From Javier to Norbert


It’s raining today in Arizona.

As “Bone Mama” Mary McCann used to say on KUKQ radio in Phoenix, we are having an outbreak of weather. Today’s outbreak is courtesy of Hurrican Norbert taking a wet trip up the west coast.

It reminded me of something.

Almost exactly 10 years ago, another hurricane named Javier made this trip. According to Wikipedia “Javier caused no direct fatalities, and the damage in Mexico and the United States was minimal.” but also “Grand Canyon, Arizona received 3.30 inches (84 mm) of rain, exactly one fifth of its yearly average.”

I can vouch for that.

In September 2004, my stepson travis and I headed out for a backpack trip down the Hermit Trail into the Grand Canyon. The day started as expected, with something that looked like this:

creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

I had done my research for planning the hike, but not checking the weather. In my zeal to pack light, I left the tent at home, taking only the rain fly.

The rain started as we slept that night next to the Colorado River, at the bottom of the canyon. It never really stopped, as I wrote back in this blog in 2004, Grand Canyon (Barely) Survivor. To show my early mindset of blogging, I actually apologize in the opening:

Not to clog this blog with too much non educational technology stories (but I am my own editor and publisher…), I am just back to work today after what was supposed to be a tranquil backpack into the Grand Canyon with my stepson that turned out to be a near death experience.

And like happened earlier this summer, I find myself thankful for having a 10+ year, somewhat imperfect but searchable set of life notes between my photos and blog.

I found my blog post simply by searching my blog for “Hermit Trail”. I found Norbert’s name by googling “Mexico Hurricane 2014″ and since that work, changing the search to “Mexico Hurricane 20o4″ got my Javier’s name. My flickr stream seems incomplete, I searched on “Hermit Trail” and got photos from a few trips (September 2004 was maybe 7 months after I started using it), I do not seem to have the photos from the trip there; the ones I do have have a date stamp of a month earlier (Did I do another trip before the backpack?? I seemed to remember taking pictures during the hike).

So the data sources are mixed, not the most well organized, but organized enough for me to connect the associative trails.

I like those kind of trails.

A small note on flickr I have been resorting to a URL hacking trip to replace yet another lost functionality. When you search on flickr or go into a set, the Old Flickr used to provide two icon sets of trails to explore the photos adjacent in the timeline; one was relative to the search or set, but it always provided a second set of trails in the timeline of the photo itself.

Now you just get the one relative to the search. Huh? Okay, I searched my photos for “Hermit Trail” and got four results.

When I click one of the results, the return URL looks like

and when I view the photo, I get at the bottom, the navigation to page through the search results, which is useful:

flickr search relative

But often when I find a photo, I am looking for other ones taken in the same time period, the same day, a few days earlier– I use the search to find a photo that I recall being near the event or memory I am searching for, but I like to then explore my own photo timeline relative to the search result.

Old flickr provided that, New flickr? Nah.

But I’m a dog with tricks. That stuff in the URL in/photolist-wr4D7-wr4sr-43XN-wr4xf provides a context used to define the navigation below the photo; simply hack that off the URL to go to the original photo page or

and then I get at the bottom to travel through my photo timeline relative to the image! Perfect.

flickr in time

This is a thing I use often, as my flickr photos really help me locate things that happened in the temporal vicinity of an image. So while flickr changes their functionality, with some knowledge and guesswork of reading URLs, I rise above being a platform pawn.

Maybe a knight.

So as this same kind of rain falls as it did 10 years ago, I can weave this all together from a pile of data scattered in various niches of the web.

As I sit dry, warm, drinking coffee, not shivering on the edge of hypothermia at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

The Guts of the New StoryBox are Set

creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

Having found the perfect container for my new PirateBox, I now have the desired wiring in place (thanks to my friend Ken in Colorado) to operate what I will put into play soon as a new iteration of the 2011 Storybox.

What you see above is a new power supply, a rechargable dual port USB power pack (Ablelink from Amazon). The container is about 4 inches deep, and most power packs are about that size, but because the USB port sticks out of the end, it would make it impossible to close the back of the box (well it could be done with some wedging diagonally).

This new one is 2.8 inches square, so it leaves more room for a USB cable to plug in the back. Typically it is connected via a standard to mini USB to the TP-LINK 3020 router (right) that runs the PirateBox- turning it one and off was always done by the oldest method- pulling or inserting the cord.

creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

The new part is the wiring in the middle. Ken cut open the cable, and wired into the connection a small switch and an LED light. We thought about mounting the switch to the side, but realized it would make removing the parts trickier (I will likely need to remove the USB on the router to transfer files). The battery and router are attached with velcro.

creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

Ken was clever with setting up the LED light. We thought of gluing it to the side of the router, but again, the removal would make that dicey. So he inserted it into a square piece of styrofoam, cut so it wedges itself in tight, and aims the light out the old camera’s aperture.

creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

So now, all I need to do is to flick the switch on, and it sends power from the battery to start up the PirateBox. It takes about a minute to start up; once that is done, I can pull up the slider switch on the old camera that sets it into bulb exposure mode. When I click the camera shutter, the aperture opens, and the LED light shines through.

creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

It’s neat, eh? Of course not critical, but I love the way the innards work now. Plus it will look more suspicious at airports.

So now the real work is to redesign the PirateBox web pages to fit the ideas I have for it as a StoryBox. I am hoping to skip trying to get PHP installed, I am curious if I can, but I get the idea that the tiny web server might end up trying to do too much, so I am looking to see how much I can do in HTML, JavaScript, Jquery, and maybe the built in python.

One thing I was intrigued by is running a wiki on the system – this would allow visitors to go beyond just uploading media, or looking at media, but to create content in the wiki out for the media. I found a really simple python wiki called MonkeyWiki and managed to install it. It offers a theming option that I will explore next.

I also want to redo the directory structure so I can again have nicely presented galleries of media. Last time, I did this through a process of offloading newly added content, processing the files (making thumbnails of images, converting any weird sound files to mp3) and creating some directory data in javascript form (JSON would be better, eh?). I’d like to see if I can learn some python to add more features, like a dynamic generated .pls file based on the uploaded audio files.

Also, I have an idea how to stage a mini database of prompt questions for uploading, some questions that will help people know what kind of media might be appropriate to put “in the box”.

The insides of the enclosure are ready, now I just need to shape the inside of the digital content. Looking forward to taking this on the road on my New Zealand trip later this month… a staging for something even bigger (shhhhhhhh).

Beyond Lies The Web

My mind works by strange associations, free formed links, connecting, unconnecting, often ending up in the neural equivalent of “page not found”. So on reading this tweet in the Connected Courses twitter flow:

the phrase “Beyond the LMS” led me to thinking of the fantasmic novel by Philip K Dick (openly available on the web) and had me spending 20 minutes remixing a cover of the book:


(with apologies to PKD fans, do you know what they call themselves?)

Because beyond the LMS, beyond all this stuff… is the open, free linking web, always has been.

Just watch out for those wubs, willya?

Driving Around Almost Four Corners

creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

My return home Friday was a 10 day, 1500 mile loop originally planned to cross through all of the Four Corners States. Sorry Utah, I ended up cutting you out, but I still love your sandstone canyon lands.

This was somewhat of a dress rehearsal for a similar length drive I will take in mid October to get to Kamloops, BC for a start of a 4 month fellowship at Thompson Rivers University. This trip gave me chance to see how it feels behind the wheel for so long (the drive home is usually a long marathon, 520 miles stretched over 13 hours), but also to see how things worked packing gear without the camper shell on my truck.

Red Dog wants to roll open, as a big dog should. No boxes on his back.
Continue reading →

Don’t Blog Like My Brother

Should teaching/learning be this fun? Heck yeah. Yesterday, my blog brothers Jim “Click” Groom and Howard “Embed” Rheingold launched the first live session for Connected Courses and open connected course about teaching open connected courses (see recursion).

The first two week segment we, the Connected Brothers, are running is the “Pre-course” meant to onboard people, to have them set up their blog space and connect it to the course hub, but mainly to have them just start connecting.

And they have- the twitter channel is lively, and we have as of right now, 104 blogs connected in. I have to say, this round of getting the blog signup pumped into Feed WordPress is getting a much higher success rate than my earlier efforts. It still takes some manual banging on the pipes, but its going smoothly. Of course all the known kids are snortling about the way grandpa syndicates, but hey, we go it flowing.

