Starting MobiMOOC

I just joined a Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) about mobile learning, a particular interest of mine. (Short definition of mLearning: How do we teach people things using mobile devices?) What's a MOOC, you ask? I had the exact same question. Watch a quick 4-minute white board-style video that explains it.

The course is called MobiMOOC. I've never been in a MOOC before (this was the first time I'd even heard of the concept), and I feel a bit like I'm wandering around lost while drinking from the fire hose of mobile information.

From the first couple days, I can see there are several components to the course - the wiki (above), a mailing list (which is currently going nuts with introductions and initial mailings), people writing all over the place in their own personal blogs, and live classroom meetings. Fortunately, there's another short video about how to navigate MOOCs.

From the video, I clearly was correct that one component is posting thoughts and ideas in your own blog about the course (Step #2 of how to navigate: Declare a space) as part of having a space to engage with others about the course material. No reason to spin up an entirely new blog spot, so LiveJournal it is. I'll tag all MobiMOOC posts with their own tag so they can easily be sorted.

So in the spirit of the first week's questions, tools I use regularly (> 1/week) on my Droid Incredible (HTC):
  • Email (personal & work): Probably my #1 use for the phone
  • Firefox: For Internet access, primarily "I wonder what X means", "Where can I find Y", or "Which of us is right about this fact we're arguing about at the pub?"
  • Text messages: To sync with friends and plan outings.
  • Google Maps: I get lost easily, and voice turn-by-turn directions are fabulous.
  • Astrid: A task list to keep track of things I should be doing.
  • OurGroceries: A shared app between Jeff and I where we can put groceries on a shared list and cross them off when we purchase. It works for both iPhone (which he has) and Android (mine).
  • Parkdroid: So I don't lose my car when I park. See a theme about direction sense here?
  • Evernote: To keep track of random little notes to myself.

    And some cool tools that I use less often:
  • Alarm clock: Mostly used for travel
  • Pandora: My own radio for the car or while working out.
  • EverPaper: Android version of Instapaper. Bookmark a page on my computer and it is available on my phone. Like magic!
  • Conventionist: An awesome little app that lets you download convention guides and mark which sessions you want to go to, see maps of the expo floor, etc.
  • TripIt: Forward a trip receipt to my account, have plane and hotel information available on my phone.
  • Yelp: To figure out where to eat when I'm away.
  • Dropbox: To sync files between my different computers and my mobile.

    This is a bit older talk (2008) and a bit longer (~60 minutes), but it really feels to me like a MOOC is a variant of what Michael Wesch talks about in this lecture. It's a fantastic description of how people ought to learn and has a lot of applicable ideas outside the university setting (such as in my area of Technical Writing and Documentation).
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    Resolutions 2011

    It's interesting to see resolutions from years past, and to note they haven't changed all that much. I started in 2007 with "Exercise", "Take Risks", and "Maintain contact", and in 2008, I swapped exercise with "Spend time learning". "Spend time learning" was a worthy idea, but it was too vague to actually cause significant change to my behavior. In 2009 it was "Train for Boston 2012", "Provide Feedback to others" and "Maintain contact". I didn't do resolutions last year. Anyhow, this year's 3 resolutions are:

    Regain healthy habits
    Despite a 2009 resolution to train for the Boston Marathon, I've fallen off exercising after my hip injury, and I've started drinking beer more often. Neither of these things is great for my health. I'm training for the Mercer Island Half and the Kirkland Half, which should help with the running, and I've grown to like biking more which helps with the cross training. I want to only drink beer on my one night out with work friends or if I'm at a brewpub (where the beer is unusual or hard to find). I was successful at losing weight and reducing soda drinking by limiting myself with a pretty clear rule. I'm hoping this accomplishes the same thing with beer, which has become the new "too many calories in a drink" thing in my life.

    Meet new people and keep in contact
    This moves forward from the past several years. If I'm not careful, I forget to drop people an email every now and again and don't reach out to friends to do social things. But this year, I want to get out and build new connections, because I've sometimes found myself a bit isolated when Jeff plays bridge. Jeff and I are talking about becoming a two car household to help with this, and I've joined a couple of the distribution lists for social clubs at work.

