Sunday, March 30, 2008

Evolution of a Game

Suicidal Peeps
Taken at an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Roanoke, VA The Peeps appeared to have flung themselves over the ledge landing harshly on the rocky ledge below.

Photo by J. Holt

Evolution of a Game

The highlight of the first part of our spring break was the annual Easter gathering at my parents’ house. Each year, the extended family descends on the Roanoke, VA homestead for a day of family, food, and full contact Easter egg hunting.

I’m not sure where the full contact aspect to the egg hunt began. Back many moons ago, the hunt was a simple affair. A few eggs placed in the taller grass outside. Little kids wobbling around and hunting for the easy-to-find eggs. Simple prizes like marshmallow peeps awarded to the winners. Then as the grandchildren became more numerous and the first-gen children edged into middle age, the egg hunt became a clever affair where eggs were hidden in most unusual places. Yet even then, the adults and near adults were all encouraged to participate. The prizes remained mostly simple with a PEZ dispenser or a plastic egg full of spare change to the winners. As more time passed and hiding places were no longer unique or creative, the game seemed to seek an evolution into something more dramatic and dangerous. That’s where full contact Easter egg hunting took root.

This year’s hunt followed recent tradition. Eggs were hidden, people detained in a sealed room until the start, and a blast from an air horn signaled the beginning of the hazardous games. People were jostled and tossed to the ground, trees were shaken to their roots, and scuffles broke out between mother and daughter, sister and brother. Baskets or eggs were stolen, sometimes to be returned. In all, three separate hunts took place before the action finally petered out and the award ceremony began.

Evolution made a noticeable stride this year when it was discovered that an unknown number of eggs had accidentally not been boiled. These raw eggs were colored as usual and placed in with the more traditional hard-boiled eggs. Participants quickly discovered that these eggs were fragile and presented a unique handling challenge.

Spring and Easter are a special time in my family. It’s a season to gather and share memories through spirited competition.

If you have time, feel free to visit the four YouTube videos I’ve constructed documented the festivities.


Full Contact Egg Hunt 1

Full Contact Egg Hunt 2

The Final Full Contact Egg Hunt and Prizes

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Sitting in the back of a hotel conference room this past week as the group leader wrote some questions on the electronic screen, I watched as the Edubloggercon leader, David Warlick, mistyped the word "inspire." Instead, of that powerful word, David stumbled into a most intriguing word, "inspirt."

I was immediately inspired by that word and began searching for possible definitions. Since inspirt does not exist in any known dictionaries, I decided to come up with my own definition. I believe that inspirt should be a noun that means, "an incredible thought or idea that exists for only a moment before disappearing forever." I think inspirt could also be a verb "the act of creating or divining an incredible thought or idea that exists for only a moment."

On second thought, I'm not sure that defining inspirt is such a great idea.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Speedway Conference

I just got back to Roanoke after going to the NCaect conference in Concord, NC. I stayed at the new Embassy Suites Concord Conference Center. It was a beautiful hotel. Here are a few pictures.

Looking straight down into the colorful fountain from the tenth floor.

My hotel bedroom. I also had a food preparation area, bathroom, and sitting room with a couch, several comfy chairs, a desk, and a large flat screen TV.

Looking up past the eleventh floor.

Looking down to the central plaza from my 10th floor walkway outside my hotel room door.

The view of the Lowe's Motor Speedway from my hotel room window. That place was absolutely bustling with activity despite there being no race there this weekend.

The coolest thing I messed with at the conference was uStream TV. It's similar to YouTube except the videos are streamed LIVE. There is also a simple and effective chat section that tags along with each stream, so a person can drop in on the live broadcast and participate by commenting and reacting to the show. You can also leave comments in the more tradition blog-style. Several of our conference sessions were streamed using uStream. People from all over the country joined and participated in our class.

Probably the most ironic thing that happened at the conference was that the Internet within the conference center went down this morning, so it became very difficult to acquire a wireless signal. It's sort of funny watching the symphony of technologists seemingly working in unison off a magical score in trying to get their laptops reconnected.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Technology and the Now

Technology and the Now

For the second year in a row, I’m attending the North Carolina Association for Educational Communication and Technology conference in Concord, North Carolina (NCaect). I must say that I’m so very impressed with the modern facility where the conference is being hosted.

The new Concord Convention Center is an eleven story hotel with huge meeting rooms. They provide every service with friendly staff and luxurious rooms.

The sessions have been excellent. Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach was the keynote speaker and really opened my eyes about the present and the future of education and society. She pointed out that the 21st Century is here. It’s not some time in the future. We, the old farts in the audience, are the last generation that will have the choice to be technologically connected to the world. Our students will have no such choices. They need to become different learners, students who identify and develop their own unique strengths. Sheryl brought up the fact that knowledge is now doubling every year requiring the apprentice learners to control massive amounts of content. How successfully they are able to organize and develop the world’s rapidly evolving knowledge will largely determine how successful our country will be in the near future.

Nussbaum-Beach brought up the fact that people hop on the phone now and call for help on one issue or another and find that they are speaking with a person from India who is able to handle the problem quite successfully. In my view, that may just be a temporary push of the world pendulum. In recent years, it has been economically advantageous for companies to outsource services and components to countries where the labor pool is less expensive than the United States. But that is beginning to change. Many companies from across the world are beginning to set up shop in the United States to take advantage of the favorable currency exchange rate. In my estimation, the world has entered an exciting period where the general wealth of all people is gradually being redistributed more evenly. This pendulum will most likely swing wildly from side to side. Some trips will bring wealth and jobs to the US. Other swings will draw wealth and security away. The period of the swings will no doubt accelerate as the pendulum successfully seeks equilibrium. Eventually though, if by the time it comes to a rest, if we somehow harness technology and master the education process, we will have a workforce that is ready to take advantage of every opportunity. If we fail, the consequences will be dire.

Monday, March 03, 2008


Back in the 1970's, WDBJ TV in Roanoke used to produce several local television shows. One of them was Klassroom Kwiz which I thoroughly embarrassed myself on in 1977. The host at that time was George Bassett. Before George took over that show, it was hosted by local media star, Ted Powers.

Ted was quite a character and came across as extremely vain. His signature contribution to the station's line-up was a show he produced and starred in called "Dialog." This topical show starred Ted sitting in a plush office chair on a darkened stage beside a telephone. The phone, a fancy one with lights showing three incoming lines, rested on a simple telephone stand beside the chair.

Ted would begin the show with some kind of monologue then he would invite a dialog on the topic of the day as he puffed politely and stoically on his pipe.

The show usually went off uneventfully every day from 7:30 to 8pm...except for one day...

Ted started in usual fashion then threw open the phone lines. Sometimes the phones didn't light up and Ted would have to just talk for a while. Anyway, on that night, the phone lit right up. Ted spoke between puffs, "Caller on line one, you're on the air." He punched the button on the phone, and all of Roanoke (that bothered to watch pompous Ted) heard a man in a thick, slow drawl say, "T-eee-dddd, I ________ed your mother last night."

Ted immediately dropped his jaw and quickly hung up on the guy. He apologized to the viewers and continued on with the show like a true professional. Again he called for callers and the phone immediately lit up. Ted punched line one and said, "Caller on line one, you're on 'Dialog." "T-ee-ddd, I ________ed your mother last...." [click]. Ted hung up.

As God is my witness, Ted went back to the phone lines one more time, and sure enough the guy got through again, "T-eeee-dddd, I ....[click]"

Unflappable Ted was red-faced and thoroughly embarrassed.

It happened; it really did.