We discussed in the video, but is worth repeating- the WordPress / FeedWordPress Syndication hub approach we are use in ds106 and on Connected Courses and I have been building in other places is just one means to create a connected courses structure. Other ways this has been done:

  • The original Canadian MOOC style (cMOOC) of CCK08 onward using Stephen Downse’s gRSSHopper
  • The far reaching success of Jonathan Worth’s PicBod and Phonar courses has really simple interaction via WordPress blogs and using the comments as the communication channel (later using a Google+ community)
  • Lisa M Lane has used almost every platform for the Program For Online Teaching course including WordPress, Google Sites, and Google+ (I think, correct me Lisa?)
  • FemTechNet is truly a network across multiple platforms, from blog sites to Google+ to Facebook groups

It’s not the platform that matters, it’s the connected design.

Our theme of Blog Talk, we played with a bit of shtick as a knock off of NPR’s show Car Talk:


And my brothers played it up well, mostly staying in character. While it looked like we were having fun, there is something important about the “liveness” of an event like that, what Jim sometimes called “eventness” that you lose when your online course is based on prepared videos. It does not truly replace the live nature of an engaged class discussion, you do not have all of the body language clues, but you can create some of that energy through a tool like Google Hangouts and a twitter back channel.

We come back on September 12 at 2pm Pacific, and will talk more about blogging, domains, and if anyone want to drive their blog in the garage, we will give it the 10 point inspection (free!).

As included in the end of the show, we give staff credits (again, imitation=highest form of flattery, ok NPR?)

  • Graphic Critic- Phyllis Steen
  • Personality Coach – Luke Warm
  • Printing – Dot Matrix
  • Strategic Planning – Kaye Sera
  • Howard’s Wardrobe – Lotty Rheinstone
  • Code Genius – Gene Hackman
  • Translation Services – Somtin Wong

And do not forget- don’t blog like my brother!

See youse next week,


A Trip Through Sametown

I made this video today while driving through Monstrose CO using the new Hyperlapse app (music added in Youtube)- it is a sped up and somewhat smooth, frenetic trip through that kind of traffic light choked franchise encased commercial strip that exist not only across the US, but elsewhere in the world. This is Main Street.

In old magazine ads, they had example addresses like “Anytown, USA”- but this modern version I think of more as “Sametown”. Arbys. Speedy Muffler. Safeway. Walmart. Walgreens. WalAll. McDs. WenDs. Johhny Ds. ThriftDs. Shoe’s Plus. Appliances Plus. Batteries Plus. Cost Plus. Plus Plus.

Even with local stores (my favorite so far is “Bubba’s Taxes” in Farmington, NM- wouldn’t you like a guy -heck or gal– named Bubba going up against the IRS for you?), the sheer monotony of these places, the numbing crawl from red light to red light, is mind boggling- is this really what we, as a culture, have chosen? Did we vote for this?

The video is rather amazing considering I just held the iphone wedged against the side of the steering wheel for about 4 minutes, until my hand got sore. I like that it saved to my library, because I want more than 15 seconds instagram will give me.

It’s a rather stunning, and simple app.

The Genius of Being a “Marketing Specialist”

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC ) flickr photo shared by publicenergy

They will let anyone on the internet.

From the idiot email box today, here we go again… the tell tale subject line “I would like to collaborate with your site” — here is how you collaborate on someone else’s blog:

  • You leave a human, genuine constructive comment.
  • You write a post on your own blog and link to mine.
  • You actually (****tard) read what is on someone’s blog, like the part of mine that says

    Send those e-cards and e-letters to cogdogblog at gmail dot com except requests for request to post links, guest blogs articles, or product reviews. I don’t do that stuff. If you bug me, you get the treatment.

Alas, this is too much for a MARKETING SPECIALIST to understand. Here we go, let’s see what the GENIUS Offers

Dear Sir/Madam,

I can feel the caress of your individualized attention. Or maybe you think I am gender challenged? You pretty much lost me right there, doofus.

How are you? I hope you don’t mind that I contact you today. I am emailing to ask if you would be interested in accepting articles for your site.

How am I? F****ing annoyed at crap people like you waste TCP/IP packets on. I am responding to you, again to say DID YOU EVEN LOOK AT MY SITE? HOW MUCH MORE BLATANT DOES THIS NEED TO BE– oh ye of Marketing Expertise?

roach turds

I have a campaign I am currently running for which I feel that your website would be a great fit. My client is a respected provider of online casino. I am looking to provide you with an informative, entertaining, and well worded article which contains only one text link to the page of my client and does not look like advertising.

