Life is a Mystery

17 April 2011 . Comments Off on Tweets of the Week

Tweets of the Week

  • Attending the Parents United Leadership Summit to consider the message we want to send about public education in MN. #puls11 #fb 2011-04-11
  • Cassellius: 835k out of about 1m MN kids in public schools. #puls11 2011-04-11
  • Cassellius: 34% cut to MDE proposed by the House. We don't want to have the sign become the Federal Department of Education. #puls11 #fb 2011-04-11
  • Cassellius: does not know how many of the legislators have kids in public schools. Can we put that picture together for her? #puls11 #fb 2011-04-11
  • Hutchinson: 69% of jobs will require college education, only 50% go to college, only 27% earn a post-secondary degree. #puls11 #fb 2011-04-11
  • Hutchinson: Only 12% of African Americans, 9% Asians, 8% Hispanics. Only 2% black boys! Unsustainable hit to the economy. #puls11 #fb 2011-04-11
  • Hutchinson: Effective teaching matters more than anything else. Kid in 50th percentile hits 90th w 3 effective teachers in a row. #puls11 2011-04-11
  • Hutchinson: Kid in 50th percentile only hits 37th with 3 ineffective teachers in a row. Link tenure to effectiveness. #puls11 2011-04-11
  • Hutchinson: we will replace half of MN teachers by the end of the decade, let's make sure we replace them with effective teachers! #puls11 2011-04-11
  • Hutchinson: Bush Foundation trying to address teacher effectiveness with NExT Teacher Initiative #puls11 #fb 2011-04-11
  • Parents United #puls11 summit continues with Karen Balmer from MN Bd of Teaching #fb 2011-04-11
  • Balmer discussing article on teacher licensing violations #puls11 2011-04-11
  • Balmer: 32 institutions prepare teachers in 650 programs with standards in 40+ fields in MN #puls11 2011-04-11
  • Balmer: tech related licensure difficult because the target moves faster than the language can work through the process of approval #puls11 2011-04-11
  • Balmer: considering new autism spectrum disorders license due to explosion of kids w ASD in schools #puls11 2011-04-11
  • Balmer: redesigning program approval and teacher performance assessment, aiming at effectiveness #puls11 2011-04-11
  • Balmer: on acronym roll, TPA supported by AACTE, CCSSO, and PACT nationally as well as MACTE and MDR in MN. 20 states in TPAC. #puls11 2011-04-11
  • Balmer: MN and WA leading the pack with Stanford team on teacher performance assessment #puls11 #fb 2011-04-11
  • Balmer: for more #puls11 #fb 2011-04-11
  • Mary Cathryn Ricker asks us to think about the things we valued about the best teachers we have encountered. #puls11 #fb 2011-04-11
  • Ricker: those values should be at the heart of teacher evaluation. #puls11 #fb 2011-04-11
  • @nic221 why iOS apps look better? Apple's iOS SDK takes care of the details "for free"… not true on Android. in reply to nic221 2011-04-11
  • Ricker: tenure should never be an accident. (I wonder, should tenure be at all?) #puls11 2011-04-11
  • Ricker notes the challenge of recognizing great teachers without removing them from the classroom. #puls11 #fb 2011-04-11
  • Ricker: formal evaluation can't compare to the impact of real parent interaction. Critical to be engaged with parents. #puls11 #fb 2011-04-11
  • Ricker a very smooth and powerful presenter, we will see more of her. #puls11 #fb 2011-04-11
  • Ricker refuses to share the percentage of teachers tenured in St Paul. Why? Are the numbers so high as to prove tenure suspect? #puls11 #fb 2011-04-11
  • @CLIRDLF gets Sloan Foundation support to hone data curation skills in libs. "…maintaining skills in data curation must become central…" 2011-04-11
  • The current MN ed bill takes from special ed and integration to fund the rest. It will need public support for a veto. #puls11 2011-04-11
  • In MN Senate conf room with Parents United to talk with legislative leadership about ed bills. #puls11 2011-04-11
  • Rep. Garofalo lies to Parents United, calls a MN House bill that cuts $22m from funding one that increases funding $480m. Shame! #puls11 #fb 2011-04-11
  • no way, a floorplan from pictures… …there are some very creative people out there in iOS land 2011-04-13
  • Very bummed out I won't be seeing as much of Northfield as I'd hoped! 2011-04-14
  • I am amazed and thankful for the blessings the world sends my way. Today Nate told me what he is feeling, how lucky I am for that! 2011-04-16
  • ePub rules! RT @lorcanD: Double column PDFs …. I hate 'em. Don't want to print this. 2011-04-16

15 April 2011 . Comments Off on Do librarians sound like Ted Nelson?

Do librarians sound like Ted Nelson?

Oh, you don’t know who Ted Nelson is? He is the inventor of hypertext. You thought that was Tim Berners-Lee? Nope, Tim invented the World Wide Web. Ted began working on what would become project Xanadu in 1960, the 1.0 version of Xanadu was shipped in 2007. Along the way Ted defined hypertext, servers sharing content with one another, visible links, even search engines, concepts that would become familiar to us all. Why do we all use the World Wide Web instead of Xanadu?

Tim began work on the World Wide Web in 1989, got it working in 1990, and shared it with the world in 1991. By 1993 Tim’s employer, CERN in Switzerland, announced that the World Wide Web software would be free and open to anyone. By 2007 the World Wide Web was truly a world wide web.

WWW was incredibly simple compared to Xanadu. Xanadu defined 17 essential rules originally, including securely identified servers (and users), explicit permission to link to documents, royalty mechanisms that could be granular to the sentence, redundant storage, and much more. WWW just defined three technologies: the URL (which is now the URI) to identify resources, HTML to mark up pages, and HTTP to transfer content from one computer to another. Xanadu took 47 years to gestate and emerged as a commercial product. WWW took four years to emerge as an open standard for anyone to implement. Although Xanadu began long before WWW, WWW extracted the barest essentials from Ted’s ideas and was released long before Xanadu.

When the web first emerged people hailed it as the embodiment of Ted Nelson’s dream, but I remember thinking that Ted Nelson would hate the World Wide Web. It was brain-dead compared to Xanadu. It had none of the intelligence or authority Ted had built into his vision. The web was anarchy. Indeed, today I read an article where Ted pretty much calls the web “totally archaic” and “completely wrong.”

And yet, here we are in a world where millions know and depend on the web and hardly anyone pines for the glories of Xanadu. Those who know the wonders of Ted’s vision nod sagely at the advertising and spam issues the web faces, at the demise of paid journalism, and note that Xanadu would be much better solution, without many of the downsides we now face. But they miss the fact that simplicity, even when flawed, often triumphs. Right and wrong depend on a frame of reference. From some abstract frame of ideals, perhaps Ted is right and Tim is wrong. But from the very concrete frame of what gets used in the world today, it is pretty clear that Tim was right: the world needed a simple way to share resources stored on computers openly and easily.

Which brings me to librarians. We, like Ted, are experts of a domain. We have been working to build collections and facilitate searching long before either of those things were done on computers. Even the current generation of librarians can recall the world before Google and we know in our bones that there is a “better way” to search for information than the way being pursued all around us. We know that libraries can be the “gateway” to a better search experience and the worry that too many people are approaching information with embarrassingly blunt instruments instead of our refined methods. How awful it is to see the world trend the wrong way.

Do me a favor: if you are a librarian, read this article about Ted Nelson’s view of the web. Try to understand what he is saying. Then reflect on our own rhetoric about the information habits of the people we serve. Realize that often we sound as out of touch as Ted sounds about the web. Of course the world is trending the wrong way from our expert frame of reference, but our frame may also be trapping us, and if we want to be relevant to the next generation of seekers, we need to wrench ourselves into the present, look with clear eyes at the landscape, and get about the business of being of service! Would you rather be part of Xanadu or the World Wide Web?


14 April 2011 . Comments Off on Remembering: The Last Newspaper

Remembering: The Last Newspaper

A year ago on April 13 I wrote:

It is a very rainy Tuesday in Vienna and Alex and I have been here for almost a week. Some days, or really, more accurately, nights, have been horrible. Other hours have passed in quiet peacefulness and rest.

The couple nights before Sunday were the worst this week. Oma was awake half the night and very demanding. “Eric!” I would here her cry out at midnight or 1am or 2am. I’d trundle down in my pajamas to find her shouting for water or comfort. I know, I’m here to help and Oma has always been awake nights, but you might be surprised at how quickly such demands get old. It would be even worse for Veronica, who works all day with Oma only to hear the same cry at night. Veronica told me that on these nights she didn’t get to bed until three or four in the morning.

Sunday was a bit of a turning point in the week. Oma had many visitors, virtually all arriving at the same time, late that morning.


