Monday, 29 March 2010

Auctions Started

I occasionally Auction stuff on TradeMe. This one is special for all you photo-buffs: I don't want to part with this stuff because it is beautiful but I'm afraid I have to.

Professional Photojournalist Kit

Auction number: 280634706
Closes: Thu 8 Apr, 12:45 pm
The basic kit includes:
  • Minolta XG-2 Camera
  • Minolta Rikkon Zoom lens
  • Electronc Flash (no batteries)
  • Polarized filter
  • 2x Kodak Gold film
  • Manuals
XG2 Professional Rig

Tamron Tele-macro Zoom lens

Auction number: 280636723
Closes: Thu 8 Apr, 1:00 pm
The user manual says: 80-120mm F/3.8.4- beautiful with the XG-2.
Works beautifully with the XG-2 above.

Fujica 35 "automagic" Camera

Auction number: 280639356
Closes: Thu 8 Apr, 1:15 pm
This is a 35mm SLR you carry around your neck for opportunity shots. Comes with a close-fitting leather case and 1x Kodak Gold film roll. No manual but it is very easy to use: there is an indicator in the viewfinder to help you get the shot right.

8x30 Field Glasses

Auction number: 280643037
Closes: Thu 8 Apr, 1:34 pm
With a leather case - good for spotting those long shots without hefting the tele-macro lens.

I am keen that these items find a loving home with someone who appreciates precision optics. If you are like that, or know someone like that, please help me out. Thank you.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Smeagol Visiting

We have three cats - well, the cats and us have each other. There is a big fat ginger tom Cathy named Orlando Furrioso, a small grey tabby Cathy named Kitti Shershebatzki, and a slinky black one I called Smeagol. So black he is that he looks like a hole in the scenery with luminous eyes in it: watching.

For the last month or so, Smeagol has been absent. But we noticed that his food bowl kept being emptied so we figured he's been coming for meals. Tonight I saw him, looking healthy and secretive. He suffered being petted and then slunk off again.

Smeagol is unusual because he is not related to the other two. Orlando and Kitti come from the same litter. He just turned up one day as a lost kitten and was adopted by the other two.

He doesn't normally hang about except in winter. The longest he's stayed was almost continuously when we had a baby. In those days he took it upon himself to stand guard: he'd take station at the end of the sofa or bed or where we were and sit tall and watchful like an Egyptian statue.

All our cats have a strong Burmese streak in them.

This is the longest he's been gone so I was wondering if he'd found another family or met another fate. So it's nice to see he's still around. As the nights get colder, I expect to see him more and more.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Education Blogging

My first eprofst715 assignment is basically done: I was asked for a 1500 word essay on a choice of topics - I chose:

The Nature of Information Literacy

[excerpts - non-quote citations stripped]

The term, Information Literacy, became popular in the late 80s, when the Information Superhighway was new. There was, and still is, a lot of loose talk about an Information Age. The association suggests buzz-phrase status for Information Literacy as well. This phrase is particularly associated with institutions, such as brick-and-mortar libraries, which struggle for relevance in an increasingly digital and online World.

The “information” in Information Literacy is not the meaning encoded in a document that a literate person extracts, or assigns, it is the information about the information, and the document itself. This is what the computer literate call “metadata”. A highly literate person is skilled at finding relevant information in even obfuscated documents, an information literate person is skilled at finding relevant documents. The hunter who can quickly and consistently find information-rich spoor to follow is displaying a high level of information literacy.

As a set of skills, Information Literacy is an essential part of meta-learning (learning about learning - the ability to discover how to learn in different situations). How well you can locate and distinguish helpful documents will affect how well you can figure out what you need to learn and how to go about acquiring that learning. It should be stressed that Information Literacy cannot properly give you skills for meta-learning, it is the skills.

Awareness of information management issues, especially privacy, has
lead some to include moral values in their Information Literacy definitions. For example, The NZ Learning Media publication; The school library and learning in the information landscape:  Guidelines for New Zealand schools (p11, 2002) expands on the usual definition to explicitly include ethical use of information. The implication is that I-Literate people will use information ethically - but whose ethics are we talking about?