Ahhh, you have carefully done your research to know my blog’s topic include casinos. I also apparently write about Michael Kors handbags, nike shoes, growth hormones, Kansas City Pawn shops, How to Get10,000 Instagram Followers…

No, Screw you, and screw your client, you scum sucking roach.

We are keen to establish a mutually beneficial relationship with you. Could you please let me know if you would be interested?

I am keen to establish a mutually beneficial relationship between you and an intestinal parasite. Sir/Madam, can you measure my interest now? Can you? Do you feel what I’m sayin’?

I look forward to hearing back from you.

Please hold your breath while you wait. In fact, why not jump into a Port-o-Potty and keep your head submerged while I compose my reply. It will take me a while to spell check my message.

Kind Regards,

Juliette Duprès
Marketing Specialist – Omnibuzzmedia
[email protected]

I wish you continued success Juliette in your Marketing Expertise and hopefully bankruptcy for Omnibuzzmedia which I understand has the “brightest consultants in the field”. OMG, I love this line on your slick web site (omg I smell drupal there) — “Sharing is Caring”

Yup, you used my email without regard to me, so here is yours published on my blog, the only link you will get from me. I hope your email is added to some poop licking email spammer list. I wonder if you spam yourself?

And here you go, you are top of the dung heap of The CogDog Treatment.

Have a crappy day.

On The Blanket at Cascade Lake


Look at those kids (sometime in the late 1940s (?)), are they thinking about one day having kids? of seeing their kids have kids? of not being around?

Of course not, that’s not what you do on a blanket at Cascade Lake.

Today, a tough double calendar reminder

mom and dad calendar

Three years ago, my mom fell to her floor, her heart apparently stopped, 2 months before I planned to drive up to her home for a visit. That was also 10 years to the day my Dad’s cancer finally took him in a hospice.

My parents did not have prolonged exits; Dad’s cancer came in March and he was gone in August, though I should say that any dance with cancer is prolonged. But there was no huddling around their deathbeds, seeing the serenity fall on them, or that movie like last gasp of clarity.

For my Dad, I had visited last 3 weeks before he died, sat together in their living room, troubled by his fading awareness, but still present like I always knew him.

For my Mom, 3 years ago, I called her in the morning on the phone, leaving on my way to Montreal, and we joked and teased and laughed like always. It was just another day.

Fifteen hours later that day was gone. Forever.

So I found the photo of them together, scanned from a scrapbook Mom made. She labeled it “Lake Cascade”, and I got a bit curious about where that was– on internet searches I only came up with ones in Idaho and North Carolina, places I knew they would not have gone together before they got married.

So on a whim, I switched the search to Cascade Lake, and found a 1999 vintage web page- Where Memories Are Made

cascade lake

This lake is in Hampstead, Maryland, not far from where my sister lives now. Back in the 1940s, this would have been a long journey to the country from urban Baltimore. There is nothing about it’s history on the About Page. According to a Maryland History page, it was certainly man made.

There are still information gaps on the internet.

I do not know the history of Cascade Lake.

But I know my parents went there on a date before they were my parents. They were there with Doris and Howie Berger, Herbie Moses, Yale Aarons (Mom’s captions in her scrapbook).

And so today, I do not need a history, I can make up my own story of a magical day on Lake Cascade. Where memories were made.

Don’t Be a Platform Pawn

creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

Long long ago, in a web far far away, everything was like neat little home made bungalows stretched out on the open plain, under a giant expansive sky, where we wandered freely, exploring. Now we crowd among densely ad covered walkways of a shiny giant mall, never seeing the sky, nor the real earth, at whim to the places built for us.

A new web service offers us something for free, a feature we love. We feel micro-content. Same web service takes it away later, or just shutters up its shop, we are irate.

You may be a pawn, but you do not have to act like one.

Via @savasavasava someone I “know” on twitter (and have met in 3D landia), I come across someone I do not know, or have never read. In From the Porch to the Street Frank Chimero, makes a lovely metaphor describing how twitter, a mall owner, has changed the design of the mall to make you walk into stores you do not like being in.