    Focus work again
    This past year had a lot of churn in it with several switches in who my manager was. I think I'm back in a position to be stable for a bit, so it's a good time to look around the organization and see what needs to be done that I'm passionate about. This one is a bit vague, because while I think I know what I want to do (move up the management track), I also want to make sure I keep looking around to see what sorts of roles are popping up elsewhere. It also this encompasses learning what skills I need to pick up to move to a manager-of-managers role. Mainly, it's a reminder to make sure I'm growing at work the way I need to.

    Privacy versus living transparently

    I just went back through my old journal entries and unlocked several of them with the following note: [Edit: Unlocked during my 5/10/2010 unlocking pass, since enough time has passed to obscure identifying details.] I've been thinking a lot recently about privacy and my online identity, and unlocking older entries is one result.

    I've seen many recent articles about "Gen Y does (or doesn't) value privacy". It's interesting, because the perception seems to be: Once all those misguided youngin's grow up, they'll realize that they need to lock down their online identity more, not less. I'm not so sure. Odd thing is, I've realized that as I get older, I'm getting more open.
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    I now need a break from my break...

    I intended to rest over this long weekend, honest. But somehow, it never quite happened. Or maybe I did rest and now I'm tired from the resting. This weekend's rest included:

    • Eating Thanksgiving dinner with Jeff at Trellis on Thurday and then dropping Jeff off at the airport.
    • Finishing knitting Jess' dreads, felting them, and making them into a hair piece.
    • Completely cleaning and organizing my previously out-of-control craft room.
    • Cleaning the kitchen and living room. (Ok, not that thrilling, but had to be done.)
    • Putting up the Advent Calendar, adding new activities to it, and filling it with candy goodies.
    • Making experimental spinach and artichoke dip (yum) and having people over for another installment of DVD day featuring Doctor Who.
    • Crafting a small tree's worth of nerd ornaments and decorating said tree. See photos of the results.
    • Going to I Heart Indie (a craft fair) with Jess and discovering Jess' completely awesome and hidden rock shop in Kirkland.
    • Hauling out all of the Christmas decor out of storage and assembling the tree. It's got half of its lights on it, but my other strands are burnt out, so I must get more. That's probably a job for later, though.

    I had planned on getting the tree completely up along with the rest of the Christmas decor as well as making some eggnog, but I think those will need to wait for another day. I need a break!

    61:22 - Dawg Dash 10K

    Before I was a serious runner, there were two things I didn't understand about running:
    • Why do marathoners sometimes run themselves into the ground, literally, in trying to finish the race, and
    • Why do track runners always seem to be vomiting after their race?

    I suppose both of these could be rephrased as, "Why are runners such idiots?"

    As I started training for marathons, I began to understand the first. "Mind over matter" isn't just a catchy phrase, it's actually how you get yourself from the start line to the finish in an endurance race. And once you become accustomed to ignoring the fake complaints your body manufactures (and it can manufacture a LOT of them - it used to take me around 4 miles before the phantom aches, pains, itches, and twitchy feelings would stop), it becomes possible to ignore things that are real. And when you're training for a marathon, especially an important one (with a time goal or a goal of finishing), you have to really, really, want it to put up with the time investment required to get there. I've only once run when I shouldn't have -- when I sprained my ankle and then ran 4 miles on it, and I literally didn't notice I was hurt until I had finished the race.

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    But I get it now. It was worth that 2 minutes of discomfort to me to chop an astonishing 1 minute per mile off my pace, or about 6 minutes off my total time. (For context, the difference between the first place woman and the second place woman is 15 seconds. Minutes are a big deal in a 10K.) I finished in 61:22. My previous time on the same course was 67:32,and the 10Ks prior to that were 69:20 and 70:50. Next year I want to break the one hour mark.

    I actually don't remember much of the race itself since so much of my racing time was consumed with checking my watch to make sure I was on the paces Jeff had set for me. (Random aside: Having an awesome, dedicated coach like my husband has totally helped my running. If I weren't married to him, I'd pay dearly to get the type of coaching he gives me for free.) Early in the race, I kept slowing myself down, and the last two miles, I was trying to keep my pace at anything that was under 10 minutes a mile. For the final half mile, my goal was to pass as many people in front of me as I could. I got to 10. Unfortunately, none of those was Zach, who blew my time away by about 10 seconds. (Seriously, though - congrats, Zach - you ran a great race.)

