Category Archives: Featured

Some of my favorite posts from both work and life categories.

ITANA.org – bringing the catch home

 

Image courtesy of the Nova Scotia Museum

Image courtesy of the Nova Scotia Museum

I’ve been pondering, wondering and worrying about how to bring value out of ITANA.org to the world at large.  I struck upon a metaphor over dinner with a friend at EDUCAUSE recently that brought my vision and the issues I’m pondering into sharp light for me at least.

 

I watched Captains Courageous, a wonderful 1937 film with Spencer Tracy, recently.  This is a story about a spoiled boy who ends up on a fishing Schooner.  The schooner would launch dories with fishermen aboard them.  The dories would bring there catch back to the schooner where the fish would be processed and packed.  The schooner would then bring the catch back to the mainland and to the public.

ITANA.org spins up sub-groups that work on a topic.  These are the dories if you will.  ITANA.org and its sponsors, EDUCAUSE and Internet2, act like the schooners and the delivery systems on the mainland. 

If I take this as the operating principle for ITANA.org, then a variety of questions pop into my head:

  • How do I make sure those sub-groups have the resources needed to bring back a meaningful deliverable? 
  • Who should be, as it were, on the dory doing the fishing? (It’s my metaphor and I’m sticking with it to the end – Jim) 
  • How do I make sure that the delivery from the sub-group to ITANA.org is a smooth as possible and as efficient as possible? 
  • How do I make sure that the sub-groups are working in fertile fishing grounds?
  • How do I make sure that what we are delivering is what the mainland wants?

These are the things that I’m wrestling with as I get ITANA.org up and running.

I see a lot of interest and potential in the bright minds that participate in ITANA.org.  We have great conversations.  We generate interesting thoughts an comments.  Those thoughts and comments get lost in the minutes from the phone calls or the hallway chats or the blog posts and notes from meetings.  How do I turn those things into more meaningful deliverables?

Some thoughts that I’ve had on this topic:

  • Each sub-team should have one person dedicated to gathering up content.  They should pull responses out of the minutes and into a wiki page or section.  They should glean the good stuff from the email chatter and add it to the wiki.  They would be responsible for rolling-up all the various bits and pieces that go by into a single reference point.
  • Each sub-team should have a set of deliverables as part of its charter.  For example, the Data Management sub-team agreed to deliver a survey and the survey results.
  • Each sub-team should produce some artifact(s) that can be shared with the world at large (e.g. a paper, or video or blog post) that others can consume on their own time.
  • I/we should have a standard way of “publishing” these deliverables and a standard set of ways of getting the news out that they have been published.
  • We should also be creative in our thoughts about how we engage beyond the core of ITANA.org.  Where does Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, the EDUCAUSE blogs and wikis, podcasts, screencasts, vodcasts, etc. fit into the mix?

That’s what I’ve been pondering.  Anyone have input?  I’d love to hear it.

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Brick Diagrams and related planning tools

 

Brick Diagram

Brick Diagram

Brick diagrams are a strategic planning tool that I mentioned in passing in my ITANA talk at EDUCAUSE.  Since then, I’ve had several people ask for more information.  So here it is… more information.

 

Brick Diagrams are used by NIH in their Enterprise Architecture planning process.  You can see the NIH brick diagrams and their taxonomy for the brick diagrams on the NIH EA Site.

Other institutions use similar planning tools.  Read on to see links to other places that use something similar and to download slides for a talk about Brick Diagrams that I gave to our Management Team.

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Riding East with Cranes

from Flickr: KeithCarver

from Flickr: KeithCarver

I was riding on a late Summer evening in September and this is a meditation upon a few minutes in that ride.

If you are not familiar with the hills and valleys of Southwestern Wisconsin, let me describe them.  These are old mountains, the Driftless, worn down over the aeons by rain and snow. These lands have the soft folds and rolling landscape of a glacial moraine.  They are soft and round.  They are not miles broad like the Williamette Valley in Oregon nor are they ringed with rocky peaks like the Snake River Valley in Idaho.  They are gentle valleys with corn, soybean and dairy cows in their soft bellies.  Their tops are fringed with mixed hardwood forests: sugar maple, paper birch, ash with evergreen pines and firs mixed in to form dense canopies above a thicket of lower story growth of ferns, berries, wild rose and wildflowers.

The farmlands are broken with prairie and marshlands, hedges and woodlands.  Prairie grasses grow as a tall as your shoulders in places.  Prairie flowers; asters, milkweed, sunflowers; sway with dense heads of yellow or purple blooms, snowy white masses, delicate pink miniatures or blooms the size of your head.  The prairie plants have deep roots below ground that nourish their rich and dense lives above.  The marshes are fringed with willow, dogwoods and cattails.  Lilly pads float on their surface and irises sink their roots in the muddy shores.  Tri-Color Blackbirds cling to the tops of the reeds and grasses and call out for their mates.

You must imagine these hills with woods on their tops and shoulders and corn, soy, cows, meadows and marshes flowing down their valley floors.  Picture them clearly in your mind.  Row upon row of rectilinear corn where the land is flat or arcing along the lines of the geography where the land rises up the slopes.  Small, upright soy beans turning yellow in late Summer. Alfalfa forming a dense green field between tall yellowing corn stalks.  Milk cows, mostly, chewing and lazing in grassy fields.  A farm house and its corn crib, barn and silo gather under a stand of trees every once in a while.

Form these images in your head. They are the backdrop for these few minutes that I’m about to describe.

It was a beautiful late Summer/early Fall day. It was still shorts and short sleeve weather but not by much.  Warm Sun on my back, cool early Fall air on my arms and face.

I rode out, first north-west, across the country side that I described above – out to Fish Lake and Mud Lake.  I turned and started running back East along the southern shore of Crystal Lake back towards Lodi.  The sun was low in the West, three fingers off the horizon if you hold your arm out straight. 

Now imagine: The road side is thick with willows, sage, prairie rose that is thick with bright hips, late Summer prairie flowers and all of it buzzing and chirping and humming with insects that are making their last pitch for a mate before the frost comes.  The left side of the road rises up in woods and understory plants.  The first Fall colors are coming on in the wild grape vines that climb the trunks of the old oaks and ash to weave through the canopy in search of Sun. The low dense stands of sumacs, huddled along the edge of the woods, are turning rust and cranberry and burnt umber. I spin along these colors and sounds with the Sun on my back and cool air in my face and on my arms.

The valley runs along my right side with open fields of prairie grass and late flowers.  A river turns and dives, back and forth, through the flat land forming marshes with reeds and willows.  Below, in the valley grass, I hear the call of Ringed Neck Pheasants then the thrumming beat of their wings. I spin with their thrum.

The sun is flashing low up through the valley, glinting on the river and then tumbling up through the prairie plants and into corn and soy.  I’m spinning my way along the road.  A flight of Sandhill Cranes rise up out of the marshes down below with their squawking coo.  First one crane… then three… five… eight… soon twelve cranes are on the wing in the valley beside me.  They rise up eye level and match my speed running East.  They coo and squawk. The Sun, three fingers above the horizon, glints off the marshes and tumbles through the prairie.  The bushes are buzzing and humming and chirping with insects.  I’m spinning my way East in this late Summer afternoon and cranes are the wing to my right and the Sun is on our backs and cool air in our faces.  And I spin and they soar and call.  And we move together for a minute, two, then three before the cranes turn on wing to the South and head out towards the corn and soy.  And the Sun, three fingers off the horizon, glints off wings and water and tumbles through prairie and corn and warms my back as I spin on and away to the East.

I spin and smile at the wings beating South and the river turning and diving and the Sun glinting off the marshes, and humming and buzzing and chirping.

I spin and smile at these few minutes when I was traveling with the cranes through this late Summer/early Fall evening.

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Door County Century Recount

One week after the Door County Century (nearly) and I’m finally getting around to writing about it. In short – it was a great ride, a wonderful cap-stone to the cycling season; but I’m jumping ahead.

The night before, Erik, Monica, LeRoy, Ena, Barbara and I had dinner of a lot of spaghetti and bread sticks and wine. Erik had picked up the latest weather report and it looked a bit sketchy: cool in the morning (54 F) with winds out of the West. We would ride into those winds then have them off of the bay and over our left shoulder for the next 40 miles. Then the winds would turn and come out of the south west (into our faces) and bring rain. It wasn’t supposed to get very warm either (62 F). Cold morning with wind off the bay, cold and raining afternoon with wind in our faces. Bleach.

The prognosticators were wrong and we had a beautiful day. We had gorgeous sun and perfect weather almost all day. But I’m jumping ahead again. We had a few miscues getting to the start but finally hit the road at 7:40AM – about 30 minutes later than we planned.

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We met up with a group of riders (Bradely, Jim, Dean, et al) who were well matched with us. We switched off pulling with them and had a great ride through to the second rest stop. It was great fun pulling a line of 20 or so riders along the bay.
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Barbara, Ena and our dog Lola met us at the second rest stop so we could drop cold weather gear for the rest of the ride. It was great of them to chase us around Door County. They were great sports and that made the ride a lot more fun. Lola knew how many riders were in our group and she would check until she found us all at each stop.
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By the last leg, it was often just the four of us pulling together. The weather was beautiful and the route was very nice. We all finished together as a group.
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It was a great ride on a beautiful day.

Here are all the photos and a link to my Garmin data from the ride if you really want to geek out.

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Plum and Raspberry Galette with Lemon Ricotta Filling

Plum Raspberry Galette

Plum Raspberry Galette

I love making galettes – a french free-form tart.  This is a peak of Summer galette made from local plums and raspberries.  Once you get galette making down, you can create galettes with lots of different fillings:  Apples and toasted pecans, peaches with almonds, blueberries with lemon.  This takes few hours to make but much of that time is waiting for the galette dough to chill or for the galette to bake. 

Preheat oven to 385 F

Ingredients:

1 pound Plums (firm ripe)
1 C fresh raspberries
8 oz. Ricotta
Zest of 1 Lemon
1 Egg at room temperature
1 Tbl cornstarch
2 Tbls (plus more for dusting) Powdered (Confectioners) Sugar
1 Tbl melted butter
3 Tbl Turbinado Sugar

1 disk Galette dough (see the recipe below).

Put the ricotta into a fine strainer or inside of a piece of cheese cloth and let it drain for 30 minutes or more.  Mix the lemon zest and 1 Tbl of confectioners sugar into the ricotta.  Taste the ricotta mixture.  It should be balanced between sweet and salt and taste lemony.  If it needs more sugar, add a bit more to bring the sweetness up.  Once it tastes like you want it to, mix the egg in well.

Lemon zestRocotta draining

Slice the plums into 1/4 inch wide slices.  To pit a plum, slice all the way around the outside of the plum from the top to the bottom.  Slide your knife into the plum at the top then turn the plum over cutting the plum in half all the way to the pit.  Follow the seam along the outside of the plum where the two halves of the plum grow together.  Then twist the two halves apart, back and forth, gently until one side breaks free from the pit.  Slice this half into 1/4 wide slices.  Cut the other half the plum in half again.  Do the twist trick once more until one quarter of the plum breaks free of the pit.  Cut the pit out of the remaining quarter off of the pit or pull the pit out with your fingers. 

Add the slices to large bowl.  Add 1 Tbl cornstarch and the remaining 1 Tbl of confectioners sugar.  Add a pinch of salt and mix.  Taste your plums, if they are tart, you might want to add more confectioners sugar.

Plums

Roll out the galette dough into 16“ wide disk and trim to a circle.  Slide the dough onto a piece of parchment paper and then slide the parchment and dough onto a baking sheet.

Drop small pieces of the ricotta mixture into the center of the dough leaving a 2 inch margin around the outside edge of the dough.  Lay the plum slices on the ricotta.  If you making this for a fancy party, you can arrange the slices in concentric circles.  If you want quick and simple, just pile it all inside.  Make sure to leave a 2 inch margin of dough so that you can fold it over to make the pleated edge.

Assembling Galette

Fold the edges of the galette dough over the sides of the fruit.  There are several ways to pleat a galette dough.  See this Fine Cooking article for details.

Brush the dough with the melted butter.  Sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the buttered dough and across the top of the galette.
Assembling

Bake the galette for 30 minutes turning once after about 20 minutes.  Sprinkle the raspberries across the top of the galette and bake for 15 more minutes.  Pull the galette from the oven when the dough is nicely browned.  Slide the parchment paper and galette off onto a cooling rack and let cool for 10 minutes or more.  Dust the top of the galette with confectioners sugar and serve.  You can serve this with vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche (whisk lemon juice and confectioners sugar into the creme fraiche) .

Finished Galette

Galette Dough Recipe

5 3/4 oz. (1 1/4 cups) All-purpose Flour
1 Tbs. Sugar
1/4 tsp. Salt
4 oz. (8 Tbs.) well chilled unsalted butter cut into small cubes
1/3 cup Ice water

Add the dry ingredients to a food processor and pulse several times to mix.  Add the butter and pulse a few times.  Do not over mix the butter.  There should still be pea sized chunks of butter in the dough.  Do not mix until it looks like corn meal.  Add the water all at once and pulse a few times until the dough starts to come together.  It will not come together into a ball.  It will still be crumbly and will seem under mixed but don’t worry it will come together in the fridge.  Pour the dough onto a sheet of plastic wrap.  Gather it up and form it into a disk.  Wrap tightly and put in the fridge for two hours. 