We concede that there is some value to Twitter, but the social musing we did early on no longer fits. My feed (full of people I admire) is mostly just a loud, stupid, sad place. Basically: a mirror to the world we made that I don’t want to look into. The common way to refute my complaint is to say that I’m following the wrong people. I think I’m following the right people, I’m just seeing the worst side of them while they’re stuck in an inhospitable environment. It’s exasperating to be stuck in a stream.

Here’s the frustration: if you’ve been on Twitter a while, it’s changed out from under you. Christopher Alexander made a great diagram, a spectrum of privacy: street to sidewalk to porch to living room to bedroom. I think for many of us Twitter started as the porch—our space, our friends, with the occassional neighborhood passer-by. As the service grew and we gained followers, we slid across the spectrum of privacy into the street.

I get a sense of that, twitter is a different place when it was a shiny new, weird, wondrous, un-monetizable thing in 2007. Frank is saying that he, and others, are more modulated now, off the porch. And I agree with all he says, it just inspired me to jump to the pawn image.

But he does not speak for my experience, which is the experience I happen to know the best. Why am I still on the porch? I don’t spend much time in the street- I almost never look at twitter via which is the food court of the mall.

I borrow a strategy I lifted from Alec Couros in 2009- it made me say WTF at first when he talked about following 15,000 people. But ti does not mean you read anything.

It’s all filters baby.

My twitter porch is Tweetdeck. Way on the left, is the street. I almost never look at it. Only when mildly curious/bored. I live in a column that’s a list- I call it something goofy like “friendz” but generally it’s people whom, after some watching, I find I’d rather hear what they have to say more often. I just checked, it’s a tad over 100 peeps. I prune and add to it from time to time.

But that’s my porch, with a few porch columns of mentions (cause if you tweet me I will most likely tweet back, I’m a boomeranger), and 2-3 of hash tags I am currently interested.

I won’t be a pawn to the platform they want us to have via the web interface.

When I say “pawn” it means when you limit what you can do with a web tool to what it provides on the surface. Sometimes it’s browser add ons. Take YouTube.

You’ve heard of them? They occupy a weird large space- I still am amazed that no one caught on to YouTube’s own sanctioning of remix of their videos (without providing attribution, but hey, they own the mall). YouTube downloads videos form YouTube, can you?

Easily. Try

Or those stupid ketchup ads when I want to see a video clip of a movie (that i plan to download, ahoy!). Boom, gone with Ad Block.

Or Flickr. Oh, yes, they are going down again, and Yahoo ruined the mall. Yeah, I’ve heard it. I use all kinds of end arounds that work for me. An Aperture uploader that allows me to keep all my photo data on my computer first. I can use their API to make new sites that do what I want to do with photos, not what they want. They do a lousy job of helping attribute creative commons photos? Big deal, I make it work for me.

“But I am not a coder”. Pfffft.

These examples may not mean much to you. That’s not the point.

It’s the attitude.

If a platform does not do what you want, what is your course of action? Gripe on twitter? give up?

Not me, I start seeking end arounds.

And maybe give up after that.

Maybe that was at the core of my ejection of the ultimate shopping mall experience. It is so fiendishly designed, there are barely any end arounds. Not my kind of place.

I am not a pawn of the mall.

Because this is still my kind of internet.

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by tommaync

There’s seats for you on the porch.

Looking for a StoryBox Light Hack

I’m pretty excited to work out my newest Storybox, a PirateBox device hidden inside an old Brownie camera

I’ve seen some hacks on the PirateBox forums where people have set up enclosures with lights the activate when the thing is on. I was looking yesterday at the shutter mechanism in the front of the camera, and was wondering if there was someway to have the PirateBox trigger the shutter


The shutter on the side, simply opens the hole to the inside of the camera for a short time, and closes. But I noticed, if you pull up the lever on the top, it becomes a “bulb” exposure, meaning the aperture stays open when the shutter is clicked. So if I could rig a light source on the inside of the box, I could open the shutter


A dream would be to have the light somehow triggered by activity on the PirateBox (the MR-3020 router does have lights that flash, maybe I could just position those behind the hole.

Anyhow, I am not much of an electronic hacker, so am open to suggestions. I am hoping for help from my friend Ken in Paonia I will visit. When I was there in 2011 carting my first PirateBox, he had read about it on my blog, and had built one by the time I got there.

He did have the coolest business card I’ve ever seen, it plugs into your USB!

creative commons licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog