Tuesday, December 25, 2012


I have always loved the spirit of this holiday season.  This is not news - most people revel in the smells, the sounds, the sweetness of life around this time of year.  I've been laying low for a number of reasons, but rest assured that Scrooge hasn't taken over, nor that for any intellectual reason I've given up on the holidays, it's just that circumstances this year have conspired to make it difficult for me to reach you personally.

Jon & Claes, Brazil 2011
The deaths of two of my dearest and closest friends in 2012 have left me reeling.  My travel companion and radio reporting genius Claes was stricken with a heart attack in April, and was suddenly gone.  I had dinner with him on Thurs. night, and on Sat. morning, he was dead.

Christopher, Gare du Nord,
Paris, Sept. 2012
Then, exactly seven months later, on Nov. 15, one of my dearest and oldest friends in Los Angeles, Christopher David Trentham died after a shocking short period following a diagnosis of Pacreatic cancer, which took him in about three weeks.  I was at Harbor City Kaiser Hospital when he passed, and it was a profoundly moving experience.

Also, I'm putting together the documents I need to apply for promotion to full professor at Cal State LA.  This is a grueling, time consuming process - like preparing a thesis or term paper.  Fortunately, the deadline is Jan. 9, 2013, so it will be over soon.

So, the sum total of all those things, plus my normal manic work schedule at school and tight funds (no raise since 2008; another reason to go for Full Professor:  it comes with a bump in salary!)has kept me close to home.

I spent Christmas eve in the home of my beloved friend Magdalena Alvear Galt, sister of Cecilia.  Their sister Rocio was down from San Luis Obisbo, as well as all their extended families.  At the dinner table, you could hear Danish, Spanish, French and English - folks were visiting from many quarters of the planet.  It was a beautiful, heart-felt evening.  If you can't be with your blood family, (whom I love like life itself) you couldn't do much better than being with your 'chosen' family, where I have been welcomed and embraced for many years.

So, that's a long explanation for why you may not have heard from me this holiday season, but please, please, please assume that I am thinking about you, I hope to hear from you, and I will work harder to get in touch with you during this coming year.

I wish you the merriest of Christmases and a joy filled new year.  May 2013 find us surrounded by love, sharing good food and drink, and reveling in abundant laughter.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Mash Up Google Map

Here's a great way to post a geographic 'info graphic' on your site:  embed a portion of code from Google Maps that have posted on them addresses that you have chosen.  Pretty easy too:

Gas Stations Near School

View Larger Map

This let you embed all sorts of interesting information right in your blog.  Try using this info-graphic technique to customize information for your own site.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Simple Sound Slide Production

In fooling around this afternoon, I wondered how long it would take and how expensive it would be to put a sound slide presentation on my blog.  There is a wide range of open source software available to make this a reality in very short order.  Recording both the photos and the audio was a snap with the iPhone.  They, they pictures and audio were emailed to myself (although they could be emailed to a newsroom just as easily) for further editing and prep.  I cleaned up the photos in Mac's 'Preview' utility, and edited the audio in a free version of Audacity.

I assembled the elements in Wondershare's 'Fantashow' software, which was intuitive and super easy to use.  There are undoubtedly other, perhaps better sound-slide production programs available - most notably 'Sound Slides' itself, but the main purpose is to give the content producer the ability to easily and quickly assemble sound slide presentation.  Fantashow did this with ease, even though the templates and 'styles' they offer are a bit lame.  In any case, it was a fast 20 minutes or so, and the presentation was up an operating.  Take a look at the results...

Also, we're trying out an online database system.  'SodaDb' seems interesting and worth an examination:

We will continue to develop this idea to end up with a simple, usable open source online database.

Wondershare 'Fantashow':  rapid 'sound-slide' prototyping and production.

SoundSlides: the industry standard; widely used for rapid sound+slide show production

ProShow Gold:  well known, very popular and feature rich sound slide production software; not available in Mac version at present

Monday, October 08, 2012

Taking the Nation's Temperature: Fever of 108°

It’s not as if winning the debate last Wednesday means that Romney will be our next president, but it was surprising that virtually everyone gave the defeat to President Obama.  The real questions that should be asked, however, were never seriously considered by the public:  apart from winning the three ring circus that is the debate, who will make a better president, and what are the substantive issues on which you base that judgment.  Much has been made recently about the war of ‘facts’ thrown around by both candidates.  Both are guilty of exaggeration at the very least, and outright falsehoods in the extreme (Romney never said he would gut Medicare).  The issue is so critical that it made the cover of the Oct. 15 Time magazine.

CSULA Grad Student Charles Ortiz

All of that aside, we’ve set out to get a series of snapshots of people’s thoughts on how the debate turned out and how it affected them.  Even for most students, the presidential debate has become an expected element of the election, even though they are mentioned nowhere in the constitution, nor have they been a part of the scene for very long.  Most historians consider the Lincoln Douglas debates in the middle of the 19th Century the quintessential debates, with two stirring orators, who had a deep respect for each other, really got down to the ideas that would make a good president.  

Run the calendar up to the present, and you are left with Kennedy v. Nixon, and essentially every election from Jimmy Carter on.  Students, of course, may not remember those earlier debates, but they are convinced of their value and importance.  CSULA Charles Ortiz noted that his interest began when he saw recordings of the Kennedy-Nixon debates in 1960, and he wouldn't think of missing them ever:  they give a side of the candidate that on the street glad-handing and baby-kissing never does.

I still wonder, though:  is this any way to elect a president?

2012 General Election Debate Schedule
List assembled by the 'AOL/Patch' news organization

Museum of Broadcast Communications
Rich interactive source of information on the history of presidential debates.

Discovery Channel History of Debates

Engaging and compelling history produced by 'Discovery' cable channel.

Abridged List of Online Autonomous Agent Examples
V. 1.0  (Last updated July 11, 2012)

'Diva Dance' from 'The Fifth Element'
I've got a thing for androids.
Over the years of studying, reading about, and commenting on them, it was inevitable that I would put together a list of my favorite autonomous agents.  This list is by no means comprehensive or thorough, and I eagerly await your suggestions!  The rules of what fits into this category are very broad, but essentially consist of some sort of human interface connected with an autonomous logic/language algorithm, pretty much interpreted however you feel.
Please suggest additional examples of bots, avatars, androids or other autonomous agents.  You can either leave a comment (pull down the comment menu at the upper right of the page linked above) or send me directly your recommendations.  Also, if you have any interest in curating this page, let me know that as well.  Have fun!  

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

This blog post is to demonstrate how to embed a graphic.  We are examining a bar graph of Electoral college voters, with a special emphasis on the relative value of some key states in the electoral college tally.  This is intended to show how important it is for the candidates to take notice of the so-called purple states.  Here's the chart: