What the CDB?

Welcome to CogDogBlog, Alan Levine’s (hey, thats me, writing about myself in third person!) place to bark about cool technology, web X.0 hype, weird web sites, photography, and other targets big and small- things that get under my fur or make me wag my tail.

While we all “know” by conventional wisdom that blogs are dead, a few like myself don’t buy this line, that is, us, the Last of the Bloghicans, the Last Bloggers Standing…

My banner pal is a tribute to Mickey, a Labrador Retriever who had a life not nearly long enough (see Mickey’s tribute).

The meaning of the nearly unpronounceable name is explained in my first blog post ever, way back on April 19, 2003. “I Blog Therefore I Am…”. This first weblog was done in MovableType 2.661 which was first hoisted at its first home at http://jade.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/alan/ but is now archived here as http://cogdogblog.com/alan/.

Two years later, I moved the blog lock stock and hairball to the WordPress platform, which is what we are running now. As it was written, it was all rather easy, in all, maybe a 5 minute operation to import some 800+ old entries. And I am thankful to Audree for giving me hosting over at her place during 2006 — now the dog is hosted at DreamHost.

That’s some of the nuts and bolts, but whose paws are at the keyboard?

All rants, typos, and drooling here are the work of Alan Levine, who hails from the fair city of Baltimore (locally pronounced “Bawwwlddamarr”), Orioles, Fells Point, Chesapeake Bay steamed crabs… Only here will you find this Beta version (v0.3b) of alan. The product is far from finished- life is essentially a beta test.

My “EdUkashion” started at Bedford Elementary School– do they have a URL yet? “We are the Bedford Bees…”. There are some forgettable years in middle school and Milford Mill High School. From 1981-1986 I was at the University of Delaware where I earned a BS in Geology, minor in Computer Science. I actually started as a Computer Science major (another result of non-existence guidance from high school counselors) and HATED it, switching after a year to something with more excitement and less job prospects– Geology. I spent the summer of 1985 as an intern at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, but the real learning was living that summer in New York City, going to the Park, riding the subways at all hours, hanging out at the Ear bar, watching baseball at Yankee Stadium… I even picked up a Phi Beta Kappa key before I left Delaware.

The next pit-stop (after a year of mall fun selling cameras) was from 1987-1992 at Arizona State University where I managed to get a Masters in Geology and 1/2 a PhD. One of my buddies was fond of saying, “Geology is great! It’s like getting paid to go camping. Not much, but still getting paid. I did my MS work with Landsat satellite images and field work to map volcanic rocks (the famous Bishop Tuff) near Bishop, California. What a spot! The Owens Valley nestled between the 14,000 foot peaks of the Sierra Nevada tothe west and the 14,000 White Mountains to the east. My 1989 thesis was “Ash-Flow Zones of the Bishop Tuff- Detailed Mapping with Landsat Thematic Mapper.” At one time I had the ambition to convert my thesis to HTML format (hah!), but here at least is a pretty satellite image. Because of my vast background in computers (?), in 1987 I was assigned a Teaching Assistantship to run our new fancy labs of Macintosh Plus computers, as well as writing some programs for the geology faculty- one was a gravity anomaly simulation written in MacFORTRAN that will still run on my newest computer today (although the interface makes me wince in pain).

We were using a supercomputer model to simulate volcanic eruptions. The program ran at
Los Alamos Lab and the output was sent to us by e-mail. As a privileged user, I could use one of the two available color Mac IIs to download the data and analyze it visually using software developed at NCSA. We were doing some simple but effective animations of two dimensional data over time.

I continued on into the PhD program, studying the fluid dynamics of explosive volcanic flows. I worked on computer modeling, some field work in volcanic regions of Washington and New Mexico. Even published a paper (1991) in Geology… “Hydraulics of the August 7, 1980 pyroclastic flow at Mount St. Helens, Washington”.

It was a memorable day, at the bottom of a canyon in New Mexico, that I realized I had no more passion to be a specialist in pyroclastic rocks with about 40 peers in the world, and what I realized I enjoyed doing was teaching. So I bailed half way through a PhD program, and planned to get certified through a program at Arizona State University to teach secondary science.

Needing some income for food and rent, to look for a part-time teaching job, in 1992, I headed over to the office of the local community college system. Ironically, I was in the wrong place- teachers are hired at the individual colleges, but while in the employment office, I noticed a job posted for a “Programmer Analyst / Instructional Systems”, and as I read it I thought, “I did that. I can say I did that…” I applied, went through the three rings of interviews, and was offered a job at the Maricopa Center for Learning & Instruction.

One week later I was wearing a tie (that lasted 2 years, tops) and attending the QuickTime 1.0 conference at the Fairmont hotel in San Francisco.

For the next 14 years, I was happily employed at Maricopa, a place that offered me so many opportunities to grow and expand my network I cannot list them all, though I may try. In October ’93 a colleague named Jim Walters handed me a floppy and said, “Hey, Alan, try this… thing… called… Mosaic”


My life was never the same.

I cut my teeth on the web early there, plugging a Mac SE/30 into the network, and launching our web site in November 1993. I’ve done so many web sites I forget many of them, and now that I am gone, many of them are fading into the distance- the very first one I recall being a presentation at a conference in 1994 that used the web as my presentation platform, Providing Structured Multimedia Learning Environments- Mosaic for the Internet. I got a lot of mileage and credit for our WritingHTML tutorial . Other fun stuff included Negative Reinforcement University, Learning English Electronically, How to be a Webhound… yep lots of URLs piled up.

A bit later, in July to December of 2000, I was fortunate to have taken a 6 month sabbatical, with projects and visits in Northern Arizona, New Zealand, and Australia. You can read all the bits and reports and wander through about 2000 photos from my az2nzau site.

Projects on the MCLI web site might still be there, like the Ocotillo, the Maricopa Learning eXchange, and Feed2JS got me connected and even thought of as “expert” on the web.

And this exploded in 2002 with my forays into Blogging, RSS, and all that other Web 2.0 jazz since.

In April 2006, I joined the New Media Consortium (NMC) as Director, Technology Resources and Member Services and now I am elevated to be the Vice President Community & CTO (technically I am also the OTO- Only Technology Officer) with a fantastic, international group of colleagues. At the NMC I am spawning new web sites like mad, continue to research and share new technologies support our projects like the Horizon Report and Second Life. I’ve been invited to speak in Australia, China, and points in between. My current interests also include what my colleague Bryan Alexander I call Web 2.0 Storytelling (EDUCAUSE review article published in November 2008), manifesting itself in odd projects like 50 Web 2.0 Ways to Tell a Story, Feed2JS, and making small toys like 5 Card Stories.

I am attracted to disruptive technologies… Places to find my tracks include my cardly as well as: