Some amazing photos!

Courtesy of The Portalist, I learned of NASA’s searchable database of space photos. The post on The Portalist had enough photos to make it a no-brainer to go there and check it out.

Going to the main page was not as exciting as I had hoped. It had lots of pictures of astronauts standing around. Then I realized those were just the most recent uploads. All I had to do was click on “Most Popular” and I was rewarded with an array of truly amazing photos. I clicked on one that was a picture of a baby owl in a hangar at Kennedy Space Center. That made me decide to search for other bird pictures, but to see if there were others.  And there were. 894 of them!

These pictures offer a wealth of information in addition to some beautiful views. I searched for Pluto and found there were 491 photos. Most of the photos are accompanied by an explanation of what you are looking at.  So I found this photo:

Pluto badlands.jpg

The description called it the “badlands of Pluto” and told me there was a 1.2 mile high cliff and that the canton system runs for hundreds of miles. That information sparked my imagination, and I suddenly began thinking of a western-themed novel set on Pluto. Then I saw another photo that made it look like there were roads or at least paths on Pluto. And what are those things the road is connecting? Maybe one is a homestead and the other is a town. Or maybe…

Pluto roads.jpg

Now maybe that isn’t a winning idea, but I think you get what I am trying to say: These photos and accompanying information are a tremendous resource for writers! I am going to go back and spend more time on the site!


Homemade Samurai Armor

My husband sent me a link to an article about a guy who made his own samurai armor.  Real armor.  Cool armor.  It seems a little extreme to me, but what the heck?  Why not?

Brian Ashcraft the author of the article, explains:

With the help of a metalworking craftsman friend, books, and the internet, Danny began work on a suit of samurai armor. The process was long and taxing: The small metal plates were hammered by hand and then strung together by over 700 feet of rope.

He also made weapons and a flag to complete his outfit.  It looks just like something out of a Kurosawa movie!

The guy does cosplay so he really wears the armor – all 80 pounds of it — on a somewhat regular basis.  That in itself takes dedication!

If you are even remotely interested in samurai or cosplay or armor, check the article out!

Farewell to PowerPoint, welcome to glogs

At the midterm I assigned a presentation on a grammar point.  Everyone used PowerPoint. The results were boring, to say the least.  I vowed not to repeat that fiasco, but I wanted to keep the assignment.  So,for the final, I assigned a glog, and the results were much better.

What’s a glog?  The closest I can come to describing it is to say it is an interactive poster.  They can embed audio and video, include pictures, links to sites, their own text and just about anything else they want.  Check out for a better explanation.

The student products for the final were all  better than any of them had been at the midterm.  I saw students looking for a video to explain their grammar point.  They used charts as they had at the midterm, but the results were much more engaging.  I think they were more engaged and learned more from the production of their glogs than they were with the PowerPoints.

So I think I have assigned my last PowerPoint.  I am only sorry it took me so long!

The limits of a paper

In the travel literature class I am taking this semester we have read some very interesting pieces and, of course, we have written and will write a number of papers.  I love actual books, and I love writing in my notebook.  I even love composing and printing my papers for the professor.  But as I was checking ot some blogs this afternoon, I ran across a post by Graham with a video of Blue King Brown, an Australian group.  The song they are performing in the video directly applies to an article that I am reading and writing about right now.  Were my “paper” a blog post instead of 2-3 pages double spaced, I would include this song in my response to the article.

This is going to sound pretty pathetic, I am sure, but this is the first time I have really wanted to do a different kind of “paper”.  That means that it is the first time I have really understood how at least some of my students might want to do something different.  I thought I got it before, but this is absolutely the first time I have really felt limited by a piece of paper.

My challenge now, of course, is to find ways to allow, no really encourage, my students to break away from the traditional paper.

And on that note, my students in one class have been posting to their blogs again.  Some of them are really getting into this.  Links to their blogs can be found here.


Writing is really important to me.  I recently discovered that the fact that I wasn’t writing regularly, and that I wasn’t really writing at all outside of this blog, was part of what was wrong with my life all spring.  I don’t know why I am so slow…

Anyway, I came across a site Go Write Now! that, if it continues, will be one that I want to visit regularly.  There are some writing prompts and some more general posts about writing.  Check it out!

