Weekly Web Harvest (weekly)

Tool use in crocodylians: crocodiles and alligators use sticks as lures to attract waterbirds | Tetrapod Zoology, Scientific American Blog Network “As described by Dinets et al. (2013), Mugger crocodiles Crocodylus palustris in India and American alligators Alligator mississippiensis in the USA have both been observed to lie, partially submerged, beneath egret and heron colonies with sticks balanced across their snouts. Birds approach to collect the sticks for use in nest building and… well, let’s just say that it doesn’t end well for the birds. If the crocodylians really are using the sticks as bait to attract their bird prey, this is tool use, since the sticks are objects that are being employed for a specific function.” tags: animal crocodile tools tool science adaptation weekly How meaning comes to technology: PCR at 30 | Jean-Baptiste Gouyon | Science | theguardian.com “More than a technique, PCR is a concept, that enables molecular biologists to think in new ways of their object of study, DNA, to ask genes new questions. Opening the way to new experiments, it literally frees the imagination. Some even use PCR machines as fridges. After all a thermocycler is nothing but an intelligent heating and cooling block. It can be set on 4ºC for 48 hours, to conserve the result of an experiment over the week-end. ” How meaning […]

Illustrating Odd Autocompletes

Turns out “hiss and preach” is a line from a rap song. Blatantly copying this post for a #ds106 assignment. Google Autocomplete is an oracle with strange powers to bring oddities into your life. This assignment asks you to seek out that randomness. Start with a strong phrase (things like “I hate . . .” or “I love . . . ” seem to work well.) and run through the alphabet looking for really odd autocompletes. When you find a good one, screen capture it and create an illustration that represents the search string. It is a DS106 assignment now.

Web Ephemera

Despicable? I looked at rate my teacher and rate my professor. Certainly some stupid stuff but it’s just an element in a larger picture. I don’t know why you wouldn’t look. Even bad reviews might cause me to think positively about someone. I found these responses strangely emotional. Image vs Text Inspired by Alan Levine’s foray into random manipulation of images through text, I opened up this round’s #giffight image and replaced all the $ signs with ¢ symbols. I am now an ordained oracle of some sort. Fury vs Furry I keep seeing a maniacal gleam in that dog’s eye now. Clearly a minor typo but one that is fun and a good contribution to further “how little does it take to turn a sentence inside out” ideas. Personal Planes and Devices That Talk Back


Video Game Equation?

It’s supposed to represent the role of mind/emotion in creating engagement but the very fact that I feel compelled to explain that probably means I’m not doing a great job and I wonder about the degree to which I’m joking. There are elements here I may end up making work though. I can parse a few out for a #ds106 assignment as well . . .


Weekly Web Harvest (weekly)

BitTorrent Sync Open Source Dropbox replacement . . . tags: dooo bittorrent sync dropbox weekly opensource Interactive Billboard Tells You Where The Airplane Overhead is Going – Neatorama Blending the digital and the real in interesting ways. tags: mechanized mixed airplanes planes billboards weekly Terminal Cornucopia by Evan Booth “Can common items sold in airports after the security screening be used to build lethal weapons? As it turns out, even a marginally “MacGyver-esque” attacker can breeze through terminal gift shops, restaurants, magazine stands and duty-free shops to find everything needed to wage war on an airplane. Just how easy is it to build these weapons? The bulk of Evan’s research, Terminal Cornucopia, has been released publicly for you to see for yourself. This work is ongoing, so be sure to check back for future updates.” tags: terminal cornucopia airport reality weekly terrorism ‘Because’ has become a preposition, because grammar | Sentence first “However it arose, it seems to be spreading. Language loves economy, and the sheer efficiency of this use of because is likely boosting its popularity. Similar constructions are occurring with but, also, so, thus and similar words – see the frame from xkcd, above. And in the Language Log thread (which is worth reading in full), Rod Johnson says a friend “ended a litany of miscellaneous complaints with […]

Week No. 2 – Walking at Work

A few photographs from my walk to and from work during week two. Farther down are some shots of Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond– someplace I’ve always meant to go. I managed to forget my charger at work this weekend and it turns out the cemetery is only a few blocks away. We’ll consider it a fortuitous accident. Walking at Work The whole set is here. Hollywood Cemetery The whole set is here.


If That, Then What?

The Google spreadsheet passing the information on to this chart, which should be live, is being fed by an IFTTT recipe. For the record it doesn’t seem like you can mess around with the non-used portions of the actual worksheet where data is being written by the recipe. I was able to add another worksheet and use that to run some formulas on the worksheet where the tweets are being written. =len(‘Sheet 1’!C1) is the formula you’d write to access cell C1 of Sheet 1 and count the number of characters. Granted, keeping track of my progress towards perfect 140 character tweets doesn’t have much value (although there’s one that’s 150 characters that’s a little puzzling) but it’s just a proof of concept. I could parse out other elements. I do need to look back at the DS106 hashtag spreadsheet and see how that’s working as I don’t see any working version of that since Twitter killed RSS support. And a random byproduct of some other work I’m doing messing around with The Mother of All Demos. Seriously though, tell your friends. Apply for the job.

If it seems like playing . . .

If it seems like I’m playing lately it is because I am. The last week or so has been an exploration of all sorts of fairly odd things. Markov chains, Twitterbots, McRibs1, photo walks to name a few items. These are easy things to dismiss as trivial. It’s not necessarily obvious how these strange wanderings connect back to outcomes that other people may want or how they mesh with the idea of online learning at VCU. I believe that’s because we’ve created a belief that (in many things) we know both where we are (point A) and where want to go (point B) and that whatever gets us between these two points most “efficiently” is the best path. I’m going to try to both justify the value of a wandering path by pulling in pretty disparate examples2 from time/space with some recent examples of these wanderings coming to fruition. Similar patterns of over-narrowing happen in lots of areas. People tend to think they know lots of things they don’t.3 I see elements of this narrowing in terms of the echo chamber, the specification focused patterns of today’s world4, and the general lack of joy evident in work and school.5 Here’s a fairly typical pattern for me. Stage One – September 2011 On Sept. 22, 2011 at 10:48 PM6, I took […]


Text Acrobatics in Google Spreadsheets

I’ve established here enough times I’m not a programmer so I have to find ways to get things done until I learn more. I found this gigantic list of edtech related conferences compiled by Dr. Wright thanks to Stephen Downes’ feed. It’s in Word1 for a variety of reasonable reasons and I can’t fault anyone who puts in this kind of time and energy and puts the result out there for free. It does make it harder to manipulate but it is very consistent which opens up doors which might otherwise be closed. It does cut/paste into a Google Spreadsheet pretty well. The key to things like this is finding ways to break them into pieces. It is really algebra and variables but a more entertaining version. You can chop pieces of the block up and then chop up those parsed out pieces. For convenience’s sake we’ll use cell A2 as the housing for the unparsed information. December 1-2, 2013 International Conference on Advanced Education Technology and Management Science (AETMS), Hong Kong, China. http://www.aetms.org/ The first thing I did was scan for consistencies that I might use as chop points. The date is always first and in most cases it’s one word (the month) followed by the dates and a comma. That allows me to do things like =FIND(” “,A2). […]