Thursday, 26 July 2007

A week in Michigan....

...well, almost. :)
Since last Friday I have been staying with my friend Julz in Bath, Michigan. She has a beautiful home on a property in a lovely rural area. It was so relaxing after my busy week in Memphis, to hang out and torch in her barn, visit the horses, watch wild deer in the garden and start reading Harry Potter! We had a torch party, where I got to meet another online 'imaginary friend' Lindsey, and a few other folk and we got a last minute booking to go and do a class in Chicago with German beadmaker Anastasia (that link is well worth following - it leads to her gallery, and her work is amazingly beautiful). The class was fantastic, and I cannot wait to finally see the beads I made later today (One of the other attendees is bringing them to the gathering). The torching this week has been a big change for me, as I have been garaging beads in the kiln for the first time, instead of batch annealing. At the class I even worked off mandrel for the first time, and took components out of the kiln to use on a bead. Hopefully it has given me enough confidence/inspiration to work out how to garage with my kiln at home, which doesn't have a bead door (so you have to stick your arm in a hot kiln - scary!)
On Tuesday we headed off to Chicago again, but meandered our way there, stopping at a winery for tastings, and handmade chocolate truffle shop (can I just say, Yummmmmm) and a fresh fruit stand for great cherries. We went into Chicago, and looked around Millenium Park, then hopped on a trolley bus up to the Watertower and the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art. We looked at the first floor galleries before being distracted by Jazz and dinner at Wolfgang Puck's, so we never did see the rest of the Gallery. Then we window shopped our way back down Michigan Avenue, and headed out to our hotel, which is very cute.
Today we are off to Minneapolis, and the ISGB Gathering, and I will get to meet so many more of the beadmakers I have been chatting to online for almost 5 years. Its going to be a blast!

Some of Julz's horses... The fountain in Millenium park. An exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art. 'Short Cut' Chicago by night. The sculpture in Millenium park by night.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

My time in Memphis.

If you have checked into my blog lately and you are not an educator, I imagine it will have been of little interest. I have been trying to keep up to date with notes on the conferences I have been attending, for my colleagues at home. Today I thought I should tell you about the fun aspects of my visit to Memphis. My thanks to the delegates and organizers of both conferences for making me really welcome and showing me a great time. In the brief, busy time I was there, I think I managed to have the quintessential southern experience.
On Monday at lunch we had a Corky’s BBQ….I think maybe it was a bit much for me, flavour-wise, for lunch. I avoided the beans – they looked kind of scary, and apparently committed a cardinal sin by not putting BBQ sauce on my pork….
Monday night we went on a Mississippi river dinner cruise on a paddle steamer… It was a pleasant evening, but that section of the Mississippi river is not what you would call scenic….the view was much improved by the fall of darkness. Dinner proved to be the identical menu to lunch, but wether the time of the day was more suitable, or it was better cooked, I'm not sure, but it seemed more enjoyable. The pork was tender and good with the BBQ sauce, and I was surprised to discover I love southern bake beans (in a sauce of BBQ, mustard and brown sugar, instead of the tomato we are used to back home). Wednesday after the conference we had a closing dinner at Pat O’Brien’s, where the meal included Gumbo and Jambalaya, 2 southern specialties. After dinner we went for a stroll up Beale St – the Blues capital of the world (to hear locals say, anyway). It was very vibrant, with loud, live music being broadcast from every doorway, and local children and teens tumbling in the streets for money – there are some amazing acrobats down there! Some of the older boys could do handsprings the length of the street faster than some people can run – amazing! Wednesday at the 2nd conference lunch was, you guessed it Corky’s BBQ. By this time I’m quite enjoying the flavours but 3 times in 2 days is ‘just a bit much’ (imagine a strong southern accent there). The opening keynote address was started by a performance from an Elvis impersonator, which was lots of fun, and that night we headed off to Graceland for the evening. The tour was much better than I expected – a very tasteful look at the life and home of Elvis Presley, I enjoyed it. Then over the street to the car museum, in which we find the restaurant, where we enjoyed a Hawaiian style meal, concluding with ‘Monkey Tails’ – bananas dipped in chocolate and rolled in coconut, served on a stick. I hooked up with a great bunch of people – IT technicians from a West (?) Tennessee school district who looked after me and showed me a great time. Although I intended an early night and was planning on the first bus back…I ended up on the last bus, after a great night.
On Thursday, I got to try another classic southern meal – fresh catfish. It was ok, a little fishy for me, but cooked really nicely. It was served with ‘hush puppies’, cornbread dough with onions and relish mixed through, and deep fried.
Thursday night entertainments brought another classic American experience for me – a professional baseball game. We went to see the Memphis Red Birds, a triple A minor league team, who supply the Cardinals (a Major League team). We had a lot of fun, although the game was pretty slow, and the poor Redbirds got absolutely flattened by Oklahoma. I bought myself a little Rockey stuffed toy – the Redbirds mascot, and had an Ice cream float in a funky long souvenir cup. I gave April my cup – she kindly bought me the float, and that way her kids could have one each. Basically a float is what we call a spider, but this cup is shaped so the coke is at the bottom and the ice-cream sits in a cup – you eat it with a spoon, but as it melts it flows down into the coke. Mmmmmm yummy!! Special thanks to April, Buster, Beverley and Jerry for making my stay so much fun!