Heinz and Helga arrived first, Helga bearing a pot of soup for us. Then Tante Trude (Mariella’s mom) dropped in with her daughter Crystal. Finally the incredibly talkative Sigrun joined us. It was an Oma party, everyone in Oma’s room! Oma had such a nice smile on her face, and spoke so nicely with her friends, they all said she was doing so much better than the week before, that she must get up next, move about a bit. Oma agreed. Of course, soon after they left, Oma was back asleep.


Since then, though, the days and nights have been more peaceful. Today, at breakfast, Oma even read the paper and asked for a pen so she could try the word-game a bit. I think this is a first since she left the house back in February. Alex has a few pictures of the past few days at Flicker, he sent the URL so you can take a look. He will keep adding to that site.

Still, all is not well. Oma’s muscles cramp up something fierce since she has been in bed without physical therapy or massage for weeks. This has to be fixed. Heinz and I are trying to get physical therapy started and a wheelchair in the house so that we can encourage Oma to get moving. I move and massage her feet and legs, exercises I have learned with Alex, but I am sure she needs more. Day by day.

Anna is now back. A big smile spread on Oma’s face when she saw her. On we go!

Oma and Anna

Only after Anna returned did it become clear what a disaster Veronica had been for Oma. She had a large bedsore on her bottom from not being turned enough, and her muscle cramps had become much worse. I had been cooking for Oma since my return, so at least she had been eating better.

I still think of this day often, when Oma held her newspaper and filled out a few words of the crossword puzzle. Oma was trying life back on this day. It was bright shiny spring and I imagined that if we could find the right therapists and get Oma out of bed, she would land back on her feet. This was a great day.


11 April 2011 . Comments Off on Remembering: Return

Remembering: Return

Ipad Alex joined me on my return to Vienna a year ago today. We were coming back to care for Oma, sick at home, so Dagmar could return to the US to attend to matters at home for a while. Our flight included a very long layover in Amsterdam, which gave me an opportunity to share our brand new iPad with the crew at the local Mac store. A few hours walking and boating around Amsterdam and we were back en route to Austria.

Dagmar had to leave the day before we were arriving, but we knew Oma, who was still bedridden, would be home. She was being cared for by Veronica for another week before Anna also returned. We found a chocolate bunny sitting on the shelf by Oma’s bed and fed her a bit of it. It was springtime, Eastertime, in Vienna, my favorite time to visit. On April 8 I wrote:

Alex and I arrived safely in Vienna last night. Oma was waiting up for us and very happy to see us arrive. She smiled and even laughed at part of our story.

Oma has had pneumonia these past few days, but we are seeing little evidence of this, her kidneys were also in a bit of trouble, but no complaints from her about this. She did, however, complain to me that she didn’t like anything Veronica was making her to eat, so I promised schnitzel for today.


After a walk around Cobenzl in the fabulous Vienna spring weather, Alex and I l got down to the business of cooking. Alex worked on cucumbers while I cooked the schnitzel. I put the whole tray in front of Oma and told her it was for her. Since I am used to cooking for a hungry family of four, that was quite a bit of schnitzel. “Um Gott es willen,” said Oma! When I returned with her real portion nicely cut into pieces she got an angry look on her face, “I hate it all cut up,” she said. Veronica warned me that she could not cut her own food, so I gave Oma an extra piece uncut, but left the cut-up portion there. Of course, she cut and ate the whole uncut piece just fine, and left the pre-cut stuff behind. Go Oma!

All in all she seems much better than she was two weeks ago, more engaged than she was two weeks ago. Alex and I will be here for a month.

I invited family to write to Oma at an email address I set up… “I’m sitting here with Oma, who does not really approve of computers. They take too much time away from life together, as she sees it. But, I have thought of something that Oma may approve of: an email address for Oma!” I found the iPad was a wonderful way to sit with Oma and still have my books to read or my email at hand. It was out-of-the-way enough that it didn’t annoy her, tapping on the screen to type was virtually silent. Alex created a Flickr photo set and started sharing pictures with the family.

It became clear that Oma and Veronica were not a good match. Veronica insisted on her way of doing things, and that way often didn’t sit well with Oma. Veronica would also back off when Oma complained, leaving her not well positioned or settled. Oma would cry out at all hours of the night for Veronica or me, which was wearing me down. Alex and I tried to spend some time away from the house every day just to get away from the tension.

10 April 2011 . Comments Off on Tweets of the Week

Tweets of the Week

3 April 2011 . Comments Off on Tweets of the Week

Tweets of the Week

Eric Celeste / Saint Paul, Minnesota / 651.323.2009 /