportunity for the market to level out the real cost of textbooks (usually pennies on the dollars of the original cost).  It seems clear that publishers are enacting the same mob-like extortion practices as they did with the physical textbook, but now, they really do control who goes and who sees what. 

But it gets further problematic from there.  Students don't even own their learning.  When students purchase physical textbooks, they own the physical copies.  With etextbooks, students only buy access to the content and typically, they lose access within 6 months to a year.  So even if students are paying less (for now), they are still subject to losing out on owning and reselling.  If they want to keep what they bought, they need to keep paying.  That would be like buying a book on Kindle and then being told by Amazon that you need to pay to read that book again in a year. 

Levin sidesteps the real game-changer for improving student costs of learning materials in higher education; the words he's afraid that students and faculty will hear and advocate for:  Open Educational Resources (OER).  There is a movement throughout the world for Open Educational Resources.  These are free and rich educational materials that includes lesson plans, learning guides, videos, audio content, and yes, even textbooks that faculty can incorporate into their classes.  Faculty are not only able to provide these for free to students, but they can also edit, remix, and take bits and pieces from different resources.  Rather than being stuck to one resource, faculty and plug and play a wide range of content to enrich student-learning.  OER provides faculty with not only more flexibility and range of materials, it means students have instant access to their learning materials on day one and can keep them for years after. 

And publishers like McGraw-Hill are overwhelmingly concerned about OER because it is a disruptive force for the textbook industry (a legal Napster, if you will).  After years of exploiting students and faculty, the textbook industry is on the brink of collapsing because OER provides the same quality educational resources as the traditional textbooks (in fact, it offers more quality since it uses media-rich content) at a fraction of the cost and unlike Naptster's original format, it's practices are entirely ethical and legal.  

To learn more about OER, check out OER Commons or the NSCC LibGuide on OER.  

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Photo Reflection of the Day #163: Fireball Flower with a Splash

Fireball Flower with a Splash - 2015-08-29_12-48-40

What Is It

A flower with a yellow and reddish center and then red and yellow pedals.


Why It's Today's Pick

Out again on another walk, I came across these gorgeous flowers.  They remind me of fire balls with their mixture of yellows and reds.  In the last 6-8 years, I have definitely become one who stops to smell (or at least look at or snap a photo of) the flowers.  But I'm amazed at how much more I'm noticing front yard landscapes and their choices of flowers, plants, herbs, and crops.  I'm also not too surprised how my own neighborhood which I walk/run through quite regularly continues to surprise me with gems like this. 

This submission is part of the 365 Challenge.  For 2015's submissions, check out this link to all the posts.  For access to all photos, which open for reuse under a Creative Commons License, check out the full album on Flickr.

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Photo Reflection of the Day #162: Any FriendShip in a Storm

Any FriendShip in a Storm - 20150821_191156

What Is It

Derby Wharf with the Friendship Tall Ship as a storm moves onto Salem.



Why It's Today's Pick

Every since my wife taught me that the grayish hue between clouds and land in the background was in fact rain, I'm now mesmerized by this idea of being able to see a rain storm without being in it.  Thus to be on a boat where it isn't raining and watch the rain to the left and right of the Friendship is pretty cool.  I also like this photo because it gets the full space while also capturing the foreboding clouds.  This seems like a photo that could be enhanced and made more vivid by being turned into a painting.

This submission is part of the 365 Challenge.  For 2015's submissions, check out this link to all the posts.  For access to all photos, which open for reuse under a Creative Commons License, check out the full album on Flickr.

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Photo Reflection of the Day #161: Clouds Closing In on Salem

Clouds Closing In on Salem - 20150821_183949

What Is It

Downtown Salem as a storm makes its way in.  

Why It's Today's Pick

It's that time of year where thunderstorms become a bit of the norm.  Lots of humidity and heat and thunderstorms arrive almost as quickly as they disappear.  I happen to be parking my car at the downtown parking lot in Salem and went to the top floor, which doesn't have a roof and got to witness the approaching storm.  That wave of clouds seems so oppressive and ready to just take over.  I love the eve of a storm, where one can feel the changing weather.  Often this includes the rustling of wind but also a quieting that takes place and of course, a light drop in temperature--if not extreme then at least because the sun is no longer bearing down.   

This submission is part of the 365 Challenge.  For 2015's submissions, check out this link to all the posts.  For access to all photos, which open for reuse under a Creative Commons License, check out the full album on Flickr.

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

My Top 101 Films Part 10 (of 10) (Finally!!!)