    Anyhow, a fantastic day - next week is back to marathon training with a 20 miler, where my first hour of running will cover one mile less than today's running did.
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    Cardiff, but mostly London (Day 8)

    There were two things I really wanted to do on this trip and I have now done both:

    1. Get a picture of me and the Tardis ( Yay, Cardiff!)
    2. Sketching from one of the plaster casts or sculptures at the V&A (Victoria and Albert museum, to those of you who are not trying to pretend to be Londoners)

    Oh, Victoria and Albert musem, let me count the ways I love you. You're free, you have rooms upon rooms upon rooms of Cool and Random Stuff (an entire four galleries devoted to forged iron work - gates, poles and the like!), you let me take as many flash photos as I want, you provide stools for me to sit on so that I can sketch in comfort... On a second thought, I don't want to be here all day typing everything I love about the museum. Suffice to say that I think it just might be my favoritest museum in the entire world, and I still haven't even been in all of the rooms.

    Today I jilted Cardiff and ran back to my true love, London. (Erm, I mean my true love if I'm talking about cities, not you, Jeff, if you're reading this.) Immediately upon arriving, I dumped my bags and rushed to "my museum", intent upon finding the perfect plaster cast to draw. Sadly, the room with all the human figures was closed. However, the ginormous figure of Michelangelo's David was clearly visible and his head was at eye level from the balcony, so I settled down to draw him. I caught some of the likeness, but it wasn't perfect; I'd rate it a C. Still, I had a blast, was photographed by multiple other tourists as part of the "color" of the gallery, and David was a champ and didn't fidget a bit while I was drawing him.

    When I finished, I wandered around some of the galleries, noted that the European sculpture room had another hundred or so additional willing models who would stand still for as long as I needed them to (did I mention that I LOVE this museum?) and giggled over the fact that there were tins of digestives on display in another room.

    Photos available on Facebook, beginning here:

    Cardiff (Day 7)

    Hmm, I keep putting my good stories on Facebook, which means I'm left with little to write about here. Maybe I should switch over exclusively to FB?

    Today was St Fagans, an open-air museum wherein the Welsh have hauled up all manner of old buildings, arranged them prettily in a 100-acre plot, scattered the rest of the space with livestock, gardens, and nice paths for humans, and then let anyone in free who wants to be let in. It's sort of part park, part museum. Quite nice, if a bit random at times.

    Followers of Jonobie's dorkiness scale should know that the scales dipped today, but did not fall to zero on account of the fact that part of the reason for the St Fagans trip was that it was the filming site of one of my favorite Doctor Who episodes, Human Nature. So, if you're wondering, yes, Jonobie is still a nerdy dork.

    Pictures from "the lost day" when I didn't have internet access can be found here: - if start there, you'll end up on today's pictures right after.
    If you want to jump directly to today's pictures, see here:

    This evening, I was pretty tired and wanted to go someplace to eat that met two requirements: One, that it let me in without pre-calling for a booking, and two, that it be relatively quiet. The first two places I looked in were madhouses (apparently everyone in Cardiff eats out on Saturday night), so I kept walking until I finally found what looked like a Cafe that was only half full. Without looking at the name or menu, I strolled in and asked for a table.

    It was only after sitting down that I realized I was surrounded by Americana, the menu in front of me was full of burgers, and the waitress is both surprised and unnerved by my accent. (I definitely get "noticed" here when I talk far more than I ever did in London -- many tour guides seem both surprised and happy that I've come from so far away to see Wales. But this is the first time someone seemed fluttery or nervous around me because of my accent.) Yes, I somehow managed as an American in Cardiff to find what is probably the only American restaurant in Cardiff. Go figure. I then noticed that the place was called a "Diner" (though no Diner I've ever been in sports flowered tablecloths or takes reservations.)

    Of course, one's native cuisine viewed through another culture's eyes is rarely quite like it is at home. I decided immediately that I was going to go for a veggie burger, as I've been feeling a bit meat-heavy. Thus decided, I ordered a garlic-mayo veggie burger and some onion rings, and waited to see what I'd get.

    First up, a knife and fork arrives. I have no idea if this is intended for the burger or not, as no one near me is eating yet. I decide that as an American in an American restaurant abroad, I am uniquely qualified to eat with my hands. Then some sort of weird condiment tray arrives. I identify the red stuff as ketchup, although it seems to have onions and relish in it, but the yellow stuff has me flummoxed. It's not mustard, I think, as it has CORN in it. Lots of corn. And kind of a vinegary taste. It's not bad, but I don't know what you do with it. I stare at it for a while, dip my onion rings (good, though more batter than I'm used to) in the ketchup and munch away.

    I then notice that most of the diners around me are drinking tea or a glass of wine with their burgers. I nearly burst out laughing, because this is such an odd-looking combo. But it makes sense; people here often seem to drink wine with dinner (it's about as common as beer), and in my experience, beverages are the things people tend to keep the same, regardless of cuisine. I notice they have Dr. Pepper in the case (wow, haven't EVER seen that over here before) and get some of that. It's made with sugar instead of corn syrup. Yum.

    Then my burger arrives. It is, well, literally, a garlic-mayo burger. There is so much mayo on top of the burger that I can't see the actual patty. After I scrape about 3T off of it, it looks normal again; a taste of the mayo reveals that it is indeed garlicky and yummy. The problem comes when I want to put the stuff on the side on the burger. There is lettuce, which is good, but the tomatoes are ... wedges. Not exactly useful for putting on the burger. There are also cucumber slices, which I assume is because this is a veggie burger, not because someone's confused the tomatoes with the cucumbers. All up, it tastes good, though I would have preferred some tomato.

    When I paid and left, I noticed that this is the one place I've been where the service fee is not included with the meal -- they mention this in big letters on the menu. Odd that of American customs, this is one they decided to keep. Anyhow, a fun trip.

    Cardiff (Day 6)

    Totally beat today from a 3-activity day. So no real update in LJ. Just a link to the photos, which have all the info I would have written about here had I been less exhausted:

    After that long day, I had a really nice (and inexpensive!) pasta Arrabiata at an Italian place up the street, called Cibo. My feet are totally exhausted!

    London (Day 4)

    This morning, I woke up in a teensy tiny room at the Rhodes. To give you a sense of how tiny, note that my husband would not fit in this room. Literally. It's exactly as wide as a twin bed, and Jeff is longer than a twin bed. Lengthwise, I think he'd just fit, though only if the bed were removed first, and only then if no one needed to open the bathroom door. So technically, he'd fit, but be extremely grumpy about it.

    I don't mind, though. It's actually quite cozy and I knew what I was getting when I booked it. It's a nice place - clean, friendly owners, £60 per night and best of all, in an area I'm now quite familiar with, and two blocks away from Paddington. In other words, a steal for the location.

    My first order of the day was to go for a run around Hyde Park. If you're one of the three followers of this blog, you might recall that last time I attempted this route, it took me an unexpected three hours on account of a tea detour midway through. This time, however, I managed to get through the run without any detours. However, having run by the Orangery, I decided I was in desperate need of a post-run scone, and so Zach and I started by eating breakfast there. Before going, I bought train tickets for Cardiff tomorrow, so I'm all set on that front. Yay!

    After a leisurely breakfast, we went to the British Museum. This was my third time there, and I still think there may be rooms I've never set foot in. If I lived in London, I would declare one month of every year to be British Museum month, and go there every weekend until I at least saw all the rooms! (I announced this to Zach and pointed out that I would know everything by the time I finished. He seemed dubious.) This time, we rented the audio tour, which was quite good. There was a whole hour on the Elgin marbles, which was really nice. Since we only got there in the afternoon and lingered around the Egyptian and Greek rooms, we didn't finish the tour. Highlights this time for me were the astrolabe and "science equipment exhibit" in Room 1, seeing the world's oldest board game as graffiti on one of the other pieces, and an amazing blue glass vase from Roman times (the Portland Vase).

    After the Museum, Zach and I went to The Victoria - a tavern near the hotel that I've tried to go to, unsuccessfully, twice before. (Both times, it was FAR too full to eat at.) The third time was the charm, though, and I had a quite lovely steak pie with a Fullers Chiswick bitter. The bitter was definitely different than any US beer; it wasn't ... carbonated (? is that the right word for the bubbles in beer?) at all. Interesting, though I'd probably try something different later.

    Back in my room now, with a bathroom full of laundry (running really made the laundry situation get out of hand, prior to that I was totally on top of it). I'd take a picture, but I will maintain my vow of last trip to avoid resorting to pictures of my small clothes to gain and retain readership.

    Photos from today begin here: