2024 Week 16


⚙️ Work

  • Meetings. Finance. GFC TLC.
  • Learning Technologies & Design Team meeting - the focus was a “listening tour” by Natasha and Sue to visit with the team to learn about what we’re working on, what’s working, what could be improved, etc. It was a really good discussion, and I’m honoured to be part of such a passionate, engaged, and creative team.
  • The April Learning Technology Advisory Committee went pretty well. I had to start the meeting without my co-chair because she was double-booked, but we got off to a good start beginning with introductions for new members (including Izzy’s first meeting as part of LTAC!). We discussed Gradescope, and how to support the request to add it as a campus platform, which led to some great discussions about the nature of our tools, what we value, the power of defaults and design, and how we might address opacity in LLMs used by vendors. And then we had a great discussion - world cafe style - about how we as a committee can best do our work.
  • I wasn’t feeling great about how the LTAC meeting had gone. I want to make sure that members feel their time is well spent, and that everyone feels as though it’s useful. And then I was meeting with one of the committee members that afternoon, and said that I didn’t think the meeting went as it could have. To which, she said that LTAC is the only committee that she finds valuable, that she looks forward to the meetings, and that this morning’s discussion was exactly what she needed for her work. So, there’s that.
  • And then I took an actual sick day. There’s a cold going around campus, and it finally caught up to me. I was going to work from home - Zoom and Teams meetings - but J asked me what I would say to a team member that continued to work while they’re sick. Right. So. Sick day. Which means I missed 3 important meetings on Thursday, and spent much of it on the couch watching Dune Part 2. Then, Friday on the couch, then J almost calling an ambulance Friday night. So, Saturday back on the couch. This is the worst “cold” I’ve had in a long, long time.

Webstuff

  • Mozilla Developer Network Web Docs: CSS Layout Cookbook - give examples of how to build some common things in CSS, and has some handy CSS tools. Somehow, I hadn’t seen this before.
  • Kagi Small Web and their description. A bit like a streamlined StumbleUpon interface, for reading new content from blogs and newsletters. I’ve added my site - but had to clone a Git repository to edit the text file with all of the RSS feeds so I could append mine, and then submit a pull request. Not a very user-friendly interface, which means it will skew strongly to the geeks. But I’ve added Kagi Small Web to my bookmarks bar so I can just click it to get a random site whenever. I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see how many people are doing the weekly post format. I’ve clicked “Next Post” maybe 50 times in a row on a couple of occasions, just happy that the “small web” still exists, and that it thrives outside of my own bubble.

Obsidian

Hooray for AI!

  • Molly White: AI isn’t useless, but is it worth it? (via Ben Werdmuller)

    When I boil it down, I find my feelings about AI are actually pretty similar to my feelings about blockchains: they do a poor job of much of what people try to do with them, they can’t do the things their creators claim they one day might, and many of the things they are well suited to do may not be altogether that beneficial. And while I do think that AI tools are more broadly useful than blockchains, they also come with similarly monstrous costs.

    and

    The costs of these AI models are huge, and not just in terms of the billions of dollars of VC funds they’re burning through at incredible speed. These models are well known to require far more computing power (and thus electricity and water) than a traditional web search or spellcheck. Although AI company datacenters are not intentionally wasting electricity in the same way that bitcoin miners perform millions of useless computations, I’m also not sure that generating a picture of a person with twelve fingers on each hand or text that reads as though written by an endlessly smiling children’s television star who’s being held hostage is altogether that much more useful than a bitcoin.

Speaking of “similarly monstrous costs” - we (as a planet) are trying to build more sustainable energy infrastructure, and these “just throw more hardware at the problem until it solves something and maybe, hopefully, we eventually make an actual profit” people are actively working against that goal:

But at least it’s good at what it claims, right?

Alberta keeps Alberting

It’s ok. We have public research universities actively working on water conservation and clean energy. We’ll get through this OK.

  • Lisa Young @ The Tyee: Alberta Wants to Block Federal Dollars for Some Scientists. Awesome. Our Premier is whipping up a form of “stand your ground” financial stance against the federal government (which, honestly, is just an F TRUDOE stance, because if PP was prime minister she’d be happy to just let him do whatever.) I will be both surprised and shocked when the UCP government intervenes to stop federal funding of things that don’t rhyme with “oil and gas”, because we can’t have all of the WOKE IDEOLOGY LIBERAL BIAS funding things like renewable energy and water conversation in the middle of a drought crisis caused by our burning of fossil fuels for energy. Dr. Young frames this as “the province wouldn’t intervene in federal research funding because that would punish universities”, but that’s exactly what the UCP wants. Take THAT, lefty nerds! This province is exhausting.

  • UCalgary’s Graduate Student Association: “A Five-Year-Old’s Idea of Politics,” UCalgary Graduate Students React to Provincial Priorities Act

    “It’s a temper tantrum being funded by tax-payer dollars,” he added.

🍿 Watching

  • ★★★★☆ Fallout (Prime) - ERIK ESTRADA!!! Season 1 stayed consistently good, and built to a hopeful season 2. No spoilers here, but it’s worth watching if you have any interest in Fallout. It doesn’t require knowledge of the video game, but it unlocks much of the backstory and meaning behind many things. There’s a good overview of the season on Ars (but it’s full of spoilers for both the show and the games)
  • ★★★★☆ Dune 2. It was good, but felt longer than 165 minutes (while also feeling rushed in a few spots). I have questions about the biomechanics and fluid dynamics at play when the Worms move so quickly through compacted sand…
  • ★☆☆☆☆ Rebel Moon Part 2 (Netflix). I couldn’t do it. Turned it off halfway through. A hamfisted story that would have been improved if it had been written by ChatGPT 2, wasted on beautiful cinematography and impressive special effects. I wonder how many people could have been fed, housed, clothed, and educated for what they burned on the budget for this stinker.
  • ★★★☆☆ Argyle (Apple TV+). The reviews suggested it was bad, but it was pretty entertaining. The corniest, over-the-top, cheesiest spy movie ever, but we were in on the joke from the beginning. Let go of “it’s a serious spy movie!” and just let it play out.

🧺 Other

  • I’ve been really happy with Obsidian since migrating to it over a year ago. Except for the actual note-taking part. I’ve always preferred paper notebooks - I have a stack of 14 notebooks going back 30 years - but they’re not searchable or easily organizable. I’ve been keeping an eye on the reMarkable Notebook - digital ink, paper-like writing, integrating with cloud stuff to get text out of them. One of our academic leaders uses one, and it looks slick - and he swears by it. But it’s suuuuper expensive. Like, laptop expensive. So, nope. But - the RocketBook looks like it might be a good compromise. Some kind of fancy paper that lets you write with Pilot FriXon pens, use their app to digitize (and maybe integrate with Obsidian?), and then wipe the pages clean to keep going. If it works, I’ll be able to keep using a paper notebook and organize/search my notes in Obsidian. I can gamble $30 to see how this works…

🗓️ Focus for next week

  • Honestly, and it kills me to type this out, if I’m not significantly better before Monday, I’ll need to rethink next week entirely. Much of it can be done remotely, or be rescheduled. Except for our conference.
  • Meetings.
  • Prep for my conference presentation.
  • Moderation of 7 sessions at the University of Calgary Conference on Post-secondary Learning & Teaching.
  • Presenting (with Matthew Parker) about our architecture studio course in F2023 - this will be the first time I’ve been able to present on an application of my dissertation, which is pretty cool…
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