A treat

Yesterday I had the privilege of listening to a number of science fiction authors and publishers at the 33rd Jack Williamson Lectureship here in Portales.  In case you don’t know, Jack Williamson, who was a science fiction writer, taught at ENMU for many years.  I did not, of course, have a chance to meet him, but talking to the many people here who knew him well, makes me realize just how much I missed!

The Guest of Honor this year was Nalo Hopkinson, an extremely interesting person.  She spoke at a luncheon and as part of a panel in the afternoon.  The other panelists were Ed Bryant, Gardner Dozois, Steven Gould, Stephen Haffner, Emily Mah, Laura Mixon, Ian Tregilis, and Eleanor Wood as well as Connie Willis and Christopher Stasheff.

One of the organizers of the event asked me if I was interested in science fiction or just in writing.  I have to admit to not reading much science fiction until coming to Portales, but I have always watched and loved science fiction movies and TV.  My favorite movie of all time is The Day the Earth Stood Still (The original version, of course!).  And, of course, I am very interested in writing.  Not that I will ever become an author like any of the people I listened to yesterday.  But I love listening to people talk about writing.

It was a wonderful day, ending with a dinner at the home of our friends, Gene Bundy and Geni Flores, with the authors  and others.  I can’t wait until next year!

A neat idea

My friend Angie shared an assignment she did in college.  The professor asked them to

“create something that showed your journey as a reader”

and she wrote 12 little books about her literacy journey.  She then personalized this even more by placing the books in a box made to look like a grandfather clock – creating another connection with her reading history.

I love this idea!  I can’t yet see exactly how I would have students do something similar, but I know it will come to me.

Thanks, Angie!

Now this is an assignment I would like to do!

Someone somewhere wrote about David Silver’s blog and teaching, and I started following silver in sf.  (My apologies to whomever it was that had the original link!)


Yesterday’s post was his most recent assignment for a digital media production class.  It is a wonderful assignment requiring students to attend a film festival and then use flickr, blogs and twitter to record and comment on the experience.

What a great assignment!  It makes me think about how I am and am not using these tools with my students.  It makes me want to do a lot better!

So if you are looking for inspiration, check out silver in sf.

Learning to be visual

I have talked before about my feelings of not being creative.  As I was walking to work this morning and passed the tree that I took a picture of the other day, I started wondering if I maybe really AM not creative.  If that is true, I am sure it is because I never developed that part of my brain rather than some congenital condition.

What I know is that I am not a visual person.  I really think that even when I see things, I see them as words and not as pictures.  Is that crazy?  That tree today was twisted and bent.  It didn’t speak to me in the same way that it did the day I took the picture of it.

But I want to be a visual person.  I want to see things and respond in non-verbal ways.

This is something I have been working on and thinking about for a couple days.  For the EVO sessions I am supposed to be working on this year (And I do mean “supposed to be” because I have done almost nothing!) I was working on an online portfolio.

You may or may not know tht I have an online portfolio.  It is nice and neat and filled with words.  But I wanted something visual, something more dynamic.  I have not really come up with anything that I like, but I have come up with something different.  Yesterday I added the flakes that at least make the online parts of my portfolio come alive a little more.  Today, after I read Jane’s post about Lovely Charts, I created and added the chart. This is still not toally what I was looking for, but it is getting there.

But this brings me back to the idea of learning to be visual.  I wonder why I don’t seem to see images.  To me, it explains why I cannot really take good pictures and why everything in my life is very word-oriented.

Does this make any sense?

Advice from John Cleese

Ewan has a post including a video of John Cleese talking about creativity. It is a wonderful way to spend 10 minutes if you like John Cleese, and a pretty good way to spend the time even if you don’t know who he is.

Ewan summarizes the video in 7 points.  They are all true, I think, but it is number 6 that most struck me.  He said:

The problem with some teachers is that they may not know that they are not very creative, and therefore they may not value creativity even if they can recognise it.

This is something I really, really believe.  Until participating in a summer institute sponsored by the Southeastern Louisiana Writing Project, I did not believe I was creative.  The Writing Project changed my perception of myself.  It, therefore, changed the way I teach.

So, in addition to encouraging you to watch John Cleese, I encourage you to check out the National Writing Project and look for a site in your area.