Archive for the ‘Reflection-in-action’ Category

Thinking Sustainable – Buy Local, Lend Local

January 20, 2011

20 years ago a farmer friend approached me. He wanted to buy a business in Moscow, but being August, his reserves were all tapped out until after harvesting and selling his crop. For a few months I fancied myself the owner of a used book store.

Later the Moscow Food COOP raised funds to move and expand by seeking local private lenders. I was tapped out at the time, but it planted a seed and I wanted to be a local lender again.

Recently I got the chance to be help another local business wanting to expand. I can tell you that the satisfaction seeing the business grow is sweeter than just earning interest in the bank.

All this is coming into focus again. We are doing our taxes on the Peterson Barn Guesthouse and I charted the way the business spends its money. I lumped things into Local (eg Moscow), Idaho (eg statewide), and National (eg everything else). Avista is our biggest National expense and seeing this, it has me thinking about converting it to a local expense.

In this case, to reduce spending with Avista we need to make the barn more energy efficient and self-reliant (eg, more solar and sustainable). That will take some spending, a chunk of which could be local labor. And that will take some capital, which could be local. And the expense of paying for that capital would be local spending, rather than national, keeping more of the money in the community.

Next step: Decide what energy efficiency steps can be taken and what they might cost implemented in local and sustainable ways.


SODO Moscow web strategy

December 26, 2010

At the urging of Karen Lewis (“you need a web page”) and after checking around and having the real estate broker alert the property owner, I launched SODO Moscow site. You can learn more about SODO there. This post is a place to pull together my web strategy thinking.

Karen’s suggestion to work in public fit what I had been learning at WSU in my work with student ePortfolios (see Learning Portfolio Strategy: Be Public). Another part of working in public is to work where the community interested in your problem is already working. For this project, Facebook seemed a logical place. I created a FB group SODO Moscow after exploring the idea of creating a new FB account and using its personal page or creating a FB page. I choose the group approach because it seemed to allow its members the most equal footing in a collaborative space.

One of the things we learned at CTLT was that a learner’s portfolio needs to deliberately build “Google Juice” around its problem to attract a community of collaborators (why else work in public?). The decision to use Facebook worked against gaining Google Juice, because Facebook is a private island that Google does not index. The SODO Moscow blog in Blogger was chosen as a Google friendly place to be the public anchor for the project.

Updating my resume to reflect who I am

December 7, 2010

WSU is providing me the opportunity to reflect on who I am and what I want to do, and importantly, how to communicate those ideas. As I previously noted, a resume (here) spanning 30 years of work is poorly suited to either communicate the themes of that work or to span the transition in that work from print journals to blogs and wikis. For example, here is a whiteboard where I tried to capture a timeline of the ideas and problems I was working on across my work life and personal life from 2000 to 2008.

Left end of whiteboard timeline small Right end of whiteboard timeline small

The last two years, working on the Harvesting Gradebook, has had me thinking about the impact of the Internet on learning and higher education as presently constituted. My focus swings between learners getting feedback to aid the learning and learning being credentialed (assessment for and of learning).

I am not formally credentialed for almost all the work I’ve done in the last 30 years — my credentials from that work  and are community based.

Jayme Community CredentialJacobson created this graphic to help describe four different model implementations of the university. I now see the bottom right element of that graphic has a problem (reproduced at left). Regarding credentialing it says “the employer gets what they help design.”

But what if the learner is trying to join a community that hasn’t designed credentialing criteria? What if the learner is trying to forge a community around a problem?

That is my situation. I have a variety of experiences, but they are not specific to the new “sustainable Moscow” work that is my passion. I need a way to create a CV that converts my experiences into credentials that a new community values.

I should not be Mayor of Moscow

December 7, 2010

A couple of friends were thinking about my pending unemployment and decided I should be Mayor of Moscow. Aside from the fact that the job is taken, I don’t think so (much to my wife’s relief.)

I’m flattered to think my friends value my left-of-center activism, but I’ve looked at the job since Nancy Chaney got elected in 2005 and concluded it’s not the place for me to work on the problem that interests me most — despite the fact that the problem is the sustainable development of Moscow.

If you have ideas about how I can follow my passion related to sustainable Moscow, and put some beans on the table, let me know.

