Life is a Mystery

28 January 2009 . Comments Off on FFR: The Adventures of Tintin

FFR: The Adventures of Tintin

Well, this is certainly quite the creative team! Steven Spielberg directing and Peter Jackson producing (isn’t there something backwards about that?) make this a film to look forward to.


Holy cow, Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot), Daniel Craig (007), and Andy Serkis (Golum) too.

27 January 2009 . Comments Off on FFR: People at Pipl

FFR: People at Pipl

Pipl may be a useful tool for finding old friends.

27 January 2009 . Comments Off on Addressing the muslim world

Addressing the muslim world

President Obama gave an interview to Al-Arabiya that frames the administration to come and fulfills some of the hopes of the campaign. We now have a president who can talk to the muslim world in a way they might, just might, be able to hear. I am so impressed, so proud, so hopeful! What a nice feeling.

Don’t miss part two, it has some of the most important statements.

24 January 2009 . Comments Off on Inauguration


Wow. That was something. Mary, Alex, Nathaniel and I all went to Washington to be part of the inaugural of Barack Obama. We met up with Christopher and his kids there. It was a wonderful way to spend the week. I was moved in all sorts of ways while experiencing the week, but find myself oddly mute now. After struggling with this a bit, I’ve decided I’ll just get some of our pictures up and maybe the rest of my thoughts and feelings will seep out over the coming weeks.

Alex has no such writer’s block! For a nice blow by blow summary of our trip, check out his blog entry.

18 January 2009 . Comments Off on This Land is Your Land

This Land is Your Land

My favorite moment in today’s We Are One inaugural celebration event was when Pete Seeger came on stage to sing Woodie Guthrie’s anthem: This Land is Your Land. It is always interesting to see what verses people sing of this song, which has so many varients. I thought Pete would sing some of the tougher verses, and he didn’t disappoint. Oh what a country we’d have if this was our national anthem!


Today he sang (MP3 version):

As I went walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

I roamed and I rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
While all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me.

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

In the squares of the city, by the shadow of a steeple;
By the relief office, I saw my people.
As they stood hungry, I stood whistlin’,
This land made for you and me.

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me;
A great big sign there said “private property;”
But on the other side it didn’t say nothing;
That side was made for you and me.

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.

Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking that freedom highway;
Nobody living can make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.


Pete was joined onstage by his grandson Tao, Bruce Springsteen, and a wonderful choir. It was a magical moment. All I could think was that here was an 89 year old man who stood on these same steps of the Lincoln Memorial with Dr. King in 1963, now gazing out at the children and grandchildren of those marchers as he helps to celebrate electing one of them president of the United States. Who would have predicted that?

Maybe this land is our land after all.

18 January 2009 . Comments Off on Obamarama


We are packed and ready to go. At 4:30 in the morning we will head to the airport, ready for whatever Washington has in store for us. I happened to be in DC in late October last year and realized, as I walked between the Washington and Lincoln memorials that I really wanted to be back there on January 20th with Mary and the boys. Marnie, a longtime family friend, opened her house to us when we called in November and the plan was set.

As the actual trip has come closer, I’ve become much more nervous about it. Reports are that DC will be pretty overwhelmed. I think it really hit me when the Metro started to say they won’t be able to carry the load. Yikes! Still, we were locked in so we kept moving ahead. Tomorrow we’ll see just how hard Barrack will rock the town.

This is such an important event. I am so grateful to be able to share my nation’s capitol with my children on a day we can be so proud of our accomplishment. We have so much more to do, may this week launch us into that future with hearts full of joy.

If you want to follow along on our journey, I’ll try to tweet regularly. Check out We may even get a few pictures up there!


16 January 2009 . Comments Off on Coraline


OK, maybe I’ll have to read Neil Gaiman’s book Coraline. The website for the movie is definitely worth checking out!


16 January 2009 . Comments Off on FFR: Scrapblog

FFR: Scrapblog

Scrapblog might be fun, especially for kids.

16 January 2009 . Comments Off on Visualizing large and small

Visualizing large and small

I have no idea why I maintain an interest in visualizing data, even though there is so little of that task in my daily work. But still, there it is. Today I ran across a wonderful free tool that demonstrates a number of techniques for visualizing large tree structures. Think about your documents folder, for example. This free demo lets you explore your files in a number of illuminating ways.


Meanwhile yesterday, Nathaniel revealed his inner librarian by discovering a great graphing tool for kids while working on a homework project for math. I’d shown him how to use Numbers and Google Docs for graphing, but he wanted something easier to handle. On his own he discovered this nifty Create-A-Graph tool from the NCES. It handles small data sets really well and offers a boatload of export options so you can use the results just about anywhere.


Of course the real trick in any visualization is getting the data! That’s where Chris Jordan’s work becomes interesting. Seeing invisible data.

15 January 2009 . Comments Off on Paint MIT TEAL


The Technology Enhanced Active Learning (TEAL) initiative was underway before I left MIT. Today it got some love from the NYT in an article about the demise of large lectures.

Here’s what it was like:

Squeezed into the rows of hard, folding wooden seats, as many as 300 freshmen anxiously took notes while the professor covered multiple blackboards with mathematical formulas and explained the principles of Newtonian mechanics and electromagnetism.

John Belcher, a space physicist who arrived at M.I.T. 38 years ago and was instrumental in introducing the new teaching method nine years ago, was considered an outstanding lecturer. He won M.I.T.’s top teaching award and rave reviews from students. And yet, as each semester progressed, attendance in his introductory physics courses fell to 50 percent, as it did, he said, for nearly all of his colleagues.

And now:

The physics department has replaced the traditional large introductory lecture with smaller classes that emphasize hands-on, interactive, collaborative learning. Last fall, after years of experimentation and debate and resistance from students, who initially petitioned against it, the department made the change permanent. Already, attendance is up and the failure rate has dropped by more than 50 percent.

Very telling are some of the comments on Slashdot:

Personally I don’t think this is the best approach, but it certainly isn’t forgiving of a student’s absence from class.

As a side note, when I was a freshman, many of my classmates did not find the TEAL lectures to be terribly effective in teaching the material. Frequently they would go back into the video archive after class and watch recordings of the “traditional” lectures from years past to actually learn what was being taught. They just went to the TEAL lectures because they didn’t want to loose their participation credit.

MIT OpenCourseWare to the rescue! Put the old lectures online, take advantage of proximate atoms off line.

Eric Celeste / Saint Paul, Minnesota / 651.323.2009 /