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Tired, Grumpy, Fuzzy and Twitchy

Lake Mendota, bikes and boats

Lake Mendota, bikes and boats

I’m sure that sport psychologists / physiologists have a name and maybe a reason for these feelings…
I’m getting ready to ride the Door County Century this weekend. This means that I have spent the last couple of months riding longer rides and building up time in the saddle. I was up to about 190 to 200 miles a week two weeks ago. I was also working out with a personal trainer twice a week. In short, I was getting a lot of exercise – 15 plus hours a week.
As this weekend approached and the up-coming century ride, I started to taper off my workouts. I dropped my twice-a-week personal trainer moving down to once a week last week and none-a-week this week. I’ve backed off the miles that I bike each week.
I’ve noticed that, as I taper back on my workouts, I get twitchy and anxious feeling but it is mixed with fuzziness and sleepiness. I’m also kinda grumpy which (I think) is unusual for me. It is an unwholesome combination of lack of mental focus mixed with an over-caffeinated kind of buzz and a lethargic desire to nap for hours on end. I’m a bit concerned about the end of the biking season which coming up soon due to lack of light, too much cold and then snow. I’ll need to ski a lot this Winter and find another indoor endurance exercise (swimming?) for those long Winter months.
On the other hand, the rest has felt good. My shoulders, neck and hamstrings were starting to complain about all the work they were doing. But then again, all this exercise has meant that I could eat well and still drop weight.

Garmin EDGE 705 – Bugs, Bells and Whistles

I got a new Garmin EDGE 705 bike computer about 6 weeks ago. I’ve been riding 3 or 4 times a week with Garmin and have synced to several applications and a web site. The Garmin EDGE 705 has great bells and whistles but the basic function, turn-by-turn directions, is buggy and unreliable.

What I bought: I bought the Garmin Edge 705, with the Heart Rate sensor, Speed/Cadence sensor & Data Card with Street Maps (SKU 010-00555-40). It came with version 2.2.0 of the firmware. I have also tried version 2.3.0 and 2.4.0.

What I like:

Installation: I love the fact that there is a single sensor that picks up both speed and cadence. The sensor is also sensitive so you don’t have to set it extremely close to the pedal or wheel for the device to work. The Garmin EDGE 705 discovers the peripherals automatically and flawlessly (at least for me. Others on the forum have talked about cadence problems).

Set Up: There are a lot of menus to cycle through to set up the device. This is a mixed vote from me. I like the ability to set up how each screen looks (how many data fields are show, what information is displayed in each data field, etc.). I have had to dig to find settings and I know that someplace I set the minimum speed for autopause. I have yet to figure out where I set that so I can change it.

Post Ride Data Analysis: This is where the bells and whistles ring out. The device syncs brilliantly and easily (for me, YMMV, see the Motion Based Forums) to the Garmin software on my Mac. It also syncs to the MotionBased web site (see the list of my rides in the sidebar on this site). I also bought Ascent from Montebello Software. The default Garmin software provides basic analysis of your ride data. MotionBased and Ascent provide detailed analysis some of which is pretty cool.

What I don’t like:

Turn-By-Turn Navigation: Supposedly, you can load a GPS Track File (in GPX format) into the Garmin. You then tell the Garmin that you want to follow that track. The Garmin will navigate you around the route. Supposedly. I have tried to get this to work a half dozen times. I have created GPX Track files in GMap-Pedometer, Google Maps and MapMyRide.com. I have tried making sure that the start and end points aren’t near each other.

This has never worked correctly. I’ve had the device start to tell me to make u-turns in the middle of my ride. I’ve had the unit tell me to make a turn 5 miles early, then shut off. I’ve had the unit say that I should cut through a barn and corn field though I preferred to stay on the road.

I do have hopes that Garmin will patch the software so turn-by-turn works. Garmin does seem to be responsive to their users and they do seem to issue patches regularly.

Managing the Buttons: You need to push and hold the power button to on the Garmin. You need to push the timer start at the beginning of the ride. You must push timer stop at the end of the ride or the Garmin will keep recording even though your wheel isn’t turning. The Garmin added the drive back from one ride to my total ride. I could hear it chirping away as I drove home. Compare that to my simple CatEye computer that just starts and stops on its own or my Polar that I needed to push start but it could figure out the ride was over all by itself. It feels like I need to pay more attention to managing my cycle computer than I really want to.

Software Updates, Syncing et al: All of this works flawlessly (so far) but it is another device that gets software updates and that you need to sync to your computer. It is fine but just another digital device to fuss with.

Conclusion:

The set-up is easy. The unit will automatically calibrate for wheel size and speed. The post ride data analysis is great. It makes it dead simple to keep a work-out log. The turn-by-turn doesn’t work so I still ride with a paper map to navigate by. I would love to be able to rely on this device for navigation when I’m riding. It is fussier than other computers that I have used but the post-ride data analysis is a beautiful thing.