And we finally get to the end!  It only took a year or two.  Here's the running list of previous entries!

Stand by Me (1986)

The wild and coming-of-age adventures of four boys as they travel to discover a dead body is pure Americana.  It may seem a little morbid by today's standards and yet for many I grew up with this was a powerful and moving story--still is.  The childhood antics (debating who is better, Superman or Mighty Mouse) contrast with the flashbacks of a lost brother and disconnected parents and comes to a head when confronting the dead body and the older gang.  Filled with an impressive cast of people who have gone on to other fascinating projects and a great sound track, it's a great film to watch again and again.     
The trailer for this film can be found here.

Swing Kids (1993)

It's like a quasi-musical.  No really signing, but plenty of music and plenty of dancing.  This paired with Newsies and you have a early Christian Bale singing and dancing mini-marathon that is delightful.  Coupled with Newsies is and interesting dialogue because one offers a criticism of unbridled fascism and the other critiques unbridled capitalism (which is also present within Rent--ok, who's surprised by that pattern in my movie selections?).  But Swing Kids was the first film to introduce me to ideas about popular culture and it as a form of cultural resistance.  That is, the film fixates on how music was a focus point and means of resistance.  It's strange but I never entirely realized how much this film has in common in parts with Footloose--another film that I am fond of (though it did not make the list).  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


Station Agent (2003)

DVD Cover - Station Agent
I implore you to watch this film.  If you watch Game of Thrones or just want to see an amazing performance by Peter Dinklage, this is an essential film.  He is amazing and when I first saw this film, I fell in love with Dinklage as an actor.  Though he speaks so very little, there is so much complexity in his body language and performance.  If you want to understand why he was chosen for Game of Thrones, it's worth looking at, but if you just want to see a powerful performance, you still need to see it.  The film focuses on three lost-souls.  The main character is a short person who inherits a station from his close and recently-departed friend.  There is also Patricia Clarkson who plays a mother who has lost her child, and Bobby Cannavale, a young guy operating a food truck whose father is sick.  The three make the oddest grouping possible, but it works so amazingly well.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


The Thing (1982)

DVD Cover - The Thing - Carpenter
I generally like John Carpenter's works, but I never really watched The Thing until I was an adult and teaching a horror course.  Then, it became one of my favorite horror films.  Since then, I have read and appreciated the novella it is based upon, John Campbell's Who Goes There.  So much of the drama and horror focuses on the idea of not knowing who is the alien or not.  A narrative clearly evocative of a communist regime, the film works in numerous ways to make views feel claustrophobic, distrustful of everyone, and anxious about what it might mean to not resolve the question of who goes there.  The film has some great features to it including point-of-view camera shots that prove frustrating to the viewer because you know there are things beyond your vision.  The sound track also proves to provide an oppressive and haunting heartbeat that lingers throughout the film--it almost makes one wonder if it is the film or their own heartbeat.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


Trainspotting (1996)

DVD Cover - Trainspotting
Beyond the Scottish dialect and the mayhem that makes up the film, the film goes down in my own personal history for the first film that I watched that included a full frontal shot of a male.  I applaud Ewan McGregor (who does this again in another film years later) for this (and for Danny Boyle for including it).  I found this an impressive statement given how rare such shots are.  But the film itself is such a fascinating pastishe of the hardcore drug life and McGregor's character gives us the full tour from the highs to the lows.  In some of its more funky scenes, it reminds me a great deal of A Clockwork Orange--there is a hyperactivity about both films which seems present.  There is also moments that are genuinely strange and freaky--such as the baby on the ceiling scene (you'll have to see it to get it).  I believe there is going to be a sequel to this that will include most of the main actors and Danny Boyle as director as well.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


Trollhunter (2010)

DVD Cover - Troll Hunter
If you are looking for another great Scandanavian horror film on this list (the first being the Swedish Let The Right One In), then Trollhunter is you rnext option.  This film follows a group of documentarians as they stumble upon real trolls and a whole network for trollhunters wardens who are meant to keep them frome ever being made known to the public.  Lots of great scenery is coupled with tense and terse moments throughout the film in the Norweigan woodlands as the characters continue to record their own demise.  It is largely invocative of The Blair Witch Project in its execution but still feels it has something unique to offer.  The trolls--which are largely kept in the dark--do make several direct appearances and the films makes them reasonably troll-like without feeling entirely ridiculous.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


Unbreakable (2000)

Back in the day, when M. Night Shyamalan made some interesting movies--until we all realized that his gimmick was to keep everyone in suspense and confusion until the last ten minutes of the film when he unlocked it all.  Regardless of the fact that this is how he has done nearly every movie, I still have an appreciated of Unbreakable as a modern-day (and mayhaps post-modern) telling of a superhero story.  I also like that there is not entirely an origin story--dead parents, magic-bestowing elder, power-granting rays from a moonrock, etc--but rather the story focuses on the character's discovery of his powers, more so than why he must fight crime (we get this by proxy--protecting his family, but it's not so explicit).  The final reveal of the villain proves to be just the start of the journey and in some ways, one could argue takes away from the development because the villain appears to be just a villain for villain's sake--not necessarily as full formed as the hero.  Regardless, it proves one of the better narratives about a superhero coming into his own.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


United States of Leland (2003)

DVD Cover - United States of Leland
For all those Ryan Gosling fans, all I can say is that I saw him first--in this film and you really should too.  Like the above mentioned Station Agent, this was a film I saw early on that secured my respect and interest in all things Ryan Gosling.  His role in this film is fascinating and his acting is amazing.  He plays the titular, Leland who has killed his girlfriend's little brother without reason.  He is now in juvenile detention and everyone wants to know why he did it.  Other performances are strong in this film, but it's Gosling who commands every scene he is through his poise and body language.  The desire to get inside of his head drives everyone--even the viewer to keep eyes focused on a young man who is clearly intelligent and sensitive but has committed a most-heinous act. 
The trailer for this film can be found here.


Watchmen (2009)

DVD Cover - Watchmen
For some, I may have lost all disrespect, but as I've said before in this blog, I'm a fan of adaptation and I do not expect tit for tat.  I'm curious in the ways a narrative will evolve in another medium and I rather like what they did with Watchmen.  I think to fully appreciate it, it's probably useful to rely on all three elements of Watchmen--the film itself, The Tale of the Black Freighter and Under the Hood, as these films provide the full richness that is the original comic, Watchmen.  I found the adaptation with its use of music, updated technology, and chosen actors to be rather well chosen.  I think for many people, the film doesn't feel as powerful as the comic, but again, that often has to do with two things.  One is that they have already read the comic and using it as a comparision.  The other is that Watchmen is a powerful narrative, but we have to remember it was written in the 1980s and has been influential enough in our narratives that many of its core ideas are already mainstream ideas in television and film.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


Whale Rider (2002)

This proves both a beautiful and heart-warming film.  Set in New Zealand and focused on a Maori tribe as it reconciles an aging chief and no apparent male heir.  The protagonist, Paikea Apiran (Pai), is the grand-daughter but the grandfather refuses to believe that  a woman could lead the tribe.  What follows is Pai's constant challenges to show she is worthy while her grandfather grows increasingly angry and distant.  The contrast between the adorable and stubborn Pai is met with an equally adorable and stubborn grandfather.  The film's power lay in the clear love between these characters and their refusual to accept each other in their ways.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


Wizard of Oz (1939)

It feels quite right to end with this one.  The Wizard of Oz is still a favorite of mine in all its technicolor glory.  As fantasy films go, it still holds up decades later.  And to those who hate remakes, you should know that Wizard of Oz is indeed a remake.  But the film is just a fantastic trip to another world and of course, down memory lane since it's one of the earliest films (besides Star Wars) that I can remember watching regularly when growing up.  Despite the hokey outfits--today I imagine they would all be CGI characters--the film and its atmosphere works and easily transports the view to Oz and all its majesty.  
The trailer for this film can be found here.


So that's all 101 films...finally!  What are some of your favorite films and why?  Post them in the comments!

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By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Photo Reflection of the Day #160: I think this is a Caterpillar?

I think this is a Caterpillar?

What Is It

A funky little fellow I stumbled upon during a walk this week.  

Why It's Today's Pick

It's times like these, I appreciate how much I have taken to walking and running around in my neighborhood.  On an early morning while doing my cool down walk from my run, I walked by this guy.  I walked by it and questioned what I just saw and went back.  It is a curious fellow and I've never seen anything like it. I watched it for a few minutes without it moving too much and decided that a photo of this fellow was entirely necessary.  I highly recommend clicking through to Flickr so you can see the photo up close as you can see all sorts of details when you zoom in. 


This submission is part of the 365 Challenge.  For 2015's submissions, check out this link to all the posts.  For access to all photos, which open for reuse under a Creative Commons License, check out the full album on Flickr.

Creative Commons License
By Any Other Nerd Blog by Lance Eaton is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.