My Arms Still Hurt

June 9, 2010

I need to find a place to document what is happening with my arms (both the left one operated in Feb and the “good” one). My hope is to see a pattern, or that one of my readers will see a pattern or understand the mechanics and provide some coaching.

History of my case can be found here. Surgery to removal of sling, and a report on the physical therapy to regain motion. I am under orders not to do strengthening exercises. I am continuing my stretch exercises post-PT and am increasing the range of motion, especially elevation over my head.

There are two observations (pain & popping) that I’m making on the left and right sides, each. These have been going since the surgery, or perhaps before. I am going to make notes of things after today June 9 (Surgery was 4 months ago, Feb 3)

Pop: like cracking a knuckle, a physical jolt and I hear a sound. It involves the shoulder joint. The pop is associated with a temporary sensation that does not rise to the level of pain. Some times the discomfort from the pop lasts seconds, other times it might still be there an hour later.

Pain: is in the muscle, not in the joint. It occurs in two locations: 1)  on the front or the outside corner of the shoulder, in a 1/2 inch line running down the roundness of the rotator cuff muscles. 2) in the front of the main mass of the bicep muscle, several inches below the joint. This pain is a slice, 1-2 inches long. Each pain is transitory and ends when the triggering action ends.

UPDATES I realized that I need to try to track the events that are repeat causes and easily described and then check over time if they continue to happen, so, I’m dating each item each time it happens with the hopes of seeing patterns.

Left Arm – Pop

1. Sitting in a chair, lifting left elbow to rest it on the back of the adjacent chair. June 9

2. Best example of pop. I was reaching for a loaf of bread at the back of the kitchen counter. I used both hands, arms fully extended, directly in front of my body. I needed to lift the loaf 10″ to get over something at the front of the counter. Each hand started the lifting movement, but the left got “stuck” and didn’t rise for a moment, then popped. July 2.

Left Arm – Pain

1. Corner of shoulder. Holding fridge door open with right hand, reaching sideways to upper shelf to get cat food can. I tell myself “Hold shoulder down, raise hand” which might help with the movement if not with the pain, June 9, June 15

2. Corner of shoulder. Left hand scratching left ear, elbow straight in front. Takes a little while for the burn to build up. June 9 June 15

3. Corner of shoulder. Lying on left side so shoulder is down and bearing weight. Pain is mild, but I can’t lie that way more than 10 minutes. I’ve been noticing it for at least a week running up to July 9.

Right Arm – Pop

1. sitting in driver seat of car, raising arm to place hand on top of passenger seat back June 9

2. Lying in bed on left side, reaching right arm down to thigh to move blanket and sheet off prior to getting out of bed. Moving from behind midline to front. June 9

3. Wiping kitchen counter, moving left across in front of stomach. June 9 June 15

4. Wiping counter, moving right out away from body June 15

5. Grabbing top corner of car door to swing it open, starting with arm partly extended, shoulder high, and moving left across body. June 15

6. The general statement about popping is when I make large arm movements, often with no particular load applied, like waving goodbye, or the examples above. These are continuing to happen as of July 9, but no one event is easily reproduced.

Right Arm – Pain

1. Corner of shoulder. Turning steering wheel right-handed. Turning the wheel left, with right hand moving from 2 o’clock to 10 o’clock position. Turning the wheel right, with right hand moving from 4 o’clock to 8 o’clock position June 9

2. Corner of shoulder. Reaching behind midline, rotating outward to reach waist high toilet paper dispenser June 9 June 15

3. Bicep. When standing, reaching down at full extension of arm, ahead of mid-line, to flush institutional toilet. June 9

4. Corner of shoulder. Leaning on elbow on arm rest of a chair (the “thinker” pose) June 9

5. Corner of shoulder. Lying on right side so shoulder is down and bearing weight. Pain is mild, but I can’t lie that way more than 10 minutes. I’ve been noticing it for at least a week running up to July 9.

Actions I choose not to do

I do not make any rapid arm movements, e.g., tossing a wad of paper to the trash can. I’m afraid of popping more than pain. I tried tossing a stone with my daughter, it hurt the right arm.

