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Weekly Web Harvest for 2016-08-21

Your drain on drugs: Meth seeps into Baltimore’s streams – CNN.com Here’s why: These plants and bugs are the base of the aquatic food web. Birds eat the bugs, as do frogs and fish. As emergent contaminants such as pharmaceuticals and endocrine disruptors become more common in ground and drinking water, they could affect humans. Scientists say the direct health effects are pretty much unknown, and more research will need to be done. h/t Jon Becker Handwriting Just Doesn’t Matter – The New York Times A month later, Alabama required the teaching of cursive in public schools by the end of third grade by way of “Lexi’s Law,” named for the granddaughter of the state representative Dickie Drake; Mr. Drake believes “cursive writing identifies you as much as your physical features do.” In other words, our script reveals something unique and ineluctable about our inner being. For most of American history, cursive was supposed to do the opposite. Mastering it was dull, repetitive work, intended to make every student’s handwriting match a standardized model. In the mid-19th century, that model was Spencerian script. It was replaced by the Palmer Method, which was seen as a more muscular and masculine hand suitable for the industrial age — a “plain and rapid style,” as Austin Palmer described it, to replace the more […]

Lynda Tutorial Link in Rampages Dashboard Plugin

Nothing fancy here but maybe useful to someone. Based on a faculty member request, I took the WP widget API default code and created a little dashboard widget to put a link to the Lynda.com WordPress tutorials on every dashboard page (network activated). Can’t hurt and I think I’ll end up expanding this into a messaging system so I can publish “breaking” news and other useful tips.

Lynda Domain URL Tip

WordPress Essential Training Lynda.com is new to VCU. It’s good stuff and I wanted to use it more with students but the vanilla links lead you to the non-VCU authentication page which equals confusion and despair. Luckily, there is a simple solution. Just append ?org=vcu1 to the end of the URL and it’ll prompt the user for authentication and all the good things will happen. So this . . . https://www.lynda.com/WordPress-tutorials/WordPress-Essential-Training/372542-2.html becomes this . . . https://www.lynda.com/WordPress-tutorials/WordPress-Essential-Training/372542-2.html?org=vcu Just a little tip to make life more pleasant. 1 or whatever your org is – I spent some time trying vcu.edu and failing

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Weekly Web Harvest for 2016-08-14

Walmart’s Out-of-Control Crime Problem Is Driving Police Crazy To cut down on calls to police, Walmart has been rolling out a program where first-time offenders caught stealing merchandise below a certain value can avoid arrest if they agree to go through a theft-prevention program. At some higher-crime stores, the company is also hiring off-duty police and private security officers. According to Walmart Stores executives, it’s all starting to work. Police chiefs and their officers on the ground say that’s just not so. Ross likes to joke that the concentration of crime at Walmart makes his job easier. “I’ve got all my bad guys in one place,” he says, flashing a bright smile. His squad’s sergeant, Robert Rohloff, a 34-year police veteran who has to worry about staffing, budgets, and patrolling the busiest commercial district in Tulsa, says there’s nothing funny about Walmart’s impact on public safety. He can’t believe, he says, that a multibillion-dollar corporation isn’t doing more to stop crime. Instead, he says, it offloads the job to the police at taxpayers’ expense. “It’s ridiculous—we are talking about the biggest retailer in the world,” says Rohloff. “I may have half my squad there for hours.”

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Weekly Web Harvest for 2016-08-07

Amazon’s Interesting Finds/Prehistoric Invertebrates/Fraudster Calls / Boing Boing TIP: Any bones or skulls you collect can be whitened up without using chlorine bleach, which can weaken the bone. Use concentration hydrogen peroxide, which will fizz and brighten bone to a brilliant white very quickly. You need stronger stuff than the dilute peroxide found in drug stores. Head to the hair care aisle or hair product stores, and look for bottles of concentrated H2O2 in bottles labeled as Clairoxide or the like. — KK

WordPress/Google Spreadsheet Chimera Community

flickr photo shared by NASA on The Commons with no copyright restriction (Flickr Commons) Many professors don’t want students having to go into the backend of WordPress. Imagine also that you’re dealing with many hundreds of students and don’t want the hassle of people asking you about password resets or any other attendant drama. You’re willing to give up some things in return for as much simplicity as possible. You’ve got a few options for front-end editors. Gravity Forms is one I use all the time but it doesn’t give you the full WP editor which is pretty handy if you’re asking students to write posts of any complexity. AccessPress Anonymous Post Pro Forms is another option that I used on this project. It’s worth checking out and I think there’s a free version as well. Alan and Brian’s SPLOT tools are also worth checking out if your actions fit into those patterns consistently. That helps address one problem but it opens up a few other issues. We’ve got lots of students and lots of individual sections. How do we group them into courses or teams? How do we aggregate individual student’s work to their own page if they aren’t authors (in the WordPress sense)? Can we do that without drama? After a few false starts, I think this works […]

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Weekly Web Harvest for 2016-07-31

Ten Theses In Support of Teaching and Against Learning Outcomes | Jeff Noonan: Interventions and Evocations Lots of good stuff in here. “awakening in students a desire to think by revealing to them the questionability of things” h/t Amy Collier On extraordinariness — Code for America Blog — Medium I’m not a fan of the way this glorifies things but . . . “Admiration and gratitude for a public servant who has achieved the impossible. Made things work in spite of the rules, not because of them. Broken dozens of protocols, risked his job. “He made it work. He’s the only guy who can run it. He knows it wouldn’t work without him so he’s deferred his retirement. I mean…he’s extraordinary.” Meet Moxie Marlinspike, the Anarchist Bringing Encryption to All of Us | WIRED that yes, people will use encryption to do illegal things. And that may just be the whole point. “I actually think that law enforcement should be difficult,” Marlinspike says, looking calmly out at the crowd. “And I think it should actually be possible to break the law.”

Set Default Gravity Forms From Email

On rampages we only have the ability to send out emails from rampages.us addresses. This caused a bit of confusion for me when our Gravity Forms email notifications stopped working.1 It seems like Gravity Forms now defaults to send emails from the form admin’s email address. In our case, that’s a vcu.edu domain . . . . which causes the emails to fail. You can see that when you go to Settings>Notifications for a form. The From Email now says {admin_email}. We have Gravity Forms network activated on rampages which means it’s live on all 17,000+ sites. Granted, I have no real idea how many people use it but I didn’t relish the thought of how many questions this might cause. Luckily, Gravity Forms has a way to take care of this and I was able to write a tiny, little, itsy, bitsy plugin to set the from email for all our sites. Problem solved. 1 Tim, from the ever-reliable Reclaim Hosting guided me back to sanity after I tried to make this much harder than it needed to be.