Monday, 16 July 2007

The Laptop Institute

I arrived in Phoenix a couple of days ago, and had a great time there with Lisa. We drove to the Grand Canyon on saturday, which was amazing (I will post some photos soon) and met up with Sondra. It is so great to finally meet these wonderful people and fellow beadmakers that I have been chatting to online for so long. Yesterday I arrived in Memphis for the Laptop Institute conference. The opening keynote address was last night, and I typed up some notes which I thought I would post here. I'm not guaranteeing things will come across properly when out of context, but it might raise some issues to think about.
Ian Jukes ‘Living on the future edge’ “It’s easier to change the course of history than change the history course” Change – we can’t just change once, and then go back to ‘normal’ tomorrow. We are in a time of ongoing, exponential, dizzying change. Ian identifies 4 exponential trends that effect how we use technology and what we must expect for the future. Moore’s Law (founder of Intel) Technology will double every 2 years at half the cost. This has been very accurate since the late 60’s, but has been modified several times – first to 18 mths, now at 12 mths, soon to be 6 mths. Interesting reading – ‘The Singularity is near’ by Ray Kurzweil. We grew up in a time of stability and predictability – our students live in a time of “fundamental uncertainty”. Photonics Bandwidth speed tripling every 6 months per dollar spent. Currently we can transfer information at 10 trillion bits per sec (1900 CD ROMs) Interesting reading – ‘Telecosm’ by George Gilder In the future, the internet will be everywhere, everywhen. How are we preparing our students for a fundamentally different future? The Internet. 1.4 Billion users now, 100 Billion webpages. 13 new users per minute. Bandwidth required to accommodate this is tripling every year. Itunes University – free university course content minutes after the classes are complete, available through itunes. What is the impact to education? Web 2.0 ‘Weapons of mass collaboration’. The ‘intersection’ between the first 3 exponential trends Ian identifies leads to trend 4 – Infowhelm Information has value but is perishable. Information frenzy, we are accessing more information than we ever needed. ‘Google Book Search’ 50 million books scanned and available online. How does this effect libraries and education? The sum of human knowledge has increased exponentially in recent years. Unique new knowledge creation is doubling every 2 weeks. The ‘half life’ (50 % becoming obsolete or being proved incorrect) of engineering knowledge is 5 years. For biochemistry it is 1 year and for Doctors, it is 10 months. It is important to teach students to find content, place it in context and use it effectively, rather than just accumulating knowledge. We are in danger of having a ‘Ready, Fire, Aim’ approach. The learning must drive the technology, not vice versa. We must teach students to be information and media fluent (rather than information literate). They need to learn to ask good questions and assess the process. We must prepare the students for their future, not our past, or our comfort zone. Ian used a rubber band analogy to describe what he was trying to do to our minds. He stretched a giant rubber band above his head…..but as his arms get tired trying to hold it open…when he lets go, it returns to its original form. We must try and not be like that rubber band, but allow the changes that are made and new ideas we absorb at conferences like this to make fundamental changes to our teaching….not to return to our old comfortable ways. In tough times, people tend to revert to tradition. Ian’s material can be accessed on his webpage under ‘handouts’ and you can subscribe to his blog (the ‘Committed Sardine’) and receive information he sifts from current news articles, education and computing articles etc, by writing to him with the email content “I need to be committed” and he will reply in 48 hours.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Technological advancement can be a pain in the .....

I leave for my US trip tomorrow, and I have just found out that my mobile phone will be useless in America. Apparently they use a tri-band system and we use a dual-band. Its great to be at the forefront of new developments... but I just used that phone in about 10 other countries at Christmas, including the UK, without any difficulties, which seems to make the new technology kind of 'bleeding edge' to me. Especially, as apparently its not a time frame thing - they are still releasing phones even now that use dual-band. So its not just because mine is old and decrepit. I am hoping Jason's phone is suitable and I can steal that (he barely uses it anyway) as I have to coordinate with people while I'm there... Aah well, suppose it was too much to ask that there be no last minute panics at all......

Monday, 9 July 2007

More Jewellery....

Just a quick post to show off some more jewellery I made for myself this week....
Only 4 days to go........

Saturday, 7 July 2007

7 Days & counting....

So, this time next week I'll be winging my way to the USA! I'm getting very excited, but I've also got lots to do to keep me busy. I've been torching a lot - I want to have trade beads and gifts ready for other Lampworkers I meet at the Gathering. I also want to have some new jewellery to wear - I tend to give away or sell my best beads - I have very little jewellery made from my own beads, and nothing recent. So, I'm building up some new pieces to take with me. here are some pics of my first 2 pieces. I'm loving making the chainmaille too!