Reverence for Wood

October 5, 2009

A talk delivered at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse, Mar 20, 2005.
Title borrowed from Eric Sloane’s great little book

This was first posted on PBJ, WSU’s first blog tool, now retired. I rescued it here as part of preparations for another talk I’m giving at the church.


Good morning.

I’m going to tell you stories from my passion as a timber framer.

My stories are of engagement, of connection, of joining. With ecosystems, with people, with life.

Today you have permission to stare at the floor as I talk. Let me tell you about the ecology I see below your feet. The wood is red, or Douglas, fir.

As firs get taller, and crowd one another, the lower limbs drop off. Eventually, new rings of growth close over the wounds. Pretty soon the rings are uniform. Look around for the wavy grain characteristic of wood near knots. No waves, no knots, means tall straight trees.

Think of a tree stump, showing circles of growth rings. Imagine cutting it like a pie. Your cuts are at right angles to the rings, you see the rings edge on, as in this floor. We call this quarter sawn. Imagine cutting tangent to the rings, you see wide wavy patterns, the side views of the rings, typical of modern boards and especially of plywood.

Each ring is a year. Each ring on this floor is maybe 1/16 inch wide. Since these boards are quarter sawn, one edge was toward the center of the tree, the other toward the bark. 2 1/4 inches equates to 38 years. 38 years with no knots, 38 years after the the limbs had dropped and the wounds had grown over.

Look around and you’ll see some yellow edges in a few boards. This is the sap wood, the youngest wood, closest to the bark. Its not as hard, so the mill culled it. I’ve spotted sap wood in this floor that might be an inch wide — so the sap wood represents 15-20 years of growth after the rings  of these boards were lain down.

Let’s assume it takes a red fir 40 years to grow big enough to be limb free on its lower 20 feet. Another 38 years to lay down 2 1/4” of the boards you see, and 15-20 years in the sap wood outside that. The trees in this floor were at least 100 years old.

Given the age of the church, they were saplings when Lewis and Clark visited. The trees that grew up after these trees were harvested could just be reaching a size where new wood of this quality might be harvested. Of course, the forest is not being managed to produce wood like this anymore.

Your homework is to visit Idler’s Rest. The stand of trees along the creek will give you an impression of the forest where this floor grew. These boards lived in a cathedral.

Wood connects me to ecosystems and to time.

Lodgepole pine is a pioneer species after a forest fire. The lodge pole seeds are released from their cones by the heat of a fire, the trees live about 100 years, and as they die, other species of pine and fir succeed them. When mature, the trees are small — 12-14” on the stump, but very tall.

In the summer of 1994 I got a chance to work in a climax lodge pole woods, outside Elk City, gathering the wood for my first timber frame, which now serves as our woodshed. The structure has hand hewn 8×8 timbers of lodge pole, spruce, and cedar.

Hewing, or squaring up a log into a timber, is done with two axes: a felling ax and a broad ax. The felling ax is the long handled ax you know for chopping down trees. To hew a log, you stand on it, and every 18 inches, use the felling ax to chop a notch to touch what will be the plane of your finished timber. Wear heavy boots, you are chopping between your toes. Then, using a sideways swing, you hit into one notch, splitting off an 18” long chunk, called a juggle. Repeat on the second side. Roll the log and do the remaining two sides. You now have a very roughly square timber.

The broad ax has a short handle and a wide blade, sharpened from one side. You stand beside the timber and swing down along the vertical plane, shaving off the high spots left from juggling. If you are good, you end up with a straight, square timber with only tool marks left by the swing of the broad ax.

The best part of hewing in a climax forest, is resting (which I did frequently) and looking at the diversity of little plants that cover the forest floor. The juggles that you have cut off are good firewood, that both warm you and remind you of time spent in the woods.

The other thing about hewing is it teaches you how skillful work should look, and teaches you to read a timber for the marks left by its maker. Having learned to watch for tool marks, and from them to read the skill of the worker, I was delighted to get the scarf joint on display as today’s art, on my left.

Dan Schmidt had this joint on the end of a timber he’d rescued. If you happened to see the cover of the Daily News Friday, there is a photo taken inside the Potlatch mill. In that photo, the beams (top plates) that recede into the distance (maybe 400 feet) were probably joined, end to end, with a joint like this one.

Examine this piece after the service to see the tool marks left by a carpenter who sawed that long flat plane with a hand saw. He did it in a single cut, without wavering or wandering, or needing to plane to clean up his work. There was a time when artisans understood their tools, and wood, and were able to make things like this piece, or to the hew smooth flat timbers.

Working wood connects me to other people who teach me through the marks they leave.

Birch does not show annual rings. Its as strong as red fir, but most engineering tables don’t list it, typically, an asterisk says “used for cabinetry.” Its texture is very uniform. It splits and carves well. Yesterday I was cutting sections from the birch Bill Styer and Jerry Gzerbielski removed behind the yellow house to make into pegs.

The birch tree in our former minister, Lynn Unger’s, front yard, now spans the center of my barn.  It unwittingly turned me into an urban hardwood forester.

From Lynn’s birch, I went on to ash, box elder, chestnut, cherry, elm, linden, locust, maple, Russian olive and walnut. These woods, because of their interesting color, often enhanced by disease that caused their removal, and because of their large limbs that create large knots and interesting grain, brought me together with wood turners, who have gladly taken pieces I could not use and turned them into art.

Urban trees opened my interest in the knowledge our forefathers had of the eastern hardwood forest, and made me aware of the diverse strengths of its many species.

Hardwoods have joined me into a circle of giving among wood workers.

I built a fire this morning: pine and ash, with birch and walnut for kindling.

Every day, from mid-September to early May, (250 times/year) I light a fire. This is the other end of wood’s life cycle in my hands.

I’ve built a fire, 250 times a year, for 10 years. As I was writing this talk I could hear our stove, the soft pinging of a waning fire. I’m aware of the sounds of the stove. I listen for them. They tell me when its working well, when it needs attention. They remind me I am connected. Connected to trees, whose by products I burn. Connected to people whose skills with wood and with tools I’ve admired and emulated.

Its been suggested to me that I should prefer to burn red fir in my stove, its optimal. Its also the kind of thinking that leads to mono-crop agriculture and single species planting in forests. And, we’ve seen with the blight on Moscow Mountain, what single species forestry brings.

I think our forefathers were closer to right. They preferred each tree for its best qualities. Oak or red fir makes a hard floor or a strong beam. Locust makes a rot resistant fence post. Ash and hickory make good tool handles. Cedar makes a good roof or keeps moths from your woolens. Fruit wood makes good smoke for preserving food.

My sister asks why I don’t get a pellet stove. She thinks it would be easier than gathering wood, splitting it,  stacking it, then moving it to the porch, and tending it in a fire.

As if easier is better.

In this case, easier is disconnected.

… from the trees, from knowing that locust is best on a night in the teens, pine is fine for taking off the chill in the early fall. Disconnected

…from the process, both the work which I’ve never begrudged, and the meditation of watching a fire.   Disconnected

… from the history of people who have worked with, and heated with wood. Disconnected

…from the ecologic cost of my own consumption.


How do you decide differently when you are connected to (vs. disconnected from)  the ecologic consequences, aware of (vs. indifferent to) diverse strengths, engaged with (vs. separated from) the human participants and consequences?

For me, a decade after raising my first timber frame, the whole activity is less about building and more about engaging, joining, connecting.

The process, and the materials, have become my teachers, helping me to be more in tune, more connected, more reverent.

The trees and I have an arrangement.

A lesson in driving up readership

May 5, 2009

On Friday, April 24 the Chronicle’s Wired Campus ran an item on the failure of U. of Michigan’s Online Teaching-Evaluation System. The article was hot news because of the scale of the player and the scale of the failure. I posted this comment near midnight Sunday, April 26:

My comment on the article

This drove a large spike in readership of the associated resources on April 27.

Page views for WSUCTLT blog

And examining how readers got to the site we see they came from several related pages in the Wired Campus article.

pages that referred to WSUCTLT

which brought readers to these pages

pages viewed as a result of the comment

Collaborative Notetaking in Diigo

January 24, 2009

Notes on AAC&U Conference Jan 21-23, 2009 Seattle Wa

Higher Education conference organizers that accept a conference facility without free wireless Internet for live blogging are out of touch. The one apparently open device causes “Firefox has detected that the server is redirecting the request for this address in a way that will never complete.”

Gripe aside, this was an interesting meeting. The Opening Plenary set the broad context and the urgency of the problem: there is a political environment starting with No Child Left Behind and moving thru the Collegiate Learning Assessment that is rolling toward and over higher education. The higher education community needs to choose between being reactive and defensive or proactive by using innovation in self-assessment to demonstrate relevance as an offense.

I started to blog thoughts on the sessions, and decided instead to try something different. I had already Diigoed the program and started putting highlights on interesting sessions. Now I’m adding notes to the Diigoed page. If you want to read the notes, join the “CTLT and Friends” group on Diigo and go to the conference page above.

This process could work for multiple collaborators during the conference (see gripe above) and is also widely available to others.


November 14, 2008

I have been struggling with how to understand and implement a Web 2.0 resume. Today it came to me that I need a new Diigo tag – “me.” I’d put this tag on stuff that is mine or about me: blog posts, pages, photos, etc. Then I would be able to get an RSS of “me.” Further, I can readily share me in different resumes for different audiences by combining tags in Diigo. [The syntax looks like: ] You, the reader of “me,” can gather evidence from the forward- or backward- looking evidence of my effectiveness. I can use tags like me+reflection to mark more reflective steps in my work. Because it’s a feed of things I’m tagging, it stays as current as my tagging.

This “feed resume” is analogous to Dave Cormier’s “feed book” and it extends thinking about my blog as my portfolio or any other one space as my PLE. It serves as both a tool to present myself, and as a vehicle for a reader to walk (via Diigo) other things that I tag and other communities that tag the things I tag.

In the case of things I write that others tag, it is a way of measuring the social capital of those things (and me). See for example what is happening around this article I co-authored in JOLT. Showcasing myself is one of the things a resume purports to do.

It seems that this same thinking can be extended to “we.” In this case, the tag to use would be for my group, in this case the Center for Teaching Learning and Technology. This thinking also makes me extend my previous suggestion about the implementing a Web 2.0 organization website with the idea that we would collectively use a WSUCTLT when we are tagging us. Which clarifies a difference. I’d been thinking about our Diigo group (CTLT and Friends) as a place we’d put stuff we found interesting AND stuff by us. This “we” tag idea lets there be a clean separation. The group is a way to share stuff we find. The “we” tag is a way to build the unit’s portfolio.

Power of Me tag

Diigo-ing a page and adding the me tag becomes an invitation to say what your role is, or claim is, to the page. It lets you build a portfolio of things on the web that are otherwise not obviously yours. It also invites that you write a reflection (in your blog) about the lessons you learned in your involvement with the page you just me-tagged.

Oven Luck

August 5, 2008

This is the next in my series of oven-related reflections. I’m coming to understand how different a mud oven is from a microwave oven. The latter heats just the item you want. Usually this is a small item, its heated quickly (seconds or minutes) and the oven is cold afterward. Kiko Denzer writes about super-insulated ovens, I’m learning to bank coals to one side behind a wall of pre-heated fire brick. Each strategy keeps the oven warm longer.

Last weekend we came into a bounty of salmon, a result of the Palouse Prairie School celebration . We had friends coming over, a former miller, and I decided to make bread. And a casserole with the salmon, and why not a fruit crumble. Things got further out of hand when I decided to smoke some of the salmon (I mean, I’m around, doing chores, tending fires, why not run the smoker at the same time?) My smoking does not get the meat very warm, so I’ve usually finished in the oven on low. Then my wife remembered one of our guest’s food allergies and decided to make a second fruit crumble.

So, oven is 550F by 4PM, bread goes in. Bread out in 20 min, spuds, casserole and first crumble in at 5:40. Trade for second crumble while we eat. After cleaning kitchen, fish into 250F oven till bedtime. Oven still 250F an hour later when fish comes out and still 150F the next morning. Kiko has posted a nice summary reflection on his firing experiences, importantly, he describes the value of drying his wood in the last heat of the oven

In the traditional potluck, guests cook at their house and bring finished dish to the party. What about bringing raw food and baking it? Guests could bring more food than would be eaten and take home leftovers. Some items could be baked during/after dinner and taken home whole. If we understood what to do in a 200+ oven overnight, the host could put something (roast?) in at bedtime.