There is a danger that I-Literate people will be expected to use information in accordance with the mores of the dominant culture and, from context, NZ schools should be teaching this. This risks a kind of cultural colonialism.

Future generations must be empowered to act against the dominant culture or New Zealand cannot advance as a society. At one point it was considered un-ethical to provide contraceptive information to teenagers. Nonetheless we see that teenagers who critically assess sources of information about their sexual practise are displaying high Information Literacy skills. Teenagers who act from the position of knowledge that results may still act unethically in the eyes of the dominant culture.

Information Literacy lies in the critical assessment and production of relevant documents. The ability to make good decisions about information, even if the decision turns out to be wrong.

The ethical use of information demonstrates cultural literacy. The associated meta-skills would involve assessing the ethical implications of an information source; copies of commercial DVDs, remote access to a laptop, personal information on a government database - all issues of recent notoriety. The representation of IL in this paper takes a step back from the usual ideas and allows that the information literate may also choose to act in a manner present NZ society judges immoral, or even illegal.

An information literate person chooses information sources from a position of knowledge rather than of ignorance. They are aware of wider issues and so, while self-empowered, also enrich us culturally.

[Original work written for Assignment 1: EDPROFST 715 at the Faculty of Education, University of Auckland. Lecturer - Liz Probert - cc by-nd 2010 by Simon Bridge]

After I've got the marks - I can upload the pdf. As it is I am haly expecting UAs anti-plagiarism software to spit its dummy over this blog :)

Saturday, 13 March 2010

GNU/Linux Meeting

Albany Senior High School - in connection with AuckLUG and HBCLUG will be having a get together on the school grounds:

Tuesday, 16th March, 7:30pm

Where [map]:
Albany Senior High School
536 Albany Highway

Parking is available on Level 1, access through Gate 1.

Mark Osborne is doing a presentation on ASHS' I.T. systems - all of which is GNU/Linux (except for the student management system) and how this has been a benefit to their learning environment.

I've also invited Peter Harrison to come along to talk about a project that's been brewing over at NZOSS (the New Zealand Open Source Society) which is an open source Student Management System.

I think we may even have a bit of a talk from some of the students at ASHS but don't quote me on that. There'll probably be a few attending at the very least.

There is a forum for discussion of the SMS system on eduforge. Any school admin types feel free to join in - the programmers need non-programmer education professionals to help get it right.

For normal people who just want to figure out this linux thing - you can bring your troublesome computers and an inquiring mind.

Friday, 5 March 2010

New Artemis Release

I am excited: my fav. Magnatune artist, Artemis, has a new release. I've put her latest EP, Auralei, in my blog music player.

Artemis' releases Orbits (2007), Gravity (2005) and Undone (2001) have been consistent top sellers on Magnatune, and have garnered praise and press in publications from the New York Times to Remix, Electronic Musician and Keyboard magazines. Her music receives global airplay and is featured regularly on major podcasts and popular online radio shows such as Dave's Lounge, SomaFM, Groovera, and Below Zero. Songs have been licensed for television, video and compilations, and she has recorded and collaborated with producers worldwide including Banco de Gaia's Toby Marks and former Duran Duran manager Paul Berrow. Tracks from her most recent release, the Auralei EP (2010), have already won awards and spotlights, with the Colfax remix of 'Here and Now' earning top marks at the first Epiphyte Records Test Press event of 2010.

The track, Only Begun, in Gravity is quite special to me. It is amazing the impact the right song has at the right time. Auralei is much more polished than the first two (the third was a remix album, so it doesn't count). Artemis' music goes with dark red wine late at night watching the stars.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Law Theatre and Patent Suits

From Groklaw on Apple vs Psystar:

[I]f freedom matters to you, don't sell out the goal of a completely free operating system, without any proprietary blobs at all. There is a purpose to that goal, because proprietary blobs mean restrictions on use. That is a given. There are other negatives, but that one is the one this case highlights. So work for drivers that are not proprietary. Stay away from code that you believe has potential patent infringement claims. Why? Because a short-term seeming advantage can block the end result you want. It will provide a Brand X solution that takes you on a detour away from your goal.
I'm not so concerned about that - Psystar lost. But the message PJ is pointing out is that combining free with non-free is bad in the long term. Another place where this is tempting is with embedded software - vendors are happy to base phones in free software, like Android, but will bury it under proprietary software. So we look at free software based devices with some suspicion.

Fresh from their Psystar kill, Apple is targeting HTC, manufacturer of phones of various parentage but specifically mentioning the Android OS by name. It is another patent case, primarily. Apple-patented multitouch is in the list of patents in question, and we know that android phones are multitouch-capable: there is even software to enable it.

Other than this, most of the patents cover basic software methods. The community is busy finding prior art.

There is a lot of speculation flying around right now about what all this means. Could this be the next SCO? What is certain is that US Patent Law is about to provide another round of spectator sport.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Brain Day 2010

Likely to be well attended by Zombies ... brraaaiiinnnz...

Unlock the secrets of your brain

The Centre for Brain Research and Neurological Foundation present a free public open day on 20 March as part of International Brain Awareness Week.

... well, I was a little harsh: the public lectures are usually pretty entertaining and some serious academics will be attending as well as giving them.

Neuroscientists, clinicians and community groups will welcome members of the public to learn more about our greatest asset, our brain. The event features lectures from New Zealand's leading brain experts discussing the latest research and treatment trials for brain health and disease. Seminars will provide practical tips to encourage optimum brain health for adults and brain development for children.

Neuroscience is cool - go look.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Education Blogging

Since I seem to learn best by instructing others...

Today started EDPROFST715 - this is an online course using Moodle. The required reading is unbelievably boring. eg:

Presidential Committee on Information Literacy

This report was released on January 10, 1989, in Washington, D.C.
[link] 10 years old - huh? Still, it was represented to students as an introduction to IL. I found it much easier to read via the readability plugin.

In 1989 the internet was new and exciting: the information superhighway no less! This document is mostly of historical interest - attitudes and expectations have changed somewhat.

This report manages to go on at length without actually defining its topic - a good trick. This means that everyone will think it applies to them, which is useful for getting government funding. Oh dear, am I being cynical?

The author takes for granted that we are in an information age and emphasises the importance of information access to US civil liberties groups and institutions. The point is well taken and old hat (10 years remember), so the modern reader can skim most of the start.

The first approach to a description of IL is in the introductory part of the opportunities section:

Information literacy is a survival skill in the Information Age. Instead of drowning in the abundance of information that floods their lives, information literate people know how to find, evaluate, and use information effectively to solve a particular problem or make a decision---whether the information they select comes from a computer, a book, a government agency, a film, or any number of other possible resources.

... information is everything, literacy is the skill-set which lets people pick out what is important. I quite like this description, I'll have to keep it in mind during the course.

The sole emphasis is on libraries - remember that home computers were not so wide spread in the 80's so the author imagines that libraries would provide public access terminals. In the 21st century this is as likely to be from a phone.

Still, libraries are important, and there are private interests (big media) trying to restrict public information access by this means (acta, the original definition of ISP in the copyright act). It is the nature of libraries that is changing. In terms of public information, they are not so much about books on shelves any more.

The rest of the section talks about poor education models and the need for methods which promote a critical approach to learning.

The report describes how we would recognise an information-age school. An example in NZ fitting this description would be Albany Senior High School. The whole school is designed, from the classrooms up, in accord with the models described in this paper.

To respond effectively to an ever-changing environment, people need more than just a knowledge base, they also need techniques for exploring it, connecting it to other knowledge bases, and making practical use of it.

Possible overestimate of projected death toll?

Perhaps surprisingly, Chile seem to expect a death toll in the low hundreds rather that the low hundred-thousands I did.

To be fair, I was comparing with Haiti and waving my hands. It will be a useful lesson to see what the actual comparison will be. Consider - Chile is much better prepared for large earthquakes. A look at the aftermath pics shows much less dramatic damage in Chile than Haiti simply because they build differently. If they really end up with less than 1% of Haiti's toll, then that looks good for NZ: we also build to earthquakes.